17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– As there does not appear to have beenany official statement us to the intention of the Prime Minister to leave Australia for overseas, will the right honorable gentleman either confirm or deny the several press statements that he proposes to leave Australia about the fourteenth of this month ?
– I can confirm the press statement. I shall later make a short statement on my proposed tour.
Slater Reports on Organization - Retirements.
– Will (he Minister for Air lay on the table of the House the Slater reports on the organization of the Royal Australian Air Force? Docs the honorable gentleman expect to be able to make the statement that he has promised on the retirement of senior Air Force officers and re-organization generally?
– The Slater commi t tee was a war establishment committee, which was appointed to report to mo and the Government. Its reports have been very helpful, but I do not intend to lay them on the table of the House. I propose to make, early next week, a statement respecting the retirement of Air Force officers.
– I have been ad vised by the secretary of the Wallarah Miners Lodge that a serious position is developing at the Wallarah colliery on account of the displacement of miners by ex-servicemen. It is suggested that additional miners could be employed on work in pillars, and an investigation by the authorities is requested. In view of the necessity to produce more coal, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ask the Coal Commissioner to send the production manager to this pit, with a view to having the position thoroughly investigated and retaining in employment as many men as possible?
– I shall ask my colleague the Minister for Supply and Shipping, to see whether effect can be given to the honorable member’s request.
Report by Tariff Board.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs received the report of the Tariff Board on an application by the ginger industry for tariff protection?’ If so, has the report been considered by Cabinet? Will it be acted upon, and will the recommendations contained in it be included in a tariff schedule during the life of this Parliament?
– I am not aware that the Tariff Board has inquired into ginger products generally. If it has, I shall seewhether the honorable member’s request, may be complied with.
– Has the Ministerfor Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement, which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is reported to have made at the United Country party conference in Melbourne, that the settlement which had been ‘reached in the meat dispute represented a complete victory for the producers, and an abject surrender by the Government? Has the Government deviated in any way from the policy which it originally adopted in this dispute?
– I have read the remarks attributed to the honorable member for Indi. Those who know the honorable member will not be surprised at any misstatement that he might make. There has been no deviation from the original policy of the Government in. regard to this dispute, and it is a distortion of the truth to say that the Government has abjectly surrendered. Now that common sense has prevailed, we hope that
– Can the Prime Minister say in what States the waterfront unions -are supporting the Sydney unions which have refused to load ships for the Netherlands East Indies? What is the value of the cargoes which are held up, and of the estimated annual trade with the Netherlands East Indies which is now in danger. as a result of the hold-up? Foi how long are the waterfront unions to be permitted to control the Government’s foreign policy? When will the Prime Minister be able to answer my former questions on this subject?
– Trouble regarding Dutch ships arose in the ports of -‘Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and was due in the first instance to the fact that Dutch nationals walked off the ships, and refused to work them. The waterside workers decided to support the Indonesians. As to the value of cargoes -on the Dutch ships, some extravagant statements have been made, and it has even been said thai the value was between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000, a ridiculous over estimate. The total value could not be more than £3,000,000, and it may be very much less. There are sound reasons for believing that it could not be more.
– Oan the Prime Minister find out what is the value ?
– It is very hard to learn the precise details because conflicting statements are made. I have based: my statements on the most reliable information from the Dutch side, and from those who know what goods the Dutch hold. There is no’ substance in the charge that the waterside Workers control the Government’s foreign policy. “There are some things which people can physically prevent one from doing. I shall not go into the pros and cons of the situation now. At all times I have tried to treat it with a great deal of reserve, because it is an extraordinarily difficult situation in which the British, the Dutch, and the Indonesians have been in constant conflict. I have taken the opportunity to have personal talks with people very closely associated with the negotiations. I am sorry that it has not been possible to reach a satisfactory settlement by which the goods, or at- least the ships, could be released. Of course, some of the ships are. in need of repairs, and I do not think that they could he moved before repairs are made. The remainder, I believe, could be moved without undergoing further repairs. The dispute has been the subject of negotiations on the- highest possible plane. I can only say that, up to the present, they have not been successful. Considering all aspects of the case, it is -neither possible, nor desirable, for me to comment upon it.
Sterling Exchange Rate
– Now that banking in Great Britain is under government control, will the Treasurer, during his visit to the United Kingdom, consult with the British Government with a view to having the exchange rate on Australian currency brought back to par?
– The question deals with a fairly difficult subject. Any change, or move to make a change, of the exchange rate could have very serious repercussions, particularly upon the primary producers of Australia. I am sure that they would not desire any alteration at the moment, and perhaps for a long time to come. Exchange rates are not fixed to-day. according to the principles that were generally accepted in the past, when the evenness of the flow of trade between two countries governed the exchange rate between those countries. The present rate of exchange with Great Britain has existed for a long time, and one would have to trace monetary fluctuations back to the time when the rate was last changed in order to explain the position. I say frankly that I have no intention of discussing the matter at this time.
– It has been stated officially that government control of petrol supplies will cease at the end of June. “Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping state to what degree the Government controls the distribution of petrol at the present time ?
– I do not know where the honorable member obtained his information that government control of petrol distribution will cease at the end of June. In fact, the Government has not considered when petrol restrictions should cease and has not made any decision in the matter at all. The subject is closely related to the shortage of dollars. I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Supply and Shipping for consideration.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a cable message in to-day’s press that Australia, with 22- delegates, will have the smallest representation of the 21 countries to attend the Peace Conference due to begin in Paris on the 1st May? Can he say which Ministers will represent the Commonwealth ? Is it intended to invite representatives of other political parties in the Parliament” to attend as observers? Will he tell Parliament next week what views are to b.e placed before the conference on behalf of the Commonwealth?
-! have not yet read the morning papers. I have not conferred with .the Minister for External Affairs on the exact number of representative’s of Australia to attend the Peace Conference, but the country will be properly and adequately represented. The present intention is that the Minister for External Affairs will be the Australian representative, and he will be assisted if necessary by the Resident Minister in London, Mr. Beasley. At the Peace Conference, many questions will arise. For instance, the terms of peace with Italy will have to be considered. Those questions will have to be dealt with as they arise by our delegate on his general conception ‘of this Government’s views. I will confer with the Minister for External Affairs to see whether it is possible to supply the information asked for in the last part of the right honorable gentleman’s question, but I am extremely doubtful whether a statement of that character “could be made.
Membership and Accommodation
– I believe, that all honorable members share the view that as soon as practicable there should be a substantial increase of the membership of this Parliament. A thoughtful letter published in the Canberra Times this morning proposes early planning of the permanent Parliament House which will be needed to cope with increased membership. I ask the Prime Minister whether plans are in existence for the permanent Parliament House? If not, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the writer’s suggestion that a world-wide competition be held among architects to get the best possible design, or that invitations be extended to leading Australian architects to furnish designs for consideration by the Government?
– Enlargement of the membership of this Parliament has been discussed for a number of years. There is much merit in the argument that more members are needed to meet the growing needs of the community and the increased population since the original membership was decided. Allocation of legislative powers is wrapped up in the ‘ general matter of increasing the number of members. No decision on that matter has been reached. I understand that many years ago a world-wide competition for a design for the permanent Parliament House was launched, but World War - 1, caused the competition to be postponed indefinitely and compensation was paid to those architects who had already worked extensively on their plans. In any case, I should say that any plan made so long ago would now be outmoded. I will examine the question, because it is inevitable that better accommodation- be provided for the Parliament of the future. No specific consideration has been given to the erection of a new Parliament House. Many thousands of people are in dire need of houses. With the transfer of departments and staffs to Canberra, we require an additional 1,000 or 1,500 homes to meet the needs of the present and the immediate .future. In addition, a great deal of permanent office accommodation is required. Many staffs, particularly those of th’e Treasury and the Taxation Department, are housed under completely unsatisfactory conditions. Until all those needs can be met, I do not consider that any efforts should be dissipated upon the erection of a mew Parliament House. However, I shall arrange for the Minister for Works and Housing to examine the suggestion that planning and designing should be commenced so that when the physical opportunity offers the work may be proceeded with.
– Has the Minister for the Army ordered an investigation of the claims of two Australian servicemen who alleged that the’ Army Inventions Directorate had rejected their invention which, if it had been used, would have saved many Australian lives? I refer to an attachment to the .303 rifle which, with very little recoil, enables a small shell to be fired.
– A complaint has been received, and it is now being investigated. I remind the honorable member that during the war, thousands of inventions were submitted to the Army Inventions Directorate, and many hundreds of disappointed inventors afterwards claimed that Australia had lost millions of pounds and many lives because their inventions bad not been adopted. The case to which the honorable member referred is being investigated and I shall supply an answer as soon as possible.
Acquisition of Land
– Did the Minister for the Interior read in to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times a report that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Darwin had protested against the Lands Acquisition Ordinance ? His Lordship is reported to have stated that -
If the Government wants to shift me off the church property, it -will have to send a big policeman. [ propose to read an extract from a letter which I received from His Lordship as a solemn protest against the Commonwealth Government’s seizure of church property In Darwin. It states -
By tha “ Darwin Lands Acquisition Act “ of 16.th August, 1945, the Commonwealth Government resumed absolutely 00 square miles of hind around Darwin, including all the freehold titles of this area. No more freehold title will be granted to any one. The only title of land tenure will be a 09-year leasehold.
By this bill, the Catholic Church of Darwin is deprived of all her freehold property and she is denied the faculty to acquire any other freehold property instead.
The Catholic Church owns in Darwin’ nine hall-acre blocks of freehold property for church purposes.- The new bill deprives her suddenly of this property.
As Bishop of Darwin, and in the name of the Catholic Church, I raise a most solemn protest against this way of dealing, which is unjust towards the church and most damaging to her work and independence.
– Order ! When an honorable member bases a question on a letter, it is not usual for him to read the whole of the letter, lt is sufficient to give only the gist of the communication. .
– I should like permission to read the penultimate and antepenultimate paragraphs -
By imposing leasehold tenure on the church, the State reduces her to humiliation and servitude. But a humiliated and servile church is no good to any one. She can only act properly in perfect freedom.
There are only two States in the world where the church is denied the right to possess freehold property. They are Russi and Mexico. But in these States, might is right, and in them the church considers herself in state of persecution.
In every other nation of the world, even in China and Japan, as well as in other pagan countries, the church it given the right to possess freehold property. Australia, a free, democratic and Christian country, is in duty and dignity bound not to act below the standard of those countries.
Will the Minister for the Interior or the Prime Minister himself issue instructions immediately that this fantastic plan which I opposed last night be rescinded at once and the McInnes-Miller-Symonds plan be substantially adopted, whereby all church lands will be preserved with meticulous care in Darwin?
– It would be difficult for me to reply in detail to all the points raised by the honorable member. He asked me whether my attention had been directed to a report which appeared in this morning’s Canberra Times. It had. My attention was drawn also to a report which appeared in a section of the Sydney press on Wednesday, to which I made a very brief reply. I am certain that the Bishop of Darwin is under a very great m isapprehensi on .
– Nothing of the kind.
– He must be, or he would not have made such statements. I point out that no difficulty has been experienced with any of the religious denominations in the Australian Capital Territory at Canberra, where the Roman Catholic Church and other churches are established, as they are elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Concessions and conditions will be available to the Roman Catholic Church and other churches at Darwin similar to those which apply in the Australian Capital Territory.
AGREEMENTS AND PROPOSALS.
– by leave - In my statement to this House on the 2nd August, 1945, on the immigration policy of the Government, I said that agreements in relation to free passages for British servicemen and their dependents from the United. Kingdom to Australia, and assisted passages for British civilians and their dependents from the United Kingdom to Australia had been approved in principle hut details were being worked out by representatives of the two governments. I have now to advise honorable members that the two agreements have been finally concluded and were signed in London on the 5th March by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, on behalf of the British Government, and Mr. Beasley, Australian Resident Minister in London, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. Both the free passage and theassisted passage schemes will come into operation on a date to be agreed upon by the United
Kingdom and the Commonwealth Governments. I shall lay on the table of the House copies of the agreements together with the explanatory leaflet issued by the* United Kingdom authorities, and a statement which I issued, on the day the agreements were signed, simultaneously with an announcement inLondon by the British authorities. I shall also lay on the table of the House the report of the Immigration Advisory Committee of which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was chairman. That committee was constituted immediately the delegates to the International Labour Conference in Paris had’ concluded their labours in October last and it consisted of the delegates to that conference. In addition to the honorable member for Parkes the committee consisted of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), the Honorable R.King, M.L.C., Mr. A. E. Monk,. Mr.O. D. A. Oberg and Mr. P. R.. Wilkins. Armed with wide terms of reference, the committee made investigations in Great Britain, France,. Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In Sweden some representatives of the Finnish people also had discussions with the members of the committee. The report and recommendations of this committee throw valuable light on a subject that will have a deep significance in the future of our young nation. I offer the members of the committee the sincere congratulations of the Government, on themanner in which they caried out their difficult task. Their conclusions will be of theutmost assistance to me and the officers of the Department of Immigration. I am sure that every honorable member would’ also derive much benefit from a careful perusal of the contents of this report.. The members of the committee certainly deserve our warmest thanks for their interesting and instructive survey of conditions in Britain and the European countries which they visited. I regret that it was not possible for them to stay longer in Europe to undertake all the inquiries they would have liked to have made. They are all leading public men whose time is very valuable but, in a common desire to help in the solution of one of the most pressing problems facing the nation, they gave freely and generously of their time and their talents. It is my intention to consult them from time to time, either collectively or individually, and ask for the benefit of their advice when any matters affecting immigration are under consideration, especially those matters on which they can be of particular assistance. In my ministerial statement last year, I indicated that the Government was still prepared to discuss with the Leader of the Oppositionparties in this Parliament the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Immigration, and the terms of reference to be given to such a committee. So far, the Opposition parties have not indicated their willingness or otherwise to accept the offer, which still remains open. I have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) who is prepared to meet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) immediately, with a view to setting up the committee and determining its terms of reference. Incidentally, I may mention that the first suggestion for the establishment of such a committee came from the Leader of the Australian Country party, and that it later received support from members of the Liberal party. I believe that it would be a good thing for Australia if action to establish this committee could be taken before the Parliament goes into recess.
There is just one other matter that I should like to mentionin connexion with the subject of immigration; it relates to the interest of the States. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers before that last held, it was decided that a conference of Commonwealth and State departmental officers, to be followed by a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers interested in immigration, should be convened at an early date. Following the signing of the free and assisted passage agreements, a conference of departmental officers was held in Canberra on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and agreement on many aspects of the immigration problem was reached. Some matters will come up again for further consideration; but the spirit of co-operation displayed by all delegates augurs well for the establishment of a co-ordinated Commonwealth and States plan so as to make a. complete success of the immigration policy which I had the honour to announce eight months ago. The projected conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers will be held as soon as practicable, and the next conference of Premiers will, I hope, make the final decisions that will ensure the ultimate success of our immigration programme. Ilayon the table the following papers : -
Free and Assisted Passage Schemes for British Migrants from the United Kingdom - Copies of Draft Agreements between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, together with explanatory leaflets issued by the United Kingdom authorities, and a . Statement (5th March, 1946) by the Minister for Immigration when the agreements were signed.
I also lay on the table the following paper : -
Immigration - Agreements and Proposals - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– Has the PrimeMinister yet had an opportunity to peruse the reportof the Australian delegates to the recent conference of the International Labour Office? In particular, has the right honorable gentleman read that portion of the report in which a quoted resolution ofthe International Labour Conference, warns of the dangers of inflation and suggests . that, so long as shortages’ prevail, governments should retain prices control in addition to control over other matters? Will the right honorable gentleman keep that resolution in mind when considering the continuance of prices control? Has the right honorable gentleman also perused that part of the report which states that the Australian delegates were embarrassed by the failure of Australia to adopt previous resolutions, and points out that only twelve of the 44 conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference had been ratified by Australia-? Has he noticed that both the Government delegates and the delegates of the employers stress the necessity for Australia to ratify conventions and to adopt resolutions of the International Labour Conference? Will he consider the appointment of a committee composed of members of this House, to consider the resolutions and conventions which, from time to time, have been passed by the International Labour Conference, with a view to deciding which of the conventions should be ratified by this Parliament?
– I have read the report referred to, and have taken note of the resolution dealing with prices control and inflation. The very grave danger of inflation when a large amount of money is available in a liquid form in the community, and the supply of goods is not adequate to meet the demands for them, is apparent to every person who has given any thought to the matter. As honorable members know, it has been absolutely necessary to exercise control in many fields other than those relating to prices. These controls have caused some irritation. Many factors are involved before an article reaches the consumer for sale, and the matter of price has to be considered. If at these earlier stages, costs were increased, inevitably the article could notbe sold except at an inflated price. The Government is fully alive to the situation. Even though there has been a good deal of criticism of some of the controls that have been imposed, the Government, in the interests of the community generally, will weigh every factor carefully before relaxing those which this Parliament has the power to maintain, and which, in its opinion, are absolutely essential for the good of the country. In conjunction with the Minister for External Affairs, I shall examine the suggestion of the honorable member for the ratification of conventions of the International Labour Conference, and shall then let the honorable member know what are the Government’s views.
– Can the Minister for
Repatriation say when he will be able to answer the question in relation to war pensions which stands in my name on the notice-paper ?
– When I find on the notice-paper questions concerning my department, I communicate with my officers, and ask them to furnish replies immediately. By telephone with the department yesterday, I arranged for all questions to be answered before Wednesday of next week. I may explain that the department is working at very high pressure at the present time.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction recently gave some very interesting figures relating to the incomes of primary producers. Can the honorable gentleman give comparable figures in respect of all income receivers in Australia ?
– I regret that I am not yet in a position to give the figures for which the honorable member asks. However, I have made a statistical analysis of the available information, and am in a position to say that the figures will reveal a very considerable change in the distribution of incomes. In brief, there has been a considerable transfer of income receivers from the lower to the higher income groups. The figures reveal that for the year 1943, compared with 1939, the number of persons in receipt of incomes below £250 a year decreased by approximately 40 per cent; that those in receipt of incomes above £250 a year and below £600 a year increased by approximately 100 per cent.; and that there has been a certain increase of the number of persons in receipt of incomes in excess of £600 a year. I am sure that the figures demonstrate that all sections of the community have shared in the general wave of prosperity inaugurated by this Government.
Mr. SCULLY (Gwydir- Ministerfor
Commerce and Agriculture). - by leave - I wish to reply to a statement made in the House on Thursday last by the honorable member for New England (Mr Abbott), regarding the allocation of wheat for the purpose of manufacturing dog biscuits. It is not the Australian Wheat Board which determines the allocation of wheat for stock feed or sectional stock feed users. This is done by a committee consisting of representatives of my department, including the Director-General of Agriculture, the State committees, and the Wheat Board. In New South Wales, the Director of Agriculture, Mr. McDonald, was, during the period mentioned, chairman of the Wheat Allocation Committee. Decisions by this committee are implemented by the Australian Wheat Board.
Wheat has been used in Australia for the manufacture of dog biscuits for a great number of years. In view of the urgent demand for wheat for export, a survey was made of all the ways in which wheat was being used, as it wasconsidered that some saving could be made in the amount of wheat being released for various purposes, including the manufacture of dog biscuits. This inquiry, which was of a searching character, naturally made dog biscuit manufacturers and dog owners’ organizations somewhat apprehensive about future supplies. They called on. me, and requested that the matter of supplies be reviewed as speedily as possible, as wheat was being held up, and the demand for dog biscuits was strong. The deputation asked for quantities substantially in excess of the quantity finally made available to them. Later, I requested the Director-General of Agriculture to survey the position, and he reported to me that the withholding of wheat for the manufacture of dog biscuits would undoubtedly result in substantial quantities of bread being used to feed dogs, and also that meat consumption would increase. The Director-General of Agriculture considered it more, economical to supply the minimum quantity of wheat necessary to meet requirements, rather than that inroads should be made on other essential commodities.
It was finally decided to allocate 50,000 bushels for the balance of the rationing year. Consideration was given to the fact that biscuits are fed to working and domestic dogs, that the United Kingdom permits wheat to be used for this purpose, and that New South Wales - in which State the wheat has been made available - is the principal manufacturing centre in Australia, and distributes to other States. Originally, about 100,000 bushels of wheat was used in the making of dog biscuits, but this was cut in half when the final allocation was made. As flour is not rationed, it is . obvious that this would have been substituted for wheat. A close scrutiny of the use of wheat is being maintained and, where possible, supplies are reduced. Mr. McDonald, chairman of the Stock Feed Allocation Committee, has supplied the following statement : -
As chairman of the Stock Feeds Allocation Committee, I recommended the release of wheat for the feeding of dogs. It was on a strictly rationed basis, as we cut down supplies very drastically by about 50 per cent. A number ot owners of dogs in New South Wales are farmers and graziers, they use them in connexion with the mustering of sheep and. cattle and keeping rabbits under control. For this work one dog is equal to three men. Many dogs in town are kept as watch dogs and many city dogs are obtained by graziers to kill rabbits. Farming and grazing would be impossible without dogs in some areas. If graziers keep dogs they must feed them generally on meat and cereals and they kill a lot of mutton for this purpose. If wheat had been withheld graziers would have had to kill more sheep, thereby cutting down the amount of meat they could send abroad.
Colonel Holborow, State Superintendent of the Australian Wheat Board in New South Wales, has advised that, subsequent to the representations made to me, the release of 50,000 bushels for this purpose was agreed to, but, on reviewing the position, it was found that 40,000 bushels would be sufficient. This amount was also allotted under last year’s rationing scheme. It is distributed on a monthly basis of 4,266 bushels on a quota of nine mills which produce meal for the manufacture of dog biscuits. The allocation of this amount, instead of 5,555 bushels, on the basis of 50,000 bushels for the whole period, saves 10,000 bushels during the next nine months. It is also pointed out that the release of this wheat can be prohibited at any stage.
Finally, I quote a report from the Sydney Baily Telegraph of the 30th March, which in itself is an adequate reply to the honorable member’s allegations, and I thank the Daily Telegraph for having given publicity to this reply. It alone of the Sydney dailies did so, although the information was available to the other papers, all of which had pub.lished the attack made in the House by the- honorable member for New England. The item is a3 follows: -
Racing dogs -in England were fed on wheatmeal throughout the war, and were now fed -on cow-beef, Mr. Vic Peters said yesterday.
Mr. Peters, secretary of the Greyhound Breeders, Owners, and Trainers’ Association, -was answering- criticism by Mr. Abbott in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Mr. Abbott had said : “ It appears Mr. Scully (Commerce and Agriculture Minister) has given preference to the manufacture of dog biscuits over the needs of the people -of Great Britain and other countries.”
Mr. Peters said yesterday : “ Mr. Scully -agreed to a wheat quota after we proved to him that English manufacturers had used wheatmeal throughout the war. “ There ure twice as many greyhounds in England as in New South Wales. “ Wheatmeal and beef is recognized as staple diet for greyhounds. “ Feeding cow-beef to Australian greyhounds is forbidden.”
One of the largest manufacturers of dog bread and biscuits in New South Wales said yesterday that he ‘was using almost 8i tons of wheatmeal every month.
Before restrictions were applied six weeks ago, he was using 10 tons of wheatmeal each, week.
The manufacturer added that he supplied sheep- and cattle stations in New South Wales with dog. biscuits and bread for their sheep -dogs and. cattle dogs.
I offer no apology for this allocation. When the proposal was submitted to me “by the Director-General of Agriculture I approved, it, and I would do the same again in like circumstances. The charge brought by the honorable member for New England that I was sacrificing human beings for dogs is merely indicative of the level of his mentality.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the termination ot the National Security Act 1930-1943.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 4th April (vide page 1059), on motion by Dr. Evatt - »
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last year, the Government budgeted for the expenditure of £64,000,000 on social services, and next year the amount will be about £64,00.0,000.. Having in mind the cost of providing social benefits for the people, it is absolutely necessary that the Government shall know that , its programme is based on a stable constitutional foundation. For that reason, the proposal to be submitted to the people at the referendum embraces almost every form of social service at present in operation and likely tobe implemented in the future. This is a very practical way of dealing with the problem, and one which could scarcely be sidestepped by any government, whatever its political affiliations might be. In objecting to this measure, honorable members opposite say that the proposal is not necessary because no State parliaments would refuse to refer to the Commonwealth the important powers that are sought. That contention is disproved by events of the past. For instance, only a few days ago, the Tasmanian Legislative Council rejected a very important measure designed to refer to the Commonwealth Parliament power in relation to prices control - a measure so important as to be absolutely necessary for the prevention of inflation. The Upper House of every State legislature, except that- of Queensland which has no legislative council, has opposed every proposal to refer power to’ the Commonwealth. These councils are undemocratically elected on a very limited franchise, and therefore they are by no means fully responsible to the people for their actions. They will not give power of any sort to this Parliament ‘because they are politically opposed to the Government in- office. This was proved in 1944j when the Legislative Councils of the States forced the Commonwealth Government to submit a referendum to the people on an issue which would have ‘ been settled satisfactorily if they had fulfilled their responsibilities and honoured promises which were made by the Premiers at a convention held in Canberra. Their past conduct belies any suggestion that they would be willing to cede the powers sought by the Government. It would be a waste of time for the Government to endeavour to bargain with these undemocratic bodies. This Government has a duty to provide social services equal to those in other advanced countries. Its policy in this connexion must go hand in hand with its policy of full employment. The bill now before the House sets out a complete and proper constitutional approach to the problem of providing adequate social services. It proposes to give to the National Parliament authority to lay down the basis on which social services shall be financed and administered, an authority which has been sadly lacking in the past. The proposal will receive the unanimous support of all people who think intelligently and- are anxious to improve social conditions. Any political party which urges the people to withhold the proposed power will commit political suicide, as was done by some politicians in New Zealand who opposed the enlightened social services programme of the Government of that Dominion. I endorse the proposal, and I am confident of the outcome of the appeal to the people.
The third important power asked for by the Government is the power to make laws with respect to terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so as to enforce industrial conscription. This is vital to the future welfare of the working class. The limited authority of the Commonwealth Parliament in relation to industrial conditions is not generally understood. We are constantly asked why the Government does not do certain, things to improve industrial conditions, because people do not realize that this Parliament lacks constitutional authority. Under section 51 of the Constitution, this Parliament’s powers with respect to industrial matters are limited to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
– Does the honorable member not believe in arbitration?
– Yes; but I also believe that this Parliament, like the New Zealand Parliament, should have complete power over industrial conditions. The Parliaments of Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa, as well as of New
Zealand, have such powers. It should be competent for this Parliament to lay down the basis on which the arbitration courts must work. Honorable members -opposite frequently praise the Government of New Zealand for its progressive legislation. There should be no obstacle to prevent this Parliament from enacting equally progressive measures. The New Zealand Government fixed the hours of employment, and its legislation is functioning perfectly. The people of New Zealand are very well governed, and all that we ask now is that the Commonwealth Government .shall have power to .govern likewise. Honorable members opposite claim that the Government cannot be trusted to exercise the powers wisely; they say that the people will be regimented and conscripted. That is an old bogy. The terms of the three bills are such as to prevent unwise use of the powers.. It is not generally realized that this Government already has wide powers, even in times of peace: For instance, it has power to prohibit imports of every kind, or to ban the manufacture of boots and other articles. The States have’ even more far-reaching powers. Nevertheless no . government exercises them as drastically as honorable members opposite would have us believe the Commonwealth Government would use the ‘powers now sought. The people have faith in their elected representatives. For honorable members opposite to say that the Government, which enjoys the overwhelming support of the people, cannot be trusted to exercise its powers in the best interests of the people is merely to reveal a poor national outlook. Irrespective of what party may be in office, the powers to be sought at the referendum are necessary if the people are to be given a fair deal in the industrial field. The workers have only their labour to sell, and it is vital to every man and woman in industry that conditions of employment shall be improved. Therefore, this Parliament should have power to legislate on a national scale in respect of hours of labour, wages, and conditions of employ-, ment. On the subject of a 40-hour working week, I say that the day is probably not far distant when we shall have to make the working week even less, in order to conform with world economic conditions. Furthermore, the present method of fixing the basic wage can be held up to ridicule. The basic wage includes an- allowance of about 12s. 6d. aweek for rent; everybody knows that to bo completely out of all proportion to the cost of rent under modern conditions. It is stupid to say that, if the Parliament be given these powers, it will go berserk and override the arbitration system. The powers will be the same .as those which every State Parliament now exercises in the industrial sphere. They are necessary for the removal of anomalies in the arbitration system. The pinpricks that are causing unrest in industry ‘Could be eliminated if this Parliament were able in peace-time to exercise these powers. I cast aside the argument advanced by the Opposition that we should not have these powers because we shall use them in the manner of a dictator. That is only a “ red herring “ drawn across the trail in order to mislead the people. These powers are essential, because, although industries have advanced -with the times in regard to both buildings and machinery, the administration of industrial conditions has not progressed from what obtained in the dim days of 1901. It is time the people realized the constitutional position of this Parliament in regard to industrial matters. It ib time they realized our lack of the power to ensure that the workers shall receive a better return from the increased productivity of industry. It is time we had the legislative ability, unhampered by constitutional limitations, to give to the workers the benefits to which they are entitled as the result of modern industrial methods. The fruits of increased productivity should not only go to the employers, but should also be shared by the men who sell their labour. These powers are essential to improve the lot of the workers, who are entitled to shorter hours, and higher wages, and better industrial conditions generally. These powers are to enable, this Parliament to remove industrial anomalies.* They are necessary to enable it to stand in the industrial sphere on an equal footing with the State parliaments.
I emphatically support this proposal because it represents progress.- It ought to be supported by every one who realizes the need to give the people a fair deal. This Parliament can never
De truly national industrially unless it is given these powers, which are essential to. ensure the proper administration of Australia. The referendum proposals should be voted on by the people in an atmosphere divorced from party politics. The Honorable Alfred Deakin, when presenting the Constitution to the people, said: “This is the framework and ground plan of the nation “. Let us’ build upon it by giving these increased powers to the Commonwealth, and as other powers become necessary to enable this Parliament to legislate in the best interests of this great . nation, let them be given too.
Mr. TURNBULL (“Wimmera) [11.33 J. - I have listened to this debate with great interest, hut it has left me perplexed. Any new member would be puzzled by the constant reiteration of “ caucus ! “ on the one hand, and “ Baillieu group ! “ on the other. The want of knowledge of honorable members who have spoken on these bills has increased my perplexity. Consider, for instance, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen), who, said “ ‘ Primary products ‘ cover a great field of primary produce “. How enlightening that statement is. It gives no indication of what the term “ primary products “ means. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) struck the right note when he said, “ “We want a modern Cromwell “. Cromwell was known as “ The Protector “, and ‘if ever there was a time when the people of Australia needed a protector, that time is now. That is amply demonstrated by anotherstatement of the honorable member for Calare, who said, “ The people are being asked whether the Parliament will enjoy the powers that it is asking for “. Analyse that! Is not the question really whether the people would enjoy the result of the exercise of these powers by this Parliament. This Government has a lust for power. So the honorable member for Hunter hit the nail right on the head when he said that we wanted another Cromwell. Of Cromwell it was said, “ Vice and folly trembled at his eye and all good things lay safe ‘ beneath his mighty shadow “. The honorable member for Hunter struck another note when, referring to the proposed industrial power, he said that Mr. Churchill was asked by a British soldier in Normandy, “ When we have done this job are we coining back to the dole ? “ The honorable gentleman then went on to say, “ It seems that that is happening in Australia. We want these powers so that they shall not come back to a life on the dole “. What is the answer to that ? Almost every day in this House we are told by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that all but a very small percentage of ex-servicemen are being satisfactorily absorbed in industry. If they are. being absorbed in industry this power is not necessary to reestablish them, but they are not being absorbed in industry. Every sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is writing to honorable members in protest against what is happening to exservicemen. I have received countless letters. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say, on the one hand, that these powers are necessary to re-establish men, and, on the other, that they are being re-established.
– The honorable member will learn as he grows older.
– I had hopes of learning something in this House, but I have learnt little. All I have heard is party bickering. We have in this country great resources, only the surface of which has been scratched. We have men ready to work in factories and fields to produce the secondary and primary goods we need, but, instead of settling crown to develop this country, honorable members waste their time by harking back to what happened years ago. The honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and I have been cut of civil life for three and a half years. When we came back into it we wanted to know what had been done, but all we have heard from members on both sides - I do not confine myself to the Government side - is the history of what some one or other said in disparagement of another years back. Day after day that is about all we hear. It would save time if a short history of each honorable member were pasted up somewhere for honorable gentlemen to read if they so desired, at their leisure, instead of members having to listen to it here, when we should be going about the nation’s business in as statesmanlike a fashion as is within our capacity. This party bickering will get us nowhere.
I desire to review the bills briefly; but, doubtless, like every other honorable member on this side, as soon as I start to do so I shall be subjected to a barrage of interjections from honorable gentlemen opposite of this type : “ What are you going to do about it?” “What is your attitude? “ “ Are you supporting the bills or not? Answer “ Yes “ or “ No “.
– It is like the question - “Do you still go home drunk and beat your wife? Answer ‘Yes’ or ‘ No ‘ “. It is impossible to answer directly in the affirmative or the negative, because every right-thinking man and woman will favour some of the proposals, but will realize that others, if carried to extreme lengths, will wreck the foundations on which we are building this great nation. How far these powers will be .carried we do not know. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) may give assurances that the powers will not be taken to extreme lengths, but our old earth keeps on turning, and the right honorable gentleman, who gives the assurances in all sincerity to-day, may not be here to administer the act. Legislation’ must be definite. Verbal assurances that these powers will not be exercised beyond a certain point are obviously ridiculous. Civilization is based on the confidence that men have in each other, and in their ability, integrity and honesty. The AttorneyGeneral, in giving ‘an assurance that the powers contained in these bills would not be exercised, beyond a certain limit, would be honest and sincere - I have not lost my faith in human nature so much a.s to disbelieve him - hut he will not always administer the powers conferred by the referendum proposals. At some future date, his assurances may be meaningless, and as evanescent as mist. When I make a constructive proposal,
I endeavour to avoid party politics, and honorable members opposite do not like it-
– The honorable member is lily-white.
– I regard that as a compliment, and I hope that I shall never be so besmirched by politics as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has been. No one .questions for a moment the necessity for maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, and unemployment benefits. Incidentally, I almost forgot that this Government promised to abolish unemployment; but I note with interest that it seeks constitutional authority to provide unemployment relief. That is a contradiction.
– A locomotive must have a safety valve.
– The safety valve here will have to be enlarged, because there will be unemployment if war-time restrictions are continued in future.
– Australians who fought in the war of 1914-18 have not forgotten how they were treated by antiLa.hour governments.
– Again I hear the same old story. The honorable member harks back more than twenty years. This Parliament must legislate for the future. Nothing can be gained by dragging up the past. The honorable member cannot hold me .responsible for the actions of previous administrations. Living in the past does not produce beneficial legislation. It only wastes time.
-Does the honorable member consider that history is of little value ?
– History is of value. If we desire to judge some problem of the present, we must look into the past, for the past holds all solutions of present and future problems.
– We cannot live in the past.
– I agree. We in this House know what an honorable member said twenty years ago, but it is a waste of time to recall it. If the rehabilitation of servicemen after the war of 1914-18 was not in the best interests of this country and returned soldiers generally, surely that fact is known throughout the length and breadth of Australia. To-day we are endeavouring to prevent a repetition of such difficulties by learning the lesson from the past. Dragging up all the filthy things which have been said in this House will not serve any good purpose. I was pleased a few days ago, when the honorable member for Hunter complimented the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) upon maintaining at a high level the standard of debate in this chamber ; but I was amazed a few minutes later, when the honorable member for Hunter, instead of setting a good example, descended into the depths.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the bill ?
– Again’ the eternal demand, “ Answer Yes or No “. I favour certain of the proposals, but am opposed to others. In my opinion, all these proposals have been lumped together in an endeavour to obscure the principal issue. I give a homely illustration of my point. It appears that if I desire to purchase a suit of clothes, I must buy also a watch and chain, although I already possess them. In addition, I must buy for my enemy a gun with which he may shoot me if he so desires. As I stated earlier, right thinking people will support the granting to the Commonwealth of powers relating to the payment of maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, and unemployment and sickness benefits. Honorable members on this side of the chamber will support them. In addition, medical services should be provided for those people who cannot afford to pay for them. We are doing our utmost to raise the standard of living in Australia, and we must do everything possible to raise the standard of health.
– The honorable member knows that widows’ pensions, if challenged, would be declared invalid.
– As there is no possibility of widows’ pensions being challen’ge’d, the Commonwealth need not seek this power. The Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill makes it possible for the Government to nationalize the whole of our medical services. I have had experience of what happens when we introduce “bulk handling” into medical’ treatment. Any one who has served in the Army knows what a sick parade is.
The men are in a line, perhaps for an hour, awaiting the arrival of the doctor, and he gives most of them short shrift. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) stated a few days ago that he did not have that experience. He held the rank of captain,, and I do not believe that he was ever a private, corporal or sergeant. Consequently, he was not able to gauge the real position.
– Rubbish ! I contacted all of them.
– The honorable member may have contacted them, but he was not in the ranks. The honorable member may be a. doctor or a dentist himself.
– -The honorable gentleman knows that I am a dentist.
– I did not. I” ask the House to consider the industrial powers bill and the bill for organized marketing of primary products, together for a few moments. Honorable gentlemen opposite: have said that if the indus-, trial powers amendment be approved Parliament will be asked to enact immediately a measure which will grant an increase pf 20s. or 30s. a week in the basic wage, and I believe the AttorneyGeneral has said that steps will also be taken to provide by legislation a 40-hour working week. No doubt the workingweek will later be reduced to 35 hours. Yet the legislative authority which would be able to take that action would also have charge of the primary products of this country.- We need, therefore, to consider what kind of a deal the primary producers would get. A good deal has been said about the undemocratic nature of the upper houses of the State parliaments, but I ask whether the Australian Wheat Board, in respect, of which this Government claims a good deal of credit, is, in fact, a democratic body? I consider that it is not so, because the memhers of it who are considered to be representative of the primary producers were appointed by the Government, and may hold office only during the pleasure, of the Government. That is not democratic. The wheat stabilization scheme, about which some honorable gentlemen opposite have had a great deal to say, may be accepted as a fair indication of the attitude of the Government towards primary producers. The wheat-growers throughout the Wimmera district which I represent are, almost without exception, hostile to it, yet the members of the board who are said to represent the primary producers, are favorable to it. That is because they are backing up the Government.
– They are good businessmen.
– Perhaps, in their own interests. The price of 4s. 2d. a bushel at sidings which is the Government scheme price is totally inadequate, and does not represent the cost of production, yet that is all that this Government will do for the wheat-farmers, although it appears to be quite willing to increase the basic wage by 20s. or 30s. a week and reduce the working week to 40 hours, or even 35 hours. tt has been said that these amendments w.ould favour the poor as against the rich people in the community, but whom does the Government regard as being the rich and the poor? A man who owns a farm with a heavy mortgage on it is really behind scratch financially and may be in a worse position than an unemployed person who is obtaining sustenance. Day after day we hear honorable gentlemen opposite declare that primary producers are among ! the rich people in the community, but those whose properties are heavily mortgaged are actually poor people. I call to mind a man in Warracknabeal known as “ Kanga “. An acquaintance met him in the street one day and said to him, “No work, ‘Kanga’”? He replied, “ No work, and no” mortgage “. Primary producers whose properties are heavily mortgaged struggle along with a millstone round their necks, yet honorable members opposite would have us regard them as wealthy.
All kinds of promise.’ have been made to farmers, as they have been made to service personnel who went overseas to fight, but when the times comes- to fulfil the promises things generally are not too good. Somehow the scene changes. Let me tell honorable members the story of a young man who asked a great artist to paint a portrait of his father. The great painter said, “Bring your father along and I will paint his portrait for three hundred guineas “. The young man. said, “ I can’t do that, for my father is dead “. The painter then invited the young man to come to his studio and describe his father. The young fellow went to the studio perhaps a score of times and described to the painter what his father looked like. One day the painter said, “ I have finished the portrait “, and he unveiled it. The boy said, “It is father all right, but how be has changed”. That is. what happens with promises after elections. They are the same promises, but how they have changed !
Perhaps .the best definition of a true democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.. I am afraid that if these amendments be agreed to it will be government of the people, for the people, but not. by the people. The clothing of this Parliament with these additional powers may lead to the government of the people by a small caucus group. Every one knows that caucus controls this Government. We all are striving to escape from the war-time restrictions that are still in force, but honorable members opposite, who talk so much about freedom, seem anxious to retain many of the restrictions. The people as a whole, however, are freedomloving, and they object to being hampered by unnecessary controls. The Government’s insistence upon the retention “of uniform taxation and many other war-time controls shows that it intends to keep the State governments in subjection to the greatest possible degree. Yet on occasions it is quite ready to throw its responsibilities on to the State governments. According to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) the Government considers that current drought difficulties are of only minor consequence. In any case, it has declared thar drought relief must be provided by the State governments. In such circumstances we cannot feel much enthusiasm, - about recommending’ additional powers for the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who is solid in his political outlook as well as in his physical proportions, delivered a most interesting speech on these bills. I commend his remarks to honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Fremantle objects to my making complimentary remarks about the honorable member for Gippsland, yet he is very happy about similar remarks that were made concerning him by the honorable member for Hunter. If bouquets are to be thrown, I intend to participate in ‘heir distribution, and I claim the same right in regard to the levelling of criticism. This bill goes too far when it proposes that the Commonwealth shall have such power as will enable it to nationalize the medical profession. 1 am definitely opposed to the measure which would empower the Parliament to make laws in respect of the terms and conditions of employment in industry.
The bill relating to the organized marketing of primary products needs clarifying. One honorable member said that the idea of the Government was tostreamline the Constitution. There is a streamlined rocket which it is proposed to shoot to the moon. I believe that if these proposed powers were conferred cn this Parliament, the sky would be the limit in their application. Unless the Government is looking for a negative vote, the bills will have to be amended drastically, because the people invariably reject a proposal that is veiled in obscurity. There is no doubt that these questions are being submitted in order to confuse the issue at the next general elections. If the perplexing arguments that have been advanced by both sides in this House are an indication of those thai will bt used on the hustings, the people will not know in what position they may be placed if they agree to confer additional powers on the Commonwealth ; therefore a negative vote may be expected. I am not in favour of the measures, because the powers which they propose to confer. are far greater than would be in the best interests of Australia. Cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth would be the best means for achieving orderly marketing of primary products. Honorable members will agree that any proposal for an alteration of the Constitution should be studied and analysed in every way. Unless very drastic amendments be made to these bills, I shall not be able to support them.
– I support these three bills. It is essential that greater power be conferred on the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) that we cannot live in the past, and I trust that none of us desires to do so. The honorable member said that he would not oppose the maternity allowance, child endowment, and widows’ pensions, and ho predicted that the validity of these enactments would never be challenged. But it might be challenged; and should the challenge succeed, we would revert to past conditions. The rearing of a family imposes great hardship on the parents. 1 hope to see the child endowment much higher than it is now. I admit that it was introduced by the parties that now sit in Opposition, and I give credit to them on that account ; but the amount was raised by the present Government from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a week, and it must go higher. I was reared in a district where there were large families, and am familiar with the conditions against which they had to struggle. When I was being reared, my parents had to struggle hard, and a child endowment would have been most acceptable to them. During the rearing of my family, my wife and I, having put the children to bed, had to pack apples until late at night, in order to make sufficient to pay the interest on the mortgage on our farm. Our economic position ought to have been sufficiently secure to obviate our having* to do that. Child endowment provides a measure of security for the women by whom it is drawn. A man who was chairman of a meeting in my electorate during the las; election campaign admitted to having a family of twenty. It cannot be contended that large families are not of great benefit to the country; but whereas they were the order of the day at one time, they are now practically non-existent. If women lose the fear of economic iri? security they will again produce large families. Always in the back of their ininds is the fear that something might happen to the breadwinner - unemployment, accident, or death - in which event the family would be left without provision for their future. If the powers now being sought are conferred on the Commonwealth, it will be able to provide a measure of security. The honorable member for Wimmera said that the Government, under extended powers, might nationalize the medical profession. It is not necessary to do that. In Tasmania, members of the medical profession are subsidized to attend to people in outback districts, and the system has proved most successful. About eighteen years ago, in a milling district in the lower part of my electorate, a man told me that when his wife was ill the doctor whom he summoned had to leave his car 3 miles distant from the home, and before examining the woman wanted to be paid £15 for his visit. He was taken inside the home and shown that the larder was practically empty. Two children were in bed, with a covering of only one blanket The father told the doctor that he was not in a position to pay the fee that had been asked, and the doctor insisted that his wife should be removed to hospital in order that she might receive the medical attention that she needed. Steps to this end were taken, but she died before entering the institution. Happenings of that kind convinced the Government of Tasmania of the necessity to provide medical attention for those who were pioneering the outlying districts of the State. I heard one honorable member say that if a free medical service were provided for everybody, the use- of it would be twice as great as the calls that are now made on the medical profession. I was reared in a district in which medical aid could not be obtained free of charge, and because of the poor circumstances of most families, a person had to be on the verge of death before’ a doctor would be summoned to attend to him. Under the Tasmania n scheme, medical men visit the- schools, and also conduct periodica] examinations of families in outlying districts. We should provide better conditions for all our people than were provided for our predecessors. That is why the Government desires to be empowered to legislate in respect of social services. If a succeeding government set out to reduce taxation, it might be inclined to discontinue some of the existing services in order to balance its budget. So long as their validity remains doubtful, it would be an easy matter to have the .legislation challenged. If the position were made constitutionally secure, no government would be able to do that. I hope that every elector will give an affirmative vote on the first question, whatever may be done in regard to the other two. The honorable member for Wimmera claimed that the primary producers want to have freedom to market their produce. He has been an auctioneer, and I presume has always endeavoured to get the best prices for .his client. I have been a farmer. I have shipped fruit to England for the last 40 or 45 years, and have had to accept whatever prices were realized. I lost control of the fruit after it had been packed. The aim of the Government is to make the mass of the people contented. In my early days we had to hire labour at the cheapest price possible, at less than a living wage, really, ‘ because we could not afford to pay more. Living was hard
On the farms then. We are now hoping to make conditions better, but that will be possible only if farm products can be sold at just prices.
– Is the present price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat f.o.b. a fair indication of what is likely to happen under the new system?
– If the wheat brings more than 5s. 2d. on the open market the farmers will get more. I can remember when the Scullin Government’s proposal to guarantee 4s. a bushel for wheat was defeated in the Senate on the vote of two Country party members. Afterwards, in 1931, I saw wheat sold in the Riverina at ls. lOd. a bushel. In fact, there was practically no- market at all for wheat.
– Does not the Minister think that the minimum- stable price should be the co3t of production, plus a reasonable margin of profit?
– I do, and that is what we are trying to get. It must be understood that, if the workers are to be paid decent wages* the producers’ must be guaranteed reasonable prices for their’ commodities. With organized marketing, that is possible. So far as I have ever been able to learn, the world has never overproduced primary products. I was- in
England in 1935, and saw wheat being sold at 2s. 6d. and 2s. 7d. a bushel. 1 was. told that the price was low because there was a huge- surplus of wheat. I asked whether the surplus was in England, and was told that there was not much wheat in England, but that there was a huge surplus in Canada and in Russia. A little later I spent two months in Russia, where I learned that the season had been unduly wet and the harvest poor. There was no surplus of wheat there. When I returned to England I said to a merchant, “You said that there was a big surplus of wheat in Russia. Well, there is not”. He replied, “ It doesn’t matter. There is a big surplus in Canada “. I travelled back to Australia via Canada, and there I learned that, because of the drought in the United- States of America,. Canadian wheat was being sent to that country, and prices were rising. In 1936, I spoke to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) just before he left for Great Britain, and said to him, “Before you return the price of wheat will be 4s. a bushel “. He laughed, and said, “ Neither you nor I will ever again see wheat selling at 4s. a bushel “ ; and he talked of the huge surplus of wheat .throughout the world. All the storied about surpluses were invented just to put something over the people. When I was in England, the surplus was supposed to be in Russia. Then it was supposed to be in Canada, and so on. I was never able to catch up with that surplus. Before the right honorable member for Cowper returned to Australia, wheat was selling at 5s. a bushel.
– Russia has not been in the wheat export market for over twenty years.
– I am relating what the merchants told1 me when I was in England.
– The CornTrade Review has been published every week for the last 100 years, and it gives figures regarding stocks of wheat held in every country.
– Perhaps, but are’ the figures correct? I do not believe that they always are. I have had experience of the alleged surplus of hops in Tasmania. In 19’3i, the buyers said that there was a surplus of8,000 bales. We made a contract with Guinness, in Dublin, to take our entire surplus, and when we went to make the shipment we had difficulty in assembling 3,000 bales.
– The honorable member will admit that there was a surplus of apples in Tasmania in 1940.
– Yes, but there was no surplus on the mainland, or throughout the world. At the present time, there is in Tasmania a surplus of apples and potatoes, but that is because we cannot get ships to take them away. Last year, millions of bushels of apples were ploughed in in Tasmania. On my own -orchard alone I ploughed in 5,000 bushels.
– Are the growers paid for what is ploughed in?
– Yes; under the Apple and Pear Acquisition Act, they are paid a small amount for fruit which is not harvested. I hope that the Commonwealth will be given the power which it needs to legislate in regard to employment. If the Commonwealth is able to legislate directly on such matters that power will make for much greater contentment among the workers. The Government is asking for definite powers for the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of employment, organized marketing and social services. Surely no one can question the right of the Commonwealth to deal with, such matters.
– For the second time within two years this House has before it legislation providing for the making of an appeal to the people to grant new powers to the Commonwealth. The Government has profited from experience. Last time it asked for fourteen powers, and these, together with the three so-called safeguards, were all lumped together so that the electors had to accept them all or reject them all. As a result, they were overwhelmingly defeated. This time, it is intended to put the proposals separately, so that the people may accept or reject any one of them.
The attitude of the Australian Country party towards proposals for constitutional reform has for a long time been well defined. We believe that a Constitution which was written 45 years ago must need modifying and bringing up to date, but we believe that the proper approach to the matter would be to refer the Constitution for overhaul to an elected convention similar to that which originally drew up the Constitution. The platform of the Australian Country party contains the following points on the subject of constitutional reform : -
Amendment of the Constitution to -
Advocacy of the balanced development of Australia, the checking of the excessive growth of bureaucracy, maintenance of the federal system of government and constitutional reform along practical lines. These objective? to be achieved by-
Pending this procedure, an approach be made to the States for the transfer of certain indispensable and urgent powers to the Commonwealth to enable them to fulfil their joint responsibilities for economic development and social progress.
The Australian Country party believes that the Government is approaching the matter in the wrong way, and that the amendments immediately sought are unnecessary. The Government is seeking these additional powers so that it may validate certain legislation, the validity of which is now in doubt. The Government wishes to place beyond question the power of the Commonwealth to continue social services, including child endowment and family allowances. The doubt on the validity of such services has arisen _ as the result of the judgment of the High Court in the Pharmaceutical Benefits case. It is worth noting that, of the fourteen powers sought at the last referendum, this one about family allowances stood thirteenth on the list. The Government is now asking for power to legislate, in respect of organized marketing of primary products. At the last referendum, the Government wanted power to legislate in respect of the “marketing of commodities “, and the difference is important. The third proposal of the Government is that the Commonwealth should have power to legislate in respect of terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription. That was the second of the Government’s fourteen points at the 1944 referendum. It appeared under the bald heading, “ Employment and Unemployment “. We were told in 1944 that, if the referendum were lost, all sorts of dire economic results would follow. When the proposals were rejected by the people, the Government said that child endowment was in jeopardy, that its plans for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen could not be carried out, and, indeed, that economic depression could not be avoided. . Strangely enough, the powers which the Government claimed to be most important in 1944, are not referred to in the three bills now under discussion. Therefore, I am impelled to seek the reason underlying the Government’s new proposals. In doing so, I recall the propaganda of fear employed by the Government in the 1944 referendum campaign. An enormous sum was expended on the campaign by the Government through the Department of Information and one advertisement published at the expense of the taxpayers depicted a sad-faced woman above the caption, “ Mother, vote Tes to keep your child endowment “. We may expect the same sort of misleading propaganda at the expense of the country in connexion with the campaign for the new proposals. In spite of the Government’s campaign of fear, the 1944 proposals were defeated. I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) whether the child endowment scheme has been jeopardized in any way in the intervening period. The answer, of course, must be no. This exposes the dangerous nature of the Government’s tactics. Its propaganda was entirely misleading, and it served only to exaggerate unfounded fears in the minds of a few people. No member of the Opposition objects in any way to placing the validity of child endowment, maternity allowances and widows’ -pensions beyond doubt. But the Government has adopted the wrong approach to the matter. A referendum is unnecessary. The Government wants the people, at the referendum, to grant powers with relation, not only to child endowment, maternity allowances and widow pensions, but also other extraneous items ; all are to be lumped together in the proposals. Child endowment was brought into being by the parties which are now in Opposition. The scheme has never been in jeopardy, as the Government claims, and is never likely to be in jeopardy. The Government could easily have made arrangements with the States to have power referred to it in order to place the validity of the legislation beyond doubt. The Government’s methods are unfair. The power sought in relation to child endowment, maternity allowances and widows’ pensions should be sought separately. There would be no doubt then that the proposal would receive the almost unanimous support of the people. The Government has arranged for the referendum to be held on the day of the general elections, and it has wrapped up with the proposals which I have mentioned other proposals relating to sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits to students, and family allowances which are extremely controversial. This will serve only to confuse the main issues. Let us examine the way in which the validity of child endowment, maternity allowances and widows’ pensions is to be shackled to the other proposals under the Government’s plan. At the 1944 referendum, the Government took every possible advantage of its opportunities by wrapping up repatriation with’ certain other obnoxious proposals which had to be approved or rejected by the people im- toto.
The Opposition then counselled the Government to submit the request in relation to repatriation as one specific proposal, so that it would not be jeopardized by the bad features of the other proposals. However, the Government rejected the advice and tried to create a fear complex by claiming that, if all of the proposals were not accepted, it would not be able to deal with the re-establishment of exservicemen. But what has happened since the referendum was lost? The Reestablishment and Employment Act has been passed, and the Government is carrying on unchecked with its repatriation plans, including its schemes for land settlement and housing. Therefore, its attempts to create fears in the minds of the people are proved to have been unjustified. Now, in its anxiety to obtain authority for certain obnoxious social service schemes, it has linked them with other schemes, the value of which is undisputed. By skilful use of political propaganda, it hopes to . “ cash in “ at the elections by making the Subject of social services a major issue. Its tactics do not deceive anybody. Everybody knows why the referendum is to be held on the same date as the general elections.
I emphasize that the Opposition does not object to the safeguarding of child endowment, maternity allowances and . other desirable social services. However, a fundamental principle of the policy of the Opposition is that social services, in the main, must be financed on a scientifically sound contributory basis. Unless this policy be adopted, social services are. destined to do more harm than good. In order to prove my case, I refer to what has happened in New Zealand. This Government’s free medicine scheme was undoubtedly modelled on the New Zealand scheme. The cost of the scheme in New Zealand has continually increased since its inception. In its first year, 1940-41, it cost New Zealand £13,967,000. In 1941-42 the cost increased to £14,600,000, in 1942-43 it increased again to £16,000,000, in 1943-44, the last year for which figures are available, the total was £17,500,000. To-day, the scheme is not self-supporting. The original plan was to finance the scheme by means of contributions collected in the form of taxes. The calculations of the New Zealand Government were so misguided that the scheme had to be subsidized from Consolidated Revenue as follows : -
In operation, the scheme has not achieved the desirable results originally envisaged. The physical effects on the people, apart from the economic effects, have been most unsatisfactory. As evidence of this, I refer to a government-sponsored advertisement published. in Wellington on the 29th December, 1944. This is what it stated -
You can’t get good health out of a bottle. . . The Social Security Fund spent more than £750,000 on medicines last year, supplied free to the public.
It is fallacious to say that a governmental service is supplied “ free to the public “. It may be free to one section of the public, but obviously only at the expense of another section. The announcement continued -
This country must just about lead the world as a nation of tonic-takers and pill addicts.
Use medicine only when it is essential. . . Give Nature’s method a trial. The result will probably astonish you.
That tells its own story. Another interesting sidelight on the disappointing result’ of the scheme is contained in a press report which appeared in Wellington on the 27th October, 1945. It stated -
The admission by the Minister for Health (Mr. A. Nordmeyer) that “in view of the abuses .of the fee-for-service system on which New Zealand’s free doctor plan is based, the Government is most seriously considering whether it should continue” dragged into the light the greatest racket in New Zealand to-day - the alliance of doctors and public to plunder the Social Security Fund.
Amongst the defects’ stated are “ Deterioration of the care provided “ and “ The new attitude of families now they know hospitalization is free - the desire to get sick relatives out of the home and into the hospital “.
That shows that the so-called “ free “ medical service in New Zealand is costing the country a great deal of money and is having a detrimental effect on the people.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– In amplification of what I have already said I quote from the New Zealand Observer of the 31st October, 1945-
To-day the Government, as stated in the House by Mr. Nordmeyer, is considering a revision of the present method of payment and when .it is seen how the cost of the medical benefits is rising year by year, the need for action is clear.
This is the story as told in Health Department reports:
The increased cost in three years is over ‘a quarter of a million pounds. “ Special arrangements”, alone, cost £23,855 last year.
Last year the Health Department was not perturbed by the increase in the cost, judging hy the following passage from its report: - “ The cost of the- general medical service ‘ shows a slight increase on that for the previous year. The shortage of civilian doctors, and the long, hours they are working in many cases, makes it unlikely that the cost will increase further under present conditions “.
This year the report dismissed the problem in one sentence: “General Medical Services: The costs are still rising, and will continue to do so as fresh medical practitioners enter service”. In other words, because there are more doctors, to treat the same number of patients, more money will have to be paid, though there are fewer patients per doctor. It is curious reasoning, and evidently Mr. Nordmeyer thought so, from the tenor of his remarks In the House. -
However, the cost of medical benefits is not the only problem. Pharmaceutical benefits are even more of a headache for their authors, as the following figures testify:
The Health Department soberly reported in 1 944 that “ it is hard to resist the conclusion that many unnecessary bottles of medicine are prescribed “. This year it says, “ This rise has occurred without apparent deterioration in the general health . . . and is very disquieting “.
It may be disquieting, but is it really surprising? Is it surprising that people are flocking into doctors’ surgeries to be treated for minor ills? When people are detached every week from one-twentieth of their earnings, under the heading of social security, they naturally neglect no means of getting something back for their money.
So the chemists prosper (although no’ one seems to mind about that) and the doctors prosper, and the public just pays its taxes and grumbles. Apparently, the Government to-day is back where it was in 1941. It is negotiating again with the medical profession in the hope of evolving some workable substitute for the present fee-for-service system.
Whatever scheme is adopted, there are certain to be weaknesses. For the doctors, as Mr. Nordmeyer has said, are no better and no worse than other people in the community, and if they are put on a salary they may be disposed to demand regulated hours of work, just like the more humble toilers. ,
The main lesson, perhaps, is that it is all very well to have high ideals, but a dash of practical common sense is still a very useful quality.
So much for the New Zealand scheme. I now quote from .the Christian Science Monitor of the 9th February, 1946, to show the experience of other countries -
Experience with socialized medicine in Europe shows it has led to inferior service and to economic and political problems.
In every country there has been a constant increase in the sickness rate after the introduction of health insurance. In Germany it trebled from 1885 to 1930. In England- the number of claims increased by almost 50 per cent, in a six-year period from 1921 to KI27. In both countries doubtless some of the increase was due to malingering, but an appreciable part was caused by poor medical service
Again, in England there has been much argument about the quality of medical caregiven -the workers. Some of the proponents of the system have insisted that they got better attention than they did in preinsurance days. Others disagree. Ernest Bevin has characterized the medical service given the industrial classes as “ a tragedy of incompetence . . .”
The third and most insidious danger is the political one. Investigating doctors found much evidence about the quality of medical care. The increasing cost of the systems is a matter of record, but the growth in the political importance of the administrative organization has gone almost unnoticed in most countries until a crisis. Such an emergency occurred in Germany in 1933. One of the first things the Nazis did after they took over the reins of government was to seize control of the health insurance> funds and to convert the offices into governmental agencies to aid in regimenting the people.
I have made those quotations in order to show that the Government would be- pur-, suing a dangerous course in proposing to ask the people to grant it power to operate the very desirable social services that are now in operation together with undesirable services like the so-called free medical service. By lumping them together the Government is placing desirable social services in jeopardy. So I urge that the Government divide the proposal. It should -ask the people for power to place beyond doubt the validity of the existing social services. That would have our wholehearted support.
If the Government wants power to legislate in regard to medical and dental services it can put an additional separate proposal before the people
One has to search for reasons why the Government proposes a referendum on the subject of the organized marketing of primary products. In and out of season, the Australian Country party has sought amendment of section 92 of the Constitution in order that the Commonwealth might exercise control of marketing. In 1937 honorable gentlemen opposite opposed and succeeded in having defeated a referendum on that matter. In 1944, the Attorney-General refused point blank to include organized marketing in the referendum of that year. Now he shows a remarkable change of front, and the House is entitled to know why. The Australian Country party’ believes in the continuance of the organized marketing that has been possible under existing and war-time powers of the Commonwealth. We believe that it should be carried out as far - as possible on the basis of sensible co-operation wit the States. Much has been learnt since the referendum of 1937. The success of the Australian Agricultural Council has demonstrated the wisdom of a policy of co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said in. his excellent speech last night, the Agricultural Council, which has years of experience, should be used to the greatest possible degree by making i t a statutory body. Organized marketing involves some degree of regimentation, but, by the greatest stretch of imagination, one cannot say that the Commonwealth Government can control the marketing of primary products, ambiguous as that term is, without having a say in respect of production. Does the Commonwealth Government intend to allow the States, which control the land on which primary products are grown, to have full control over production and to deal only with the actual marketing of those products? Either the Commonwealth must usurp State functions, and exercise control over production or chaos will result. This matter must be looked at in the light of what the Attorney-General said about section 92 of the Constitution. He said -
I have explained my view that section 02 does not altogether prohibit organized marketing. Some marketing schemes have been upheld, notwithstanding section 02, on the ground that they were directed not to the mere restriction of interstate commercial transactions but to the achievement of such objectives as the preservation of standards oF purity and quality, and the maintenance of supplies for consumers.
For the life of me I cannot understand why the Attorney-General with all his legal ingenuity cannot devise legal phraseology that would satisfy those specifications. I ask the Attorney-General what primary industry is incapable of coming within the specifications that he outlined in his second-reading speech. By exercising his undoubted legal ingenuity, the Attorney-General should be able to draft a marketing arrangement which would not “be ultra vires the Constitution. When the Lyons Government’s marketing proposal was defeated at the referendum in 1937, the major primary industries were able to continue as the result of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. For example, the butter industry was able to maintain its conditions and retain producer-control through an arrangement between the butter producing States. The meat and wheat industries were able to formulate satisfactory marketing schemes. Therefore, I ask the Attorney-General tq inform me what particular primary industry will benefit from the Government’s referendum proposals which cannot benefit under the specifications he enunciated in his secondreading speech?
In order to gauge the wisdom or otherwise of this proposal for orderly marketing, we must have an unambiguous definition of “ primary products “. The Attorney-General said -
All Australians, for instance, would immediately recognize butter, cheese, flour and dried fruits as primary products, though not cake or bread.
If flour is a primary product, I “should like to know whether sugar is a primary product? Is a distinction drawn between raw sugar and refined sugar? And how will margarine, the great competitor of butter, be classified ? If flour is a primary product, can breakfast foods be so regarded? The manufacture of breakfast foods is no more intricate than the milling of flour. Therefore, honorable members on this side of the chamber want to know what precisely is the definition of “ primary products “. I am of opinion that the Attorney-General recognized that the obstacle constituted by section 92 has been made more formidable by the judgment of the High Court in the recent Airlines case. Briefly, the. High Court held that the Commonwealth Government could not have a monopoly of interstate aviation. The wider the AttorneyGeneral makes the definition of primary products, the more he will break down the obstacle formed by section 92.
Obviously, the purpose of this proposal is to give effect to’ the Labour party’s fundamental policy of socialization. Trade unions and Communists have harassed the Government to implement its policy for the socialization of the means of% production, distribution, and exchange. The Government’s banking legislation has satisfied the demand for the socialization of exchange. In addition, the Government controls distribution, because it has acquired power over transport. It has decided to conduct interstate air services in competition with private enterprise, and proposes to build a fleet of coastal vessels. Production is the only unfulfilled part of the Labour party’s policy of socialization. I warn the people that the Government’s proposal for orderly marketing, in its present form, is no more than the first step towards the ‘socialization of the means of production.
If production is to be regimented, what will be the result? The AttorneyGeneral stated that safeguards, will be provided against industrial conscription, but will effective safeguards be provided against the socialization of the means of production, which is an indispensable part of marketing ? During the war, Australians experienced the effects of the regimentation of production. The Commonwealth paid primary producers 12s. an acre not to grow wheat, and the cost of that policy was approximately £1,500,000.
Despite food shortages throughout the world, potato-growers were instructed to reduce their acreages by 25 per cent. Those are two straws in the wind indicating that the Government intends to socialize the means of production. [Extension of time granted.] The Government’s proposals for orderly marketing are too ambiguous. Orderly marketing can .be achieved most effectively, first, by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, and, secondly, by encouraging producercontrol, as the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) advocated yesterday. Those requirements have been proved since the rejection of the marketing referendum in 1937. Honorable members on this side of the chamber desire to know who will benefit from the Government’s proposals for orderly marketing, and whether the benefit will be greater than primary industries derive under section 92, as outlined by the Attorney-General in his speech on the Constitution -Alteration (Organized Marketing pf Primary Products) Bill.
The Constitution Alteration (Industrial Employment) Bill provides-
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered by inserting after paragraph (xxxiv.) the following paragraph: - “ (xxxiv.a. ) Terms and conditions of employment in industry, but not so as to authorize any form of industrial conscription:”.
Why does the Government require that power? Does it intend to usurp the functions of the Arbitration Court and reduce to a dangerous degree the value of arbitration and conciliation? The Commonwealth, we have been told, requires this power in order that the Parliament” may fix wages and working conditions. In seeking this power, the Government had yielded to outside pressure groups, particularly the Communist element, which has agitated for a standard working week of 40 hours throughout Australia and an increase of the basic wage by £1 a week. In order to placate tho.se pressure groups, the Government has been forced to appeal to the people for constitutional authority to fix wages and determine working conditions. If that power be granted, the Government must interfere very dangerously with the functions of the Arbitration Court, and undermine the sound and desirable foundation of arbitration, and conciliation. Yesterday, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) accused us of insincerity regarding the implementation of the policy of the Australian Country party. He stated that the party advocated stabilization, and that if we did not support the referendum proposals, we would be hypocritical because we would neglect an opportunity to remove a constitutional obstacle to stabilization. The inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s speech was that members of the Labour party conscientiously desire to implement their policy, and in order to do so, must sweep away constitutional barriers. The policy of the Labour party for a shorter working week, which is contained in sub-division 9 of “ Industrial Regulation “, states -
Working hours not to exceed 30 a week.
So it is not a 40-hour week that the economic structure of Australia will have to bear if the Government sincerely desires to implement the Labour party policy. The primary producers, whose commodities are sold in the markets of the’ world, in competition with those of other exporting countries, must vote at the referendum with a full knowledge of the Labour party’s goal.
Many eminent people, including Labour leaders, are opposed to the fixation of wages by parliamentary action. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) put a strong case in his usual lucid and logical way against this proposal. It must be obvious to all thinking people that parliamentary action in this respect is entirely undesirable. The determination of wages and working conditions is a delicate and complicated business which should not be left to the 75 members of this’ House and the members of the Senate. It should be the work of experts acting in a judicial capacity. I bring to the notice of honorable members a statement made by Mr. Forgan Smith on this subject at the Emu Park Labour convention. I do not believe that any honorable member opposite will suggest that Mr. Forgan Smith is not a thoroughly good Labour man, in fact, as good as any honorable member sitting on the Government benches. Mr. Forgan Smith said -
In connexion with the points made by other speakers respecting what they called government reduction of wages, he, as a member, vas prepared to take his share of the responsibility for everything that had -been done. He stood for the maintenance of the Arbitration Court, free from political interference, and which would adjudicate untrammelled upon the facts laid down before it in accordance with the provisions of the act. Parliament was not in a position to fix wages . . . convention must face the facts of life as they existed. The system of arbitration adopted by the Labour Government was sound and just, and none would regret it more than the workers if this structure was destroyed.
– On the Sth March, 1923. I also direct attention to a statement made by the late Chief’ Justice McCawley, President of the Queensland Industrial Court, which is reported in Queensland Hansard of the 22nd October, 1924, at page 1820,’ as follows: -
Arguments which may be suggested against direct intervention are ( I ) Parliament is not suitably constituted for the exercise of this specialized function; (2) a party political matter will be made of what hitherto has been regarded as in the nature of a judicial function; (3) wages may vai;y with the swing of the political pendulum. Political gains may be transitory, may be reversed by succeeding Parliaments, and may jeopardize the whole system of arbitration.
Mr. Theodore, speaking at a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council, on the 5th December, 1923, said -
For a reform to be enduring they wanted to be sure of its economic soundness before they brought it in. . . . It was more desirable to accomplish such reforms as a 44-hour week through the Arbitration Court. When the matter was submitted to the court, consideration was given to the economic question. . . He was speaking’ with experience as the head of an administration administering nationalized industries as well as others. . . He did not want to deceive them by saying that the 44-hour week had not been legislated upon because the Government had not had time. The reason was that it was not good policy by legislation to hamper or interfere with the free exercise by the Arbitration Court of its duties. I say the legislature is not the instrument to effect that kind of reform. If it were, there would be no need for arbitration at all. … It might be said “ raise enough money to cover the expenditure “.
There is little need for me to quote other authorities on the subject although I could do so, and shall do so on another occasion. My point at the moment is that any interference with our system of conciliation and arbitration would be most unwise. To allow a government which is subject to dictation by Communistcontrolled trade unions to meddle in this matter would be extremely detrimental to the economic welfare of Australia. The purpose of the Government in introducing the industrial powers proposal is, without doubt, to enable it toimplement, to a greater degree than ever, its socialization policy, and to introduce into Australia not a 40-hour working week but a 30-hour working week.
I” Further extension of time granted.]
I wish now to direct attention to a statement made by a prominent economist who has been an adviser to the Government for a number of years, and whose advice the Government has frequently accepted. I refer to Professor D. B. Copland, who held the position of Economic Consultant to the Prime Minister. In a report on economic conditions in the United Kingdom, the United- States of America, and Canada, which was presented to Parliament on the 20th April, 1.945, subsequent, may I point out, to the taking of the last referendum in August 1944, Professor Copland said -
The federal system of Australia is well equipped to implement a progressive economic and social policy. The machinery of frequent conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministors is more fully developed in Australia than in other federal systems. It affords an opportunity of discussion at the highest level of the problems common to the Commonwealth and the States in their joint responsibility for economic- development and social progress. The Australian Loan Council is a body unique in modern federations and is capable of playing an important part in promoting and controlling a sound policy of public investment. The Australian Works Council is an agency through which developmental projects can. be continuously planned. In the Commonwealth Grants Commission the Australian federal system has an agency through which financial adjustments may be made between the States and the Commonwealth. In its brief history the Grants Commission has already broken new ground in determining the basis upon which the Federal Government should assist the State Governments. The Australian Agricultural Council has increased its prestige during the war and is capable of developing into an important agency for the discussion of long-term agricultural policy. The increasing: scope of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has developed a moreuniform wage system than in other federations,, and the established practice of adjusting wagesto the cost of living relates more closely to movement of incomes and prices in Australiathan in most other countries. With thismachinery the Australian federal system iswell equipped to develop a progressive economic policy after the Avar.
In the light of all that I have said, it will surely not be suggested by any reasonable people that it would be wise for additional powers under the headings specified in these bills to be given to this Parliament. I consider that the introduction of the social services proposal is likely to jeopardize child endowment, maternity allowances and widows’ pensions. Surely no honorable member will be ready to take that risk. The proposal has been put forward, of course, to enable the Government to put into operation its pharmaceutical and medical benefits scheme which, in my view, is undesirable. -World history indicates that quite clearly. The remarks of Professor Copland,, which I have, just read, make it clear also that there is no need for us to adopt the proposal of the Government for the orderly marketing of primary products. Professor Copland has declared that our federal system has been developed in a most effective way. The Australian Agricultural Council ensures the greatest possible degree of co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments in the marketing of primary products. On the financial side, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has broken now ground in its investigations, has proved itself a most competent, body. The industrial powers proposal ismost objectionable from many points of view.’ The determination of wages and conditions by a parliamentary authority, would lead to chaos in industry. Wo should not be aiming at a 30-hour working week in this country, because, as honorable members know, it will be necessary for us to work to the utmost of our capacity to fulfill our obligationsexpeditiously and honestly, not only to> our own people and to the people of Great Britain, but also to the starving millions of other countries. The call to the people of this country is to “ produce, produce, produce “. We need, also, to do everything within our power to ensure the maintenance of economic equilibrium within Australia, so that our great exporting industries may be able to operate on a competitive basis at home and in the -markets of the world. Economic equilibrium is essential both nationally and internationally. We should not take any action whatever that will impair our ability to take our full responsibility as an integral part of the British Empire.
These proposals come with peculiar inappropriateness from the Australian Labour party which opposed the referendums of 1937 in connexion with the marketing of primary products, section 92 and aviation. The Labour party’s case in that connexion was prepared by the late Mr. Curtin, who made it clear in the official pamphlet that was issued on that occasion that his party regarded the proposed amendments as totally unnecessary. I quote the following passage from the matter which he prepared: -
Once again democracy is attacked. There is never a bold, frontal attack. That would alarm us and we should unhesitatingly resist. But little by little control over the things that matter is stolen from the people. By delegating to unrepresentative, irresponsible authorities the reality of power our “ elected persons “ evade responsibility. Here, under the cloak of technical and ambiguous language, upon the pretext of an emergency is another attempt to whittle away our self-government. Those who believe that responsibility should accompany power will vote “ No “. Protect the freedom which the Constitution guarantees: Defend the “ seamless garment “ of Australian unity; resist every attack upon democracy.
Mr. Curtin wrote on behalf of the Australian Labour party, and he appealed to all the electors of Australia. That is what I am now doing. We are not facing an emergency at the moment and there is no reason for haste in dealing with this subject. Proposed alterations to the Constitution should be considered in “a proper manner. There should be a thorough overhaul of the Constitution and not a piecemeal approach to the subject. For that purpose an elected convention should be held. These measures are entirely unnecessary under existing circumstances.
.- Up to the present, I have considered that the broadcasting of parliamentary debates might not be in the best interests of the Parliament. But the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), with his humbug and hypocrisy, has presented the strongest argument in favour of broadcasting to the farmers of this country speeches such as he has just made. He has become a complete misleader of the Australian Country party. I have listened very attentively to the speeches of other members of his party on this matter. They first entered this House at the same time as I did, and I know that they were then staunch supporters of the principle of orderly marketing; yet yesterday and to-day they have shown’ themselves to be completely confused. I wondered why, until I had heard the speech of their leader. That right honorable gentleman claimed that, if the wording of these proposals were broadened, the Government would socialize’ everything, and that if their scope were narrowed, the demands of the farmers would not be met. In his opening remarks he said that, the political actions of the Australian Country party in relation to constitutional reform had been clean. Actions speak louder than words. The Government has been accused of a wrong approach to this matter, and it has been argued that before any proposals were formulated a convention should have been held. Let us consider the record of the parties that sit opposite in regard to Constitution conventions. Since the inception of federation there have been eleven referendums, five of which have been submitted by the Labour party and six by either the Australian Country party or its bedmate the Liberal party, the United Australia party,, the Nationalist party, or whatever the name happened to be at the time. Not one of those six referendums was the product of a. convention. Have honorable members suggested how the convention which they favour should be constituted? Should it be an elected body? If so, should it be elected on an adult franchise,’ a State basis, or the basis adopted for election to the House of Representatives? Have they said whether the persons elected should be representatives of commerce, industry, or primary production? Let them state how the convention should be constituted. Even if we had a convention, any proposals emanating from it would have to be passed by this Parliament before they could be submitted to the people. The broadest and most representative convention ever held was that called by the late Mr. Curtin. It was attended by representatives of seven parliaments, five of which were controlled by the Labour party, and two by nonLabour parties. Therefore, the Labour party had greater parliamentary representation throughout Australia than had its opponents. However, that fact did not have a bearing on the selection of the delegates. Invitations were issued to the leaders from each side of each Parliament. The Leader of the Australian Country party was then the Leader of the Opposition in this House. He went to great pains to implore the convention to take certain action. These were his final remarks -
On behalf of the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament, 1 desire to thank you, Mr. Curtin, for the sentiments and the thanks that you have expressed. I also am pleased to have been associated with such a historic gathering. I think the bill that we have just passed can be accepted as a monument of cooperation, and as evidence of ‘ unselfishness taut compromise on the part of every one, particularly those who have represented the States here. We must appreciate that the States, who comprised the major portion of the- drafting committee, have compromised to a great extent-, as is shown by the terms of the bill’. All this goes to show that when Australians are required to get “together and do a big thing for their country, they are prepared’ to exert every possible effort to achieve- the result which is best calculated to serve the interests of the nation.
That occurred’ not 22 or 25 years ago, hut as recently as 1942. .What happened’” subsequently? When the whips of big interests cracked, and our political opponents were given their instructions, they endeavoured to confuse the issue. They are acting’ similarly to-day. When the1 Leader of the Australian Country party was throwing out a smoke screen, and.- declaiming about the terrible things that would happen, he charged honorable members on this side with having Said that there would be certain dislocation of industry, and that serious problems would confront the Government, if the last referendum were not carried. He then went on to ask why our “predictions had not been verified. The first proposal at that time was for a reference of power by the States for five years, the Government stating that the additional powers would be needed when the National Security Regulations had ceased to operate. As that will not occur before the 31st December next, we have no need to apprehend difficulties until the intervening period has elapsed.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) endeavoured to damn the case for extra powers that has been submitted to this House by submitting a price quotation in the most dishonest way, and saying, “ This is the result of orderly marketing. Pre-war, the average price for butter-fat was so much, and since we have been operating under orderly marketing it has been about Id. per lb. less”. The honorable gentleman gave the figures for one butter company only. It may have been a private company, or a co-operative company working on a share basis. Is that the correct foundation on which to build a “case ? What the honorable gentleman did not say was that while the party of which he is a member was in power, the Australian average price for butter fat was 13.59d. per lb., whereas while this Government has been in power it has been 17. 9d. per lb., or an increase of 4.31d. per lb. .Those are the latest figures, made available to me only yesterday by the Commonwealth Statistician. Hostility was shown towards me when I refused to consent to the honorable member incorporating certain figures in Hansard. My reason for that was that he had refused to answer me when, by interjection, I asked whether he was quoting Australian figures.
– I had already told the honorable member.-
– I feared that he was ‘ not making an honest statement. When a man is discussing national marketing he ought to give national figures, not those nf one company about which we do not know anything.
Another honorable member opposite told a funny story about one “ Kangaroo Bill “ who did not have to work because be had no mortgage, and tried to connect that in some way with an orderly marketing scheme, which, he said, favoured the poor man, the rich man being favoured by an open market. I point out to him that when a Government which he supported was in power, the rate of interest was 8 per cent. That is the rate which I had to pay when I began farming. Since the present Government has “been in power the rate has been reduced to 4if per cent. Therefore, the man who carried the mortgage has received a great benefit.
Two Opposition members have discussed the policy of the Government in relation to the cropping programme in Western Australia. When in the early part of the war shipping was being sunk, and we did not know what to do with our wheat crop, it was on the advice of representatives of the Opposition that the Government restricted plantings of wheat. That, however, as I have said on more than one occasion’ in this House, was not responsible for the reduction of production in Western Australia by even one bushel. The reason for the reduced production in that State, and in every other wheat-growing State, was the shortage of man-power, and later the inability to obtain supplies of superphosphate. In 1942-43, the licensed acreage - that is, the quantity which fanners were allowed to grow - was 1,81S,000 acres. The crop which they sowed totalled 1,753,000 acres. Therefore, they were 65,000 acres below what they were permitted” to grow. In the following year they were 308,SS8 acres below what was permitted, and in the two succeeding years they were 446,316 acres and 66S,338 acres respectively below that figure. That disposes finally of the charges brought by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) painted a gloomy picture of the plight of the potato-growers >under the control system. Perhaps because I take an interest in agriculture, I have received telegrams from every potato-growers’ organization throughout Australia asking me to bring influence to bear on the Government to continue the present system of control. The honorable member spoke of a grower being compelled to lea.ve his potatoes in the paddock for a month ; but surely that is better than not having any market for them at all ! I remember seeing in a potato paddock in Western Australia a notice hung on a fork, “ Take what potatoes you want, but don’t take the fork “. And that was while there was in power a government supported by the Australian Country party ! It is interesting that honorable members opposite, when discussing proposals for the alteration of the Constitution, should concern themselves .so much with the policy of the Labour party. They seem to be resigned to the fact that a Labour government will be in power for some years to come. Let me point out that the powers which we seek will, if granted, be there for any government to use. If a Labour government is in power after the next election, and if it fails to use the new powers to give reasonable conditions to the primary producers, the Labour party will have to accept the responsibility. If I were in Opposition, and genuinely interested in the welfare of primary producers, I should be most anxious that the Commonwealth Parliament should have these powers so that, whatever government was in power in. the future, it might be able to do what was necessary to secure the financial well-being of the primary producers.
The honorable member for Maranoa said that it had been necessary during the war to import wheat into Queensland because the Government refused to pay the growers more than 3s. a bushel, and because production was limited to 3,000 bushels for each grower. As a matter of fact, at no time did the Government limit production to 3^000 bushels per grower, and the returns of the various wheat pools show that the growers averaged considerably more than 3s. a bushel for their wheat.
– Why did they have to wait five or six years for’ their wages?
– If they did, it was certainly not the responsibility of this Government, which has not been in power for six years. However, before the Labour Government came into office, farmers received in one year only 2s. a bushel for their wheat, and in the following year ‘3s. Since the Labour Government has been in power, the growers have .received in various years 3s. 5d., 4s., 4s., and 4s., as first payments. There will be further payments in respect of some years, which will bring the price up to 4s. 7d. from one pool and 6s. 2d. from another. Honorable members opposite need not fear that I shall hesitate to debate with them the wheat stabilization scheme when the proper time comes. I have never pulled a punch yet, and I do not intend to do so while I ram a member of this Parliament.
I am in favour of the Government’s three proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. It is necessary that we should place beyond doubt the power of the Commonwealth to legislate in respect of social services, particularly sickness and hospital benefits and widows’ pensions. Common humanity demands at least that much. It is also necessary that the Commonwealth should be empowered to pay unemployment benefits. When a man cannot find work, it is the duty of the community to see that he and his family have enough to live on. This principle was recognized 2,000 years ago, as is illustrated in the Gospel story when the master went into the market to hire labourers for his vineyard. When he went at the ninth hour he found men standing idle, and sent them into the vineyard. He went again at the eleventh hour and found others standing idle, and when he asked them why, they replied, “ Because no man bath hired us “. He sent them also into his vineyard, and when the day was over, they all received the same wages. Thus, as long ago as that, it was recognized that a man who had offered his services to the nation was entitled to receive from the nation support for himself and his family. I also support the Government’s proposals for cold, economic reasons. Money expended on medical research and hospital benefits will prevent many persons from falling seriously ill. It will tend to keep men in production, so that they will be assets rather that liabilities. The second proposal before us is a very important one. If we are to prevent the drift of population from the country to the cities, it is imperative that the standard of living in country districts, be improved. Indeed, if the present drift to the cities continues it will be impossible for the. nation to finance its social services. Orderly marketing will do more than anything else to improve living standards in the country, and it is, therefore, of vital importance to the workers also. In 1936, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) introduced, as a private member, a bill, the purpose of which was the same as that of the proposal now before us. Later in the same year, the Australian Country party sponsored a similar proposal which became the subject of a referendum. At that time, we did not know so much about orderly marketing as we know now. The Labour party opposed parts of the proposals then submitted, but since then we have changed our opinions. We have seen that the attitude which we then adopted was not in the best interests of the whole community. .We feared, perhaps with some reason, that the proposed scheme, if put into operation, would increase the cost of living, but we have learned since that that need not necessarily occur. Orderly marketing does not necessarily mean higher prices to the consinner. By controlling supply to meet the demand, it is possible to maintain a fair, average price. This, has been proved in respect of butter. Before control was introduced, the price of butter might be lid. per lb. at one time, and as much as 2s. a little later, a state of affairs which was of no advantage to the consumer or the producer. Now, the worker knows what he will have to pay for butter, and the producer knows what his cheque will be. Farmers have many difficulties to contend with- - drought”, disease, fire, and flood - but the greatest of all is the violent fluctuations which occur in the prices of his products. It is only- by preventing such fluctuations that we can provide satisfactory conditions for the producer, and at the same time ensure that the consumers, will not have to pay =too much. A further successful example of organized production and marketing is afforded by the rice-growing industry in Australia, which happens to be confined to the State of New South Wales. When the industry was begun, the growers were up against the competition -of rice produced in black-labour countries, and the first rice grown in Australia was of poor quality. The result was that the industry fell into chaos. The growers approached the Scullin Government for assistance, and a protective duty was imposed for a certain time on imported rice. The growers elected a , board of control which instituted a system of orderly marketing, and just before the war the Australian ricegrowing industry was able to meet the entire Australian demand for rice, while at the same time exporting rice, and selling it in competition on the world’s markets with rice grown by coloured labour. Moreover, the quality of the Australian-grown rice was better than that of rice grown overseas. A similar story could be told about sugar. In these industries, both the producers and- the consumers have benefited, the only person who is any worse off being the speculator, who stands between them. We on this side of the House are unconcerned with what happens to him. We intend, as far as possible, to remove him from, the economic field. We have no use for the man who speculates in the food of the nation and of- the “world. It is interesting, also, to recall our experience in regard to the :flour-millers. I remember when the Wheat Board first came into existence. The millers objected to the actions of the board, which declared that during the war they must be millers, not wheat speculators or dealers. It allowed the millers a fair margin of profit, and they stopped dealing in “ futures “ on world wheat pits. They became so satisfied with this system that they now hope it “will never cease. They are financially better off working as millers and paying a fair average price for wheat than operating on the market as speculators. The same story can be told about the worsted manufacturers in America. Owing to violent market fluctuations, they would not undertake long-term contracts because they feared undercutting if wool prices fell, and losses which would prevent them from meeting their commitments if wool prices rose. As the result of this state of affairs, a “ wool tops “ market developed, and a wool tops exchange was established for dealing in “ futures “. Their only desire was to protect themselves by purchasing wool tops . on the market so as to guarantee an average price for wool. Many industries other than rural industries would benefit from orderly marketing and would welcome it as a means of preventing violent price fluctuations. In conclusion, I say to the people of Australia that, for the benefit of the nation and the welfare of farmers and industrialists of the future, the Government’s three proposals should be adopted. .
.- I had not intended to take part in this debate, because I have been away attending to my duties in the Northern Territory and returned only a few days ago. I considered that, having been out of circulation, I should watch and listen to what I thought would be a wrangle between lawyers about the proposed alterations to the Constitution. However, having listened to all the encomiums which have passed between honorable members on both sides of the House, and seeing how matey every one seems to be, I thought I should join in the debate. After hearing some of the speeches, particularly those of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who advocated the abolition of the States without the establishment of anything to take their place, and of the young honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), with whose remarks about the duties of the Commonwealth Parliament I disagree, I . consider it to be my duty, first to my conscience and secondly to my constituents, to make a contribution to the debate. I preface my remarks by referring to a speech made by the famous Burke in the House of Commons, in which he made a very clear distinction between delegates and representatives. I fear that many honorable members, particularly on the Government side of the House, do not appreciate their responsibilities, and fail to differentiate between the. duties of a delegate and those of a representative. Their speeches indicate that they have come here merely as delegates instead of as representatives of the people. I shall not have much to say about social services or orderly marketing. The correct policy to be adopted in connexion with orderly marketing was stated clearly by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), and there is little more to be said about it. However, I wish to supplement the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa. He spoke of conditions in a district with which he is very familiar. 1 own a small property in the same district, and I speak in terms common to every honorable member who has an interest in the land and carries a mortgage round his neck. On my property, which is 4 or 5 miles away from the property of the honorable member for Maranoa, I produce 500 .or 600 Hereford cattle every year. Therefore, the meat market is of some interest to me. However, it is of much more interest to the people in the distant Northern Territory whom I represent. During the war, this Government showed so little business acumen that the small cattle-raisers in the far north of the Northern Territory received a very raw deal. Therefore, I am not complacent, and those cattlemen will not be complacent, about granting the powers which the Government seeks.
– The honorable member is only barracking for Vesteys.
– I am about to do the very reverse of that. I welcome the honorable member’s interjection, because I intend to kick Vesteys Limited neck and crop out of the Territory, and compel them to confine their activities to exporting only - as did Argentina. If the honorable member studied Queensland Country Life, a journal which circulates in Queensland and the Northern Territory, he would have seen two articles written by me and published about two months ago which indicated what I propose to ‘ do about Vesteys Limited. I shall point out some of the mistakes of the Government during the war, as I have learned of them from my constituents whom I recently visited. The Government let a contract in the Northern Territory to a certain cattleraising firm for the supply of cattle at £5 10s. a head. Believe it or not, when delivery was about to be made, Vesteys Limited was given a contract by this Government, which now seeks increased powers over marketing, for the supply of 26,000 cattle at £7 10s. a head. How did Vesteys Limited earn the extra £2 a head for the cattle? One small cattleraiser delivered 400 or 500 head of cattle at the abattoirs S miles down the river from Katherine. The manager of Vesteys Limited, who was sitting in his car at the yards at the time, bought the cattle for £5 103. a head and then took them over for killing at the abattoirs at £7 10s. a head, making an outright profit of £2 a head within a few minutes. Yet this Government claims to be looking after the interests of the “ little man “. It appals me to learn of the things that happened during the war. I say to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) that I am waiting for a full debate to be held on the subject of the meat industry, when I shall leave very little unsaid about Vesteys Limited. As the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) said, I shall “ pull no punches “ when dealing with that firm.
– Were the cattle mentioned by the honorable member of good quality ?
– I see that the honorable, member is interested, and I shall repeat the story so that he will have no doubts about what happened. The cattle which I mentioned, numbering about 400 or 500, were brought to the killing yards near Vesteys Limited station 200 miles south of Darwin. The owner wants to- know why this Labour Government asked him to bring the cattle 700 miles to the saleyards and then allowed Vesteys Limited manager, without getting out of his motor car, to buy them and resell at a profit of _ £2 a head. I . ask the Government to answer that question. I shall take the opportunity on a more suitable occasion to point out to the House how insidious are the activities of Vesteys Limited. For instance, the company had large mobs of cattle driven across the Northern Territory and through Queensland, taking two years, including stops of six months at atime .at some stations, to the ‘market at Cannon Hills.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bills under discussion.
– I am speaking on. the bill dealing with the orderly marketing of primary products. Something of real benefit’ to small primary producers should emerge from a proper system of orderly marketing. Steps must be taken to ensure that large profiteering interests, like Vesteys Limited, will not be allowed to dump cattle from the Northern Territory into the Cannon Hills- yards and so depress prices to the detriment of small cattle-raisers operating in the Queensland coastal districts. I shall elaborate on this point at a more opportune time. I refer again to the most informative and- able speech of the honorable member for Maranoa, who referred to the peanut industry. He gave a fine exposition of the way in which marketing should be controlled - that is by the producer. In dealing with this subject, I shall speak of the ‘corn industry, which the honorable member did not mention. In the district of Kingaroy, south-eastern Queensland, only’ .1.6 -miles from my home, many corn-growers are established on a rich belt of basalt country. In the old days, large firms in Melbourne, such as the sweets manufacturers, decided that they would depress the price of corn. They bought thousands of acres of land in the Kingaroy district, where the red soil is so rich that it could almost be eaten. They grew corn there, but they were not concerned about selling it. They stored it in great barns, to rot if need be, until the farmers . were receiving a reasonable price for corn, when they dumped their stocks on the markets and depressed prices. The honorable member for Maranoa will confirm my statement on that point. If the Minister is sincere he will take the advice offered by the honorable mem- ber for Maranoa, and accept my modicum of knowledge, also, to ensure that grower-control of marketing under the aegis of the Commonwealth Government shall operate. I consider that the Commonwealth Government should act in an advisory capacity. I do not say that the farmers should be allowed to exploit the consumers either, but I do ask that their control be allowed to continue.
No one with an independent mind would ever dream of trying to take away from the people the benefits of such social services as child endowment and pensions. Many people look on people who draw the old-age pension as having wasted their lives. Perhaps they have, but during their lives they have been of economic value to the community. A man might even have been a drunkard prior to qualifying for the old-age pension ; nevertheless he has been of economic value to the country.
– The validity of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is not in question. Invalid and old-age pensions are provided for in the Constitution.
– I am aware of that. I repeat that no one would destroy the already existing social services. I do object to such vote-catching dodges as the provision of benefits to students, family allowances, and all the other services that induce people not to be individualists, but (o lean on the Government. I am not complacent about these proposals; on the contrary, I am suspicious. I think many of the proposed new social services show that the Government is politically craven, t remind honorable members opposite that they were elected to this Parliament as representatives of the people not as delegates, although many of them seem to think that the latter is their role. They should not pander to the people in this way. I favour some kind of contributory social insurance scheme like that brought down by the Lyons Government, but opposed by the Labour party. Let us have compulsory savings by those who otherwise cannot look after themselves and must be classed as spendthrifts. “What I object to about this proposal is that it is mere playing to the gallery for election purposes. If honorable members opposite were individualists they would increase their status with the electors.
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a laterstage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Thefollowing bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1046.
War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Bill 1946.
Parliamentary LabourParty: In ternal Discipline - Housing: Shortage of Roofing Materials in Queensland - Floods in Northern New SouthWales.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I direct attention to a paragraph in yesterday’s Sydney Sun because it confirms something I learned a little while ago in regard to new conditions prevailing in the British Parliamentary Labour party. It appears that the party has suspended what are known as party standing orders, not the House Standing Orders, to permit every member of the party in the House to speak and vote against the Attlee Government, if he feels disposed to do so. The statement published last night was made by Mr. Herbert Morrison, one of the foremost members of the party. He said -
They have had a great time calling Labour members a collection of dummies, robots, lobbyfodder, and so on.
Henceforth, it appears, they are to be relieved from the caucus rule that they must vote in accordance with the party decision. I raise this because it is high time that freedom of speech in this Parliament, although it was defeated at the last referendum, should be allowed to members of the Labour party. I am appalled at what might happen in certain conditions. For instance, if an honorablemember of the Labour party happened: to say something in public which was not in accordance with the party’s policy, the poor devil might be sent to Coventry.. Many members of the party are travelling; overseas. He might have to go, too. Or he might be forced, like Sir Francis Drake, to dine alone. The only difference between him and Sir Francis Drake: would be that, whereas Sir Francis dined to music, the offending member would dine to discord. I address this matter to the Prime Minister Mr. Chifley), but, as he is a very busy man, he might delegate his authority to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell),. and ask him to ascertain whether that report is correct, and whether there is any prospect of our having this control on the statements of Labour members in this Parliament lifted in order that they might openly say whatwe know from a study of their faces they have in their minds.
– I have to charge the Government with the blackmarketing of roofing material. By disposal of that material at auction to dealers at above the fixed price, it is aiding and abetting the blackmarket ring to the detriment of exservicemen and citizens. My object in making that statement, and in bringing: this case before Ministers is to illustrate the apathy exhibited to ex-servicemen under the Government’s disposals policy.. In the case I have in mind, two exsoldiers who were formerly prisoners of war, and three other ex-servicemen are suffering merely because of the authorities’ desire to satisfy their greed for excessive prices for materials that can be resold only at blackmarket prices. The needs of returned men are being shamefully neglected. The five ex-soldiers have taken over an attractive property in the Montville fruit area. With their wives and children, eighteen persons are concerned. The overflow is being temporarily housed in a caravan and tent in a locality with a 60-in. rainfall. These servicemen are thus repatriated at no cost to the Crown. They hold permits-. and plans for two homes. Armed with these they set out to try to get materials.
No galvanized iron is available in Queensland, and every effort to secure corrugated or fibro roofing material has failed. Appeals to the CoordinatorGeneral of Public- Works and the Director of Material Supplies, have been of no avail owing to the shortage of supplies. The priorities held will be of no avail for at least five months, owing to the shortage of supplies. I repeat that Queensland is badly dealt with in this matter by comparison with the other States. The. position cannot be attributed to the shortage of shipping, because in time of war . means were found of hurriedly despatching urgently needed material to Queensland. The Government holds large stocks of corrugated fibro roofing and other material used in house-building: This” and other materials suitable for roofing purposes are stored in Brisbane. The Government has adopted a policy which results in feeding the black market. Surplus war materials are sold at auction to dealers.
This practice is followed in Brisbane, as well as elsewhere, with the result that the urgent requirements of ex-servicemen and others in rural districts cannot be met.
In the case now under notice, it was ascertained that 1,619 sheets of corrugated fibro roofing material of various lengths would be sold at auction on the 30th March last. In their anxiety to obtain the material which they urgently required, the persons to whom I have referred, again made a journey to Brisbane. It was found that all of the material was not of first class quality, owing to the way in which it had been stacked, but it was sold at auction to dealers, and some lots disposed of at 25 per cent, above the fixed price. In some instances persons who have committed breaches of the prices regulations have been taken to court for having sold at a few shillings, above the fixed price of an article, and have been liable to a minimum penalty of three month’s imprisonment. A complaint, was made to the auctioneer against the high price paid for some of the fibro roofing material, and he declared that it was no business of his, as he was merely
Ml] acting for the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. He added that a price- fixing official should have been in attendance at the sale, and that his absence was clue to the fact that the sale was held on a Saturday. Many of these sales take place on Saturdays and no price-fixing official is present. I urge the Government to make supplies of roofing material available to those who have obtained permits to obtain it. Instead of feeding the black market ring, it should be anxious to meet the needs of ex-servicemen and others, who urgently require homes. The Director of Material Supplies and the Co-ordinator-General of Works should be permitted to take over at a just price the supplies of building materials at the Government dumps and make them available in Queensland, as well as in the other States, to those to whom permits have been issued, and who are in the greatest need of those materials wilh preference to ex-service persons. The Government should institute such a policy, because the present practice of disposing of these materials regardless of who suffers, is causing much distress and want.
– I appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to investigate the possibility of co-ordinating the activities of Commonwealth and State departments in order to restore the production on the north coast of New South Wales of food urgently needed for consumption in Australia as well as for despatch overseas. Last week I saw the heavy damage- done by the recent floods in the northern rivers districts. The chaos is unparalleled in the history of the north coast, where butter production has declined to about 60 or 70 per cent, of what it was in the month prior to the floods. Many square miles of the best agricultural land in that part of New South Wales is under water, and apparently will remain so for a long time. Lush grass which was submerged for several days has been destroyed. Practical steps will have to be taken promptly ‘ in order to alleviate the situation. The position with regard to stock feed is most serious. The season had been one of the best experienced for many years. The crops were well advanced and there was a good growth of grass, but the sudden innandation of pastures left the. producers practically without stock feed. If the Government would arrange to have several truck loads of bran and pollard sent to the producers along the northern ^rivers immediately, the lives of large numbers of valuable milking cows would be saved. I urge the Prime Minister to discuss that matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). Some small areas of crop, which could be used for fodder, have not been destroyed. They were intended for other purposes, but even those crops will be lost if supplies of galvanized barbed wire and fencing wire are not provided to protect them from starving stock. The services should have ample supplies of those materials for immediate distribution. In this instance, time is of the essence of the contract. What we can do to-morrow will be more efficacious than what we do a month hence.
Restrictions- on tyres and petrol for motor vehicles which are required by the men’ who drive the lorries conveying cream and transport the employees of butter factories from place to place, should be removed during this period. Those drivers should be given the goods which the butter factories state are necessary. The number of tyres required would not total hundreds, but prompt action in making them available may help to save the position. I shall cite an illustration of what has occurred. On the Bellinger River, there are two butter factories. One was fortunate enough to be situated above the level of the flood. It was thought that the second would be out of clanger, but when the flood rose 9 feet higher than the previous record flood, the factory was partly submerged. Fourteen tons of bacon and other stock were ruined, and the electric motors were temporarily put out of action. Therefore, all the cream which hitherto had been supplied to that factory, must be transported some miles te the other factory and the employees of the idle factory taken to the working factory. The motor vehicles which are used for this purpose have worn motor tyres, which easily puncture and cause delays on the road.
The condition of roads in the outlying districts is bad. The deluge occurred so quickly that bridges and their approaches were destroyed. Thousands of tons of debris has been deposited on roadways and will not be removed for months if the job is under- taken by manual workers. “ The local shire councils should be assisted to purchase or borrow bulldozers for the purpose of removing this debris expeditiously. The services, the Allied Works Council, and the Main Roads Board of New South Wales have the necessary earth-moving equipment. On the Clarence River a bridge which cost ?150,000 was destroyed ; the main bridge on the Bellingen River, which was erected at a cost of ?50,000 has disappeared; and many smaller bridgeswhich cost ?6,000 to-?8,000 also have gone. Obviously, the shire councils cannot hope to restore those bridges at once; they will have to make temporary arrangements at considerable cost. Therefore, they ask that all available material and bridge building equipment in the possession of the Government in the immediate vicinity shall be made available as quickly as possible. Otherwise, producers will not be able to transport their commodities to the towns. Since the telephone lines were swept away by the floods, primary producers in the outlying districts have not been able to communicate with other centres. Can these communications be restored immediately? The roads are almost impassable. When I drove down the main Pacific Highway last Wednesday 1 mile of the road between Kempsey and Macksville was covered with water to a depth of 2 feet.
The shire councils also request that builders and engineers, who are still in the services, should be granted temporary release, or be discharged in order to assist with the restoration of essential services. After a complete- estimate of the damage has been made during the next two months, the Commonwealth Government should confer with the Government of New South Wales with a viewto granting assistance. When the floods occurred, the State Government immediately despatched officers to grant relief to destitute persons in the towns; but the greatest distress will be found among farmers, because the fruits of a year’s labour have been swept away. Losses will be between £500,000 and £750,000. As this disaster occurred after two years of severe drought, the position of the farmers is desperate.
The various matters which I have raised are handled by different Commonwealth and State departments. As only parts of Victoria, New South Wales, and a part of Queensland have suffered seriously from flood damage, all available materials in all States should be pooled to meet this immediate emergency, and as other materials become available,they can he distributed among the States on an equitable basis.
– The matters raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) will be examined. The right honorable member for Cowper made a number of requests; some of them fall within the ambit of State activity. The demand for earth-moving equipment throughout Australia is enormous, and supplies are inadequate to meet it. Earth-moving equipment obtained under the lend-lease agreement cannot be released until we have reached an arrangement with the United States of America.The right honorable gentleman’s representations will be examined with a view to seeing how the Commonwealth Government can assist.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 59.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes -
Charters Towers, Queensland.
Postal purposes -
Mile Erid, South Australia.
St. Kilda, Victoria.
National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, Nos. 58,60,61, 62,63,64.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The duties of educationpersonnel include -
Office Accomodation in Capital Cities.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Does the Government propose to dispose of the flax mills now operating to private people?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer: -
Under the arrangements made by the Commonwealth with the States through the Agricultural Council at its meeting held in Sydney on the8th February, 1946, the Common wealth agreed to continue the direction and control of flax production in Australia for a further period of two years on the basis of a 30,000- acre programme for the 1946 and 1947 sowings, as against a60,000-acre programme for the preceding five years, during which substantial quantities of fibre were exported to Britain to help her meet her urgent war demand for this commodity. The 30;060 acres was assessed as the area necessary to meet Australian requirements, plus a small margin for export. These arrangements were made with the object of determining whether or not. the industry could be placed on an economic basis under peace-time conditions, and the Commonwealth undertook to have research work intensified during the two-year period. The allocation of the acreage for this year’s sowing was approved by the Agricultural Council and the sixteen mills required to process the straw from the 30,000 acres will be retained and operated by the Commonwealth. This will mean that these mills will continue in operation until about the 31st December, 1948, before which date the position will be reviewed by the Commonwealth and State Governments concerned. The nine mills in the areas in which the sowing of flax will be discontinued under the plan, will be closed as soon as the stocks of straw on hand at those mills from the 1945 and previous crops have been processed. These surplus mills will then be disposed of to the best advantage by public tender or as otherwise determined by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. In addition, eight other mills situated in districts in which flaxgrowing was discontinued towards the end of the war with Germany, have already been closed and these either have been, or are being, disposed of, through the Disposals Commission.
Shipping: Overseas Organizations.
y. - Yesterday, the honor.able member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following questions: -
I nsk the Prime Minister whether it is correct that a shipping company recently approached the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association for admission to thi shipping conference and that its application was refused? If so, will the Prims Minister state the name of the company and whether it is Australian-controlled? In view of the Government’s close liaison with thu overseas shipping combine will he take steps tu see that the company to which I refer is admitted immediately to the shipping conference?
The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
I understand that the shipping company which approached the Overseas Shipping Group in London for admission to the AustraliaUnited Kingdom Shipping Conference was Messrs. W. K. Carpenter and Company Limited. This is an Australian company, but, so far as is known, most if not all of its -vessels are registered outside the Commonwealth. The United Kingdom-Australia Conference is a private organization in which there is no government representation and in whose deliberations the Commonwealth Government has no direct say. The arrangement for companies desiring to enter the conference are therefore private matters between such companies and the association and the Commonwealth Government is unable to intervene in such arrangements.
Production : Report nv New Zealand Economist.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
y - The answers lo the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Motor Tyres and Tubes: Prosecution koh Possession.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
t. - I was absent overseas when the right honorable member asked his original question in October last, and his question was answered by the then Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley), I have asked ihe Solicitor-General for a statement regarding this matter, and he informs me that the position is as follows - lt is contrary to practice to table contents of liles of the character asked for. but the facts may be summarized as follows: - 1 to 4. One hundred and seventeen tyres and 4(i tubes were found by the police in the possession of the managing director of Hillman Tobacco Company and the managing director was able to account for all the lyres and tubes with the exception of seventeen tyres. Four of the seventeen tyres were marked with the ‘government stamp. The Deputy Crown Solicitor, Brisbane, after consideration of the facts and recommendations in the matter, was of opinion that the ease was une for prosecution under the National Security Act nml it was decided that action lie taken under that act in respect oi breaches nf the ‘Control of Rubber (Distribution of Motor Tyres and Motor Tubes) Order by the buyer and seller of the tyres in question. Complaints under the National Security Act were accordingly laid and the first complaint was heard nl 21st November Inst and was dismissed. An appeal against the magistrate’s decision was lodged and is now pending. Tin- prosecution against the other .party to the transaction has been adjourned until the res-nit of the appeal is known. No tyres or tubes have been confiscated but at present the seventeen tyres are being held as exhibits in the pending cases.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 April 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460405_reps_17_186/>.