17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. j. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 -p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) stated, in answer to a question at Fremantle last’ night, that the Government was not providing facilities for servicemen outside Australia to record their votes at the forthcoming Fremantle by-election? Has any representation been made to the Government by the honorable member to ensure that voting facilities shall be made available to the servicemen? If the reply to the latter question is “ No “, what action has the Government taken, or what does it propose to do, to provide such facilities for servicemen wherever located? .
– I have not seen any “ record of the statement attributed to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, nor do I know of any representations which have been made on the subject. The provision of such facilities for ex-servicemen has received attention. I arranged with the Minister for the Interior for consideration to be given to the matter, and I understand that yesterday he had certain discussions, and I discussed the matter this morning with the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Turner. I gleaned that many physical difficulties would arise in trying to provide yoting facilities for ex-serv icemen. However, I have arranged with the Minister for the Interior, who is in charge of electoral matters, to have’ a complete examination made of the whole position, and to ascertain what amendment of the law would be necessary to permit of the provision of such facilities. I understand that the electoral law makes no provision at present to enable voting facilities to be granted to servicemen at a .by-election. I am informed that consideration was given to this matter when Senator Fol] was Minister for the Interior, but for various reasons the government of the day rejected an amendment of the law for that purpose. I hope that to-morrow morning I shall be able to inform the honorable member of the Government’s decision in the matter.
Importation ov British Woollen Cloths - Clothes Rationing Scale - Household Linen - Over Production of Australian Mills.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether, as reported, in the press, British suitings are being debarred from importation into Australia at present? If that be a fact, for what period will that policy continue to operate, and will the right honorable gentleman indicate the reasons for it ?
– I have read a newspaper reference to a ban on the importation of certain British cloths. I shall ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to furnish reasons for any ban that may exist, as well as the details of it, and shall let the honorable member have the information as early as possible.
– In view of the agitation for the lifting of the import restrictions on woollen materials, most of which has been inspired by the press, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ask the Rationing Commission to free or reduce the coupon rating on standard austerity type suits bo that the manufacturers and retailers, who have very large stocks of these garments, may be relieved of them before fresh goods are imparted from overseas?
– The question is an important one, and I shall be glad to comply with the honorable gentleman’s request.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to a complaint that, although stocks of household linen are reasonably plentiful, housewives throughout Australia are unable to purchase supplies because of the high coupon rating of such goods! Will the Minister cause investigations to be made with a view to effecting a substantial reduction of the coupon rating of house linen?
– Yes. I shall be glad to act along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– Hae the Minister for Labour and National Service been officially apprised of the fact that, in certain textile mills in New South Wales, men have had to be placed, on short-time work because of overproduction? Will he undertake to collaborate with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to modifying coupon values, so that a textile-starved community may be . enabled to take up thi? surplus stock?
– I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, and the points raised by the honorable member will be investigated.
Censorship of Mails - Release of Long-service Personnel and Schoolteachers.
– Last Friday the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked a question relating to an order issued by the CommanderinChief of the Australian Military Forces, directing that officers below the rank of lieutenant-colonel should no linger be permitted to frank their own correspondence. This order was issued on the 21st June, on the authority of the CommanderinChief and at the request of a corps commander in an operational area, because of breaches of security committed by officers writing from that area. It was intended as a temporary measure for the duration of the current operations, and its purpose was the protection of the lives of the troops and the officers themselves. It had no relation to the fact that officers might have been writing to members of Parliament. In view of the satisfactory progress in these operations, and the warnings that have been issued to officers in regard to breaches of security, it will not be necessary to continue the order any longer in its present form. Consequently, I have arranged with the Commander-in-Chief for its provisions to he relaxed, by transferring the responsibility to commanding officers, who will be authorized to suspend the directions of the order wholly or in part where they consider the conditions so warrant.
– Will the Minister for the Army state the position of members of the Australian Army who have had. five years’ service, including two years’ operational service, especially those who are still in Australia? What is the possibility of expediting the release of these men and of men from overseas as operational units?
– This matter affects not only the Army but also the Royal Australian Air Force. A comprehensive statement will be made by the Prime Minister within the next couple of days. . assure the honorable member that everything possible is being done by the Army authorities to implement the decision of the Government, expressed by the Prime Minister in the statement that he made to this House on the 29th June last. The right honorable member then said that there would be 10,000 discharges from the fighting services by the end of. August, and that the number would he increased by 12,000 each month, the total being 22,000 by the end of September, 34,000 by the end of October, 46,000 by the end of November, and between 58,000 and 64,000 by the end of December. The discharges, he rightly said, would be on a graduated scale, so as not to disorganize the fighting services or the operations which-were then, and still are, in progress. Members of the Army who have had five years’ service and comply with the other requirements, if on the Australian main land, are being discharged in accordance with instructions issued by the Army authorities. A substantial batch of longservice war veterans from overseas operational areas will arrive in Australia within the next fortnight, some of them by boat and others by air. I am sure that they will receive a very hearty welcome from the Australian people.
– Some time ago it waa announced that a number of schoolteachers was to be released from the armed forces, but it. has come to my knowledge that all the releases are from the Air Force. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service also give consideration to the recommendation of the man-power authorities- in regard to the release of school-teachers from the Army?
– It is true that the largest number of releases of schoolteachers, arranged after consultation with the State education authorities, happens to be from the Royal Australian Air Force, but that is because most schoolteachers who enlisted went into the Air Force. It does not mean that no schoolteachers will be released from the Army. I shall discuss the matter with the Director-General of Man Power, and I shall later advise the honorable member of the facts.
– Many servicemen who have had a long period of service were attached to the Citizen Military Force before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force. In calculating the five years of service, will the period with the citizen forces also he taken into consideration ?
– Continuous service in the Australian Military Force will be taken into consideration, irrespective of whether the member concerned has been in the Australian Imperial Force or the Citizen Military Force. The very fact that they enlisted and made their services available to fight for their country will be enough.
– .Some enrolled first in the Air Force, and then, transferred to the Army.
– In such instances, the time served in the Air Force would be counted when assessing their total length of service. Thus, they might have been two years in the Air Force and three in the Army, making a total of five, and they will be credited with five years’ service.
SERVICE to Smithton and Wynyard.
– Can the Minister for Air give any indication of the probable date of the resumption of the air service to Smithton and Wynyard aerodromes? The areas associated with these aerodromes have been without a service for some months.
– I cannot answer the question offhand, but I shall have inquiries made and the honorable member will be supplied with the information as soon as possible.
– In view of the acute shortage of galvanized iron, galvanized barbed wire and ordinary galvanized fencing wire, will the Minister for Munitions arrange for the transfer of a sufficient number of displaced workers from Lithgow to meet the urgent needs of primary producers for these materials, especially those needs which have arisen as the result of the recent destruction of fencing by floods on the north coast of New South Wales?
– The honorable member’s question would have been more appropriately addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who controls man-power arrangements. If, as a result of retrenchments at Lithgow, men suitable for employment in the making of galvanized iron, wire, &c, are available, I am sure that the Minister for Labour and National Service will give what assistance is possible to meet the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and .Shipping whether the priorities governing the distribution of piping for food production in Queensland have recently been altered? Whereas previously such piping held a No. 2 priority, being second only to defence requirements, preference is now being given to the war housing scheme, and metropolitan water and gas services. If so, does not the Minister consider that rural producers, upon whom the Government is calling consistently to maintain food production, are entitled to the consideration which they previously enjoyed, in regard to this essential material?
– I was not aware of any alteration of priorities in the States.
– The order of priority in relation to this piping has been lowered from No. 2 to No. 5.
– I do not know the degree to which my department is affected in that respect, but I shall have the matter examined. I think that this matter is the concern of some State committee, but I shall have it examined, and furnish a reply to the honorable member at the earliest possible moment.
– As the Government is unable to keep all government munitions factories working to full capacity, and in view of the fact that the rejection of the referendum proposals has made it impossible to turn’ such establishments over to the production of civilian goods, will the Minister for Munitions consider allowing the factories to he operated on a co-operative basis by the workers themselves, seeing that there is no constitutional objection to such a course? Will he have this proposal investigated before the factories are closed down or sacrificed to private interests?
– -The honorable member’s suggestion will have to he investigated by the Secondary Industries Commission, which is responsible to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. I shall have the matter brought to the notice of those concerned in order to find out how far the principle of cooperative production can be applied.
– Has the Department of Commerce and Agriculture noticed a resolution carried by the Beaudesert branch of the Graziers Association urging the Government to take more drastic action to combat the buffalo fly, and suggesting that an investigation be undertaken for the purpose of discovering means to destroy, rather than repel the pest? A number of honorable members, including myself, waited on the Minister, for Commerce and Agriculture, and urged more vigorous control of the buffalo fly, «nd speedier provision and release of D.D.T. and gauze for the purpose of destroying the pest. “Will the Minister ascertain what progress has been made with the destruction of the buffalo fly, and the provision of D.D.T. and gauze for its eradication? Will he ‘make available to the House a full report at the earliest possible moment?
– I have not seen a copy of the resolution to which the honorable member referred, but I know that the Commonwealth Government has interested itself in preventing the spread of the buffalo fly. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture has discussed the problem with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which has conducted a. number of investigations, and lias forwarded the results to the State Departments of Agriculture, because, strictly speaking, the control of the buffalo fly is their responsibility. Research into methods for helping to control the pest is a Commonwealth matter, and everything possible in that way is being done. It is true that the Commonwealth Government could render assistance in making available increased supplies of D.D.T. and gauze, and that will be done. I shall ascertain whether a report on the whole subject can be made available to the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Works and Housing yet in a position to make a statement to the House regarding the methods that his department is adopting to obtain a maximum supply of materials for the erection of homes, which are urgently required ?
– The honorable member’s question involves many factors including man-power, the release of sponsored personnel from the Army, the provision of building materials and the release of technicians to undertake water, sewerage, drainage, and electrical work associated with a housing programme. The Commonwealth is discussing these matters with the States. Next Friday, a conference will he held on this subject between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales. The all-important factor of man-power is being examined continuously, and men are already being released for the housing programme.
– In answer to my representations to the Minister for Supply and Shipping, I received a communication which contained the following statement: -
There are quite large stocks of goods available for disposal, and which will be urgently required by the civilian community. These include, for instance, motor vehicles, motor tyres, buildings and building materials, and the commission is making every endeavour to ensure that these goods get into the hands of the people who want them as early as possible.
Obviously, that statement makes it clear that motor vehicles and tyres, and buildings and building materials are available. People are undergoing severe privation, and suffering serious losses because of the long delay in distributing motor vehicles and tyres, and building materials. As the Minister for Supply and Shipping admits that stocks of those goods are available for disposal, will the Government see that supplies, particularly of motor tyres, shall be released in Queensland, where the authorities have not had sufficient stocks for distribution ? Will the responsible Ministers ensure that building materials shall be distributed immediately in order to relieve the acute housing shortage?
– I should be rather surprised to learn that many tyres are available for disposal, although, no doubt, some used tyres have been released by the Army authorities. However, if the Minister has said so in his letter, there must be some grounds for the statement. As I have already stated in this House on several occasions, disposals are determined by the authorities which hold the supplies, such as the armed services, deciding what is available. They declare their surplus stocks to the Commonwealth
Disposals Commission, which cannot dispose of the goods otherwise. The necessity for this procedure will be appreciated by all honorable members. The second part of the honorable member’s question dealt with housing requirements. I suppose that he has in mind such items as piping and house fittings.
– Buildings and building material.
– Disposals of buildings relate largely to hutments and other structures that have probably been dismantled’. Their value in dealing with the housing shortage is also limited. The honorable member will be aware of the story of the hut that was converted in Melbourne to demonstrate the housing possibilities of such structures. The Housing Commission of Victoria was not disposed to pay the cost of conversion and that attitude might be repeated elsewhere. Suggestions such as have been mentioned by the honorable member are sometimes magnified beyond their true value. Nevertheless I appreciate the honorable member’s purpose in asking the question, and I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to furnish more details.
Chaff Supplies in Victoria.
Mr.WILSON. - Is the Acting Minis ter for Commerce and Agriculture aware that a crisis has again arisen with regard to supplies of chaff in Victoria, particularly in the north-western portion of that State? The Parliamentary representatives of the district have been requested to obtain relief. Will the Minister investigate the whole matter and treat it as an urgent one? Can he also furnish information as to the distribution of the limited supplies of fodder coming forward ?
– I regret that difficulty has arisen with regard to supplies of chaff in the north-western part of Victoria. This matter has caused a great deal of concern to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who, I know, has done his utmost to obtain supplies of fodder fromWestern Australia, and has adopted other means of alleviating the shortage. I shall have an inquiry made immediately to ascertain whether any further steps can be taken by the Government to correct the position. I was under the impression that the distribution of fodder in Victoria was being dealt with by the StateGovernment, but if the Commonwealth Government can assist in any way to obtain increased supplies from elsewhere, it will be pleased to do so. Certain other phases of the matter are being examined, and the honorable member will be informed of the results of the Government’s investigations.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that in the United States of America there are about 1,250 soil conservation districts, including over 3,000,000 farms and ranches, each being local units of self-governing bodies dealing with all soil conservation matters? If so, in view of the fact that the main function of these districts is to give to ex-servicemen practical assistance in finding land to settle on, or farm work to do, will the right honorable gentleman obtain from the United States authorities details of this scheme, bring it before the State* authorities and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, and consider the advisability of introducing a similar scheme in Australia ?
– I have arranged to ascertain whether that information is already available and to obtain any further information on the matter. I shall ask the departments which are dealing with it, in conjunction with the State authorities, to furnish all available information. It has already been discussed at conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers. The final responsibility of course rests upon the States, but the Commonwealth Government has intimated that it desires to assist them in any reasonable way.
-Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction consult with the gentlemen who are vitally interested in the building of motor vehicles in Australia about the great advantage of utilizing the munitions factory at Rocklea, Queensland, which is owned by the Commonwealth Government, for the manufacture of these vehicles, in preference to using those factories in other parts of Australia which already have so much industrial congestion?
– I feel certain that the Secondary Industries Commission has already brought that matter to the notice of those who are interested in the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, and has intimated to them that the factory in Queensland to which the honorable member has referred is available for the purpose. However, I shall make certain that that has been done.
– A statement appears in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day to the effect that Mr. L. J. Hartnett, of General Motors-Holdens Limited, had a discussion yesterday with the Prime Minister, and afterwards made an announcement to the effect that his company expected to begin the manufacture of motor cars in Australia within twenty months. No doubt, the Prime Minister tried to obtain information as to the type, horse-power and estimated cost of the motor vehicle proposed to be manufactured’. Has, the right honorable gentleman any information on the matter to give to the House?
- Mr. Hartnett saw me yesterday afternoon, and for a portion of the interview the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was present. Certain requests were made with regard to expediting matters associated with the production of motor cars in Australia. Mr. Hartnett mentioned the desire of his company to produce a vehicle of a type that would be within the purchasing power of citizens in the receipt of only middle or lower incomes. The horsepower of the car and the estimated price were not mentioned. The only request which he made was that the department might be asked to expedite the consideration of requests by his organization. One of the matters which I discussed when the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was present was the extension of certain buildings in Melbourne to enable the company to carry out technical experiments. The Government’s proposals in regard to this industry were forwarded by the late
Prime Minister to General MotorsHoldens Limited and tabled in this House. That letter was intended to serve as a guide to all who might desire to engage in the manufacture of motor vehicles in this country.
Taxation of Remuneration of Officials
– I have had a letter from an Australian who has been appointed to a position in London in connexion with Unrra, and who points out that he and his colleagues from Australia are finding it difficult to make ends meet on their Australian salaries, having regard to the extremely high cost of living in London. He makes the further point that Australia is the only country which imposes income tax on the salaries of Unrra officials. Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs ascertain whether the salaries of Australian officials employed by Unrra are adequate to their needs, and whether any discrimination is exercised by this country in the matter of taxation?
– As the honorable member is aware, Unrra is not under Commonwealth control. I do not know how far this country is involved with regard to the payments of the salaries of officials engaged by Unrra, but I shall have pleasure in taking the matter up with the Treasurer in order to ascertain the facts.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the National Security Regulations with regard to bank overdrafts have been withdrawn, particularly in view of the amount of propaganda indulged in by opponents of the Government’s banking legislation?
– I do not know to what particular regulation the honorable member is referring. .Scarcely any amendments have been made since the regulations were first promulgated. No change has been effected concerning the powers of the Commonwealth Bank in respect of general advance policy. The principles of the regulations were incorporated in the Banking Bill that was passed by this
House and is now before the Senate, which I hope will become law very shortly.
– In view of the recent announcement of the Division of Import Procurement that there is likely to be an increase of imports to Australia, and that certain overseas countries are reviving their industries, can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give the assurance that further efforts will be made to explore fields hitherto closed for the purpose of increasing the supply of corsets in Australia?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to giving effect to the honorable member’s representations.
– In view of the fact that the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco has modified and, in some degree, clarified the International Agreement on Security made at Dumbarton Oaks, will the Prime Minister discuss with the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America the advisability of holding a similar conference to ascertain whether it is possible to reconcile the divergent views that were expressed in regard to the International Monetary Agreement formulated at Bretton Woods?
– If the right honorable gentleman will let me have in general outline the points that he has in mind, I shall be prepared to consider whether the representations he has suggested should be made.
– Does the Prime Minister recall a recent speech by the Leader of the Opposition in which he said that the Commonwealth Parliament was a suspended institution? Does the right honorable gentleman know whether the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition are in attendance at to-day’s sitting of this House? If they are not, will he take steps to inform them that the Parliament is still in session?
– The complaint thai, I have heard lately has been that the Parliament is sitting rather too lengthily, not that honorable members have been denied opportunities to expound their views. The Leader of the Opposition informed me last week- that important business associated with his party would prevent his attending to-day’s sitting of the House. From the western part of the continent I have heard echoes of the activities of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– About three years ago members of the Australia First, Movement were arrested and imprisoned in dramatic circumstances. Subsequently, Mr. Justice Clyne was appointed a royal commissioner to investigate their arrest and imprisonment and the conduct of their organization, but so far has not presented a report. Can the Minister representing the Attorney-General say what is preventing the royal commissioner from completing his investigations? Will the honorable gentleman also inquire as to when the report is likely to be presented to this Parliament?
– The evidence in this matter has been completed and Mr. Justice Clyne is now preparing his report, which I expect will be submitted in about a fortnight.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the Government has taken any action for the release of £he 24 tractors lying idle in Brisbane which could be fitted with bulldozer equipment, concerning which a question was asked in this House last week? Is any report on the matter expected to be forthcoming ? Can these tractors not be used for any other purpose without the authority of the United States LendLease Mission? As local authorities and .rural producers in Queensland urgently need such plant, will the Minister take up with the Lend-Lease Commission the matter of their release, and inform the House of the result of his representations?
– My knowledge of this matter is confined to that which I have gained from newspaper reports, and supports the statement of the honorable member. Lend-lease goods concern not only Australia but also another country, of which fact the honorable member is probably aware. However, I shall have investigations made, and advise him of the result.
Return of Men from United Kingdom.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that, according to cabled reports from England, members of the Royal Australian Air Force on indefinite leave in the United Kingdom are working in breweries and on other jobs because they have no idea when they will be brought home? “Will the Minister investigate the position with a view to arranging for these men to be returned to Australia so that they may rejoin their families? Will he make a full statement regarding the return to Australia of men who have served in Europe?
– I have not read the cabled statement referred to, but I certainly have received no objections from members of the Royal Australian Air Force employed in breweries. It was hoped that all members of the force who have served in Europe would be hack in Australia by the end of the year, hut latest information is to the effect that shipping difficulties have arisen because of the movement of troops from Europe to the South- West Pacific. Phis will cause delay, but the Government is doing all it can to bring the men back as soon as possible, and to ensure that those entitled to release because of operational service, tours of operations or length of services, shall be released promptly.
– Oan the Minister for Supply and Shipping say how many Commonwealth-owned ships are being operated on behalf of the Commonwealth Government by Australian shipping companies? What remuneration do the companies receive for their services, by way of commission on the ships’ earnings, or in any other way ?
– There are, I think, nine such ships of 9,000 or 10,000 tons, though I shall have to check the figures because I have been away from the department for some time. I am not sure what remuneration the companies receive, but I shall have investigations made.
– Has the Government received from returned soldier organizations a request that the period which enemy aliens must reside in Australia before they can apply for naturalization shall be increased to ten years? If the Prime Minister cannot answer this question to-day, will he have inquiries instituted, inform the House of the Government’s decision on any such representations, and whether the Government still considers five years’ residence sufficient in view of the changed conditions resulting from this war?
– I cannot answer the honorable member’s question in detail at the moment, but I shall obtain what information can be made available on the subject, and let him have it as soon as possible.
– Is it a fact, as claimed in the Medical Journal of Australia, that for every £1 spent by the Government on research into the cause and prevention of disease affecting man, £200 is spent to place man’s industrial and other activities on a surer foundation? Will the Prime Minister order an inquiry into the expenditure by the Commonwealth upon health and medical research; and, if a wide disparity is disclosed between this and other forms of expenditure, will the Government, in view of the importance of having a healthy nation in the post-war period, consider substantially increasing the grant for medical research?
– I shall have the honorable member’s proposal examined. 1 cannot give an undertaking just now that there will be an extension of investigation which would involve the use of a considerable amount of man-power. In fact, some of the questions asked by honorable members involve so much research as to impose a very heavy strain upon members of the Public Service. However, any information that can be reasonably obtained will be made available.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 162- (1.) A soon as practicable after the commencementof this Part, the Bank shall classify the positions in the Service of the Bank and shall determine the salary, or the range of salary, applicable to each position. (2.) The classification of each position, the name of the officer occupying the position and the salary of the officer shall be notified in the Gazette.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 - Leave out “notified in the Gazette”; insert “made known to the officers of the Bank in the prescribed manner “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
It is proposed to delete the provision for publication in the Gazette of the Commonwealth Bank staff list, and to provide in its place that copies shall be circulated among the staff, and a copy forwarded to the Treasurer for presentation to the Parliament. This will save considerable expense, and yet will ensure that the members of the bank’s staff, and also members of Parliament, will be f ully aware of the staff classification.
.- The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) has stated what the amendment proposes to do, but he has not given any reason why a provision previously agreed to by this chamber is now to be amended, and I think that he owes an explanation to the committee. Honorable members are aware of the circumstances in which the concluding stages of this bill were dealt with in this chamber. The “ guillotine “ was applied, and the final clauses of the bill were discussed in a very skimpy way. Now, so early in the life of the bill, the Government has found it necessary to bring down a series of amendments agreed to by the Senate. The Minister should not treat the committee in this cavalier way. I presume that, when the Government took more time to examine the bill than it allowed the committee for this purpose, it found that the printing of notifications in the Gazette would take up a very great amount of space, and so, in the interests of convenience, the amendment now before us was made. No doubt an explanation was given in the Senate regarding the reasons for the amendment, and honorable members in this chamber are entitled to a similar explanation.
.- I join with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in appealing for an explanation of the amendments to which we are asked to agree. Most of the amendments are to clauses which affect officers of the Commonwealth Bank, and I should like to know whether they have been put forward by the Government in response to requests by the officers’ association, or whether they have been submitted because the Government found that the original drafting of the clauses was faulty. When members of the Opposition were discussing this bill a few weeks ago, they suspected that many clauses were not sufficiently precise, and I am now interested to know whether those suspicions were correct. Will the Minister explain whether these amendments have been suggested by officials, after having closely examined the Opposition’s proposals, or do they represent a change of Government policy?
.- I also appeal to the Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) to supply further information regarding the reasons for these amendments. As on previous occasions, the honorable gentleman read only a brief statement of the purpose of this amendment, and omitted to explain why it is necessary. Honorable members are entitled to that information. I remind him that all but one of these eleven amendments apply to the classification and promotion of the officers of the Commonwealth Bank. Has the Minister entirely abandoned to the wolves the employees of the private trading banks?
– We are dealing only, with, the officers of the Commonwealth Bank.
– Then some consideration should be given ito the interests of the employees of the private banks. When this legislation was previously under consideration, the Opposition made a vigorous appeal on their behalf.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order ! I remind the honorable member that the measure under consideration is the Commonwealth Bank Bill, not a general banking bill.
– I am complaining because employees of the private trading banks have not been included in the provisions of this bill. Since honorable members on this side of the chamber strongly pressed the claims of those officers a few weeks ago, this legislation has been considered by the Senate, and returned to us with eleven amendments’. Apparently, the Government has considered the rights of the employees of the Commonwealth Bank. Why has it disregarded the claims of the employees of the private trading banks?
– Order ! I have already informed the honorable member that this bill does not deal with the private trading banks. I ask him to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– The Minister has failed satisfactorily to explain why the committee should accept this amendment. I ask him to repair that omission now.
.- The explanation which I gave a few minutes ago was adequate. I inform the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that the officers of the Commonwealth Bank did ask for the inclusion of this amendment.
– Did they ask for this series of amendments?
– They asked for this amendment. The speech of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), like the flowers that bloom in the spring, had nothing to do with the case. The bill provides for an appeal by officers who consider that their rights to promotion have been overlooked, and for recruitment to the service of the bank by competitive examination. So long as every officer of the bank is notified of classifications, and if every honorable member is able to discuss such matters in this Parliament, the officers of the bank will be fully protected. I informed honorable members previously that the purpose of this amendment is to effect economy, because the procedure originally contemplated publication in the Gazette of the classification of each position and the name and salary of the officer occupying it. That would have been very expensive.
.- The Minister (Mr. Lazzarini) was not quite correct when he said that the matter raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) did not come within the purview either of this bill or this clause. When this clause was under discussion on a previous occasion his own comments showed that he appreciated the point then raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) who said that, with a decline in the activities of the private trading banks, it was conceivable that some of their officers would be added to the staff of the Commonwealth Bank. He sought to gain some protection for officers of the private trading banks who are now serving with the fighting forces but who later might, as the result of the expansion of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank, and the consequent decline of - the activities of the private trading banks, desire to become employees of the Commonwealth Bank. Replying to the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister said -
I agree largely with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). This matter will probably require more mature consideration - perhaps after the bill has passed this chamber. The Government has done all it can to make provision for bank officers who may be displaced. If the business of the Commonwealth Bank expands it will need to employ more persons. I shall bring the representations of the Leader of the Opposition to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and they will lie considered.
I remind the honorable gentleman that he agreed that the clause required more mature consideration after the bill had left this chamber, and it is now clear that the Government ha3 further considered the measure, because eleven amendments have been presented to us.
– The Minister’s statement clearly envisaged that after the bill had left this chamber to be considered by the Senate a decision would be made.
– Nothing of the sort!
– That is what I desire to put to the Minister now, and a good deal of discussion on subsequent amendments may be avoided if he will inform us whether the Government has yet had an opportunity to consider the point which commended itself to the Minister at the time. Has he discarded any intention to incorporate in the bill any additional amendments which may have been deemed necessary to. cover the point, or can we take it that the matter is still receiving consideration ?
– I am not endeavouring to sidestep anything that I said when the bill was being considered a few weeks ago. This clause does not deal with the matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). His remarks related to a possible large transfer of officers from the private trading banks to the Commonwealth Bank and the necessity to protect their rights. Immediately an officer transfers from a private trading bank to the Commonwealth Bank, his rights will be protected by the Commonwealth Bank Act. The classification of each position, and the name and salary of the officer occupying it, will be notified and if any employee of the bank is dissatisfied he may appeal. Honorable members will also be notified of these classifications and will be able to raise any anomaly in this House. But obviously a provision cannot be included in this bill to protect the rights of persons who at present are employees of the private banks.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) 1 4.5]. - I appreciate the Minister’s statement and I am glad that the Senate’s amendments make provision for bank employees, thus rectifying an omission from the original draft of the bill. But has nothing been done by the Government in relation to the amendments proposed by honorable members on this side of the chamber on a previous occasion, amendments which he promised would be considered ?
– They were considered
– And apparently wiped out. I regret that apparently no concession has been made in respect of any of the proposals made by the Opposition in this chamber.
– Order! There is only one question before the Chair. The honorable member is not entitled to discuss any matter apart from the Senate’s amendment No. 1.
– I am not opposed to the Senate’s amendment. If you will not permit further discussion, as is usual when considering the first of a number of Senate amendments, Mr. Chairman, I cannot proceed further.
.- The Minister has not replied to my question. He referred to officers employed by the Commonwealth Bank. My question, which was amplified by the honorable member for” Fawkner (Mr. Holt), related to the promise made by the Minister on another occasion to examine the claims of employees of the private banks who would lose their jobs under this legislation. The Minister said that they would be picked up by the Commonwealth Bank and would benefit from the enactment of this hill. Has the Minister examined the representations made by honorable members on this, side on behalf of officers of the private banks ? He promised to do so before the bill was passed by the Senate.
– That has nothing to do with the amendment before the Chair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s amendment Ag. 2. - At the end of the clause add the following new sub-clause: - “ (3) A statement showing the classification of each position, the name of the officer occupying the position and the salary of the officer shall be forwarded to the Treasurer, for presentation to the Parliament.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment will have the same effect as the previous one. Instead of publication in the Commonwealth Gazette, a statement will be circulated to all officers of the bank and to the Treasurer for presentation to the Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Promotions Appeal Board shall consist of -
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - At the end of paragraph (c) of sub-clause (2.) add the words - “, in this section referred to as the officers’ representative ‘ “.
Senate’s amendment No. 4. - At the end of the clause add the following new sub-clauses: - “ (3.) The officers’ representative shall hold office for such period as is prescribed but shall be eligible for re-election. “ (4.) The officers of the Bank may, in the prescribed manner, elect a deputy of the officers’ representative and the deputy so elected shall hold office for such period as is prescribed but shall be eligible for reelection. “ (5.) A deputy so elected may, in the event of there being a vacancy in the office of officers’ representative, or in the event of the absence of the officers’ representative (whether in pursuance of a direction given under the next succeeding sub-section, or through illness or otherwise ) , attend and vote at meetings of the Promotions Appeal Board, and, when go attending and voting at a meeting, shall, for the purposes of sub-section (7.) of this section, be deemed to be a member of the Promotions Appeal Board in lieu of the officers’ representative. “ (6.) Where the Chairman of the Promotions Appeal Board is of opinion that the officers’ representative is personally interested in, or affected by, any question to be considered at a meeting of the Promotions Appeal Board, the Chairman may direct that the officers’ representative shall absent himself from that meeting while that question is considered and decided. “ (7.) Where, at any meeting of the Promotions Appeal Board, the members are divided in opinion on any question, that question shall be decided according to the decision of the majority.”.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The first of these amendments will avoid the necessity for repetition of the lengthy phrase, “ an officer elected by the officers of the Bank “. Clause 167 deals with the Promotions Appeal Board, and the new sub-clauses are necessary in order to provide for the smooth working of the bill. The purpose of new sub-clause 3 is to enable the officers’ representative to be elected periodically. New sub-clauses 4, 5 and 6 are designed to provide for the election of a deputy to act in lieu of the representative of the staff on the Promotions Appeal Board in any of the following circumstances: (a) Pending election of a representative should a vacancy occur in that office; (b) during the absence of the representative for any reason; and (c) where itwould be undesirable that the representative should act, by reason of his being personally interested in or affected by a question being considered by the Promotions Appeal Board. The purpose of new sub-clause 7 is ; to make clear that questions considered by the Promotions Appeal Board may be resolved according to the decision of the majority of the members.
.- Will the Minister indicate now whether these amendments have been made after consultation with representatives of the Bank Officers’ Association.
– Yes. That procedure has been followed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 175 - (1.) For the purposes of this Division, there shall be a Board (in this Act referred to as “the Disciplinary Appeal Board”). (2.) The Disciplinary Appeal Board shall consist of -
Senate’s amendment No. 5 -
At the end of paragraph (c) of sub-clause (2.) add the words “, in this section referred to as the ‘ officers ‘ representative ‘ “.
Senate’s amendment No. 6 -
At the end of the clause add the following new sub-clauses: - “ (4.) The officers’ representative shall hold office for such period as is prescribed but shall be eligible for re-election. “ (5.) The officers of the Bank may, in the prescribed manner, elect a deputy of the officers’ representative and the deputy so elected shall hold office for such period as is prescribed but shall be eligible for re-election. “” (6.) A deputy so elected may, in the event of there being a vacancy in the office of officers’ representative, or in the event of the absence of the officers’ representative (whether in pursuance of a direction under the next succeeding sub-section, or through illness or otherwise), attend and vote at meetings of the Disciplinary Appeal Board, and, when so attending and voting at a meeting, shall, for the purposes of sub-section (8.) of this section, be deemed to be a member of the Disciplinary Appeal Board in lieu of the officers’ representative. “ (7.) Where the Chairman of the Disciplinary Appeal Board is of opinion that the officers’ representative is personally interested in, or affected by, any question to be considered at a meeting of the Disciplinary Appeal Board, the Chairman may direct that the officers’ representative shall absent himself from that meeting while that question is considered and decided. “ (8.) Where, at any meeting of the Disciplinary Appeal Board, the members are divided in opinion on any question, that question shall be decided according to the decision of the majority.”.
– I move-
That the amendments be agreed to.
Clause 175 deals with the Disciplinary Appeal Board, and the amendments proposed are similar in all respects to those which have been made to clause 167, which deals with the Promotions Appeal Board.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Bank shall, as soon as practicable after the thirtieth day of June in each year, publish in the Gazette a list of all officers in the Service of the Bank on that date, together with particulars of the classification and salary of each officer.
Senate’s amendment No. 7 - Leave out “ publish in the Gazette”, insert “prepare”.
Senate’s amendment No. 8 - After “officer” add “ . and shall circulate copies of the list among the officers of the Bank in the prescribed manner “.
Senate’s amendment No. 9 - At the end of clause add the following new sub-clause: - “ (2.) The Bank shall forward a copy of the list to the Treasurer for presentation to the Parliament.”.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
These amendments are similar in all respects to those already made to clause 162, which deals with the initial classification of the officers of the bank.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
New clause 188a.
Senate’s amendment No. 10- After clause 188. insert the following new clause: - “ 188a. A trustee, executor or administrator may invest any trust moneys in his hands on deposit with the Bank or the Savings Bank.”.
– I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
This clause has been inserted in order to set aside doubts which have arisen as to the power of trustees to invest surplus funds in the Commonwealth Bank or the Savings Bank. It is clearly desirable that trustees should have this power.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Governor-General may make regulations for carrying out or giving effect to this Act or for the conduct of business by the Commonwealth Bank or the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
Senate’s amendment No. 11 - At the end of the clause add the words, “ and in particular for prescribing penalties not exceeding Fifty pounds for any offence, against the regulations “.
– I move - .
That the amendment be agreed to.
In order that the Disciplinary Appeal Board to be established under the bill may function effectively it will be necessary in the Commonwealth Bank Regulations to give the chairman powers to summon witnesses who may be required to give evidence or to produce documents. To make this power effective, it is necessary to penalize failure to attend when summoned and the giving of false evidence. Hence, it is necessary to empower the inclusion of penalties in the regulations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 20th July * vide* page 437 4) on motion by Mr. Scully -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Whilst I support this bill I regret the necessity for it. This is only a supplementary bill for the purpose of augmenting payments authorized last year. Droughts occur all too frequently in this country, and the loss occasioned by them cannot be disregarded. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) gave figures indicating the great losses sustained through drought, and I also intend to cite figures for the purpose of impressing on the people the serious effects of drought. The losses due to the recent drought are estimated to have amounted to £61,400,000, made up of the following amounts: sheep, £15,000,000; wheat, £10,700,000; wool, £10,000,000; meat, £8,500,000; hay, £7,000,000; milk, £4,700,000; barley, £1,200,000; dried fruits, £1,000,000; apples, £800,000; grain sorghum, £500,000 ; eggs, £500,000 ; oats £400,000; flax, £300,000; tobacco, £200,000; maize, £100,000; and honey, 100,000. From what I can gather from press reports, the foregoing figures represent only a conservative estimate of the loss suffered through the recent drought. The last statement I saw was that there would be a loss of about 20,000,000 sheep, so I am convinced that the estimate is a very conservative one. I am afraid that, when the final figures are available, the losses will he seen to total nearer 100,000,000 than £61,400,000.
The honorable member for Deakin advocated the conservation of fodder, and I support him in that policy. During years of plenty practically no effort is made to conserve fodder. It is regrettable that the Commonwealth Parliament has not greater powers in this matter than at present. Under war-time regulations the Commonwealth Government can take almost any power, but the States themselves possess all necessary power to conserve fodder and have not exercised it. No Go vernment can be blamed more than another, because neglect in this matter has continued for many years. I am glad that the honorable member for Deakin has given some support to a socialistic effort to solve the problem, because in years gone by private individuals have done very little in that direction. It seems to me that if fodder is to he conserved on an adequate scale, schemes will have to be financed either by the Commonwealth Government or the governments of the States. Action along those lines is long overdue. For the last 60 years we have experienced droughts, but we have not adopted a long-range policy to minimise their effects. It seems that we give serious consideration to the problem only when the country is actually suffering from drought. I hope that the time is not far distant when lie States will agree to the granting of powers to this Parliament to enable it to inaugurate and finance proposals for coping with the problem on a permanent basis.
I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) that the relief should not be confined to drought-stricken producers of cereal crops. The men engaged in the pastoral industry have suffered tremendous losses, but have received no compensation whatever. We should adopt a relief scheme comprehensive enough to cover the whole gamut of primary production. Pastoralists, and particularly the small men, have to go to their hanks or the stock agents with whom they deal, when they require financial assistance, and they probably have to pay interest at the rate of from 5 to 5£ per cent, for the money borrowed by them. Those who produce live-stock are just as important in the economy of the country as are those who grow wheat, and they should not find it necessary to obtain financial assistance from private sources. I am inclined to the opinion that the sooner the Commonwealth Bank takes over the debts of the primary producers the better it will be in the interests of those producers and of the people generally.
The interest burden at present borne by all primary producers throughout the Commonwealth is from £40,000,000 to £50,000,000 a year; whilst the annual debt of the wheat-growers alone is from £150,000,000 to £200,000,000. In view of the degree to which Australia depends upon primary production, money should bo made available to all producers at the lowest possible rate of interest. Steps should be taken to provide a sinking fund, or some insurance scheme subscribed to by the producers themselves, at the rate of say,¼d.,½d. or even1d. a bushel to enable them to withstand losses such as those occasioned by drought. The wool industry is assisted by the Government, which contributes to the fund raised by the industry for research purposes, and actionon similar lines for the benefit of other primary producers would be to the advantage of the community generally. The measure before us provides for preferential treatment of a section of the primary producers, and that is not in the best interests of the country. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) claimed last week that primary producers in South Australia whose crops had been damaged by frost should receive Commonwealth relief. Probably 75 per cent. of the producers in this category are in the “Wakefield electorate. Therefore, it is imperative that I should make it clear that I have done everything that I could on their behalf. A deputation waited on me in Adelaide and placed before me facts and figures showing the losses that had been incurred. These figures were mentioned by the honorable member for Barker, and I shall not repeat them. The total amount of the loss was £300,000, which is considerable. Individual losses were much more than many of those affected were able to bear. On behalf of the sufferers I wrote to the Treasurer stating that tie deputation had placed their case before me. I then said -
They requested that I, as the representative for those districts which were so badly affected, should again approach the Government, through you, to see if further consideration could be given to meet them in their dire distress through the effect of frosts. They have given me figures to prove their case.
I believe that similar figures were presented to you by the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford.
The Treasurer had refused previously to grant assistance, on the ground that the responsibility for it rested with the State. I continued -
In your reply to me in the third paragraph, you say that if the State Treasurer considers that the payments made under the uniform taxation arrangements are insufficient to meet the revenue requirements of the State, he is at liberty to follow the procedure provided to meet such circumstancesby this Commonwealth legislation.
In effect, do you mean by that statement that in the event of the State Government of South Australia paying out moneys for frost relief, that the Commonwealth Government would guarantee reimbursement, that isto say, on the principle of meeting this liability on a £ for £ basis?
This, of course, is “additional financial assistance “ for frost, and if there is no departure from the usual routine, the object of seeking assistance will be defeated. The object being to obtain help now to assist in producing the next crop.
As pointed out to me by the deputation, and with which I concur, South Australia is dependent upon grants for disabilities and tremendous revenues go from this State’s fruit production into the Commonwealth Treasury. For the past ten years the total duty on the production of brandy and fortifying spirits as been approximately £7,000,000.
It will thus be seen that the Commonwealth Treasury has derived considerable revenue from the production of fruit. In substantiation of my case, I said -
You will recall that the Government gave drought relief to the primary producers of Australia to the amount of £3,000,000. This was paid on a 50-50 basis. This, of course, was to give assistance to those whose crops failed as a result of the drought.
I claim that the frost is just as much an “ act of God “ as the drought and I would point out that in 1041 the then Government passed an act authorizing the making of loans to the State of Tasmania for the relief of berry-growers. In 1944 the Commonwealth Government gave a grant of £200,000 towards the sufferers from bush fires in Victoria. This grant gave immediate relief to the unfortunate people who were affected by the fires.
I understand that although £200,000 was granted, considerably less was expended, because it was found that the damage had not been so great as had been at first thought. I went on to say -
These two instances I have quoted will show you that the assistance we are asking for South Australia will not establish a precedent as this has already been established in the cases mentioned.
But I do appeal to you again, on behalf of these unfortunate people who have been so badly affected - quite a number of whom will find it extremely difficult to prepare their crops and carry on in the coming season. Therefore, I am strongly appealing to you, lis the Acting Prime Minister of the Common wealth, to again review the position of frost relief in South Australia. I feel that the Government will be justified in acceding to this request, more especially in view of the fact that the State Government is prepared to assist on a 50-50 basis.
I am well aware that the Government of South Australia passed legislation to give effect to an agreement that had been reached by the Premiers of all the States for the granting of drought relief, but it went further by providing for the relief of those whose crops had been damaged by frost, the object being to obviate the necessity to pass separate legislation dealing with that matter.
A quotation by the honorable member for Barker from the speech’ which the Premier of South Australia had made during the consideration of that measure would lead this House and the people to believe that a grant to sufferers from frost would have cost the State 7i per cent. - 3J per cent, interest and a sinking fund of 4 per cent. This I have found to be not quite in accordance with the facts. The cost mentioned by the Premier of South Australia would apply only if his drought relief expenditure had to be financed out of a deficit. If financed from loan fund, the sinking fund payment would be 10s. per cent, instead of £4 per cent. The fact is that drought relief in South Australia has been financed by the Commonwealth, because an expenditure of £304,000 for that purpose was charged to revenue and was partly responsible for a deficit of £553,172, which has been offset by an increase of the Commonwealth’s income tax reimbursement grant by that amount in respect of 1944-45, on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Consequently, there has been no necessity for an interest or a sinking fund payment in that connexion. In addition, the Commonwealth Government has made a grant of £20,000 to South Australia on the condition that the Government of that State provides a like amount for the relief of necessitous cases in frost-affected districts. That £40,000 will not cover all of the losses that have been sustained, but it will at least help considerably the most needy cases. Had the State Government so desired, it could have done considerably more than it has done in the matter of frost relief. I have tried on several occasions to find out just what droughts have cost Australia, but I have been unable to arrive at even an approximate figure. “We know, however, that the amount must be enormous. Instead of concerning ourselves with relieving distress occasioned by drought, we should turn our attention to measures which would have the effect of mitigating those effects. During the last three years, and particularly during the last twelve months, Australia has experienced the worst drought in its history. Even though there have been copious rains during the last month, which have averted immediate danger, we should at once take steps to prevent future droughts from having such disastrous results as the last one had. Ever since I have been a member of this House, I have been trying to impress upon the Government and the country generally the need for water and soil conservation, but up to the present nothing very effective has been done. It has been reported that Dr. Hugh Bennett, an American expert on these matters, is to visit Australia to confer with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and to visit the various States. I have previously suggested that we should set up in Australia an authority whose concern it would be to conserve water and to take measures for the prevention ‘ of soil erosion. It would be very useful to have such an authority in existence so that it might receive the advice of Dr. Bennett, and act upon his recommendations. If we do not attack this problem in a realistic way there will not be much soil left to worry about in a few generations. An authority such as I have suggested could co-operate with the States to ensure that suitable measures were put into effect. We are continually consulting with the States on this and other matters, but it is really our responsibility, because the Commonwealth has the money and the Sates have not. Water conservation is Australia’s most important task. A« I have said, there has been beautiful rain over a great part of Australia during the last month, in some places the best rain for fifteen years. Nevertheless, one of my constituents said to me the other day that his district in northern South Australia would he in a bad way unless more rain fell soon. The rain has fallen, but where is it now? Even in those districts where there were floods, and where roads and railroads were washed out, the country is already parched again. The Army publication, Salt, in an article on the Bradfield Water Conservation, scheme, published the following comment by William Hatfield:- “If big undertakings really had to wait for “ money “ we would have had to ask the Japanese to postpone their drive for “ Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity “ till we had discovered a new mountain of gold somewhere. If we wait for “ money “ on which to undertake the great schemes for national development we shall wait for ever.
The Commonwealth is spending millions to compensate the primary producers for drought losses, and this money expended on water conservation schemes would produce an enormous amount of good. Water is life to any country, and particularly to Australia. It i3 strange that we should have to go to the United States of America in order to be told how important water is to us. I quote the following from an article in the Christian Science Monitor of the 17th February, 1945: -
In Australia’s past economy the emphasis has been on land; in future the emphasis will have to be on water - water for the inland. With her great prehistoric central rivers flowing perennially, Australia could safely open her doors to millions of people, assuring them of full employment, greater economic opportunity, and a rising standard of living. With but 2.3 persons to the square mile, this is one of the last great empty spaces. It is important to the future welfare of the world that it be filled. Water for inland Australia means future security for the Pacific.
I know that there are so-called experts who declare that the Bradfield plan is impracticable. The experts also told Sir John Forrest that it was impracticable to carry water to Kalgoorlie, but he did it. Water, impounded at Mundaring, near Perth, was pumped a dish tan.ee of 352 miles, involving a lift of 1,200 feet. This great conservation and pumping scheme gave new life to the eastern ‘gold-fields. The Whyalla scheme brings water 225 miles, and raises it about 1,600 feet, and it has resulted in the building of a great modern township. I have not seen it. but I understand that there is at Whyalla one of the best dairies in the Commonwealth, and fodder is being grown there on land which wa3 formerly a desert. It was Alfred Deakin who induced the Governments of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales to conserve the waters of the Murray, and we all know how much has been achieved as a result. There are still many thousands of acres in South Australia alone which could be producing lucerne and other crops if water were brought to the area. There has been much’ talk about, the conservation of fodder, but a tremendous amount of fodder could be grown along our rivers by irrigation. Recently, I listened to a debate in the “ Forum of the Air “, in the course of which Mr. Sawtell spoke eloquently in favour of the Bradfield plan of water conservation. Another speaker in the person of Dr. Madigan, said that Mr. Sawtell had delivered a great oration, but Dr. Bradfield’s scheme was merely the dream of an old man. He remarked that, often, brilliant men in their old age put forward dream schemes. My only regret is that Australia has not more dreamers of the type of Dr. Bradfield, and fewer academists, who may he able to teach pupils satisfactorily in a school-room, but are not practical men. ‘ I hope that Dr. Bradfield’s scheme, and other great plans for water conservation and irrigation, will be adopted in Australia. Honorable members will recall that in the Old Book, Joseph was called a dreamer. He went to Egypt and his interpretation of a dream was the means of saving Egypt from, famine. Australia needs men who dream of water conservation schemes. We want men who have vision, because “ where there is no vision the people perish “.
.- I regret the need for the introduction of this bill, and emphasize that honorable members should give more consideration than they do to the causes which make this legislation necessary. The object of the bill is to provide for cereal-growers in Victoria and Western Australia drought relief amounting to £1,855,000. Whilst this payment may be necessary in order to relieve their plight, this Parliament should pay more attention than it does to the causes of drought, and methods to minimize their effects. Outstanding in the history of Australia are the grim, recurring periods of drought, and we cannot avoid them simply by voting a few millions of pounds to assist the stricken wheatgrowers. At this time, in particular, the Parliament should consider ways of preventing this periodical loss of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of sheep, cattle, dairy stock, poultry, and grain, fodder and fruit crops. But, whereas a cerealgrower loses his crop only in the year of the drought, pastoralists suffer more heavily. When dairy herds, cattle and sheep perish from this cause, not only the stock but also the progeny are lost, and development is retarded for years. The effects of drought may be minimized by fodder conservation, and water conservation and irrigation schemes. Those are essential post-war works. I remind the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that the Rural Reconstruction Commission has collected from agricultural districts throughout Australia voluminous evidence on proposals for minimizing the effects of drought. If the honorable gentleman will examine the various suggestions he will obtain a wealth of information which, if given effect, will save Australia from the dire results of recurring droughts in future. Every time Australia has a deluge, hundreds of millions of gallons of water flows from the land into the sea, and is lost. If dams and weirs were constructed across our rivers and streams at suitable points, and darns were constructed in the mountain gorges, much of that water would be conserved, and would be available to offset a “drought.
– If those schemes are so necessary, why did successive antiLabour governments fail to give effect to them ?
– I am weary of such piffling and childish observations. I am submitting to the Minister a practical proposition.
– Anti-Labour governments had twenty years in which to conserve water in Australia.
– Utter piffle and nonsense ! If the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) will pay attention for a few moments, I shall increase his knowledge of this subject. I deplore his ignorance. If the honorable gentleman will peruse Hansard, he will find in many speeches the same childish observation as that which he made.
– Order ! The honorable member for Moreton is inviting interjections.
– No, I am replying to interjections. Apparently my remarks are stirring up Government supporters. After the war, the Government must provide large public works for the purpose of employing many demobilized servicemen and employees in war-time establishments. I have collaborated in my electorate with many public bodies for the purpose of obtaining information relating to fodder conservation, water conservation, and irrigation projects that maybe undertaken in the post-war period. Suggestions have been obtained from various chambers of commerce and industry, and local government bodies, and this information has not previously been collated. If the Minister will utilize that information, he will be able to provide employment for the large reservoir of unskilled labour that will be constituted by demobilized servicemen.
– This Government has plans for employing those men.
– This Government has done very little to assist exservicemen, as I have shown on many occasions. That is why I am offering to the Government suggestions for the re-establishment of those men. The Re-establishment and Employment Bill contains a serious defect, because soldiers who are fighting our battles to-day will not be eligible, if they are over 21 years of age, to receive vocational training. The Opposition fought that legislation tooth and nail, and because the Government persisted in ignoring our remarks, large numbers of servicemen will be only unskilled labourers after the war. Employment must be found for them.
– Order ! Those remarks have nothing to do with this bill.
– Because those men are unskilled, I hasten to say, the Government has an opportunity to provide employment for them on water conservation and irrigation works. If those men l>e so employed, Australia will build up a resistance to drought, and this Parliament will not be called upon year after year to grant financial relief to droughtstricken cereal-growers. “Why ShOUld cereal-growers, alone among primary producers, receive this assistance from the Commonwealth Government? Pastoralists, cattle-raisers, fruit-growers, dairyfarmers and poultry-farmers also have been affected, but this bill does not provide any relief for them. The effects of this drought have been more serious than the Government and its experts at first believed. The States Grants (Drought Relief) Act 1944 provided for the payment to cereal-growers of £1,500,000, but evidently, that amount was not sufficient to meet all requirements, and is now increased by £355,000. 1 have no objection to the provision of relief to cereal-growers in Western Australia and Victoria, but similar consideration should be given to the claims of other primary producers who have been stricken by the drought. Probably more than 1,000,000 sheep and hundreds of thousands of cattle have died in Queensland during the last two and a half years, but no relief has been given to the pastoralists and cattle-raisers. Dairy cattle and their progeny have perished, and this Parliament has not assisted the dairy-farmers’. In’ Queeusland, over 1,000,000 fowls have been destroyed, because poultryfarmers could not obtain sufficient supplies of grain for the birds. Why should drought relief be paid only to wheat-growers? It is a one-sided policy. The poultry breeders, apart from being forced to slaughter their fowls, will not be able to rear new-season’s chickens because of the feed shortage, and so their incomes will he seriously reduced. I have asked for an egg subsidy of 9d. a dozen, and this has been refused. Grain producers are being compensated because they have no grain, but poultry-farmers are suffering equally because they are unable to obtain grain. They need assistance. There are in this House many wheat-growers and representatives of wheat-growers, and they have prevailed on the Government to make these grants. The scheme is utterly unfair, and I ask the Government to take steps to assist other sections of the community that have been affected by drought at rates equivalent to those payable to cereal producers. The Constitution provides that grants shall be made on an equitable basis, without differentiation, and the bill fails to comply with that requirement. I do not object to helping the wheatfarmers, but the Government ought to help other drought-stricken primary producers as well. I remind the Government of the proposals for employing the unskilled man-power of the nation after the war on fodder conservation, water conservation and irrigation schemes. By taking anticipatory action, we can minimize the effects of recurring droughts.
.- The object of this measure is to provide for additional payments, on a £l-for-£l basis with the States, for the relief of droughtstricken cereal producers throughout Australia. The original measure for the granting of drought relief was passed by this House in November last. The problem was first considered at a Premiers Conference held in October, and was later further considered by the Australian Agricultural Council. It is to be deplored that, many months afterwards, the Government should be obliged to bring down a measure for additional drought relief. When the first bill was introduced, it was not known whether the amount of tb<; grant proposed would meet the requirements of the cerealgrowers, but it was stated then that, if necessary, further assistance would be given to them. It was hoped that the drought would break before July of this year, so that the allocation of extra funds would not be necessary. Droughts are not unusual in countries like Australia. Throughout our history, droughts of short duration have occurred frequently in isolated districts. Almost every year a drought occurs in some part of the continent, but very rarely, possibly only two or three times in a life-time, do we experience a drought so general as that which has scourged the country during the last few years. It has been a national calamity. Although it is the function of the State governments to provide relief for drought-parched areas in normal times, it is the function of the Commonwealth Government to assist them when a drought reaches national proportions. Money which will he paid to the wheatgrowers under this bill will not bo for the exclusive benefit of primary producers. Drought affects everybody in the community. Even city-dwellers do not escape its effects. When the income of the primary producer is reduced, every resident of country towns and districts is also affected. The man who depends directly on the industry for his employment and the man who carries on his business in towns where the wheat-farmer buys his goods suffer by reason of his depleted spending-power in time of drought. City residents also are affected, although less directly, by this reduced flow of trade. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was incorrect in stating that this is a special measure for the assistance of only one section of the community. Its benefits will be felt by all sections.
– To whom does it apply, apart from cereal-growers?
– I have already explained that it affects every member of the community by reason of the reduced spending power of the cereal-growers. The drought has had its effects on everybody. Therefore, the bounden duty of the Government is to compensate the cereal-growers directly, thus assisting other sections of the community indirectly. The honorable member said that subsidies ought to be given to poultry-farmers, who were suffering on account of the feed shortage. ‘ Up to date, the poultry-farmers have- fared reasonably well. They have not experienced the losses due to shortage of feed which were anticipated some time ago. The honorable member said that 1,000,000 fowls had been slaughtered in Queensland, and a few minutes later he said that 1,000,000 fowls would be slaughtered. I- do not know which statement is correct. I do not believe that any fowls slaughtered in Queensland will represent a direct loss to the producer.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said so.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has in formed the poultry-farmers that, the Government is prepared to take over such stock as they cannot carry on account of the feed shortage, and will pay a satisfactory price for the birds. The carcasses will be taken over by the meat control authorities and placed in store for export, so as to supplement meat supplies to the United Kingdom. Although that offer has been made to the producers, only a small number of birds has been provided so far, and this indicates that the industry is not expecting great losses. If the poultry-farmers were unable to feed their stock, they would take advantage of the scheme. The bill passed in November last provided for the provision by the Commonwealth of £1,500,000, to be augmented £J for £1 by the States, for the purpose of drought relief. This bill provides for a supplementary amount to be made available. It is impossible. to prevent droughts, because we are unable to control the forces of nature. But it is the duty of the nation to guard to the greatest possible degree against the effects of drought. Precautions can be taken in many ways, and the Government has not been lax in this regard.
The Commonwealth Government, assisted to some degree by the State governments, has established machinery pools throughout the country and is prepared to increase these pools. The object is to provide machinery to enable primary producers to grow and conserve fodder. This is one of the most effective means of protecting the interests of primary producers. The pools have been of great service to farmers, because, instead of having to expend capital on the purchase of machinery, they have been able, on payment of a reasonable service charge, to obtain the use of equipment necessary for producing and conserving fodder. If farmers are prepared to band together, and operate machinery pools for their own benefit, I am sure that the Commonwealth Government will co-operate to the greatest degree by providing the original capital expenditure and releasing machinery for the pools.
Another great project which is at present receiving the attention of the Commonwealth Government will also bo of great value in reducing the effects of droughts, particularly in. Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Frequently, droughts have caused severe losses in one part of a State whilst other parts have experienced relatively good seasons. In such cases, the availability of transport facilities to move stock to the less-seriously affected districts would do much to prevent drought disasters. The scheme for the standardization of railway gauges, which is under consideration at present, would be of great importance in this connexion. I hope that the States will support the scheme and that the plan contemplated by the Commonwealth Government will be implemented as soon as possible. One proposal is for the construction of a railway line from Bourke through the western portions of New South Wales and Queensland to the Northern Territory. This line is to connect with the western reaches of the Queensland railway system. In times of drought in those areas, several millions of head of stock could be shipped away from the dry areas to districts where fodder is available. It is probable that in a brief period the saving effected in this way would exceed the cost of construction of the railway. The main cattle districts of Australia are in the Northern Territory and the northern and eastern coastal districts of Queensland. Droughts frequently occur in those areas. A similar state of affairs obtains in the sheepraising areas in the eastern parts of the Commonwealth. In time of drought, the stock cannot be moved to safety because of the lack of transport facilities. The standardized railway service which I have mentioned would be one of our greatest national assets. In time of drought, the financial economy resulting from the saving of millions of head of stock would cover the cost of construction of the line.
The Commonwealth Statistician recently released figures showing that up to two or three months ago 7,000,000 sheep in New South Wales and 4,000,000 in Victoria were estimated to have been lost, a total of 11,000,000 sheep in two States alone. Allowing for the great losses in other States, and considering the number of stock that have died from starvation since these figures were com- piled, the total number of sheep lost must, at a conservative estimate, be about 20,000,000. If by the transfer of stock from one centre to another, the provision of fodder reserves, and the establishment of machinery pools, millions of stock could be saved, the benefit to the nation would be enormous. Some honorable members have said in this debate that a scheme of national insurance against losses such as those suffered through drought should be adopted, and I regard that as a sound proposal. A small charge could be imposed on the primary producers, and the money could be paid into a national fund, from which those sections suffering through drought at any future period could be compensated. Under the war damage insurance scheme, a substantial sum has accumulated in a short time by means of a small charge on the assets of the people, and an insurance scheme established on similar lines for the benefit of primary producers would be of great benefit.
Water conservation on an extensive scale has been urged by several honorable members, and this is one of the major considerations to which the Government should give attention in the early postwar years. Plans are being prepared for water conservation throughout Australia. Much could thus be done to mitigate the effects of drought and increase the value of our national assets. Not only should we conserve water by damming our large rivers, but many small schemes should also be carried out along the smaller rivers and creeks throughout the Commonwealth. Australia is not blessed with many large rivers, and therefore the establishment of many big conservation schemes is impossible. But on the smaller streams many dams could be constructed, and, if desirable, at short distances apart. I believe that that work would give a return to the nation worth many times more than its cost.
I now make a special plea on behalf of stock-raisers in areas which have been stricken by drought. Many families have endured great hardship, have lost most of their assets, and will experience great difficulty in bringing their properties back into production. They do not ask for direct grants of money, although such grants have been made to persons adversely affected by bush-fires. All that they ask is that advances should be made to them by the Commonwealth or the State Governments at a low rate of interest, say, lj per cent., repayable in small instalments over a period of years. This would enable them to re-stock their properties and carry on their operations. The Rural Bank of New South Wales grants loans to agriculturists who have suffered through drought, but does not similarly assist stock-raisers. Agriculturists can obtain a loan through that bank at 1 per cent., and the money is repayable in easy instalments. For the first two years no payment of interest or instalments is required, but after the second year there are interest charges and repayments of principal. This scheme has been of great assistance to tanners, and I should like similar assistance to be extended to stock-raisers, particularly those in the far west of New South Wales, in the Riverina, and in the northwestern portion of Victoria, who have been adversely affected by drought for a long period. I appeal to the Government to approach the State authorities for their co-operation in making advances to stock-raisers at a low rate of interest, repayable over a period, of years, .to enable them to re-stock their properties. That is a simple request. The producers do not ask for a free grant; they merely want loans at a low rate of interest. This Parliament is now dealing with legislation which will enable the Commonwealth Bank to finance primary producers as they should be assisted in a time of national calamity. I compliment the Government on what it has already done to assist producers, and I hope that consideration will be given to the other matters which I have raised in this debate. When the next drought occurs I hope that better provision will have been made to minimize its effects than on this occasion. In the immediate post-war period the services of all who need employment should be utilized to the greatest possible degree in building up national assets throughout the Commonwealth, in order to prevent primary producers from suffering through drought. Australia is a great country about which many stories and poems have been written, particularly concerning the sufferings through drought of the settlers in the back country. Much sacrifice and self denial are demanded of those who work on the land, and great hardship is experienced by the wives and families of the settlers. If we approach this problem as a national one, and adopt such preventive and ameliorative measures as are possible, we shall do much to improve the conditions of life on the land in Australia.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) did well in drawing attention to the fact that, in respect of drought consequences, prevention is better than cure. Consideration of the heavy losses caused by drought indicates that much more should be done than can be accomplished by measures which merely deal with the problem after the event. These losses are of staggering proportions. Figures were published in the press yesterday showing that the loss due to the recent drought is estimated at about £61,000,000. I regard that as a conservative estimate. As the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has pointed out, the losses will continue for another three months, because, in addition to the loss of sheep, including millions of ewes, and the death of lambs, many sheep will fail to produce lambs in the coming season. The production this year will probably be only half of that of a normal year, and half of the loss of production will be due to causes other than drought. As far as mi-Ik and butter are concerned, I notice a great variation of many thousands of tons between the normal and the estimated production. The statement regarding wool is that there will be a falling off of 800,000 bales, which, at an average price of £20 a bale, gives a loss of production amounting to £16,000,000. We are lucky to be getting a high average price for our wool from the Government of Great Britain, because the quality of the wool has deteriorated owing to the drought conditions. I consider that the total loss due to drought will be between £80,000,000 and £100,000,000. Remembering the number of droughts that have occurred in Australia, and the consequent decrease of primary and secondary production, together with resultant loss in the transport industry and in other industries because of the lack of purchasing power in. the hands of the primary producers, I believe that the losses from drought since this country was settled 160 years ago would almost equal the amount that Australia has been forced to pay in carrying on the present war for the last” six years.
The time is long overdue when we should give our attention to fundamental considerations. We should realize that we cannot solve the problem presented by droughts unless we make certain that we have full co-operation between the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States, as well as the assistance of the individuals on the land. I did something towards securing that co-operation in 1934, when I established the Australian Agricultural Council, which consists of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the State Ministers of Agriculture and representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I had hoped that by this time that body would have been granted a constitutional status similar to that of the Loan Council, so that its decisions might have been automatically translated into law under a. statute. Had that been done, we should have been spared much of the progressive loss occasioned by droughts, because, for instance, in 1941 the Agricultural Council agreed to a scheme for fodder conservation. That could not be fully implemented owing to objections later raised by the State Premiers. Therefore, the time has come for us to press for constitutional action to give us an Australian policy.
The problem should be dealt with on non-party lines. During the twelve years of the life of the council, its discussions, which have been held in camera, have been free from party considerations. There has never been the slightest suggestion of party bias or interest in those deliberations. The desire always has been to secure an Australiawide agricultural policy in respect of both production and marketing. Thereby, we should make certain of having a constant policy in connexion with agriculture. But even then much progress would not be made unless the wavers of Australia were conserved to the utmost degree. Water conservation cannot be handled individually by the different State governments. The intake of the artesian wells in northern New South Wales is in southern Queensland. Action designed to save water in the one State would be nullified by the lack of complementary action in the other State. The Darling and Murray Rivers obtain their waters from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for water conservation of this river system to be undertaken by a combination of governments. That is true also of the coastal rivers, except in the huge State of Western Australia. The time is opportune for viewing the problem detachedly and impartially, in order to discover what methods will secure the best results.
First, constitutional status should be given to the Australian Agricultural Council. Then, a federal water conservation commission, composed of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States, should be established to handle the problems of water conservation and development as a whole. A definite plan must be laid down. Finance must be provided continuously, for its implementation, step by step, in the order decided by such an authority The argument that money cannot be found for this purpose, is not tenable. During the last 150 years, within any ten-year period practically as much production has been lost by reason of the lack of constructive works on every river in Australia as would have provided the means to finance them, and thus have ensured the future of not merely the producers immediately benefiting but in addition all those engaged in the factories and other national avocations who are dependent on them.
The real difficulty has been, not the finding of the necessary money but the lack of a common policy, and coordination among the different governments. Consider the big lapse of time that has occurred between the great undertakings that have been completed. The first reservoir of any magnitude to be constructed was the Burrinjuck Dam. Ten or twelve years later the Hume Weir was started.
Then there was a further considerable lapse of time before the Wyangala work was undertaken, and the waters of the Murray River were taken to Whyalla. All those undertakings were made possible only because the Commonwealth Government combined with the States concerned. It is obvious that future works of similar magnitude will not be carried into effect without like co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. If one State had to undertake a work such as that of Wyangala, the Clarence River project, or the Whyalla water scheme, at a cost of between £4,000,000 and £6,000,000, the whole of its financial resources would be drained during that period, and it would have very little left for other purposes. But that would not occur if the expenditure were shared by four or five governments. Any programme devised should he made independent of the vagaries of State and Commonwealth budgets. Enormous sums would be saved if works such as I have suggested were undertaken on a continuous programme.
When I was in the Tennessee Valley three years ago, I was informed that the cost of the first dam was £4,000,000, and it took four years to complete, yet the tenth dam was completed in ten months and cost only $4,000,000, because the problem had been handled expertly and there had not been any loss of manpower. For a much smaller sum, our achievements could be considerably greater than we visualize at the moment. Some of the problems on minor waterways could well be left to local bodies, with Commonwealth and State aid. In addition, individuals could be assisted to make the maximum saving of water on streams that run through their properties, either acting individually or in co-operation. The Commonwealth Government, being the sole taxing authority, could make the expenditure on the conservation of water in that way a concessional deduction from the income of the .taxpayers concerned, because their efforts would result in an increase of national assets, which would benefit the whole of the people. Further help could be given by the different governments, by establishing a link between the Federal Aid Roads scheme and water conservation. Where bridges are constructed across small streams, or even those that are fairly wide, weirs could be built and the superstructure erected on them. There is a striking illustration of the value of small dams in my electorate. A small creek was the source of the water supply of a butter factory, which found that when the season was dry the water became turbid. A 12-ft. dam was constructed, at a cost of £200. In the first year subsequently, four farmers on the two sides of the creek, farming about 20 acres of flat land, each increased his earnings by £200 above the highest he had had in any previous year. We are apt to be influenced too greatly by initial cost, and to disregard benefits.
Figures that I have obtained from the Government Statistician of Victoria show that the additional taxes derived from increased production in the irrigation districts of Victoria over a period of years have been’ equal to the interest and sinking fund on the money expended in the provision of that water supply. Although it is sometimes necessary to give assistance to individuals, by rebates of. water supply payments or the reduction of the capital value of their land, the nation as a whole has benefited substantially. Therefore, everything possible should be done to assist water conservation. The regular provision of water would enable fodder to be conserved readily and consistently. This would make it possible for the producers to weather without difficulty the droughts that occur periodically. As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) has said, conservation of water is really the heart of the whole problem. I strongly urge that a commencement be made at the root of the matter. Although, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth is not directly concerned with water conservation, it yet should be able to make a substantial contribution in that connexion, as well as in respect of the conservation of fodder. There is also the very important matter of transport. Steps must be taken to ensure the movement of stock to districts where fodder is available, or the carriage of feed to stock that need it. I welcome the suggestion for the construction of railways connecting the Northern Territory with Queensland and New South Wales, as well as adjoining districts in the north-west of New South Wales with the north coast of that State. Such railways would enable , every district to carry the maximum number of stock at all times’, thus improving and cheapening the food of the whole of the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to S p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an Act to amend the States Grants (Drought Belief) Act 1944, and for other purposes.
– During the second-reading debate on this bill, honorable members on both sides of the chamber made representations on behalf of those who had suffered loss through frost or who had lost stock as a result of the drought, but no reply by any Minister has been forthcoming. This is an appropriate time for some Minister to say whether the Government has any policy in regard to these matters. The Government is getting into the habit of treating Parliament with scant respect. No attempt has been made by the Government to explain its position, to say whether it proposes to take action in regard to the matters mentioned, or even to say that it does not propose to do anything at all.
– It is proposed to appropriate £1,855,000 for the purpose of drought relief, but this is merely a palliative. Instead of providing relief for those who have suffered loss from drought, it would be better to make such provision as would prevent those losses from taking place, and a big step in this direction would be the putting into effect of plans for water conservation. We have been told that it is proposed to expend £200,000,000 on railway works, includ ing the standardization of gauges. 1 suggest that, instead of expending money on providing better railways in places where railways already exist, the money might be more profitably expended on water conservation schemes which would go a long way towards .preventing losses from drought. It has been estimated that stock losses in Queensland during a particular drought have amounted to £50,000,000. Under this bill, it is proposed to provide relief only for growers of cereals and hay in three States, excluding Queensland. Nothing is provided for the relief of those who have suffered losses in connexion with maize crops, fruit-growing, or from fire and frost. Neither is any relief proposed for those who have lost stock as the result of the drought. It is really a waste of money to provide relief after losses have occurred instead of taking steps to prevent the losses from occurring. In other countries, the aid of scientists has been enlisted in order to prevent losses from drought, fire, &c. I admit that previous governments have done little to meet the situation, but the recent drought has impressed upon all of us the need to take energetic action. It is certain that there will be droughts in the future, and the way to minimize losses is to conserve water and fodder during good seasons. If the Government were to guarantee farmers a reasonable price for fodder they would establish reserves which would be of inestimable value to the country during bad seasons. In this bill, it is proposed to afford relief only to certain sections of producers in some of the States. Next year, or the year after, other sections of producers in other States may be those in distress.
As I have said, in other countries more effective steps are being taken to guard against losses. Even in Russia, in the coldest parts of the country, scientific methods have been adopted for this purpose. I suggest that in Australia experimental stations should be established in all parts of the country so that data might be collected which would be of service to producers. However, nothing has been done, and when disasters of one kind and another occur, this Parliament is called upon to provide relief for the sufferers. In parts of South Australia, soldier-settlers have suffered tremendous losses because of frost damage to their vineyards, but no assistance is to be given to them. Poultry-farmers also have suffered, but they, too, have been overlooked. We should call in the scientists and practical men to formulate a scheme based primarily upon water conservation. If the money which it is proposed to expend upon the standardization of the railway gauges were expended upon water conservation it would permit the closer settlement of many areas, and this, in turn, would be a protection against loss from fire and drought. I do not oppose the appropriation of £1,855,000 for drought relief, but such appropriations would be unnecessary if adequate precautions were taken to prevent drought losses. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is in a position where he can call upon the services of scientists and experts to devise an effective national plan of water conservation, and I trust that he will do so before long.
– I was surprised that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) should have spoken in tie way they did. I ask them this direct question: Do they want to vote against the appropriation? If they do, let them make an opportunity to do so. Some honorable members are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. The honorable member for Wide Bay mentioned water conservation. He knows perfectly well that at this stage in the history of the war and in the history of this drought, water cannot be conserved. The governments which he supported were in power for years, but they never appropriated one penny for water conservation. When man-power and materials are available after the war, a very big programme of water conservation will be undertaken by this Government in conjunction with the State governments. I point out to honorable members that the relief proposals were drawn up in their present form after consultation with the State governments themselves. The State governments made representations to the
Commonwealth Government that drought relief should be given in this form. In truth, the provision of drought relief for primary producers in Australia is really a responsibility of the States and the Commonwealth Government is acting generously indeed, in supplementing on a £1 for £1 basis the relief that has been granted by the States. If honorable members opposite consider that drought relief should be granted to primary producers other than the cereal growers mentioned in this bill, they should, in the first instance, approach the State governments ; and if the States believe thai they have a sound case, they should present it at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. At the last meeting of that body, the States did not raise the points which the honorable member for Barker and: the honorable member for Wide Bay have mentioned.
– I referred to the Australian Agricultural Council.
– As the right honorable gentleman knows, the States have a preponderance of voting power on the Agricultural Council. Honorable members opposite should not blame the Commonwealth Government for making this very generous grant, particularly when anti-labour governments for years did nothing to provide relief for primary producers.
– The answer, if it can be so designated, which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has just given, did not deal with one point raised by honorable members on this side of the chamber. Earlier, I contended that no Minister had yet disclosed what the Government proposed to do regarding the request of the Government of South Australia for financial ‘assistance for fruitgrowers whose crops had been destroyed by frosts. The Minister referred to the generosity of the Commonwealth Government in granting relief to cereal-growers. As I pointed out in this chamber last week, the financial capacity of every State, other than New South Wales, is so circumscribed by the uniform income tax laws passed by the Labour Government in war-time that not one of them has a penny for drought or frost relief. Consequently, they must approach the
Commonwealth Government for that assistance. This afternoon, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) laid on the table of the House a copy of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission dealing with the special application of the State of Tasmania for relief under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act. Last week, the right honorable gentleman produced the report of the finding by the same commission in response to the request of South Australia for an increase of the amount payable to it by the Commonwealth for income tax collections. On Friday, I read a statement by the Premier of South Australia, who pointed out that the State had appealed to the Commonwealth for assistance, because it had an unusually large deficit, and no taxation resources with which to meet it. The Commonwealth now levies income tax and entertainments tax, and the State would not be able so to increase the land tax as to obtain sufficient money to offset the deficit. When the United Australia party was in office, rates of taxation were low, even for war-time. But to-day, the commencing rate of tax on income derived from personal exertion - this applies to all primary producers - is 44d. in the £1. On an annual income of £500 or £600, which the Minister would not consider to be very high, the commencing rate is 8s. in the £1, and increases with every additional £1 of income. Therefore, what actually happens to-day is that the wheat-grower, pastoralist, fruit-grower, bee-keeper and market gardener are working on shares with the Chifley Government. They are not permitted in war-time to accumulate financial reserves which will enable them, to withstand strokes of adversity of the kind that we are discussing tonightYet, knowing all those things, the Minister has not indicated what the Government proposes to do about them. When I spoke a few minutes ago, I said that we should welcome from the Minister the courtesy of even a statement that the Government does not propose to do anything.
– Even then, the honorable member would not be satisfied.
– Certainly I would not be satisfied with that.
– The honorable member is always grumbling.
– I shall grumble until I am deported. South Australia has provided for drought relief a sum of £300,000, and in view of the adverse budget position this amount is beyond its competence. On the 9 th November, 1944, in the House of Assembly, the Premier pointed out that if he. were able to increase the State’s deficit by obtaining temporary financial accommodation without the consent of the Commonwealth Government, the interest payable tin the borrowed money would be 7i per cent., of which 4 per cent, would be for sinking fund under the terms of the financial agreement, and 3i per cent, for ordinary interest. Those terms are very onerous. Frost losses affect only tie fruit-growers of South Australia, but stock owners have been affected by the drought, and the loss of sheep and cattle has been high. The loss of pigs and poultry will be considerably higher as the result of a decision by a Commonwealth Minister in Adelaide less than 24 hours ago, under which the quantity of wheat available for the sustenance of stock will be reduced by 50 per cent. Now, the Chifley Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot tax the primary producers, among others, indefinitely at a rate commencing at 44d. in the £1. Under the payasyouearn system, primary producers are obliged to pay their tax before they receive a return from the sale of their crops and stock. The position is absolutely preposterous. It is futile for the Minister to speak as he did this evening.
The honorable member for Wide Bay referred to the necessity for minimizing the effects of drought by carrying out water conservation and irrigation schemes. I thought that even the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction had heard that the Commonwealth was responsible for the Murray River waters scheme.
– That was carried out a long time ago. Does the honorable member have to go back so far in order to find material with which to support his arguments ?
– Unless the honorable gentleman alters his tune, taxpayers will think that they elected this Government a long time ago.
– Anyhow, the Government is still in office.
– The monkey boasted in that way so long as lie could hang on to the stick, and he wondered why he got on to the ground occasionally. The responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, who appears to be in charge of this bill. About four Ministers have been in charge of it, although the House has considered it on only two days.
– Well, what is wrong with that?
– If this bill is anybody’s child it shows that the Government does not take much interest in drought relief. The Minister should tell this Parliament, and -through it, the people, what the Government proposes to do to relieve the plight of fruit-growers who have suffered from the effects of frost, and stock-owners who have lost 20,000,000 sheep during this drought-
– Oh !
– The football barrackers would not talk so loudly if they were not able to buy beef and mutton.
– They would not “ squeal “as much as the honorable member does.
– The honorable gentleman is not nearly so smart as he imagines, but he is perhaps very much smarter than he looks. The points which I have raised must be faced. This chamber has spent nearly two days in endeavouring to obtain an answer to these questions, but even honorable members opposite have not received a satisfactory reply. The Government has been as lacking in information as last year was lacking in rain in most of the agricultural areas, and neither the House nor the country looks like getting the information or the rain.
.- I agree, in the main, that some measure of relief should be granted to all primary producers who are suffering from the effects of this disastrous drought. This hill provides assistance only for cereal- growers, but the Commonwealth Government has made to South Australia a gift of £20,000 towards frost relief, and the State has agreed to supplement it on a £1 for £1 basis. That fact should be mentioned.
– It should also be mentioned that the relief is equivalent to only ls. 4d. in the £1.
– When one expects to get something for nothing he usually exaggerates his estimates. In proof of that, although Victoria asked for and was allocated £200,000 for bush-fire damage, investigation showed that considerably less was required. In my opinion a grant of £40,000 for frost relief will be a valuable contribution to necessitous cases. Undoubtedly, the grant proves that the Commonwealth Government has sympathy for the unfortunate fruitgrowers whose crops have been destroyed by frost. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) pointed out that the granting of this assistance is really the responsibility of the States, and that if they find that the financial burden is too onerous, they may appeal for aid, through the Commonwealth Grants Commission, to this Government. Personally, I hope that the States will soon recognize the wisdom of transferring to the Commonwealth powers which will make it responsible for the welfare of primary producers.
– I have just learned something from the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith). His remarks confirmed my suspicion that the attitude of the Commonwealth Government is anti-Queensland. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) stated that South Australia was the only State which required frost relief.
– Is the peanut crop in Queensland affected?
– The peanut industry, through capable control, is able to look after itself. Earlier in the year, a deputation approached the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) seeking financial assistance for apple-growers in the Stanthorpe district of Queensland, because their crops had been ruined by frosts. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture passed it on to the State Minister of Agriculture, after referring it to the Commonwealth Government, but relief was refused. Apparently, the Commonwealth Government said “ No “ to Queensland but “ Yes “ to South Australia, and the Queensland Minister of Agriculture, when the request was referred to him, as usual also said “No”. Recently, because of the bacon factory strike in Queensland pig-raisers were being forced to hold their stock, and I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for an extra allocation of fodder to be made to these producers, owing to the shortage caused by the drought. The Minister said that the decision would depend upon the recommendation made by the State Minister of Agriculture. I sent a telegram to him last Friday week asking him to make a favorable recommendation, but he did not have the courtesy to reply. Apparently, he was totally unconcerned about the drought conditions in Queensland. Frosts have affected not only the apple-growers but also the sheep-growers in southwestern Queensland, where the drought has had serious effects. Cold conditions and drought caused the loss of millions of sheep. These graziers who have suffered from the effects of drought and frost have received no consideration. When I sought to amend the original, bill to provide for assistance to Queensland producers, the Government and its supporters, including Queensland repre-‘ sentatives, showed their lack of sympathy by voting en bloc against my motion. I ask the Minister why South Australia’ should be singled out for frost relief. Does he not think that Queensland growers who sustained losses from drought and frost suffered equally with South Australian growers? Those who have lost their entire crops have suffered more than those wheat-growers, who have other sources of income but who, nevertheless, are granted assistance. That is totally unfair. I do not oppose the granting of relief to any needy producers.
– Queensland growers had a good crop of wheat.
– Good crops were harvested in 90 per cent, of the wheat districts of Queensland, but in the remaining 10 per cent, in the Roma district, entire crops were lost. That was why I sought to amend the bill introduced last November in order to include Queensland growers. It does not matter whether the sufferers in Queensland represented only 10 per cent, of the total number of growers. The fact is that these men lost their entire crop and, therefore, they suffered just as much as any farmer in Victoria or South Australia. This Government has been most unfair to them.
– Although previously I made it clear that I would support the motion for the appropriation of money for the purpose of granting relief, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) claimed that we on this side of the chamber were opposed to the motion. He did so in an endeavour to evade the criticism levelled at him by myself and others for his failure to formulate any scheme to guard against the effects of drought in the future. He has not indicated that he has given any thought to a scheme to prevent the recurrence of such disasters. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) said that the Government, through its kindness, had granted £40,000 for frost relief. The Government will not bear the cost of this relief. The States, including Queensland, will have to pay as usual. They must pay their share of this money as well as their share of grants to the three small States.
– We use Queensland sugar.
– And Tasmanian growers receive a big subsidy for their apples, whether they are lost or not. Sugar costs less in Australia than in any other part of the world. In Queensland not long ago I sought relief for Mary Valley potato-growers, who, owing to seasonal dryness and disease, suffered the total loss of their crops. Their potatoes were condemned by the State authorities and returned from the pool. I applied to the Commonwealth Government for relief for them, but I was told that this was a State matter. Further appeals evoked similar replies from the Minister.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I contend that, if assistance is to be given to everybody else, provision should also be made for these producers. The Government should not continue to grant relief to small sections of primary producers at the expense of other States without producing a scheme to prevent seasonal losses in future. Australia gains nothing by paying for the assistance of these producers, but it would gain something if a scheme were prepared to prevent the losses which make these payments necessary. I criticize the Minister for his failure to bring forward such schemes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee : Consideration resumed. Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Payment of financial assistance to certain States).
– Once again I point out to the Minister for the Array (Mr. Forde) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that honorable members on both sides of the House have been endeavouring fruitlessly to secure a statement of policy from the Government on the subject of frost relief. Three or four Ministers have been in charge of this bill at different times, and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seems to be less communicative than any of them. He reminds me of the Sphinx, and the legend that the kiss of the Sphinx means death ; I would not kiss him for” quids “. It is high time that the Chifley Government became a little more communicative. I believe that doctors have discovered a drug which, when injected, makes men talk. Some Ministers ought to take injections of this drug, and two or three others ought to be gagged. I ask the Minister for the Army particularly whether the Government has any policy on frost relief and on the relief of stock-owners and others who have been affected by the drought. If so, will he state it? If not, will he be honest with the producers and tell them to “stew in their own juice “ ?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the18th July (vide page 4177), on motion by Mr. Lazzarini -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) pointed out in his secondreading speech, this is a machinery measure the purpose of which is to provide £13,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. The rates of pension have already been approved, and the bill merely provides the amount required to effect payments at these rates. The Opposition does not desire to impede the passage of this or any other legislation with which it is in agreement, and therefore this is not the occasion for a lengthy debate on the problems of war pensions administration. We shall support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th July (vide page 4176), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Treasurer’s second-reading speech was extremely brief, but nobody would deny that it was costly. According to my calculations, it worked out at about £10,000,000 a line. It was an important speech, because of one significant passage in it. The right honorable gentleman said -
It would appear that the amount required from loan will be less than last year.
Before examining that statement, I refer to the last loan-raising campaign conducted by the Government in order to see whether we can learn anything from the experience of that campaign. What is the primary objective in public loan raising? The Government, through National Security Regulations and administrative practices, has had control of the financial structure in time of war. We have seen close co-operation, during the war period, between the Government and the large banking institutions, the State savings banks, the leading insurance companies-, and other bodies of a similar nature which have at their disposal substantial funds for investment. What is the real reason for the extensive loan raising campaigns which are conducted at times when the great bulk of the contributions to the loans comes from the sources which I have mentioned ? As I understand the position, the Government can, by the cooperation to which I have referred, obtain substantial contributions from these institutions, but its real purpose is to prevent, as far as it can, the unnecessary diversion of expenditure by the public in time of war to civilian purposes, which would absorb man-power or material resources required for the purposes of war. In each of the war years we have had recourse to loan raisings amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, and, by the test that we can in that way prevent unnecessary civilian expenditure, we have failed, I think, to achieve the Government’s objective. It is true that the sums sought have been raised ; in fact, the loans in some instances have been oversubscribed by several millions of pounds.
If we compare what has been done in Australia with what has been accomplished in Canada, we cannot feel great satisfaction with the results obtained here. 1 invite the House to contrast the experience in our Third Victory Loan with that in Canada’s Seventh Victory Loan. In Australia there were approximately 400,000 subscribers, and we raised just under £107,000,000. That means that the proportion of subscribers was about one person in every eighteen of the population. In Canada, where, as in this coun- try, two large loan raisings occur each year, the Seventh Victory Loan was contributed by 3,327,315 subscribers, and the sum raised was $1,518,000,000. Canada raised about four times as much money as Australia, and had about eight times the number of subscribers. Whereas our subscribers were in the proportion of one in eighteen of the population the proportion in Canada was one in three. There was a striking diversion of civilian savings towards the war effort, which might otherwise have gone into civilian expenditure that would have cut across the use of man-power and material resources for the purposes of the war. Only once have we been able to get over 500,000 subscribers to a war loan, and that was in November, 1943. Canada, on the other hand, has had an increased number of subscribers in every campaign, and the subscriptions by individuals, as distinct from corporations, exceeded the subscriptions by corporations in the last Canadian loan, a very remarkable achievement. I have mentioned this not to detract from the Australian effort, but to inquire whether we can derive a lesson from the Canadian experience. I do not believe that the average Canadian is any more patriotic than the average Australian. If one dominion is able to show results much more impressive than those obtained by another, there must be an explanation and we should seek it. I understand that the practices in the two countries with regard to loan-raising methods differ to an important degree. In Australia we are inclined to place emphasis in our campaigns on war loan rallies, “ stunts “ of various kinds, and large-scale advertising campaigns. The nearest approach to personal contact that we seem to get, apart from somewhat haphazard telephoning, is by delivery of addresses in factories and by public war loan rallies. Canada concentrates on personal contact by getting people who are well known to one another and who know something of one another’s financial. circumstances to indicate what in their opinion they should subscribe to the loans.
– Has the honorable member made a comparison of the cost of loan raising in the two dominions?
– The Seventh Victory Loan in Canada cost Vs per cent. I cannot recall the cost in Australia offhand, but I do not think that it is lower than that of Canada. The figure is not so significant as to justify the extraordinary difference in performance in the two countries. If -the ‘Government believed that by the expenditure of another 1 per cent, it could achieve results similar to those of -Canada I do not think it would hesitate to adopt that course.
Now I come to the really significant statement in the Treasurer’s speech. He said that it would appear that the amount required from loan would be less than last year. It would seem from the Treasurer’s statement that he believes that we can afford in this country to reduce our expenditure from loan before we can afford to reduce our expenditure from taxation. Honorable members will be aware from the Treasurer’s own statement, which was confirmed in a letter I received from him yesterday, that he does not propose to review our taxation measures until the last quarter of this year, and that if legislation becomes necessary as the result of any change in Government policy it will be introduced next year.
– He made that statement public.
– Yes. Therefore I ask honorable members to bear in mind that the Treasurer apparently thinks that this country can afford to reduce its expenditure from loan-raisings rather than reduce the revenues available through taxation. My own view runs strongly in the other direction. For reasons which I shall indicate later, I believe that substantial reductions are possible of both loans and. taxes, but for the moment I desire to examine the Treasurer’s proposal that we should reduce loans before we turn to the reduction of taxes. My belief is that a reduction of taxes has become the most urgent task of the present Government. Our most serious national problem to-day, as distinct from political problems, is that of production. If we are to indulge in our desired schemes for full employment and social security - and there has been much talk in the ranks of the Government in recent months of plans for full employment and social security - these desires can be fully realized only by increased production on the part of the people of this country. As was stated in the British White Paper on employment, “ The aim of the Government can be realised only if the whole productive power of the nation is employed efficiently. It is not enough that it should be employed”. That gives point to my reference .to our desire for full employment. It is not enough to aim merely at full employment. We must ensure that those persons who are employed shall be employed efficiently and give the maximum production of which they are capable. Our capacity to carry heavy taxation and at the same time subscribe to large loans is to be affected by the total production in Australia. ‘ So it is proper to consider what has happened to Australia’s production in the last two or three years. Is the Government satisfied with the level of that production to-day? I have previously tried to direct the attention of the Government to what I have believed to be a serious decline of output per man employed in certain sections of industry. I have’ asked the Government to think not so much in terms of man-power as in terms of man-effort. One may have a 40 horse-power motor car, but if it is not working efficiently it will not give a 40 horse-power effort. So in Australia we may have so many thousands of units of man-power in industry, but, if that power is not giving us the maximum effort of which it is capable, we shall not get full production. My views are confirmed by those of some of our industrial leaders, as reported in the press to-day. They claim that their man-power problems arise, not merely from the fact that large numbers of men otherwise suitable for work are engaged in the fighting services, in government works and organizations, or in munitions production. They say that the problem is heightened by the fact that in some sections the man-output shows a decline of from 33^ per cent, to 50 per cent, of pre-war production. They stress that the man-output has become ridiculously low on building projects under the daylabour system. We know our experience with regard to the Captain Cook graving dock in Sydney. That great asset eventually cost approximately three times as much as the original estimate, and ‘ the time occupied in its completion was many months, if not years, longer than was originally contemplated.
– The plan was altered.
– The Minister reminds me that the original plan was extended. I accept that, and I have knowledge of the matter from my membership of the War Expenditure Committee. But these modifications should not have increased the expenditure beyond a total of £4,000,000 to £4,500,000. Undoubtedly, that great increase arose from inefficient co-operation between the various government instrumentalities engaged on the job, and the failure of those concerned to obtain a full day’s work from the men employed. There were spectacular increases of production in Australia when we were under the immediate threat of invasion by Japan. If there has been a decline of man-output since that period, we must look for the causes of it; because it is from the increased production which should be possible that we should expect an allround reduction of taxation and a decrease of the amount that necessarily has to be raised by loans. The American performance in a corresponding period since Japan came into the war provides a remarkable contrast. The Federal Reserve Bank index of industrial production was 243 in September, 1943, compared with an average index of 100 for the years 1935-39. That means that the level of production in September, 1943, was nearly two and a half times as great as the pre-war level. The efficiency of American industry was recently compared with industrial productivity in Great Britain, and the British Economist has adopted the comparisons as authoritative. They show that industrial efficiency, measured by production per head, is roughly similar in Great Britain and Germany, whilst in the United States of America, it is more than twice as great as in those two countries. Thus it will be seen that the increased productivity in the United States of America has been outstanding. I ask again: What lessons can we learn, which would assist us to meet the problem we are now facing? An improved and sustained effort, inspired by adequate incentives, is demanded of the Australian employer, and the output of the Australian worker during each hour of work must be increased. This, as America has shown, does not necessarily imply longer hours or unduly arduous work; but it does mean more efficient work, enterprising management, and realistic trade union leadership. What incentives can be suggested for the attainment of this greater productivity? The employer requires, first, that encouragement shall be given to the industry in which he is engaged. In Great. Britain, that has been accomplished by special initial allowances on the instalment of machinery or the erection of buildings, and by increased depreciation allowances subsequently. In the United States of America, industries requiring capital have had approved bank advances guaranteed. In both of those countries, there is an indication of encouragement to the employer and the employee by proposals for the reduction of taxation or the granting of special tax benefits. In Australia, if the worker is to give the output of which we know him to be capable - I want no misunderstanding on this point; I believe the Australian worker to be as efficient and enterprising, and when the need arises as hard working, as the worker in any other part of he world - we must ensure the provision of adequate incentives. A weakness of the present system lies in standardized payments, which do not bring out in the worker his latent talent or his capacity to exercise self-dependence and initiative. The energetic worker receives no more than the lazy worker; -in fact, many men find themselves rebuked by their fellow workers and trade union representatives for what is regarded as a display of excessive zeal.
– Does the honorable member advocate piece-work?
– In some industries, piecework acts very well indeed; in other industries, payment by results, which is another facet of the piece-work system, also works well.
– Would it not have to be associated with a guaranteed minimum wage?
– Undoubtedly, that would be desirable. In case the honorable gentleman may entertain fears on the point, I shall cite to him the experience of a large electrical manufacturing concern in America. The Lincoln Electrical Company has found this policy to be spectacularly successful. Mr. James Lincoln, the head of the organization, has summed up his views in these words -
The greatest chance to reduce industrial costs is to adopt the greatest of all resources - unused man-power potentials - and there is only one sure way to do this that I know of) and that is to give to men unlimited incentives. Let them know that when they do more they will get more, preferably more cold cash. Never agree that a man who works with his hands is only worth so much and no more. lt will be within the knowledge of hon orable members that the system of payment by results has been extensively adopted in America and Russia. One would imagine, from the arguments that are used by some representatives of Labour in this country, that the system works unfairly and harshly in respect of industry generally.
– Rather a bad history lies behind piece-work in this country.
– I assume that we are not prepared to accept as a standard for all time the history of this country from its origin. We have certainly advanced in terms of both personnel and development, upon the conditions that existed in the early stages of Australian history. According to the figures I have given, the national output of America increased from 100 to 243, comparing the years 1935-.39 with the succeeding war years. That was about twice as much per man as the production in Britain and Germany. I have not the corresponding Australian figure, but those who have studied the matter believe that industrial output per head is somewhat less in this country than in Great Britain.
– ‘One would need to consider many other factors before attempting to draw an analogy.
– I am making these observations in the hope of interesting honorable members, because they have a bearing on our capacity to pay taxes in the future. The employer can pay taxes and subscribe to loans only out of in creased production ; and the worker, if he gains the higher financial rewards I have suggested - first, a reduction of income tax, and secondly, payment by results - will be better equipped to provide the finance. that has to be raised by Commonwealth loans. I conclude on this aspect by reminding honorable gentlemen that the two important labour organizations in America - the American Federation of Labour and the Congress of Industrial Organizations - not only have endorsed the system of payment by results, but apparently have also been so satisfied with it that they have come out openly in advocacy of the continuation of the system of private enterprise in that country.
– The people of Australia have never been better off than they are to-day.
– I cannot accept that proposition for a moment. When one talks about people being better off, one must refer to the essentials of food, clothing and housing that are available to them.
– Bank deposits have never been higher than they are to-day.
– That is not the only criterion. How well off people are, is determined by how much food and clothing they can purchase and how adequately they are housed. From that point of view, the Australian standard is now very much lower than it was. The Minister has referred to higher bank deposits, conveniently ignoring the fact that depreciation of the purchasing power of the £1 would make them very much less imposing if translated into terms of purchasing capacity. The point that I was intending to establish, however, was that our taxation had reached saturation point, and that the additional charge represented by the “ pay-as-you-earn “ tax is being super-imposed on the ordinary rates that are levied on incomes derived from industry by way of company returns, and incomes that are not taxed weekly in the form of wages or salaries. In the earlier years of the war, the persons who paid these high rates of tax were able to live “ off their own fat” in some degree, and industries were able to deplete such reserves as they had in meeting their tax commitments. But we are now in the sixth year of the war, and there has not been any alleviation of the tax burden. The continuation of the present rates of tax, without any prospect of relief, will not only depress the desire of the employer to work and expand his business, but in addition will deprive him of the reserves he will need to carry out extensions in the form of the purchase of equipment or additional stock for the purpose of absorbing those who will be seeking employment. The immediate announcement by the Treasurer of the Government’s intention to reduce taxation would create a feeling of general relief. It would have the stimulating effect upon the Australian economy of a “ shot in the arm “ ! It would he an incentive to both employees and employers to increase production. The announcement should be followed by the introduction of legislation to take effect in the current financial year, and should be supplemented by measures of the kind which have been put into force in other parts of the world. While ‘the reduction of taxatio’n is of paramount importance if production is to be encouraged, it should also be possible to reduce the expenditure of loan money. During the war, the producing sections of the community have been called upon to carry the dead weight of more than 600,000 persons in the fighting services, and something over 500,000 persons employed in governmental and semigovernmental activities.
– And, from an economic point of view, their efforts have been wasted1 - that is, they have been producing merely for war purposes.
– That applies to government employees in munition factories, &c, and also to many of those engaged in private production as well. In spite of this tremendous charge, the com munity has been able to subscribe to war loans, and to pay the heaviest taxation imposed in any part of the world. That position must be alleviated. The Government has already announced that 64,000 persons will soon be released from the services, and these will soon become producers. Moreover, the relaxation of controls will release a number of persons now employed by the Government. In this connexion, I point out that certain vested interests will have to be uprooted if the maximum benefits are to be obtained.’ All the vested interests are not represented by those in commerce and industry. There are persons with vested interests in maintaining departmental and service establishments. Loan expenditure could be reduced if the Government would not delay the transfer of people from government undertakings and government-owned establishments. There is a well-founded suspicion that, in connexion with munitions establishments, and to some extent in connexion with works programmes also - I have in mind particularly the Sydney graving dock - there was no grea’t hurry in completing the work because of political considerations. If loan expenditure is to be reduced we must watch this aspect of the matter. In connexion with the relaxation of controls, the first consideration is to reduce the number of persons engaged in the work of control itself. I learned recently ‘that in the Division of Import Procurement- -a war-time department - 2;000 persons are employed in the Sydney office alone. I was amazed to learn that in the Prices Control Branch there are 640 investigators, as distinct from administrative officers.
Mi-. Russell. - The honorable member will admit that they are doing a good job.
– 1 do not admit anything of the kind. There are nearly three times as many investigators in the Prices Branch as in the whole of the Taxation Department. I believe that the only effective form, of price control is competition, a fact which is borne out by a comparison between the prices of goods in respect of which competition still operates and those in short supply which are the subject of control. As our economy is restored to normal, competition will increase, and price control can be relaxed. This should enable expenditure to be reduced. However, the most significant effect of controls is not the number of persons employed in connexion with them, but the deadening effect which the system has upon the nation’s economy as a whole.
As an illustration of the need to reduce taxation, and of the difficulty which taxpayers are finding in meeting their commitments, I draw attention to the following official figures regarding arrears of taxation over the last four years -
Owing to man-power difficulties, there has been a delay this year in sending out assessments, and it is likely that arrears for the year ended the 30th June, 1945, will eventually be considerably greater than £38,000,000, especially as the later assessments relate to companies and commercial organizations. It may be argued that we should be prepared to carry a large proportion of war expenditure ourselves rather than leave the burden to a later generation. However, it is generally accepted that the burden of war expenditure should not be borne entirely by those who also have to endure the rigours of the war itself, and it is /held that roar expenditure may legitimately be met out of loans. In this respect, the Treasurer should be influenced- by record -of expenditure during last y-&a<r, when -5i6 per cent, of budget expenditure ‘was met out of revenue, as compared with -.40 per cent, in the two preceding .years. Revenue from -taxation was sufficient to pay -42 per cent, of the cost <of tube iwa last year, compared with 31 per sent, for *the previous .year and 28 per cent.. for the year before’ that. The Government should recognize that production has seriously declined, not so much because >of war weariness, as because there is no longer an. incentive to achieve m’aximum production. If the Government will reduce taxation and ‘expenditure from loans we may look forward with some confidence to a period of full employment, and to a con.dition of social security which is the aim of .honorable members ‘in all parts of the
House. It is only out of an expanding production that we can hope to provide full employment, with a rising standard of living and a greater measure of social security. If we do not achieve greater production we cannot possibly satisfy the hopes of those who look forward to improving social and economic standards after the war.
.- This is a bill to authorize the borrowing and expenditure of £150,000,000 for war purposes. This method has been employed during the war by all governments, including that of which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was a member. The present Government varied the procedure by using the national credit to the extent of between £200,000,000 and £300,000,000. It did not resort to this method in the financial year just ended because such a course was not thought to be necessary. The very satisfactory response of the public to invitations to subscribe to war loans, particularly the over-subscription of the last loan, clearly indicates that the people are satisfied that the money raised is being wisely expended. Personally, I hold the view that wars .should be paid for as they progress. In the old days, the young men “went out to fight while those who stayed (ait home provided the food and the munitions of war. Now, we expect the young men to do the fighting, and then to pay for the war when the*come back. The .method of financing wars by way of loans -which must ihe repaid in the future, places “the -burden on the shoulders <of posterity. Many soldiers who fought in -the war will share the “responsibility of having ito pay for it. In my opinion, the present system of debt-finance wil’l ultimately break down. After the last “war, many countries departed from the gold standard, and the system of debt-finance, which was -adop’ted subsequently, will not endure, because ‘of the enormous load of debt that has been imposed upon the people of all nations. Wars should be financed, as they proceed, by ‘taxation or by “a capital levy. Admittedly, taxation in Australia has been ‘high, ‘but what of “it’? Are <we not fortunate that we are still a’live land that our houses and possessions are intact? In other countries less fortunate than Australia, many thousands of people have been killed, and whole cities have been destroyed. The position here could have been much worse, and we have little to complain about in that regard.
As the war situation eases, the ‘Government should review its financial policy. At present, the situation on the fighting front in the Pacific is satisfactory, and I hope that this will be the last Victory Loan. Australia cannot afford to continue to raise loans at the present rate of interest. Since the outbreak of war in September, 1939, the national debt, which stood at £12,000,000,000, has been doubled, and the interest burden is about £70,000,000 per annum, or nearly as much as the Commonwealth raised for all purposes before the war. As war loans fall due from time to time, the Government should not renew them, but should pay to the bond-holders the money that is due to them. They must invest it in reproductive avenues.
– What kind of revision of the financial system does the honorable member advocate?
– War loans should be repaid as they fall due, and the rate of interest should be reduced. The rate of interest payable on war loans in the Commonwealth is substantially higher than the rate payable on war loans in Great Britain. During the last twelve months, the Government has not utilized the national credit, because taxation and loans provided sufficient money to finance the war effort, and for general administration. But if the national credit can be used for the purposes of destruction, it can be employed in peacetime for the purposes of construction. That is the basis of the new financial policy that I now advocate.
With the war expenditure diminishing rapidly, arguments may be adduced for a reduction of taxation. During the last financial year, war expenditure fell short of the estimate by £50,000,000. The taxation of income derived from personal exertion, as distinct from income on unearned increment and property, should be reduced. In particular, taxation of the lower incomes should be reduced. The basic wage is calculated to provide the bare necessaries of life for a small family, and we should not tax the bone, nerve and sinews of the community. Therefore, the Government should grant relief to persons on the lower ranges of income.
– The object of this bill is to permit the Government to raise by loan the huge sum of £150,000,000. In the middle of the’ war, the end of hostilities not being in sight, this bill might receive the approval of honorable members, and pass almost without comment. But with the end of the war approaching, the Government should explain to the Parliament the purposes for which it requires this money. I hope that the amount of £150,000,000 will cover, not only the actual conclusion of the war, but also the beginning of the post-war period. Some of the money mav be required for Australia’s contribution for the maintenance of an international police force to prevent. Germany and Japan from again disturbing the peace of the world. Therefore, I should like to discuss two subjects that arise under this bill. The first, is the use that will he made of a part of this money before the conclusion of hostilities, and the second is the manner in which the balance may be utilized after the war.
I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that the way in which this money is expended will largely determine the extent to which the Government can reduce taxation. In my opinion, taxation must be revised if we are to provide full employment for our people during the period of demobilization, which is now beginning, and after the war. Already, the law of diminishing returns is operating regarding taxation. As industrial leaders have pointed out, the high rates of tax are having a bad effect on the morale of the workers and other sections of the community, and are preventing a maximum war effort. Therefore, we must examine very closely the manner in which this money will be expended, because the amount which we shall have at our disposal to relieve taxation will depend to some degree on our ability in the next few months to prevent waste in the expenditure of the three fighting services, and the extent to which obsolete military undertakings can be abolished. One of the causes of waste is undoubtedly the retention in the three services of redundant personnel, who could be more profitably employed in the national effort under both short-term and long-term policies. To-day, in a question, I pointed out that the transfer from the services of about 10 per cent, of the number of men who are now engaged in producing black wire and corrugated sheets would enable the whole output of those materials to be galvanized. Such matters as that should be closely considered by the Government. Another important matter is the widespread shortage of teachers to staff city and country schools.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s- remarks are not relevant to this bill.
– I am pointing out ways in which the Government may effect economies. At two small centres in my electorate, the schools have been closed for a couple of years and the children have received no instruction. Another way in which the Government could economize is to make certain that huge, expensive factories, which are no longer required for war production, shall bc converted into civil workshops. About six weeks ago, in Orange, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) and I visited a factory containing the most modern equipment. The capital cost of buildings and plant was about £1,000,000. If that factory ceases war production, the plant in private hands should be used to manufacture civil requirements, and it would substantially help the problem of the bulk handling of electricity. If that were done, the employees would remain in Orange, instead of being obliged to seek positions elsewhere, thereby accentuating housing problems in other centres.
I hope that the greater part of this money will be expended after the war, and for the purpose of ensuring our security in the future. Two problems arise. The first is the immediate control of defeated Germany and Japan. That may require the use of Australian forces, and some of this money may be needed to maintain them. The second problem is a plan for world peace and security - a long-range plan which will not require any of this money. In my opinion, the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and the Government, should not mix the two plans. If they are treated as being independent, we shall be able to solve them both. If we mix them-, we shall encounter difficulties. The money which will be needed for the immediate control of Germany and Japan will be provided from this loan. The immediate problem that will concern the victorious Allies will be to prevent Germany and Japan from disturbing world peace for at least this generation. If we study the history of the world during the last 80 years-
– Order f The right honorable member is not in order in developing that argument.
– I am pointing out the necessity to expend this money in restraining Germany and Japan, and desire to show how they have disturbed world peace in the past, and, if given the opportunity, will disturb it in the future.
– The right honorable member is not entitled to give a full dissertation on that subject.
– I shall point out exactly what has occurred. Japan attacked China in 1894, Russia in 1905, Manchuria in 1931, China again in 1937, and the United States of America and Great Britain in 1941. Germany attacked Austria in 1866, France in 1870, France and Belgium in 1914, Austria in 1938, Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1939, Norway, Holland and Belgium in 1940, and Russia in 1941.
– I shall have to attack the right honorable member if he continues along those lines.
– During those years, if there had been no aggression from these two nations, defence expenditure would have been very much lower than it had to be. Had peace been maintained during the last seven or eight years, this bill would not be necessary at all. This money will be required to help to disarm Germany and Japan in the near future and to prevent them from re-arming. We must take away their military weapons, and if these oan be used for our own defence, their value can be set off against some of our present war expenditure. We must destroy their armament and munitions plants, disband their armed forces, and dissolve the military organizations which have been responsible for this terrible war. In order to do these things, we must follow one of three courses open to us. In dealing with this problem, I shall also - deal with the promotion of employment generally, and the raising of standards of living. We could prevent re-armament by establishing permanent military occupation of enemy countries. However, that is not feasible, because, sooner or later, occupied countries would cease to tolerate that state of affairs and our own people would object to providing the funds necessary ,to maintain forces of occupation. We could establish some detection force for the prevention of rearmament, but it seems to me that this also would fail in the end. I believe that the advances made by science and the enormous strides made in machine production, which enabled Germany and Japan to strike, with unexpected force, almost a death blow at unsuspecting countries, have provided us with the means of dealing with our enemies and preventing them from applying to purposes of war such tremendous expenditure in the future. In the case of Germany international control of its electricpower system would be effective.
– Order ! This has nothing to do with the Loan Bill.
– We may have to provide from the proposed loan money to deal with these problems. If we can control Germany’s power supplies, we shall be able to control the manufacture of aluminium and steel alloys and concentrate those industries in our own and allied countries. These materials are indispensable for the prosecution of a war and especially for the manufacture of aircraft.
– Having said that, will the right honorable gentleman return to the bill?
– I shall make one other observation in regard to this matter.
– I have been very tolerant.
– Practically the whole of the £150,000,000 to be raised under this bill will be expended on war and immediate post-war requirements. Although control of Germany’s electrical power units would be sufficient to keep that nation in check, it would be necessary to have both air and naval forces in order to prevent Japan from importing raw materials for the manufacture of munitions, ships or aircraft to be used against us in the future.
– -Order ! I insist on the right honorable member referring to the bill.
– I believe that you join with me, Mr. Speaker, in wishing that this will be the last war loan raised in Australia. I hope that all money raised by means of future loans will be used to reconstruct industry, accelerate production, and raise ‘ our general standards of living, instead of for the destruction of institutions which, in some instances, represent the results of centuries of work and development. Unless we approach the problem in this way we may have another war on our hands soon, with a consequent series of war loans. Perhaps next time we may not have so many allies as we have on this occasion, and we may have even less warning of attack.
. - The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was more or less restricted in his remarks, although I am sure his intention was to sound a reasonable warning. I hope, without infringing the Standing Orders, to call the attention of the Government to certain matters which require its immediate and urgent consideration if this bill to raise £150,000,000 by loan is not to be followed very soon by another one of a. similar character. Before the war, I said so frequently that some honorable members became tired of the repetition, that all war is waste. Waste must occur during war-time, no matter who happens to be in charge of the nation’s affairs. To-day, a state of affairs exists which makes it incumbent upon the Government to take firm control of the activitiesof certain departments. We have witnessed a complete change of attitude on the part of both Government supporters- and Opposition members towards war expenditure within a period of less than six years. When the Government and its supporters were in Opposition six years ago, they were very hostile to the increase of defence expenditure in peace-time and later to the increase of certain war expenditure. By contrast, some men, including myself, asked for five or, if necessary, ten divisions of troops be raised as soon as the war started. The government of the day was not prepared to do so. Later, however, it called up many more men than would have been necessary if it had mobilized its resources earlier. To-day there seems to be a very sad disinclination on the part of the Government to seize the nettle which it mustgrasp if loan expenditure is to be kept within certain bounds. I am very happy to see in the newspapers, although I have not heard much about it in this House, that the Prime Minister has ordered a thorough overhaul of the Army in order to see that redundant members in base establishments shall be posted to active service. The top-heavy state of affairs in the Army has existed for a long time and the Prime Minister, as Treasurer, should have been aware of it. To my knowledge, it existed eighteen months ago. A similar state of affairs exists in the Royal Australian Air Force. At air force stations around the coast, men and women are doing “ sweet nothing “ because there is “ sweet nothing” for them to do. Their job, which I cannot discuss here, has. something to do with the interception of Japanese aircraft in the event of attack.
– This would be appropriate to the discussion of a supply bill, but it is not in order on a loan” bill.
– If we do not take action in these matters, this bill will be followed by other loan bills involving expenditure along the same lines.
– That does not alter the fact that the honorable member may not. discuss matters other than financial policy on a loan bill.
– We are entitled to discuss whether this money ought to be raised.
– Yes. The honorable member would be entitled to debate the other matters on the motion for the second reading of a supply hill, but he will not be in order in doing so on this bill.
– I am attempting to deal with “ the raising and expending of a certain sum of money”, as stated in the title of the bill. If I understand correctly, I am entitled, subject to certain limits, to deal with the expending of this money. If not, the title of the bill is misleading. I notice that clause 4 deals with the purposes for which the money may be expended. Therefore, although I freely admit that this is not a supply bill, it refers both in the title and in clause 4 to expenditure and the purposes of appropriations which may be made according to the law. One ought to be entitled to deal in broad outline with some of the purposes for which money will be expended under this bill. We must catch our hare before we can cook it. Therefore, the bill frankly recognizes that the Government must borrow £150,000,000. However, it further provides for the expending of that money.
– It provides that the loan is not to exceed £150,000,000. Subscriptions may never reach that total.
– Subscriptions may be £1 or £500,000 short of the total stated. Nevertheless, the method of raising the money and certain phases of expenditure have been debated to-night. In the present state of the war, it is undeniable that the munitions demand by the Commonwealth. Government represents only a fraction of what it was two years ago. If reports published in a Melbourne evening newspaper to-day are to be believed, the Government contemplates a very drastic reduction of the strength of our overseasArmy, although the exact nature of thereduction has not yet been indicated tothis House. If this be so, we must consider the effect that such reductions will, have, first, upon the cost of the maintenance of overseas forces and, secondly,, upon the cost of supplying them with munitions, food, clothing, &c. A portion. of the money raised, under this bill may be expended on works. We do not know about this, because we have been given no information on the subject as yet although the whole subject of works expenditure is something about which the House is entitled to be informed. There is also the important matter of the results that must follow the return to industry of great numbers of men and women at present engaged in other activities. This will enable the Government to establish funds in order to meet the situation referred to by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). I do not know what the honorable member meant by “ the new method of dealing with loans and interest” which he mentioned. We may draw our own conclusions. The House is entitled to some information regarding the Government’s policy on loan expenditure and the redemption of loans.
The public debt of the Commonwealth has doubled during the war, and this bill will more than double that debt. The note issue has been increased, the issue of treasury-bills has been increased, and we are rapidly getting to the point at which serious reconsideration will have to be given’ to the financial policy of the Commonwealth. When that occurs the whole problem of the degree to which we are to be enabled to borrow in future must arise, and we shall also have to consider how we are to meet commitments arising from the existing public debt. Those two matters are sufficient to give the gravest concern to the Government and the taxpayers. Honorable members opposite have referred to the capacity of the Government to reduce taxes while borrowing on the present scale is proceeding. It stands to reason that the capacity of the Government to meet commitments in respect of the war loans depends on the capacity of the community to contribute, taxes at the present high rates. I call attention to the fact that the public debt is increasing at an alarming rate. Whilst waste is inevitable under war-time conditions, I am sure that a large percentage of the present waste could be obviated if there were more rigid control of the departments by the Ministers in charge of them, particularly service Ministers and works Ministers, and those who are generally responsible for the expenditure of loan money and will be responsible for the expenditure of the money to be raised under this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 4th July (vide page 4050), on motion by Mr. Lazzarini -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I shall endeavour to state the case which would have been presented by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), had he been present. Therefore, if I err slightly, I hope that his constituents will forgive me. I have carefully perused the second-reading speech by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) and I shall examine it page by page. The Minister stated on the first page -
As set out in clause 3 land may be acquired for either or both of the following purposes: -
The replanning and development of the town of Darwin and its environments.
lie institution of a system of leasehold tenure from the Crown in respect of any such land.
If the Minister had been perfectly frank, he would have said that the real purpose behind the bill was to create a state of affairs in Darwin similar to that which prevails in Canberra. The policy of the Labour party has always been- one of opposition to freehold tenure, and complete reliance on the leasehold system. That being so, it would have been much better had the Government frankly stated its objective. The Minister also said -
The proposal is strongly supported by the Central Hirings Committee, the War Damage Commission, the well-known town planner, Mr. R. A. Mcinnes, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth SurveyorGeneral, and the Inter-departmental
Committee on Darwin. A group of Army officers, all of whom have had experience in civil life in town planning and dealings in land, prepared a report on and a plan for the town of Darwin after a lengthy period in the north. They strongly advocated the institution of a leasehold system for the town. This report was fully endorsed toy senior Army officers in the area.
If I understand the nature of the Hirings Committee, it is entirely an Army “ show “. The job of an army in time of war is to fight; in time of peace it may engage in activities such as engineering works. When in peace-time I desired to have a force of engineers stationed in Darwin, who could be engaged for half their time in learning the arts of war and for the remainder of their time in building roads, aerodromes and fortress installations, I was regarded as a heretic. I visited Darwin twice last year. It is only natural that the people .stationed there take an interest in the matter with which the bill deals, but the fact that they are able to take so much interest in what ought to be a matter of Government policy is a clear indication that there has not been a full-time military occupation of Darwin. It- is said that Mr. R. A. Mcinnes also recommended the adoption of the leasehold system of land tenure in Darwin. I contend that he did nothing of the kind. The area delineated in the schedule to the bill is exactly the area recommended by Mr. Mcinnes, who, on page 132 of his report, said -
The scheme therefore entails the acquisition of only five sections, occupied by old buildings of very little value, some of which should be resumed and removed from this locality in any case. I need hardly point out the value of the site as an administrative centre.
The Minister said that he recommended the total acquisition of the area, but I contend that he said nothing of the kind, unless that has ‘been done in a subsequent report that has not been shown to this Parliament. This report states that a. group of army officers has prepared a plan “ which was strongly supported by senior officers “. That report should be laid before the Parliament. The most astonishing feature of the proposal is that there is a law on the statute-book providing that if certain works are to be undertaken, and exceed in cost the sum of £25,000, they must be submitted to the
Public Works Committee for investigation and report. After the Minister’s second-reading speech, the press published a statement that the real intention of the Government is to expend about £7,000,000 in the reconstruction of Darwin. Whether that is true or not I do not know, but so far no member of the Government has seen fit to qualify or contradict that report. Until we get full information as to the real intentions of the Government as to the future of Darwin, I do not think this bill should be taken further. I intend to move later that the second reading be deferred until the Minister for the Interior and th? Minister for Post-war Reconstruction have accepted the invitation of the Northern Territory Development League to visit Darwin and hear the views of residents of the Northern Territory on this bill. The Northern Territory Development League was prepared to take an interest in this matter. A copy of one of its letters was sent to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini). This letter was published in the Adelaide Advertiser on the 13th July, the day before the. present Government was sworn in, and it reads a3 follows : -
Sir. - The following open letter has been sent to the Minister for Post-war lie-construction and the Minister for Works: - “ Recently the council of the Northern Terri; tory Development League urged that you should make a personal tour of the Territory preparatory to establishing a planning committee for its development. Since then we have received and considered a copy of the proposed Darwin Lands Acquisition Act. “ The council of our League now urges that the passage of this bill through the House be deferred until you have visited the Territory and personally investigated its problems and possibilities for development. “ We again draw your attention to the fact that people in the Territory are kept almost completely in the dark regarding the Government’s intentions. This bill does nothing to elucidate our position because although indicating that !)0 square miles of land in and around Darwin may be resumed, it does not indicate how much will not be returned as leasehold to the present registered proprietors, nor the purpose for which any lands acquired and retained are to be used. In other words, the bill gives no indication of what is intended for Darwin. “ Nor does the bill indicate what will be the real basis of compensation on acquisition. If the land -were acquired to-day it could be argued that with no commercial activity in Darwin - no market, as it -were - it was worthless. Shall Darwin residents be compensated accordingly? They have already had experience of that approach in connexion with impressments. The only thing the bill does as far as we are concerned is to confirm our already legitimate suspicion that whatever plans the Government has for the Territory’s development are lopsided and imply an artificial Darwin superimposed on a Territory which is crying out for adequate planning, and realistic consideration for. its development. “It is not easy to judge and assess at a distance of 2,000 miles or more, and for that reason we urge that you should seriously consider visiting the Territory and investigate its problems and possibilities before committing yourself to the passage of a bill that barely touches the fringe of the whole subject - a bill, indeed, that may .be completely out of keeping with the real requirements of our people and the land and industries that they have chosen for their livelihood. The record of our people in this war stands as high as that of any State of the Commonwealth, and we consider this matter so urgent and so serious that we are sending this letter as an open letter to the press. -
President, Northern Territory Development League, Alice Springs, N.T. “
That is a very reasonable request. The future of the Northern Territory, including Darwin, is a matter on which I have not been able to obtain any information worth having. I made plea after plea to various Ministers in the previous Government with a view to obtaining certain information in regard to the future of the Territory, but up to date have received very little. All sorts of planning schemes have been undertaken by all sorts of people who, so far as I have been able to ascertain, have little or no information in regard to the Territory. The people living up there, who have had a lifelong experience of the conditions, have not been consulted. That is altogether wrong; hence my amendment.
The next quotation that I make from the Minister’s second-reading speech is -
The proposed alteration of tenure will also have the effect of conserving to the Commonwealth the unearned increment in the land arising from the heavy expenditure of Commonwealth funds which may be anticipated in the development of the town.
I ask the Minister, when he replies to the debate, to explain what he means by “ unearned increment “, and how he proposes to conserve it to the Commonwealth in the development of the town. If he wishes to discuss the subject of unimproved land values, I shall be prepared to meet him, because I was associated with the alteration of the Local Government Act of South Australia, which gave to every district council the right to tax farming lands on their unimproved value, and I was a member of the first council to apply that principle. I put it to the Minister, that if the Government proposes to take this so-called unearned increment, which in reality is the unimproved land value, for Commonwealth revenue purposes, it must do so by .fixing the rents of the lease-holds according to the unimproved value of the land. The House, and the prospective lease-holders in Darwin, are entitled to further enlightenment in regard to such a statement of policy. The paragraph that I have read may be interpreted to mean anything. If the Government intends to proceed with this proposal, it should come down with a clear-out policy and state that the rents of this 90 square miles will be determined on the unimproved value, subject to review every seven or fourteen years. I could understand and agree with such a policy. But this anaemic proposal does not mean anything, and I am completely suspicious of it.
The next point is : How is this acquisition to be effected? Clause 4 is one of the interesting features of the bill. It reads -
The value of any land acquired in pursuance of this Act by- compulsory process shall, notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty-nine of the Act- the lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936- be assessed according to the value of the land on the date of acquisition, without reference to any increase in value arising from the proposal to carry out any purpose specified in section three of this Act.
Clause 3 does not give very much information as to what the proposals are to be.
The interesting point is in section 29 of the Lands Acquisition Act, which reads - (1.) The value of any land acquired by compulsory process shall be assessed as follows: -
The language of sub-section 2 was used almost without variation in the Minister’s second-reading speech. What is meant by paragraph b of sub-section 1? I argue, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will agree, that this is a special purpose bill. Therefore, when land is acquired under it for a special purpose the acquisition must be according to the value which existedon the first day of January last preceding the first day of the Parliament in which the Special Act was passed “. That would be the 1st January, 1943. I direct attention to that for this reason: I am firmly of the opinion that some person in authority will argue that, “section 29 of the Lands Acquisition Act having been suspended, according to clause 4 it does not operate ; therefore, the date of valuation is the date of acquisition. The forced sellers of land at Darwin will have a vital interest in the date on which the land is to be valued.
– Who could determine the value during the last three or four years ?
– I intend to make that point. Land values at Darwin suddenly changed on the 19th February, 1942. The Government can honestly acquire this land compulsorily only by adopting the valuations that existed on the 1st January, 1942 - the first day of the year in which the bombing and compulsory evacuation occurred. As a matter of fact, the compulsory evacuation of most of the women and children took place before that date - they were sent away in the previous
December. In committee, I shall submit an amendment to test the matter, which is very important from the viewpoint of the person who is to be compelled to sell.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, did not say a word as to how the Government proposes to act in the matter of compensation for buildings compulsorily acquired. By a special act of this Government, the War Damage Commission is in charge of affairs at Darwin to-day. Does the Government intend to acquire the buildings as they exist to-day, allow the owner to come to a settlement with the War Damage Commission in respect of disappearance of or damage to buildings, or decline to take the buildings into account? In 99 cases; out of 100, the owner has not been in occupation since February, 1942. Considerable damage has been caused. Some of it has been due to bombing by the Japanese, but a lot of it, I am sorry to say, has been due to events that are not novel in the history of war; consequently, one does not want to speak of them very much in public. But one has private feelings, having some regard for the reputation of the uniform one has worn in two wars. I believe that, when the balance-sheet is written - as it must be some day - it will show that in Darwin more damage was inflicted by local than by enemy action. From the viewpoint of the person who owns property in Darwin, and was told to pack up and get his wife and children out as quickly as possible, for the purposes of acquisition it does not matter whether the damage was caused by enemy action or by action of our own forces. I concede that there may have been occasions on which it was deemed necessary, expedient and. economical to tear down certain buildings and use the materials for other purposes. The owner of property at Darwin desires the Government to state the terms of settlement upon compulsory acquisition. I am not a lawyer, but a farmer with some slight knowledge of dealings in land. I have been interested to note that on the page of the volume of Commonwealth Acts in which is printed’ the Lands Acquisition Act, opposite to that on which occurs section 29, which the Government has seen fit to suspend for the purposes of this legislation only, there are certain references to decisions by the High Court and the Privy Council in relation to the compulsory acquisition of land. They ought to go on record. The High Court held, in an action for compensation under the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act 1901, since repealed and replaced by the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-36, “that, in assessing the value of land: resumed under that Act, the basis of valuation should be the price that a willing purchaser would at the date in question have had’ to pay to a vendor not unwilling, but not anxious, to sell “. Many of the men who are to be compelled to part with their property in Darwin are not willing, and certainly are not anxious, to sell. They will have ideas as to what the value of their property will be at the date of acquisition, just as I have ideas as to what strict justice and political morality demand should be the date of acquisition. Another case cited is that of Fraser v. City of Fraserville - evidently a family affair. The footnote reads -
The value to be ascertained is the value to the seller of the property in its actual condition at the time pf expropriation, with all its existing advantages and with all its possibilities, excluding any advantage due to the carrying out of the scheme for which the property is compulsorily acquired.
The principle that “ the value to be ascertained is the value to the seller of property in its actual condition at the time of expropriation” should be embodied in this bill. That was the judgment of Lord Buckmaster. This principle was later applied by the High Court of Australia when it held that where water was taken by the Commonwealth for the purposes of a railway, the value should be determined on the basis of the value of the water .to the seller, irrespective of whether the water was or was not being used by the seller, and not on the basis of the use to which the Commonwealth put the water. These judicial findings have a bearing upon what the Government is proposing to do in Darwin now. I should like to know what the Government intends to do in regard to the leaseholds situated within this area of 90 square miles. There is no guarantee that a leasehold will be granted to every man who is compelled to sell a freehold property. The Minis- ter, in his second-reading speech, left the whole matter in the air. Are we to understand that the leaseholder within this area is to retain possession of his property? That is a most extraordinary bill, one which leaves the leaseholders in doubt regarding their future position.
In 1937, Mr. Mcinnes made a comprehensive report on the development of Darwin. I have heard unofficially that the same gentleman was called upon quite recently to furnish another report on the subject. I suggest that before this bill is passed all such reports relating to Darwin, whether by Mr. Mcinnes, or the Central Hirings Committee, or army representatives on the spot, should be submitted to the House for perusal by honorable members. Mr. Mcinnes, at pages 28 and 29 of his report, wrote of the original design of Darwin in the following terms : -
I am of the opinion that the wisdom of the design will become more evident as the town develops.
Therefore, it does not seem as if there is any great need for extensive replanning of Darwin, seeing that the report of Mr. Mcinnes was written in 1937. Referring to Cavanagh-square, Mr. Mcinnes said that it was not possible to turn this area into a square surrounded by government buildings, and that there would have to be a compromise on the original plan. I should like to know from the Minister whether the acquisition of freehold properties will affect the Cavanagh-square proposal. The report contains a stinging comment on the Government’s proposal, which was made .as long ago as 1925, to erect workmen’s dwellings. An ordinance was gazetted in that year empowering the department to erect such dwellings in Darwin, but nothing was ever done about it. In the same report, he said that he did not recommend a revaluation of land in the near future. I raise this point because the year in which the report was made, 1937, was not long before the outbreak of war. At that time, the authorities were working upon certain assessments, and if those assessments have been altered they must bear some relation to the value of land at the time of the evacuation, and should be a guide to the Government in fixing compensation for expropriated land. Valuations in the township were raised 300 per cent, in 1939, and, according to Mr. Mcinnes, the number of appeals against the new valuations was very small. I quote the following extract from a letter written by a landholder on the subject: -
Land values in the ‘30’s gradually rose in Darwin, and in 1934 or 1935 we purchased a block on the Esplanade, Darwin, about half way between Government House and the then hospital. About two years later the Government compulsorily resumed the block, but as we had not built on it we were not inconvenienced in that way. But we had paid about two or three years’ rates on it at the then assessed value. To our surprise when at length payment came, the payment in accordance with some old act or ordinance (which I have forgotten) was based, not on the then assessment value, but on the value of the block about 1928 or 1929, which was much lower.
These resumptions then concerned only a few people - three or four as far as I remember - and it was too expensive for us singly to test the matter out by an appeal to our Northern Territory Supreme Court, and we had to accept much less than we asked. Not long after that land values in Darwin began to rise rapidly, encouraged by the £3,000 or £3,500 paid by the Bank of New South Wales for the block in the centre of Darwin where their building was later erected. Seeing values soaring in that way, the Government had to do something, so in about 1939 the Government officer - town clerk - with what assistance I know not, or have forgotten - re-appraised values of all blocks in Darwin township which was bounded roughly by Lambell-terrace and a line through the Botanic Gardens across to Francis Bay not far south of 24-mile railway sheds. Some of the blocks away out from the Post Office were not raised in assessment value much - if at all - but in the vicinity of the Post Office and Town Hall, the increase was very great.
It would appear that values have been assessed in the most arbitrary and. autocratic manner. For some time I have been fighting the case of a man of 70 years of age who has gone to Katherine to live. The Railways Department compulsorily resumed a block of land belonging to him, offering him £30 for it. He thinks it is worth more, and other people who know the district agree with him. However, the attitude of the Government is, “ Take £30 or sue us in court “. I should like to know whether that is to be the attitude of the Government to the freeholders in Darwin, or whether it is proposed to set up an independent tribunal consisting of persons qualified to judge land values in Darwin. This old man at Katherine has written to me as follows : -
This is the end of a three years’ struggle for my rights. And so a Labour Government, pledged to give even the lowliest citizen justice, is controlled by a well-entrenched body of officials whose motto is, “-The plan. They shall take who have the power, and they may keep who can “ - stc transit.
The Minister may have this letter if he wishes it. The Government has not yet disclosed to Parliament its reason for proposing to acquire freehold properties in Darwin. We know nothing of the Government’s intentions beyond what we have read in the newspapers. I suggest that the Government should set up a special authority to hear appeals in those cases in which the property-owners are not prepared to accept what the Government offers them by way of compensation. In regard to war damages, I ask the Minister to see that justice, rather than the letter of the law, shall prevail. If he consults with his colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping, he will find that certain compensation claims in connexion with wolfram and mica deposits were settled amicably before a special compensation tribunal. The Minister should deal with that matter when he replies to this debate.
It was stated that the percentage of appeals against the increase of values was very small. In the circumstances, that is not difficult to understand. The man who complained to me about being deprived of his rights, was employed on a station in the Pine Creek area. He is not in a position financially to fight for justice in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory against the Commonwealth Government. Therefore, in his old age he is compelled to take whatever the mighty Commonwealth likes to offer. The position regarding the legal profession is interesting. Last year, I had to approach the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in order to obtain the release from the Allied Works Council of the only practising lawyer in the Northern Territory. At that time, every other lawyer there was employed in the service of the Government. The only legal practitioner in Alice Springs, who is now the president of the Northern Territory Development League, was called up for service with the Allied Works Council, and. the authorities proposed to send him to work in Sydney on the construction of the Captain Cook Dock. Every other lawyer was employed in the Army, the Air Force, or the Allied Works Council. When certain licensing cases were heard in Alice Springs, the defendants were obliged to incur expenses of from £150 to £200 in bringing a lawyer by air from Adelaide to face the Commonwealth’s legal representatives. Their purpose was, not to avoid a conviction and the payment of a fine of £5, but to persuade the court to reverse a decision, so that a black mark would not be placed on the licences, as otherwise it would have been. I am sure that any number of decisions of the local courts in the Northern Territory have stood, and any number of injustices have remained, simply because, under the present set-up, which has existed for some time, legal assistance has not been available in the Northern Territory to enable residents to fight their claims in court. At present, the only practising lawyer in the Northern Territory, who is not employed by the Government, is the gentleman who signed the letter that was published in the Adelaide Advertiser a few days ago. Consequently, there are reasons, apart altogether from those which I mentioned a few moments ago, why the Government should ensure that the onus shall not be thrown on residents of the Northern Territory to approach the Supreme Court regarding any of these acquisitions on which they may not be able to come to an agreement. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Financial Assistance to Tasmania - Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission upon the application submitted by the Government of Tasmania for additional financial assistance in 1944-45 under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Pats River, Flinders Island, Tasmania.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Manufacture of domestic furniture (No. 5).
Prohibition of non-essential production (No. 17).
National Security (Maritime Industry) Regulations - Order - No. 51.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
4 and 5. As a matter of principle the Commonwealth Government does not consider it should meet losses incurred under such circumstances.
y. - On the 19th July, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked whether the petrol allowance is to be increased as from the 1st August, and, if so, what will be the percentage increase, and will the increase have general application.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -
This matter is at present being investigated by officers of my department, and I propose to make a statement immediately the investigation is completed.
Tasmanian Shipping Service.
y. - On the 18th July, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question regarding the recent alterations to the schedule of the ship engaged in the Bass Strait service. The honorable member asked whether I would have an investigation made in order to ascertain how much more cargo is likely to be lifted under the new schedule, and whether any advantage likely to be derived in this direction can compare with the disadvantages to which interested public bodies have drawn attention.
This matter has been referred to the Minister for .Supply and Shipping, who has provided the following information : -
Since the alteration of the time table of the Nairana, under which fortnightly calls are made direct to Burnie and Devonport, in place of a weekly call to the two ports, the vessel has made three tripe, two of which have ‘been to Burnie, and one to Devonport. On the three trips (prio’r to the alteration) on which the vessel called at both Burnie and Devonport on each trip, a total of 1104 tons of cargo was carried to and from the two ports, an average of 308 tons per trip. On the three trips since the alteration to the time table, a total of 1,589 tons has been carried both inwards and outwards, an average of - 520 tons per trip. Thus, on the average, an additional 101 tons of cargo has been lifted on each inward and outward voyage. During the period since the alteration, the Nairana was delayed on one occasion, by gales, once by fog, and once by rain. No similar delays were experienced during the three trips immediately prior to the alteration. Notwithstanding these delays, the vessel was able to handle an average of JOI tons more cargo on each trip under the new programme.
I am sure the honorable member for Darwin will appreciate the importance of arranging shipping schedules so that the maximum amount of cargo can be lifted. As a result of the altered schedule, the Nairana is now lifting over 40 per cent, more cargo each trip than that lifted under the previous schedule.
Broadcasting : Ministerial Prohibitions.
l. - On the 20th July, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question concerning the suspension of certain radio artists.
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following answers: -
AUSTRAL an Novels.
– Some time ago, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), on the motion for the adjournment of the House, raised the question of the production of novels toy Australian authors. The honorable member referred to shortages of paper and to difficulties due to the man-power position. The Minister for Trade and Customs, who is particularly concerned with paper supplies, has now furnished the following statement : -
The Government has for some time past recognized the importance of book production in Australia, particularly since overseas supplies necessarily had to be restricted on account of exchange problems and shipping difficulties.
A generous policy of control devoid of regimentation was introduced in 1042 and publishers were granted quotas, this being with a view to ensuring that there would be as far as possible an equitable distribution of the very limited supplies of paper then available.
A book sponsorship committee was also established and on its recommendations every assistance was given in the matter of procuring paper so that books of national importance could be produced without delay.
During the latter part of 1943 I arranged for supplies of newsprint to be imported from overseas, such supplies being specifically for general printing work, which included book production. The paper was imported in sheet form and was additional to the quantities that had been imported for newspapers. Adequate supplies of sheet newsprint are still coming forward and publishers should have little difficulty in obtaining this type of paper. The position is, however, slightly different in regard to super-calendered paper. This paper is of local manufacture and mill production has to meet first the consistently heavy demands for all governmental purposes, with the result that comparatively small quantities are available for ordinary commercial purposes. It was for this same reason that it became necessary to direct that all periodicals, as apart from books, should use newsprint in lieu of the better class printing papers, which have been for some time past and are still in exceedingly short supply. This position is always under very close observation and whatever ameliorative action is possible will be taken as soon as conditions permit.
Efforts are being made to arrange for the importation of antiques and other better-class printing papers and should they be successful, it should be possible to attain better standards of production than hitherto. It might be added that magazine printing paper is imported subject to conditions of prescribed end use which do not permit of general use for book production purposes.
My department does not deal with manpower, but it has been informed by the Director-General of Man Power, that a number of releases of skilled workmen for book publishing have already been made and that the question is being continually kept under notice with a view to affording whatever further relief is possible.
The honorable member also referred to overseas magazines being dumped in this country. The importation of the cheaper magazines (crime-fiction, “westerns”, &c.) from nonsterling sources is prohibited under import licensing regulations, and the same applies to paper-covered novels. I have several times had inquiries made into alleged wholesale breaches of these regulations, but have not been able to substantiate the statements made. However, if the honorable member can supply mc with any further details I will have further inquiries put in hand immediately.
n. - In reply to a recent question by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) concerning the cost of sheet steel, it is correct that the Australian price is higher than overseas prices.
The company which produces this particular steel draws its basic steel slabs from the Australian steel producers, and that steel is charged at the customary low prices for Australian steel. In the course of processing, however, the steel becomes higher in price than the overseas steel of the same grade. The reasons for this have been discussed by the Secondary Industries- Commission with the management in view of its importance in the motor car project. The principal reason is the very small output at present required in Australia, which does not warrant the millions of pounds necessary to put in modern high production mills which would result in a cheaper product. I am informed that the managing director of the Australian subsidiary has gone overseas to consult ‘ with his principals as to the installation of additional plant and to see what else can be done to reduce the costs of metal produced. Meanwhile, the possibilities generally of increasing production in Australia of the various types of sheet steel with consequent reduction of costs are being investigated. It is probable that the decision upon this must await the end of the war.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450724_reps_17_184/>.