17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear; took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjournto tomorrow, at10.30 a.m.
– The Adelaide Advertiser has published this paragraph in reference to the night use of electricity -
It was recently announced that the Commonwealth Government might lift the restrictionsat the beginning of this month, thus allowing night trotting and the use of neon lights.
The Premier (Mr. Playford) said yesterday that in response to an inquiry hehad made the Controller of Electricity (Mr. H. P. Moss) had informed him that the control regulation had not yet been revoked.
Can the Minister for Munitions state when the Government proposes to revoke this regulation?
– The degree to which the restrictions on the use of night lighting may be lifted, is being considered. The honorable member will realize that many of the difficulties which caused the restrictions to be imposed hare not completely disappeared. Although I cannot state so definitely, I may be able to announce shortly the lifting of certain restrictions from some date next month. When the decision has been made, I shall immediately communicate with the honorable member,
House Tenancy of Soldier’s Wife
– Has the Prime Minister received any report or reports from the committee which inquired into the Pedvin case ? If so, when will the report or reports be made available to the House?
– I have received two reports, one signed by three members and the other by one member of the committee. I have discussed the matter with the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley), who is chairman of the committee, and understand that he has been endeavouring to ascertain whether the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the fifth member of the committee, who has been ill, is able and desires to furnish a report, or to express agreement or disagreement with either of the other reports, but so far this information has not been forthcoming. The Minister may be able to obtain a decision to-day; fail ing which, I shall consider whether the other reports should be released.
– Has the Minister for Defence any knowledge of a letter from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) which was posted in Melbourne on Monday last to the secretary of the parliamentary committee?
– Ihave no knowledge whatever of any such letter. I saw the secretary of the committee yesterday and he said nothing about it.
– I have been assured that the letter was posted.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Balaclava concerning service ribbons, medals and the like, but I have had no letter on the subject mentioned by the honorable member for Coranganrite.
Demobilization : Long-service Personnel - Vocational Releases : Municipal Engineers; Students of Universities and Technical Schools - Military Offenders: Remission of Penalties.
– I understood that the policy of the Government was that servicemen on the mainland were to be given leave with pay, pending demobilization, to take up employment, but no procedure seems to have been laid down for this. Recently, four cases were brought to my attention in which release was refused to servicemen. One of them had employment waiting for him in the wholesale butchery trade, and another as Assistant Health Inspector in the employ of the Bankstown Council. I ask. the Minister in charge of demobilization to say when a specific policy will be put into effect for the release of such men..
– The honorable member has not made it clear whether the incidents referred to occurred before 1st October, or since the general demobilization plan came into effect.
– The letter which I received dealing with the matter was dated the 2nd October.
– Nevertheless, the refusal complained of might have been notified earlier. The number of men who can bc released, whether on occupational grounds or on the points system, is limited by the transport available. From the 1st October, the maximum number that can be transported will be sent to their home States. Some will be released under the points system, and others because they are key men in essential industries. If the honorable member will give me the particulars of the cases mentioned by him I shall have inquiries made into the matter.
– In answer to a question that I asked in the House last July, a definite statement of Government policy was made that men with more than five years’ service, including two years overseas, would be given the right of discharge. I have received a number of letters, and so have other honorable members, notably the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), complaining that, men of five years’ service who are entitled to release under the Government’s policy are not being discharged. A census that has been taken in the field indicates that only about one-third of the eligible men have been offered discharge. I. now ask the Prime Minister whether he will make a definite statement on the subject, particularly as to whether the announced policy of the Government in this regard has been abandoned, because public opinion is widespread that men in the field who should be given priority in this matter are not being given it.
– As this matter is closely linked with the general demobilization plan, the Prime Minister has asked me .to answer the honorable member’s question. The Government has not in any way abandoned its plans and proposals for the discharge, at die earliest, possible moment, of men with five years’ service.
– Is it an automatic right?
– It is, subject to the condition that there may be certain men who occupy key positions in the islands and that some time may elapse before men can be sent from the mainland to take over those positions; and subject, also, to the limitations of transport. As the honorable member is aware, we have insufficient shipping at our command to bring hack, immediately, to the mainland the men who are entitled to come. The
Government has made representations to the British Government with the object of securing additional shipping in order that these men may return to Australia as quickly as possible. I assure the honorable member that there has been no change of Government policy in respect of the discharge of men with more than five years’ service. Subject to the two conditions that I have mentioned, the men will be discharged as soon as possible.
– In recent weeks I have had brought to my notice details of applications that have been made by municipal councils for the release from the forces of engineers formerly in their employ, whose services are required urgently in connexion with housing projects. In all cases the reply from the Army has been that such individuals must take their proper turn under the demobilization scheme. In view of the importance of housing and the shortage of technical men in municipal bodies, will the Minister for Labour and National Service make special provision to grant priority in the release of council engineers and other highly technical officers whose services are required by those authorities?
– All that the Manpower Directorate can do will be done, immediately applications for release are made. Men of the type mentioned by the honorable member receive the highest priority. The Man-power Directorate will recommend the immediate release of key men and others likely to increase the volume of employment in the building trade. The services, of course, have the final decision. If the names of men whose release is desired are furnished, (hey will be recommended for discharge.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that not one discharge from the Army was made on the 1st October at the Redbank discharge depot? If so, what was the reason ?
– There are so many discharge depots throughout Australia that I cannot, without being given notice, state the exact number of discharges at any depot on any day. I shall have inquiries made and advise the honorable member later.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to state the position of young men in the Army who were called up and subsequently enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force after they had completed two years at a university or the Teachers’ Training College and, having returned to Australia from the islands, are doing only wharf-labouring work. Is a return to their studies dependent upon the operation of the points system? Cannot those who left positions in order to enlist obtain their release immediately so that they may regain positions to which they are legally entitled?
– The decision is governed by the considerations which have to be weighed in all cases individually. Obviously, if a man has been in one of the services for only a short period, the mere fact that he was undergoing training for the teaching or any other profession before enlisting in the Army would not, of itself, be an adequate reason for his discharge earlier than the release of other men who had been in one of the services for a longer period. But under the demobilization plan, exception can be made in particular cases where it is shown that there is an adequate reason for the early discharge of individuals such as those mentioned by the honorable member. If he brings specific cases to my notice, I shall have them investigated.
– by leave - The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) asked whether the five-year men were still entitled to the discharge which had previously been offered to men possessing that qualification.
– Including two years operational service.
– That is so. I have referred to them compendiously as “ fiveyear men “. Last week, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), either wittingly or unwittingly, conveyed to the House the impression
– It was a definite statement.
– I thought so, but I am putting it in that way. He conveyed the impression that the five-year provision had gone, or would go, “by the board “ on the 1st October, and that thereafter the points system would regulate discharges. This morning, as I understood him, he has stated the position differently, in that he has said that the discharge of the five-year men will be subject to one or two conditions that he mentioned. It is very difficult to reconcile his two statements. We all are receiving a great mass of correspondence about these men. In the interest* of every honorable member, I suggest that the Minister should put the matter completely beyond doubt. Will the points system control the discharge of these men from the 1st October? If so, many five-year men, particularly those who were young and single when they enlisted, will not have the benefit of an earlier discharge. All honorable members want to be in a position to state with clearness to their electors, and the Parliament has the obligation of stating with clearness to all concerned, what the position is. Therefore, on behalf of all honorable members on both sides of the House, I ask the Minister to make the position completely clear and unambiguous.
Mr. DEDMAN ( Cor io- Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). - by leave - I regret that there has been any ambiguity in regard to this matter. I should like to read the answers that I gave to questions last week, in order to convince myself whether or not I made the position perfectly clear. I shall endeavour to do so now. If there are any points which I do not cover in this short statement, 1 shall be prepared to make a further statement later. The Government’s decision to have discharged all men with over five years’ service, still holds, but the operation of that decision after the 1st October is being given effect ina manner somewhat different from that which operated prior to the 1st. October, when the decision rested with the services, because the general demobilization plan had not then come into effect. I understand that prior to the 1st October the services were giving effect to. the Government’s decision that these men were to be released as fast as shipping and transport facilities generally made it possible for them to be released. From that date, the general demobilization plan has operated, and in general the points system is the basis on which men will be discharged. Within that demobilization plan, provision is made for exceptions to the points system, and men with over five years’ service are to be treated as exceptions. Therefore, although the method of releasing men with over five years’ service from the 1st October onwards has been changed, nevertheless the original decision that these men should he released as exceptions to the points system under the general demobilization plan after the 1st October, should they so desire, is being given effect. In order to bring some kind of order into the procedure - because it is necessary for those who are handling demobilization to have some idea of the numbers who will be exceptions to the points system, in order that arrangements may he made f or the remainder, who will be discharged under the points system, to be got ready at the various units and sent to their home States - it was necessary to ascertain how many of those who had had over five years’ service wished to be discharged under that decision of the Government. The men were asked to elect before the 30th September whether or not they wished to take their discharge under the decision of the Government. If honorable members have any information to the effect that some men with five years’ service have never been given the opportunity to elect whether or not they would be discharged, E shall take the matter up with service Ministers, with a view to their being given such an opportunity. Honorable members must see that, in order to work the demobilization plan properly, it is necessary for the demobilization authority to have some information as to the number of men with five years’ service who wish to take their discharge. Some of them may wish to serve in occupation forces.
The only point on which there could have been any doubt was whether all the men with five years’ .service had actually been given an opportunity to elect before the 30th September to take their discharge. If honorable members assure me that they had not, I shall take the matter up with the service Ministers.
– So that any man with five years’ service may now make application for release, and receive consideration under the procedure for dealing with exceptional cases?
– That is so. If there is any other aspect of the matter which honorable members wish cleared up I shall endeavour to do it for them.
–Is it a fact that men with nearly six years’ service, including service overseas, are still serving sentences in detention camps for military offences, such as absence without leaver insolence, &c. ? Will the Minister for Defence state whether any provision has been made by the Government to grant an amnesty to such men, or at any rate to reduce their sentences now that hostilities have ceased?
– It may be that some men are still serving sentences for offences such as those mentioned by the honorable member. This matter of an amnesty was discussed by Cabinet only this morning. The Attorney-General’s Department has submitted certain recommendations regarding civilians now in prison for offences associated with the war, and Mr. J ustice Reed’s tribunal has made suggestions regarding the armed forces. The Army authorities have approved, and the Navy and the Air Force have been asked for their comments, which arrived this morning. It is hoped to reach a decision to-day, in which case a statement will be made to-morrow.
REPORT of Me. JUSTICE Clyne.
– Can the Acting Attorney-General explain the long delay in the presentation of the report of Mr. Justice Clyne on the detention of members of the Australia First Movement? So far we have had only the Minister’s own statement about the report. When will the report itself be released, and when will honorable members he given an opportunity to debate it?
– It is for the Prime Minister to decide when the House will be given an opportunity to debate the report. I have been informed by the Solicitor-General that he has copies of the report, and they will be made available to honorable members to-day.
Dumping of Goods from Eastern States.
– I quote the following from the Sunday Times of Perth, dated the 30th September -
Dumping Threat to Western Australian Industry. “ Biggest threat to Western Australian industry since the depression “, is the reaction of local furniture nien to the arrival this week of kitchenettes by rail from South Australia. “ We are not afraid of the eastern States In open competition. But we can’t get enough raw materials - chiefly 3-ply and Tasmanian oak - or sufficient labour. , “
I ask the Prime Minister whether any action can be taken to protect the limited industrial development of Western Australia from, not fair competition, but dumping by the eastern States ? If action on those lines cannot be taken will he ensure the availability of supplies of men and materials to the manufacturers? I suggest . that their former employees should he discharged from the services in order to enable them to meet this threat to. Western Australian industry.
– The Commonwealth has no power to prevent the transfer of goods from one State to another. I shall ask the Minister for Works and Housing to ensure the availability of sufficient materials in Western Australia, and the Minister for Labour and National Service to look at the labour aspect of the honorable member’s question.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following paragraph in the press this morning: -
U.S. Demand foe Abolition of Empire Tariffs.
New York, Tuesday. - According to the Washington correspondent of the “ Herald.Tribune,” the United States will press for the elimination of the British Empire dollar pool and a virtual elimination of Empire Tariff preferences as conditions for granting large dollar credits to England.
With the exception of wool and wheat the solvency of Australian primary industries - dried, canned and fresh fruit, meat, dairying >and poultry - entirely depended before the war on Empire preferential tariffs. Will the right honorable gentleman give an assurance that the Government will resist the elimination of Empire preferential tariffs in representations to the British Government, if such a proposal as is foreshadowed emanates from the United States of America ?
– The honorable member has raised a matter of very great national and Empire importance. I would not be justified in attempting to survey the possibilities at this stage. I have already stated the difficult position in which the United Kingdom and other Empire countries find themselves, as the result of the termination of lend-lease in obtaining dollar credits for the purchase of minimum needs from the dollar area. Matters that have come up for discussion, as I have already indicated, are the financial arrangements that must be made as the result of the termination of lend-lease, which involves, of course, reciprocal aid, commercial relationships, and the disposal of American property in Allied countries. In addition, the subject of the Bretton Woods conference could easily be raised. I have no official intimation that the representative of the United States of America stated definitely that his Government will insist upon the abolition of Empire preference. I should like to be able to make a more complete statement to the House, but the position is still fluid. Lord Halifax and Lord Keynes are still engaged in discussions with the United States representatives, and their conversations may last for some time. Australia has two representatives in attendance, and the Government sent two additional representatives to Washington last Sunday. In those circumstances, I consider that 1 should not discuss any details at th<» moment. All I can say is that everything possible will be done. I have my own ideas regarding the best course of action, but they do not necessarily represent the views of the Government. The position is most complicated for a country like Australia, which has undergone such a heavy ordeal during the war. but the honorable member may rest assured that the point which he raised will receive consideration. The benefits conferred by Empire preference will not be lightly foregone. I cannot commit the British Government to a decision, but I understand that before any final decision is made in London, that the Dominions will be fully consulted.
Reports on Items - Annual Report.
– I lay on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Phenncetin, caffeine alkaloid, caffeine citrate, theobromine and paraphenetidine.
I also lay on the table the following paper: -
Tariff Board - Report for year 1944-45. together with summary of recommendations.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the reported protest against the acquisition by the Commonwealth of this season’s lamb for export? Can he say whether any action to acquire this season’s lamb has been taken, or is contemplated?
– The Government has not considered the acquisition of lamb, and so far as I personally am concerned, will not consider it, because I do not believe that such a step is necessary.
High Court Action
– On the 16th May last, the Acting Attorney-General informed me, in reply to a question which I had asked, that a High Court writ had been issued on the 20th April against Stuart Brothers Proprietary Limited, John McGrath and Raymond Edward Fitzpatrick, claiming £4,000 damages. Will the honorable gentleman advise me before the House rises of the particulars in the statement of claim in this matter and also the stage which the proceedings have now reached?
– I shall supply the information, probably to-morrow.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to indicate the result of the conference between the Director-General of Agriculture and the Queensland Minister for Agriculture regarding the embargo imposed by the Queensland Government on the transport of maize? In view of the extreme shortage of maize supplies for penicillin, and having in mind the availability of hickory king for edible purposes, which is required by manufacturers, will the Minister supply alternative fodders and take such Commonwealth action as is necessary to enable these needs to be met?
– I had a brief discussion with the Director-General of Agriculture only yesterday regarding the embargo on the transport of maize from Queensland. Although he did not give me exact details, he told me that he had discussed the subject with the Minister for Agriculture in that State, and that the whole matter had been satisfactorily adjusted. He also said that the manufacturers of certain maize products were satisfied with the arrangements that had been made.
Australian Forces on Emirau Island Ambon Operation.
– Early last week, I brought to the attention of the Minister for the Army particulars regarding one of Australia’s lost legions, namely, the force in occupation of Emirau Island, where the men were withoutmedical facilities, without leave, and even without proper food. The Minister undertook to send an urgent signal to General Blarney. A week has now gone by, and I ask him to send another signal urging that relief be given to these men.
– I can assure the honorable member that an active investigation is in progress regarding the allegations that the men on Emirau Island are short of food and medical supplies. I hope to have information on the matter this afternoon, and will supply it to the honorable member. There is great difficulty in getting the men back because of the acute shortage of shipping. However, in view of the fact that the men have been there for a considerable time, the matter will not be lost sight of, and they will be relieved as soon as possible.
Mr. FORDE (Capricornia - Minister for the Army). - by leave - On the, 27th September, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked me for information on the Australian force that was despatched to Ambon, and whether it was a fact that this force was sent without adequate equipment, with only three days’ supply of small arms ammunition, and without medical supplies. He also asked for information as to whether remnants of the force bad been found, and the number who had survived. In accordance with my promise, I have had inquiries made, and I am now able to advise the honorable member that the Australian force sent to Amboina was known as the “ Gull “ force, consisting of a Headquarters and a Battalion Group of a total strength of 1,092. The organization of this force had been developed in collaboration with the Allied Governments prior to the present Government taking office, and the Government honoured the commitment that had been entered into - the force that was despatched being largely based upon the inter-Alied plans that had been made at the time.
Certain questions have been asked by the honorable member which suggest that the force was inadequately supplied with fighting equipment, and was deficient in medical supplies. This I am assured is definitely incorrect. Supplies of ammunition, medical and all other requirements were completely adequate, it being directed by the Government that six months’ reserves ofsuch requirements must be maintained at Amboina,’ and of this reserve considerable quantities had reached their destination some months prior to the force. In addition, 30 days’ maintenance supplies were taken with the force itself, and a further shipment arrived early in January, 1942, providing further maintenance supplies, and making the total reserve of all requirements sufficient for approximately five months! This is a complete answer to any allegations that may be made in the House or elsewhere that this force was inadequately equipped and supplied.
Our Australian forces were based in strategic positions in the islands guarding the northern approaches to the continent of Australia, and while there has been some criticism from those who were not fully aware of all the circumstances as to the necessity for these strategic plans, it is nevertheless known to those in responsible quarters that the gallant stand made by these men - many of whom have unfortunately given their lives in consequence - resulted in staying the onward rush of the Japanese hordes, thus enabling the Allied forces to reinforce their strength, and eventually to drive back the enemy and achieve victory.
As Minister for the Army, and on behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, I wish to record those indisputable facts, so that the name of the “ Gull “ force may live always in the memory of the people of this country, for their heroic deeds. At the time of the occupation of Amboina by the Japanese, the force was established in two main groups, one at Ambon and the other at Laha. Ambon and Laha are on the Island of Amboina, on opposite sides of Ambon Bay. The distance across the bay is only 5 or 6 miles, but it is much further by land.
During the Japanese occupation, there was no contact whatever between the Australian prisoners of war in these two places. Insofar as is known to date all Australians who have been recovered were members of the group located on the Ambon side of the bay, and they have not been able to furnish any information as to the whereabouts at any time after capture of the force that was located at Laha. To date, there are no’ known recoveries from the group which was originally at Laha.
The recovery force consisted of an Australian infantry brigade group, which entered Amboina on the 23rd September, 1945, as an occupation force, to effect the recovery of prisoners of war and internees then on the island. Advice has been received from this force that all possible clues are being actively followed up in efforts to trace those prisoners of war and internees whose fate is still unknown. Special efforts are being made to trace the movements of the Laha group, instructions having been given for the interrogation of all Japanese commanders, officers and staffs as to their knowledge of this group, with particular reference to any movement of the group, or of individuals, of the group, since the Japanese occupation.
Next-of-kin and others, who are so anxiously awaiting news of missing prisoners of war, may he assured that no efforts are being spared in the prosecution of these inquiries. Similar investigations are being made in all other localities throughout the Pacific, East Asia and in Japan. On behalf of the Government - and I am sure that I can speak on behalf of this Parliament also - I extend sympathy to the next-of-kin and relatives of those who laid down their lives in this island outpost in order that we, as a nation, might survive. We extol the gallantry and devotion of the whole force. We honour the memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice; and to those survivors who will shortly return home we pay due homage.
My latest advice is that the commanding officer of this force, LieutenantColonel W. J. R. Scott, with 125 other members, will arrive in Sydney to-day, the 3rd October, 1945. Of the total force, 407 deaths in hostilities and during activities have been reported, and 305 have been recovered alive. This includes a number who had been transferred by the Japanese from Amboina to Hainan. Those about whom no specific reports have been received number 380.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether the commanding officer of the forces that went to Amboina complained of shortages of equipment and whether, as the result of that, or some other reason, he was recalled and removed from his position?
– I hope to he able to furnish an answer before the House rises.
– Has the Prime Minister any statement to make to the House on the Indonesian position following the Cabinet meeting this morning? Has the Government any document in its possession indicating the extent to which Communist activity is responsible for the present position?
– I assume that the honorable gentleman is referring to the Indonesian seamen on Dutch ships who have gone on strike. There is no. necessity for any consideration by Cabinet of that. The Government’s position is entirely clear. Five hundred Indonesian seamen have left their vessels in the last week in Australian ports. They will be required to leave Australia as soon as shipping can be provided for them. The Government’s insistence upon their leaving Australia has nothing to do with whatever differences exist between Indonesians and the Dutch Government. The Government’s decision that the seamen shall leave Australia is dictated solely by a determination that the immigration, law shall be observed. I admit that there-, is great difficulty in providing ships.
– What about: putting them on their own ships?
– I could say a lot about that too, but I will not.
Impressed Motor Vehicles
– When the Government impressed motor vehicles it directed the owners to deliver them to different points. In view of that, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether there is any way in which the former owners of those vehicles may be able to acquire trucks without having to go to the distributing companies for them? Seeing that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is forcing them to deal with those companies, why are they being charged sales tax on second-hand trucks?
– What the honorable gentleman has said is probably true. The Army did requisition trucks and have them delivered to certain points. The Commonwealth Disposals Commission is now making the trucks available through the trade. The prices are fixed by the Prices Commission. There is also a fixed commission for the disposal of the vehicles. The trade is being used because when trucks are sold it is necessary to provide for servicing. The Government has no means of providing that.
– lt could service the trucks that were impressed.
– The Army carried a mechanical staff. The Army is now being demobilized. It is desirable that men should go back to their former trades. The trade is handling the disposal of these trucks because it has facilities for servicing them. I considered at the beginning that we should involve ourselves in a lot of trouble if we did not make that provision. “When we sell a truck we must ensure its usability.
– What about the sales tax?
– We have a pal in the Treasurer who watches the sales tax. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked me yesterday whether I could arrange with the Commonwealth Disposals Commission for priority to be given to people whose trucks had been requisitioned. I intend to consult with the Chairman of the Commission as to whether that is possible.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 2nd October (vide page 6268).
Upon which Mr. Anthony had moved by way of amendment -
That the Schedule be amended by inserting in clause 14 the following new sub-clause: - u (1a.) That notwithstanding anything contained in this Agreement a tenant, who has satisfactorily fulfilled his conditions of tenancy for three years, may be granted the option of purchasing his home at such price s may he determined by approved valuers, and on such rental purchase terms as are practicable to the ability of the tenant, and as may be agreed and approved between the tenant and the Housing Authority.”
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is unnecessary because the agreement already provides for the sale of government houses to tenants. Clause 14 of the agreement reads -
First Schedule to this Agreement, in respect of the dwelling may be regarded as part of the purchase price.
Under that provision credit may be given for any previous instalments paid as rent by the tenant if he purchases the house. It should be pointed out that this housing agreement deals with a particular class of tenants, people who have bad “ a raw deal “ in regard to housing. Many of them have never had a home of their own, and have had to share accommodation in congested slums. Others are servicemen who will be taking up home tenancy for the first time. The whole scheme is designed to meet an emergency. People to be provided for under this legislation will want to live close to their jobs. It is desirable that they should, because one of the causes of lessened efficiency in industry is the long travel to and from work in crowded trams and buses.
The report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission deals, inter aiia, with regional planning and the establishment of satellite towns so that workers’ homes shall be within easy reach of their places of employment. Because of the high cost of building, the Government will provide homes for the present on a tenancy basis. We do not know how long prices control will remain and whether prices of building materials will be retained at a reasonable level. Building costs are now between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent, higher than the pre-war levels, and in the circumstances it would be unfair to impose upon the workers at this juncture the responsibility of purchasing their homes. The South Australian housing scheme, which is one of the best in the Commonwealth, has been in operation for a number of years and is now stabilized. The prices of construction are moderate. In other States the housing schemes are of comparatively recent origin and will suffer teething troubles, as any private organization would do under the same conditions. When the mass production of homes is commenced, costs will be reduced to a reasonable level. Under certain conditions, the State housing authorities will be given the right to sell homes to the occupiers without the consent of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) endeavoured to prescribe specific terms regarding the period in which a tenant may acquire an equity in the property. That proposal is unnecessary and undesirable. When the occasion arises, the matter can be dealt with. I recall that arrangements were made through the co-operative building societies, guaranteed by the Government of New South Wales, to enable employees of the’ Newnes oil project to purchase their homes. But the employees considered that their positions were not sufficiently secure and feared that they might be left with a load of debt for many years if they entered into a purchase agreement. The result was that the majority of the workers did not subscribe to the scheme. The State Government then provided for a tenant-purchase scheme along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Richmond. Incidentally, I am fully in accord with the principle of that method of purchase. An arrangement was made that after a. tenant had paid rent for a period of five years, he would automatically acquire an equity in the house. As the years passed he would gradually acquire the ownership of the premises without having been obliged to pay a deposit. In the co-operative scheme in New South Wales, which is guaranteed by the State Government, provision is made to lend the full amount of the purchase price without requiring a deposit. Those provisions which exist in New South Wales may be adopted by other States and, consequently, specific provision for that purpose need not be included in the bill.
The honorable member for Richmond referred also to the period of amortization. The term is unduly long, but that is due to the fact that the original financing will be done with moneys raised by public loan. I do not subscribe to that method of finance. It is not necessary. The comparatively high rate of interest which will apply . is one of the reasons why such a long period of amortization, namely 53 years, will be necessary. When interest at the rate of 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, is paid for 21 or 25 years, the interest burden almost doubles the original purchase price. For example, a home which cost £1,000 to build may ultimately cost the purchaser £2,000 in principal and interest New Zealand has a scheme which I commend to the Government for consideration. On dwellings built by the Government, the interest rate is li per cent,., but for private building construction the rate is 3 per cent. That enables the purchaser of a home to discharge the mortgage in a reasonable period. The financing of the Commonwealth’s housing scheme could be arranged on a similar basis, but the facilities available through the Commonwealth Bank place the Commonwealth Government in e. much better position than the New Zealand Government. For home-building, no objection can be taken to the utilization of the national credit. The finance could be controlled by a special department of the Commonwealth Bank, and the’ bank would not incur any risks, because it would have the assets which could be assigned to- it as security for the repayment of principal and interest.
Provision is made for payments from the National Welfare Fund to meet any losses, but I doubt whether any great losses will be incurred, except perhaps in the first few years of the operation, of the scheme. In New South Wales, the Government guaranteed an amount of £20,000,000 by a stroke of the pen, but was not called upon to pay one penny.
– The Treasurer has provided £200,000 for losses during thi* financial year.
– No doubt, he is trying to be on the safe side. In the early stages of the operation of the scheme, losses may be comparatively high, but the housing shortage is so acute that no premises will be vacant for a long period. Thousands of people have placed their names on the waiting-list in New South Wales as applicants for homes. Actually, this scheme is already in operation in some States. Although the agreement is now being ratified by this Parliament, New South Wales and some other States have already constructed or are constructing hundreds of homes. Some people who never had a home of their own and lived in the congested areas of Sydney are now in their own dwellings and have their own gardens. They are getting out of life a happiness which they had never known before. It is to the credit of the Government and the Housing Commission that they lost no time, despite obstacles, in launching the scheme.
The honorable member for Richmond took the Minister to task for an aside about “ little capitalists “. No doubt the Minister referred to the system of private landlords, but the remark could not be construed to mean that the Government is opposed to individual home ownership. The present plans are only on© part of the Government’s housing scheme, and deal with a particular class of tenant. The Commonwealth has already made arrangements to finance in New South Wales individual homeowners by providing £6,000,000 through the Rural Bank, the Commonwealth Bank, and co-operative building societies. There is no lack of money for homebuilding. The main difficulty is the shortage of man-power and materials.
We all agree that facilities should be provided, in this country, for people to be adequately housed. We believe that if the population is to be increased we must make it possible for citizens to own their own homes, for that would be in the interests of both the community and the individual. We are very far from the realization of the Utopian ideal of the abolition of private property. In Communist Russia people. who desire to own their own homes may do so. In some of the co-operative settlements in Palestine there is no private property whatsoever. Even personal clothing is not exempt, for the person who sends a shirt to the laundry will certainly get a shirt back, but it may not be the one he sent. They have even done without money as currency, but we are far from that state.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I ask, Mr. Chairman, whether the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is in order ?
– It is.
– Then I wish to address myself to it. Its purpose is to place the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) “on the spot “ in relation to a statement he made last night, in one of his more lucid bin unguarded moments. I believe that ho and his colleagues will regret that utterance. If there is one thing that distinguishes the Labour party from all other political parties it is the attitude that it has adopted on the ownership of private property, particularly land. When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before Parliament there was no suggestion tha*.persons should not be allowed to acquire a freehold title to land. Since then a . measure has been passed by the Parliament which provides that in Darwin there shall be absolutely no private ownership of land. Yet when the War Gratuity Bill was before Parliament we were told that one purpose in making the gratuity available was to enable ex-soldiers who received it to acquire homes from Com- ‘ monwealth or State Government instrumentalities, and provision was made for ex-servicemen who desired to use the gratuity in that way to obtain it earlier than it would normally be payable to them. Yet the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction told us last night that it was not his intention to create “little capitalists “ by allowing people to own their own homes. The icing on this cake is not pink but red. The honorable gentleman made it clear that socialism could not be established if private individuals were permitted to own property.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Oh, yes, the honorable gentleman did, and we shall watch the Hansard proofs closely.
– I also shall be watching the Hansard report of the honorable member’s remarks.
– The Minister was in the condition last night in which he found himself on one other occasion, when the then Prime Minister said that he would not allow him to answer any more questions that day because he was unwell. This is another occasion when the honorable gentleman is a bit off centre.
– That is hitting below the belt.
– I do not think so, for the statement was made in public, as was. another by the same right honorable gentleman that certain coalminers were traitors, although he did not do anything to discipline them. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction hit below the political belt last night, and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who is one of the alleged supporters of the Minister, has felt called upon this morning to make a statement of his understanding of the policy of the Labour party in this matter. Several of the measures passed by the Parliament during this session, mostly by the silent consent of honorable gentlemen opposite, have been contradictory in relation to the ownership of private property. The policy of the Labour party and my own policy in this matter are as wide apart as the poles. I believe in the private ownership of property; I believe in the freehold principle; I believe that a man is entitled to make certain things his own; I believe that persons who acquire property will take greater care of it than tenants will take of property which they rent.
– We believe in the private ownership of homes.
– Then the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) must disagree with the Minister, who said that it was not his intention to make “ little capitalists “. That being so, the honorable member is going some distance to disqualify himself for membership of the Communist party.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will never disqualify himself for membership of a fascist organization.
– You, Mr. Chairman, have had a longer knowledge of me than has the honorable member for Swan, and, as one of our dyedinthewool democrats, you know that there is no substance in the honorable gentleman’s suggestion. At one time the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was a candidate in a Country party plebiscite. Had he at that time said that he did not believe in the private ownership of property he would have received fewer votes than he actually received.
– I made no such statement last night.
– Oh, yes, the honorable gentleman did. He said that he would not be a party to creating “ little capitalists “ by permitting the private ownership of homes. He desires every citizen to be a tenant of the Government. The honorable gentleman is tied hand and f oot to socialism. He may consider that people should be guaranteed freedom in certain directions, but I am reminded of the doctrine of the “ tall poppies “ enunciated originally by our beloved friend, Mr. J. T. Lang. Hit idea, which would appear to be the idea of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction also, is that there should be no tall poppies. All poppies must be of the same size and colour. If any grow taller than the others they should be beheaded. In view of the contradictory statements that have been made by honorable gentlemen opposite on the private ownership of property it is essential that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) should declare the policy of the Labour party on the subject. Both the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for Swan have said to-day that they believe in the freehold of homes.
– And so do I. Does that suit the honorable member for Barker?
– The Minister is opposed to it; otherwise, he is somersaulting on what he said last night.
– Not at all.
– His present attitude is a complete contradiction of everything that he said so plainly and succinctly during the debate in committee last night. The Prime Minister ought to be summoned, and asked to make a statement as to what is the policy of the Australian Labour party and the Chifley Government, because at present not even a. Philadelphia lawyer could say what it is.
– I support the amendment.I was astonished to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) say last night, when declining to accept the amendment, that the object of the billis to ratify agreements that had been entered into between the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, that it cannot be amended in any respect, and that it is a case of “ take it or leave it “. If our speeches cannot have any effect, we are merely wasting our time and the money of the taxpayers. Agreements sought to be ratified ought to be scrutinized critically by the representatives of the people in this Parliament. The Minister in charge of the measure claimed that Mr. Playford bad agreed to its provisions, and that Mr. Dunstan had raised certain other points, but that none of the Premiers of the States had advanced the proposal that is embodied in the amendment. I venture the opinion that had the Minister made at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers the speech that he made in this chamber last night, doubts would have been expressed by at least two of the Premiers who attended that conference. The Minister came into the open, as he always does. I give him credit for always being frank, and letting this Parliament and the country know exactly where he stands in connexion with capitalism and socialism. There has never been any doubt in my mind as to where he stands. Just as a leopard cannot change his spots, so the Minister cannot change his views in connexion with the evils that he is pleased to attribute to capitalism. He was at variance, of course, with the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), who rightly claimed that the best way to counter the cancerous growth of communism in this country is to lend every aid and encouragement to the ownership of property, especially shelter such as housing. The honorable member went to some pains to put forward his views, and was followed by the Minister, who dissented from him and said that he could not subscribe to the view that capitalism should be encouraged in the direction that had been indicated, adding that he wanted no misunderstanding as to where he stood, because he was opposed to little capitalists, and to the capitalistic system, which was expressed in the amendment.
– The right honorable gentleman has a good imagination.
– One needs a good imagination when dealing with the Minister. The bill is a landlord-aud-tenant measure.
– That is so.
– The landlord is to be the State, and the tenants the people who are to be provided with houses under the conditions prescribed. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has sought to alter that, in order to lend encouragement and assistance to people who may desire to become the owners of their homes and to get away from the grip of State landlordism, the fundamental principle of which, of course, is socialism or communism. It was only tobe expected that the Minister should assertively express the definite opinion that he pronounced last night. He always runs true to form, despite the consequences. I have always admired his tenacity. This measure implements views which he has often expressed. I repeat, that we always know where he stands. But other honorable members opposite, all of whom have signed the socialistic pledge, want to “ have a little each way”. They are socialists when socialism pays, and capitalists when capitalism pays. Not so the Minister. This is what he said when addressing the Melbourne University Labour Club on the 29th March, 1943-
I am a socialist and the whole of my experience as head of the Department of War Organization of Industry has been to get nearer to the socialization of industry.
I bring that pronouncement up to date -
I am a socialist, and the whole of my experience as head of the Housing Department of Australia has been to get nearer to the socialization of industry. Having in mind that objective, I must reject the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond.
– In order to give to the Minister some indication of the degree to which the community believes in the freehold tenure of land, I shall quote from the annual report and balancesheet of the Savings Bank of South Australia, which reached me only yesterday. Under the heading “Investments : - Mortgage Loans at 30th June, 1945 it is shown that the country securities numbered 642, and amounted to £1,240,824, an average of £1,933. The metropolitan securities numbered 2,746, and amounted to £1,432,992, an average of £522.
– The bank would not have had those securities had it not been for a Labour government.
– There has not been a Labour government in South Australia for over twelve years. The last Labour government in that State was known as the “ Lenten “ Government, because it lasted from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday. Tinder the next heading, “Progressive Repayment Loans on Metropolitan and Country Securities “, it is shown that under the old system there were 1,828 loans still in force, amounting to £603,114, an average of £330. Under the new Credit Foncier system there were 945 loans, amounting to £567,519, an average of £601. Under the Homes Act 1941- I remind my friend from. Boothby that that act was passed years after his late lamented government went out of office ; I refer to the one that went to the country with a, majority and returned with a total of four members in a house of 46 members - there were 52.1 loans, indicating that some house construction must have been done by the “ Tory “ Playford Government. Those loans amounted to £378,023, an average of £726. The total loans numbered 6.682. amounting to £4,222,472, an average of £632. I put it to the Minister that 80 per cent. at least of those 6,682 are in the Adelaide metropolitan area. I believe that the honorable member for Boothby will agree with that. Every one of those loans was made to persons who owned the freehold of their land and desired to make their position secure by discharging mortgages through the means providedby the Savings Bank of South Australia. The report states -
Ordinary loans are granted up to60 per cent. of the bank’s valuation of freehold properties in the metropolitan area and approved country towns and of freehold land and land held under certain types of Crown lease in approved farming and grazing districts. Credit Foncier loans are granted up to 70 per cent. of the valuation of new or modern dwellings in the metropolitan area and approved country towns; also on suitable farming and grazing properties, orchards and vineyards in approved areas for periods ranging from 5 to 40 years. Special Credit Foncier loans up to 90 per cent. of the valuation (with a maximum loan of £1,000) are made under the provisions of the Homes
Act. 1941, on dwelling houses in the metropolitan area and approved country towns. Previous rates of interest charged on mortgage loans were reduced during the year to a uniform rate of 4 per cent. on all classes of loans.
Home Building Scheme. - Further purchases of land in suitable localities in the metropolitan area and selected country towns were made during the year. Including purchases still to be completed, the bank will have approximately 900 blocks to offer prospective borrowers under the bank’s post-war homebuilding scheme, at prices just covering the cost to the bank.
Mr. G. Beaumont Smith. A.R.A.I.A. hasbeen appointed to the bank’s staff as Architect, and plans prepared by him will be available in the near future from which intending borrowers may make their selection of a suitable design. In providing this architectural service, the Board trusts that borrowers will take full advantage of having their homes erected under the supervision of a qualified architect at a minimum cost to themselves.
I have read sufficient to show the incidence of home ownership in South Australia. I am perfectly certain that the desire to possess a home and make it one’s own gradually by the different methods of payment provided by institutions of the type of the Savings Bank of South Australia, exists also in every other State of the Commonwealth. It will be noted that the Board of Trustees of that institution has on it L. V. Hunkin, whom I remember as the Labour member of one of the five Sturt seats. Another trustee is M. J. Murphy, who, I believe, is organizing secretary of the Australian Workers Union.
– The honorable member is out of date in that respect.
– At all events, he is a member of the hierarchy at the Trades Hall. That the policy of home-ownership has the unqualified endorsement of two men who have been actively associated with the Labour party in South Australia for a number of years cannot be questioned. Therefore, I should like to know whether we might have the honour of a pronouncement in very plain terms by the Prime Minister as to what is the policy of the Chifley Government in regard to homeownership. The Minister has made all sorts of denials of what we claim he said last night. Hansard will prove what was said.
– It will also prove what the honorable member said.
– I could not liken the Minister to the “ Spirit of Denial “ in the prologue to Faust ; he does not possess that character. Nevertheless, I agree with everything that Faust said on that occasion. As Faust said of the cat with the mouse, I “like them frolicsome”. We do not get that with the Minister; but now and again he has a lapse, and such lapses we remember.
– Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to prove that I am opposing the amendment on the ground that, if accepted, it would give effect to some political principles which., in their minds, are associated with capitalism, and that the failure to accept it implies that those who sit on this side of the House are opposed to capitalism. That consideration has no connexion with the Government’s inability to accept the amendment. But since they raised this matter, and related it to certain remarks I made last night, it is necessary for me to affirm that there is nothing in what I said last night at variance with what I have to say now. First of all, I believe in the right of every head of a family in this country to own his own home. If honorable members ‘ opposite had assisted those oh this side of the House to obtain for the workers a fairer share of production, most of the workers would long ago have been able to own their own homes. Honorable members opposite have suggested that I said last night that I was not in favour of the workers owning their own homes, but I point out that this bill was introduced by the ‘Government in order to alleviate the present housing shortage. An examination by competent authorities showed that the best way in which to provide relief to the lower-paid workers in the matter of housing was to grant rental rebates, and that is what this bill provides for. Last night, I said that I was opposed to using some of the funds intended for the purpose of alleviating the housing shortage in the way which the experts believed to be best, in order to give certain selected workers houses of their own. I say selected workers, because such a scheme could not be applied to the general body of workers. I said last night that in the present circumstances it was better to give rental rebates than to subsidize the acquisition of houses by the workers themselves. But I would welcome the day when every head of a family throughout Australia owned his own home. As a matter of fact, what I am saying now is in line with my political ideals. In a paper submitted to the House with the budget it was shown that one of the items of expenditure was £107,000,000 for rent and interest. If every worker owned his own house, so that he had no rent to pay, the present receivers of rent would have to find some other way of making a living.
Having dealt with the specious argument of the Opposition that I am opposed to the amendment because I am opposed to home ownership by the workers, I wish to set out once more the reasons why the Government cannot accept the amendment. As I explained previously, the purpose of the bill is to ratify agreements entered into between the Commonwealth and the State Governments, and those agreements must be substantially in line with the agreement which forms the schedule of this bill. However, if the agreement were substantially amended, the States would have to be consulted again, and the whole matter might be shelved for months. It might be that the Government would be eventually unable to go on with the scheme at all. The agreement, in its present form, provides for the sale of nouses built under the scheme. I took part in the discussion at the Premiers Conference on “this subject - indeed, I may claim to have led the discussion. The Government at one time did hav« in mind a scheme for erecting houses to be owned by the workers, and I put that scheme before the conference. However, when it was examined, it was found that there were difficulties in the way, and the idea was dropped with the consent df the Premiers, and we concentrated our attention on the scheme f07 rente! rebates.
I repeat that the sale of the houses tan be effected under the agreement as at present drawn, but the amendment of the honorable member for Richmond introduces an entirely new principle. He has moved to add a new sub-clause to schedule as follows : -
That notwithstanding anything contained in this agreement a tenant, who lias satisfactorily fulfilled his conditions of tenancy for three years, may be granted the option of purchasing his home at such price as may be determined by approved valuers, and on such rental purchase terms as are practicable to the ability of the tenant, and as may be agreed and approved between the tenant and the housing authority.
The new principle is embodied in the words “ at such price as may be determined by approved valuers “. Would the honorable member himself permit the inclusion of such a provision in any agreement for the sale of property which he owned? The suggestion is ridiculous. Provision in the agreement for the sale of a house at some time in the future without any regard to cost would be a major variation which would cut right across the existing terms of the agreement, and. would, therefore, require the approval of the States. The amendment would also place upon the State governments an additional financial obligation regarding which they would have to be consulted. It cannot be believed that the State governments would automatically accept such a proposal. The Government’s present scheme can be put into effect without delay, and that is what members of the Opposition do not want. They do not want the Federal Labour Government to take this big step forward in the direction of alleviating the housing shortage by introducing a scheme of rental rebates.
.- -The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has thought better of it since last night, and now claims that he is in favour of the private ownership of homes. Last night, he did say definitely that he was opposed to giving to the workers the opportunity to become “ little capitalists “. The Minister said that the Opposition was objecting to the Government taking this forward step in regard to housing. The fact is that members of the Opposition have for months been screaming for the Government to bring down a housing policy.
– This scheme lias been in operation for months.
– lt . cannot be in operation until approved by Parliament. Otherwise, of what use is Parliament ?
– The States have gone ahead on the assumption that it would be approved.
– In the States, non-Labour governments years ago set up housing authorities which built tens of thousands of houses. The Queensland Parliament passed the Workers Dwellings Act, which was opposed by the Labour party because it provided for the erection and private ownership of such homes. When the Labour party got into power, it passed another act, called the Workers Homes Act, which made practically the same provision for housing as the previous act, but gave the Labour party a let-out. Strangely enough, the Commonwealth Labour Government wants freehold security itself before it is prepared to advance money for housing. In the town of Gympie in Queensland, the land is held on leasehold under the Mining Act, and when I asked that homes should be built there for soldiers under the Government’s housing scheme, I received a letter from a Minister stating that if the Government of Queensland would make freehold land available the Commonwealth Government would be able to advance money for building, but not otherwise. Nevertheless, this leasehold land is accepted as security by private banking institutions, and there is provision in the Queensland law for effecting a transfer in the event of default. When the Minister says that he does not propose to allow private ownership of homes built under this agreement he is stating a principle contrary to that in the agreement, clause 14 of which provides -
A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after its completion but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling shall not be sold at or for a price less than the capital cost of tho dwelling ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule to this Agreement provided that the total repayments of principal (included in the annual amortization allowance mentioned in sub-paragraph (a ) of paragraph 4 of the First Schedule to this Agreement) in respect of the dwelling may be regarded as part of the purchase price.
That is as it should be ; the houses should not be sold at less than cost. Whatever the Minister or this Parliament may decide, however, the agreement provides that only a State has the right to sell a house. The Minister has said a lot about the practical impossibility of our amending thisbill without putting it into the “melting pot. That is his own fault. Lately the Government’s tendency has been to reach agreements with the States, bring down a bill containing a schedule setting out the agreement, and tell us that we cannot amend it. That makes no difference to the Opposition. If we have been denied the right to scrutinize an agreement made with the States prior to its incorporation in a bill, we shall exercise our right in committee to try to amend it if we think that amendment is needed. Some time ago I asked that before the agreement relating to the standardization of the railway gauges was incorporated in legislation we should have the opportunity to consider the proposed agreement. The Minister said that we would, adding that no agreement is made until ratifiedby the Parliament. So until this proposed agreement has been ratified, no contract will have been made. We, therefore, have the right to amend it. There is a provision in the bill enabling the purchase of homes.
– If the . agreement were amended the whole matter would have to be considered afresh by the States, which have agreed to its passage in this form.
– That is the States’ idea of it.
– The honorable member would have it going backwards and forwards between the Commonwealth and the States.
– The Parliament must be able to amend its own legislation as it thinks fit. The Government cannot get away now or at any other time with a claim that because a certain course has been determined between the Commonwealth and the States it cannot be departed from. No agreement exists until it has been ratified.
– Does the honorable gentleman agree that clause 14 ofthe agreement covers the position?
– Clause 14 has no bearing on the matter. There is a provision in the schedule for freehold tenure.
– Why worry then?
– A house may be sold; hut that is not what the Minister said last night.
– That was only aside track.
-I cannot see any harm in accepting the amendment.
– The purpose of the amendment is already accomplished in the bill.
– The amendment provides that, a tenant, after three years’ occupancy, may purchase his home.
– The agreement provides that he may purchase before the expiration of three years.
– I agree but the amendment provides that after three years’ lease he may have the option of purchasing at a price determined by approved valuers, whereas the clause provides that the price shall be not. less than the cost of construction. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) hopes that there shall be no private ownership. Housing schemes have been tried before by Labour governments. A Labour government in New South Wales built the Daceyville settlement for workers, but the only people who could obtain homes in. the settlement were government employees whose wages could be garnisheed, but not workers whose employment was likely to be intermittent. The Queensland Labour Government built houses near the railway line in Brisbane, but they were let only to railway workers whose wages also could he garnisheed. That class of socialism does not help the people who are most worthy of being helped to obtain homes. I repeat that there is no harm in amending the agreement to provide that a tenant shall have the option, after three years, of purchasing his home.
– But under the scheme as it stands the tenants can purchase their homes before the expiration of three years.
– No harm can come from acceptance of the amendment. Under the clause of the agreement that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) desires to amend, the State governments will have all the say and the Commonwealth none on whether sales shall be permitted. The Commonwealth will only be finding money. We want it to be clearly set out in the agreement that tenants shall have the option of purchase. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction should not confuse matters by stating his own ideas that our homes tenure should be leasehold and not freehold. The safety of this country, like the safety of all other countries, depends on private home ownership, which gives a man a stake in the country, a place of his own inwhich to keep his wife and rear a family, and a place for his dependants to live in when he dies. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act recognizes the need to encourage thrift, because there is a provision exempting from consideration, in the assessment of the capital of claimants for the pension, the value of homes up to a certain limit. It has always been the policy of other Commonwealth governments to insist on the application of a policy to give to the people the best possible homes at the lowest possible cost. When the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was making his second -reading speech I asked whether the provisions of this bill would be applied to primary producers. He said, “ Yes “. I hope that the Minister’s action will square with his words, and that this measure will enable the provision for people in country areas of homes equal to those that will be provided for city dwellers, because the Australian farmers are more entitled to consideration than any one else.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has made some extraordinary statements in this debate. Last night he made a forthright declaration in which he indicated his opposition to home ownership. He’ used specific terms in which he said that he was opposed to the creation of “ little capitalists “. He went on to explain that he was opposed to such creation because they would prevent the advent of socialism. A very good reason! It is consistent with the line of argument that he has advanced for a long time. It is also consistent with the line of argument advanced by the Communists. To-day, the Minister, with the greatest effrontery I have ever witnessed, denied what he said last night. Have any alterations been made in the Hansard report of the Minister’s statement last night? Has any interference been attempted with the reporting by Hansard of the exact words of the Minister ?
– The honorable member does not think that I would do such a thing, does he?
– I am simply men- ti oning this matter as one of great curiosity in view of the emergence-
– The answer is “No”.
– If the answer is “ No “. when the Minister reads the report of his speech last night and the report of his speech this morning, he and every one else will wonder what was the matter with him last night. I am not suggesting that anything was the matter with him, except that he told the truth and disclosed his real intentions. His statements to-day can be accounted for by the fact that he realizes that he let the cat out of the bag last night. He is now trying to get it back, but the cat’s claws are strong and that cat will be out of the bag for a very long time. I was prompted to move the amendment for two reasons. First, I thought that I should get support from the Government benches for a proposal that the working-men, whom this bill is designed to assist, should be assisted eventually to become home-owners. Secondly, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) proclaimed the same objective, and when I challenged him, and said that he would not endeavour to give effect to it in a practical way, he roundly refuted such a charge. I intend to press for a division on this amendment, so that there shall be a line-up of those who are in favour of people owning their own homes and those who are against it.
– That is not what the vote will he on at all.
– It is. I shall analyse some of the Minister’s objections to my amendment. The basis of his objection is that the amendment provides that the price shall be determined by approved valuers. If he wants a clearer definition of how the price shall be determined, I am prepared to accept an alteration of the wording of the amendment that will give effect to something that may bo more acceptable to the Government, so long as effect is given to the principle that I am trying to enunciate.
– The principle is given effect in clause 14 of the agreement.
– It is not. That is why I moved my amendment. Clause 14 provides -
A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after to completion but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling shall be sold at or for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule, to this Agreement provided that the total repayments of principal (included in the annual amortization allowance mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 4 of the First Schedule to this Agreement) in respect of the dwelling may be regarded as part of the purchase price.
According to the First Schedule to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the capital cost of any housing project carried out by a housing authority shall be the total of the following amounts: - The cost of construction of the dwelling, interest, surveyor’s fees, administrative charges and the cost of the land on which the house is erected. The capital cost of a dwelling built under the Government’s scheme will be considerably in excess of the actual market value. What I desire to ensure, for the benefit of the workers, is that the person who desires to purchase the property shall be able to acquire it at a reasonable price, consistent with its market value at the time of purchase. He should not be offered the house, as it will be offeredunder this agreement, at a price determined according to the cost of construction under day labour conditions and inflated fey administrative and interest charges. If this agreement be adopted, the actual cost of a dwelling will be double the market value. Of what value would it be to fix the purchase price at £2,500, when the market value was only £1,500? Therefore, I contend that the value should be determined by valuers, approved by the housing authority in the same way as a valuer is required, under the capital issues regulations, to be approved by the Treasurer. “Approved valuer “ does not mean anybody. It means a person who knows his job, and has status as a valuer. My amendment is designed to assist the Government and the housing authorities. I am not endeavouring to introduce a principle which will complicate the administration of the housing authority. If the Government will adopt the principle of the amendment, I shall be prepared to accept any alterations of phraseology in order to make the meaning unambiguous. The amendment provides that -
A tenant who has satisfactorily fulfilled hi» conditions of tenancy for three years may be granted the option of purchasing the home at such price as may be determined by an approved valuer, and on such rental purchase terms as are practicable to the ability of the tenant . . .
That matter will have to be determined between the tenant and the housing authority. Gould any provision be more reasonable than that giving to a tenant an opportunity to purchase a home on conditions which this Parliament declares must be reasonable, yet leaving the housing authority relatively free to determine what those conditions shall be. The purchase price should be determined on a reasonable market value of the property, and not upon some fictitious basis determined by construction costs.
— That is not in dispute.
– It is seriously in dispute. Clause 14 of the Schedule provides that the purchase price shall be determined on the basis of the cost of the project.
– But the Commonwealth may agree to reduce that.
– The honorable member for Richmond omitted to read the words “with the consent of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth “.
– That provides a method of escape for the Government. The purchaser will not be able to do anything about it. If, as I fear, the real intention is to determine the purchase price on the basis of the costs which
I read a few moments ago, the purpose of the Government is to prevent people from owning their own homes.
– At any rate, people will have homes, and that is more than the previous Government provided for them.
– The Minister is the last man who should make that statement. Every one could see that the war with Japan was coming to a conclusion, although the exact month could not be foreseen, but as Minister for War Organization of Industry, later Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the honorable gentleman made no effort to organize a building programme for the post-war period. From time to time, the Opposition directed his attention to the necessity for releasing from the Army, builders, sawmillers, carpenters, joiners, and plumbers whose services were urgently required before the construction programme could be launched. The person who is responsible for the delay in the housing programme is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– The honorable member did not have regard to the circumstances of the times.
– That is a hackneyed story. The circumstances of the times! Why, almost three years have elapsed since the late Prime Minister told the world that Australia was no “longer in danger of invasion.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The “honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) introduced specious arguments in support of his amendment, and his motive was perfectly clear. The tactics which he adopted were remarkably similar to those adopted by opponents of the Government’s referendum proposals. When Commonwealth and State Ministers first met to discuss those proposals, they agreed unanimously that fourteen powers should be “ referred “ to the Commonwealth. But when the proposals were discussed in the State Parliaments, opponents adopted every possible means to confuse the issue. The interests whom the Opposition represents were successful in their campaign; because some of the
States amended the original proposals, the whole plan was thrown into the melting pot and at the referendum the grant of powers to the Commonwealth was defeated. If it had been carried, the Commonwealth could have planned a year earlier than it did to put a Commonwealth housing scheme into operation.
The amendment which the honorable member for Richmond has submitted is designed to cause further confusion. If we accepted the amendment, the agreement would have to be re-submitted to the States and the Government’s housing project might be delayed for months. Some States have already commenced housing programmes under this agreement, accepting in good faith the assurance that the plan will be adopted by the Commonwealth. Hundreds of homes have been constructed or are in the course of construction. If this agreement he varied now, the construction of those houses will be interrupted, and thousands of people who urgently require dwellings will be further frustrated. Honorable members opposite speak with their tongues in their cheeks when they advocate the adoption of this amendment. The honorable member for Richmond proposed that the purchase price of a home shall be determined by an approved valuer. The bill does not define “ approved valuer “. The whole matter is left in a state of uncertainty. Price control regulations provide that the sale of privately owned homes shall be in accordance with the determination of an approved valuer, but that does not bind the owner to sell his property. The vendor always has the privilege of deciding whether he will accept the valuation. The honorable member for Richmond pointed out that under clause 14 of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement; -
A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after its completion, but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling shall not be sold at or for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule to this Agreement. . . .
Why should tenants not have the right to purchase a dwelling until three years have elapsed? Under thisclause, the housing authorities may sell at any time.
Naturally, if they decide to sell for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling, the Commonwealth, which is providing money for this scheme, must have some voice in the matter. The Commonwealth may agree to sell the property at a price lower than the cost of construction and any loss will be met from the National Welfare Fund. The purpose of the honorable member for Richmond in submitting this amendment is to delay the housing scheme, and I urge honorable members not to be misled by his specious arguments.
– The arguments which have been advanced by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) leave the Opposition cold. He imputed to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) certain motives which obviously do not exist. The honorable member for Richmond submitted the amendment because he desires to establish the fact that the Parliament and the Government are in favour of individuals owning their homes. That is the principle involved in this amendment. I know why it is likely to be resisted. When in Melbourne recently, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) avowed that he was a socialist, and believed in socialization. Last night he stated that he did not believe in making “ little capitalists “ because that would tend to prevent the advancement of socialism.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to remarks made by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) last night. I- have since had an opportunity to refresh my memory. The Minister said -
The Commonwealth Government is concerned to provide adequate and good housing for the workers; it is not concerned with making the workers into little capitalists.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Is the honorable member quoting from the Ilansard proof?
– I am not; I have refreshed my memory during the suspension of the sitting.
– The honorable member would not be in order in quoting from the uncorrected Hansard report.
– I am not doing so. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) then said by way of interjection -
In other words it is not concerned with making them home owners.
The Minister then said -
If there is any criticism which may b» directed against the policies of past governments
– I again ask the honorable member whether he is quoting from the Hansard report?
– I am not. I have refreshed my memory. The Minister went on - supported by the present Opposition, it is this : Too much of their legislative programmes was deliberately designed to place the workers in a position in which they would have a vested interest in the continuance of capitalism. That is a policy which will not have my support at any rate.
That criticism was directed by the Minister to th« honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) who had pleaded with the Government to give an opportunity to the workers to own their own homes. That honorable member had said that the only solution to communism was to give to the workers an opportunity to own their own homes. The honorable member was concerned, as are most other honorable members, with the growth of communism, and be pleaded with the Government to allow the workers to own their own homes so that communism would be resisted. The Minister said in reply that he would not be a party to making the workers into “ little capitalists “. The desire of the Opposition is to give to the workers the right to own their own homes, and so to obtain a vested interest in their country. The Minister indicated that he was opposed to that policy. He would prefer that the State governments should be the landlords, for he realizes that State control is the basis of socialism. From socialism to communism is a short step. The Minister would not listen to one of his own supporters who desired to ensure that the workers would be permitted to own their own homes, and he indicated clearly that h© stood for socialism and communism. Does the Minister own his own home? I have no doubt that he does.
– That shows how little the honorable gentleman knows. I do not happen to own my own home. The honorable member has just committed a breach of faith by quoting from an uncorrected Hansard proof, and no one will now believe a word that he says.
– That statement is a reflection upon the Chair. “What I did was to refresh my memory, and to resolve any reasonable doubts on the subject. I referred to the remark of the honorable member for Denison and then I quoted the statement of the Minister, after having refreshed my memory. If the Minister does not own his own home he is at least consistent, for he himself has no vested interest in the country. He says in effect, “ I do not own my own home, and I prefer that the workers shall not own theirs “. That is the gravamen of my complaint against him. It is as well -that this whole matter should be clarified, and that we should realize that the purpose of the Minister is to make as rapid an approach as possible through socialism to communism.
Now let us consider the scheme of the bill. In my opinion it is outrageous in its conception. The men and women of Australia are to be denied their fundamental right to a stake in the country. Homes are the basis of family life, and yet the Minister says that he will not allow the workers to own their own homes. He prefers that the homes shall be socialistically controlled. The home is the sanctuary of family life, and its maintenance is essential to the well-being of the community; but the Minister prefers a socialist basis for our national life, and so he is doing his best to ensure that homes shall be controlled by the State. The Opposition is of the opinion that our people should be free to buy their homes if they desire to do so. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) say, in the course of his remarks, that under this bill the State governments could not sell the homes at less than cost price.
– Not without the consent of the Commonwealth.
– That is so. In my opinion the homes will cost so much that no one will want to buy them. The goslow tactics that are being adopted by certain employees in the building industry will result in these homes costing from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, more than they ought to cost. The Commonwealth Government is prepared to meet 60 per cent, of the losses under this scheme. I do not think that the workers will be anxious to buy these homes because of their high cost. The fact of the matter is that the artisans who are going slow in home-building are doing a great disservice to their fellow workers, and that is deplorable. This scheme is designed to benefit workers almost exclusively, and it is most unfortunate thai the tradesmen who will build the dwellings are prejudicing the scheme right from its inception. If they would do a reasonable day’s work for a reasonable day’s pay homes could be built on a satisfactory basis, but the Government is willing to bear any inflated cost. The Minister in charge of the bill has said, in effect, “ I am going to take all sorts of care to see that it will be impossible for the workers of this country to acquire these homes. I will do all I possibly can te prevent them from buying homes and from securing any stake in their own country “.
– That is a complete distortion of what I said.
– I have quoted the remarks of the Minister, and I believe that if he refers to the Hansard report he will find that my citations are accurate. The words I used are, I believe, the actual words used by the Minister. Now he is endeavouring to escape from the difficulty in which he finds himself. J recollect that the honorable gentleman said in Melbourne, in regard to the administration of his high office, that he could see that socialism was the only thing that should be introduced here and he was all for it. He has shown his hand and now, finding himself in a difficulty, he is endeavouring, in customary fashion, to wriggle out of it. Why does he not stand up to the statements that he makes? Why is he trying to wriggle out of this one as he has tried to wriggle out of others? The honorable member for Reid accused the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) of trying to make it impossible for the workers to purchase their homes until after three years had elapsed. As a matter of fact, the honorable gentleman said that he would be prepared to agree to a two-year or one-year term. His purpose, he said, was to enable the workers to obtain their homes on a reasonable basis. I do not desire to deal at much greater length with the subject, but I considered it proper to point out that the purpose of the Minister was undoubtedly to prevent the workers from obtaining possession of their homes. I do not consider that the homes that will be built under this scheme will be available at anything like as reasonable a price as the homes that will be built by private enterprise.
I have no doubt that the Minister is conscious now that he made a serious slip last night when he said he would not be a party to making the workers into “ little capitalists “ and to permitting them to secure a stake in their own country. He did not exercise his usual Scotch caution. He made the slip and it will take him a long time to recover from it. I do not wish to traverse certain arguments in regard to this scheme which were advanced during the second-reading debate, but the words of the Minister last night in regard to “ little capitalists “ burnt themselves into my mind. The Minister has made his intentions clear. He has said, in effect, “ I will not be a party to any Australians owning their own homes, even though they may be soldiers who have fought to preserve the freedom of this country, or men who have sacrificed a limb “. The Minister wishes the home life of this community under peace-time conditions to be controlled by the Government. He has said, in effect, “I will not permit a worker to own his own home in this country. I will not allow him to possess even a rood of land or a brick”. His purpose is to ensure that the State shall remain in control.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Anthony’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr.W. J. F.
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I direct attention to the schedule from clause 11 onwards. The more I examine this scheme the clumsier it appears. If members of the committee will scrutinize the details of it as they appear from clause 11 of the schedule onwards, they will realize how difficult it will become in practice, and how unfair will be its incidence, even in respect of those sections of the community whom it seeks to benefit. As members of the committee are aware, the object of the scheme is to afford rent relief to persons on low wages who find it difficult to pay the full rent for the homes that they occupy.
I have already pointed out that, even within that group of persons, the incidence of the scheme will be very limited indeed, because it will apply only to those who occupy government-controlled homes. Therefore, even to the degree to which the scheme aims at meeting a social problem, there is to be only a piecemeal attempt to deal with it, because it will not cater for numerous persons in the same category as those who obtain relief. I understand from the Minister that the cost of rebates to the Government in the first year or so will be £50,000 annually. Thus, the relief to those catered for will be comparatively small. There are three outstanding weaknesses in the clauses of the schedule as they appear before us. The first, as I mentioned earlier, is that the scheme relates only to those who occupy governmentcontrolled homes. The second is that the rebate will fluctuate as the result of adjustments following increases or decreases of the income of the tenant of the home. Clearly, if the adjustments are to be policed, a ma.ss bureaucratic supervision will be involved. According to the schedule, evidence will have to be supplied every six months of the income of the person deriving the benefit. “What is to happen when there are quarterly adjustments of the cost of living as the result of the Arbitration Court’s fixation of the basic wage? Can the Minister state whether increases or decreases of the basic wage by 2s. or 3s. a week will result in corresponding adjustments of the rebate in respect of each, tenant? “Clearly, if such adjustments are to be made, there will need to be a staff dealing with the administrative work almost as great as the number of persons to be dealt with. We could have assumed that, as -the scheme can have only a limited operation in its earlier years, it would be confined to those whose need is greatest; that is to say, those persons on the basic wage who may be - required to make provision for many persons in the household. In numerous homes nothing above the basic wage may be earned, yet the tenant may have to care for an aged parent and perhaps two or three children. His need would be greater than that of households occupied by two or three income-earners. Clause 12 of the agree ment provides for the determination of the family income for the purposes of the scheme. It is obvious that a portion only of the income of two, three or more income-earners in the one home may be taken into account when the rebate is being determined. Clearly, as I have said, the benefits should be confined to those whose need is greatest, seeing that the scheme can operate only on a limited scale for a number of years.
– The allocation of houses is dealt with in clause 9 of the agreement.
– I know that there is to be a priority arrangement. Does the Minister consider that more houses will be built in the next year or two than will be needed by householders in which there is only one income-earner?
– The agreement is to operate for five years.
– In allocating the homes, will account he taken of the number of income-earners ?
– The principles in respect of allocation are laid down in clause 9 of the agreement.
– That may be. I am trying to ascertain whether that clause meets the point that I have raised. It reads -
Each State shall in accordance with principles to be agreed upon from time to time between the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurer of the State allocate dwellings amongst persons who are iu need of proper housing accommodation and so that in each allocation not less than such number of dwellings erected in each financial year as shall from time to time be agreed upon between the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurer of the State shall be allotted to members or discharged members of the forces, . . .
That does not cover the point that I have raised, namely, that some persons on the basic wage who will be required to support a larger number of dependants than others, who, apparently, will come within the scope of clause 12, will be excluded from the benefits of the scheme. Clearly, if the scheme covers homes in which there may be two, three or four incomeearners, and the number of homes available is limited, the result will be to exclude many persons whose need is greater than that of other households in which there is more than one incomeearner. Can the Minister state whether that situation is covered by clause 9 or any of the other provisions of the agreement ?
– Only in clause 9, which makes it clear that the buildings will be allocated among persons who are in need of proper housing accommodation.
– Let us consider that point. The houses are to be allocated, not necessarily to the persons who need cheap rents, but to the persons who need housing accommodation. The object of the scheme is to provide, not housing but a rental rebate in respect of those persons on a low income who need some relief. Clearly, that underlying purpose of the measure will not be met by the provisions of the agreement. That leads me to my basic objection to the scheme. It is not a housing scheme. It is designed, not to meet the housing shortage but to afford financial relief to persons on a low income who experience difficulty in paying rent. That result could have been obtained more satisfactorily and less expensively than under this scheme. Just us there was in New South Wales under the Lang administration a child endowment scheme based upon family needs, -o a rental rebate scheme could have operated on the same basis. Instead of that, the Government proposes to extend the benefits of the scheme to only a very small section of the community, namely, those who are fortunate enough to obtain possession of one of these government houses. If the Government confessed that the basic wage was not sufficient to allow a man to house himself and his family properly, and that there were difficulties in the way of making a general adjustment of the basic wage, it should have introduced a general system of rental rebates to apply to all those in need who live in rented houses, find such a scheme could operate side by side with the child endowment scheme, Instead of that, the ‘Government has proceeded in this clumsy and complicated way, and has even yet touched only the fringe of the problem. The Government has merely fumbled with the matter, and has so cluttered up the scheme with arrangements for bureaucratic supervision that it must necessarily fail. While I have every sympathy with the object which the Government has va view, I claim that this scheme will be ineffective.
.- I move -
That the schedule bc amended by inserting in clause 14 the following words: - “ That it be a recommendation of the committee that the Government consult thePremiers in conference with a view to securingagreement on amendments to the Schedule tovary and liberalize the conditions of home ownership by tenants “.
I can see no reason why my amendment should not be supported by every honorable member on the Government side. Of the six State Premiers who attend conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, four are Labour men, whilst another has been pitchforked into office to serve the ends of the Labour party. Only the Premier of South Australia might be regarded as opposed to Labour’s doctrines. He, although bearing the title of Liberal, is sometimes looked upon as a Conservative. Therefore, the Government should have nothing to fear in resubmitting its proposal to a conference so constituted.
– The honorable member’s proposed amendment is not an amendment to the schedule, and cannot, therefore, be accepted.
– Then I shall move it at the report stage.
– I rise to a point of order. Clause 14 of the schedule deals with this very matter.
– I have ruled the amendment out of order. If the honorable member objects to my ruling, his only recourse is to move that it be disagreed with.
– If the Minister is prepared to give an undertaking that he will bring this matter before the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, I shall be happy to let it drop.
– The agreement may be reviewed in a year’s time at the instance of any of the parties to it.
– Will the Minister agree to bring this matter forward ?
– I shall give it consideration.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. That is
A polite way of saying that it will not be done.
– What the honorable member want3 is already provided for in the agreement., namely, that houses may bo sold.
– In clause 14 of the agreement the following provision is made: -
A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after its completion but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling shall not be sold at or for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule . . .
The Minister has already departed from the first schedule by making provision in clause 11 for the reduction of rents. The Government will be extremely fortunate if some of the building schemes which it proposes to sponsor do not result in heavy losses; or, in other words, if the economic cost of the houses is not more than the market price. It. would not be the first time that such a loss had occurred in South Australia, and under a Labour administration. If clause 14 be passed in its present form, prospective house owners will not be prepared to pay the economic price for the homes. I am trying to ensure that they will have a chance to get houses at something like the market price, instead of at the inflated price, which must necessarily be charged if present building costs remain unaltered, and there is no immediate sign of improvement in this direction. The least the Minister can do is to give an assurance that the matter will be reviewed a’t the next- conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked how the concessional deductions would be worked out, and by what bureaucratic authority the necessary information would be obtained. In this connexion, it is interesting to note what has happened in regard to governmentowned nouses in Canberra. The schedule ro this bill provides that the rent payable by tenants shall not exceed one-fifth of the basic wage.
– That is right; £1 a week rent for an income of £5 a week.
– I am glad of that interjection. Probably later this week there will be an opportunity to discuss a case in which the wife of a prisoner of war was charged as rent for a government house one-third of the family income, and because she protested siuwas served with a notice of eviction.
– That is a lying statement.
– I take exception to that remark, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) used an un-“ parliamentary expression, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the statement, but I still think it.
– Does the Government propose to apply this scheme to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? We should like ro know whether it is proposed to inaugurate a housing scheme for Canberra, especially in view of the fact that, on the Minister’s own admission, the Government inflicted a penalty of £2 on a public servant for writing to a newspaper » letter complaining that he could not ger a house.
– The appropriate Public Service authority inflicted the penalty.
– That treatment’ of a public servant is in line with the treatment by the Government of the lady io whom I have already referred. The Minister will agree that this subject has been thoroughly canvassed. We have heard during this debate that the agreement cannot be amended, but no one believes that. If he does not undertake that the Commonwealth will raise this matter again at the next, conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers with a view to the adoption of the suggestions made by honorable members, the honorable member for Barker and I will follow the case through and have a little more to say when the bill is reported to the House. The agreement can be reviewed by the Commonwealth and State Ministers when they next meet.
– Every aspect of this agreement -may be reviewed at the end of twelve months.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed-
That the report be adopted.
– I have placed in the hands of the Clerk an amendment the object of which is to ensure that the Government shall undertake to discuss with the Premiers a liberalization of this agreement in order that tenants of houses built under it may become the owners.
– The amendment is not in order. This is not the proper stage at which to move it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 2lst September, (vide page 5785), on motion by Mr. Forde - ‘
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to carry into effect an agreement between Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa for the disposal of accumulated wool stocks and the current clips. Its currency will probably be thirteen or fourteen years. Since this session began in February we have debated many bills great and small, contentious and non-contentious, but few, if any of them, do not believe that any have been so important as this. I say that because the disposal of stocks and current clips of wool is not a matter that merely affects the wool-growers.. It affects all Australian taxpayers. If the agreement is successful it may affect the welfare of peoples all over the world. It affects the Australian taxpayer because it provides for an expenditure of £40,000,000 on the acquisition of accumulated wool stocks. It means that henceforth the Commonwealth Government will participate with the United Kingdom Government in schemes for dealing with wool. Therefore, the cost to the Australian taxpayer could run into many millions of pounds. It is hoped that as the scheme develops it will result in profits instead of losses, but the fact remains that the Commonwealth Government proposes to expend £40,000,000 of the people’s money in this way. Australia will be an equal partner with Great Britain in dealing with the wool clips that will come on to the world market for a number of years. The first point to be made is that the wool appraisement scheme entered into between Great Britain and Australia when the war began is now finished. All wools from now on will come largely under the control of a body that is to be set up and on which Australia will be represented. It will deal with the selling of the accumulated stocks and the current clips. This is the greatest experiment, in my opinion, ever carried out with an important primary product of this country, or for that matter, any country. The aim is to regulate and stabilize wool all over the world, because, if the scheme is successful, I should say that it will definitely establish a floor and ceiling for wool everywhere it is produced and sold. It is notable too that this is the first time that the Empire countries have come together to attempt to deal satisfactorily with an important primary product. It may be the prelude to other similar schemes for a permanent form of marketing of primary products, that will benefit not only those directly concerned but also the world in general by enabling stabilized payable prices for the producers and reasonable prices for the consumers.
Wool is still the finest fibre for making clothes. It has been threatened from many quarters, but no other fibre has the hygienic and other qualities possessed by wool that are so needed in the manufacture of clothing. Wool is of tremendous importance to this country. There is no need for me to dilate on that beyond saying that when the Wool Use Promotion and Research Bill was before the House some months ago the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) produced a graph showing the rise and fall of employment in this country in relation to the rise and fall of wool prices. It showed that the rise and fall of employment almost coincided with the rise and fall of wool prices. Wool undeniably buoys up our economic structure. Without satisfactory wool prices nothing else- chu happen but a reconstruction of our national economy suck as we were forced to undertake about fifteen years iago. Therefore international co-operation that will achieve stable prices, both payable to tho producers and reasonable to the consumers, will be a tremendous advantage.
Although wool is the finest fibre for clothing known to man, it has bad a chequered career in this country. We have not been able to say for years that tho wool-grower was assured of a more or less stable and payable price. Despite cbe fact that wool is of enormous advantage to a country at war, and that, for years before 1939, the nations were accumulating wool stocks, and when the war began the price of wool was at a very low level, below the cost of production. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) personally intervened with the Prime Minister of Great Britain to obtain from the British Government a payable price for the Australian clip. The price then fixed, about 13£d. per lb., was above world parity, and was to be paid by the British Government for all wool produced in Australia. Later the price was raised to 15-&d. per lb. Great Britain purchased all the Australian and New Zealand wool and arranged a more or less guaranteed reasonably payable price for the South African wool. It did so because of its knowledge of the importance of wool in war, but it also believed that it would be able to sell wool at a profit. At that time France and Poland were still in the war and a great part of Europe and the Ear East were not affected. Great Britain expected to be able to dispose of much of the wool at a profit. But the position altered completely with the fall of Prance, which meant practically the fall of Europe. With the entry of Japan into the war the state of affairs was worsened, and the financial burden of having to buy all the wool without being able to sell it became a serious embarrassment to Great Britain.
It was that state of affairs, together with the need to unload about 11,000,000 bales of carry-over wool at the same time us the current clips came onto the market, that led to Great Britain’s request to the Dominions concerned to send delegates to a conference in London to, try to devise means whereby the interests of all concerned might bc improved. Australia sent a delegation headed by the secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Mr. Murphy. The scheme incorporated in this bill is the result of that conference’s deliberations. The problem before the conference was fourfold - (a) Disposal of surplus wools at payable prices; (b) having regard to these wools, to’ ensure payable prices for future clips.; (c) to ensure that wool shall go into production at reasonable levels against competitors; and (d) to ensure, if possible, that the personal element in wool, as between grower and grower, with all its good competitive features be retained. It seems to me on reading the agreement which is the schedule to this bill that all those objectives have been achieved. Generally speaking, praise is due, and has been given to those who participated in the conference in Great Britain at which this scheme was formulated.
In order that honorable members may understand what has been done, I shall describe the original appraisement scheme and proceed from that to a consideration of the new scheme. The appraisement scheme, which operated until July last, was based on the principle of Great Britain purchasing the entire Australian wool clip.
– That will continue with the current clip.
– No, the old appraisement scheme has ended. Although the appraisement of the 1945-46 season’s clip will proceed on the same lines as before, Australia will be an equal partner with Great Britain in any stocks which may be unsold at the end of the season. Therefore, the new method of selling wool will begin with the coming season’s, clip, although auctions will not be held until a year later. Under the old appraisement scheme, Great Britain purchased the entire stock of Australian wool at an average price. Imagine a horizontal line drawn on a piece of paper and labelled “ average, price, 15£d.” and a vertical line intersecting it and divided into gradations representing the 1,500 different types of Australian wool, each carrying a. certain value. That, in short, would be a graph showing the principle of appraisement. The vertical line with the gradations representing the different types of Australian wool was called the table of limits and was so devised, in the light of experience of the Australian wool clip, as to produce at the end of the season an average price of 15£d. per lb. for the whole Australian clip. On no -occasion did the table of limits actually equal the average price paid by Great Britain for our wool, and percentage increases were granted to Australian growers in order to raise the price of the wool sold to the average price.
Two important matters require comment. One is that under the old appraisement scheme, a payable price was ensured to the grower. At the beginning of the war, the price of 13$d. per lb. represented a reasonably good and payable price. When the average price was increased to L5£d., conditions were made much better -for the industry, even taking into account the increase of costs. The second point -of note is that by applying the table of limits a reward for quality was given to the grower. But one factor was missing “from the old appraisement scheme; the personal element as between grower and grower did not exist. The grower who bred his sheep carefully and whose wool showed all the good qualities of breeding and feeding was lost in the ruck. Under the open-market system, growers who paid particular attention to the breeding of their sheep and the general get-up of their wool have been able to obtain at auction a price well in advance of other prices. The personal element iti wool should be retained, if possible.
Another point about the appraisement scheme was that it could or could not be in accord with world values. The only real basis upon which a primary industry -can be conducted efficiently is that its products will be consumed and the prices paid for them will be in accord with the -demands of those who use the raw material in the manufacture of a finished -article. Those factors were missing from the old appraisement scheme. Under the “new scheme, the personal element will be present and the world price will be determined by auction. Therefore, this scheme differs in certain respects from the old appraisement scheme.
The average price for wool will now be considered by an organization representing Great Britain and the Dominions. This body, which has been called the Joint Organization, will meet every year to consider an average price which, in its opinion, will be in accord with world demand. The Joint Organization will not have power to fix the price, but will recommend to the several governments concerned the adoption of this price.
When it has been adopted, a table of limits will be drawn up and a price will be set opposite each different type of wool. If this price is not bid at auction, a subsidiary of the Joint Organization will purchase the wool, and the new table of limits will constitute a reserve price for all the different types of wool being sold. It may happen that no offer up to the reserve price will be made at auction. The buyer for the Joint Organization will then act like a commercial buyer, and purchase that wool. Perhaps, from time to time, the buyer for the Joint Organization may “ ride the market “, that is to say, he may bid and “push along” wool which he considers should be sold. That method is adopted in our saleyards to-day. But the main role of ‘ the Joint Organization will be to buy any wool when it does not fetch the reserve price as shown on the table of limits.
Any financial commitments under this scheme will be shared by Great Britain and Australia for Australian wool, by Great Britain and South Africa for South African wool, and Great Britain and New Zealand for New Zealand wool. This money will be required to pay for bought-in wools which did not fetch the reserve price. The cost of the administration of the scheme will be met on the following basis : one-half by the growers, one-quarter by the Commonwealth Government, and one-quarter by the British Government. The growers, in turn, will be responsible for the interest payable on any moneys expended by the Commonwealth in purchasing bought-in wools. Briefly, that is how the scheme will work.
Under the original wool agreement, any profits made from the sale of Australian wool were to he shared equally by Great Britain and Australia. When the British purchase scheme was operating. there accrued overseas an amount of £20,000,000 representing the profits on the sale of wool, and Australia was entitled to one-half of that sum. At the same time, nearly £100,000,000 worth of wool has not been disposed of; it will be disposed of under this scheme. Accordingly, the profit of £20,000,000 was deducted from the amount of £100,000,000 and Australia, by assuming responsibility for one-half of the balance of £S0,000,000 becomes an equal partner with Great Britain in the £100,000,000 worth of wool yet to be realized.
The success or otherwise of the wool scheme will depend mainly upon the selection of the right men to control it, and their judgment in administering the plan. It is, basically, a matter of men and excellence of administration. The Joint Organization will consist of directors, because it will be a trading concern, and the personnel will be drawn from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. To this body of directors will come at stated intervals the representatives and technical experts of the subsidiaries for the purpose of discussing the average price. The determination of the average price will be a big factor in the functioning of the scheme. When sales by open auction are resumed, the price which the world will pay for wool will be a matter of mere judgment. However, during the coming season, possibly odd parcels will be offered in Australia privately, and a trial auction will be held in Great Britain to “ feel “ the market in order to ascertain what values can be expected when the auctioning of different types of wool is resumed. By this means, the directors of the Joint Organization will bc able to get some idea of what world prices will he. But, even with the application of these methods, the directors will have to rely to a large degree on their judgment, because trial auctions or the selling of small parcels of wool will not necessarily be an indicator of the level of values which may prevail in a selling season. Apart from the difficulty of assessing the average price, one must take into consideration other difficulties such as the economic circumstances of various nations which normally purchase large quantities of wool. A great part of
Europe is economically in the doldrums,, and some years will elapse before we can expect a. real recovery, even in the demand for such an important primary product as wool. Other difficulties will arise in. regard to exchange, finance, and shipping.. Al! those factors must be considered by the directors of the Joint Organization, and the subsidiaries before an estimate of” an average price can be made.
Earlier, I mentioned the accumulation., of £100.000,000 worth of wool. I understand on the best authority that this.. quantity does not represent a fair cross- - section of Australian wool. I am informed that by far the greater proportion of this accumulated wool ishurry and of the lower qualities. That fact must be taken into account when, the table of limits is being prepared. If too high a reserve price is fixed on. the lower quality wools it will lead to a great deal of trouble, and to an increasing accumulation of poorquality wool. Every encouragement should be given to buyers to purchase and use the lower qualities of wool so that stocks can be reduced. When the appraisement principle was introduced at the beginning of the war the table of limits was fixed, having regard to worldprices before Great Britain purchased the Australian wool clip. The tendency, . prior to the war, was in favour of crossbred wools as against the finer comeback and merino wools. The table then prepared has been in operation ever since, and it is time that it was re-cast, having:in mind the need to encourage the purchase of the poorer types. Otherwise th<> better types of wool will sell and the poorer types will be left on the hands of” the Joint Organization. It is imperative, . in my opinion, that the table of limits shall be revised in the light of this important consideration and also in order to do justice to the better class wools.
Under the scheme of the bill growers may withdraw their wool from auction if ‘ they so desire, but I presume that in such cases they will have to fix their - reserve price above that set out in the - table of limits. I trust, however, that every endeavour will be made to encourage growers to dispose of their wool. Unless this be done the tendency to accumulate stocks of lower-quality wools* will become more marked. I consider that in the post-war years the strongest demand will -be for better-class wools. That was our experience after the close of the “ last war. If growers are not encouraged to place their better-class wools on the market for disposal I am afraid that great difficulties may be experienced. It could happen that growers of these wools would withdraw in the expectation of higher prices. If withdrawals took place in any magnitude, the market could easily become chaotic, so that there might not be sufficient good wools in the accumulated stocks to fix a satisfactory ceiling price. The main thing is to see that wool goes into consumption.
The scheme envisages that it will take from thirteen to fourteen years to dispose of the accumulated stocks, which, as I have said, consist largely of poor-quality wools. I sincerely hope that the desired adjustment may be achieved before the expiration of such a long period. The fixing of that term was the result of careful consideration and it took cognizance of a calculation that there would he a. vising world demand of about 12J per cent., and a 20 per cent, increase in demand for dominion wools. Those who prepared the scheme were, of course, well informed on the general situation, and E believe that we may fairly look forward to an increasing demand for Australian wool from some countries abroad.
I wish to say a few words concerning the freight charges on Australian wool. A reference to the schedule of the bill indicates that wool will be valued at c.i.f. Europe, therefore any concession in freight rates which can be obtained by the Australian Government will be of appreciable advantage to the woolgrowers. I do not intend to labour this point, but it is generally admitted that wool, in effect, subsidizes other products. If freight rates on wool can be reduced in any marked degree it will be of advantage to the whole community. I trust that the ‘Government will confer with the shipping .companies with the object of securing a reduction of freight rates.
Certain provisions of the bill call for some brief comment. The incorporation in the measure of the international agree- ment will meet with general approval, for that agreement, strangely perhaps, has proved to be fairly acceptable to all interests in this industry. An Australian auxiliary, to be known as the Australian Wool Realization Commission, is lo be established. I do not know why the word “ Association “ could not have been used instead of “ Commission “, fpr then we should have had an easily uttered short title composed of the initials of the organization. It will be difficult to devise such a short title for the Australian Wool Realization Commission. The commission is to consist of a chairman, an executive member, who shall act as chairman in the absence of the chairman, and seven other members, two of whom shall represent the Australian Wool Growers Council, two the Australian Wool Producers Federation, and one the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia; the remaining two are to be persons with experience in the valuation or marketing of wool. I presume that those two will represent the brokers and the buyers, respectively.
– They will not be selected to represent any particular section, but they will be persons with special qualifications to deal with the valuing and marketing of wool.
-I take it that although they may not represent .any specific commercial interests which I mentioned they will be persons with special knowledge of wool-marketing procedure. I would not regard the Australian subsidiary as being satisfactorily representative of the industry unless such interests were represented. I .suppose Ave could argue, as we did when the Wool Use Promotion Bill was before the House,- that the representation proposed for the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Austraiian Wool Producers Federation is unbalanced, because it is well known that members of the former market a far greater quantity of wool than do the members of the other organization; but I do not propose to debate that. We may -take it for granted that the representatives of the growers on this commission will be anxious, at all times. t.o act in the best interests of the industry and to do everything possible to encourage an increase of the use of wool by the community. I am glad that the Federated Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia is to be represented on the commission. It would be wise to include a representative of the employees’ unions on all such bodies. The result would be that employees would gain an intimate knowledge of the problems of the industries concerned, and that would result, I am sure, in a reduction of friction between employers and employees. The employees would realize, as I think they do not do to-day, that employers have many difficulties, and the employers, on their part, would be better qualified to consider and deal with the difficulties of the employees. The representative of the Federated Storemen and Packers’ Union on this commission will undoubtedly gain an insight into the business that will be an advantage to all parties and result in the smoother working of the industry. But the point that I particularly make is that the chairman and the executive member will be the most important members of the commission; the function of the other members will be to advise on technical matters and production. Yet they are not to have any security of tenure; they can be dismissed at will. The schedule makes it quite clear that this is to be a private trading concern. Clause 1. of Part II. of it reads -
The Joint Organization will be incorporated as a private registered Company . . .
The company will deal with wool of a value of millions of pounds, and its success will depend mainly on the two executive members. Therefore, it would seem wise that they should have some security of tenure. We have not been told what salaries they are to receive. I hope that the remuneration will be commensurate with the responsibilities undertaken. These members should be appointed for a term of five years and I shall move to that effect in committee unless the Minister forestalls me.
Clause 8 of the bill envisages dissent by the chairman from a decision of the commission. The chairman is to have not only a deliberate, but also a casting vote. Should he dissent from a majority vote of the commission, he will have the right to approach the Minister, who will then have the power to adopt his view, either wholly or with such variations as he may care to make, without even consulting the commission. To me, that is rather a strange provision. I can understand the chairman being given the right to place his view before the Minister. It might be the correct view. On the other hand, there might be certain points which the Minister would wish to have carefully examined before giving his decision. It is well known that any one who appeals to a Minister, whilst trying to present his view fairly, is inclined to state his case in the light most favorable to himself. Certain aspects of matters vital to the discharge of the work of the commission may never reach the Minister, although he will have to make the final decision.
– It must be assumed that the Minister would act judiciously and would consult those who, he considered, ought to be consulted before coming to a decision.
– I should hope that the Minister would consult the commission in regard to any points on which it and the chairman were at variance. That could be made positive by the insertion of the words “ after consultation with the commission “ following the word “ Minister “ in that portion of subclause 3 of clause 8 which relates to ministerial decisions. The public would like to be sure that the views of all interests had been represented to the Minister before he had given a decision and that he had first consulted the commission as a whole. I trust that an amendment will be made to that effect.
I am at variance with the provisions of the bill in relation to the engagement of, and the salaries to be paid to, those who may be employed by the Australian Wool Realization Commission. Clause 19 provides -
The Commission may, upon such terms and conditions as, subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, the Commission determines, appoint or employ such persons as are necessary for the purposes of the Commission.
In other words, appointments must be subject to the approval of the Public Service Board - which, of course, will fix the salaries to be paid. Clause 19 has to be read in conjunction with clause 13, which “states that all persons in the employment .of the Central Wool Committee, which so far has been administering appraisement, may - possibly they will - bo employed by the commission on such terms and conditions as may be determined. The determination will be in pursuance of clause 19, which means that it will be subject to the terms and conditions approved by the Public Service Board. I understand that this provision has been included in the bill for the reason that, during the war, many boards and directorates were established, and it was considered desirable tq have uniformity in respect of employment, where the nature of the work was comparable. But the basis pf this .commission will be entirely .different from that of war boards or directorates. It is to be a trading concern, which will deal in wool, certainly on behalf of governments and backed by their financial resources, which in the last resort means the taxpayers. A good deal of its success will depend upon the administrators. Therefore, the commission should have the right to employ such men, and to pay such salaries, as it deems fit. I can see no reason why, for example, it should have to obtain the approval of the Public Service Board tq the appointment of a highly skilled man whose services it wished to obtain, or wiry the board should place the appointee in a, particular category. I concede that, in connexion with directorates and other bureaucratic bodies under government control, there must be some regard to uniformity. In this organization, however, particular skill will be required, and the whole of its success will depend on the personal element in it. “We should trust the administrators to secure the services of the best employees available, and to pay what salaries they consider appropriate for the work that will have to be done. Paragraph c of sub-clause 2 of clause 16 deals with the moneys that will be deducted from the cheques of the growers - in other words, from their reserve price - to defray their share of the expenses of the scheme. It also relates to the wool tax, the receipts from which are used for wool research and publicity. I understand that there is to be a percentage deduction to cover the grower’s contribution for wool publicity and research, as well as his contribution towards the administrative costs of the scheme, plus the interest on moneys advanced by the Commonwealth for the purchase of certain wool. The majority of the growers would like to have the amounts particularized in their accounts; for example, they would like to know what proportion of the deduction was to be devoted to wool publicity .and research, and what proportion represented their contribution towards the .cost of the administration of the scheme. Up to within the last two years, the retention money of the grower has been separately stated, and later is stated the account for his contribution towards wool publicity and research. Possibly, the matter is not of great importance; nevertheless, I submit it to the Minister for his consideration.
Clause 10 of Part I. of the schedule contains one of the most important points, which could easily be missed, because it does not deal directly with the actual machiner.y or the working of the scheme. It reads -
In order to facilitate or expand the consumption pf wool the Joint Organization will maintain close contact with the appropriate bodies interested in such matters as furthering the rehabilitation of the wool textile industry in consuming countries, and In securing the replacement and improvement of machinery. It will also maintain close contact with the International Wool Secretariat and other institutions concerned with research, publicity and development designed to increase the uses of wool . . .
An essential part of the work of this new organization will be to link up with world bodies, in an attempt to ensure that wool shall go into use in ever-increasing quantities. This is to be an Empire trading body which will be charged with the responsibility of maintaining a reasonably stable price for the benefit of growers and manufacturers, and of ensuring that wool shall go into production in increasing quantities. It will enter into relations with similar organizations in other parts of th© world in order to cooperate in research into methods of expanding the use of wool. I have always regretted that the Wool Use Promotion Act, which was passed some time ago, did not contain a provision for the creation of an executive body representative of all sections of the industry, whose function would he to promote the use of wool by fostering research and by publicity. There should have been a body of men whose duty it was to think in terms of wool day after day, and to devote their energies to expanding the industry on the textile side as well as on the production side.
Recently, experiments have been conducted overseas, and discoveries made, which will prove to be of inestimable value. I refer particularly to the process of weaving wool in combination with a synthetic fibre prepared from seaweed. When the cloth is placed in an alkaline solution, the synthetic fibre is dissolved, leaving a pure wool material of gossamer-like fineness. I should like to know what is being done in Australia to apply the new process to our wool here. Discoveries of value, no matter where made, should be investigated, and encouragement given to organizations which are seeking new uses for wool.
I have studied this bill from all angles, and I congratulate those responsible for drawing up the scheme, and the Government for its efforts to give it effect. As a representative of the growers, I am anxious that the contributions which growers will be required to make shall be kept as low as possible, and that all extravagance shall be avoided. [Extension of time granted.’) There is no guarantee that wool prices which prevailed during the war will continue after the war. However, it may be found that when open auctions are resumed even higher prices will be obtained. In effect, we are committing ourselves to a gamble, and only the resumption of open marketing can show what will be the world price for wool, and therefore what will be the obligations which the Government of Australia has ‘assumed under this scheme. For my part, I am reasonably optimistic regarding future wool prices. In wool, we have a commodity which is unparalleled for textile purposes, and is in world-wide demand. The ability of trained and skilful investigators is being directed to the discovery of new uses for wool, so that there is expectation that with reasonable prices to the textile industries, wool will go into consumption. On the other hand, it would be foolish to assume that the present war-time average price of 15-Jd. per lb. will necessarily be maintained. I realize that it is possible to criticize certain aspects of the plan, and I have heard them criticized, but no one has ever been able to suggest to me anything better to put in its. place. I therefore commend it and speed it on its way.
.- I listened with great attention to the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), and I congratulate him on his speech. This bill deals with one of Australia’s major industries, which closely affects the economic life of the whole community. Those honorable members who believe that the principle of orderly marketing should be applied to the disposal of Australia’s primary products must view with pleasure the. recommendations of the wool conference, and particularly the recommendation of the marketing committee that a plan for the orderly marketing of wool should be put into operation, both in regard to war-time surpluses and post-war clips. The procedure recommended by the committee, and agreed to by the Governments of Great Britain, Australia, STew Zealand and South Africa, provides : (a) wool to be delivered to the brokers for disposal at auction; (6) wool to be appraised by a joint organization to determine a reserve price for each particular lot bef ore submitting it to auction ; (c) the Joint Organization which is to be established to market the wool is to regulate the offerings at auction in conjunction with the organizations of growers, brokers and buyers; (d) wool reaching the reserve price, or something higher, to be no further financial concern of the Joint Organization; and (e) wool bought in by the Joint Organization at the reserve price to be taken into stock for subsequent disposal.
The basis of the plan is the fixing of a reasonable reserve price for the various types of wool. It is of some interest to recall that the proposal to market wool on the basis of a minimum reserve price was the subject of correspondence between the Australian Wool Growers Federation and the South African wool-growers organization shortly after the outbreak of war. Both organizations were of the opinion that no postwar marketing scheme could be successful unless it provided for a minimum reserve price. Thus, these organizations, accidentally or otherwise, anticipated the present plan by some years, and they will, no doubt, derive considerable satisfaction from the fact that it has been put forward. I have no doubt that the proposals of the two organizations, which are now embodied in the present plan, are strongly supported by a majority of growers, particularly by the small grower. Because of the peculiar constitutional position in which the Commonwealth Government always finds itself when it tries to assist the primary industries, a minimum price proposal appears to be the only satisfactory way of achieving orderly marketing under present conditions. Any other method would be open to challenge on constitutional grounds.
It must be assumed that the four governments concerned, having a considerable sum of money invested in the stock-pile of wool, and as the amount of their investment is governed by the price paid under the wool purchase agreement, namely, 15-Jd. per lb., they will try to maintain an average reserve price approximating this figure. If this assumption is correct, the actual price paid for immediate post-war clips should not be less than that paid under the agreement. As the Prime Minister has said, the four Governments concerned have agreed to underwrite wool prices on behalf of the growers. This point is important, because there is no reason to believe that costs of producing wool will be any less after the war than they were during the war. While the minimum reserve price principle has been accepted as a necessary corollary to any action taken to dispose of the accumulated surplus of wool, it will be necessary for this House at some future time to extend the principle to the marketing of all future clips if adequate protection is to be given to wool-growers. I have no hesitation, however, in predicting that before the expiration of the agreement, there will be a spate of propaganda from certain interests urging the return to the free auction system which brought such widescale fluctuations in the years before the war. If the propaganda follows its usual course the argument will be advanced that the fixation of reserve prices for wool strengthens the challenge of substitutes. I mention this matter because there hae been far too much flabby sentimentality in considering the competition of substitutes. Instead of questioning the quality of substitutes and their ability to provide for the requirements of those who have been forced to buy them, we have made an altogether faint-hearted approach, so much so that the feeling is being engendered that substitutes have something that wool has not got, when actually the best synthetics are a very inferior copy of the original, possessing neither warmth nor durability. Some wool-growers’ representatives, strangely enough, have exhibited a fear complex in regard to substitutes quite out of keeping with their position in industry. This complex has been sedulously fostered by certain financial interests, with the result that unarranged publicity has been given to substitutes. The net result is thai instead of being recognized as shoddy, they have been lifted far beyond their importance.
It has never been made sufficiently clear that the price of raw wool is not a major factor in manufacturing costs. The price charged both here and abroad for certain kinds of woollen goods suggests that some parts of the textile industry are over capitalized. As Great Britain and Australia - two of the parties to the wool agreement - are interested in manufacturing and the export of manufactured woollen goods, they might well look into this aspect of the wool industry. If the costs of certain types of wool manufacture are too high, because of overcapitalization, then it would be infinitely better for the governments to assist manufacturers to reduce their overhead. Thi*would eliminate the necessity for the higher export price to be perpetuated from year to year. It would be a mon rational approach to the challenge of substitutes, and a great deal better than many methods which have been suggested. It is true that publicity can be effectively used in moving wool into production quickly and in counteracting the influence of substitutes, but publicity would be more effective still if the price of thf manufactured article bore a closer relationship to the price of raw wool.
I have long held the view that Australian wool has never been adequately publicized. It is true that some publicity has been carried out by the International Wool Secretariat, which advertises wool as wool and not as the product of any particular country. Whilst this may have an advantage in that it secures the co-operation of all woolproducing dominions, it has never to my mind worked out in the interest of Australia, which has a world-wide reputation as a producer of fine wools. If the arrangement with the International Wool Secretariat is to be continued there must be additional publicity for the sale of Australian woollen manufactures, and more particularly for suitings, dress lengths, men’s underclothes and socks. This, I believe, would greatly help expand the export of woollen goods. From information which I have received there is little doubt that a bigger market could be developed for Australian woollen goods in the United States of America and Canada. Imaginative publicity and the organization of large-scale displays would be necessary to achieve this end. Trade circles suggest that the markets of India and China also possess great potentialities for development. I realize that the limited purchasing power of the masses of those countries does not provide ground for a great deal of optimism. Nevertheless, it has been pointed out in trade circles that if Chinese and Indians in the colder zones bought only one woollen garment a year it would absorb a tremendous amount of wool.
Although no direct reference is made to market research in the report of the recommendations of the London Wool conference, I assume that the Joint Organization in developing its publicity plans, will give some attention to this most important aspect. Market research is important to Australia for more reasons than one. The chief reasons are - (a) That the markets referred to are among Australia’s nearest markets; (l>) the Commonwealth Government proposes to ‘proride £40,000,000 to sponsor the plan recommended by the conference; (c) hat 63 per cent, of the accumulated stockpile represents Australian wool ; and id) Australia cannot afford again to experience the fluctuations of wool prices which characterized pre-war methods of selling. Market research is perhaps important for yet another reason. Commonwealth and State governments are making preparations to settle exservicemen on the land. Evidence is accumulating that the majority of governments are looking to the wool and fat lamb industries and the dairying industry to provide future opportunities for most of the soldier settlers. If wool production is to be further expanded market research becomes a vital necessity. I do not wish honorable members to infer from this observation that the existing markets have a very limited capacity to absorb wool. Whilst it is true that there must be a limit to their capacity, I was never satisfied that the fluctuations of the value of wool in pre-war years was a true indicator of the ability of the then known markets to absorb wool. Official statistics show that, whilst the price of wool fluctuated by as much as Sd. per lb. between 1931-32 and 1936-37, Australia’s wool exports maintained a surprisingly even flow. The highest export of greasy wool in the years prior to the war was in 1938-39, when the quantity was 795,727,712 lb., and the lowest in 1937-38, when the total was 721,826,953 lb. Exports of scoured wool in the same period fluctuated between 73,897,255 lb. in 1935-36 and 61,664,498 lb. in 1937-38. It is fairly obvious from these figures that there was a substantial demand for all Australian wool, and that the fluctuations of prices were due more to hidden and not altogether savoury factors than to the inability of existing markets to absorb production.
I indicated earlier that the signatories to the wool agreement have an asset of great value, and one which, for all practical purposes, they cannot afford to depreciate. Whilst it has not been my habit to quote the daily press in support of my contentions, 1 could not help being impressed by the observations of drayton Burns in the Melbourne Argus of the 1st September. Mr. Burns made some interesting points in summarizing the Prime Minister’s statement that an agreement had been signed. I quote Mr. Burns -
Wool, Australia’s greatest raw material product, is the first to benefit from an international arrangement. Effects of the fourteenyear plan which Mr. Chifley announced will be felt far beyond Australia as the world’3 principal producer, the United Kingdom as the greatest buyer and holder and New Zealand and South Africa, the next greatest Empire producers.
The effects will be felt immediately by those members of the British Commonwealth whose currencies are on sterling, next by those European countries which need wool and pay in currencies linked to sterling, and finally by all the Americas, which will scarcely be able to avoid buying some wool, notwithstanding their big advertising campaigns intended to deceive their own people that synthetics are better than wool. In many ways the 10,000,000 bales of reserve wool, of which 7,000,000 bales are held in Australia, will be worth more in the long run than dollars. The agreement, which was the result of negotiations begun in London in October is the first important move for British trade recovery from the war.
I think all honorable members will agree that the observations I have quoted are most pertinent to the matter at issue. During war years, we heard references to strategic reserves of wool, but no more strategic reserve has ever been built up - in view of the importance of reestablishing export trade - and no more strategic agreement was ever made than that announced for the storage and sale of the wool stockpile. My concern is that those who hav.e produced the wool will not only receive added benefits from the final realization of war-time clips, but that their ultimate reward will be the continuance of the minimum reserve price after the expiration of the present agreement. If that be done this and future governments will merit the confidence of growers.
I have been engaged in business for the greater part of my life, and I believe that the business community could help the great wool industry to a far greater degree than it has in the past. Having worked behind a counter, I know that it is easier to sell a good article than a bad article. If I sell a good article to a customer, I know that he will return to make other purchases. Salesmen could assist the wool industry by recommending to customers the purchase of superior woollen goods. When I have been travelling in trams and trains, I have often wondered why some people who grow wool wear the most inferior clothes. I cannot understand the reason for it. I am convinced beyond doubt that salesmen would find it easier to sell woollen goods than synthetic goods. From that standpoint alone, the great wool industry, upon which in a large measure the credit of the country depends, could be helped more than it has been in the past.
– This bill is to approve an agreement between the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa in relation to the disposal of wool and to provide for the carrying out of the agreement on the part of the Commonwealth of Australia, and for other purposes. At present, four great problems confront us. The first is the large stock of carry-over wool in the world, including some 10,000,000 bales of dominion wools, 2,000,000 bales held by the British Government, and certain American wools. The second problem is the competition of other fibres. It is useless to ignore the fact that the production of other fibres is increasing. In 1944 the output of rayon staple fibre was 53,600,000 lb, but in 1940 it had risen to 1,350,300,000 lb. That production was not far short of the apparel wool of the world on a clean scoured basis, so one can realize the threat which other fibres constitute to the wool industry. The third factor is the lack of purchasing power, of the various nations, and the fourth is the shortage of mill capacity throughout the world. Later, I shall refer to the enormous extent of the mill capacity in enemy countries and make certain suggestions for dealing with this matter.
There is no necessity for me to emphasize the importance of the wool industry to Australia and the British Empire, but I desire to mention certain facts relating to wool, so that the people of Australia, may realize that it is of prime importance to their economic life and to the economy of the British Empire. Recently, I read in the report of the Central Wool Committee that in 1944-45, dollar credits to the amount of £19,268,667 sterling were paid to the British Government as the result of the sale in the United States of America of Australian wool during the year. To-day, wool is one of the most important factors in fighting the battle, which is of such importance to the
British Empire as a whole and Australia in particular, for the creation of dollar credits in the United States of America. Of the total exports of all manufactures from the United Kingdom in 193S, woollen goods represented 9 per cent. So honorable members may realize the tremendous importance of the wool industry not only to Australia, where it represents almost 40 per cent, of our total exports every year, but also to Great Britain.
The object of the bill is to ensure that the stocks of carry-over wool shall be disposed of in an orderly manner, and, by placing reserve prices on all new wools, to prevent the sales of future clips being prejudiced. This plan is very different from what was done by Bawra after the last war. Bawra merely handled surplus wools then held by the British Government. The only other provision made was that wool was not to be sold below 8d. per lb. That arrangement lasted for about six months, and it is doubtful whether it had any effect on wool prices in Australia, because during the currency of that arrangement aevrage wool prices never fell so low as 3d. per lb. As the result of the stability given by the holding back of Bawra wools and marketing them in an orderly manner, prices rose for some years.
The position of our wool industry on the 30th June last was that stocks of surplus wool held by the United Kingdom totalled 3,315,000,000 lb., of which 3,245,000,000 lb. was of dominion origin ; of the latter 2,060,000,000, or 63 per cent., was of Australian origin. The average annual carry-over wool of Australian stocks in the seven years to 1937-3S was 37,000,000 lb. Regarding purchases from 1939-40 to the 1944-45 season, 20,902,641 bales were appraised in Australia, and the carry-over of Australian wools represented 6,867,000 bales, or approximately 32 per cent, of all appraised wools. If these carry-over wools were not strongly controlled by some authority, such as that which the bill creates to hold back wool from sale, chaos would result in the markets of the world. “When we examine the carry-over wools, wo find that they are largely inferior types - hurry wools, and stocks remaining after the best qualities have been picked out to supply the demands of the United States of America in particular, and the war-time requirements of Great Britain and its allies. The London conference estimated that surplus export wools of the Dominions in the future would represent 1,440,000,000 lb. per annum, and the problem before this organization was to liquidate over a period of years the surplus wools, and ensure the consumption of new wools.
Two factors are mainly responsible for the large carry-over of wool. One was the collapse of France in 1940. If France had remained in the war as it did in 1914-18, there would have been little carry-over of wool at the end of this war. The second matter responsible for the great accumulation of stocks is the large increase of production of wool throughout the world in the last 20 or 30 years. Let us examine the production of clothing wools in the period 1920-25. The total average production of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, and Uruguay, was 1,297,000,000 lb. Between 1925 and 1937 the production had risen to 1,885,000,000 lb. The average for the five years from 1937 to 1938 to 1941-42 was 2,135,000,000 lb. Therefore, in the last fifteen or twenty years, wool production in those countries, which grow such a big percentage of the clothing wools, has practically doubled. It was to meet the position created by these tremendous surpluses, and the increased production throughout the world, that the conference was held in London last April and May between the representatives of the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. In my opinion, Australian wool-growers owe a great debt of gratitude to the Australian delegates who attended conference, particularly the leader of the delegation, Mr. Murphy, secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture; Mr. Justice Owen, the chairman of the Central “Wool Committee ; the representatives of the producers ; and the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane. If what one hears about the conference is correct, the Australian delegation played a very prominent part in the proceedings, and it was largely due to their work that the principle was affirmed that a Joint
Organization should be created to handle the huge quantities of carry-over wools, and Great Britain and the Dominions should work together in the marketing of new wools.
The organization which controls the dispersal of the wool stocks should protect the incoming wools against reduced prices. The point to be considered here is that the schedule to the bill, and the reports of the London conference, definitely show that the Joint Organization realizes that it cannot indefinitely fix the price of wool, and cannot main- tain the price of wool for a long period, if the buyers throughout the world are unwilling to pay the set prices. But the great advantage of this scheme is that it will eliminate the almost daily fluctuations of wool prices, and the violent differences in prices which occurred from year to year. But if prices rise or fall over a long period, the reserve prices laid down by the Joint Organization will have to follow that trend ; otherwise the stocks of the Joint Organization will increase, and. the selling scheme will break down. The bill provides, among otherthings, that all dominion wool owned by the United Kingdom on the 31st July shall come under the joint ownership of the United Kingdom and the dominions concerned. It also provides for the establishment of a Joint Organization to dispose of the wool, to fix reserves on new wool, and to purchase at auction sales, later to be re-established in the Dominions and in Great Britain, wools which do not reach the reserve prices. The functions of the Joint Organization are prescribed in clause 2 of the schedule as follows : -
One of the most important determinations at the London conference was that the auction sale of wool should be revised as soon as possible. The reasons why the auction sale method of disposing of wool was considered the best were stated. It was considered that only by that method was it possible to determine the type of wool required by purchasers and the prices which they were prepared to pay for it. But in order that there should be some buffer between the growersand the market it was decided that a system of appraisement ofwools should be adopted and that reserve prices should be fixed at which the Joint Organization would progressively liquidate accumulated stocks of wool and at which it would purchase wools not sold at auction. The test of the success of this scheme will be whether or not the accumulated stocks of wool can be liquidated within the suggested period of thirteen or fourteen years, together with the new clip wools, on the estimated basis, namely, an increase of 12 per cent. of world consumption of apparel wool which would mean an increase in production of 20 per cent. in dominion wools. If the accumulated stocks can be liquidated under these conditions the scheme will be an enormous success; but if not, it will be a failure. The object of the Joint Organization will be to dispose of stocks under conditions which will maintain a stable market for new wool.
We have heard so much from time to time about the vagaries in the prices of wool that it might be imagined that wool prices vary to a very much greater degree than do the prices of other commodities. Tables of prices for 64’s tops and cotton prepared by the Manchester Cotton Association Limited show the following details : -
The report also shows that the price of rubber in the same years varied by 22 per cent., 42 per cent., 51 per cent. and 41 per cent., and those of copper by 28 per cent., 31 per cent., 54 per cent, and 33 per cent. The variations of the prices of some other commodities were somewhat similar. It, is not true that the price of wool varies to a much greater degree than do the prices of various other raw commodities. If a high degree of employment can he maintained with a corresponding high purchasing power, such as is in evidence in the United States of America, the wholesale price of raw commodities should be maintained at a steady figure. If these conditions apply to wool in the post-war years, I can see no reason why the use of wool should not increase and prices be maintained at figures comparable with those at which the British Government lias purchased the Australian wool clip during each of the last four years. The London agreement provides that the reserve price for wool shall be related to the c.i.f. Europe price. In such circumstances it may be assumed that the price of wool in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and in other free wool-selling countries such as Argentina, will be maintained at figures which will show some variation owing to differential freight rates. One of the first tasks of the Joint Organization must be to examine shipping freight rates for wool between Australia and Europe to see whether they are in harmony with similar rates between Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, and Europe. If the rates from Australia are excessive in comparison with those from the other countries I have mentioned, our selling position must be adversely affected.
The agreement provides that the prices for the 1945-46 wool clip, which is now being shorn, shall be appraised on the existing basis, because it was realized that it would be impossible for the Joint Organization to be established in time to take any action in relation to this season’s clip. However, the Joint Organization will be able shortly to begin to accommodate itself to world conditions as these settle down to something approaching normal. It was realized, however, that it was necessary that auction markets should be established somewhere as soon as possible in order to test the reaction of buyers to the table of limits now in operation. There is a considerable volume of opinion that the table of limits is out of relation to the needs of the trade, particularly in respect of certain types. In the selling of wool under the existing conditions the British Government has tilted the table of limits so that many types of wool have been selling at a far higher price than that set out in the table, whilst the poorer types have been appraised at too high a price, and, consequently, are not being disposed of. The London conference, therefore, decided to take steps to restore auction sales a3 soon as possible.
I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) to the effect that the bill made no provision for co-operation between the Joint Organization and the research authorities, but I direct his attention to clause 10 of the schedule which reads -
In order to facilitate and expand the consumption of wool the Joint Organization will maintain close contact with the appropriate bodies interested in such matters as furthering the rehabilitation of the wool textile industry in consuming countries, and in securing the replacement and improvement of machinery, lt will also maintain close contact with tha International Wool Secretariat and other institutions concerned with research, publicity and development designed to increase the uses of wool, and with the reduction of costs of wool production, processing, manufacturing and distribution, and in general will give attention to the removal of any obstacles to consumption.
It will be realized, therefore, that the Joint Organization will aim at maintaining the closest possible contact with research organizations in both the Dominions and the United Kingdom. The honorable member also referred to the absence of any publicity during the war years to encourage the use of wool. I point out that it would have been of little use to engage in a publicity campaign during the war, because the mills of both the British and American manufacturers were being employed at full capacity to meet the needs of the armed forces of the Allies. Even if a campaign had been carried on to encourage a greater civilian use of wool it would have been impossible to supply the articles advertised.
I wish now to devote some attention to the mill capacity of enemy countries. The following table of mill capacity has been compiled from a publication entitled Wool, issued by the New Zealand
Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited -
I believe that we shall shortly experience a very great consumer demand for woollen goods which the shortage of mill capacity will make it difficult to satisfy. People generally will desire to replenish their wardrobes, but a bottleneck in manufacturing capacity will hinder the realization of their desires. In this regard I emphasize the folly of following the procedure adopted after the last war, of allowing reparations to be paid in consumer goods. The Allied Nations will not wish to trade with enemy countries. After the last war Germany flooded many other countries with manufactured goods, and in this way struck a fatal blow at the secondary industries of those countries. This led to economic disaster and serious unemployment in the affected country. We should not allow such a policy to be applied, again ; otherwise the Axis countries will be able to restore their manufacturing industries, revive their armament centres, and generally defeat the objective of the Allied Nations which is to prevent them from ever again being in a position to wage war. Reparations should be paid in capital goods, and in this regard I advocate the stripping of enemy countries of their mill capacity for the manufacture of woollen goods and the transport of the plant to allied countries which are seeking industrial development, such as India and China. If this policy is applied we shall be able, without the risk of encouraging industrial restoration in enemy countries, to provide manufactured woollen goods for people in allied countries who need them.
Under the financial clauses of the agreement, the United Kingdom and the dominion concerned are to take up to 50 per cent, each of the capital represented by the value of the wool taken over by the Joint Organization. The value of the wool prior to its being written down, in respect of Australia,, by surplus profits totalling £20,000,000 was £100,000,000. The value of the wool per lb. prior to the writing down was 11. 6d. sterling per lb., and after the writing down it was 9.6d. sterling per lb., or 11.6d. Australian per lb. That is a reduction from the purchase price paid by the British Government for the whole of the Australian clip, and indicates that the 6,000,000 odd bales taken over by the Joint Organization will contain a considerable quantity of inferior wool, which it will be very difficult to place in the markets. The Governments of the two countries may have to be prepared to lose a certain amount, in order to get the wool into consumption. Immediately the auctioning of wool re-commences in Australia the price of “ free “ wools will rise considerably above the appraisement price? under the table of limits set out by the Central Wool Committee. It will then be very difficult to control prices by the method suggested in the schedule to the bill, namely, by placing wools from accumulated stocks on the market, because these are inferior, hurry wools. They will compete at some point. But it would appear that the price of “free” wools at auction sales will rise considerably, compared with the prices paid in the past.
– What are the “ free “ wools ?
– The clean wools of high yield. The payment by Australia, under the scheme, is to be made in four annual instalments, each of £10,000,000. Any further capital introduced will be provided jointly by the United Kingdom and the dominion concerned. There is to be a contributory charge levied in respect of all sales of new clip wools, for the purpose of meeting the operating expenses of the scheme and for certain other purposes; these will be shared proportionately by the growers and the Government.
The bill provides for the establishment of the Australian subsidiary of the Joint Organization. It is to be composed of a chairman, an executive member, four representatives of the growers, appointed from a panel submitted by the two organizations of growers, one union representative, and two experienced men - one on the buying and the other on the broking side of the trade. At this point, I direct attention to the peculiar position in which the chairman and the executive member will be placed. They, in common with the other members of th© commission, are to be appointed at the pleasure of the Governor-General. If, for any reason, it may be desired to get rid of members appointed by the organizations, those bodies will have the right to submit a fresh panel of names from which new representatives will be appointed. But the chairman and the executive member, who presumably will be highly salaried officials, are not to have any security of tenure in their offices. The Government should be prepared to accept the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), to provide for appointment for a term, so that those officers will not hold their positions at the whim of any Minister or government, and be liable to be dismissed if they fail to fall into line with the wishes of the Government of the day.
– The members of the Central “Wool Committee were appointed at the pleasure of the Governor-General in Council, and the procedure has not proved detrimental.
– That is perfectly true. But the Central “Wool Committee was appointed for a very much shorter term. How long it was likely to last was not known.
– It has functioned for five or six years.
– It is envisaged that this commission will function for thirteen or fourteen years, possibly even longer. It would be very much better to give security of tenure, than to have appointments made at the will of a Minister, the appointees being subject to dismissal if they do not carry out his wishes. Particular emphasis is given to the necessity for such a provision by Sub-clause 3 of clause 8, which provides -
If the Chairman dissents from any decision of the Commission, signifies at the meeting to the other members present in person, his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister, and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, effect shall not be given to the decision unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision, subject to variation, the decision so approved shall be deemed to bc the decision of the Commission.
That is a most extraordinary provision. This is to be a representative body, appointed by the Government. Apparently, the Government will be in full agreement with the appointments made, because panels of names will be submitted to it. Yet, at the wish of the chairman, the Minister may upset the whole of the decisions of the commission and impose his will. In effect, the chairman will be merely the tool of the Government of the day, whose wishes he will have to carry out.
– Not necessarily.
– Not necessarily, but there is that possibility.
– The Central “Wool Committee and the chairman of the Australian “Wool Board were appointed subject to the direct control of the Minister. In no circumstances have they been interfered with.
– The decisions of th© Central Wool Committee were not altered by the Minister.
– The Minister could have altered them, had he so wished. Such extraordinary action would not be taken.
– If that is never likely to happen, why not insert in the bill a provision which would prevent it from happening? A Minister might say to the chairman: “I want you to submit to the commission such and such a proposal “. The Minister and the chairman might know that the commission would vote against it. Having done so, the chairman need only say to the Minister: “ The commission has not agreed to the proposal which I submitted at your request”. The Minister could reply: “ Go back and tell the commission that it has to carry out my wish”. That is wrong. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment forecast by the honorable member for Deakin.
Clause 13 reads -
All persons in the employment of the Central Wool- Committee immediately prior to the commencement of this act, shall, by force of this act, be in the employment of the commission and be deemed to have been employed under this act, but, until the terms and conditions of their employment are determined in pursuance of this act, they shall be deemed to be employed upon the same terms as those upon which they were employed by the Central Wool Committee.
The whole matter of employment under the Central Wool Committee needs to be overhauled. When the Imperial wool purchase scheme came into operation the Central Wool Committee took over practically the whole of the appraising staffs of the wool-buyers of Australia. I spent about a year on the Central Wool Committee in the first year that it functioned, and gained the impression that its operations were conducted rather extravagantly. Many officers could be dispensed with, and the salaries of the remainder should be overhauled. The same number of employees certainly will not be needed to operate this scheme.
Subject to the two amendments forecast by the honorable member for Deakin, the Australian Country party supports the bill, regarding it as essential to the wool industry. Without it, the wool market in Australia inevitably would collapse, and throughout the world wool might he in the doldrums for many years. The success of the venture will depend mainly on the continuity of a high rate of employment throughout the world, and a high purchasing power in the different countries, together with a demand for wool in the United States of America, and the continuance of vigorous measures for the promotion of the use of wool. There must also be research into improved manufacturing methods. Wool has to pas3 through some sixteen processes in the course of being manufactured into a piece of worsted cloth. Compare that with the number of processes of manufacture through which its rival has to pass. There is an enormous field for improvement in the manufacture and processing of wool. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) referred to the small cost of the wool used in a suit of clothes. The Australian Wool Board issued in April last, a very interesting brochure prepared by the Prices Commission entitled “ A Short Discussion on the Relationship in Australia of Raw Wool Costs to the Finished Cost of Woollen Garments with Special Reference to the Cost of Readymade Worsted Suits”. It showed that the cost of the wool in a ready-made three-piece suit priced at from £5 10s. to £6 was approximately 10s. The cost of the worsted material at the f actory was 25^ per cent, of the retail price, the cost of linings, &c, was 12^ per cent., the cost of manufacture, including distribution to retailer, was 23£ per cent., and the cost of retail distribution was 33J per cent, and sales tax 5 per cent. In the processes of manufacture, a tremendous value is added to the cost of the wool. There is a wide field for research in connexion with the manufacturing processes.
I hope that the Joint Organization in Australia and the United Kingdom will take up with the greatest vigour, under the provisions of clause 10 of Part I. of the schedule, the opening up of markets in countries of low purchasing power, such as India and China. At the present time, there is a tremendous demand for Australian cloth and yarns in India, and we are unable to supply it. We have to look for even wider markets. The development of the cottage industries in both India and China will provide an enormous scope for the consumption of wool by people with low purchasing power; because, if wool be spun and woven on cottage looms and spindles, practically the whole of the costs of manufacture will disappear, and the price of the cloth will be much closer to the price of the raw product than it is when manufactured by any other means. The cloths may not be of the quality or standard of those manufactured by the machines, but they will he better than the cloths which the people have been accusfomed to wear. If industrialization in those countries continues in the future as their governments desire, the people will be enabled to purchase those cheaper cloths. Therefore, I hope that the Joint Organization will do what it can to develop markets. I hope that wool, which in the past has been a king among fibres, one with which nothing else could compete, will continue to yield to the people of Australia a satisfactory return.
.- I support the bill, because I believe that it is the best marketing arrangement that could be made, having regard to the limitations of our Constitution. Had it been constitutionally possible, I should have preferred the continuation of the system of appraisement, with a guaranteed minimum price, but the present plan is the next best.
When war broke out, Australia was placed in an embarrassing position in regard to both wheat and wool, because the shortage of shipping made it impossible to export those commodities freely. Whilst the exigencies of war caused less wheat to be sown, approximately the same quantity of wool continued to be produced, because the sheep were still here, and they kept on growing wool: Wool has an important effect on the internal economy of Australia and also upon Australia’s external financial position. At the outbreak of the war, the Government of the day -concluded with the Government, of the United Kingdom the wool purchase agreement under which Great Britain undertook to take the entire Australian exportable clip at an average price of 13.4d. per lb. Later, as the result of representations, the price was increased to 15 1/2d. per lb. and a provision was inserted in the agreement that in the event of the resale of wool, half the profit would go to the Australian Government and half to the Government of the United Kingdom. At the same time, the Commonwealth Government gave an undertaking that any profit thus accruing to it would be paid directly to the growers. The agreement has worked smoothly during the war and has received the approval of the growers. However, owing to the occupation of France by the Germans, and the consequent cutting off of the weaving industry there from Great Britain, much of the wool bought by the Government of the United Kingdom was never processed, so that there is a carryover of 10,000,000 bales. Of this, 17 per cent, came from New Zealand, 20 per cent, from South Africa, and 63 per cent, from Australia. This carry-over consists largely of the stronger types of wool of comparatively low yield.
The problem then was how this wool was to be disposed of, and what would be the likely effect of its disposal on world prices. Had Great Britain, as the owner of the wool, set out to dispose of it over a short term, prices would have been depressed and losses would have been inevitable. Because Great Britain had been compelled to dispose of so many of its overseas assets during the war, there was a danger that it might be compelled now to sacrifice its wool stocks in order to establish foreign credits. Even if the Government of the United Kingdom had decided to sell the accumulated stock over a longer period, but without reaching an understanding with the main wool-producing countries, the mere existence of this stock of 10,000,000 bales must inevitably have had a depressing effect on the prices realized at auction, no matter where the auction sales were conducted. Therefore, the representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand met in conference to evolve a scheme for marketing in an orderly manner not only the accumulated surplus but also the current clips. An agreement was reached which is embodied in the present bill, and we are now asked to ratify that agreement. This is the largest commercial undertaking into which Australia has ever entered, and probably the most important. As the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) pointed out, there is no other commodity, the price of which has such an important effect upon Australia’s economy. When the price of wool falls, unemployment figures begin to rise, and immediately the price of wool improves, employment increases.
It is very important, therefore, that we should endeavour to maintain a stable price for wool. It is in our interest as sellers to do so, and it is also1 in the interest of the manufacturers of tops and cloth. In the United States of America, manufacturers use the wool tops exchange in order to purchase at stable prices their requirements over as long a period as possible. This plan is a courageous attempt to promote price stability, and it must be courageously administered. Attempts will be made to “ bear “ the market, and to create a state of mind in the growers and in the administrators of the scheme which would induce them to accept lower prices. This must be resisted. Eather than allow such an attempt to succeed, it would be better to let it be understood that the Joint Organization was prepared in any one year not to submit for sale any of the accumulated wool stock, but to submit only the current clip.
Another factor to be considered is the effect which the minimum reserve price price is likely to have on sheep-raising in Australia. We know that the industry is divided into two sections, one which produces fine Merino wool of a quality unsurpassed anywhere in the wor.ld; and the other which produces the strong, crossbred wools shorn from the ewes from which fat lambs are raised. The accumulated stocks of wool consist mostly of the stronger types, and any attempt by the Joint Organization to write down the value of this wool unduly will create too wide a gap between the price of fine wool and strong wool, with the result that too many farmers will swing over from fat-lamb production to the growing of fine wool. This would not be in the interest of a balanced agriculture. Should it become necessary to write down the value of strong wools in order to quit them, the Commonwealth Government should subsidize the production of strong wool.
There is another danger in the plan of which the administrators should take cognizance. If growers are to be allowed to dispose of their wool to private buyers, speculators and manufacturers, these people will tend “ to pick out the eyes “ of the good wool, and this would have a serious effect on our disposal organizations. In the administration a careful watch will have to be made by the joint organization to ensure that charges shall be kept down to a minimum, as half of the costs will be carried by the growers and half by the Government. As this wool pile has been appraised and priced according to the table of limits, it should all be sold by private treaty. It should not be placed in the hands of brokers for disposal. The value of this pile is per cent, for auction it would mean a gift to the brokers of £4,000,000, That must not be allowed.
With regard to clause 5, I hope thatthe two representatives on the Australia^ Wool Realization Commission to be selected by the Australian Woolgrowers5 Council and the two to be selected by th«Australian Wool Producers’ Federation will be practical and operative woolgrowers. We do not want to see appointed men of “ guinea pig “ type, men who try to get on all the boards they can in order to pick up a few guineas - “ a little here and a little there “, as the Scripture* say. The men needed on the commission are those who will go into it for the purpose of carrying out this scheme in such a way as to ensure the best possible return not only to the producers but also to the Government. Paragraph d of sub-clause 1 of clause 5 provides for the appointment to the commission of two other members who “ shall be persons with experience in the valuation or marketing of wool “. Great care must be exercised in their selection. I heard the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) say that one of them would probably be the representative of the buyers and the other the representative of the brokers. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not consider choosing men with those qualifications. We do not want men like that on this organization, which must have a strong growers’ outlook. Nor do we want to have old men appointed to this commission, which is likely to function for at least fourteen years. I hope that it will administer a system of selling that will last much longer than that. We do not want the commission loaded with old “ crocks “ of 60 or 65 who have been turned out of private industry because they are of no further use as profitmaking units. We want to see young men appointed, preferably men with experience in some co-operative movement of Australia, because their associations and attitude will be such as to ensure better service to the commission and the Government. I impress upon the Minister that these appointments can make or mar the scheme. I agree with some of the comments made about clause 8 of the bill. I am a little concerned that the clause makes the commission something like a one-man band. In my opinion, it gives too much power to the chairman, inasmuch a3 if ho does not agree with a resolution, which may have been carried by the rest of the members, he is the onlY man who will have the right to the ear of the Minister. I consider it the negation of democracy that he should be the only one to be able to submit a case when he may have been the only one to disagree with the idea behind the resolution that the others passed. I realize that the final executive authority must rest with the Government, but, at the same time, I believe that if we are to appoint a commission consisting of men, whom we consider capable of carrying out the task imposed by this bill, we should at least ensure that if the chairman is to have the right to submit a case, the deputy chairman, who should definitely be a grower, not just au executive, should equally be able to submit a case to the Minister before any decision is reached by the Government.
The Joint Organization in London will have four British representatives, and, in view of the fact that the United Kingdom is concerned, not with growing wool, but with the spinning of wool tops and the manufacture of woollen articles, the speculative and the manufacturing sides of the wool industry will be very well represented by the men whom the British Government will appoint. It is necessary that the one representative of the Australian commission on the Joint Organization in London shall be an operative wool grower. Australia must give to the organization in London a strong grower outlook. The Commonwealth Government should say, “ “We are so certain that the scheme will guarantee stability to the industry that we will guarantee that the average price of 15-Jd. per lb. will be maintained as a minimum”. That would be an indication to the buyers and manufacturers that we are determined to ensure a reasonable floor in the wool markets of the world. The Government must realize, as we all do, that stability of prices is one of the most important aspects. “We cannot allow this great industry to wander along at the mercy of the economic pressure of supply and demand. That is what happened in the depression. If we allow that to happen again I think the premier industry of- Australia will not survive. I congratulate the Government on it; foresight in tackling this problem.. There are three fundamental points that must be ever present in the minds of those associated with the implementation of the scheme: first, stability; second, stability ; and, third, lest there should be any doubt remaining, stability.
– in reply - It is very gratifying to the Government and to me, a3 the Minister who, in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) owing to illness, introduced this bill, that it has been so well received on all sides of the House. Honorable members have maintained the high standard of debate set by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who resumed the debate on behalf of the Opposition. The honorable member made a valuable contribution to the debate, and his example was followed by others. I now desire to answer some of the points raised.
The Commonwealth Parliament has no power to direct growers to send their wool to auction. If, however, they withhold their wool from sale they will force the buyers to transfer their attention to other classes of wool. It is recognized that the sea freight to Great Britain is too high. That matter has been referred, to by several honorable gentlemen. The Government has already made representations to the British Government and the shipping companies, and it will continue to exert every effort to get a reduction of the unduly high freight of 2d. per lb. on greasy wool. We are hopeful that with the cessation of hostilities and an increase of shipping space we shall be able to obtain a reduction. Several honorable members have referred to the constitution of the Australian Woo! Realization Commission. The Government carefully considered both the membership and the terms of engagement. The chairman and the deputy chairman will be permanent administrators of the plan. It is contemplated that they will have all the security of permanent officers. The Government does not consider it necessary to provide for a term of office for them. It may be taken for granted that if they carry out their duties satisfactorily there will he no interference with them. The whole plan gives very great freedom to the executive officers and, indeed, to all members of the commission. Only in extraordinary circumstances of misbehaviour or dishonesty would there be any interference with their tenure of office. lt would be well for honorable members to remember that the Commonwealth Government is putting many millions of pounds into this plan, and that, consequently, the Government and the taxpayers must be safeguarded. Because the commission is subsidiary to the joint organization it is necessary to give it a large measure of independence. I submit that that independence has been provided for in the bill to a marked degree. The Government considers it necessary to provide means for direct consultation between the Minister and the chairman, but that provision does not prevent the Minister from consulting members of the commission before he takes action to override a majority decision. I believe that in practically all the circumstances which one can envisage, the Minister would, acting judicially, consult the various members on the commission before he reached a decision. In my opinion, it is not necessary to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Deakin. The Government would have implicit confidence in the chairman of the commission, but knowing that errors of judgment can be made, the Minister would ascertain the views not only of the chairman, but also of other members of the commission and other persons who would be in a position to give advice on a complex matter.
Clause 19 provides that -
The Australian Wool Realization Commission may upon such terms and conditions as, subject to the approval of the Public Service Board, the Commission determines, appoint or employ such persons as are necessary for the purposes of the Commission.
Honorable members need feel no apprehension about that provision. In practice, it will work quite satisfactorily. The Public Service Board has co-operated with many trading organizations and has not obstructed any of them in staff matters. If this clause were not inserted, one organization might pay salaries out of all proportion to the nature of the work that the staff was performing. This provision is made in various bills relating to other industries and is a very wise one. It will lead to greater economy and efficiency in administration.
The incorporation of the wool tax in the contributory charge is designed to simplify the matter from the standpoint of the growers. The wool tax is at the rate of 2s. a bale and every grower may calculate the amount taken from his contributory charge for wool promotion purposes. The joint organization will be required to co-operate fully with all organizations concerned with increasing the uses of wool. These will include the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Australian “Wool Board, the International “Wool Secretariat and research institutions in the United Kingdom and other countries. The Australian Wool Realization Commission will be expected to play its partin .advising the Government on trade policy relating to wool, but will not undertake publicity work. The Australian Wool Board consists of three representatives of the Australian. Woolgrowers Federation, three representatives of the Wool-growers Council and the Wool Adviser. The board appointed Dr. Booth, as the Australian representative on the International Wool Secretariat in London. The Government fully appreciates the importance of the publicity work which is necessary in order to expand the wool industry and encourage the demand for wool in preference to other fibres.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) referred to the threat which other fibres constitute to the wool industry. He was perfectly justified in directing attention to this matter. Some wool-growers are foolishly optimistic and consider that they have nothing to fear from wool substitutes. Others are unduly pessimistic. In my opinion, there is a middle course between those two extremes; and the wool industry should be vigilant and indulge in judicious propaganda to keep before the public the great superiority of wool over other fibres. When. I was in the United States of America, I noticed that wool substitutes enjoyed an amazing sale. That demand would be extended to other countries, and industries would manufacture clothing from these artificial fibres. Only an expert could tell the difference between fabrics made from wool, and fabrics made from fibres. Synthetic fibres will continue to compete strongly with wool, and, therefore, it is necessary to continue sound methods of propaganda for the purpose of increasing the demand for wool. Research work must be undertaken, and, at the same time, our commercial policy must be directed towards preserving and expanding our export markets. If we handle these matters efficiently, we shall win through. I desire to correct any impression which honorable members may have that the Joint Organization or the Australian Wool Realization Commission will undertake this publicity. Other organizations in the wool industry are handling the publicity satisfactorily.
It is gratifying to the Government that the wool realization plan, which means so much to the whole economic life of Australia, and which underwrites for the next thirteen or fourteen years the income of tens of thousands of wool- growers and others dependent upon the industry, has been so well received by the House. The plan has been evolved after most careful consideration by the representatives of Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and a great deal of credit is due to the delegates who attended the conference in London. The Australian delegates were ably led by Mr. Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, who, in the opinion of impartial observers in London, did a magnificent job for the wool industry and Australia. That isexactly what we would expect from one of the outstanding public servants of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma ; progress reported.
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s messages) :
Motions (by Mr. Forde) agreed to -
Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa in relation to the disposal of wool andto provide for the carrying out of the agreement on the part of the Commonwealth of Australia, and for other purposes.
Resolutions reported and - by have - adopted.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to8 p.m.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) There shall be an Australian Wool Realization Commission. (2.) The members of the Commission shall be appointed by, and shall hold office during the pleasure of, the Governor-General.
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), the words “and shall hold office during the pleasure of,” be left out.
If this amendment be agreed to, I shall move to insert new sub-clauses to provide that the chairman and the executive member shall hold office for a period of five years, and be eligible for reappointment, and that the other members of the commission shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. I shall also move an amendment to provide that in the event of the chairman or the executive member ceasing to hold office prior to the termination of his appointment, another person may be appointed in his place for the remainder of his period of office. If these amendments be agreed to, I shall move for the insertion of a new clause which will include provisions that are usual in measures of this kind in relation to the termination of appointment or the vacation of office. That proposed new clause would be of a purely machinery nature. I hope that the Government will accept this amendment and so open the way for the other amendments that I wish to propose. I have no desire to repeat the arguments that I used in my second-reading speech.
I content myself with saying that it is essential that the chairman and executive officer of the commission shall be assured of a reasonable tenure of office. These appointments should be for five years. This commissionwill be a big trading organization. The administration of it will depend largely upon the chairman and executive officer, for the other members of the commission will be only part-time officers. The best men available should be appointed. The Minister, in replying to the secondreading debate, referred to my suggestion that provisions such as I have indicated should be inserted in the bill, and said that the chairman and executive officer would have the same security of office as other permanent officials; but how can that be so when they will be subject to dismissal at a moment’s notice? No doubt the Government will secure the services of the best men available; but I am of the opinion that unless there is some assurance of continuity of office, competent men will not be applicants for the positions, and will not accept office even if it is offered to them. In view of the vast ramifications of the scheme every care should be taken to ensure the appointment of the best men available. I ask the Minister to consider my proposals and I hope that he will accept them.
.- The scheme of the bill is well balanced, and if it is interfered with the equilibrium of the measure may be seriously disturbed. Eor the first five years of the operations of the commission the whole enterprise will be in a state of flux. It may be that the persons appointed will prove to be unsatisfactory, but in any case it is desirable that the organization should be of such a nature as to be quickly adaptable to new conditions. The scheme will have some relationship to the decisions of the Bretton Woods conference for it is based upon an international agreement. Prices for wool will be fixed twelve months ahead and will have to be reconsidered from time to time in order to determine whether Australia can continue to market wool economically. We should therefore avoid making the management too rigid and should leave the machinery in such a state that it can be adjusted from time to time to meet changing conditions.
– I support the amendment. The chairman and executive officer of the commission will be key officers in the true sense of the word. The other members of the commission will be required to render only part-time service. The capita] of this organization will be £40,000,000, which is no small sum, and it is anticipated that the turnover will be £70,000,000 a year. In these circumstances it is essential that we should make possible the appointment of the best available men. Such men are not likely to be out of work at the moment. The kind of men we need will be fulfilling important functions now, and it would be unreasonable to expect them to leave their positions to accept office with this commission under conditions which would not assure them of a reasonable tenure of office. We should not expect men to sacrifice good positions without giving them reasonable security in their new office. Unless such security of tenure is assured, men of the stamp that we desire to obtain will not he interested. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment, for if the proposals of the honorable member for Deakin are incorporated the hill will be strengthened considerably. If the Minister will not accept the amendment I hope that at least he will promise to give it consideration before the measure is passed by the Senate.
.- The bill provides that the persons appointed as chairman and executive officer for the commission shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. It i? uncertain how long this scheme will operate. An estimated period of fourteen years has been mentioned, but if a serious shortage of wool exists in other parts of the world, the commission may dispose of our accumulated stocks in four or five years, and it may be unnecessary to continue the scheme for anything like as long as fourteen years. The Government, of course, expects to obtain the services of competent men, but if the appointees should not fulfil expectations the appointments should be reviewed with the object of securing more competent men. If the scheme continues for fourteen years the commission will be required to handle wool valued at about £1,000,000,000, apart altogether from the surplus wool, valued at about £100,000,000, which is already available for disposal. In these circumstances we should not take the risk of placing in these positions men who, if they prove to be incompetent or unsatisfactory, cannot be removed from office. The Government should be able to replace them if they do not discharge their duties in a satisfactory manner.
– I suppose the honorable member means in a manner satisfactory to the Government.
– The growers may not be satisfied. This scheme must be administered with efficiency, and for that reason it is essential that competent men be placed in charge of it. If the officers who are originally appointed prove to be unsatisfactory the Government should be able to dispense with their services. That is the position in New South Wales to-day in regard to officers of this description. In that State, there has been a good deal of criticism of the administration of the abattoirs. One point made is that the manager was appointed for an indefinite term, and can be removed from office only by a vote of both Houses of the State Parliament. There is similar provision in regard to the administration of the New South Wales Railways. I am not saying that the management of either is inefficient. The objection is that those officers are superior to the government of the day, and that there is no chance of dealing with them. This scheme should not be controlled in that way. It involves hundreds of millions of pounds, and the Government should retain the power to ensure that it shall be managed in the interests of those who grow the wool, as well as the trade generally.
.- -I appreciate the estimable motives which actuated the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) in moving the amendment, and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in supporting it. They have been so reasonable in the discussion of the measure that I should like to be able to grant their wish. If I considered that there were grounds for the fears that they have expressed, I should readily accept the amendment. I assure them that the Government has no desire to interfere with the security of tenure of the gentlemen who will occupy the two most important positions of chairman and deputy chairman of the commission. The Government gave this matter very careful consideration, and came to the conclusion that the clause should read as printed, providing that the members of the commission shall be appointed by, and shall hold office during the pleasure of, the Governor-General. There would have to be some evidence of misconduct on the part of the occupants of those important positions before any government would displace them. No .matter what might be the political brand of the government that occupied the treasury bench, those gentlemen could rely implicitly on the adoption of a judicial attitude in the consideration of the continuance of their services. A specific period of office is not mentioned, nor is one stated when a permanent head is appointed to any Public Service department. Misdemeanour can be of various kinds. The officer may become bankrupt, or of unsound mind. It may be found that he has business associations with companies that have contracts with the commission. In such circumstances, the Government of the day would take steps to terminate the appointment. The greatest caution will be exercised by the Government in making these appointments. When they have been made, the appointees will have the assurance of continuance in office so long as they are competent to discharge the duties that will devolve upon them. The Australian Wool Realization Commission will be one of the most important concerns in the country, far greater than Bawra was after World War I. It will be a new and very difficult venture, involving an expenditure of £40,000,000 of Commonwealth funds within the next four years, and probably many more millions in the following years. The Government must reserve to itself the right to advise the Governor-General regarding the suitability of members of the commission to perform the tasks required of them. The chairman and deputy chairman will be permanent administrative officers, of whom will be required continuing service in the administration of the scheme. Their removal from office, or their ultimate retirement, will be decided according to the “principles that govern such matters in the Public Service generally. My experience has been that there is no radical change of permanent heads with a change of government. We know that that applies in some other countries, but not in the British Dominions. The longer these gentlemen occupy their positions, the more knowledge will they gain, and the better administrative and executive officers will they prove to be. If the right men be selected, they will have nothing to fear from any action by a Minister in this Government, or any government that might follow it. The honorable member for Deakin has not suggested that the period of appointment of the other members of the commission shall be stipulated. On behalf of the Government, I assure him that there is nothing sinister in the provision that these offices shall be held during the pleasure of the Governor-General by the persons appointed to them. We believe that this provision should stand. Consequently, I regret very much that I cannot accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (3.) If the Chairman dissents from any decision of the Commission, signifies at the meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twentyfour hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, effect shall not be given to the decision unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the decision so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Commission.
. -I move -
That, in sub-clause (3.), after the words “ unless the Minister “, the following words be inserted: - “after consultation with the Commission “. [ dealt with this matter in my secondreading speech, and shall merely recapitulate the points that I then made. The commission is to consist of nine officers - a chairman, an executive member, two representatives of the Australian Wool growers’ Council, two representatives of the Australian Wool Producers’ Federation, one union representative, and two members who will have had experience of the broking and buying sides of the industry. It will represent all phases of the wool industry, from production to marketing. I presume that the Minister, in making the appointments, will choose men for their worth. At a meeting of. the commission, there may be a majority decision against the chairman, who will have a good deal of power, in that he will have not only a deliberative but also a casting vote. Should a majority of the commission decide against him, he will have the right to place his views before the Minister, who may endorse them either with or without variations. Therefore, actually, the chairman will be almost a dictator on the commission. He may place before the Minister all the arguments according to his knowledge of them. But it i« logical to assume that some arguments, believed by those advancing them to be of great importance, may not have due weight given to them when the chairman presents his report to the Minister. Quite often, when a man wishes to secure endorsement of what he believes should be done, he presents as good a case as he can from his own point of view. Replying to the second-reading debate, the Minister assured me that, in his opinion, no Minister would support a chairman who had dissented from a majority decision, without having* some consultation with the other members of the commission. Under the bill as it stands, however, that could happen. A very busy Minister might not consider it worth his while to go to the commission and hear all views. He might say to the chairman, “ I agree with what you have told me “, and a great blunder might be committed, which would he unpopular with the other members of the commission whose advice should be very valuable. I am merely attempting to provide that, should the chairman dissent from a majority decision of the commission, the Minister shall consult with the commission as a whole before giving a final decision - which, after all, will be a political decision - so that all views may be placed before him. He would then be in a better position to make a decision.
.- The clause should be accepted as it stands. The whole purpose of this legislation is to .place this most important undertaking completely under the control of the Parliament. This clause will permit that to bo done. The bill provides generally for the setting up of a commission. The Minister will have discretionary powers in the appointment of certain members, but their nomination will be submitted by organizations outside the control of the Parliament. It will be incumbent on the Minister, representing the Parliament, to ensure that the wishes of the Parliament, rather than those of th, majority of the commission, shall be given effect in the event of a conflict between them. This machinery provision will enable such a structure to be maintained in the administration of the scheme, and the Minister should insist on its retention in its present form.
. -I support the amendment. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) ha3 made one of the most extraordinary statements I have heard, namely, that the bill was designed to place control completely under the Parliament, and that the clause will enable that to be done. Does he consider that the Minister is the Parliament, and that a ministerial decision is a decision of the Parliament? He has ad vanced the argument that the Executive and the Parliament are identical.
– They are, while there is a Labour government.
– That is a fine confession to make! It is a nice story to tell the people - that the Parliament amounts to nothing, and is not worth taking notice of, and that the Executive alone rules in this country. The honorable member wants to take the control of the commission out of the hands of Parliament and give it to the Executive, so that the Minister will be able to direct the commission what to do. The commission could be rendered useless, because it could be overruled by the Minister, acting through the chairman. The amendment merely provides that the Minister, before overruling a decision of the commission, shall consult with the commission and hear the views of members. In the case of a difference of opinion between the chairman and the other members of the commission, it is possible that the Minister may be given a distorted account of the matter by the chairman. I cannot see why the Minister will not accept the amendment. It would not harm the bill, nor break down the authority of the Minister, but it would give the growers more effective control over the commission and a chance to put their views before the Minister. Of course, if it is the desire of this Labour Government to ignore Parliament and the representatives of the growers on the commission, the amendment will not be accepted and the commission will be entirely under ministerial control.
.- The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has shown that he has given a good deal of consideration to the measure. He has looked for weaknesses, and evidently he suspects that the Minister may not confer with members of the commission should there be a disagreement between them and the chairman. I assure him that there is no ground for his suspicions. Sub-clause 3 of clause 8 is designed to enable the chairman to report to the Minister if he dissents from any decision of the commission, and particularly if he believes that the decision is not in accordance with general policy, or with the interests of the wool industry and of Australia. The bill confers wide powers on the commission, and it is essentia] that there shall be -provision for direct reference by the chairman to the Minister if he believes it to be necessary. The Minister may consult with members of the commission before reaching a decision, or he may obtain written advice from them. I believe that the Minister would consult with members before making up his mind.- It must be assumed that the Minister would take a judicial view of any difference of opinion between the chairman and other members of the commission. If the matter in dispute related to a clearly defined aspect of government policy, the Minister would not be called upon to confer with the members of the commission, but mightbe in a position to make a decision on the facts submitted bythe chairman. The honorable member for Deakin wishes to make it mandatory on the Minister to confer with members of the commission, but whilst in general he will do so, we must leave it to his discretion. He can be trusted to do the right thing. Therefore, although I would like to accede to the request of the honorable member for Deakin, I must, with reluctance, decline to accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Hutchinson’s amendment), be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 22 agreed to.
New clause 16a -
– I move -
That, after clause 16, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 16a. - (1.) The Commission shall open and maintain, with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or such other hank as the Minister approves, an account into which there shall be paid -
all moneys received by the Commission in respect of sales of wool or otherwise ; and
all moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of the Commission. “ (2.) The Commission shall, out of the moneys standing to the credit of the account -
defray all costs, charges and expenses incurred by the Commission in the performance of its duties and the exercise of its powers, authorities and functions under this Act; and
pay the remuneration and allowances of the members of the Commission and the salaries,’ wages and allowances of persons appointed or employed by the Commission.”.
This is a routine provision for the opening and operation of a bank account. It was inadvertently omitted when the bill was drawn.
New clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 27th September (vide page 6107), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– In submitting this bill for an act to authorize the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to war service land settlement, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) made a speech in rather vague and general terms setting out the nature of the agreements between the Commonwealth and the various States. They differ in some small respects. Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are to provide a greater share of the money to make good any losses that may occur than will the other States. The States I have mentioned accept responsibility for land settlement, and it is perhaps fitting that I should point out to the House that, in the land-settlement scheme after the World War I., Victoria had the greatest number of soldier settlers. It also had the greatest number of successful settlers; some SO per cent, were still on the land in 1929 when Mr. Justice Pike submitted his report on land settlement. Later, because of the depression and a succession of bad years and falling prices of primary products, a number had to vacate their blocks ; but, in the main, land settlement in Victoria makes a very much better story than it does in the other States. Figures taken from the Commonwealth Year-Booh show that New South Wales settled 9,302 ex-servicemen on the land and that 6,649, or 71 per cent., remained on the land in 1929. There were 11,140 settlers in Victoria, and of them, 9,249 remained on the land in 1929. In Queensland, the figures were respectively 6,031 and 3,617; South Australia, 4,082 and 2,754; and Western Australia, 5,030 and 3,545. The Minister said that the high prices that had to be paid for land, stock and equipment were one of the most important causes of the losses in the previous soldier-settlement scheme, but that is only a part of the story. When that land was purchased, primary producers had been having a very good time. Prices were good; there was a growing demand for primary products, and our overseas market absorbed our surpluses at payable prices. That was also one of the main contributing factors to the rush of applications for land from ex-servicemen in the early days after that war. It may be said that the prices paid were too high when the improvements were placed on the holdings, but I sound the note of warning that improvements will cost infinitely more now than then. For instance, recently I had a price quoted for a cottage the same as one erected for £540 in 1916. The price to-day is £1,170. Fencing, sheds and everything essential to a well-stocked farm will cost about 50 per cent, more than they cost before this war. If we are not very careful, we shall find land over-capitalized again as it was before. The Common wealth Government has assured us that it has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that only suitable land shall be procured for settlement. An equally important need is to procure suitable men to go on the land. In this respect, it is wise that I read an extract from the second report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission - An examination of the factual information relating to previous ex-servicemen’s settlement indicates only too clearly the necessity foi some fundamental variations in the manner of approach if substantial failures are to bc avoided and financial losses minimized. The evidence placed before us has laid emphasis on the extent of failure of past soldier settlement due to inexperience and general unsuitability for farm work of a large number of assisted applicants.
That has been fully borne out by the finding: of Mr. Justice Pike and from evidence taken by the commission.
Extract from report of 1929 by Mr. Justice Pike- “No doubt in very many cases this primary cause of failure was accentuated by the fact that. the holders were suffering from physical disabilities, and also in other cases by the fact that the holders were not suited temperamentally or by training and experience for farming work. There seems to bie a general impression that any one can make a farmer, but in these days of keen competition a farmer has to be a man of many parts, particularly having regard to the uncertain climatic conditions of Australia. Not only must he be a good business man, but he must keep himself up to date in all matters pertaining to farming operations, and so mould his activities that the cost of producing shall be such as to enable him to compete in the world’s markets with his produce, as we have now reached a stage in Australia where in practically every channel of farming or horticultural pursuits we are producing more than sufficient to supply the local markets, and the balance now has to find a market in competition with the products of other countries.”
Here we come to a real problem. So far as wool and meat are concerned, we are assured of a market for some years, hut there is no certainty that we shall be able to market other surplus primary products in countries that could absorb them at a payable price. It will not be possible for any government to continue to subsidize many of the primary industries in peace-time. We have to be extremely careful that under the settlement of ex-servicemen only those products will be encouraged that can find a ready and favorable market. The Government has also sought to place on the land only qualified and highly competent settlers; but that is going to be a most difficult job to do. We know the pressure that was exerted after World War I. on various departments to take men without necessary qualifications as settlers. In this respect the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission says -
The commission wishes to reiterate that the manner in which public opinion approaches the question is of the utmost importance. One of the greatest problems governments will have to face in implementing any rural scheme for re-establishment of ex-members of the services will be the pressure of illinformed public opinion iufluensed by public statements. Such statements too often emanate from the job seeker, the land seller seeking a profit, the badly informed self-styled patriot, or local interests thinking selfishly in terms of the number of men settled and the amount of money spent in the district, instead of in terms of the number of men who can bc successfully settled in the district. It is not patriotism, nor is it political wisdom to urge governments to embark upon projects which cannot stand the test of expert analysis, and can only result in hardship and disillusionment for the individual, as well as an immense waste of public money, and a setback to agricultural progress in Australia. Governments and their administrations must approach the task with a firm resolve to resist this type of pressure, and are entitled to look to soldiers’ organizations and the press for support in doing so. Properly organized and well informed publicity will go far to assist. The public must be unformed and kept informed that it is useless thinking in terms of “ here is a soldier seeking a farm; letus create one for him at once “, and that successful settlement cannot be forced against the dictates of long-term market requirements and prices, suitability and availability of land to produce for those markets, and general considerations relating to farm finance, farm economics and social conditions.
Land settlement schemes up to 1943 had cost the various governments of Australia not less than £43,000,000, or £6 5s. per head of population, or £1,200 for each soldier settler. That I think is a complete answer to people who say that nothing was done for returned soldier settlers after World War I. I say that no other country set out so determinedly or expended so much money per capita as did Australia. It was not because of any want on the part of the Australian people or because they were negligent in giving assistance that failures occurred. In many instances, it was because of factors that we could not foresee or overcome. When you get your suitable land and suitable settlers and payable markets there is still something required - favorable seasons-and no government or commission can guarantee seasons. In the depression years men on the land had a particularly had time. Men who had been on the land for 20 or 30 years were unable to carry on. Many were compelled to seek relief under the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act through no fault of their own, but because of falling prices and semidrought conditions.
– And constant interest bills.
– Constant interest bills ! That reminds me that I have gone carefully through this bill without finding any indication of the interest that the settlers will be required to pay on advances made to them under this scheme. The interest bill will not be the main factor in retarding the settlement of exservicemen. What will break their hearts will be the continuous taxation burden, unless it be considerably lightened. Whatever the settler paid after the last war in interest on the capital advanced to him will be a small amount compared with the taxes which the successful settler will have to pay in future.
– He will be a successful settler if he is liable to pay taxes.
– He may succeed in finding money to pay his taxes, but he will not succeed in discharging his burden of debt. The Minister (Mr. Dedman) knows from his personal experience on the land what it means to a man who, after having endured a series of bad seasons, then has a good season. What will be his thoughts if one-third of his return from the good season is absorbed by taxation? Many experienced primary producers are reluctant to purchase a property unless they are in a position to pay cash for it. Twenty years ago, they would have paid as a deposit one-third of the purchase price and retained sufficient money to stock the property, and they would have had a reasonable chance in ten years of discharging their debt. To-day, they realize that the amount which they would pay in taxation in ten years would represent a considerable percentage of the principal. Another f actor which must not be forgotten is that in ten years’ time, buildings erected on properties now will not be worth more than 50 per cent. of the cost of construction. That will overcapitalize places where the land has been purchased at its productive value. It will prove au impediment to successful primary production.
There is another phase of primary production on which I hold very strong Hews. In the interests of the settler and the Government, it would be advantageous if land settlement were removed from political control. We have had some experience of that in Victoria. After a number of years a closer settlement Commission was created. The chairman possessed a wonderful knowledge of land, stock and business methods. After a period, he and his fellow commissioners were able to ensure to those “diggers” who had worked hard for years an equity in their properties. At long last, settlers found that they had an equity of 20 per cent., 30 per cent, or 40 per cent, in the holdings which, five years before, they had despaired of owning. Some valuations had been reduced to £11 10s. on acre, but three years later the owners were able to sell at £15 15s. au acre. Those results can. be achieved only if land settlement is controlled by a commission, free from political influence, to deal with, each case on its merits. It would be advantageous to the Commonwealth and the States if they obtained the right men to administer land settlement schemes and give the settler a reasonable chance of making good. This system has worked satisfactorily in Victoria. Despite all precautions, losses on land settlement in the future are inevitable. Australia is subject to periodical droughts, even in districts where the rainfall is considered to be assured. In some seasons, losses will have to be faced. For that reason the Commonwealth and State Governments would be wise to provide a substantial sum of money to assist settlers to remain on the land when their plight is caused by circumstances due to no fault of their own.
To-day, the settler has exactly the same problems as those which confronted the settler after the last war. Stock are selling at prices comparable with those which, were paid for dairy cattle and store sheep after the last war, despite the fact that butter-fat was then 2s. 6d. per lb. and to-day is ls. lOd. or ls. lid. per lb. That factor also must be taken into consideration by the Commonwealth and the -States when providing a sufficient sum of money to enable the settler amply to stock his farm.
Regarding settlement in irrigation areas, the day will come when production will reach saturation point. That is another problem for the Commonwealth and State Governments. The best course for the Commonwealth Government to adopt is to provide markets which will ensure to settlers a. payable price for their products. The State Governments and local instrumentalities should be responsible for giving the advice and assistance which settlers will require. If these suggestions be adopted, the results from the settlement of exservicemon after this war may be much more satisfactory than the results from soldier settlement after the last war. After all, we should be able to avoid some of the pitfalls which were encountered in the period 1920-30. To encourage settlement in outback districts, the Government should provide better transport and educational facilities. We cannot expect a young married couple to settle on the land when they know that, by so doing, they will deprive their children of the educational facilities which are available to every child living in the cities. The Government would be wise to provide those facilities before putting its land settlement scheme into operation.
I regret that many competent exservicemen have not yet had an opportunity to obtain holdings. Had block? of land been available, they would have been able to take advantage of the present payable prices for primary products. They would also have had an opportunity to “ dig in “ and create a reserve against those lean years which they must encounter in the future. I urge the Government to provide for settlers all those amenities which the residents of the city enjoy. By so doing, the Government will offer an inducement to men to become primary producers. After all, primary production is still the backbone of our industries. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will be able to cooperate with the State governments in such a manner that the settlers will know that they will not be hewers of wood and carriers of water for the rest of their lives, but will have an opportunity to make good and help to develop this country until it can carry a population sufficient to enable us to maintain our title to the continent. A good deal more could be said about land settlement,- but I shall not deal with other aspects at this juncture. I find no fault with the bill, but I regret that the arrangement with the States was not made earlier so that competent men, who were anxious to settle on the land, were not given the opportunity to do so.
.- This bill is to ‘authorize the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to land settlement. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) outlined the disabilities which soldier settlers encountered after the last war. If honorable members will examine the bill, they will find in clause 3 of the First Schedule that land settlement under the scheme shall be carried out in accordance with the following principles : -
From that clause, I conclude that a thorough examination or test will be made to determine whether an ex-serviceman is qualified to become a primary producer, and that only those with a bent for primary production will be given an opportunity to settle on the land under this scheme. South Australia has established a land settlement committee, the members of which are returned soldiers from the last war. Two of them, to my knowledge, are successful soldier settlers. For some time, they have been inspecting various sites, on which, they consider, ex-servicemen would have a reasonable prospect of making a livelihood. They have inspected land in the south-east of South Australia, where there are some good properties, and on Kangaroo Island. If wo are to assist prospective settlers who have done so much for this country, we may be able to subdivide for closer settlement purposes, some large properties of 10,000 or 11,000 acres. Some of them come readily to my mind. On those subdivisions we could settle, say, ten ex-servicemen, and each would be able to earn a livelihood. That suggestion should be carefully considered, because we should avail ourselves of every opportunity to settle ex-servicemen on the land.
The loss incurred in soldier settlement schemes after the last war was about £415,000,000. In those schemes, the Commonwealth had no voice, ‘although it met a large percentage of the losses. For successful primary production, a lot depends on the richness of the soil and favorable seasons, but there may be times when a little forethought will enable us to ensure the security of soldier settlers. For example, we should provide, whereever possible, an adequate water supply. Some soldier settlers are established along the Broughton River in South Australia . If the State Government would build a weir at the cost of only £5,000, those dairy farmers would have an assured water supply in all seasons. Unfortunately, they have not been able to convince any one that they require the weir, with the result that sometimes the Broughton River is in flood, but for months the bed of the river is dry. I was interested to read a book entitled Queensland Pastures. It states that experiments have been made in the use of water from bores in different parts of Australia where the rainfall is very small. In some instances, water has been obtained which is satisfactory, but in others the bores have yielded only brackish water which is of little use for stock. In some parts of the country also a close season for depasturing has been declared during the seeding time, which has proved to be of material help in maintaining good pastures.
I desire to bring to the notice of honorable members also some information from the report of the Chief of the Soil Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, which sets out clearly the work that is being done in America. The first paragraph of the report reads -
The use of each acre according to its own individual capabilities and the treatment of each acre according to its own individual needs constitute the kind of Agriculture wc in the United States have come to call soil conservation farming. Soil-conservation farming is remarkably efficient farming. Where practised it has brought a 20 per cent, increase in production per acre as an average. It has provided a practical guide for greater crop diversification and has resulted in greater diversification, it has meant savings in seed, fertilizer, labour and power. It has permitted the greatest possible degree of protection - and even improvement- to soil -and water resources under the pressure of intensified war-time production. It offers the farmer and rancher a sound avenue for shifts in type or intensity of production that may become wise in the years ahead to meet possible changes in the price and demand for agricultural commodities.
The report sets out in detail many of the practices adopted in the United States of America and contains much evidence that increased production follows the adoption of those practices. It indicates also that the Americans rely a good deal upon propaganda to make their people soil-erosion minded. The United States, as we know, generally does things on a large scale, and it did so in connexion with the soil-erosion problem perhaps because the need to deal with it was very great. Far more has been done there than we have attempted to do to cope with the problem. The authorities realized the need for propaganda to ensure that every section of the community would be enlightened. In this connexion, the report stated -
It has long been known to conservationists, economists, and the historians that the stake of the urban population in the farm lands of the United States is fully as great as the farmers’ stake. The primary responsibility for proper use of land and water resources, and for their conservation, rests -with the owners and operators of the land, because they are the ones who hold title to it and work it, but the people who live and work in the towns and cities of America need the products of the soil just as much as those who live on the land. Therefore, the urban stake in soil conservation is real and deep. The growing public awareness of this stake, which has swept the country, has manifested itself in many ways, and continues to do so.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) reminded us that city people depend to a very large degree on the prosperity of country districts. Therefore, city dwellers should be deeply interested in irrigation and waterconservation schemes and soil-erosion plans generally. The problems of soil erosion must be faced in Australia and there is need for considerable-propaganda in this connexion. In America, attention has been given to the subject in numerous ways, and many groups are interesting themselves in it. The report to which I have already referred also states -
Soil and water conservation has become a popular subject with luncheon clubs. Commerce and industry are giving attention to the subject in their advertising and promotion works. Illustrators and commercial artists are using conservation motifs in illustration backgrounds and even as the theme of some of their paintings. Not a month during the year has passed without new expressions of interest or inquiry from both commercial and noncommercial organizations and many of these groups to-day are doing yeoman service in helping in the education of the urban citizen regarding his interest in the soil and even in his share of the responsibility for its preservation. Of signal importance is the new interest of churches carrying conservation education to both rural and urban people. Many are working diligently and effectively along this line. The basic fact that man holds the soil and other productive natural resources in stewardship only is being used most compellingly in pageantry. The service has cooperated with the various groups in their conservation education work, and has furnished speakers for annual schools and institutes for both rural and urban pastors and other church workers.
If we are to make a success of our schemes for the settlement of exservicemen, we must not only select suitable men, but must also see that they are settled on suitable land. “Whether men take up agriculture, dairying, poultry-raising or orcharding, they must have the best possible advice and be given all the help that we can give them. “We must take every care to avoid the errors that were made after the last war in connexion with soldier settlement.
.- The purpose of this bill is to provide for one important aspect of the repatriation of our ex-servicemen. The measure therefore is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we have to consider. In the last few years, we have frequently declared our admiration of the services of our fellow citizens in the armed forces, and we shall for ever owe them a great debt of gratitude for what they have done. In all quarters, a genuine desire has been expressed that the men and women who return from Avar service shall be treated not only fairly but also generously. I have no doubt that the Government has every desire to do the best that oan be done for our service personnel when they return to civil life. That also’ is the desire of honorable members on this side of the chamber aud of the whole civilian population of Australia. We all are anxious that, our repatriation schemes shall be effective in every sense of the word.
This bill is designed to assist in the settlement on the land of ex-servicemen, and it is drafted in such terms as to include ex-servicewomen who may choose to make life on the land their avocation. Surely there can be no more natural life for an Australian than to be engaged iu one or other of our great primary producing industries, upon the success of which depends to a great degree the economic stability of the nation. The bill makes it clear that eligibility for the assistance that it provides is not to be confined within narrow limits. For example, a shortage or even a lack of capital or of savings is not to be allowed to hinder ex-servicemen from settling on the land if they desire to do so. Even lack of experience in rural industries is not to be a hindrance, for provision has been made to give rural training to those who desire it. Farming must be regarded to-day, as I am inclined to think that it should always have been regarded, as a skilled occupation, and one not lightly to be undertaken. If those who engage in farming are to have a reasonable prospect of success they must be properly equipped for the work. The bill properly provides for a wide entitlement to the benefits “that are included within its provisions, and surely there can be no more incontestable proposition than that the people who fought for this country, many of them shedding their blood in its defence, should be assisted in every way to gain their living from the land if they wish to do so.
I can conceive of nothing sadder or more disillusioning than the lot of many men who, after the last war, settled on the land, many of them, with government assistance, only to discover in course of time that the conditions under which they had to live and work rendered it almost impossible for them to succeed. This is ?o well known that we can have no ex-
J7V. McEwen cuse whatever for repeating the mistakes of the land settlement schemes that were put into operation after the last war. The most careful examination should be made of every proposal for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, and if the problems are faced conscientiously and sympathetically it will be possible to overcome them and to ensure the success of our soldier settlers.
What are the conditions which will lead to success or contribute to failure? Economic considerations are extremely important. Certain factors inevitably contribute to success or failure. To achieve success the man himself must be of a satisfactory type by reason of both his temperament and experience. Temperament is important. It is not sufficient for a man to be capable of carrying out the manual processes oi farming. Men may be skilled ploughmen, or shearers, or dairy hands, and yet fail in the business management of their undertakings, for agricultural industries are complicated and require more than physical strength. I know of no calling in which business management is so important and in which the credit component requires such careful consideration in relation to turnover, at in farming. Those who engage in farming need to know how to manage their finances. Then the land must be suitable for the purpose for which it is intended to be used. It is of no use, for example, to expect to succeed in dairying on land which is suitable only for wheat-growing or sheep-raising. Land must be used for the right purpose. Added to those factors, there must be what has come to be accepted, after the examination of the last debacle in connexion with the settlement of exservicemen, as a living or home-maintenance area. However the land may be bought by the Government, it must be made available to the ex-servicemen at 1a price that is right, having regard to the general economics of the industry in which he intends to engage. As we are speaking mostly in terms of men who will take up land in an undeveloped or partly developed condition, it is imperative thai the land shall be brought quickly to a condition of substantially full development.
As one who has been a very close observer of the settlement of ex-servicemen, [ express the opinion that the failures after the last war were substantially due to the intolerable time occupied in developing the many undeveloped farms that were made available to exservicemen. There are certain continuing obligations - interest payments, water and shire rates, and the living costs of the ex-serviceman and his family. The whole scheme in relation to a single settler is designed to enable those to be balanced. But expenses of that kind commence from the very day on which a man goes on the land. If it takes him - as it did, from my observation of many hundreds of men after the last war - four, five or six years to develop his farm, arrears of debt accumulate which he and others similarly situated find it impossible to overtake.
One formula for successful settlement is that interest must be fixed at a reasonable rate and within the range of a particular project. But pre-eminent above all of those considerations is the fact that, as the man is to be engaged in the production of a commodity for sale, he must have the assurance of full disposal of what he produces, and at a price which is right, having regard to the obligations and the income in respect of the undertaking he has embraced. These are factors which must be taken into consideration in any general plan of settlement, and in the plan of each settler. They are important, diverse, and complicated. Some of them, particularly the problem of marketing, are very difficult to control. Marketing is outside the control of the settler. Above all, there is one factor that is ever-present and uncontrollable by the operative, the landlord or the Government, in any project connected with a land industry; that is, seasonal conditions. “We know, from all our history of land settlement, that adverse seasons inevitably occur. Therefore, any system of land settlement in broad aspect, as well as any individual project, must be such as will enable the settler to live through the cycle of adverse seasonal conditions which history teaches us will inevitably he encountered in due course. Therefore, this project is not to be undertaken on any cheese-paring scale, by calculating - as so many inexperienced optimists did after the last war - that a man can milk fifteen cows; the price of butter-fat is 2s. 6d. per lb.; the average production of a cow is 7 lb. of butter-fat weekly - or whatever it may be calculated to be; therefore, the income of the settler will be so much. Life on the land is not so simple as that. There are too many factors which are beyond the control of humans, and beyond the capacity of any one to predict. We know that only too well, and my only object in stressing it is to draw attention to the fact that every man going on the land - as these people will - with a burden of 100 per cent, indebtedness, must be pui on a project which, upon, any reasonable examination, gives every indication of his making quite a handsome profit. Only such an expectation will give to him the incentive to meet the exigencies and vicissitudes of life on the land.
I have mentioned the economic factors, which are almost universally accepted as those which involve success or failure in land settlement. But there is another factor, which again, as a very close observer of the settlement of exservicemen since the end of the last war, I stress because of its tremendous importance. Only too generally has it been overlooked. I refer to the conditions of living of the settler, his wife and family and the community. Farming is more than a job of work, or a trade. Actually it is a way of life. It may be said that a man chooses to be a farmer or a carpenter; that both represent manual employment, and are not fundamentally different. There is a fundamental difference. If a man chooses any job of work for weekly pay or on a salary basis, he inevitably retains the right to change his employer, his place of employment, and the house in which he lives. If he is a tradesman earning £5 a week, he rents a house in accordance with his income. Should he become successful, and prosper, the raising of his income to £7 a week is quickly reflected in the renting of a better house. If his wife considers the conditions of life in the locality in which the home is situated so odious as to be intolerable, he can move. This point is basic to the matter of land settlement: That is an option which the farmer does not have when he chooses to make life on the land his vocation. He settles in a certain locality, and takes his wife and family to the home. Having commenced on the basis of a debt obligation of approximately 100 per cent., he cannot, even should he so desire, sell out and move to another farm. Under a plan such as this, his only option is to take up one block. He can, of course, walk off it; but until some years have elapsed, and he has established some equity in the property, he cannot sell out with the idea of buying another place. This factor has to be kept vividly in the minds of the Government, the Parliament, and all others who are associated with the problem. The settlement of an ex-serviceman, I repeat, is more than a mere job; it is a way of life, which fixes the man who genuinely engages in it in a situation in which he and his family are destined to live for a considerable number of years. If he goes into a house that is crude, lacking conveniences, so situated that there is no congenial community life, no ‘amenities, and no services, then unhappiness will probably creep into the home. If the whole history of the land industry is not to be entirely broken, we shall find that these settlers will have their ups and downs, as every one else on the land has had; and some of the “ downs “ last for a period of years. I want to make this point as strongly as I can. If, in such circumstances, the settler, his wife and family find the low income, accumulation of debt, and the hard conditions of living too much to sustain, he will walk off the block. “We speak of the settlers who failed after the last war, because land was bought at too high a price, and interest payments were too great. I do not dispute that there were failures on that account. But I am quite sure that the vast majority of the ex-servicemen who left their farms after the last war were not evicted or “ dunned “ off them. It is true that they were in debt. They found that the combination of unprofitableness, low incomes, hopeless outlook, and the uncongenial and crude conditions of living, were too much to bear. The housing conditions were an important element in that tragic outcome.
I put it most strongly to the Government, that to achieve success in the scheme, and do the fair thing to the men who return from service, it ought to he definitely established that the exserviceman who chooses rural production as his life’s vocation, and incidentally helps to develop this’ country, not only should not be expected, but also should not be permitted to go into a house that is sub-standard compared with the housing of his fellow Australians. We all deplore the existence of slums in the cities, and we want to eliminate them. I do not know how a slum should be defined - whether the definition could cover a single house, or whether there must be a collection of sub-standard houses. Eventually, however, slum conditions must be related to a single home. Deplorable as slum conditions are in the capitals and the provincial cities, I am quite sure that there are even more substandard houses in the country. Whilst it is accepted that sub-standard .houses in the cities are deplorable, it does not seem to he deplorable that there should be sub-standard houses on farms. Moreover, it should be remembered that even the worst house in a city has a paved street outside; it has running water laid on, <a bathroom and electric light; and is within range of a transport system, and within walking distance of a telephone. These amenities are not present in the sub-standard farm house. Not only is the house itself crude, but it has no running water, let alone any of the other amenities.
We have recently been discussing a national housing scheme under which the Commonwealth, in co-operation with the States, will be responsible for the erection of scores of thousands of houses for Australians who do not live on farms. They will be up-to-date houses, with many of the conveniences of modern civilization, even on a modest seale. What kind of houses should be provided for soldier settlers? There is no reference to the matter in this bill, yet it is fundamental to the success of the scheme. Therefore. I propose, at the appropriate time, to ask the Government to accept an amendment dealing with this matter.
– The honorable member opposed the Government’s referendum proposals.
– I do not want to place the discussion of this subject on a party basis, but the short answer to the honorable member’s interjection is that the Commonwealth proposes to provide housing for the Australian people without amending the Constitution. My amendment will not so alter the general character of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States as to make it necessary to refer the agreement to the States for further consideration. The amendment will merely lay down a policy, and it will be found upon examination that the bill does little more than indicate general policy. Even though I may be charged with harping on this subject, I offer no apology, because I am fighting for better conditions of life for the thousands of ex-servicemen and their families, many of whom will live out their lives on the farms which theyare about to take up. If a man living in the city happens to increase his income by two or three pounds a week he can immediately rent a better house - that is, in ordinary times- but the man on the land, even if his farm is paying fairly well, must wait for years to accumulate sufficient out of his profits to build himself a decent house.
I know of nothing which is so capable of devouring capital as a farm, and this is particularly true of a successful farm. The farmer tells his wife that after the harvest they will paint the bathroom, or do something else that needs doing, but it is always found that, even if the harvest turns out all right, there is something on the farm which requires prior attention. The things which I should like every farm-house to be equipped with are really quite simple. It seems almost silly to be urging that every house should have running water laid on, and I should not be advocating it now if I did not know that there are thousands of farmhouses without it. In the soldier settlement in my own district, where 500 men and their families were settled after the last war, probably not one farmhouse was equipped with running water, although it is an irrigation district. The houses were erected, but no windmills and tanks were provided. The kitchen should be properly equipped, and certainly, in these days when we lay some claim to civilized amenities, no house should be erected in the country or in the city without being provided with a water closet. This point should be insisted upon. After the last war, a certain amount of money, about £400 or £500, was made available to each settler towards the building of a house, but in most instances the houses actually built were very crude. In a great many instances, the settler, so that he would have more money for the development of his farm, bought some tumbledown building and moved it to his block. Thus, he started off with a house perhaps 40 years old. Some optimists thought that it would not be long before they could make enough money to build houses for themselves, and that it would be good business to use the government housing grant for some other purpose. Therefore, they did not build a house at all, but erected a couple of rooms combined with a cowshed or stable. Then, things not turning out as successfully as they had hoped, the man and his family lived at the end of the cowshed for years. I repeat, therefore, that we should not only make it possible for proper living conditions to be provided, but we should actually insist upon them. If it is possible for a telephone to be installed and electric light provided, that should be done. Also, community amenities such as roads and schools should be provided. We should not repeat the state of affairs in my own district, where 500 young men, most of them newly married, went to live in a locality without a doctor or hospital. Public halls must be erected, and mail . services provided. It may appear that I have got away from the economics of farming, but I offer no apology for that. I shall be glad if I can focus public attention on the importance of providing proper houses for soldier settlers. It was the lack of proper housing, more than anything else, which caused thousands of settlers after the last war to leave their holdings.
A great many soldier settlers will go on the land with very limited experience of farming. Having regard to the length of this war, and the age of the men who will be taking up land, it may be said that a majority of them will have limited experience. Indeed, in the nature of things, many will have had no previous experience worth taking into account. They will need a great deal of nursing in the form of prior training, and also constant aid and skilful help for a long time after they go on their holdings. I hope that the Government will ensure generous provision of advice about live-stock, cultivation, plant diseases, irrigation, pruning, spraying and so on. This country cannot boast of a very high general standard in its departments of agriculture, which have been starved for money, and, by comparison with the agricultural extension and experimental services in some other countries, Australia has nothing to boast about. Both for the general good and for the ‘particular good of the soldier settlers we must be more liberal in what may be called post-graduate agricultural educational services. Community settlements will spring up. The Government should take into account assistance in the provision of co-operative dairy and fruit factories and community activities of that kind within those settlements, because well-managed and successful co-operative services can be of tremendous aid. In my own locality there is a small co-operative concern started after the last war by the settlers with the pitifully small paid-up capital of £1,700. Because that venture has been well managed it has grown to the point where last year it paid out to its farmer suppliers £50,000 of returns from their products and, in addition, because it was not engaged in making profits for shareholders, a bonus of £3,900, more than twice its original paid-up capital. That is evidence of the fruit of successful co-operative enterprise. I expect that the Minister at the table (Mr. Frost) lias-some knowledge of co-operative ventures. Overriding all other considerations in the success or failure of this scheme and the people whom it is designed to assist is the need to ensure full disposal of the products at fair prices. So it is imperative that by reason of governmental or cooperative enterprise we shall have an organization that will ensure the profitable marketing of the products.
There will, of course, have to be balanced production. Because rice is a profitable product to-day we must not run away with the idea that we can sow profitably thousands and thousands of acres with rice. We must maintain a balanced production in the various agricultural industries, and ensure the profitable disposal of the products of each. Modern equipment must be provided if the costs of production are to be kept down. That involves the provision of not only the equipment that each farm must have for its own operations, but also the equipment that no individual could afford to operate. I hope that an unnecessary burden of cost will not be laid upon the men by slow, costly processes of development that could be avoided by the use of modern devices. Developmental costs are not merely costs of the moment; they enter into the settlers’ capital expenditure, and so become a permanent charge. [Extension of time granted.) I hope that the postholes for the fences will not have to be dug with a crowbar and shovel when modern equipment will dig them twenty times faster. I could cite many other articles of modern equipment that will be needed in this vast programme. On the subject of fencing, I need only cite equipment for cutting down and sawing up trees for the fencing posts and for boring holes in the posts. It would be unforgiveable if the Government, putting its hand to the plough, did not wisely go the whole distance and make that kind of modern equipment available in order to speed the development of the farms. The cost of slow development if reflected not only in the settlers’ indebtedness, but also in failure to get farms quickly into production for the benefit of the nation,
I pass from general observations to particular observations on the bill itself. I did not expect a perfect measure. Perfection is relative. What one man may. think perfect, may be imperfect to another. But I did expect that the bill would reveal to the prospective settlers a lucid picture of what is to be held out to him. It is elementary that when a man contemplates going on the land, one of the first things that he wants to know is the area or value of the land that he will be permitted to take up. But there is nothing in the bill that gives the slightest idea - no, I am exaggerating and I will not maintain that stand, for the bill does indicate that the- area is to be such as to give a man an adequate labour return, premising that he has no money of his own invested. That gives only a useless, nebulous idea of the area or value of the land that a man may take up. So I nm hound to criticize the measure on that score. The bill also fails to indicate that the Government specifies a certain standard in respect of the home to be provided. There again the measure is deficient. In due course, as I have indicated, I intend to propose an amendment on that matter.
We have heard a lot, particularly from the Government side of the House, about high interest rates and, accordingly, I thought that I should find a provision fixing the maximum rate of interest to be paid by the settlers on money advanced to them under this legislation, but there is no reference to rates of interest from start to finish of he bill. I hope that before the secondreading debate ends the Government will clearly and unequivocally say what rate of interest the prospective settlers will be called upon to pay. It is proposed in some instances that the fettlers shall buy the land, and in other instances that they shall hold it on a perpetual lease. The purchase of land is to be made on conditional purchase terms, no doubt, which means that a period of years is to be set down over which the purchase price is to be paid. A rate of amortization has to be struck. The bill is silent on that point. Ex-servicemen taking up land in Victoria are to purchase the land. Naturally, the settler desires to know what rate of interest he will pay on his indebtedness, and how many years he will be given to discharge his obligations. The bill is silent on those matters. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, did not indicate that in addition to the provision of a farm unit, or group of farm units, extra amenities, conveniences or services would be provided. No comprehensive scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen is even nearly complete unless attention is given to these needs.
I sha.ll endeavour to correct the omissions by submitting an amendment at the appropriate time.
In Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania, which will act as agents for the Commonwealth, no settler will have an opportunity under this legislation to own his property in fee-simple. The only opportunity which the settler will have will be to become a perpetual lessee. In New South Wak* and Queensland, this matter was left to the State governments, which decided that only the perpetual lease system shall be available to the settler. This decision is open to strong criticism. Victoria is the only State in which an ex-serviceman will have an opportunity to own his farm in fee-simple. The Government may consider that the perpetual lease system possesses many merits, and I say nothing against the settler being given an opportunity to elect to take his property under that system. But I contend that as the freehold ownership of land is traditional in Australia, itis wrong that the only section of the landed community who will have no option of owning their land are the ex-servicemen of this war. At the appropriate time, I shall submit an amendment with the object of ensuring that an opportunity shall be given to settlers in all States, other than Victoria, to elect whether they will take up their land under the perpetual lease system or under the conditional purchase system which is well established in Australia.
I notice another extraordinary omission. Ex-servicemen may become settler* anywhere in Australia and the islands, with tlie exception of Commonwealth territories. For instance, no provision is made to enable a settler to take up land in the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, Papua or the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. I do not pretend to understand the reason for that, and shall endeavour to correct that omission in committee.
The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Clark). -Order! The honorable member has exhausted his extended time.
– This is one of the most important bills which has ever been considered by this Parliament. The settlement of ex-servicemen on the land must be handled properly on this occasion. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) mentioned that the Commonwealth at the 30th June, 1943, had incurred a loss of £43,000,000 on land settlement. That was not the worst feature of the scheme. The worst feature was that the work which the settlers had done on their properties, was lost.
– They were also given poor properties.
– They were given poor properties, and they worked under bacl conditions. They never had an opportunity to succeed. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) referred to the sub-standard homes in rural areas. The explanation is that the original settlers over 50 years ago were satisfied to erect any sort of rough shack. However, conditions have altered since then, and the residents of country districts may now have all the amenities which city dwellers enjoy.
– But they have not got them.
– It is possible for the residents of country districts to have those amenities. As I stated, many exservicemen who settled on the land after the last war. regardless of whether they were practical farmers or not, never had an opportunity to succeed. On the properties which were made available to them, they could not possibly make a living. I was farming at the time, and knew a number of soldier settlers. After the last war the prices of butter, potatoes and other commodities produced on small farms were high, with the result that purchasers bought properties at inflated values. Some properties had been on the market for 20 or 30 years. “When the demand was created for land for ex-servicemen after 1.918, the owners increased the prices by a few hundred pounds and sold their holdings to soldier settlers. Even if the new settlers had paid an uninflated price, they could not possibly have succeeded. As soon as they began to produce, the prices of primary commodities declined, and the settlers met with disaster. They worked for nothing.
I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Indi that the modern primary producers must use efficient methods. Years ago, farmers and orchardists did not have to combat the same number of pests and diseases as they have to contend with at the present, time. As a country becomes older, the pests seem to increase. Consequently, the primary producer must understand the proper methods of spraying and eradicating weeds. In the fruitgrowing industry, we have to spray our trees ten or twelve times in a season in order to combat fungus diseases, mites and other pests. If an orchardist fails to take those precautions, his crops suffer. In addition, the spraying must be carried out at the proper time. However willing an inexperienced man may be, he will not be able to grow fruit successfully until he has been given proper instruction in methods of cultivation.
One of the problems of the new settler is that he does not know where to market his produce. The result is that he loses some of the return that he expected from his labour. Some people say that we must prepare for droughts and other seasonal disasters, but for primary producers the worst year is a bountiful year. When every producer has a prolific crop, prices are so low as to be unpayable. The Government should ensure that exservicemen who settle on the land shall have a market for the whole of their produce at payable prices. If the harvest is prolific, the surplus should be stored or other markets found for it. The honorable member for Indi stated that the bill did not mention the area of the holdings which will be made available to exservicemen. As a practical farmer, the honorable gentleman should know that the area cannot possibly be prescribed in the bill. Farmers in the Riverina prefer a much larger area than do settlers in the Tumut Valley or Tasmania, where the rainfall is heavier and cultivation more intense. The area of land that a man will need in order to make a living will depend upon the type of production in which he will be engaged, and the locality in which he will settle. A man in my electorate who owns a property of 300 acres pays out about £3,000 a year for fertilizers, wages and other expenses. I know of men who have properties of from 3,000 to 5,000 acres in sheep country, who do not pay very much more than that a year for wages and supplies. Many settlers in the Huon Valley, in Tasmania, own only between 15 and 20 acres of land, but each provides employment for two or three men all the year round, and requires additional helpat harvest time. In the Derwent Valley in my electorate, where most of the hops produced in Australia are grown, a considerable volume of employment is provided on properties of very small acreage. The area of land suitable for hops production is not great, but intensive cultivation is required. It will be obvious from what I have said that it would be ridiculous to stipulate the area of land that must be made available to soldier settlers. I consider that the men who return from the war should be located in country that is already well served by roads and railways. They should not, be expected to go into the outback districts and do pioneering work. I visited the Murray Valley in South Australia recently, and saw large areas of country adjacent to well established irrigation districts, upon which many thousands of soldier settlers could be placed. Large areas of suitable land are also available in the north-western districts and in the Huon Valley in Tasmania. Ex-service personnel could engage in intensive cultivation in these districts, the population of which could be increased by many thousands to the advantage ofthe nation at large.
We should encourage the men who return from the war to engage in such enterprises as fat lamb raising, dairying and the like. I regret that some honorable members arc prone to describe dairying as a kind of economic slavery in which men and women are expected to live almost under the flanks of the cows for about 24 hours a day in order to make a living. I engaged in dairying for a number of years and found it most interesting work. With the machinery that is available for use in these days it would be even more interesting. It would certainly be more attractive than factory work. Many people who have left the dairying industry to go to the city as factory workers have regretted their move and have told me that they have found factory work extremely monotonous. We should not discourage ex-servicemen and women from engaging in dairying and similar rural employment which is not nearly so laborious as it used to be.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) referred to the need for providing modern homes for ex-servicemen and women who settle in country districts. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has every intention to ensure that those who go into rural areas to work after they return from the war shall be provided with facilities comparable with those enjoyed by citydwellers. We all know of the failures of many land settlement schemes after the last war. I do not intend to hold any “ post mortems “. I believe that we have learned a great deal from our experiences at the time, and the mistakes that were made then will not be repeated now. The soldiers who settle on the land should be helped to make good, and they will strive to do so. Those who settled on the land after the last war were full of hope. I found it necessary to tell some of them that they had not a chance of succeeding on the holdings that they occupied because the conditions were unsatisfactory. Practically every one of those individuals failed. We should take care that the same risk is not encountered this time, and that the settlers will not face conditions which will make it almost impossible for them to succeed. We owe to our service personnel more than we can ever repay, and I see no reason why we should not expect to achieve 100 per cent. success in the land settlements that we put in hand in the near future. All of us should do our utmost to help to make the land settlement of ex-service personnel a great success. Over 100 repatriation committees have been organized already in local centres in Victoria and in New South Wales, and many are in process of formation in the other States. These committees consist not only of returned men but also of business men, and I believe that they will do much to help the men and women -who return from the war to make a success of their undertakings.
.- This bill consists almost wholly of draft agreements in regard to war service land settlement, to which the Commonwealth and State Governments are to become parties, but it is regrettable that the agreements contain no signatures. It has not been executed or agreed to; it is really only a draft, and gives very little of the detailed information to which returned men and women who desire to settle on the land are entitled. The nation expects that the men and women who served us so well in the hour of our greatest trial shall receive the most generous assistance in re-establishing themselves in civil life. I regard land settlement as a most important part of our repatriation legislation, but I say advisedly that ex-service personnel who desire to settle on the land should be given the fullest possible information. Yet no details are given in this bill, nor have any been given in the speeches of either the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who introduced the measure, or the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), who has just spoken. A man who desires to know how much money will be advanced to him if he wishes to become a sheep-farmer, a dairy-farmer, a wheatgrower, or an orchardist will not discover it from this bill. No information is available as to whether the limit of advances will be £1,000 or £5,000. No mention is made of the rate of interest that will be charged on advances, nor has anything been said on the subject by cither of the Ministers who have addressed themselves to the bill. Silence has been maintained by the Government also about the term for which advances will be made. At the opening of this session His Royal Highness the Governor-General said in his Speech that Commonwealth Ministers were engaged in conferences with State Ministers in regard to repatriation. Such conferences have been in progress ever since, but nothing concrete seems to have come out of them. Clause 3 of the bill states - (1.) The execution, by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, of agreements between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales, the Commonwealth and the State of
Victoria, and the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland, substantially in accordance with the form contained in the First Scheduleto this Act, is hereby authorized.
I regard that as a most unsatisfactory provision. In New Zealand a carefully prepared scheme for the land settlement of soldiers has been put into operation. Every soldier who desires to settle on a dairy farm knows that he may obtain an advance of up to £5,000, and every soldier who desires to settle on a sheep property knows that he may obtain an advance of up to £6,500 in addition to certain amounts for the purchase of stock, implements and the like. No such information is being made available to soldiers under the half-baked scheme so far arranged by the Australian Government. The draft agreements in the bill provide in general terms -
Land settlement under the scheme shall be carried out in accordance with the following principles: -
That is the only information that is given to the man who desires to settle. It conveys nothing, is hopelessly inadequate, andis couched only in broad general terms. I have learned from another source that the Government pro- poses to advance up to £1,200.
– If that is authoritative, where did the honorable member learn it?
– In an answer to a question that I asked the Minister a long while ago.
– Is that to be the advance for the purchase of stock and implements?
– That is to be the advance with which the settler will have to acquire the property. The costs of building material, fencing wire, farming machinery, and stock have risen considerably. There is no information as to the full amount which the Government proposes to advance. I invite the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) to point to any information in the bill, or the speech of the Minister, which, will enable the prospective settler to decide whether or not, it would be worth his while to undertake the venture, having regard to the limited funds that he will have. I say advisedly that if honorable members opposite are prepared to accept this slovenly measure as an embodiment of the Government’s proposals for the land settlement of exservicemen, without demanding information that will enable would-be settlers to makie a decision, they will not be discharging their duties in a proper manner. Whatever funds may be available, I urge the Government to give consideration to certain conditions. Many exservicemen struggled very hard after the last war as land settlers. I am acquainted with many of them; they are among our most public-spirited citizens in country districts. They are willing and anxious to make available the wealth of experience they have gained as a result of their hard training. Their knowledge should be applied for the benefit of new settlers, by means of local committees, wherever settlement is undertaken. Periodically, this country is subject to droughts. We must acknowledge that fact, and by means of water conservation and reticulation, prepare to prevent the ravages that are caused; otherwise, the settlers will have no chance of success. The provision of substantial funds should be part and parcel of a general scheme foi’ the storage of water in creeks and rivers by means of dams and weirs, so that it may be available to settlers. After the last war, a good deal of land settlement was undertaken haphazardly. Roads were not constructed. I have seen farmers carting supplies of fodder, stores and other commodities through mud up to the axles of their vehicles. That must be avoided on the present occasion, by constructing roads in advance of settlement. Electric light and power must be provided, markets must be sought in anticipation of production, and the men must be advised of the commodities that they can produce with a reasonable expectation of success. Certain restrictions are imposed to-day in connexion with the production of wheat, and the delivery of milk under the zoning system. These must be removed.
– There is no restriction on the production of wheat to-day.
– It was removed only because the Scully wheat plan broke down. One half of our stock died during the drought on account of that crazy scheme, there being no supplies of wheat for starving flocks, herds and poultry. I warn the Government against introducing schemes which will break the heart of any man on the land. The settlers must be assisted by being provided with everything that will enable them to develop community life in their settlements. Schools and public halls must be erected as a preliminary to settlement, and the settlers must be given all the advice that is available to enable them to cope with any diseases that may occur in their stocks or their crops. Where possible, the Government should finance co-operative concerns, so that the products of the settlers which cannot be disposed of immediately may be canned and marketed.
I wish to make a passing reference to the speech which the Minister has circulated. I have never read a speech so devoid of the information we might expect to receive, or one that contains as much evidence of procrastination. I quote these passages from it -
In regard to specific proposals for settlement, the broad procedure is that the State will select land which appears suitable for settlement, and submit to the Commonwealth such particulars as location, area, rainfall. soil types and fertility, topography, suitability for cultivation, liability to erosion, water resources, present and potential use of the land, amenities available, and transport facilities.
All that should have been done years ago.
– When the party supported by the honorable gentleman was in power.
– For the last two or three years, honorable members on this side of the House have appealed to the Government to prepare for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. Only seven months ago, we pointed out that 300,000 men had been discharged from the forces, yet no proposals for land settlement had been advanced.
– That figure is wrong.
– The honorable member is wrong. I sought from the Ministers for the Army, the Navy, and Air information as to how many members of the forces had been discharged, and the number at that time was 300,000. Supposedly, discharges from the 1st October are to be at the rate of 4,200 a day, but the number will be much greater. I continue the quotation from the Minister’s speech -
On the basis of this information, the Commonwealth and State authorities will decide whether detailed surveys are necessary and whether the area can be acquired at a reasonable price. Upon approval being given to this action, the State will proceed with the necessary arrangements and prepare a plan of the proposed subdivision indicating the size of the individual holdings, their use, valuation and other relevant information. After Commonwealth approval of .the plan, the State will set apart Crown lands or acquire the area and carry out the subdivision, development and improvement up to the point where it can be brought into production by a settler within a reasonable time, having regard to the type of production proposed.
The Government has merely called for reports and approved of something that has been done. I have never known of such a hopeless approach to a problem or such procrastination. A further examination of the speech discloses the limited number of settlers envisaged. The Minister said -
The New South Wales Government has submitted proposals for the acquisition and subdivision of 2.1 estates involving a total area of about 300,000 acres. It is estimated that these areas will provide ,for the settlement of about 400 servicemen.
He went on to say -
A proposal for the acquisition of about 00,000 acres for the establishment of an irrigation settlement in the Murray Valley district has been received from the State of Victoria. The State of Queensland ha3 submitted proposals for the acquisition of about 1,700,000 acres, to be subdivided into about 1,300 holdings, which, after allowing for retention areas, would mean an additional 000 holdings … A proposal has been received from Tasmania for the acquisition and development of an area of approximately 36,000 acres. This proposition provides for subdivision into about 140 maintenance area farms.
Those figures are negligible compared with the number of settlements provided for ex-servicemen after the last war, and the hundreds of thousands of men who are in the forces. It is claimed that there are 750,000 men in the Australian forces.
– Where is it proposed in this bill that the number of settlers is to be limited?
– I have in mind the speech of the Minister on the bill in which he said that it was proposed to settle 140 men in Tasmania and 900 in Queensland. In the last war, Australia had 360,000 men in the fighting services, and the number of discharged men settled on the land was as follows : -
Never has a more slovenly plan for the repatriation of servicemen been placed before the Parliament, and never before have we been given so little information in regard to proposed legislation.
.- Honorable members will agree that the fortunes of soldier settlers cannot be separated from the fortunes of settlers in general. The Commonwealth Government can influence the future of the settlers only insofar as it can legislate for the control of marketing, and, perhaps, by guaranteeing prices. The success of any settler is governed by these factors - the seasons, markets, the price ratio, and the cost of production. These factors will determine whether our soldier settlement schemes will fail, as most of them did after the last war, or whether the settlers will have a better chance of success. Our principal primary products are wool, wheat and meat. We have been fortunate in evolving a scheme that provides some hope of stability for the wool industry. We have an agreement with Great Britain for the purchase of our surplus meat, and there are good prospects of stabilizing wheat prices. The Commonwealth Government can be expected to do no more than evolve a general scheme for supervising the settlement of exservicemen on the land. The Government asked the people for increased power to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate more intimately in respect of land settlement, but that power was refused. [Quorum formed.] It is provided in the bill that the States shall initiate schemes for the settlement of exservicemen, but that the Commonwealth may initiate proposals in any matter in respect of which it has power to make laws. It is generally agreed that the Commonwealth has no power to legislate in respect of soldier settlement, yet the Government has been criticized because it bias not brought down a scheme that will provide in detail for the settlement of men on the land. Let us not forget that the chief critics themselves led the attack against the Government’s referendum proposals.
– Does the honorable member think that the proposals should be again submitted to the people?
– I believe that if they were, they would meet with « better reception. However, we must work under conditions as they exist now. The Commonwealth Government must work with the States, which possess, full legislative powers in regard to land settlement. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. MoEwen) spoke of the kind of houses which should be provided for soldier settlers, and he told us of the unsatisfactory conditions under which many settlers are living to-day. I remind him that the conditions of which he complains were created during the almost continuous term of office of governments which he and his political friends supported. When attempts were made in the Arbitration Court to improve the conditions of rural workers the strongest opposition came from members of the parties opposite. Indeed, the Government of New .South Wales, dominated by the Country party, denied rural workers access to the Arbitration Court, and existing rural awards were abolished.
The purpose of this bill is to ratify agreements between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. Because of its limited powers under the Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament cannot legislate as it might like to do. It can only ask for the co-operation of the States in a general scheme, and that is what is proposed in this bill. There are different systems of land tenure in the States, and it is proposed to allow the settlement schemes to be developed in accordance with these varying systems of tenure. For instance, in Queensland, it has been long established that the system of perpetual lease shall be the major scheme of settlement, whereas, in New South Wales, there is a mixture of perpetual lease and freehold title, and in Victoria, I understand, opinion favours the freehold system. From the party political point of view, the systems of perpetual lease and freehold title appear to be exactly contrary to each other ; yet the Commonweatlh Government is expected to harmonize those conflicting schemes in the various States so that they will fit into the general scheme of soldier land settlement. Just how far we can go with the scheme depends on the goodwill of the States and nothing else. In New South Wales, proposals have been made that the soldiers be given land on lease in perpetuity, the rental being based on the productivity of the land. That seems to be a good scheme, offering prospects of success. Another method is to acquire land in safe rainfall areas producing or capable of producing a commodity that offers prospects of a firm and continuing market. Unfortunately, such land has a high value, and, if it is acquired, its capital value will have to be written down very considerably if men settled on it are to have a prospect of success. I understand that the proposal of New South Wales, which has been agreed to by the Commonwealth, is that they should share the difference between the acquired price and the economic price of the land and that the land should be sold to the settlers on terms that will enable them eventually to possess the freehold title.
Mr.McLeod. - If they live long enough.
-If they live long enough, if the seasons are good and prices are payable - all those “ ifs “ have to be taken into consideration. Honorable members will see how difficult it is to evolve a scheme which will meet with the acquiescence of the various States and which has running through it a thread whichis common to all the States. However, as the State experts have conferred and put up the scheme as one with prospects of success, I see no reason why it should not receive the imprimatur of the Commonwealth Parliament. I believe that we have nearly reached saturation point in land settlement in New South Wales. In fact, we have reached saturation point if we are to continue the policy of exploitation of land instead of conservation of land. When this nation becomes much wealthier than it is, when our cost of production has been brought down by more efficient means of production, I believe that we shall be able to recover and restore to its virgin fertility much of the land in the safe rainfall area that has lost its value because the soil has been robbed. But that time is yet to come.
I think it would be more effective to take land for soldier settlement in the safe rainfall area that has lost much of its capacity to produce because it has been worked to death, as it were, and spend £4 or £5 an acre on it, than to subdivide land that is already producing economically and to capacity among other settlers who will not produce in the aggregate any more than is being produced now. I do not think any good purpose will be served by simply changing tenancy, dispossessing people who are contributing to the wealth of the nation to the capacity of the land. I have heard much loose talk about closer settlement. Muddleheaded persons sometimes say, “ We will take an estate and cut itup into four or five blocks, and put more people on it”. That may appear all rightat first sight, but it must be remembered that by cutting up a properly balanced estate into four or five blocks you may give rich holdings to a couple of people, but throw the rest of the estate out of production. That is useless to those who get the less attractive blocks and finally the production is less than it would have been had the estate been left undisturbed. If the present owner is working land economically and to its capacity, the wiser policy is to leave it alone rather than subdivide it. I have seen areas of land on which local farmers, themselves well-founded, look with longing eyes hoping to grab a bit of it, not for closer settlement, but to build up bigger aggregations of land for themselves. Such sentiments as “cut up the big estates “ get the cheers from the farmers near those estates. If it were put to them that it was right and proper for the workers at the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to be given the plant to work by the Government, regardless of the rights of the shareholders, they would hold up their hands in horror, but they see nothing wrong in taking an estate, which is worked well and efficiently and where labour is employed under decent conditions, and breaking it up and distributing it amongst the local “ cockies “, many of whom have holdings that will give them a competence in life. Such statements are made without full knowledge of their implications, and I feel that we should set up not only authorities under Commonwealth control to look after the economy of the soldier settlement, but also a propaganda bureau to educate people as to the possibility of development of the land and the limitations of land settlement in Australia, having regard to the fact that not more than one-tenth of he whole continent is suitable for what we call closer settlement. If you go inland more than 200 miles from the coast in any State of the Commonwealth, you are getting into areas that are suitable only for grazing and big holdings. I think that great benefit would accrue to farm economy if some of the bigger holdings in the good rainfall areas were transferred to State ownership and in exchange the owning pastoral companies could be induced to pioneer bigger holdings in the west as they pioneered the land in the safe rainfall areas in the early days of settlement. lt is often said that the Labour man is an anarchist who wants to tear down everything, but has no constructive proposals for its replacement, but I say that great credit is due to some of the companies that pioneered the land and were fortunate to have sufficient capital to enable them to put it into productive order and pay the workers” a reasonable wage. In the back country one often sees a struggling “ cocky “ who cannot keep hia wife and children in decent circumstances and would be much better off if he worked for wages. He struggles on although he is under-capitalized. If he were properly capitalized, he might be successful, but otherwise he might as well be a wage-worker on the properties of the companies. Unfortunately, for many years honorable gentlemen opposite when in occupancy of the treasurybench, did very little to improve the circumstances of the small farmers. In consequence, people left the land in droves, and as a way of life farming has lost its attraction. It is problematical whether we shall ever be able to popularize it. But the best experts available have been placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government by the States to oversee and carry into effect the principles of this bill. From time to time it will be possible by amendment to make the legislation more workable if anomalies creep in that we cannot see now. Having regard to all the circumstances and the limitation of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, the House may well pass the bill. I feel sure that the experts whose job it will be to give effect to the policy of the Government can be trusted to do a good job.
– Every one wishes to see the soldier settlers succeed after their years of privation and danger.
– I rise to a point of order. Recently, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you ruled, in accordance with Standing Order 262, that in addressing this chamber an honorable member was not entitled to anticipate a debate on a matter on the notice-paper. I draw attention to the fact that Order of the Day No. 15 is, “ Land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen “, and I ask you whether the right honorable member for
Cowper is in order in making any but passing reference to this matter?
– It is true that the Standing Orders provide that an honorable member may not anticipate a debate, but it is stated in May’s Parliamentary Practice that in deciding this matter, the Chair must have due regard to the prospect of the other item on the notice-paper coming up for discussion “ in the very near future “. As it is not likely that the order of the day to which the honorable member for Watson hae referred will be discussed in the very near future, I rule that the right honorable member for Cowper is in order.
– I rise to a further point of order. Order of the Day No. 4 is the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Bill 1945 - a measure validating certain agreements - and No. 15 is “ Land Settlement Scheme for Ex-servicemen - Ministerial Statement - Motion for Printing Paper ‘”. Does it not stand to reason ‘that the bill should take precedence over the motion!
– Order I The Chair has given a definite ruling on this matter.
– I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for not allowing me to be hoist with your own petard.
– I rise to a further point of order. Order of the Day No. 13 has already been the subject of a debate in this session. Standing Order 262 provides–
– Order ! The Chair has given its ruling. I ask the honorable member for Watson to resume his seat.
– Land settlement schemes of all kinds have always involved considerable loss. During the past 100 years, in Victoria that loss has been approximately 30 per cent. However, losses on land settlement schemes are paralleled by losses in ordinary manufacturing and business concerns, and I suppose that losses incurred in ventures of all kinds throughout the community would be approximately in the same proportion. Therefore, we should regard this proposal in its proper perspective, and remember that, if losses are unavoidable, they will not he the only losses that will be incurred in this country or any other country. However, it is important that losses should be minimized. .Soldier settlement schemes undertaken after the last war have involved the loss of £43,000,000 to date. Of that sum £23,000,000 was lost before the great depression of the 1930’s, and £20,000,000 has been lost since then as the result of low prices for primary products prevailing throughout the world. The Rural Reconstruction Commission has suggested that Australia’s loss on land settlement schemes on this occasion may be £60,000,000. We must remember, of course, that this huge loss of money would be accompanied by the loss of many years in the lives of men and women, with consequent disappointments and bitterness.
In view of this dismal outlook, we must examine the causes’ of the losses, and ascertain whether or not they are preventable. It will be found that one of the basic causes is the fact that in Australia there is no unified control of the use that is made of land. The use of land ultimately determines the price of the goods it produces. If an Australian or world glut of certain crops were to develop, the use of the land growing those crops would he unprofitable in direct proportion to the quantity produced. Therefore the use of land must be so regulated that its production will dovetail in with the capacity of the markets of the world, and with the efforts of individual Australians. No provision for that is made in this bill. Control is to be exercised over the price of land, the size of areas to be allotted, and other matters; but such control is useless if the use to which the land is to be put is not also controlled. It may well be that poor land producing crops which are in short supply may be more profitable to the farmers and to the nation than better land producing commodities of which there is a glut. For this control, we require a unified Australian land and food policy. Past experience indicates that the only manner in which we are likely to secure this control is by giving to the Australian Sir Earle Page.
Agricultural Council, certain constitutional standing in this regard, just as the Australian Loan Council has constitutional standing in regard to finance. This would permit use to be made of all existing Commonwealth and State’ agricultural and scientific machinery. Full use of the Australian Agricultural Council - a voluntary organization which I was responsible for creating eleven years ago - would have prevented much of the chaos which occurred on the Australian food front during the war. Only by means of unified control of the use of our land, will Australia be able to meet its international commitments to the Food and Agricultural Commission and to Unrra, and under the International Wheat Agreement. An examination of the principle causes of the failure of soldier settlement schemes shows their intimate relation to that point. This Parliament has a duty to the ex-servicemen, to farmers, and to taxpayers generally, to provide insurances and safeguards against unnecessary los3 resulting from its agricultural policy. It is estimated that 50,000 ex-servicemen will desire to settle on the land, and that this task will cost the country £160,000,000. That is a tremendous sum of money. Success will be twice as difficult to achieve on this occasion as it was after the war of 1914-18, because, owing to wider settlement during the last 25 years, there is only half as much unused land available, whereas twice as many soldiers will have to be settled on the land. On the credit side, however, we have the experience and the lessons of previous soldier settlement schemes to guide us. Experience has taught us that the fundamental factor in the success of any scheme of land settlement is the recognition in a practical way of the fact that farm management is a highly skilled occupation, requiring sound experience of the land to be worked, and of the technique of the particular form of production which ie to be undertaken. Also, the settler must have a temperament suitable to life on the land, and he must possess capacity for financial management - a factor which hitherto has not been sufficiently appreciated. These qualifications can be obtained only through participation in various kinds of farm work, and they can only be demonstrated by actual performance. Therefore, the first condition requisite for the success of a land settlement scheme is a sustained, payable, market for the product of the land that is to be used. This, as I have already pointed out involves Commonwealth and State co-operation in regard to the degree to which crops should be grown under the direction of an organization such as the Australian Agricultural Council. The second requisite is that farms should be of a size sufficient to give a reasonable living to the owners and employees, provided reasonable skill and energy are applied to production. Thirdly, farms should be so situated as to give to settlers reasonable facilities for social contacts, and ready access to water supplies, electrical power, transport, educational establishments, &c. Fourthly, it must be possible to pay wages, comparable with those paid in forestry - the other great land industry - and in city occupations.
The causes of the failure of soldier settlement schemes in Australia have been examined fully by the Rural Reconstruction Commission and by Mr. Justice Pike. The latter reported that about 71 per cent, of settlers succeeded and the remainder failed. These figures are roughly equal to the corresponding figures for civilian settlement schemes. This indicates that the general principles upon which success is based, apply equally to civilian and soldier settlement.
Sitting suspended from 1145 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Thursday, 4 October 1945.
– After having carefully examined the position, the Rural Reconstruction Commission considered that there were six main reasons for the failure. The first was lack of coordination on the part of the States in planning the use to which the land should be put. A typical instance was the awful bungle in the planting of Doradillo grapes by New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria after the last war. The governments surveyed the market, and estimated that there was a demand for £1,000,000 worth of Doradillo grapes. Thereupon, each of the three States planted enough vines to satisfy the entire demand. The result was that when the vines began to bear, the production was three times as great as the market could absorb, and for seven or eight years the whole viticultural industry was greatly disturbed.
– Those grapes were useful only for making fortifying spirit.
– That is so. The use to which the land is put is even more important than the price. The Government must safeguard against a repetition of the bungle, to which I have referred, by ensuring co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States through the medium of the Australian Agricultural Council. The second reason is that, although a qualification test for prospective farmers was provided, the test was invalidated under public pressure. I notice that the present agreement suggests that similar tests will be imposed and a great deal is made of the point. What happened before may happen again. When many ex-servicemen are desirous of settling on the land, the pressure of public opinion will become difficult to withstand.
The third reason is the overcapitalization of stock, equipment and, to some degree, of land, which occurred as the result of attempting rapid land settlement. That position may easily be more serious on this occasion, because bigger forces were engaged in the last war than in the war of 1914-18, and probably more ex-servicemen will desire to settle on the land in the next few years than after 1918. It is important for the Government to train prospective settlers in practical farming methods and arrest any mad rush to obtain land. The fourth reason is that, although the States ultimately made the Commonwealth a partner in their losses, the Commonwealth had no voice and no means of protecting itself, or the soldier settlers, under the schemes which the States desired and jealously regarded as being their sole prerogative. I fear that serious difficulties will arise before the Commonwealth’s scheme is operating smoothly. When I was Commonwealth Treasurer, I provided an amount of £10,000,000 to assist the States, and I had the greatest difficulty in persuading them to adopt a uniform policy for the purpose of handling production.
The fifth reason is that Crown lands available for soldier land settlement were, in the main, those areas which had not been sufficiently attractive to tempt earlier settlers. Panning on relatively poor soils is a highly skilled occupation, and requires expert training. Many soldier settlers were poor managers, and had little experience. The only remedy for that position is to give prospective settlers a practical training in farming methods.
Lastly, a common contributory cause of many failures was the policy of putting men through to »the advanced stage of farm ownership, with its attendant responsibilities, long before they were fit to assume them. In the war of 1914-18, men wasted practically four and a half years of their lives. In this war, the position will he even more acute. Some men enlisted in 1939 at the age of eighteen or nineteen years, and in the meantime have assumed domestic responsibilities. Upon their discharge, they desire, at the earliest possible moment, to establish homes for themselves and their families. Therefore, they will hasten to settle on their own properties, before they have gained proper experience of farming methods, because they must provide accommodation for their families.
These six causes of failure may be attributed to inadequate sustained prices for primary produce, the lack of unified control of the use of the land, and the human equation. In the final analysis, the human equation is probably the most important. Therefore, the essential preliminary to success in the land settlement of ex-servicemen in future is a new rural charter which will give an adequate, return to the owner of the farm and the farm worker. This would enable the training, at reasonable wages, of the sons and daughters of farmers, or the former employees of munitions establishments who desire to settle on the land, to acquire the necessary preliminary practical experience. Amenities such as water supplies and power and communication services generally must be provided at a cost similar to the charge for these services in the cities. This approach would stop the mad rush to get land before prospective settlers had gained sufficient experience. Any unusual demand for land must enhance the price of the land, stock and equipment. Many farmers do not need to work on their properties for the whole year. In certain seasons, farm work is slack. If farmers could then be employed on water conservation and irrigation schemes, and electrical projects, they would be able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.
Every decade increases the contrast between conditions in the rural areas and conditions of life in the large cities. A hundred years ago, Australia as a land for rural development was not very much different from England. To-day, nearly every farmer in Great Britain nas electrical equipment and adequate water supplies. Migrants will not come to Australia, and ex-servicemen will not settle on the land unless they are provided with reasonable amenities. Land settlement should be indissolubly linked with the establishment of electricity schemes and water conservation. As I stated, in slack seasons, farmers and their employees would be able to find profitable employment on those projects. If the marriage of amenities and land settlement could be arranged, it would help to prevent mad rush by ex-servicemen to obtain blocks before they had gained experience of primary production.
Our system of national roads has been greatly improved by the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. The object is to make and maintain our main roads at the highest possible standard. A tax of 2^-d. a gallon was imposed on all petrol used in Australia and five-sixths of the money was expended on main roads and one-sixth on developmental roads. The time has come when the expenditure on- the two classes of roads should be either equal, or in the proportion of one-third on main roads and two-thirds on developmental roads and back roads. If that were done, every primary producer would have access in all weathers to his property. That would reduce transport costs. In my opinion, a principle similar to the Federal Aid Roads Agreement could be adopted for the extension of electricity supplies to rural areas. If a charge of one-fiftieth of a penny were imposed upon all electricity consumed, the proceeds could be used to extend electricity to rural areas. That scheme would provide employment for farmers and their employees in the slack season and would enable the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land to be conducted at the proper tempo, thereby avoiding any mad rush.
The Government must be careful not to make any hasty decisions which will be regretted forever. The settlement of ex-servicemen on the land should bc linked with rura 1 development and the provision of rural communications. If necessary, the Government could continue the system adopted in war-time of subsidizing consumption in order to ensure payable prices for primary products. “Finally, the Government may need to issue directions regarding the size of crops in order to avoid gluts and ensure orderly marketing.
– This bill, which executes an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to war service land settlement, was rendered necessary by the defeat of the referendum last year. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) visited Western Australia, he told the residents of Northam that the Commonwealth Government did not require additional powers to enable it to settle exservicemen on the land. I have no doubt that he made that statement in other places also. Owing to the pressure of “ big business “ the referendum was defeated, and now the Commonwealth must try to reach agreements with the States. I note in the Second Schedule to the bill that Western Australia is one of the three States acting as agents for the Commonwealth, and land made available to ex-servicemen under this scheme will be perpetual leasehold. The success of soldier land settlement and rural rehabilitation schemes depends on many factors. No scheme can be successful unless we have a total rehabilitation, first, of Australia as a whole, and secondly, of the agricultural economy. Any plan would be doomed to failure if an attempt were made to create soldier settlement islands in a sea of badly planned national economy. We owe a debt to the Rural Reconstruction Commission which has shown in its re- ports how the mistakes of the past, which ave been enumerated by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle
Page), may be avoided. Some of the outstanding ones are: excessive capital debt, a heavy interest burden, inflated land values, the wrong use of land, the inadequate size of farms, and the lack of guidance -and supervision.
After the last war, wheat production in Western Australia was expanded even into districts which could be regarded as unsafe rainfall areas. The country itself was of good quality, but sufficient attention was not paid to the rainfall. Where there are cycles of good and bad seasons, the farmers inevitably fail. Mr. Justice Pike pointed out in his report that £45,000,000 was lost on the soldier settlement schemes implemented after the first world war. That loss amounted to £6 5s. per head of the Australian population, or £1,200 for each ex-serviceman originally settled. On the marginal areas in Western Australia, the timber was not good enough for commercial purposes, and the natural undergrowth was not suitable for stock-feed. That country was cleared at high cost, and the greatest cost was the wasted years of the farmer and his wife and family. Yet, to-day, that land produces good grass and is suitable for grazing, with cereal crops as an auxiliary. It is not fair to say that the whole scheme represented so much waste, because those areas are now productive, whereas before development they were worthless. The acreage allotted to each farmer originally was not sufficiently large, but to-day the settlers are placed on grazing areas with the capital written down, and have a reasonable chance of making a good living.
The success of agriculture depends upon the existence of markets for the products of the farmers. It would be futile to expand our agricultural economy and grow more wheat, wool, and fruit, if the produce had eventually to be burned. The first requirement is a demand at payable prices for the goods to be produced. If we are to increase the home markets, we need to provide an improved standard of living for the people throughout Australia, in both rural and metropolitan areas. The present living standard is probably better than it was when between 300,000’ and 400,000 people in Australia were out of work, but a man in receipt of the basic wage of £5 a week cannot rise above a low subsistence level. A high and rising standard of living will create a valuable internal market, but our main markets must be the external ones. I have always considered that the most valuable markets for primary products are those nearest to Australia. We have many millions of neighbours in India, China, Burma, the Malay States, and the Netherlands East Indies. Their standard of living at .present is very low, and Australia has an interest in the future progress of those nations. I should like them to attain their political independence and develop their own economies in order to increase their standard of living. That would provide a huge market which could easily absorb Australia’s surplus products, we, in our turn, taking commodities which we do not produce, such as oil and rubber. This is one of the key matters that should be considered in conjunction with any rehabilitation scheme, or any plan for the land settlement of ex-servicemen.
We should ascertain what forms of agriculture we should adopt. Experience has shown that wheat production has been extended too far into the dry areas. Much of the land now within the safe rainfall area could be employed to better purpose, whilst a great deal of land still awaits settlement. The area of Western Australia is 975,920 square miles. About 76,000 square miles is suitable for closer land settlement. ‘Some of the rest is suitable only for grazing purposes, whilst some is of no use at all. The 76,000 square miles could maintain 2,000,000 people. There is still some 18,000,000 acres which could be used for closer settlement, not only for the production of wheat, but also for the raising of fat lambs, for viticulture, and for the growing of citrus fruits and apples. Much could be done to assist the settlers whom we hope to place on the land, as well as those already there, by a close study of soil chemistry, in order to determine what various types of soil could produce to the best advantage.
We should not expect ex-servicemen or anybody else to settle in the farming areas without reasonable amenities. It is far worse to live in a sub-standard house in the country than in a city. In the past, settlers have hewn homes from virgin forest. They have erected humpies with bag walls, but floors and tin roofs. Some of them have eventually provided decent houses for themselves, but many are still living in shelters which could hardly be described as- houses. Much could be done to reduce the cost of developing farming properties; for instance, by clearing land and sinking dams by mechanical means. If the cost of clearing and fencing land could be reduced by the use of mechanized methods, the capital cost could be appreciably reduced. It is not sufficient to give people a brick or a stone house in the country; other amenities should be provided at a reasonable cost. If people live on their own blocks of 1,000 or 2,000 acres, they should be supplied with electricity. A small and efficient generating plant operated by a diesel engine should be supplied on long terms, so that the farmer could hare electric light in his home and in his outbuildings. He is also entitled to such facilities as a refrigerator, a vacuum cleaner and an electric iron. The provision of running water is most important. Australia has hardly touched the fringe of the problem of water conservation. In the Swan land, enormous areas west of the Darling Ranges do not need irrigation, but in the .farming areas water is needed for household and stock purposes.
A statement appeared recently in the West Australian to the effect that in a week, during a flood period, 300,000,000,000 gallons of water per week ran to waste in the sea. Many more rivers could be dammed, so that water could be conserved and made available to farmers who need it. They cannot afford the cost of reticulating their properties. The capital cost should be met by the Government at a low rate of interest. Telephone services could be provided without agreements between the Commonwealth and the States. If trunk lines were erected along country roads and telephone services were provided for the settlers at low cost, a valuable contribution would be made to the amenities of the people in the outlying areas. I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) regarding the necessity to provide good roads in country districts. I have had some experience of travelling over poor roads after heavy rain, and if only for selfish reasons I would like to see country roads greatly improved. A more important consideration, however, is that good roads would reduce the cost of transport between railway sidings and farm properties.
Other matters of vital concern to country growers are schools and health services. Some country towns have hospitals, but many smaller towns are 40 or 50 miles from the nearest hospital. Some country dwellers Jive 100 miles from a doctor. Not sufficient provision i3 made to safeguard the health of the people, although 1 hope that the inauguration of a national medical service will do much to remedy the present state of affairs. One of the greatest factors in retaining people in country areas is the provision of facilities for the education of their children. In too many instances country people have left their holdings for the cities in order to provide their children with a proper education. Sometimes their farms are bought by other farmers and added to their holdings, thus creating big estates. An area will not necessarily be farmed better by 40 or 50 people than when under the control of one owner, but it does make a difference to a country town if 40 or 50 people, instead of only the manager of a station and a few workmen, are settled on an area. The aggregation of big estates tends to strangle country towns and drive people to the cities. The more people there are in a district the better the social life of the community. Life loses some of its attraction for a person situated 10 miles or so from his nearest neighbour. Where land is not properly cultivated there is danger of rabbits, grasshoppers and other pests gaining control and destroying valuable areas. These matters call for careful consideration. It is not sufficient to place ex-servicemen on the land and leave them to make a success of farming. They must be fitted into a general scheme of rehabilitation of agricultural industries. Only by providing reasonable comforts and amenities for the men and their wives and children shall we ensure a contented rural population.
.I am disappointed with the bill, not so much because of what it contains as because of what it does not contain. It leaves us in the dark as to the details of any land settlement plan. We have been given no information regarding such important matters as the terms and conditions on which land will be made available, the size of properties, and the interest rates to be charged. The Parliament should know what is in the mind of the Government. It is even more important that ex-servicemen who wish to take up rural pursuits should know the conditions under which they may do so, and the types of property which will be available. Another objection to the bill is that it relates to plans for some remote future, whereas what is needed is a plan to bo put into operation forthwith. Every week mcn are returning from battle areas, and numbers of them wish to settle on the land. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) spoke truly when he said that this bill was one of the most important measures that has come before the Parliament. For that reason the Government should take steps to give effect to a real land settlement scheme without delay.
Mention has been made of the failure of previous land settlement schemes. It is admitted on all sides that, although much good was accomplished, those schemes were not so successful as had been expected. Governments were involved in losses amounting to £43,000,000, and, in addition, many private individuals and business concerns lost large sums of money. There was also the suffering and distress of the settlers themselves. In many instances, failure was due to the fact that settlers had little understanding of the conditions which would exist in the post-war years. Other causes of failure were that unsuitable men were placed on the land, and that the land was over-capitalized. We have learned some lessons from the past. The report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission has emphasized the causes of the failures of previous land settlement schemes. In his speech the Minister said -
So far as transactions in land are concerned, the Commonwealth has recently issued a proclamation under National Security Regulations to prevent the transfer of land considered suitable for the purpose of war service land settlement.
That is an excellent regulation. However, I bring to the notice of the House existing conditions in my electorate. Large areas of farm land are being sold, but not to the State for land settlement purposes or to farmers. Many of the farms which are being disposed of are sold as going concerns, equipped with stock, plant, buildings, &c, and are passing into the hands of “Collins-street farmers “. I shall cite one case which is typical of many others.
Mr.Mountjoy. - Does not the honorable member think that land sales should be stopped until all the men now with the fighting services have been demobilized?
– I do not go so far as that, but I have other suggestions to offer. One case which has come to my notice is that of a dairy-farm of 320 acres, which was worked by a sharefarmer. It was sold to a Melbourne business man, and the family of the sharefarmer was turned off the property. Shortly afterwards, the purchaser of the property bought an adjoining farm of about 100 acres. He is not a farmer, but operates the properties as a hobby. Either of those farms would make a firstrate holding for a returned serviceman. Those transactions were passed by Treasury officials, but the State Government was not advised. In order to prevent farm-lands from passing into wrong hands, I suggest that the Commonwealth Treasury should co-operate with the appropriate State department, so that the State may know of land which is for sale and may then purchase it for soldier settlement purposes.
Section 92 (1.) of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945 provides - the prescribed authority may . make a loan … so that that person may -
Section 93 (1.) provides -
The amount of any loan made … shall not exceed -
where the loan is for the purposeof enabling the eligible person to engage in or resume an agricultural occupation - One thousand pounds.
That amount is totally inadequate.
– Order ! The honorable member may not reflect on legislation already passed by the Parliament.
– I point out that although money under that act may be made available by “ the prescribed authority “no authority has yet been prescribed. That means that a person who wishes to obtain a loan to establish himself on the land cannot obtain it because there isno authority to authorize it. I shallcite another case, dating back to December of last year, dealing with the matter. An ex-serviceman wished to buy a property of 140 acres in my electorate. He first applied to the State authority, as he was bound to do, and received this reply-
The department has power to acquire land for the purpose of land settlement but at present is confining its activities to the investigation of large estates . . . The department, therefore, is unable to assist you with the purchase of the area in question. 1 then wrote to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman)., and on the 8th March last, received this answer from him -
Although Federal Cabinet recently approved of this latter scheme for assisting exservicemen apart from the general scheme, details of administration and the exact form which assistance is to take have yet to be finalized
The scheme is not yet complete, and no one can obtain a loan. What help is that for ex-servicemen, hundreds of whom are to-day being released from the forces ? Probably the number will be thousands to-morrow. None of them will be able to obtain the slightest financial asistance from the Government under present conditions.
My last criticism is that the proposals embodied in the bill do not go far enough. The Government would appear to have decided upon an extremely limited target. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, mentioned the number of acres proposed to be purchased in four States. In New South Wales, the area is about 360,000 acres, which it is estimated will provide for the settlement of about 400 servicemen. There is a proposal for the acquisition of about 60,000 acres for the establishment of an irrigation settlement in Victoria. In Queensland, it is proposed to acquire about 1,700,000 acres for the provision of 900 holdings. In Tasmania, there is an area of approximately 36,000 acres which it is proposed to subdivide into about 140 maintenance area farms. In all, there are only between 1,500 and 2,000 holdings, and not all of them have been approved by the Government. After the last war, between 30,000 and 40,000 ex-servicemen were settled on the land. At the present time, approximately 50,000 applications have been made by servicemen who desire to go on the land. Of what use -is a scheme which appears to aim at the settlement of a couple of thousand men, when so many more desire to take up land? Reviewing the whole situation, one cannot help being struck by the fact that practically nothing is being done at a time when everything should be done. Nothing will be gained by making provision for next year. Men are being discharged from the forces now, and they want to go on the land. This applies also to the making of loans. The loan provisions of the Reemployment and Establishment Act should be put into operation. I could mention a dozen persons who applied for loans but could not get them. They are waiting, and wondering when they are to be assisted. It is of no use to play about with the scheme. The Government should now take action that will prove worthwhile for ex-servicemen.
– The debate has been notable for two features: On the one hand, the extreme picture that has been painted of the trials, tribulations and failures that resulted from the schemes for the settlement of ex-servicemen after the war of 1914-18; and, on the other hand, the glowing, glorious picture that has been painted of the amenities and provisions which should be made for ex-servicemen who wish to settle on the land after the war just ended. In addition, there have been statements such as those made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) regarding the inadequacy of this measure, and their allegations that it is incomplete and does not furnish sufficient enlightenment for their mentality.
– Does the honorable member consider it adequate?
– The measure is based upon a very keen research into the unfortunate experiences of men who participated in the last scheme, research conducted in accordance with the instructions of the present Commonwealth Government by a very carefully selected body of men, namely, Professor Wadham, Professor of Agriculture at the Melbourne University; Mr. J. F. Murphy, Secretary to the Department of? Commerce and Agriculture; Mr. C. R. Lambert; and the Honorable F. J. F. Wise, a former Minister for Agriculture and now Premier of Western Australia. It can at least be said that the results of their research have been embodied substantially in this agreement. But in the very nature of things, due to the fact that the States will be responsible for the actual administration, this measure can do little beyond laying down the broad general principles to be followed and the broad general division of financial responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States. It can at least be said that, in laying down those general principles, an earnest attempt has been made by this Government to avoid the pitfalls of the last scheme for the settlement of ex-servicemen. It is true that, after the war of 1914-18 this Parliament, and the government of the day which had entered into negotiations with the then State governments, had at least an opportunity to be generous to the ex-servicemen who were to be settled. It is but fair to say that they did . not have the opportunity which this Government has had to avoid many of the pitfalls that lay ahead. But they did not make an attempt to be generous when they inaugurated the scheme. Like my colleague the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), I am an exserviceman of the last war who became a land settler. When I received an account of my capital liabilities upon entering into occupation of my block, I made a calculation, and learned that the capital cost with which I had been debited was £25 in excess of the purchase price of the block. I discovered that I had been charged £25 to cover the cost of the administration of my financial affairs while I was a settler in Victoria, as the result of the generosity of the Commonwealth Parliament and the anti-Labour administration of that day. Those responsible for that sort of generosity have the effrontery to say in regard to this measure, which at least makes an earnest attempt to place the exservicemen on a financially sound basis at the inception of the scheme, and, in addition, provides that the taxpayer, through the Government, shall bear the cost of administration, that it is vague and does not supply details. The honorable member for Flinders said that he was disappointed with it, and the honorable member for Moreton prattled about being “in the dark”. I did not know that he had ever been “in the light”. Those are features which have made this debate rather a disappointment from the standpoint of getting down to solid facts and discussing the agreement on its merits.
– Does not the honorable member agree that some details are advisable?
– The honorable member claims that he does not know how much land a man is to be allowed to have. The first schedule provides that, in making the valuations, the officers shall have regard to the need for the proceeds of the holding, based on conservative estimates over a long-term period of prices and yields for products, being sufficient to provide a reasonable living for the settler after making such financial commitments as would be incurred by a settler without capital. That is a much more satisfactory method of assessing the size of a man’s holding than would be the provision that the value of the land shall not exceed £5,000, £6,000 or £7,000.
– Provided that experienced men make the decision.
– That is elementary. Because of the experience gained after the war of 1914-18 neither a Commonwealth nor a State instrumentality would put inexperienced or stupid valuers on this work. That is the answer to the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Moreton - that there is provision which will ensure that the settler shall be placed on an area that will enable him to obtain an adequate remuneration for his labours.
– An ex-serviceman would merely be amused by that phraseology.
– That may be. Nevertheless, it will make for a much more satisfactory assessment of the valuation of the holding than would the explicit statement that he shall be bound rigidly to a maximum value of £2,500, £3,500, or whatever it may be; because capital valuations vary with farms of different types. In a wheat area, a man may need a farm of the value of £5,000 or £6,000, whereas a man going on to a fruit block might make an adequate living and be rewarded for his labours on a farm of a value of £2,500. To endeavour to set down all the varying conditions in a bill of this character would be entirely stupid and, indeed, a reflection on the capacity of the State governments to make adequate provision in regard to the capital valuation of a holding, and its size for the purpose intended. I do not want to analyse the agreement, but I shall make some observations which, I hope, will be helpful to those who will have the obligation of administering the scheme. Those observations may be irrelevant, in some degree, to the principles laid down in the scheme. In the very nature of things, this problem should be .approached cautiously, and the ex-servicemen of the war of 1939-45 should not be unduly encouraged to embark hastily on land settlement ventures.
– The .approach could not be more cautious than it has been.
– That is due to a combination of circumstances. It is much preferable to be cautious than to rush in hot-headedly, and in an illconsidered manner, as was done after the war of 1914-18 when an unholy mess was made of the whole matter. I hope that there will be a cautious approach by those responsible, because it is not yet by any means clear as to what the future holds in store in regard to markets for any of the commodities that may be produced in this country. We do not know what facilities there will be on the overseas markets for the sale of the commodities produced by ex-servicemen of the war of 1914-18 and other settlers on the land. I was surprised to learn that the Rural Reconstruction Commission estimates on a very conservative basis that 23,000 additional farmers in Australia would be capable of producing sufficient food for 1,000,000 people^ That fact shows the need for caution in this scheme.
I also hope that, in determining who are suitable to take tip land, the authorities concerned shall not rigidly adhere to the principle of allocating qualification certificates only to men who have had experience in farming. Certainly, they should be given substantial preference; but it would be more satisfactory to base the selection df men primarily on their standard of intelligence and their aptitude to make good at any vocation which they might take lip, rather than solely oh the fact that they have previously been associated with rural industries. The present tendency is1, to accept the idea that land should be made available only to men who have had rural experience. On this point, I recall that Kaiser, who sprang to fame as a shipbuilder in the United State* of America during the war of 1930:45, had hot previously been engaged in shipbuilding. He was a contractor engaged in building dams in Cali:fornia. Yet, due to his natural ability, and the fact that he had no prejudices so far as shipbuilding was concerned, he has made the greatest individual Success of shipbuilding in history. We should be well advised to bear iti mind that illustration when considering the claims of men who are keen to go on the land and can satisfy the authorities that they have the aptitude to make a success of life oh the land. I hope that the State governments and the responsible authorities will not avail themselves fully of the generosity of the Commonwealth Government and go in too extensively for these so-called training schemes to be provided supposedly for men not considered to be sufficiently skilled in farming to be able to take up life on the land immediately. It will be better to work primarily on the principle that only suit able and intelligent men will be selected in the first place* and, that being the case-, they will be qualified to go on to a block and. with the aid of expert advice and the assistance of intelligent neighbours* will most probably make a success of their efforts. Under those conditions, a man will have a better chance of success than he will have after being frustrated in a training course and then being put on a farm on which he will be given more theoretical training and, perhaps, halfbaked practical farming.
After the war of 1914-18 men in “victoria were placed on farms with their families to learn farming practice, and during that training period they were paid a living allowance. Ultimately, it was proposed to put those men on farms. That scheme proved tobe a gigantic failure. It would have cost the Government less to have placed those men oh their blocks in the first place, and provided them with instruction by agricultural experts, and allowed them to benefit by the assistance offered by intelligent neighbours! I hope that the Commonwealth, which will exercise some supervision, however remote, in the scheme, will prod the State governments to ensure that they make available for the benefit of soldier settlers, their agricultural experts and research workers. For this purpose, the States would be justified in withdrawing their advisory officers almost entirely from their present work. To-day large numbers of stock inspectors, dairy supervisors, veterinary officers, agrostologists and all sorts of agricultural experts are going round in every State advising farmers who are already fairly well established on the land. Those officers should be withdrawn from that work and placed almost entirely at the disposal of soldier settlers to act as their guides, friends and advisers under this scheme. I make that suggestion as the result of my own experience as a soldier settler in Victoria after the war 6f 1914-18. That scheme was administered by the Closer Settlement Commission under the able direction of the late Mr. Mclvor, who, incidentally, incurred a fatal illness as the result of overwork. Shocking mistakes were made under that scheme. Departmental experts who were detailed to advise settlers were so ill-paid and ill-equipped with travelling allowances, that all they could do was to find out how many sheep and cows a settler possessed and after filling in those particulars on the prescribed form dash on to the next man and get the same statistics. They hurried on in order to report back to their offices each Friday morning. A t the same time, competent agl costologists and dairy and stock advisers were employed in advising farmers who were already well established on the laud, and had already obtained a grasp of proper farming practice. Not one of those officers ever came to visit me on my block, and advise me concerning the methods I was employing. Perhaps, I would not have accepted their advice, but, at least, if the advice of such experts had been given diplomatically and in a friendly way those men could have rendered great service to settlers under that scheme. In addition, the State Department operated a publications section which issued an excellent agricultural journal and numerous pamphlets dealing with Agricultural subjects. I did not receive a pamphlet on any of the subjects in which I was interested as a soldier settler. These are essential matters which should receive the consideration of the authorities which will be entrusted with the administration of this scheme.
In addition, financial control so far as settlers are concerned should be centred in local centres. Under such conditions the finance officer will know lat first-hand whether a settler is a trier. He will know personally whether a settler deserves financial assistance. The deserving man will be known personally to his banker as it were. Under such conditions the finance office would be able to assess whether a settler was worthy of further financial assistance, or was wasting his substance instead of applying himself to his block. A finance officer placed in such proximity to the settlers would know at first hand who were the good and the bad settlers. Under the Victorian scheme after the war of 3914-18, the man who got the best handout and was tolerated the longest was generally the man who was least deserving of assistance. Those are some of the problems which must be dealt with under this scheme. I shall not attempt to prophecy the outcome of this policy. Regardless of the generous conditions that may be made available to settlers, it is inevitable that we shall have a certain percentage of failures. No one need have any illusions about that. In the main that will be due to the fact that a great number of men will go on to blocks practically without capital. That is a heavy burden to carry despite the writing down of values, the provision of improvements, or the fact that these settlers are to he given a twelve months’ living allowance. Insufficient capital i* the bug-bear of every man going on the land, and it will be the bug-bear of many settlers under this scheme. The man who makes a success of the land usually has a fairy godfather, and starts off with his property fairly well equipped. He has sufficient money to buy essential implements and equipment and to stock his farm. Under this scheme the settler’s stock, equipment, and implements must be financed by borrowed money, and this outlay will usually land a settler in trouble almost from the moment he occupies his farm. For that reason, there will be a substantia] number of failures under this scheme. Those men will require nursing, and I hope that they will be nursed. After the war of 1914-18 we lived as it were in a horse-and-cart stage. The great majority of soldier settlers at that time had not had the experience of using any other form of transport than a horse and cart, or horse and jinker. No one should imagine that ex-servicemen of this war will be prepared to enter the horse-and-cart age ; and rightly so. Whether we like it or not, each one of these settlers will require a utility truck, or car, to take himself, his wife and family to market, or to the local, shopping centre, and to carry his light, requirements from the railway station or the local market. In this respect, I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that the Army authorities have in their possession thousands of utility trucks and other vehicles in fairly good condition. I suggest that a substantial number of those vehicles should be stored, perhaps in buildings controlled by the Army authorities or such bodies as State Public Works authorities, until such time as they are required by the settlers. These vehicles could be made available to these settlers at reasonable prices. They could be sold to them on the same basis as they would be sold to the public through the Commonwealth ‘ Disposals Commission. By making such an arrangement each settler would be saved at least £300 in respect of his capital investment, and that saving would prove invaluable in the development of his farm.
In addition the Army authorities and, probably, the Allied “Works Council hold vast quantities of tools, such as crowbars, shovels, picks, adzes, handsaws axes, mattocks and all sorts of tools which are the most elementary requirements of the modern farmer, as well as more intricate tools. Every soldier settler, unless provided with those appliances under some arrangement by which the Army authorities are enabled to hold them for the settlers, will be required to purchase them through dealers and retailers at substantially higher prices. There is no reason why men in the ordnance stores should not now be employed in putting up thousands of cases of tools for distribution to soldier settlers.
I regret that it has not been possible to ensure that all State governments shall make land available on a leasehold tenure. It is all very well for the settler to think that some day he will have the title deeds to his farm in the old oak chest, but many of the soldiers of the war of 1914-18 will be dead and buried without even obtaining their title deeds, and in the meantime they have made their lives miserable in an endeavour to clear off the indebtedness on their properties. Under a system of perpetual leasehold, settlers would be relieved of much of this anxiety. I commend the bill to the. House, and I trust that, with the cooperation of the States, tie scheme will prove satisfactory to the settlers and to the Commonwealth generally.
– This bill does not provide for a soldier settlement scheme, but for a war service land settlement scheme as the title denotes. In other words, it provides for the settlement of other than servicemen. I am not averse to any deserving person being assisted to go on the land, but I do not agree that it should be done at the expense of servicemen, which would be the case if only a limited number of settlers are to be accommodated. Honorable members of all parties hope that a settlement scheme will be put into operation which will enable servicemen to make a success of the undertaking; and to live in reasonable comfort. If this can bc achieved, it will be in marked contradistinction to the experience of so many returned soldiers after the war of 1914-1S who for years suffered great anxiety and hardship on properties, only to have to leave them in the end. That was because men were .placed on land on which it was impossible for them to make a reasonable living.
The first settlement scheme which the Commonwealth proposed to the States was rejected by three of them. The three others agreed to become agents for the Commonwalth, but Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria would not agree. They were resolved to handle their own settlement schemes with the assistance of the Commonwalth, and under these proposals they are to receive a greater proportion of assistance from the Commonwealth than are the other States. .The scheme is belated in that the land should be already surveyed and ready to receive settlers. The last soldier settlement scheme, with all iti faults, was at least ready and in operation before the end of the war. I agree that many returned soldiers after the last war had a very bad time on the land, and one of the most unsuccessful settlements was in my own district. We must guard against the possibility of such things happening again.
There was a difference of opinion among the State governments regarding the extent of financial responsibility which they would bear, and the extent of Commonwealth supervision which they would tolerate. This is made clear by an examination of the clauses of the agreement itself. Nothing has so far been said regarding the conditions under which soldiers are to be settled on the land, including interest charges and terms of repayment of capital. Thus, it is impossible yet to. state whether the conditions are to be generous or otherwise.
The most important factor making for the success of land settlement is a guaranteed price for farm products, both overseas and within Australia. There must be an assurance that the additional production from servicemen’s settlements can be disposed of at a satisfactory price. There has been no search for markets overseas or anywhere else. I have always held that primary industries must develop side by side with secondary industries, because the only market that we can control so far as prices are concerned is the local market. Development of wisely selected and well-managed secondary industries employing thousands and thousands more people in Australian cities and towns will create a larger home market for primary producers. We must insist that as those engaged in secondary industries will receive high wages and better conditions in the post-war period, which is something to which we all subscribe, the income and conditions of primary producers must be improved. The Australian Country party, so desirous is it that the lot of the man on the land shall be improved, will assist in every way possible to bring that state of affairs about.
The bill does not contain a provision setting out the money that the Commonwealth and States are prepared to expend on this project, not even in the first year. I was not a member of this Parliament when the first soldier-settlement schemes devised in this country were put into operation during and after World War I., but I know that the agreements with the States provided that applicants for lands should know just how much they could get by way of financial assistance. There is much to be said for and against the provision that, before final settlement, properties shall he improved. In some cases it would be wise to improve the land to a degree, but, in view of experiences after World War I., I would not say that the plan is one that we should adopt too readily, because I think that settlers are better able to improve their holdings according . to their desires than are workers employed by the Government to do the job. After World War I., provision was made at a place in my electorate for 200 ex-soldiers to take up 20 acres each for pineapplegrowing. The State Government cleared 5 acres of each block before the arrival of the settler. Each settler was supplied with £500 by the Commonwealth Government. The cost of clearing the 5 acres of sandy soil was colossal - £25 an acre! That accounted for £125 of the £500. The cost of his small home probably accounted for the rest. The property still had to be fenced, the other 15 acres to be cleared and the lot to be ploughed. There was no stock feed to allow the settler to run a cow or two. The feed has not grown yet. The settlers have gone, That is not all that happened to the £500. The State Agricultural Bank would lend an ordinary settler £1,200, hut, in tho case of the soldier settlers, when the £500 from the Commonwealth Government became available, all that the State bank would lend was £700. If a soldier was in debt to the Agricultural Bank in respect of land occupied by him before his enlistment, that £500 was taken by the bank partly or entirely, according to the money owed to it by him. So in some instances the debt to the State was wiped out and a debt to the Commonwealth created. The money just went into the coffers of the State Treasury. I hope that I am right in believing that the bill provides that the Commonwealth Government shall have a voice in the expenditure of the money that it is to advance under this legislation. I hope that the men for whose assistance this scheme has been devised will be provided with more adequate equipment than was provided to soldier settlers under the previous scheme.
If the Commonwealth and State Governments are determined that the property shall be developed before being made available for settlement, they must ensure the use of the most modern machinery in the developmental work. The marvels that machines like pesthole diggers and bulldozers can accomplish in the laying out of aerodromes can be equally accomplished in the laying out of farms at the lowest possible cost. I do not want to see returned men loaded this time as their fathers were loaded on a former occasion with high developmental costs that are a permanent part of the capital structure of the properties. If a settler is to engage in stock raising, an adequate water supply is essential, and for orchard blocks, an efficient irrigation system is required. The bill does not define a living area. Apparently that is to be determined by the States. A measure which was before honorable members earlier to-day, dealt with housing and I trust that under that legislation soldier settlers will be given an opportunity to enjoy as high a standard of housing as that provided for their fellows living in the towns and cities. We must get away from the idea that for the first ten or twelve years the settler and his family must struggle on, living in a tin-roofed shack. Comfortable homes, providing all modern conveniences, including electric light and a good water supply, must be made available. Under a Commonwealth-wide scheme, the cost of providing these facilities for the man on the land would not be great. Roads should also be constructed in the early stages. In the past, settlers have been left to cut their way through dense scrub and to find their own crossings over streams. That is a disability which future settlers should not be permitted to suffer. I shall now deal with the agreement.
The first schedule to the bill provides that an “ eligible person “ means not only a discharged member of the forces, but also - a person included in a class of persons (if any) which the Commonwealth with the concurrence of the State determines shall be deemed eligible to participate in land settlement under this scheme;
Clearly it is intended that persons other than ex-servicemen shall be eligible to benefit under this legislation. It is significant that “ war service “ has the same meaning in this measure as is given to it in section 4 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. It will be recalled that the Opposition fought that section, and, in fact, succeeded in having an anomaly which would have permitted enemy aliens to benefit under that legislation, removed. Unfortunately, the act still provides that its benefits may be extended to aliens engaged in Labour Corps. The schedule provides that settlement shall be undertaken only where economic prospects for the production concerned are reasonably sound, and that the number of eligible persons to be sot-Mod shall be determined primarily by opportunities for settlement and not by the number of applicants. As applicants will include persons other than returned soldiers, it is obvious that many exservicemen who wish to settle on the land will not have an opportunity to do so. Applicants shall not be selected as settlers unless a competent authority is satisfied as to their eligibility, suitability, and qualifications for settlement under this scheme, and their experience of farm work. Obviously, it would not be sound policy to establish on the land exservicemen who had no experience of farm work. Ex-servicemen will have an opportunity to qualify for land settlement, particularly by association with successful farmers. It is gratifying to note that a person deemed suitable for land settlement will not be precluded from settlement because of lack of capital. The agreement provides that the Commonwealth shall provide financial and other assistance. The Commonwealth is to bear half the cost of this scheme. The States will have to carry out the surveys and execute the settlement schemes. The Commonwealth agrees to bear the cost of Commonwealth administration of the scheme. It will also provide training; and pay to applicants selected for training, living allowances and certain transport and other expenses incidental to their training. The Commonwealth will also make a capital contribution in respect of each holding of an amount equal to one-half of the excess of the total cost involved in acquiring, developing! and improving the land and improvements. One-half of the losses incurred by a State in pursuance of arrangements for the making of advances to settlers, to provide working capital, and to pay for improvements and to acquire stock and plant, will be borne by the Commonwealth. All financial matters relating and incidental to the carrying out of this scheme will be arranged in a manner satisfactory to the Commonwealth and the States.
I hope that the Commonwealth will insist on its rights and ensure that the full money which it desires should be expended shall be expended, and that the ex-servicemen shall receive a fair deal. The land will be valued by officers appointed by the Commonwealth and the
States, in consultation. I hope that the Commonwealth will secure the services of valuers possessing a knowledge of local conditions, because Australia is a vast country with varied climatic conditions, toils and crops. The State will bear one half of the cost involved in the remission of rent, and one half of any losses incurred by it in pursuance of arrangements made in accordance with clause 15 of the first schedule. Clause 15 provides that the State shall make such arrangements as may be approved by the Commonwealth for the making of advances to settlers upon such conditions as may be agreed upon between the. Commonwealth and the State for the purpose of providing working capital and paying for and effecting improvements and acquiring stock, plant and equipment.
A member of the forces, before his discharge, will be eligible to apply for a block, but may not participate in any of the benefits until he has been demobilized. I hope that this provision does not mean that the Government will not proceed to improve his property for him during his absence should he so desire. Any eligible person may apply to participate in this scheme not more than five years after» the _ 15th August last, or the date on which he ceased to be engaged on war service, whichever is the later. In other words, five years after he has been discharged from the Array, an ex-serviceman will not be eligible to participate in these benefits. Every day’s delay in giving effect to this scheme will reduce the period during which many ex-servicemen will be entitled to this assistance. Probably another year will pass before they are settled on their properties. I regret that no assistance has been provided for- ex-servicemen who, before enlistment, possessed areas of land and began to develop their farms. Probably they had very little money.
– That position is covered in the schedule.
– Then it is lost in a maze of verbiage. It is necessary that assistance be given to an ex-serviceman who has worked on his own property, even though be lacked the necessary stock and machinery. The benefits which the bill will extend to new settlers should also be granted to that type of ex-service man. This is a serious omission. One extraordinary feature of the bill is the failure to allow an ex-serviceman settling on the land to secure the freehold of his property. In the early days of the settlement of Australia, the greatest reward that could be bestowed upon the citizen was to give him the title to an area of land. In Queensland, every landless person had the right to acquire freehold land for 2s. 6d. an acre payable in ten years. But under the Government’s scheme, the ex-serviceman who settles on the land will have no such right. I consider that he should be granted land, and should not be required to repay interest or principal. He has earned that land. What section of the community has done more to deserve this right than the servicemen ? It would be a generous gesture to give them the land. Of course, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) declared that to grant people the freehold of their properties would make then “little capitalists”.
– Would the honorable member make them “big capitalists”?
– A farmer who has secured the freehold of his property is not necessarily a “big capitalist “.
– Of course, the statement was not made seriously.
– It is not suggested that persons should be permitted to secure the freehold of large grazing properties.
– Could this Government do that?
– The Government could do anything in agreement with the States. Had the Commonwealth sought power at a separate referendum to administer the settlement of exservicemen on the land, the people would have voted in favour of the proposal. But the Government wrapped up that issue with communism and socialism in the hope of grabbing everything. As it was, the Government did not get anything. The States will not transfer to the Commonwealth any of their powers. They had the opportunity, by agreement, to grant to the Commonwealth power to administer the settlement of exservicemen on the land, but they declined to do so. New South Wales, Victoria and
Queensland “were determined to administer the scheme themselves, and rejected the Commonwealth proposals at the last referendum.
– That was the fault of the then Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan.
– Never mind about Mr. Dunstan! New South Wales and Queensland, which have Labour governments, voted against the referendum.
– We are not responsible for them.
– They are this Government’s political brothers. The first schedule provides that a mettler, following the allotment of a holding to him, may be granted a living allowance for one year at such rate and subject to such conditions as may be determined by the Commonwealth. I should like the Minister to inform me what the living allowance will be. At least one-half of the net proceeds received from the property during the assistance period will be credited to future obligations in respect of stock, plant and equipment. Obviously, the Government does not propose to allow the settler any pocket money. He will have to practise thrift.
I have now outlined the principal features of the scheme. Unfortunately, honorable members have not been given any information about the administrative machinery or the proposals for marketing the produce from the properties of exservicemen. I should like the Minister to inform me whether homes will be erected for these settlers, and what machinery will be provided for them. The settlers will incur substantial losses unless we give to them the opportunity which they deserve. Let us show our appreciation of their services, not in words, but in practical aid.
, - This is an important bill, and, although at this hour of the morning 1 shall not make a long speech on it, 1 consider that those of us who represent country areas, and have a knowledge of previous soldier settlement schemes, should make a contribution to the debate. 1* fear that the lessons to be learnt from soldier settlement after the first World War may be overlooked. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) spoke with experience and knowledge on this subject, and I agree with him that we should proceed with caution. Of course, there has been so much caution on the part of the Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Dedman) that ex-servicemen who have been on the land for a considerable time have been unable to get a satisfactory reply from him with regard to the assistance that may be expected from the Government. I have a letter before me from an ex-soldier now on the land who requires assistance in the provision of stock and equipment. He is an experienced settler, and, although six years have elapsed since the outbreak of hostilities, he is still being told that if, and when, the proper authority is established, he may apply for assistance, and then a determination may be reached as to what help will be granted to him.
Much has been said regarding the failure of soldier land settlement after the first World War. I apprehend that the factors which contributed to the failure of that scheme are present to-day, namely, inflated costs of land and stock, high prices for various foodstuffs, and a prospect in the years ahead of a noncontinuance of those prices. The following table shows the prices of farm products when ex-servicemen were settled on the land in 1920-21, compared with the prices about ten years later: -
Those figures tell the story of the failure of the earlier soldier settlement scheme. In 1943-44, the price of fat sheep and lambs was within a few shillings of the figure reached in the boom period of 1920-21. A similar position arose in regard to pigs, and it was substantially the same in respect of butter-fat, fat lambs, and somewhat similar commodities.
– Those prices remained stable for many years.
– They progressively declined from 1920-21 to 1930-31, until they reached their lowest point in 1932-33. The lesson to be learnt is that soldier settlement cannot be successful unless rural industry as a whole is prosperous.
– The farmers cannot be prosperous unless the workers are also.
– I agree. The government of the day and successive governments must take proper steps to regulate the prices of all primary products such as butter, wheat and meat. I do not suggest that a simple solution of the problem can be found, but an attempt to solve it must be made in order to overcome the difficulty that arises when the markets of the primary producers collapse and they find themselves working for the equivalent of half of the basic wage, or are even operating at a loss Such a loss is not tolerated in other industries. We require long-term agreements for fixing the prices of primary produce. The matter of subsidies will have to be considered with great interest and determination, in order to ascertain whether the practical difficulties can be overcome. It may mean that a policy of restricted production will have to be considered. As the honorable member for Ballarat pointed out, and as the report stated, it is not wise to put exservicemen on the land to grow products of which there is already a surplus, thereby increasing that surplus. It may be necessary for Commonwealth and State governments, through the Australian Agricultural Council, to agree to a maximum production of certain specified products. The crux of the soldier settlement problem is a guarantee of a continuity of payable prices for their products. If that cannot be assured, the success of soldier settlement cannot be assured.
I cannot see in the bill any provision to enable a man to go on the land unless he has first passed the tests required by the Qualifications Committee. The committee which made recommendations to the Government had a worthy object in view when it sought to eliminate men without experience, and to ensure that those who were accepted as settlers had had experience, but apparently it had no first-hand knowledge of successful men who had had no previous experience on the land. I know that there have been many failures, but in my electorate there are numbers of successful primary producers who had no experience on the land before taking up holdings on their own account. I refer now not only to soldier settlers, but also to other intelligent, hard-working men who studied text books and obtained information from various sources, and adopted modern methods, with the result that they have been outstanding successes. Had they been soldier applicants, they would not have possessed qualifications to satisfy the committee. I do not suggest that the committee should at once open its books to such men, but I point out that many men now in the services will acquire land on their own account when they return. These men will succeed up to the point that their limited capital will permit. I suggest that provision be made for men of that type - men who will put their deferred pay and their savings into farms and at the end of two or three years will have proved themselves to be good settlers - to satisfy the Qualifications Committee as to their fitness, so that they may be admitted into the category of men to whom assistance under the scheme may be granted. That would meet the practical suggestion of the honorable member for Ballarat who took some exception to the method of selecting candidates. The bill is an attempt to do the right thing by eliminating men who have some desire to go on the land but not the qualifications which make for success. The Minister may be able to show that the bill contains provision for the class of men to whom I have referred, but if not, I hope that at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers this matter will be discussed.
I am strongly of the opinion that the bill should make provision for servicemen of the war of 1914-18. Many of the soldiers of that war who settled on the land are still struggling under a burden of debt which they cannot hope to lift.. Some of them are living under deplorable conditions. I submit that they are entitled to the same consideration as this legislation will give ‘to servicemen of the war that has just ended. Without some assistance, these older men have no hope of success, and therefore I trust that their case will be given sympathetic consideration.
I realize the futility of attempting to influence a government which has made up its mind, but this subject is of such importance to many thousands of men who will settle on the land that ‘I have brought these matters forward. Unless the lessons of the years 1921 and 1922 and 1930 and 1931 are heeded, and the mistakes of those periods avoided, all the goodwill in the world will be of little avail to the men to whom we owe so much.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
New clause 4.
– I move -
That, after clause 3, the following new clause be inserted: - “4. The Minister shall arrange with the authority administering each territory of the Commonwealth for. the adoption in each such territory of a scheme of war service land settlement conforming generally to thescheme of war service land settlement specified in the schedules to this act.”
This is the only legislation that has been brought before the Parliament for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, yet it does not make provision for settlement in the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, Papua or the Mandated Territory.Regard must be paid to this omission. The effect of the insertion of the proposednew clause would be to introduce into the bill the aspect of land settlement in Territories of the Commonwealth. The only new feature of the proposal is that it stipu lates that the Commonwealth shall not leave its own territories without provision.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Having due regard to the title of the bill, it appears to me that the proposed new clause is not relevant to and does not come within the scope of the measure.
.-I am disappointed that the Minister did not reply to my observations in relation to land settlement in the Territories of the Commonwealth. One cannot force the Minister to do so. I move -
That, in the first schedule, clause 3, after paragraph (e), the following new paragraph be added: - “ (f) Suchsteps as are appropriate shall be taken to ensure that the standards of construction and services of houses of settlers are at least equal to the standards generally adopted in government and governmentapproved housing schemes in Australia.”
The first schedule in its present form provides that regard shall be paid to the principles that settlement shall be undertaken only where economic prospects for the production concerned are reasonably sound, and that the number of eligible persons to be settled shall be determined primarily by opportunities for settlement and not by the number of applications; that applicants shall not he selected as settlers unless a competent authority is satisfied as to their eligibility, &c. ; that holdings shall be sufficient in size to enable settlers to operate efficiently and to earn a reasonable labour income ; that an eligible person deemed suitable for settlement shall not he precluded from settlement by reason only of lack of capital; and that adequate guidance and technical advice shall be made available to settlers. To all of those principles, the committee can subscribe ; but they fail to pay regard to the most humane aspect of all, namely, the living conditions of the settler. The authority engaged in settlement will have to make sure that the land is suitable for the grazing of cows and sheep, but the bill is completely silent about the kind of house which the settler, his wife and family shall occupy. I thought that, having raised this matter earlier, the Minister might have made some reference to it before the conclusion of the secondreading debate. As he failed to do so, I again directed attention to it. I have no doubt that, if the Minister was not in the chamber when the observations were made, he will have heard since that other members of the committee and I urged that settlers should not be required to live in sub-standard homes under this settlement scheme, as were settlers under previous similar schemes. There is nothing in this measure to ensure that that shall not recur. That appears to be an aspect which, as the measure now stands, will be left entirely to the judgment of the States, certainly those States which are to act as principals. I hope that the Minister will not claim that the Commonwealth has reached an agreement with the States, of a nature which would be violated if it were specifically to provide that a standard of housing should be assured to the settler, comparable to the standard of housing provided for other inhabitants of Australia. The matter is not covered, and because of previous experience I am fearful that it may not he properly attended to. Consequently, I urge the Government to accept the amendment.
, - The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Any amendment of the schedule would involve referring the whole agreement to another conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Secondly, the point he raises is safeguarded in sub-clause S of clause 6 of the first schedule, which employs the phrase, “ A reasonable living”, and that can be interpreted to include reasonable housing conditions. In addition, arrangements have been made that the information supplied to the Commonwealth under clause 10 (b) and (c) will include full details of amenities available in each district, and the nature of housing on the land to be acquired The Commonwealth will guarantee that the housing on these blocks will be of good standard.
.- 1 am very disappointed that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will not accept my amendment. I am surprised to hear him say that the acceptance of my amendment would necessitate referring the agreement back to the State governments. Such « statement is incredible. The Minister comes close to the mark when he say’ that he will give an assurance that settlers will be guaranteed a good standard of housing. But “good” is relative. What I want the Minister to say is that these soldier settlers will be provided with housing of a standard at least as good as that of houses provided under the government housing scheme, or government-approved housing schemes. This involves a principle for which all honorable members should fight. It is the principle that the man who goes on the land to make a living is entitled to as good a home as a man who makes his living in a town or city.
– I give that assurance to the honorable member; but I point out that it is not always possible to provide all services that are desirable, for example, electricity. Apart from such unavoidable exceptions, the standard of housing to be provided under the scheme will be as good as housing standards in cities.
– The Minister has resolved my problem. I simply urge that in respect of the standard of construction and average size the homes to be provided under this scheme shall be comparable with homes provided under government housing schemes. I also want to be assured that a domestic water supply will be laid on, and that modern sanitary conveniences wall be provided in every home. I should not raise the matter if it were not for the fact that to-day these merest conveniences of life are extraordinarily rare in country homes and the homes of settlers of thi« type. I am prepared to put up a fight for proper conditions of life for these men who are to-day being released from orison er-of-war camps, and are leaving behind them the life they have lived in the services. These men will go on the land with the object of marrying, and bringing up their families on the land. For them the land will not merely be a job for a few weeks from which they can move on when they improve their position, but will represent their way of life for the rest of their days. If the Minister will endorse those standards I shall be happy to accept his assurance.
– I have given the honorable member the widest assurances that it is possible for me to give. Subject to those amenities which cannot be provided in country districts, the standard of houses to be provided under this scheme, and everything in connexion with these hopes, will be equal to that of houses provided for workers in the cities.
The following bills were returned from the Senate : -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill 1945-40.
Income Tax Bill (No. 2) 1945.
Social Services Contribution Bill 1945.
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1945-46.
Bankruptcy Bill 1945.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1945.
National Welfare Fund Bill 1945.
Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1945.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1945.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the year ended the 30th June, 1944, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1943-44, for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
Supplementary Estimates for Additions. New Works,buildings, etc., 1943-44.
That therebe granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1943-44 for the purposes of Additions, NewWorks, Buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £319,754.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Lazzarini and Mr. Chifley do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
These Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure which relate to the financial year 1943-44 total £2,015,224. That sum was expended out of a general appropriation from revenue of £6,000,000 made available to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to meet items of expenditure which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared. It is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation to cover the several items of excess expenditure.
Full details of the expenditure which is now submitted for approval were included in the Estimates and Budget Papers for 1944-45. These publications show the amount voted for 1944-45, together with the actual expenditure for the previous year which is included for informative purposes. Details are also included in the Treasurer’s Finance Statement for 1943-44, which has recently been tabled for the information of honorable members.
The Supplementary Estimates show details of how the additional amount for which approval is now sought was expended by the various departments. The chief items in round figures were -
Any further details of the various items of expenditure will be available at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and read a first time.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa - Minister for Works and Housing and Minister for
That the bill be now read a second time.
The total appropriation passed by Parliament for works and services under this heading amounted to £4,870,000. The actual expenditure was £4,677,000, or £193,000 less than the appropriation.
Due, however, to requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, certain items show an increase over the individual amounts appropriated, and it is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval to these increases.
The excess expenditure on the particular items concerned totals £319,754, which is spread over the various works items of the departments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation received.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising of moneys to be advanced to the States for the purposes of housing.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lazzarini and Mr. Chifley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lazzarini, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain a loan appropriation of £15,000,000 to be applied in making advances to the States of capital funds for housing under the Commonwealth and State housing agreements. Under the agreements, the Commonwealth will advance the initial capital funds to the States, subject to stated conditions as to interest and repayments. These conditions are set out in clause 6 of the agreement in the schedule to the Commonwealth and State Housing
Agreement Bill. Certain rental houses already erected by the State governments since December, 1943, are brought within this arrangement, and in respect of capital expenditure to the 30th June, 1945, for these houses and for sites already acquired, the States will require approximately £1,750,000. The loan programme for 1945-46, . approved at the last meeting of the Loan Council, for rental houses under the agreements will require approximately £10,500,000. The balance of the £15,000,000 being sought in this bill will provide the necessary appropriation to enable the building programme to proceed in the early months of the next financial year, 1946-47, pending a further appropriation following on consideration of the 1946-47 rental housing programme under the CommonwealthState agreements.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. FORDE - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the imposition, assessment and collection of a contributory charge upon certain wool produced in Australia, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In the course of my second-reading speech on the Wool Realization Bill, reference was made to the intention to introduce separate legislation to provide for the collection of a contributory charge for the purpose of meeting the industry’s share of the expenses incurred under the disposals plan. The Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill is now introduced for this purpose.
The contributory charge is not to come into operation until a date to be proclaimed. That date will not be before the 1st July, 1946. The necessary legislation, however, is being submitted to Parliament at this stage because it is part and parcel of the wool realization scheme and needs to be considered in conjunction with the other legislation relating to that scheme.
The proceeds of the contributory charge will be devoted to meeting the share of the industry in the operating expenses of the disposals plan, in addition to paying interest upon the amount of money invested by the Commonwealth Government in wool. . It is intended that the contributory charge shall, for the period of its duration, supersede the present wool tax, which is collected at the rate of 2s. a bale and is applied to wool publicity and research. When the contributory charge becomes payable on and from the date to be proclaimed, wool which is subject to the charge will cease to be subject to wool tax. Provision is made in clause 14 for the setting aside, for wool publicity and research, of a sum equal to the amount which would have been otherwise collected under the present Wool Tax Act. The present wool tax will remain in full force and effect until the contributory charge comes into operation.
Unlike the present wool tax, which is imposed at the rate of 2s. a bale, it is proposed that the contributory charge shall be levied as a fixed percentage of the value of the wool. As foreshadowed in dealing with the Wool Realization Bill, there will be a resumption of the system of auction sales of wool by wool-selling brokers, and the contributory charge will come into operation when those sales are resumed. The main bulk of the wool which will become the subject of contributory charge will be disposed of at these sales and the wool so sold will bear charge based upon the amount for which the wool is sold, whether it is purchased by commercial buyers, or bought in by the Wool Realization Commission at the auction reserve price. In such cases, the selling brokers will be required to furnish returns and to pay charge on the sale price of the wool, and they will deduct the charge from the proceeds payable to the vendors of the wool. Brokers will also be required to pay charge on sales of wool effected by them other than at auction.
The foregoing arrangements will account for contributory charge on most of the wool produced in Australia. In some cases, however, manufacturers will acquire wool which has not been sold by a broker, and which has therefore not borne charge. In some instances, the manufacturer may, in fact, be the producer of the wool. In other cases, he may apply manufacturing processes to wool owned by some other person. It is provided that, in all of these cases, the manufacturer shall lodge periodical returns and pay charge in respect of all wool which has not previously borne charge and which is subjected by him to a process of manufacture. Manufacturer, for this purpose, is defined in the bill to mean a person who subjects wool to a process other than scouring, carbonizing or fellmongering. Persons whose activities are confined to scouring, carbonizing or fellmongering will not, therefore, have to furnish, returns and pay charge.
Where the manufacturer processes wool purchased by him direct from the grower, it is proposed that the charge shall be calculated on the landed-into-factory cost of the wool. Where the manufacturer processes wool which is the property of other persons and which has not previously borne charge, the manufacturer will be required to submit the wool for appraisal at an appraisement place established or registered as such by the Wool Realization Commission. That manufacturer will be liable to pay contributory charge on the appraised value of that wool and will be authorized by the law to recover the charge from the owner of the wool.
Some persons will export wool which has not been sold by a broker and has not previously borne charge. In some such cases, the exporter will be sending the wool to London and may desire to pay charge on a value other than an Australian appraised price. The bill provides that in such cases the Commissioner of Taxation may enter into an arrangement for payment of charge on a sale value arrived at as specified in the arrangement, and may issue a certificate authorizing the export of the wool without prior payment of charge. In other cases, exporters of wool which is liable for charge will be required to submit the wool for appraisal and to pay charge on the appraised value of the wool.
The bill provides that a ship’s agent shall not accept wool for export unless and until the exporter produces evidence that the wool is not subject to charge, that charge has been paid thereon, or that arrangements to the satisfaction of the Commissioner have been made for payment of charge. The Commissioner will issue certificates as evidence in this regard. Manufacturers who process wool which has previously borne charge will also rely on certificates of payment of the charge to relieve them from further liability. The contributory charge will apply to all sheep’s and lambs’ wool produced in Australia, whether greasy or scoured, including fellmongered wool. Where sheepskins are exported they will be submitted for appraisal and charge will become payable upon the appraised value of the wool on the skins. Sheepskins will not be otherwise subject to charge, as the charge will, except in respect of exported sheepskins, fall upon the wool recovered from the skins in Australia.
The question of the frequency of returns to be lodged by brokers and manufacturers is still under consideration. At the moment, it appears likely that the returns will be required monthly, and that payment of charge in respect of the transactions of one month will be required during the following month. However, these matters, and the actual forms of return, will be determined in regulations which will be made in due course after a full survey of the position.
It is proposed to take full advantage of the existing organization for the collection of taxes by, placing the administration of the act in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxation. In order that the Commissioner may, in this connexion, have powers similar to those entrusted to him in respect of his normal functions the greater part of this bill comprises machinery provisions based on those which are common to the taxation acts generally. Briefly, these relate to the obtaining of information and evidence, the collection and recovery of charge, penalties for breaches of the law, ana the keeping of proper books and accounts by persons required to pay contributory charge. I have no doubt that honorable members will readily accept this measure as a necessary part of the wool realization scheme. Although the charge may appear to assume the form of a tax, it is not a tax in the normal sense of that term and is definitely limited to providing funds for the purposes of the disposals plan, and for the purpose of the present wool tax legislation.
I have had a conference with certain honorable members interested in the wool industry. The bill has been explained to them and they have been given copies of my speech. I understand that in the circumstances they will be prepared to give this measure a speedy passage.
– This is a machinery bill. It deals with the contributory charge which growers will have deducted from their cheques to meet certain costs incidental to this scheme. The first point is that the measure will not be proclaimed until the 1st July, 1946. The position this year is that the wool will be appraised on the average price operating for the last two seasons, and the proceeds of the contributory charge will be devoted to the payment of half the cost of the administration of the wool disposals plan, and to meet interest charges on the £40,000,000 which is Australia’s share of the £100,000,000 wool pile awaiting disposal, plus any money expended in buying in wool at the reserve price. It may seem that a large amount of money is involved in interest payments, but we must realize that while we are buying in to the amount of £40,000,000 over four years, the proceeds from any wool sold from this wool pile will be applied towards reducing the Australian capital charge. If sales proceed satisfactorily this amount may not reach great proportions. If the Government had been more generous, it could have made some contribution to this interest charge, as it is making a contribution towards the cost of administration ; but, apparently, the Government believes that its share in the gamble of losses or profits is sufficient, and that the industry, in return for a guarantee of stabilized prices, should bear the burden of the interest charge. The contributory charge will be made by way of a percentage reduction from growers’ cheques, and will also include the wool levy which has been collected in the past. To prevent any one escaping this charge through selling direct to manufacturers or by any other means, the charge will be collected at three points, namely, through the selling broker on the auction floor, through the manufacturers, or at the point of export. The Opposition does not oppose the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That a contributory charge be imposed on all wool -
That the rate of the charge be such percentage as is prescribed by regulations under the Act to give effect to this Resolution, being a percentage which, in the opinion of the Governor-General, after taking into consideration any advice tendered to the Minister by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, is necessary in order to provide the following amounts : - (a.) The amounts required to meet the share of the industry in the operating expenses of the Joint Organization as provided in paragraph three of Part III. of the Disposals Plan;
That in this Resolution, “ the Disposals Plan “ mean the plan a copy of which is set forth in the Schedule to the Wool Realization Bill 1945.
As previously stated, it is proposed to collect a contributory charge, based upon the value of wool produced in Australia, for the purpose of meeting the industry’s share of the expenses incurred under the plan for realization of wool. The charge will be payable upon the sale of wool by brokers at auction or otherwise, upon the processing, by manufacturers, of wool which has not been sold by a broker, and upon the export of wool which has not previously borne the charge. The intention is that the charge shall come into operation on a date to be proclaimed, which will not be earlier than the 1st July, 1946. The charge is, however, an essential part of the plan for the stabilizing of wool marketing, and it is necessary, therefore, to obtain legislative authority for the charge in conjunction with the Wool Realization Bill which is now before Parliament. It is proposed to levy the charge as a prescribed percentage of the sale value of the wool, but it is not possible at this stage to specify the precise percentage which it will be necessary to adopt. This will depend largely on marketing conditions operating when the charge is about to commence. It will be made clear in the legislation, however, that the rate of the charge will be so fixed as to produce only an amount sufficient to cover the wool industry’s share in the operating expenses of the plan, together with interest on the amount invested by the Commonwealth Government in wool, and also the amount which would have been payable as wool tax but for the introduction of the contributory charge. The last-mentioned amount will be set aside specifically for the purposes to which the present wool tax is devoted, viz., for research and publicity designed to promote the use of wool. The rate of contributory charge will be subject to variation in the light of experience under the marketing plan. The variations are, however, likely to occur only at the commencement of each season, unless some unforeseen developments render it desirable or necessary to make other alterations during the seasons.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Forde and Mr. Chifley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Forde, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Science and Industry Research Act - Nineteenth Annual Report of Council for year 1944-45.
Ordered to he printed.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of cork (No. 2).
Handbags (Manufacture) (No. 2).
National Security (Timber Control) Regu lations - Orders -
Control of timber (No. 6) - Revocation.
Timber (Revocation and amendment ) (No. 1).
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 152.
House adjourned at 3.19 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Act ing Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e. - On the 25th September, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked the following question : -
Has the Government decided to lift the embargo on the importation of “pulp” literary material and comic strips from the United States of America and other non-sterling countries? Does the Prime Minister realize that the lifting of the embargo would result in unfair competition by works of foreign origin with Australian books and adversely affect Australian authors, artists and printers, and Australian literature generally? Will he give early consideration to the request of the Australian Journalists Association for the establishment of a parliamentary select committee to investigate all phases of book production in Australia?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
The matters referred to by the honorable member are included in a recent reference to the Tariff Board. The reference to the Tariff Board is drawn in terms wide enough to enable all interested parties to present their views and to bring forward any relevant facts. It is the view of the Government that the question of setting up a select committee to investigate all phases of book production in Australia should be allowed tostand over until the Tariff Board has completed its investigation and its report is available.
Armed Forces: Releases.
e. - On the 27th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked whether, where service with the Australian Imperial Force in the war had been broken for reasons not occasioned by the member’s own default, assessment under the points system dated from the commencement of the last period of service, or whether both periods of service were taken into consideration.
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In determining length of service, the following conditions are applicable: - (a) Service will be regarded as dating from the date of commencement of continuous full-time war service, and will terminate on a date which will be advised by Land Head-quarters. (b) Time spent in camps of training or on other duty prior to commencement of continuous full-time war service has been ex- cluded. (c) Non-effective service (i.e. periods for whichservice pay was not credited between the data of commencement of continuous fulltime war service and the date of assessment of priorities) will not be deducted. (d) Members who rejoin the Australian Military Forces after having been discharged in respect of a previous continuous full-time war serviceengagement, and members who join the Australian Military Forces subsequent to discharge in respect of a similar engagementin another service, will be credited with both periods of service provided that in all oases the earlier service was acknowledged when the member entered into the latter engagement.
Re-establishmen t and Employment: Reinsta temen t.
– On the 13th September,the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr.Rankin) asked a number of questions in regard to the re-instatement of an ex-serviceman in Queensland. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction promised to have the matter investigated, and I now provide the following information : -
The penalty upon conviction of a breach of the re-instatement provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act has been fixed at £100 and under section 10 of the act the court may order that part of the fine be paid to the employee concerned. In addition, section 19 provides that the court may order the employer to pay to the employee such compensation as it considers reasonable. It is considered that the liability to a fine and to pay compensation will be sufficient deterrents to those employers who may be tempted to break the law.
A provision empowering the court to direct the employer to re-employ the employee would be difficult to enforce and in the event of the employer failing to comply with the direction, a fine and provision of compensation to the employee would be the only penalties which could reasonably be imposed.
Although no names were mentioned, it would appear that the case the honorable member had in mind was one in which the magistrate dealing with the case considered that the applicant for re-instatement had been offensive and threatening towards the managing director of the employing company. The magistrate stated that: “While the amount of the compensation is very small, it is not a fraction of what it would have been had the applicant’s conduct been otherwise.”.
Department of Aircraft Production: Disappearance of Aluminium.
n. - On the 27th September, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question regarding a published report concerning the disappearance of a large quantity of aluminium. I have now had an opportunity to have the allegations fully investigated, and I advise the honorable member that there is no foundation whatsoever for the statements published in Smith’s Weekly of the 29th September that government employees were concerned in a “gigantic swindle of the public “ which involved the conversion into kitchen utensils of a large quantity of aluminium that, according to the newspaper, “ disappeared “ from aircraft stores.
The background of the misleading newspaper report would appear to be that in Australia, as in other parts of the world, raw materials required for aircraft production are ordered to exacting specifications. If they do not conform to specification, they are rejected by the officers of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate of the Department of Air. and their use in aircraft manufacture is forbidden. When materials, such as aluminium alloy sheets which were brought to Australia in large quantities from North America for the aircraft industry, show signs of corrosion when they are inspected in the aircraft stores, or are not in accordance with specifications, the sections of the consignments affected are rejected for aircraft production purposes and are released for commercial purposes, such as the manufacture of kitchenware. Some eighteen months ago a quantity of rejected aluminium sheet had accumulated in Sydney and was made available for disposal. At that time, the Commonwealth Disposals Commission was not functioning. As aluminium alloys were then still under strict control, the Utensils and Appliances Control Section of the Department of Supply and Shipping was consulted regarding the material available, and authority was given to offer the material to manufacturers licensed by that department to manufacture aluminium-ware. As a result of the circularizing of those manufacturers, a quotation was accepted for the purchase of the aluminium alloy in question at the price at which it had been purchased by the Government. Arrangements were made accordingly for the metal to be delivered to the buyer. Before the transaction had been completed, however, the Australian Aluminium Company circularized the trade, advising that commercial aluminium would be supplied in strips and circles - i.e., the forms required for the manufacture of kitchen utensils - at prices substantially less than that offered for the alloy material. The potential buyer indicated that, in the circumstances, he was not prepared to go on with the purchase of the metal which had already been delivered to his premises unless the cost were reduced by half. He pointed out that there would be a considerable loss in cutting the sheet material into shapes and sizes required for kitchen utensil manufacture, similar to the strips and circles which the Australian Aluminium Company would supply. As another buyer offered a higher price, the alloy was collected from the premises of the first manufacturer, and, eventually, it was delivered to the works of another manufacturer licensed to produce aluminium-ware. The double handling of the sheets was unfortunate, but, in the circumstances, was unavoidable. The whole transaction was handled through official departmental channels. There is no reason, so far as the Department of Aircraft Production is concerned, for the suggestion that the kitchenware manufactured from aluminium alloy released to the approved licensed manufacturer would be sold “ on the black market “, and there is no knowledge amongst officers of the Department of Aircraft Production of the “large quantity” of aircraft aluminium which it alleged to have disappeared a few month ago. A special check is, however, being made of stocks of aluminium alloy materials held in aircraft storehouses ir Sydney to ascertain whether any supplies have been removed irregularly. Reference was made in the same newspaper report to the dismissal of an officer of the Department of Aircraft Production who had been seen transferring aluminium kitchenware from an official motor truck to another vehicle. That particular incident was reported to the police authorities, apparently by a civilian, and their investigations quickly proved that there was no reason for police action. Departmental inquiries revealed, however, that the official motor truck had been improperly used, and that, despite Public Service Regulation* to the contrary, the officer concerned had certain private business interests in addition to his departmental duties. He was suspended from duty, and his services were terminated.
Sai.es Tax: Fire Brigade Equipment.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will lie consider the exemption from sales tax of equipment required by metropolitan fire brigades?
y. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Under clause 4 (i) of the bill to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act which passed all stages in the House on the 28th September, 1945, it is provided that all goods for use and not for sale by fire brigades established for public purposes will be exempt from sales tax. This exemption (Item 78 (iv) of the First Schedule) will cover the metropolitan fire brigades which the honorable member has in mind, and will operate from the 13th September, 1945.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 October 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19451003_reps_17_185/>.