17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 . p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Medical Personnel - War Neurosis -
Army Detention Camps - Major cousens- troops outside australia.
– Can the Minister for the Army state how many medical officers, nurses and other medical personnel are still in the Australian military forces, and how many were in those categories at. the commencement of demobilization ?
– As the honorable member well knows, this matter has given the Government a good deal of trouble, because of the competing demands of the civilian community and the services.. Committees were constituted for the purpose ofinvestigating every aspect of it. The honorable gentleman served with distinctionon one of those committees some time ago. The demobilization of the forces was commenced on the 1st October, 1945. The number of doctors in the Army was reduced from 1,400 on that date to 360 at the 30’.h June, 1946. In the same period, the number of nurses was reduced from 2,400 to 1,000, and the number of other medical personnel, such as medical orderlies and members of the AustralianMedical Women’s Auxiliary Service from 4,600 to 2,450. I assure the honorable gentleman that the matter is being constantly reviewed, with the object of effecting further discharges whenever it is practicable to do so. I point out, however, that hospital establishments have to be maintained in order to deal with recurring cases of sickness due to war service.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether servicemen suffering from war neurosis have thrown or attempted to throw themselves from balconies at 113ih Australian General Hospital, Yaralla? When was the first attempt made ? How many attempts have succeeded ? “What precautionary measures have been taken to ensure that these unfortunate sufferers shall be unable to do themselves physical harm?
– The honorable member raised this matter in conversation with me, because he was concerned at the attempts by ‘ servicemen who are very ill or are suffering from war neurosis to commit suicide or to do themselves harm. Inquiries have elicited the information that for some months there has not been an attempt by va serviceman, to jump from a balcony at 113th Australian General Hospital. These nerve cases, which require restraint, are already housed in an enclosed ward in the pavilion. Special provision has .been made to accommodate safely such cases in wards on the ground floor. I have received this advice from the commanding officer of the hospital. I am assured that the man who jumped over a balcony some months ago was not a nerve case. He had been operated upon for appendicitis, and there were other complications which I need not discuss now. I can assure the honorable member that all precautions are now being taken to make it impossible for delirious persons and nerve cases to jump over balconies.
– On the date on which hostilities ceased how many Army personnel were in Army detention camps and in civil gaols, and what staff was engaged on detention and guard duties in Australia? How many Army personnel are at present in Army detention camps and in- civil gaols in Australia, and what staff is now engaged on detention “and guard duties? How many detention camps have been declared redundant and closed since the cessation of hostilities?
– The preparation of detailed replies to the honorable member’s question will involve a good deal of research. I shall, however, obtain the necessary information and supply it to the honorable member as soon as possible. In general terms I inform him that at the 1st September, 1945, there were 2,494 Army personnel in Army detention camps, in Australia. As at the 6th July, 1946, that number had been reduced to 755 and 14 detention camps had been declared redundant. The number of personnel comprising the staff administering detention camps has been reduced during the same period from 1,235 to 496.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that the jurisdiction of a State court in the matter of an indictment against Major Cousens has been challenged on the ground that the same charges are pending against Major Cousens in a court martial? If that be so, how does it happen that the Commonwealth has, at the same time, levelled two charges on the same issue against the same man in a civil jurisdiction and also in a military jurisdiction?
– Some months ago the Army authorities referred this case to the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, and the Solicitor-General sought the opinion of three eminent King’s Counsel in Sydney regarding the hest procedure to adopt to bring Major Cousens to trial. The matter rests no longer with the Department of the Army.
– Are there any court martial proceedings?
– I heard over the radio that Major Cousens had appeared before the court in Sydney to-day. As the case is now sub judice, I shall not make any comments which might prejudice a fair and impartial hearing, which is all that the Government desires to obtain.- ‘
– As newspapers have reported that approximately 1,000 members of the Australian Military Forces are scattered through the islands to the north of Australia and have been forgotten, is the Minister for the Army in a position to state the number and disposition of our troops in that area?
– There are 2,570 Australian troops in the islands to the north of Australia, exclusive of 9,968 in Japan. I assure the honorable member that those men have not been forgotten. Details of the disposition of personnel are - 17 at Weewak; 1,500 in New Britain, principally at Rabaul; 600 at Moraiai; 29 in other parts of New Guinea; 36 at Macassar; and 388 elsewhere, including the Victory Contingent, which will return to Australia next month. All these men will be brought back to Australia as soon as possible. In many instances, the Government is waiting to secure suitable ships to load valuable equipment thatis being maintained by the men. I assure the honorable gentleman that his representations on behalf of their speedy return will not be overlooked.
Corrections by Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– In view of the statement by the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that it will publish corrections of all errors made by itself, I direct the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneralto the script of a news commentary broadcast over station 2FC, Sydney, on Saturday, the 13th April, which the commission has already been asked to correct? Will the Minister examine this commentary, with a view to deciding whether it contains, not only serious errors of fact misleading people as to their rights under the pensions system, but also a gross and unwarranted reflection on the pensioners of Australia ? Will the Minister take the matter up again with the commission, in view of the chairman’s assurance that it will correct its own errors ?
– I shall examine the script of the talk about which the honorable member complains, and shall also discuss with the Postmaster-General the desirability of interrogating the Commission as to why talks of that sort are permitted over the air. Further, I shall request the Postmaster-General to ask the commission to make the correction which the chairman says it is always anxious to make when its mistakes are pointed out to it. Judging by some of the talks broadcast during the last twelve months, the commission will have a full-time job in correcting misrepresentations. The protest of the honorable member for EdenMonaro is similar to that made in this chamber some time ago by the honorable member for Fawkner about precisely the same sort of thing.
Western Junction Aerodrome - National Service to Deniliquin - Sydney-Hobart Service
– In view of the fact that the Western Junction Aerodrome is at present unusable and has frequently been closed for varying periods, causing great disorganization of air traffic, will the Minister for Air cause the promised investigation regarding the proposed new aerodrome site at Prospect, northern Tasmania, to be expedited?
– Several interruptions have occurred to the services which use Western Junction, because of the unserviceable condition of the aerodrome, but it has been in use since the honorable member first drew attention to this matter some time ago. Because of unfavorable weather, difficulty is being experienced at present in operating air services. I have already taken up with the Civil Aviation Department the matter of an examination of the proposed new aerodrome site at Prospect, but it is difficult to secure competent surveyors and engineers to make the necessary technical inspections. I have asked the department to make available a man experienced in dealing with aerodrome sites to examine the Prospect site as soon as possible. When that has been done, I shall be able to supply the honorable member for Wilmot and other honorable member with information as to the suitability of the site.
– Has the Minister for Air yet been able to arrange for an inspection of the suggested site at Prospect for a permanent aerodrome for Launceston? Is he yet able to say whether any appropriation has been made for providing runways at “Western Junction? If money is allocated, will be undertake to see that the Prospect proposal is examined early, and if it is found suitable, will. he have the money which ,it is proposed to spend on Western Junction spent at Prospect? In any case, can he give an assurance that facilities for’ landing the latest types of aircraft on an aerodrome to service Launceston will be provided in the near future ?
– As I stated in reply to the previous question, I have asked that a qualified officer be sent to examine the proposed site at Prospect. Provision has been made in the Estimates for 1946-47 for the building of suitable runways at Western Junction. The honorable member may rest assured that an aerodrome will be provided near Launceston suitable for aircraft of the latest types, and the runways will be usable in all weathers.
– Will the Minister for Air consider the claims of Deniliquin as a regular stopping place for the setting down and picking up of passengers on the” routes from Sydney to Adelaide and Melbourne to Sydney when the National Airlines begin operation, seeing that Deniliquin is an important centre, which serves a wide area in the Riverina?
– I appreciate the importance of Deniliquin and other centres in that area, and I undertake that the honorable member’s suggestion will be examined with a view to seeing whether it is possible to ‘provide a suitable service to meet the needs of” his constituents.
– I noticed in the newspapers recently that certain private airlines had under consideration a service between Sydney and Hobart. In reply to a question which I asked some .time ago, the Minister for Air informed me that the National Airlines Commission would not operate that route at present because certain safety equipment, such as the radio-hearn had not been installed. I ask the Minister whether private airlines -have advantages, such as safety devices, which the National Airlines will not have? Will the honorable gentleman .indicate when the commission is likely to operate a service between Sydney and Hobart?
– The private airlines will not be granted any privileges of which the government-owned airlines will not be able to avail themselves, and the National Airlines will not be granted any privileges which the private airlines may not utilize. If the honorable member referred to the projected service between Sydney and Hobart, I inform him that all safety appliances must be functioning before either government or private airlines will be allowed to operate that route.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been advised of the possibility of a grasshopper plague developing in north-western Victoria, and spreading to adjacent areas in New South Wales and South Australia? Is he aware that State governments are already making inquiries with a view to meeting the danger? Has his department done anything to co-operate with the State governments in protective measures, and, if not, will he investigate the matter?
– I shall have inquiries made as the honorable member suggests.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement by the Direc-tor of the Government Bureau of Industry in Queensland, Mr. Colin Clark, that the weak spot in the Commonwealth cost of living index figures was that an insufficient number of rents for new houses was included, seeing that houses coming on to the market for the first time are, as a rule, let at much higher . rents than those asked for older houses? Has anything been done to bring up to date the figures for rent, food, clothing, &c, which are used in computing the federal basic wage? Will the Prime Minister arrange for a review of the method of arriving at the Commonwealth index figures used in computing the basic wage ?
– I have not seen the statement reported to have been made by Mr. Colin Clark. The question of an inquiry into the basic wage has been under consideration for some time. At “present the Arbitration Court is engaged on the 40-hour week case. At one stage the Government suggested to parties concerned in that case that they might ?make an application covering both .the basic wage and a 40-hour week so that the court might deal with these matters in the one inquiry. A review of the items in the “ C “ index has been discussed from time to time, and at” present, the setting up of an authority to conduct an inquiry into this matter is under consideration.
Exchange on Cheques - Interest Rate on Overdrafts.
– Will .the Prime Minister request that a conference take place between the Commonwealth Bank and the Associated Banks in South Australia with a view .to having the rate of exchange on cheques between Eyre Peninsula and the mainland of South Australia brought into line with the rate applicable on the mainland? The rate on the mainland is ls. per £100, and between the mainland and Eyre Peninsula, i per cent., or 2s. 6d. per £100. Quick means of transport enables clearances to be made rapidly. According to the chairman of the Associated Banks, in South Australia,’ 0. L. Isaachsen, the cost to the . banks of the alteration would be approximately £300 a year. Will the Prime Minister also ask the Commonwealth Bank and the Associated Banks to confer with a view to having all orders payable to Government departments, Commonwealth and State, in respect of income tax, land tax, motor registrations, &c, made free, of exchange?
– I shall ask the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to consult with the Associated Banks in regard’ to the exchange rate on cheques. Honorable members will recall that in the report of the banking commission some reference was made to the general subject of the exchange rate on cheques. I am not quite sure that all the items mentioned in the second portion of the honorable member’s question are matters for discussion between the Commonwealth Bank and the Associated Banks,’ but I shall have the matter’ examined, and ask the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to carry out the consultation suggested by the honorable member should such a course appear to be desirable.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to compelling the trading banks to reduce the overdraft interest rate from 4f per cent, to a rate not higher than 2 per cent, above the fixed deposit rate?
– The interest rate on overdraft has been the subject of discussions between the Commonwealth Bank, the trading banks and myself since I have been Treasurer, and from time totime reductions have been made in the light of the fixed deposit rate at the particular time. The maximum rate that may be charged on overdraft at present is 4f per cent. It must be remembered that when the fixed deposit rate is reduced a considerable time elapses before a bank is able to derive any financial benefit therefrom, because contractual obligations in respect of fixed deposits are not broken. Therefore, when the interest rate on fixed deposits is’ reduced, the new rate applies only to new deposits and very little benefit accrues to any bank until the deposits at the pre-existing rates come up for review. For at least twelve months, the benefit thus derived would not warrant a reduction of the interest rate on overdrafts. I assure the honorable member that this subject is watched constantly.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to say what matters will be dealt with at the forthcoming Peace Conference? I put my inquiry in that way because although certain matters may not arise, others will, and it would be useful if the House had before it some information in regard to the matters to be discussed. Secondly, I ask the Prime Minister what particular principles will be contended for by the Australian representatives at the conference. If the Prime Minister believes that there is a limit to public discussion of such questions . with the conference pending, will he give consideration to the possibility of having a debate on the matter at a private meeting of this House? I do not suggest a private meeting for preference, but I realize that some problems may not lend themselves to public discussion. In brief, to what degree will the House be given an opportunity to consider the principles to be advanced on behalf of Australia in relation to, matters that will arise at the conference ?
– As is generally known, some matters associated -with the peace will not be discussed at the forthcoming Peace Conference. It is doubtful, for instance, whether questions relating to the final peace with Germany and with Japan will be discussed. I confess to some difficulty regarding the second part of the right honorable gentleman’s question, in which he asked me to indicate the broad views of the Commonwealth Government on the matters that will come before the conference, because nearly all the subjects that will be dealt with were discussed at a conference of Prime Ministers in London recently. The broad outlines of Empire policy are known to the’ Minister for External Affairs, who will represent Australia at the conference, and also to the Resident Minister in London, Mr. Beasley. Of course, they are known also to Mr. Bevin, who will represent, the United Kingdom Government at the conference, and to other Empire representatives. The matters to be brought forward at the Peace Conference were discussed by Empire Prime Ministers, and agreement was reached on the broad principles underlying the Empire’s views of many of the vexatious questions associated with the restoration of peace in Europe*. As to the right honorable gentleman’s suggestion that a secret session of the Parliament should be held, I point out that previous so-called ‘secret sittings were not particularly successful from the point of view of secrecy. I shall, however, give consideration to the matter.
– I have not asked that, a secret session be held. I said that in regard to some of the matters which will be discussed at the Peace Conference, a secret sitting might be regarded as desirable. What T really desire is that, at an appropriate time, there shall be some discussion in this House of the matters that will be determined at the Peace Conference.
– I wish to give further consideration to the suggestion, be discussed at the Peace Conference a probably be held towards the end of the present session of this Parliament, and I should not like any discussion here to be embarrassing to representatives of the British Empire at the conference. The right honorable gentleman’s suggestions will be given careful consideration.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether it is the intention of the Army Department to vacate* the military hospital at Marwee? If so,, does he know that that hospital is much better equipped than is the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick, and that in the opinion of medical officers the Marwee establishment is most suitable for a repatriation hospital? Will the right honorable gentleman have inquiries made with a view to the retention of this building as a repatriation hospital?
– Some time ago, at the invitation of the . honorable member for Lang, I accompanied him and other persons to the Herne Bay Military Hospital. I was greatly impressed by the high standard of efficiency and the type of buildings in use there. So far as I know, there has been no decision by the military authorities to vacate that hospital. I shall inquire whether the building can be used as a repatriation hospital when it is no longer required for military uses. 1 agree with the honorable member that the hospital at Randwick needs improving. Anything that I can do in consultation with the Minister for Repatriation to give effect to the honorable member’s suggestion will be gladly done.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the employees at the Coalcliff colliery, in the south-coast district of New South Wales, are on strike ? Further, can he say whether that colliery is under the control and management of the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner? If the answers to those questions are in the affirmative, will the Minister say whether that is an indication that in the present dispute in the coal-mining industry the Labour Government is alined with the coal-owners, and not with the coal-miners? If so, what useful purpose is served by the Commonwealth taking over coal mines under the National Security Regulations, and what steps does the Government propose to take in order to secure resumption of work in its own mines ?
– I do not know whether the Coalcliff colliery is among the coal mines the employees of which are on strike at the present time, and since I do not know that, I am not in a position to answer the latter part of the honorable gentleman’s question.
Shortage in Queensland.
– In view of the continued absence of supplies of galvanized materials in Queensland for house building and water supply requirements, and the shortage of galvanized wire and wire netting throughout that State, will the Minister for Works and Housing institute inquiries to ascertain whether Queensland’s full quota has been received; if it be found that supplies have been delayed owing to shipping and other hold-ups, will he give an assurance that action will be taken to relieve the present very acute shortage and have Queensland’s requirements of these important materials immediately despatched ?
– I am unable to say offhand whether Queensland has received its quota of galvanized materials or whether some supplies have been held up because of lack of shipping or through other causes. I shall inquire into the matter. I assure the honorable member that my department will do all it can to relievethe shortage of these essential commodities in Queensland.
Incoming Air Passengers
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen the statement in the Sydney MorningHerald of the 20th July about alleged laxity in the inspection of passengers arriving in this country by air? What action, if any, is being taken by the Minister for Health to ensure that they are reasonably healthy and that smallpox and other European diseases shall not be introduced into Australia ?
– I did see the statement. There is a good deal of public anxiety about the danger of smallpox and other diseases uncommon in this country becoming more widespread because of the transfer of the control of air transport from military to civil authorities. Knowing that, I discussed the matter with the Minister for Health, Senator McKenna, who is conferring with all Commonwealth medical authorities with a view to ensuring that when they take over control, as they are doing, every precaution shall be taken to make certain that no civilian passengers, who are arriving in something like their pre-war numbers, will be let loose amongst the. people of Australia without having undergone a proper medical test.
Questionnaire to Schools
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Information stated that the Director-General of Information had sent telegrams to the headmasters of Victorian schools telling them to take no notice of the questionnaire sent out by his department, asking schoolboys, amongst other things, if they had a steady girl-friend, will he explain one headmaster’s statement that the telegram asked that only a certain section of the questionnaire, be deleted ? If schoolboys are still expected to answer some of the questions, will (he Minister state what possible use there can be for the replies received ?
– The question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera is another that has been handed to him by a pressman, and he is merely using this chamber to try to get information for certain newspaper propaganda purposes.
– The Minister is incorrect. I did not get the question from the press.
– Let me tell the honorable gentleman a few things .more about the questionnaire to which attention has been drawn. The questionnaire has been cancelled,’ and no use is being made of it by my department. If the honorable gentleman were to make a few more inquiries which the press does not want to make, he would learn that the man who issued that questionnaire is a returned soldier of this war who spent two or three years in a German prison camp. We have given him a job, and I do not propose to hound him to satisfy any pressinspired campaign. If he has made a mistake, I shall deal with him sympathetically. I am not going to attack a returned man. The honorable gentleman having himself been a prisoner of war ought to show a little sympathy “towards another of his kind. .
– Has the Minister . for Commerce and Agriculture yet arrived at a decision with respect to the’ future of the apple and pear acquisition scheme? If not, when does he anticipate that he will be able to give to honorable members information- regarding this important matter?
– I have not yet arrived at a decision on that subject. .
Transport of Malarial Cases
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether his department is responsible for the transport pf servicemen suffering from malaria from their homes to repatriation hospitals? If so, has he approved of the use o’f ambulances known as one-man services for the transport of these sick servicemen? If his department is responsible for payment in respect of these ambulances, will he take action. to see that in future two officers are detailed to’ each ambulance engaged in this work, in view of the fact that walking from the house to the ambulance can have a very serious effect upon the health of a malarial patient?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request.
Transport of Member’s
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether an aircraft carrying ten honorable members, of all three political parties, who were travelling to Canberra to-day for the purpose of attending the meeting -of the House, was compelled to return to Melbourne? If so, have any arrangements been made to convey them to Canberra by motor car?
– A few moments ago. I was advised that because of weather conditions the aircraft in which the honorable members were travelling was compelled to return to Melbourne. So far, I have not received any request for an alternative method of transport. Possibly within the next few hours, the weather may improve sufficiently to enable the aircraft to resume the flight. However, I shall inquire to see what suitable action can be taken.
Prosecutions at Maryborough, Queensland.
– In reviewing the proceedings taken against: two butchers at Maryborough for disposing of small quantities of meat without demanding coupons, will the Acting Attorney-General take into consideration the unfair and lying statements made by a woman officer of the Rationing Commission in appealing to the men to break the law? Does he agree with the methods employed by this woman, which were- described by me in this House on Thursday?
– I have the relevant papers in my, office now and an officer of the Attorney-General’s. Department is waiting there to investigate the case. with me in the light of the statements made by the honorable member in this House on Thursday. I shall no* be able to say whether I consider the woman’s .action to have been right or wrong until I have perused the file.
-Will the. Minister for the Army inform the House whether any definite information has been received to the effect that an official inquiry is to be held into the circumstances of an incident -at Gibraltar in which troop3 of the Australian Victory Contingent were allegedly concerned? If so, will Australia be represented to ensure that the interests of the troops concerned will be fully safeguarded?
– A private inquiry is to be held by the Chief Justice of Gibraltar. It will refer, not to the ‘behaviour of Australian troops, but to “the matter of co-operation between civil police and military police at Gibraltar. When it was first reported that there “would be an official inquiry, action was taken by this Government to see that the Australian military forces would be adequately represented. The Prime Minister communicated with the Australian Resident Minister in London, Mr. Reasley, and arrangements were made for the Commanding Officer of the Victory Contingent, Major-General Eather, to leave Shropshire at Colombo and fly back to Gibraltar if necessary to be present during the inquiry. However, Mr. Beasley has been assured by Sir William Bacon, the Chief Justice of Gibraltar, at an interview in London that there will be no official inquiry involving Australian troops. Consequently, it is not necessary for the Australian Contingent to be represented. Nevertheless Captain Foley, of the Australian Resident Minister’s Office in London, will be an observer at the private investigation.
– Can the Minister for Air state when the buildings at the Lake Boga Air Base will be declared surplus for the purpose of disposal?
– Not at present, but I shall have investigations made with a view to having the buildings declared surplus as soon as possible so that they may be handed over to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– The general policy in relation to war gratuity is that payments will not be made until a period of five and a half years has elapsed from the termination of hostilities. This is intended to prevent any inflationary trend that might result from the sudden increase of purchasing power in the community arising from immediate payment of gratuity. Will the Prime Minister consider relaxing the restriction in cases where this principle would not be infringed? Immediate payment could be made in a limited number of cases. For instance, elderly ex-servicemen who have family responsibilities and other obligations would, benefit considerably from early payment of the gratuity; others are buying furniture, which is closely allied to home purchase, in respect of which gratuity payments may be made now. Also some ex-servicemen may wish to settle in New Zealand, South Africa, or some other part of the British Empire. In such instances, if payment would not interfere with the general principle laid down by the Government, will the Prime Minister consider allowing gratuity to be paid?
– The honorable member will recall that the general principles of the War , Gratuity Act were determined by a parliamentary committee representative of all parties, because it was considered that such a body would devise the most satisfactory plan. The committee made certain recommendations with respect to the availability of the war gratuity for the “construction or purchase of a home. I am prepared to examine the honorable member’s representations, but in view of the .close analysis of the subject and the time devoted to it by the committee,- 1 am not willing to make any recommendations to the Government without first seeking the advice of such members of the committee as I can consult.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether his department is yet prepared to allocate to suitable applicants any vacant Crown land in the Northern Territory that is sought to be taken up as pastoral leases. If the department is not yet prepared to make such an allocation generally, will it make an allocation to appropriate ex-servicemen?
– A close survey is being made of all the available Crown land in the Northern Territory. I expect the newly appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory to arrive in Canberra within the next -fortnight or so. He and officers of the department will examine the report that has been made consequent on the survey. I shall then be able to make a decision on behalf of the Government, and advise the honorable member of it.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the deportation of certain aliens.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the application of certain funds vestedin the Australian Wool. Realization Commission.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide for the application of certain moneys which had accumulated in the hands of the Central Wool Committee during the war in respect of activities outside the provisions of the wool purchase agreement with the United Kingdom Government. This subject was dealt with at some length in a statement in this House by the Minister for Post-war
Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the 11th April last. The Minister, after explaining how the moneys had accumulated, announced that the Government had decided that they would not be taken into Consolidated Revenue and would not be distributed to individual growers, fellmongers,. top-makers and manufacturers concerned, but would be used for the benefit of the wool industry, particularly for research and promotion of the use of wool. Proposals had, at the time, been drawn up to use the fund in those directions, and it was announced that these would be discussed with representatives of wool-growers. I shall mention briefly some of the main points of that statement.
Under the wool purchase arrangement, the United Kingdom Government agreed to purchase the Australian wool clip for the period of the war and one clip thereafter. The arrangement covered the whole of the clip, with the exception of wool used by Australian manufacturers. For three years, the contract price waa a flat rate of 13.4375d., Australian, per lb. Later, in 1942, as a result of representations by the Commonwealth Government, the United Kingdom Government agreed to an increase of 15 per cent., which raised the price to the satisfactory figure of 15.453125d. per lb. Growers have been paid the contract price in respect of wool bought by the United Kingdom Government, and a similar price in respect of wool’ sold to Australian manufacturers. Each grower received initially the appraised price according to a “ Table of Limits “, which recognized a price differential as between various qualities, and at the end of each season he also received a supplementary payment to bring the average appraised price up to the flat rate contract price. As between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth, it was agreed that any final profit made by the United Kingdom Government on sales of raw wool for use outside the United Kingdom should be divided equally between the two governments.
– In saying “ It was agreed I take it the right honorable gentleman refers to the original agreement made in 1939 or 1940?
– That is correct.
– Would it be possible to have that agreement tabled before the debate on the bill is resumed?
– I shall arrange for that to be done.
The Central Wool Committee, in addition to handling the wool purchase arrangement for the United Kingdom Government, has carried out other activities which have resulted in certain moneys being collected on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. These moneys have mainly arisen from the following sources: -
These are provisional figures, and other transactions- will probably bring the net Accumulation to over £7,000,000.
When the “wool purchase arrangement was commenced in 1939 it was announced by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that wool derived from sheepskins would not participate in any adjustment over and above the appraised price, which was to be the final and only price paid for such wool. This was necessary in order to enable the fellmonger, when purchasing woolled sheepskins to fix a firm price for the wool content of such sheepskins. This was ‘confirmed each season to all concerned by the Central Wool Committee. The amount of £2,400,000 represents the difference between the appraised price paid to fellmongers, and the purchase price received from the United Kingdom Government, and covers transactions of six seasons. .
The control of the export of wool tops, noils and waste was vested in the. Central Wool Committee under National Security Regulations. The overseas market in wool tops to be supplied from Australia increased mainly because of the inability of the United Kingdom to supply India during the war. Tops.makers were paid the cost of raw wool, plus other charges and profit, and the excess price obtained from overseas buyers was collected by the Central Wool Committee. Although this involved exports, the United Kingdom Government intimated that any moneys derived from these operations, were for the account of the Commonwealth Government.
As I have already mentioned, raw wool used by Australian manufacturers was excluded from the wool purchase agreement, and the manufacturers obtained their wool at a price lower than the export issue price “. The growers were, however, paid the United Kingdom contract price. When woollen goods were exported, the’ exporter was not allowed to retain the benefit of the price concession, and was required to pay to the Central Wool Committee a deferred payment representing the difference between the amount, actually paid for wool and the “ export issue price”. Although this transaction related to exports, the United Kingdom Government stated that it was agreeable to the whole of this deferred payment being retained by the Commonwealth Government.
I now come to the discussions which recently took place between the governments and the growers. The representatives of both grower organizations put forward the request that the moneys should be distributed to the growers who had supplied wool under the war-time purchase plan from 1939 to 1946. For the . reasons already outlined, the Government indicated that it was not prepared to accede to that request. Other representations were made that the moneys should bc used as capital in the finance of the new Wool Disposal Plan, subject to the recognition of ownership by the wool suppliers of 1939-46. The Government did not accept this suggestion. I wish to make it clear to all concerned that under the wool purchase arrangement with the United Kingdom Government the growers received the” full contract price each season; the moneys now in question arose from activities on behalf of the Commonwealth Government quite outside that arrangement. As government moneys they must, under the constitution, be paid in the first place to Consolidated Revenue; the Government cannot, after full consideration of all the facts, see any justification for distribution to the growers, or for recognition of the claim for ownership by growers. As a matter of interest, I think a good case could have been made for the payment of the moneys in question to Consolidated Revenue, as they accrued, for use in war finance. In that event there would have been no accumulation in the hands of the Central Wool Committee, and the present claim by growers would probably not have arisen. However, the Government is prepared to adhere to its earlier decision not to retain the moneys in Consolidated Revenue, but to ask Parliament to appropriate them to a trust fund for the benefit of theindustry, and the bill contains proposals to that end.
The bill sets out the purposes to which the fund may be applied. This follows generally the lines recommended by a departmental committee on which there was a representative of the Wool Consultative Council and representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The fund may be invested in Commonwealth or State securities, and the capital and income of the fund may be applied for purposes associated with the wool industry, including in particular -
The bill also contains a provision that some part of the moneys referred to may be applied in meeting wholly or partly any ultimate loss the Commonwealth may incur under the wool disposals plan. Any decision under this clause would, of course, be subject to full consideration of the needs for research and promotion of the use of wool. The application of moneys in these directions will be made by the Treasurer, after consultation with other Ministers who are concerned with . the wool industry. In response to a request from growers at the recent conference, their representatives will be given the opportunity of making representations to Ministers ‘ through the Wool Consultative Council. 1 commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzjes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr.Johnson, and read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a secondtime;.
This is a short and simple measure designed to modernize to a degree the Commonwealth Electoral Act and, in the main, its clauses are self-explanatory. It represents an overdue recognition of certain aspects of political campaigning that have developed since the principal actwas introduced in1918. The bill provides, first, that a candidate’sallowable expenditure in a Senate election shall be increased from £250 to £500, and in a House of Representatives election, from £100 to £250. The Government considers that these increases in permissible expenditure are necessary in order to bring about an equitable adjustment in the amount that a candidate iscalled upon to expend in presentday political contests at federal elections.
The existing rates of allowable expenditure are those contained in the original Electoral Act passed in 1902, and it would be fantastic to believe that the amount then considered sufficient to conduct a campaign would be viewed in the same light in present circumstances. It is interesting to note that in 1901 the total number of people in the Commonwealth eligible to vote was 447,993 as against 4,466,637 in 1943. The following table indicates the increase of the number of persons eligible to vote in each of the States during that period : -
The growth and spread of population have made the organizing of political campaigns more difficult, and vastly more expensive. I think it will also be agreed that money spent in election campaigns on goods and services in the early Commonwealth parliamentary contests went considerably farther than money . goes now, and, on this ground alone, a very substantial increase of allowable expenditure is justified in order to ensure that every candidate shall have a reasonable opportunity “to reach the whole of his electorate and to press his candidature.
Thebill also alters the wording of section 146 of the Electoral Act. This is due largely to the development and use. of broadcasting in political contests. Broadcasting has been found to be almost indispensable in the conduct of a campaign and is, as all honorable members will recognize, an expensive but effective method of campaigning.
Furthermore, it is recognized that the use of telephones has become indispensable in the modern technique of electoral campaigning. In recognition of these two factors, it is proposed to insert in section 146 of the act authority for the expense incurred in radio broadcasting, and the temporary installation and maintenance of telephones at a candidate’s committee rooms, to “be regarded as a permissible expense.
It is proposed further to alter section 1 46 by substituting the word “ places “ for “ halls “ in the item authorizing expenditure on public meetings. The item will then apply to all places, not merely hall?, in respect of which expense is incurred in connexion with the holding of political meetings.
Honorable members will appreciate that the proposed new section 146 does not differ materially from the existing section, except that it revises and modernizes the items considered to be almost indispensable in election organization, whilst it leaves intact all those other items of expenditure that have been recognized in the act previously.
The third purpose of the bill is to incorporate in the Electoral Act, so as to ensure their continuity in relation to Commonwealth elections and referendums, those provisions in regard to electoral posters which have been in force since . 1943, in pursuance of regulations made under the National Security Act. The purport of these provisions is, first, to prohibit the exhibition of “posters intended or calculated to affect the. result of any election or referendum, of any size exceeding 60 square inches, and, secondly, to make it an offence for any person to write anything of an electioneering nature directly on any roadway, building, &c.
The Government believes that the continued application of these provisions concerning the size of poster’s used in Commonwealth elections and referendums is completely justified at the present time because of the’ shortage of materials used in such posters and signs. It might be interesting to mention at this point that, in. the last elections for the House of Representatives held in 1943, there were 345 candidates, all of whom would indulge to a gerater or less degree in the use of signs and posters in pursuance of their candidature. One type of advertising commonly used, namely, 6-ft. by 3-ft. calico signs, at a modest estimate of 50 signs for each candidate, would involve the use of over 40,000 yards of calico that is to-day in short supply.
It will be agreed, I think, by all reasonable people, that the use of such an enormous amount of material that is in short supply for a brief election campaign, after which it would be of no further use, could never be justified. Furthermore, it would involve the use of a considerable amount of timber, and even paper and newsprint are not so plentiful as to justify an ‘alteration of the conditions laid down for the last federal election. The time has not yet arrived when we can revert to pre-war practices in electoral advertising. These restrictions do not give advantage to any party or candidate, and it is believed that their retention will be in the best interests of all concerned.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th July (vide page 2853), on motion by Mr. Scully - .
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- For the first time in my experience honorable members are called upon to debate a measure which has not been explained by the Minister who introduced it. One would not expect a Minister to treat even a minor measure in such a cavalier fashion ; but this is not a minor measure. It is one of tremendous consequence to the people engaged in the wheat industry. We are obliged therefore to read the bill, and to understand it to the best of our ability. The views that I hold in regard to the measure have been formulated after reaching my own conclusions about the wheat industry, bearing in mind the Government’s record of administration of that industry, and after hearing the expressed views of wheat-growers themselves following various conferences. On numerous occasions, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has said that the Government’s plans for the wheat industry are in complete harmony with the views of the Wheat Growers Federation, which organization the Minister accepts as being representative of the growers. The Minister will have to offer something more than this bald assertion to prove to me and the House, let alone the wheat-growers, that the Government’s policy has the approval of growers’ organizations.
– Of whom is the Australian Wheat Growers Federation composed?
– Order ! That has no relation to the matter now under discussion.
– But there is a candid opinion held in regard to a levy on wheat-
– That was discussed fully when the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was before this chamber.
– Order ! The Chair does not intend to allow this discussion to become another second-reading debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill already passed by the House. This measure is for a specific purpose.
– Thank you, Mr.
Speaker.You have rebuked the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) ; I suggest that you might now rebuke the Minister who has said that already there has been a discussion of wheat charges.
– The Chair has not rebuked anybody. It has indicated that a general discussion of the wheat industry will not be permitted on this measure.
– Then I suggest that the Minister should have been rebuked.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Indi to proceed with his remarks on this measure.
– There couldnot have been a discussion of wheat charges when the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was before the House, because that measure made no provision for the imposition of a charge.
– This bill was not presented in conjunction with the measure already passed.
– No. It was presented at a later date, and has not yet been explained. Perhaps the Minister hoped that it would slip through without discussion. I am sorry to disillusion him on that point.
– This bill was presented before the second-reading speech of the
Leader of the Opposition (Mi Menzies) on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill.
– Yes; but it was the immediately preceding business. The Minister presented this bill, and I ros*, at once to make my second-reading speech on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill.
– It is quite clear that the Minister did introduce this measure without explaining it to the House. The task of explaining certain aspects of it, therefore, falls upon me. First, the bill provides for a levy on wheat in certain contingencies, for five years commencing with the 1945-46 crop, which already has been compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth under the National Security Regulations, and by virtue of the Commonwealth’s constitutional authority. In respect of that crop, this legislation infringes the Constitution by providing that the terms of settlement shall involve, not the payment to growers of the full realization price of their- wheat, but the contribution of a substantial portion of that realization price to a so-called stabilization fund, from which payments may or may not be made to the growers concerned, or to other growers, at some undetermined date. It may easily happen that the levy imposed upon wheat-growers in respect of the 1945-46 crop will never he disbursed amongst wheat-growers at all, because this legislation provides for its own termination at the end of five years. As a layman, I shall not offer an opinion as to the legality of this proposal; but from the point of view of common equity, and what the Australian citizen understands to be his rights under the Constitution, I say that the position adopted by the Commonwealth Government is untenable. This action is. without precedent, and it will, itself, establish a precedent which will create tremendous doubts in the minds of Australian citizens. There is- no justification for the Government asking the Parliament to authorize the appropriation of a portion of the realization on wheat grown last year for the establishment of a stabilization fund for the future advantage of, at best, some wheat-growers. The Minister has said many times in this House that everything that is implicit in its wheat industry legislation has the endorsement of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. Challenging the honorable gentleman on that point, I shall quote from the official organ of the Australian Wheat Growers , Association - The Victorian Wheatgrower, dated the 17th April of this year. The publication is headed “ Official Organ of the Victorian Wheat Growers Association “, which, of course, is the Victorian element of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. On the front page there is an article headed “ Federation’s Wheat Stabilization Plan”. The article gives a description of that plan, and’ states that a conference called to determine the federation’s policy on this matter arrived at certain conclusions. It proceeds -
This conference approves the necessity for the introduction of a satisfactory plan for the stabilization of the wheat industry on the following lines: -
The second of the lines stated is -
This federation requests that the 1945-46 season’s crop be not included in the plan as it has been acquired under the National Security Regulations.
I challenge the Minister to reconcile that statement with his repeated announcements in this House that the Government’s plan, in all respects, has the approval of growers’ organizations.
– :The publication to which the honorable member has referred is not the official organ of the federation.
– The Minister need ‘ not try to trap me on a technicality, because’ he is on very weak ground. This is the official organ of the Victorian Wheat Growers Association, which, as I have said, is associated with the federal body representing the wheat-growers of Australia. The Minister stands revealed as not having been candid when he said that the federation was in agreement with the Government on every point of this plan.
– I did not say that the federation agreed to every point of the plan ; but that, in the main, the plan had the approval of organizations representing wheat-growers.
– The Minister is now trying to “ crayfish “ out of the difficulty in which he finds himself.
– The honorable member should keep to the facts.
– By constant interjections the Minister is now seeking to make the second-reading speech on this bill which he failed to make at the appropriate time. .The Minister also said that the Government’s five-year plan was approved by the Wheat Growers Federation.
– Of course it is.
– The official organ of the association, which I hold in my hand, makes it clear that the federation stands for a ten-year plan. I read from that official organ the following extract : -
It is also suggested that the plan should operate for a period of ten years. /
That shows clearly that the Minister is wrong in saying that the Government’s five-year plan has the approval of the Wheat Growers Federation. Not only is the bill inequitable, but also it is not in agreement with the expressed views of the organized wheat-growers of Australia, in that it includes a crop which ought not to have been included, and provides for a five-year plan instead of a ten-year plan.
I criticize the bill on the further ground that it makes no provision whatever for recording the names of contributors to the stabilization fund, or the amounts of their contributions to that fund. Last Friday, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) moved an amendment to cover the points which I have mentioned to-day. He proposed that the 1945-46 crop should be excluded and that a ten-year period should be substituted for a five-year term provided for in the bill. The amendment also provided that the board should keep a register of growers each year, showing in respect of each grower the amounts diverted to the stabilization fund - which, ‘ in the absence’ of such a fund, would have been payable to him under the realization.
– This bill deals only with thu export of wheat. The honorable member would not be in order in discussing whether or not the 1945-46 crop should be included.
– The primary purpose of the bill is to provide for a levy on wheat. I am discussing now whether a register should be ‘kept showing the amount paid by each grower to the fund so provided. I submit that my remarks come within the ambit of the bill, and are, therefore, in order. The honorable member for Bendigo went on to say that an- actuarially sound scheme, designed to permit an equitable distribution to be made to each participating grower, or his executors or assigns, in the event of certain contingencies arising, such as the termination of the scheme or the existence in the fund of credits beyond those thought necessary for its solvency, should be substituted for the present, plan. The objective of the honorable member for Bendigo is clearly understood by wheatgrowers, but I regret that it does not appear to be understood by the Government. I hope that this debate will convince the Government that Australia is not a country in which funds belonging to one section of the people can be transferred to others without a strong protest being made. In the event of certain contingencies arising, the right of a grower, or his executors or assigns, to the whole or a part of the amount standing to his credit in the fund, is unchallengable. The amount of such payment is a matter for determination by the actuaries. The proposal of the Government as contained in this bill is that, in respect of last season’s crop, .a sum of approximately £7,000,000 shall be placed in the stabilization fund, and that a similar sum shall be placed to the credit of the fund in each succeeding year in which a crop of«the same yield is reaped.
– Provided that the pricealso is the same.
– I shall be surprised if wheat prices do not maintain their present level, or become higher, for at least the next harvest.
– That is problematical.
– On that assumption, this bill means that a sum of approximately £14,000,000 will be taken from wheat-growers within a few months, and placed to the credit of a fund, and that the same process will continue until the end of the scheme. In the event of the scheme being terminated at the end of five years, what i3 to happen to any funds then standing to the credit of the stabilization fund ? It may be that legislation will then be introduced to continue the scheme. I hope that the scheme will be continued in a fairer form, but it would be wrong for this Parliament to pass legislation which is unjust in the expectation that a later Parliament would remove the injustice. No provision has been made in the bill that when the plan comes to an end the money that stands to the credit - of the. fund will be repaid to the people from whom it was originally taken- because no arrangement is included in the measure by which records are to be kept of the names of those upon whom, levies are made.’
– We have just had an example of that before us in connexion with the disposal of the assets of the Central Wool Committee.
– That is so. Only this afternoon we had the classic example of the Prime Minister discussing in another measure what should be done with £7,000,000 which has come into the possession “of the Government as the result of realization of the product of another group of primary producers. And there again it is not proposed that the money shall be returned to the people from whom it was collected, although records still exist of those, who contributed to those’ assets. If the Govern: ment proposes to force this bill through the Parliament it should at least incorporate in it a provision which will enable justice to be done to the producers of wheat by ensuring that they shall receive some of the money taken from them. It is proposed in this measure to divert to the stabilization fund 50 per cent, of realizations in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel.
– On exports.
– It could only be on exports because the price of all other wheat is pegged at 5s. 2d. a bushel. .By simple arithmetic we can ascertain that about £7,000,000 will be diverted to the stabilization fund in respect of the 1945-46 harvest. There is every prospect that, if the 50 per cent. levy is maintained for the next crop, an equal amount will again be diverted into the stabilization fund. The skilled advisors of the Government will then calculate on the basis of the prospects of the market and the intended volume of production, what total contributions will be necessary to enable the fund, to reach stability. It may be £20,000,000 or £25,000,000; I would not hazard a guess. Under this legislation, however, when a sufficient amount has been placed in the stabilization fund it will be competent for the Government to cease making levies. I have no doubt that that is what the Government intends to do. Thus, we may witness the spectacle of wheat-growers in after years continuing operations without being subject to a levy of any kind because growers in the earlier years had contributed sufficient to establish a stable fund. If the stabilization fund reaches adequate proportions in the course of two, three, or four harvests, no call may be made upon wheat-growers for a period of ten years.
– The honorable member would not like that to happen?
– No; and I shall endeavour to explain why. I favour the principle of this measure - I have said that many times - but I do not favour wheat-growers to-day being deprived of their realizations in order to aid other wheat-growers ten years hence. A scheme should be devised - and I do not propose to attempt to go into its mathematical intricacies - which would enable continued levying upon current wheat production and disbursement of the proceeds after they have been held in the stabilization fund for a period of years, provided always that the stabilization fund was maintained at as high a level as was considered necessary. In short, if there is to be a prolonged period of high prices - and that does not require imaginative thinking, because after World War I. we had at least eleven years of high prices - the Government should devise a scheme that would ensure that moneys contributed to the fund should not be held in the fund for a longer period than five years. I envisage a continuous stream of money going into and out of the fund.
– That is a matter upon which I am in agreement with the honorable member.
– I am glad to have that assurance. Even if the Minister insists upon forcing the. measure through the House in its present form, he should still be prepared at any time to reconsider the equity of the plan and see whether it is not possible to devise, as I have suggested an actuarially sound scheme which will ensure that any aid given to wheat-growers out of the stabilization fund shall be met from levies imposed’ in comparatively recent years and not from levies made ten or twelve years earlier upon a completely different set of wheat-growers. This is the point which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) sought to submit to the House in his amendment which, unfortunately, was ruled out of order.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing an amendment which has been ruled out of order.
– The honorable member for Bendigo had wished to test the opinion of the House on this matter, and as it is not possible to do so in the terms of his amendment, I intend to endeavour to arrive at the same result by a different procedural device. I propose to move an amendment which, if carried, will have the effect of deferring the second reading of this measure for six months. My purpose is to enable the House to record an instruction to the Government that during that six months it should recast the measure in such a manner as (a) to exclude the 1945-46 crop for the reasons that I have given; (b) to make provision for the charge to be levied for ten years instead of five, as the bill proposes; (c) to enable the Government to incorporate in the measure the provisions outlined in the latter part of the amendment of the honorable member for Bendigo for recording the names of the individual growers levied and the amount of levy; and (d) to enable the Government to devise an actuarially sound scheme that will in the contingency mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo permit of the return to the growers of all or a part of the levies they paid.I accordingly move -
That the word “ now “ be left out with a view to add at the end of the motion the following words: - “this day six months”.
.- It is surprising that we have had no second-reading speech to initiate the debate on this bill and that, although the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has criticized the bill, no one on the Government side has risen to meet his criticism or to explain the bill. It is extraordinary that a bill such as this, which, as I shall be at pains to point out, contains some particularly novel features, is allowed to come before the House without any explanation of it from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and without any member of his party being prepared to express his opinions of it.
It is necessary to look at the bill to see precisely what the bill does. It must be taken, of course, in conjunction with the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, which preceded it. I shall say nothing about the earlier bill and shall confine myself to the terms of this bill, which is entitled “A bill for an Act to impose a charge upon the export of wheat and wheat products “. The substance of the bill is contained in the following clause: - 4. -(1.) A charge is imposed and shall be levied and paid -
That clause contains a very serious retrospective provision. Retrospective legislation is seldom defensible, but when it imposes a financial levy in respect of transactions that have already taken place it is particularly objectionable. I have not heard one word from the Government in justification of that. The clause continues - (2.) Subject to a lower rate being prescribed by the regulations, the rate of the charge per bushel of whefat exported by any person, other than the Board, shall be fifty per centum of the amount by which the price per bushel for export of fair average quality bagged wheat free on rail at the port of export, as declared from time to time by the Board, or such lower price as is prescribed, exceeds Five shillings and two pence. (3.) Subject to a lower rate being prescribed by the regulations, the rate of the charge per bushel on wheat of any season exported by the Board shall be fifty per centum of the amount by which the average price per bushel free on rail at the ports of export for. fair average quality bagged wheat of all the wheat of that season exported by the Board, or such lower price as is prescribed, exceeds Five shillings and two pence.
Shorn of its legal verbiage, that means a levy of 2s. 2d. a bushel on wheat harvested after the 1st October, 1945, and exported on and after the 1st December, 1945. That feature of the legislation must be considered in relation to what was the position of the wheat-growers when their 1945-46 crop was acquired from them. Harvesting, I understand, commences near the end of the year - this bill names the 1st October - and continues to January and sometimes February of the ensuing year. The substance of my attack against this bill is that clause 4 relates to five crops of which one is a crop already garnered. It is important to direct attention to the law of the land. When one knows that, one sees how fundamental is the objection to this legislation. The Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall not acquire any one’s property except on “just terms”, and, of course, it cannot acquire for any purpose except a Commonwealth purpose. I leave aside for the moment any question of whether this bill can be said to be for a Commonwealth purpose. Elsewhere, no doubt, at some time that will be debated. On the assumption that the legislation is in that respect valid, I confine my remarks to the proposition that the last harvest was taken from the wheatgrowers, who, under the Constitution, and under the National Security (Wheat Acquisition) Regulations, were entitled to compensation on just terms. Having reached the stage at which they are entitled to that compensation, they are to be deprived by this bill of 2s. 2d. a bushel of that compensation. There can be no escape from that. It has been said in the courts on more than one occasion that no ministry can escape its responsibilities under the law to pay just compensation. In the case, Apple and Pear Board v. Tonking, which was, I think, the first major case on this matter decided after the commencement of hostilities, the court made quite clear that even where the Government provides, as it does in the wheat acquisition regulations, that, on the acquisition of wheat or any other commodity by the Commonwealth, compensation on a specified basis shall be paid, that compensation, whatever may be provided in the regulations, shall be just compensation, in accordance with the law of the land. This provision of our Constitution was modelled largely on the Fifth Amendment of the American Constitution, which says, in substance, that no person’s private property shall be expropriated except on the basis of proper compensation judicially determined. It is important to look at the provisions of the National Security (Wheat Acquisition) Regulationsunder which this last crop was acquired; and I propose to show that despite those regulations, giving to the wheat-growers a specific basis of compensation, the Crown, in a most reprehensible manner I contend,” now proposes to say to the growers, “ True, you are entitled to certain compensation on a basis laid down. in the regulations, but do not intend to pay it to you, because simultaneously we propose to impose a levy of 2s. 2d. a bushel “. In respect of the last crop - I am directing my attention to the last crop - regulation 19 provides -
The basis of the compensation to be recommended by the board shall be the rate or rates per bushel arrived at by reference to the surplus proceeds from the disposal of the wheat, but from the compensation determined by the Minister, the board may make deductions on account of any or all of the following . . .
I now summarize - first, the price or value of cornsacks; secondly, transport charges; and, thirdly, dockages. It is quite plain, therefore, that what the regulations entitled the wheat-grower to when the last crop was acquired was the full realized value of the crop less those specific deductions. Thatwasa contract made by the Crown in respect of that <3top. The Crown now proposes by the objectionable manoeuvre contained in this bill to escape from that responsibility. Most of this crop has been realized. We know that the export price at present is approximately 10s. a bushel. Therefore, it is relevant to quote what the learned Chief Justice, said in respect of the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board when the case which I have mentioned came before the High Court. He was dealing with the argument that had it not been for the fact that some board had the responsibility of marketing apples and pears, the grower, perhaps, would not have been able to market his crop at all, and, consequently, that fact had to be considered when determining fair and just compensation. That argument was rejected by the High Court which said, in effect, that it had not to deal with a hypothetical position, that it knew what this particular quantity of fruit brought in the market, and that was the amount of money which the Commonwealth, by law, was compelled to pay. The Chief Justice said -
It has been argued that the value of the fruit should be determined by taking opinions as to what, in the circumstances of ( 1 ) glut in the market (2) the fact that the board might not se] 1 the plaintiff’s fruit at all, a purchaser of the fruit would have been prepared to pay for it. In my opinion the court is not remitted to any such speculation in. this case. The defendants cannot say that the fruit is worth less than the amount for which the defendant board actually succeeded in selling it. When there is evidence of the price which goods have actually brought when marketed in an ordinary course it would be contrary to common sense, when determining their value, to ignore this direct evidence and to seek evidence consisting of opinions as to what the goods would, upon certain hypotheses, be likely to bring when so marketed.
What is the result in respect of the 1945-4.6 crop? The result is that under the Wheat Acquisition Regulations, which cannot in any event override the express law of the Constitution, there was an obligation upon the Wheat Board, having acquired this ‘wheat, to pay its realized value. In a way which I can only say is morally wrong, if not legally indefensible, the Government proposes now to do indirectly what it ‘could not do directly. No honorable member could contend that the Common wealth is not obliged under the terms of the law as it now stands to pay to the wheat-grower the full realized value of his wheat, less the expenses of marketing. By this bill the Government proposes to escape from that responsibility, and to do indirectly what it could not do directly. It proposes to pay 2s. 2d. a bushel less than the realization value of the wheat after the deduction of marketing expenses has been made. Upon what ground can that be defended ? This is, of course, part and parcel of the’ stabilization scheme. But does that fact justify this action? If a levy were made divorced from the stabilization scheme, and it was made retrospective, I venture to say that every honor able member conscious of his responsibility would want to know why it was being made retrospective. And’ that question has still to be answered, notwithstanding the fact that it is a part of the total scheme.
From this bill one can only draw the inference that a similar contention will be raised as was raised in respect “of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, namely, that the justification for this extraordinary, and I say, advisedly, reprehensible, action of the Government in expropriating from the wheat-farmer what was his real compensation, is that this proposal was a subject of contract, or .arrangement, between some body who purported to represent all the wheat-growers and the Government. A brief analysis will show how utterly ridiculous is such a suggestion. In the first ‘ place, no one can contract my rights away. Whatever rights I have under the law, no one can contract them away. Even if I am the only one who remains out of a scheme I am entitled to those rights. And in this particular case, unless I am wrongly advised, the body which claimed to represent the wheat-growers–
– Under the honorable member’s contention we cannot have a stabilization scheme.
– Apparently, the Minister did not listen to my comment upon the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill. If he did, he ‘ certainly did not answer it. The stabilization scheme should be based on crops prospective, not retrospective. The Government may as well seek to justify going back to the 1941 crop as the 1945 crop, for it cannot in principle justify applying the scheme retrospectively to the one any more than to the other. In principle, they stand upon the same basis.
I return now to the only argument that I have heard to justify this proposition. If any other argument can be adduced, I hope that the Minister will not hesitate to tell the Parliament and the country. But the only argument which I have heard is that an organization representing, it is said, all the wheatgrowers agreed to this plan on their behalf. Must it not be plain that it could not have agreed on behalf of all the wheat-growers, because the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that the wheat-growers in his electorate have never supported the scheme? Even if the organization did represent the majority of the wheat-growers, it could not bind . the minority. But, in any event, this body represents only a minority of Australian wheatgrowers. Therefore, on analysis, there can be no justification for the scheme on that ground. When that argument has been disposed of, where does the plan rest? What justification does the Minister say exists for a retrospective provision to enable the Government to extract from the pocket of the wheatfarmer what is in reality his money? The regulations prescribe that when the wheat is expropriated or acquired, the grower loses his property completely in it upon the publication of the notification in the Gazette. That took place in respect of the 1945-46 crop. His only recourse is a claim for compensation, and that is measurable in a finite financial amount, but it will not be paid to him. The Government, for the purpose of “ stabilizing” the industry - I use the Minister’s word, although I do not consider that it is stabilization at all - says to the farmer who harvested the last crop, “You must pay into a fund an amount of 2s. 2d. a bushel on all wheat exported in order to stabilize the industry in future “. Irrespective of whether or not the grower remains in the industry during the next five years, he must make that payment.
When we are dealing with matters of principle, we must not disregard the interests of a few people in the community. If a wheat-grower dies this week and his family is compelled to sell the property, what will be the result? An amount of 2s. 2d. a bushel will be taken from that wheat-grower’s returns to “ stabilize “ an industry in which he and his heirs no longer have any interest. That procedure cannot be justified.
– And for no benefit, because on that hypothesis, he would never have had any advantage from the new scheme.
– Exactly. In the circumstances which I have visualized,, the grower will derive no benefit at all from the scheme; but, none the less, an amount of 2s. 2d. a bushel will be extracted from his pocket. I do not believe that honorable members will in such circumstances remain silent when the Government does not attempt to explain the purposes of this bill.
– Perhaps the Government has no explanation.
– That may be true. The Government introduced the Wheat Industry . Stabilization Bill, and when after an interval, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) resumed the secondreading debate, the Government introduced the Wheat Export Charge Bill. No doubt the Government considered that by that means it could dispose of this objectionable and miserable bill without much debate.
– The thimble and pea trick.
– I need not devise words to describe it; the facts speak eloquently for themselves. But outside this Parliament, strong words will be used to describe this attempt to deprive wheat-growers of their vested legal rights.
– It is a plain “ steal “.
– Is any honorable member opposite prepared to defend this bill, or- even attempt to reply to the argument which I have directed to it? The bill is not justified by general phrases about the “ necessity to stabilize the wheat industry “. Every honorable member on this side of the chamber contends that there should be a wheat stabilization scheme, but the gravamen of our criticism of this bill is that it deprives the wheat-farmer of his constitutional rights in respect of his last crop. Of course, the argument can be advanced, “ To have a stabilization scheme, we must start somewhere, so we shall begin when prices are high”. Appparently, the next. argument is, “It does not matter, whether you decide to start from the end of last year or the year before, or you are breaking the spirit of the law, or whether you are, in reality, extracting money from the wheat-grower’s pocket”. I notice that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) is in the chamber. I have for the honor able, gentleman almost an affection when he sings those pleasant ballads with which he sometimes regales my ear. But I require from him something more than ballad-singing. I invite honorable members opposite, who represent wheat-growers, to attempt to .justify ih is expropriation. I do not want them to avoid the issue by using general phrases about stabilization. I do not want them to tell me that some organization contracted on behalf of the wheatgrower when obviously it had no legal right to do so.
The ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Barnard) . - Order ! Honorable members. will not be permitted to discuss, under this bill, the general principles of stabilization.
– I hope not, and I hope that you, sir, are still in the chair when honorable members opposite attempt to justify the bill on those grounds. I invite any honorable member opposite, who- represents a wheat-growing constituency, to attempt to justify this expropriation of the wheat-grower to the amount of 2s. 2d. a bushel.
– Does the honorable member say that individual contracts should be made with the growers?
– No ; I contend that no organization representing the wheatgrowers can deprive a- wheat-grower ofbis legal right. That is my proposition. If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) believes in the justice of this particular scheme, he can justify the antedating of this bill so as to cover the last three or four harvests. On what ground ? Because, he will say, some organization which pretends to represent all the wheat-growers spoke on their behalf. Let us have no more of the suggestion that any body can speak on behalf of any individual unless that person gives to it the right to do so ! I am satisfied that the majority of wheat-growers did not speak through that organization. Even assuming that they did, what right has anyone to deny to the minority, ho matter how small, its legal rights under the Constitution? I rest my. argument, not upon legal grounds only, but also upon high ethical grounds. The ethical grounds are that when a man’s property has been taken from him by the Crown, he shall be paid the full measure of its value. The Crown should not, by any manoeuvre^ strategem, seek to avoid that liability. If that proposition is incorrect, then, in the words of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), there are no limits to which this vicious procedure can be extended. It could be said that, for the purpose of stabilizing the funds of the Commonwealth to meet claims for compensation made by persons whose property is resumed, there shall be imposed upon all property which is resumed a levy of so much in the £1. There is no difference between one proposition and the other. Therefore, I record my objection to this bill upon the following grounds: - First, it is retrospective; secondly, by its retrospectivity, it extracts from the wheat-grower what was his money, if not at law, then certainly in the intendment of the Constitution; and, thirdly, it cannot ‘be justified, ;in respect of this crop, as being necessary for the stabilization of the wheat industry.
.- This bill provides the machinery by. which the wheat industry stabilization scheme will be implemented. Therefore it is necessary to test the measure in three specific ways in order to determine whether or not it will meet the requirements of the industry. The first question that should be asked is : “ Will this legislation be retrospective in its action; will it apply to a crop which had been’ sown prior to the initiation of the scheme ? “ It is imperative, in fairness to the growers, that the bill should apply only to crops planted after the introduction of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill in this Parliament. The second question to be determined is : “Will that portion of the price which will be allowed to remain in the hands of the farmers, be sufficient to cover the actual costs of production?”
– That is not in order. I hope that, the right honorable member will not attempt to debate the amount of the price remaining in the hands of the farmers. That is not related to the bill. The only amount dealt with in the bill is the excess price.
– I am merely putting the question in an inverse way. Sub-clause 3 of clause 4 expressly states that the amount to remain in the hands of the grower will be 5s. 2d. a bushel. It states -
Subject to a lower rate being prescribed by the regulations, the rate of the charge per bushel on wheat for any season exported by the Board shall be fifty per centum of the amount by which the average price per bushel free on rail at the ports of export for fair average quality bagged wheat of all the wheat of that season exported by the Board, or such lower price as is prescribed, exceeds Five shillings and two pence.
– Order! That reference to the amount that will remain in the hands of the farmers is only for the purpose of determining what the balance shall be.
– That is so. The point I wish to make is that the balance left in the hands of the farmer should be equitable, having regard to the full price.
– I think that the right honorable gentleman misunderstands me. I said that the amount of 5s. 2d. a bushel referred to is merely the amount above which a levy will bc struck. The right honorable member may refer only to the levy.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. My third question is: “For what length of time will this charge operate?” These three questions apply the test that will determine the fairness and, ultimately, the practicability of the scheme. The answers will show whether or not the scheme, will have the desired effects of increasing production and of stabilizing the position of the farmers.
Dealing first with the retrospective “effect, I point out that similar legislation introduced by me in this House in 1940 expressly provided that the crop being harvested at that time should not be subject to any stabilization charge^ The first crop to be included in that scheme was to be the 1941-42 crop. Sow- ing for that crop started in March or April, .1941, some months after the bill had been passed by Parliament. By thismeans, the farmers were given a fair deal. Those who wished to participate in the scheme were able to do so, and those who did not wish to participate were able to refrain from planting wheat. They were given the opportunity to decide the matter for themselves. But this bill is retrospective, and we should consider first the effect that it will have on the farmers themselves. If we are to have successful stabilization of the industry, the farmers must be able to show a definite profit in the first year of the operations of the scheme. Otherwise they will not continue to participate in it. Let me com-‘ pare the position of the wheat industry to-day with its position during World War II., and even during World War I. In 1914-15, the total value of the wheat crop was over £7,000,000. In 1918-19, the value of the crop was £20,000,000, nearly three times as great as in the first year of that war. In the first year of World War II., the total amount received by the wheat-farmers was over £31.000,000. In 1944-45, the total was £7,583,000, representing about one-fourth of the value of the crop in the first year of the war. In fact, the returns from wheat in the last three years of World War II. totalled £13,000,000 less than returns in the first three years. Furthermore, cost* were rising during the war.
– Order ! The’ right honorable member is not entitled to deal with the receipts of farmers or costs of production.
– I am debating whether the 1945-46 crop, which is referred to in sub-clause 1 of clause 4, should be included in the scheme.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is making a speech which he should have made last week od the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill.- I hope that he will not continue further along those lines. If he does so, I must ask him to resume his seat.
– It is intolerably unjust to prevent the wheat-farmers, who experienced extraordinarily bad times during World War II. as compared with World War I., largely on account of. seasonal conditions, from recouping some of their losses and preparing for greater production under the new stabilization scheme. The injustice is particularly irksome in view of the fact that the total amount involved is well over £20,000,000. The second point I wish to discuss is whether the amount of ‘the total price to bc placed in the stabilization fund represents a fair charge. That is a reasonable question’ to ask. This subject was discussed in this House in 1938, when the home consumption price of wheat wasdebated.
-Order! What the farmer should receive was argued last week. The right honorable gentleman is now entitled to debate only whether receipts in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel, from the sales of wheat exported, should be paid into a fund.
– The amount that the farmer is to receive is closely connected with the next point that I intend to make, namely, whether the duration of the scheme should be for five years or ten years. Obviously, if during the next five years the price of wheat is so high that the amount to the credit of the stabilization fund exceeds what is required to pay 5s. 2d. a bushel, it will he an equalization and not a stabilization scheme, and the Treasury will be the only beneficiary under it. What was the position in the ten years that followed the termination of World War I?
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman has clearly indicated his intention to try to circumvent the ruling of the Chair.
– No, sir.
– The right honorable member will not be permitted to do so. The speech that he is now making would have been quite in order last week on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill. It is not in order on this bill. The” right honorable gentleman must deal exclusively with the terms of the resolution from the Committee of Ways and Means. That resolution deals with the imposition of a levy on wheat exported from the Commonwealth, and the disposition of the receipts from that levy. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will not again transgress.
– In the ten years to which I have referred, the price of wheat was 6s. 2d. a bushel, or ls. a bushel more than the amount proposed by the bill.
– I have already ruled that the right honorable gentleman may not discuss that matter.
– I was proceeding to point out-
– Order ! If the right honorable gentleman does not deal strictly with the bill, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I was trying to point out that because of the starvation that exists in the world, the demand for wheat in the next ten years must be tremendous, and consequently the price must be higher than is provided for in the bill. Therefore, the amount paid into the stabilization fund will remain with the Treasury, and will not be disbursed among the wheat-growers. My objection to the bill would not be nearly so great if the proposed charge were not to be limited to five years, but were to be made for fifteen or twenty years. Surely if the wheatgrower is to derive any benefit from the - stabilization scheme the period of its operation must be longer than five years. On that point, this measure completely breaks down. Because of the fundamental defects that I have mentioned, the bill should be withdrawn and further examined. Every honorable member desires the establishment of a fund that will ensure the permanent solvency of the wheat industry.
– It is a wonder that the right, honorable gentleman did not attempt to adopt that principle when he had the opportunity to do so.
- Mr. Speaker would not permit me to enlarge upon the stabilization scheme for which I responsible.
– The honorable member for Hume should not tempt the right honorable gentleman to stray from the subject-matter of the debate.
– Unfortunately, I was very ill last week; consequently, I was not able to attend to my duties in this House. That should not prevent me from making the House fully acquainted with the facts. I wa3 making the point that’ the proposed term of five years is not satisfactory. A3 the stabilization scheme is to start with the 1945-46 crop, there is not the slightest likelihood of a withdrawal having to be made from the stabilization fund. If the Treasury is to have in its possession £15,000,000, £20,000,000, or even £40,000,000, the property of the wheat-growers, how will that money be disbursed at the expiration of the period during which the scheme is to operate? If the period were so lengthy that those who had contributed to the fund in the early years would be assured of benefiting in’ later years, there would be some justification for this proposal. Simultaneously with the presentation of a bill to impose a tax, there should be some notification of the manner in which the resultant revenue is to be disbursed to the farmers. The omission of such a provision is a serious defect, which we hope to correct when the bill is in committee. These relevant points have not been answered ; consequently, I thoroughly endorse the proposal of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), and the principle of the amendment of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), which was ruled out of order by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) while acting as Deputy Speaker, a ruling that was subsequently confirmed by Mr. Speaker. I hope that when the bill is in committee the Minister (Mr. Scully) will recognize the justice of the point that I have made. That point is germane to the argument of the honorable member for War-‘ ringah (Mr. Spender), which was that the Constitution provides that, no commodity may be acquired except on just terms. If the amount to be retained by the Commonwealth from the proceeds of the sales of wheat is to be considerably greater than we consider should be withheld, means for disbursing it should be provided. If the Government will not amend the bill in that way, I hope that it will make the duration of the scheme ten. fifteen or twenty years.
– I should like to make it clear that neither the Opposition nor the Government may amend this bill, except within the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means. A fresh resolution of that committee would be necessary.
– The bill is so inequitable that I should welcome the adoption of that course. It would not bo the first occasion on which a government had brought down a special appropriation to enable legislation to1 be amended. The Standing Orders’ provide means for placing the matter on an absolutely sound footing. It is not yet too late for the Government to ensure equity to the wheat-growers. The flour tax was imposed, not for a term of years but in perpetuity; it does not need periodical reimposition. The wheatgrowers should not have to suffer because of faulty drafting, or failure to include necessary provisions in the bill. Even” at this late hour, the Government should mount the penitent’s stool and. bring down another appropriation motion.
– It is in the nature of schemes of this kind that the Parliament should have presented to it two bills, and that arises from certain technical reasons with which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is familiar. We have had two wheat bills before us. The first dealt primarily with the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board and the acquisition of wheat by it. That bill has been passed. The measure now before us relates to the financial aspects of the scheme, insofar as they involve the imposition of a charge upon wheat for the purpose of constituting the stabilization fund.- I want to make it clear that I, for one, have no desire to discuss the matter which was before the House last week. 1 expressed myself at some length on that bill, and I have no desire to raise or discuss problems on validity which may arise in connexion with that legislation. I. have assumed throughout, as have other honorable ‘members, and as the Government apparently has, that the main proposals of .the scheme are legally competent ; but certain other questions arise wilh regard to the measure now before us, and I shall say something fairly carefully about two of them.
The first point I shall discuss relates to clause 6, which provides that the act shall continue in operation until a date, not being earlier than the 30th September, 1950, to be fixed by proclamation as the date upon which the act shall cease to be in operation. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) referred to this as a provision for a five-year plan, and, no doubt, in substance that is true, but it may be -a plan for more than five years. The bill is designed to enable the act to terminate by proclamation, which, after all, may be issued at any time after the expiration of five years. That seems to me to increase the confusion, because it means that the plan is certainly for five years, and that its duration thereafter will be outside the control of the Parliament, and will depend upon the executive decision of the Government as to whether a proclamation should be issued. So I make that simple qualification upon what the honorable member for Indi said; but in substance he is no doubt right in saying that, insofar as this is a plan for a certain period, it is a plan for five years. What does that involve? As far as we can judge, there is a strong probability that at the end of five years the stabilization fund, which is to be established out of the charge to be made under this bill, will be in credit. It may be very substantially in credit.
– It may not be.
– Quite so. If prices have a disastrous downward move in the next few- years, the fund may need to be replenished from Consolidated Revenue; but, so far as we can judge from probabilities, it seems that at the end of five years the fund will be in credit, and that the credit will consist of a charge levied upon the growers in respect of wheat What is to happen at the end of that time? Let us assume for this purpose, as the honorable member for Indi wisely did, that at the end of that time there will be a large credit balance in the stabilization fund. What is to be done with it is not being settled.
– Why .should there be a large credit balance?
– I did not say there should’ be; I said there well might be. The Minister will agree with me that. if the world parity price of wheat remained high for the next few years-
– That would be all the more reason why there should not be a large credit balance.
– That would be a very good reason why there should be. If the world price remained high, the levy made upon the growers would have built up the stabilization fund to the amount, maybe, of a good many millions of pounds.
– Why apply the levy, if the price remains high ?
– I, speak subject to correction, but I thought that the whole essence of the idea was that when the world price was good there was to be a levy, so that the fund might be put in credit, and when the world price- was low those credits might be used to stabilize the. price at its guaranteed level.
– If that is not intended;what is ?
– If the Government does not intend that, I give the matter up. I ask the Minister to assume - and I am surprised that he is not willing to assume it - that over the period of five years the credits will exceed the disbursements from this fund. What is to be done with the credits at the end of five years? That is a point upon which the House would have appreciated some information, but there is nothing in the bill to enlighten us upon it. There will simply be a fund which can be dealt with at the end of five years by the Parliament, according to the then constitution of the Parliament, and according to the views of the then majority of the Parliament as to how such funds should be treated. That seems to me, as it seemed to the honorable member for Indi, a most powerful argument for extending the term of this scheme to ten years. Over that period we are much more likely to have those fluctuations of world prices that will give effect to this fund as a stabilization fund, so that there will be payments out as well as payments in: The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) makes some remark not entirely audible to me. I wonder whether, in his heart, he would prefer a ten-year scheme. I think he would.
– This is a continuous scheme.
– Yes, but how long is it to continue? Will-it continue for five years, and then exist on sufferance, as under this bill? No remark has been made even by interjection, which would afford the slightest justification for this limitation to five years. I admit that everything one says on the bill must be said subject to correction.
– It is a guarantee of a definite price for five years.
– My genial friend, the Minister, unfortunately, was in an uncommonly taciturn mood on the day that he brought down this bill. He merely produced it. There was a slight pause, and I was waiting for his speech, but the speech did not come. Therefore, I had to rise and move that the debate be adjourned - which was one of the few humorous touches . of the day, because how it was possible to adjourn a debate that had not begun I do not know. However, the Minister will, no doubt, enlighten us when he replies.
The second point is in relation to the inclusion ‘of the 1945-46 harvest, and this arises in the express terms of clause 4 of the bill, which provides -
A charge is imposed and shall be levied and paid on all wheat harvested on or after the first day of October, 1945, and exported from the Commonwealth . . .
Thus, the bill itself expressly provides that the charge is to be levied in the first instance on the wheat of the last harvest. E have already had an opportunity, when addressing myself to the Wheat Stabilization Bill, to offer my general observations on that point, and I do not want to engage in tedious repetition.
– I wish the right honorable gentleman’s colleagues were equally as considerate!
– At any rate, so far as this bill i3 concerned, my friend the Minister cannot be accused of engaging in repetition. So far, he has said practically nothing at all. There are some matters which deserve to be made particularly clear regarding the 1945-46 harvest. Reference has been made to the problem of .acquiring property on general terms. The honorable member for Warringah. (Mr. Spender) dealt with a point similar to the one which I discussed in my second-reading speech on the other bill. Under the Wheat Acquisition Regulations, the 1945-46 harvest has already been acquired, and rights have already come into existence in relation to it. If “those rights came into existence merely because of the .Wheat Acquisition Regulations, the position might have been different, but they came into existence under the Constitution. They were, in fact, created by the Constitution, and are not to be taken away by the Parliament. The Parliament is the servant of the people, and the creation of the Constitution. The Constitution gives power to this Parliament to make laws for the acquisition of property, on just terms, from any State or person, for any purpose in respect to which the Parliament has power to make laws. It must be made clear that, when we discuss the rights of the wheat-farmer in relation to the 1945-46 harvest, it is. not a matter of how he fits into some future legislative scheme, but of whether it is right for the Parliament, in July of 1946, to seek to take away from the farmer rights in respect of the past which were given him by the Constitution itself. If there is an answer to that point - as there may be for all I know - then it is an answer that we have not yet heard. The charge imposed by the bill is a charge in relation to the wheat harvest, and, therefore, in practical effect, it is a charge on the grower. If the calculation that has been made is correct, and the charge this year will amount to 2s. 2d. a bushel, then the effect of what will be done is to take away from the grower of the 1945-46 crop 2s. 2d. a bushel of the amount which would represent just terms under the Constitution for the acquisition of his wheat. If we assume a price of x shillings as the price that could have been realized for the wheat, then x shillings represents just terms of acquisition, and x shillings, minus 2s. 2d., cannot be a just price.
– Would that not also apply to subsequent crops?
– The Minister has accepted on behalf of the Government responsibility for the view that this scheme will be legally valid. I have no doubt that if I could see into the minds of his legal advisers I should find, them arguing that whatever may be the position regarding the acquisition of property, taken by itself, there is a power to establish some kind of pooling system for .the future, and that if this power is exercised to provide for the stabilization of prices, then you may escape from the terms of section 31 of the Constitution. I do not want to go into that, because it would lead to an extraordinarily complex, difficult and recondite legal argument.
– I was hoping that the right honorable gentleman would elucidate the point.
– I am merely making . a guess at what has probably been going on in the minds of the Government’s legal advisers. I point out, however, that there is a world of difference between legislating in respect of future crops, and attempting to say to a man, whose rights are not in the future but have already accrued - rights given to him by the Constitution - that you propose retrospectively to modify his rights.
– The right honorable gentleman will get a brief for the case all right.
– Eoi- years past I have been so busy watching this Government that I have almost forgotten what a brief looks like, but I am happy to 3ay that I retain a few general notions regarding the subject with which I once had a fairly close acquaintance.
Thus I question the Government’s scheme on two grounds: first, the duration of the scheme; and, secondly, the proposal to go back on the past and take away rights which the supreme organic law has given. Both proposals are indefensible, and certainly have not been defended at any stage of the debate.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- I support the amendment, because I believe that the Government has not taken into account fully the wishes of the wheatgrowers. Statements that have been made in support of what the Government alleges to be the desires of the growers are unsound. A postponement of this measure for six months would give to the Government, and particularly to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), time to re-examine the matter thoroughly, and would facilitate the automatic exclusion of the 1945-46 wheat crop from .the provisions of this legislation. That action would be hailed with pleasure by the wheat-growers generally. At a meeting held in Perth in April of this year, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation carried a resolution including the following: -
That the federation request that the 1945-46 harvest be not included in the plan as it had been acquired under National Security (Wartime) Regulations.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has said that at a later date he met representatives of the wheat industry in Sydney, and that they informed him that growers had changed their minds about this matter. The honorable gentleman said, in effect, that the growers were quite happy about the Government’s proposal to include the 1945-46 crop. I am sure that the Minister has not gauged accurately the opinion of most wheatgrowers, and for that reason, I suggest a postponement of this measure in order that the Government may devote more time to a consideration of the views of those engaged in the industry. A publication that I have before me contains the following report relative to the meeting in Sydney: -
The federation reached its decision in regard to stabilization in Perth. last April. It was not proposed to alter that in any way. It was never even suggested. The meeting was convened by the chairman of the federation, Mr. E. Walker, of the Western Australian Wheatgrowers’ Union, to meet the Minister and present the Perth decisions on wheat stabilization to the Minister in person. That was -the intention, and there was no other intention.
It was realized that, although the Minister was an energetic man and had travelled extensively, he could not be everywhere. He had not attended the important meeting of wheat-growers in
Perth in April, and as he continued to press for the inclusion of the 1945-46 harvest in the Government’s plans, representatives of the industry naturally thought the best thing to do was to meet the Minister and draw his attention to the resolution carried at the Perth conference.
– From what publication was the honorable member quoting?
– From the Land, dated the 12th July of this year. The report also states -
The policy of the federation has not changed.
Let that sink in ! The report continues -
The federation stands where it stood before we met the Minister. There has been no alteration and there oan be no -retreat. When you hear that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation has approved of the Government’s proposals - and you will hear that - smile a sad and forgiving smile. It is untrue.
My regard for the Minister is of the very highest order, but my opinion of his wheat stabilization plan is not so flattering.
– In fact, it is just the reverse.
– Exactly. “We must have an opportunity to look further into this matter. It is of paramount importance, not only to wheat-growers, but’ also to .the whole of Australia that the 1945-46 wheat crop be excluded from the scheme. It has been ‘said - and I know it to be true - that never before has such a small sum of money meant so much to the wheat-growers of this country. After years of drought-
– Order ! The honorable member’ may only advance reasons for the postponement of the bill.
– I submit that a postponement is desirable in order that the Government may have time to reconsider its decision to include the 1945-46 crop in this scheme. The exclusion of that crop is of vital importance to the continuance of wheat-growing as Australia’s No. 2 primary industry.
– Order ! That may have been a very fine argument on the motion for the second reading of the bill, but it cannot be used when speaking to the amendment. -
– I rise to order.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot take a point of order on this matter. I have ruled that it’ is not admissible.
– May I seek your ruling upon another matter ? This measure seeks to impose a charge upon all wheat exported from Australia harvested on or after the 1st October, 1945. Is it not pertinent to argue that there are reasons why that particular harvest should not be included in the plan?
– That is not the question upon which I ruled. I regret that the honorable member has not taken a closer interest in the proceedings. The question of the inclusion of 1945-46 crop could be debated upon the motion for the . second reading of the bill. The honorable member for Wimmera is now speaking for the second time. He has already spoken to the motion and, therefore, he may now speak only to the amendment, which is that the bill be postponed for six months. He may give reasons in support of the amendment, but may not discuss the original motion.
– I thank you for your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I am most anxious to give my reasons why the bill should be postponed for six months. One reason is that many wheat-growers have incurred liabilities with country storekeepers and others and have given undertakings that they would meet their obligations out of the proceeds of the 1945- 46 crop. They entered into commitments believing that they would receive payment in full for that crop. If the amendment be agreed to, the Minister will have time to reflect, in which event he may decide to exclude the 1945-46 crop from the scheme. He will agree, I am sure, that persons who’ enter into financial obligations, honestly believing that funds will be available to enable them to meet their commitments, should not be denied access to those funds by retrospective legislation. Wheatgrowers are men of vision, and, even before they fallowed the land to be sown for the 1945-46 harvest, they realized that they must finance their activities. The postponement of this measure will provide an opportunity for the Government to consider the reasonableness of the wheat-growers’ contention that the money that they so badly need to meet their obligations should not be taken from them and also the necessity to maintain the economic structure of Australia on a sound basis. The money that will be available to wheat-growers from the 1945- 46 crop will be inadequate to meet their needs.
– Order ! That is an indifferent argument.
– Another reason why a postponement is desirable is that some wheat-growers who hold temporary permits to grow wheat may be placed in an awkward position unless the Government reconsiders its policy. What is to become of the money which a wheatgrower who has a temporary permit to grow wheat for, say, two or three years will have contributed to the fund if his licence is revoked.
– Order ! The honorable member knows the limits within which he must confine his remarks. He may not .make another second-reading speech, but he may advance arguments to show why the bill should be postponed for six. months.
– I am strongly of the opinion that the bill should be postponed for that period to enable the Government to review the situation. The Minister, may have seen in the Sydney Morning Herald a report of threatened legal action by wheat-growers. I do not think that the Government desires litigation and therefore a further opportunity to consider the implications of this legislation is most desirable. In the Sydney Morning Herald of - the 20th July last, under the heading “ Wheat Men take Legal Action ; Forbes move against Stabilization Plan “, the following appeared : -
The Forbes Wheat Defence Committee has decided to take legal action to restrain the Federal Government from including the 1945- 4G wheat crop in its stabilization plan.
The committee announced its decision at a meeting at Forbes yesterday. Its action followed the announcement on Thursday by the general president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, Mr. Hugh S. Robertson, that the association had decided to seek legal opinion on the validity of the Government’s plan for the 1945-4G crop,
In order to prevent a legal battle between wheat-growers and the Government, a postponement of this bill is desirable, particularly as the Government claims that its purpose in introducing the measure is to confer a benefit on wheatgrowers. On this occasion I would vary the old adage, “ Hope deferred maketh the heart sick “, and say that “ The bill deferred will make the wheat-grower’s heart glad “.
.- I support the amendment that consideration of this measure be postponed for a sufficient period to enable the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to give further consideration to his proposal. During the debate on this bill arguments which we have heard on many occasions recently have been emphasized,. but, unfortunately, they seem to have made little impression on the Minister. He seems determined to get his hands on the proceeds of the 1945-46 wheat crop. In other words, the Minister seems determined to take from the wheatgrowers who harvested wheat in the 1945- 46 season at least. £7,000,000, which should go into their banking accounts. The bill before us purports to be one for the stabilization of the wheat industry, but it is rather a measure providing for acquisition under a scheme which requires wheat-growers to contribute, from their own pockets, money to protect themselves. That could be done without any aid from the Government. Nothing has been said by the Minister, or any supporter of the bill, to justify the proposal that 50 per cent, of the amount received for wheat in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel shall be paid into a stabilization f und. The only justification for the Government’s proposal which the Minister has advanced is that as the price of wheat is now high this is a good time to establish such a fund. The Minister seems to have forgotten the difficult times which wheatgrowers have experienced during recent years. Every person who has any knowledge of primary production knows that life on the land, whether as a wheatgrower, a dairy-farmer, or a grower of sugar-cane or bananas, means that losses and profits over a number of years must be averaged in order to arrive at the true . position. For several years wheat-growers have had poor results; the 1945-46 crop was the first chance they had to recoup losses made during previous years. The Government would have the wheatgrowers believe that it has brought down this measure in the generosity of its heart to assist them. The bill, however, seeks to take from their pockets moneys which some of them will never sec again, and thus it constitutes the gravest injustice that could be inflicted upon them. I regret that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had the temerity to place such a proposition before this Parliament without first giving consideration to the criticisms levelled against it during the discussion of the parent bill. Not one defence has been raised by the Minister against the charge levelled by honorable members on this side of the House that the Government proposes by this measure to perpetrate a “steal” of £7,000,000 from the pockets of the wheat-growers- in respect of the 1945-46 harvest. This proposal will take away from a wheat-grower of 3,000 bushels of wheat an amount pf approximately £300 which otherwise would have gone into his banking account this year. Offhand that. may not seem a very large sum, but it means a lot to the grower who has experienced bad seasons. Honorable members will recall that during the 1944-45 harvest many Victorian farmers were not able to recover the cost of seed used in the planting of their crops. To those unfortunate people a levy of from £100 to £300 would represent a substantial loss.
The second main objection to the bill is that it makes no provision for the wheat-grower who leaves the industry before the termination of the scheme.
– Such a farmer has. been given no thought in this measure..
– I agree. The plan submitted by the Minister is based on the mistaken belief that a wheat-grower will always remain in the industry. If however through sickness, accident or death, or for some other cause a wheat-farmer abandons wheat-growing, he will be deprived of all moneys which he had contributed to the pool. How can the Minister defend such an injustice as this? I have in mind other schemes for primary producers-
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing schemes . for other primary pro- ducers
– I mention them only for the purpose of making a comparison.
– Order ! If the honorable member understands the purpose of the bill he will know that it proposes to impose a levy on exported wheat.
– I understand that the purpose of the bill is to filch from the wheat-growers of Australia this year about £7,000,000. The wheat-growers themselves clearly understand its effect. I was merely endeavouring to draw a parallel between what is proposed in this bill and what has been done in respect of other industries.
– Order! Other industries do not come within the ambit of the bill.
– I submit that the experience of other industries may be used as a guide.
– The honorable member is aware that that subject may not be discussed.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, even though it deprives me of the opportunity to put my case properly. The Minister could still do justice to those who will contribute to the wheat stabilization fund by constituting that fund on what I might describe as a revolving basis, whereby those who pay into it but who, subsequently, for some reason or other, leave the industry, will be given an opportunity to withdraw their equity from the fund. Provision should be made for their names to be registered and the amounts of money credited to the fund on their behalf to be recorded so that when they leave the industry they may be paid what is their just due. I could name industries in which that has been done very successfully. The Minister should be prepared to agree to the temporary postponement of the bill in order that schemes such as that may be examined. Probably, however, the honorable gentleman has not even heard of such proposals. I remind him that in a period of five years there may he a great drift from the wheat industry, as there may he from other industries and occupations. Every honorable member knows that during the period of three years that elapses between the holding of general elections for this Parliament there are great changes in the number and occupations of the people on the electoral rolls. In some electorates these changes represent 30 per cent, of the number of people on the roll. It may be said that within a period of three years the changes in the number and occupations of persons on the electoral rolls would average 20 per cent. That represents the normal turnover of people changing from one town to another, fro’m one electorate to another, or from one occupation to another. I agree that in the wheat industry the movement may be lower than the average in other industries because a wheat-grower, having his own home on his property, is more stabilized in his occupation than are most members of the community. Nevertheless, there is a constant turnover in the wheat industry itself, and it is in respect of those wheat-growers who will not remain in the industry that the Opposition is most concerned. I support my colleagues in their efforts to safeguard the interests of such people.
– The honorable member may include me among, his colleagues on this matter.
– I include the honorable member, as- 1 also do the honorable member1 for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and, of course, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who also has given us his counsel and advice in this important matter.
– Apart from the Minister, not a single Labour supporter has spoken in favour of the bill.
– That is so. Even the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) who is usually most vociferous in his advocacy of the Government’s proposals has remained strangely silent. The honorable gentleman is apparently afraid to commit himself. Thus we have the spectacle of the Government’ benches being packed with silent supporters of the Government, not one of whom has been courageous enough to attempt to justify this “ filch “ of £7,000,000 of the wheat-growers’ money this year. However, honorable members on this side of the House, though they lack numerical strength, refuse to remain silent in face of the injustice which the Government proposes to perpetrate on the- wheatgrowers.
.- I knew that if the members of the Australian Country party were given enough rope they would hang themselves. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) expressed concern as to- what would happen to money in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund in the event of the winding up of the stabilization scheme. I remind him and his colleagues that section 6 of the Wheat Industry Assistance Act 1938 provided -
There shall he kept in the fund an account to be known as the Wheat Tax Account to which shall be credited out of the receipts of the fund all moneys collected under the Flour Tax (Wheat Industry Assistance) Assessment Act 1938, on wheat exported from Australia or upon wheat produced and sold in Australia.
That tax is similar to the tax provided for in this legislation.
-Order ! The honorable member had better deal with this tax.
– The protestations of the honorable member for Richmond about a “ steal “ by this Government in imposing a charge on wheat exported from Australia and then allocating the proceeds for certain purposes are baseless, because the proposal in this legislation is on all-fours with the -legislation of 1938, which was passed when the honorable gentleman was -a Minister. This bill provides that excess money in the fund shall finally be refunded to the wheat-growers who provide -it. This legislation is more ethical than was the 1938 legislation,- because the money raised under it was distributed to distressed wheat-farmers, who may not have paid one penny into the fund. What honorable gentlemen opposite do when in power is frowned upon by them when in opposition.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! The honorable member spoke after the amendment was moved, and therefore is not entitled to speak again.
– I thought I spoke before the amendment was moved.
– No. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who moved the amendment, spoke from 4.19 p.m. onwards, and the honorable member for Warringah followed at 4.52 p.m.
– in reply - I intend to be brief. I may not have spoken at all but for the tedious repetition and misrepresentation of honorable gentlemen opposite. Only the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) debated the bill fairly. As a layman, I am not prepared to enter a legal argument with such a renowned, lawyer as is the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the great wheat-grower who is so. interested in this bill, but when I asked a question of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is as competent as is the honorable member for Warringah .to give legal advice, he failed to verify the contentions “ of the honorable member for Warringah. Honorable members opposite would have the people believe that this legislation applies only to the 1945-46 pool and not to any subsequent pool. That is not so. National security regulations identical with this legislation were made by the Menzies Government, of which honorable members opposite were all members or supporters.
– Not all.
– I except the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), whom I congratulate on not having been associated with the Australian Country party in this Parliament at that time. Later those regulations were- replaced by legislation. A 50 per cent, levy was imposed. There was no question then of just compensation to the persons from whom the wheat was acquired. The argument about just terms has been raised now -merely to delay the passage of the bill. The tedious repetition that has characterized the stone-walling of honorable gentlemen opposite shows that the aim of the Opposition is, at. all costs, to prevent this bill from becoming law. Opposition supporters have harped on the fact that. I did not deliver a secondreading speech on- this bill, but they know, as the general community knows, that my second-reading speech on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill covered this bill, too. Moreover,, the Leader of the Opposition acquiesced in leave being given - to introducethis bill before the debate on the second reading of the other bill was resumed after I had made my secondreading speech. Over and over again,, honorable members opposite have referred to the equity in the” wheat industry stabilization fund that might be created by the individual contributions of farmers. Both this measure and the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill were discussed at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. At that’ meeting the measure was debated clause by clause and accepted as drafted. Unless the States pass the complementary legislation we shall not be able to implement this stabilization scheme.
– I rise to order. The Minister has referred to the necessity of the States passing complementary legislation. In view of the ruling you gave earlier, Mr. Speaker, that honorable members could not discuss the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, I ask whether the Minister is in order in debating that bill.
-It is competent for the Minister to refer to what took place and to show the necessity for the States to pass complementary, legislation. He is in order, in replying to speeches made during this debate, in showing that, despite the fact that some honorable members have mentioned the names of people opposed to the scheme, the Australian Agricultural Council agreed to this legislation. The Minister would be doing less than justice to this legislation if he failed to do that.
– Honorable members opposite contend that the scheme should operate for a period of ten years. The Australian Agricultural Council agreed that the plan should be a continuing- plan, but the council specifically fixed a period of five years as a first period in respect of which the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel should apply. However, I gave a definite undertaking to the council that the States would be called together three years hence in order to discuss the continuance of the plan. That aspect is fully covered in the agreement with the States.
Honorable members opposite have contended that the equity of individual growers in the pool is not safeguarded. Any grower who is subjected to a levy will have some equity f or a time at least, but his equity will be determined by the price at which wheat is sold subsequently. For instance, the price of wheat might decline in the second year,’ rendering it necessary to absorb the surplus at the end of the first year in order to build up. the price to the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a busheL” Then, in subsequent years the Commonwealth would guarantee that price. That is a specific provision in the agreement between the Commonwealth, the States and the growers. I stated definitely at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council that all individual growers who had paid the levy would have an equity in any surplus that might exist at the end of the first five-year period; and I declared without hesitation that at the end of that period any surplus should be distributed amongst growers who had an equity in the pool.
– How can such a distribution be effected if a record of the names of growers is not kept ?
– The honorable member knows that it has been the practice to keep a record of the names of growers in respect of pools. But I remind him that governments which he supported did not make such provision under legislation which they enacted dealing with the wheat industry. The attitude of honorable members opposite shows clearly to the wheat-growers that the Opposition is, doing its best to destroy this scheme. Honorable members opposite are making every effort to persuade the wheatgrowers to bring pressure upon the States to refuse to pass the complementary legislation without which no Commonwealthwide wheat stabilization plan can be implemented. The arrant humbug of the members of the Australian Country party in this matter has been clearly demonstrated in this debate; but I believe that wheat-growers from one end of the Commonwealth to the other realize that fact and will deal with the members of that party in no uncertain manner at their first opportunity.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent;
Dir. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [8.48].- I move-
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (2.) This Act shall not he submitted for the Royal Assen until it has been approved by a majority of registered wheat-growers a-t a postal ballot.”
I move the amendment for various reasons. We have been told that this legislation is the outcome of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The Australian Agricultural Council cannot bind either the Commonwealth or State parliaments. All that the members of the council can do is to bind their respective governments. Each of those governments must submit complementary legislation to their respective parliaments, and in due course those parliaments will pass, or amend, the legislation drafted by the council. It would be much easier for us to debate the measure if we were favoured by the Government with a sight of the proposed State legislation because we could then see the scheme in its entirety. Thus, we now have: First, the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill which we passed under great difficulty; secondly, this measure which is experiencing a stormy passage; and, thirdly, legislation which is still in the realm of darkness.
The second point I make is that the Minister has stressed time and again that this legislation is the result of an agreement between himself as Minister for Commerce and ‘ Agriculture and the Australia Wheat Growers Federation. With very great respect to that body, I do not think that it can commit all of the wheat-growers of Australia to this scheme. I have excellent reasons for believing that it does not speak, and never has spoken, for a majority of the wheat-growers. As proof of my contention, I desire to read extracts from a publication entitled Wheat Farms of Victoria. This is a sociological survey made in 1946 at the Melbourne University by Alan J. Holt, partly at the expense of the Commonwealth Government.’ After having made a survey of the Wimmera and Bendigo districts and the north-west of Victoria, Mr. Holt wrote - .
Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association. - Forty-six per cent. of wheatfarmers were financial members of this organization. For 4 per cent. members it was their only social organization. Several of the interviewees held’ executive positions ; one was president of the local branch and three others secretaries of local branches. In addition there were four at least who had been members but were unfinancial at the time of visit. Members wereall confined to groups of medium and low production rating, and comprised a higher proportion of Mallee than Wimmera farmers. Tenants and sharefarmers were members as well as owners, but managers were not.
It is said that the association owes its origin to the Country party organization when in 1928-29 during an internal disruption, a group attempted to form a wheat-growers’ wing as distinct from rural township members. A committee was formed, but after a brief existence recommended that the wheatgrowers’ section be formed outside the political movement as an “ industrial “ or “ economic “ organization. Small wool-growers were brought in during the last few years; in any case, many wheat-farmers are small woolgrowers as well.
While it is still a separate organization, it has a similar membership. All interviewees who were Country party members are also members of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association. Many interviewees of other political opinions than Country party expressed the opinion that they would be members of the association had it hot been for the apparent close connexion between the Country party and the association. The association is stronger in the Mallee, where many rural branches have been formed. Wimmera branches are almost all confined to country towns. This may be in name only, however, and may be due also to the fact that the towns are closer together in the Wimmera than in the Mallee.
Dealing with the political set-up, because that must be taken into consideration, Mr. Holt stated-
United Country Party. - This political party plays a very important part in thelife of the wheat areas. At least 23 per cent. of the farmers interviewed are active members of the party. Only 4 per cent. are recorded as members of the Labour party and6 per cent. of the United Australia party (commonly regarded as the conservative party, and since reconstituted as the Liberal party).The balance did not belong to any political organization.
I submitted my amendment because I desire very clearly to ‘convey to the Minister my firm belief that no organization in Australia speaks for the whole of the wheat-growers. The Australian Wheat Growers Federation speaks for some farmers, but in South Australia, thereis in addition to that organization the Grain Growers Association and the two organizations have certain differences of opinion. I firmly believe that the only way in which to obtain the views of the farmers regarding this stabilization scheme is to conduct a postal ballot and allow the wheat-growers who are interested enough to return their papers, to decide whether they desire this legislation. That is the democratic approach. The situation now is entirely different from what it was at the outbreak of the war. At that time, I would never have advocated the course that I am recommending now, because, quite clearly, the Government then was seizing or commandeering all the wheat and other primary products for war purposes. What the growers thought of that act did not enter into consideration, just as the views of workmen were not considered when the Labour Government decided to conscript them for war service. . Conditions now are entirely different from what they were in 1939. Now, we are endeavouring to legislate for peace-time conditions, and, therefore, we are under an obligation to ensure that the people who have most to lose and most to gain from this scheme shall be properly protected. It is without precedent that a government should levy a charge on wheat under the conditions which the Minister proposes, although the principle is the same as that which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) incorporated in legislation in 1941. Wheat prices then were so low compared with prices ruling to-day that the two situations cannot otherwise be compared. The contribution which wheat-growers will be required to make under this bill will be more than one-half tff the total value of. the wheat at the time the right honorable member for Cowper introduced the bill in 1941. In my judgment, the only satisfactory approach is to allow the wheat-growers to express their opinion regarding the proposal. If a majority of them favour the scheme, I shall have nothing further to say about it. But until the growers have expressed their views, I cannot accept the decision of a meeting of two or three men from each State who claimed, for example, that the whole of the wheat-growers of South Australia are in favour of this scheme. I do not believe, at this stage, that such a- claim was correct.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made a point which is overlooked by the contending factions in this game of “ political wheat football “. Whilst the wheat-growers of ‘ Australia, and the farming community generally, aim at organization on the lines o:f the trade union movement they have not yet advanced to the position that the trade union movement reached at the beginning of this century. The group of farmers’ organizations, such as the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, the Wheat Growers Union and the Settlers Association of Queensland make extravagant claims that they speak on behalf of all the growers of a particular product. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is then placed in a very invidious position in trying to obtain agreement among all the growers’ organizations. As the honorable member for Barker pointed out, some of those organizations have political affiliations, either written or unwritten. On a contentious subject like the stabilization of wheat, particularly on the eve of an election, politics are introduced and1 the welfare of the producer tends to be overlooked. In my electorate, a clear division is approaching between farmers, not on the value of the stabilization scheme, but on whether the Australian Labour party is serving the best interests of the growers. That conditionof affairs is unfortunate because the growers are not sufficiently organized industrially to be able to risk a failure of their scheme of industrial organi zation by throwing it into the ring in’ a political brawl. The farmers will come off worst. Throughout history, the food producers .have been at the mercy of speculators who, recognizing that people must have food, used great pressure to corner food, and then demand a price which they fix instead of allowing the law of supply and demand or the needs of the situation to determine it. In my opinion, the Minister acted wisely in requesting the Australian Agricultural Council to discuss wheat stabilization. The State Ministers for Agriculture and their staffs have a profound knowledge of our agricultural economy. They appreciate just how far the scheme is practicable and the extent to which the finances of the Commonwealth and the States are able to support a scheme that depends for its revenue upon export values. When the Labour party was in opposition, we criticized the government of the day for not paying what we considered to be adequate prices for wheat or wool. Now, honorable members opposite are in the role of critics of the Government. According to reliable estimates, 20,000,000 people in the world will die of starvation. In other countries, there is sufficient food to feed them. The problem is lack of means of distribution. Those facts should make honorable members think deeply about the subject of food, instead of introducing politics into a subject that means life or death to so many people.
.- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) has driven home the point which honorable members on this side o’f the chamber have been impressing upon the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). The honorable member stated that we should disregard politics and discuss the means to stimulate wheatgrowing. What is more likely to stimulate the production of wheat - the payment to growers of the export price of 9s. 7£d. a bushel, or the payment of the stabilized price of 5s. 2d. a bushel? .The question answers itself. Therefore, I cannot understand the inability of honorable members who speak in that fashion to compel the Minister to use common sense. The additional income which the growers of the 1945-46 crop would receive if that crop were excluded from the sta- 1bilization scheme .would enable them to recover much of what they had lost during the last three years of drought. Under :the taxation law, any losses incurred can be offset against subsequent profits i; consequently, they would not have to pay tax on a good deal of this additional income, because, undeniably, they have had severe “ losses. They could utilize the money in the improvement of their properties and the repair of their machinery. Therefore, the proposition of the honorable m.ember for Barker that they shall be given an opportunity to express their opinion is a sound one. If the Minister will not submit the whole matter to them, he should at least ask them whether or not they are willing that the 1945-46. harvest shall be included in the stabilization scheme. I am wholly in favour of stabilization. The present scheme, in general outline, follows the scheme that I submitted to the Parliament in 1940; but my proposal differed from this in that it deliberately excluded the wheat harvest which, at the time, was being delivered by the growers, and provided that only future harvests should be embraced in it. Any grower who did not wish to be bound by the scheme could refuse to grow wheat. I beg the Government to treat this matter on a non-party basis. Surely, if the farmers themselves were asked to decide whether or not the 1945-46 crop should be included in the scheme political considerations would be excluded ! Who is introducing such considerations? Surely the Government is, by resisting all attempts to enable the growers, who own. the wheat and are entitled to the proceeds from the sale of it, to decide what procedure shall be followed.
– I join with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in congratulating the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). That he is the only Labour representative of a wheat-growing electorate who has chosen to speak, makes his contribution to the debate the more notable.
– ‘Order! What is don« by honorable members on the Government side of the chamber has nothing to do with the amendment.
– Their vote will have a great deal of bearing on it. I should have thought that on such an issue the representative of Hume (Mr. Fuller) would hold an opinion, because it will affect many of the growers in his electorate.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The Chair has ruled that the honorable member . must discuss the amendment.
– The amendment is concerned with the question whether all wheat-growers are to be deprived of what they reasonably anticipated would be their complete returns from the last harvest. There are wheat-growers in the electorates of Riverina and Wannon who might have expected their representatives to have an opinion on the matter. The honorable member for Calare has pointed out that the farming community as a whole is not so well organized industrially as are trade unionists. It appeared to me that he is moving towards the conclusion that their organizations are not yet competent to be consulted by the Government.- That, of course, is beyond doubt. The honorable member, for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has mentioned a book recently produced by the University of Melbourne, with the assistance of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, in which it is stated that in Victoria, one of the highly organized wheat-growing States, fewer than 50 per cent, of the wheat-growers are members of a wheat-growing organization. What the percentage is in the electorates of the honorable members for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) and Swan (Mr. Mountjoy), who have not spoken on this measure) I do not know, but probably it is less than in the electorates that I have mentioned in New South Wales and Victoria. If the Minister is to be guided by the speech of the honorable member for Calare, who argued that the. wheat-growers’ organizations are not so fully representative of the industry as to justify their views being regarded as decisive, the only sensible and fair thing is for him to consult all the wheat-growers. As the result of war-time pools, all of them are registered. It would be the simplest thing to abstract from the records of the Australian Wheat Board the names of all the registered. wheat-growers, and to take a poll of them at short notice. Mention is frequently made of democracy in this country. The Labour party poses as . its champion. Surely the essence of democracy is that the mass of the people concerned shall be consulted, and that their decision shall be the determining factor !
– Have a referendum on everything.
– The honorable member for Barker has proposed that there shall be a referendum of the wheatgrowers on a subject which touches their own industry. The Ministry regards a referendum of the people of Australia as a good thing when it wishes to obtain a decision to its own political advantage. This matter is not touched by politics. If it were put to the growers they could decide, free from all party affiliations, whether they want their assets to be “ grabbed “, virtually stolen ; to be possessed retrospectively. What could be fairer than the proposal that they, shall be allowed to decide the matter? What is the use of the Minister saying,-“ I have conferred with the members of the Australian Wheat Growers. Federation “ - having in the room with him half a dozen men, some of whom were simultaneously executive members of the federation and on his own pay-roll, and would give advice calculated to favour the view that he holds? What is the use of his claiming that to be a democratic way of ascertaining the wishes of the wheat industry? The Opposition submitted the much fairer proposal that the whole stabilization scheme shall be- submitted to a poll of the growers. There is no urgency in the matter. It is not as though the proposal had implicit in it a payment by the Treasury to the wheatgrowers at short notice. All that is proposed is that something shall not be taken from the wheat-growers. What could be fairer than that?
– Wheat merchants would defeat the poll.
– That is a typical Labour party statement. The wheat merchants could almost be numbered on one’s fingers. Does the Minister fear that a dozen or twenty of them would be able to persuade 60,000 or 70,000 wheat-growers to vote against, their own interests? I have never heard a more puerile argument advanced than that. It shows that the Minister has no good argument at all in favour of his proposal.
– He said the merchants w.ould furnish funds with which to finance the Australian Country party.
– He did not say that. I have not seen the Australian Country party soliciting funds, but I have noticed great advertisements inserted on behalf of the Labour party asking that donations be sent to Ministers of the Crown at their public offices. I should have thought that Labour members would have had* little to say about party funds on this occasion. Had they any sense of f fairness, they would blush with shame; but anyred herring is good enough for the Minister to draw across the track of this measure. If there was ever a simple and clear-cut proposal which should be accepted by the Government, this is it. If there was ever a plan on which members of the wheat-growing constituencies such as the honorable member for Forrest, the honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith) should be heard, it is that now before the committee. Not one of those honorable members has risen to say whether he is in favour of, or against,, it. How can they explain to their supporters among the wheat-growers why they have expressed no opinion at all on this matter? 1
– Order! The honorable member for Indi (Mi-. McEwen) will resume his seat. The Chair has considered the amendment proposed, by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and finds that it is not in order. The Standing Orders re: quire any proposed law which has been agreed to by both Houses of the Parliament to be presented to the GovernorGeneral. The proposed amendment would conflict with the Standing Orders, and is therefore out of order.
– Under what . standing order is that ruling given?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Standing Order 209, which states -
Every bill originated in the House of Representative:! which sim! I have finally passed both Houses, shall be presented by the Clerk of the Parliaments to the Governor-General for His Majesty’s assent, having been first certified by the signature of the Clerk as having originated in the House, and as having finally passed both Houses.
– Three bills have already been passed by both Houses of the Parliament during the present session, but they cannot be presented for the Royal Assent until the proposals have been endorsed by the people at a referendum, so the standing order is obviously in conflict with the Constitution. Therefore, I submit that the Constitution is the law, and not the standing order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is referring to an entirely different matter. The Chair has given its ruling.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Charge on export of wheat and wheat products).
.- I move -
That the clause be postponed - as an instruction to the Government - to exclude the 1945-46 harvest from the charge.
We should place the spotlight on this clause, because it is necessary that the 1945-46 crop should be excluded from the scheme. This should be done in the interests of the wheat-growers and of many others whose interests are dependent on the well-being of the industry. It is essential that Australia should produce a.? much food as possible for the starving peoples overseas, to whom the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) has feelingly referred. The Minister (Mr. Scully) and other honorable members opposite have stressed the fact that it is highly necessary that legislation similar to that passed by this Parliament with regard to the wheat industry should be enacted by the parliaments of the States. Of course, that is necessary if this legislation is to operate as desired, but there would be a far better chance of its acceptance by the State parliaments if this clause were eliminated. The wheat-growers generally are opposed to the plan, and that is due more to the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop than to any other feature of the bill. The growers have financial obligations which must be met to prevent them from becoming bankrupt. 1 am well acquainted with the position of the industry. The growers pre now in a far worse economic position than other primary producers. On occasions, Ministers have said in this Chamber that primary producers have been able to reduce their overdrafts by’ millions of pounds, but the wheat-growers were not included. Ministers may have had in mind those engaged in the production of milk and butter, and in the stockfattening industry, but for many years the wheat-growers’ have been in financial difficulties. Nobody knows that better than the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It is more necessary now than ever before that the growers should get. the full benefit of improved prices, and therefore it is essential that the price obtain ed._, for the 1945-46 harvest should be made available to the industry Overseas experts have said that probably four or five years will elapse before the food position in Great Britain will become favorable.
– I do not wish to go wide of the mark,, but I think even you, Mr. Chairman, will admit that when the Minister .for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) interjected, “ Rot ! “, he was himself a long way off the mark. Even school children know how scarce food is in Great Britain. People here who re=ceive letters from Great Britain know that never before in the history of that country have the people been so short of food. So great is the scarcity that it will take a long time to accumulate stocks again.
– Then why not - sell wheat to them at 5s. 2d. a bushel?
– With Great Britain it is not a matter of. money, but of getting the food there. If the growers received the full export price for the 1945-46 crop, they could, with the extra money, produce still more wheat. With it they could buy new machinery, or put into order machinery which has become unserviceable by many years of use. They would also be able to repair their fences. Perhaps not many honorable members here have travelled through the wheat lands, but I have travelled through them extensively and, as one who had not seen the country for years, I was amazed to note how the fences and other farm equipment had fallen’ into disrepair.
– The clause deals with the export of wheat, not with farm implements.
– I agree, and I am advancing, reasons why the 1945-46 crop should be excluded.
– I have been trying to understand what the honorablemember has been saying, and what he means. He must now connect his remarks with the clause.
– If you have not been able to grasp my meaning, allow me to continue, and I may be able to enlighten you. If the full export price for the 1945-46 crop were made available to growers, the industry would be placed in a somewhat better position, and thegrowers would be better able to meet their obligations.,, If the Minister were to accept my amendment he would become very popular throughout the country.
– He is very popular now.
– I do not doubt that he is personally popular-
– Unless the honorable member can connect his remarks with the clause, he must resume his seat.
– Last season was a very dry one, and many growers did not harvest any wheat at all.
– The dryness of the season has nothing to do with the clause.
– I rise to order. This clause imposes on wheat-farmers, in respect of past and future crops, n heavy burden of 2s. 2d. a bushel. Therefore, in arguing that the clause be postponed, surely an honorable member may refer to the effects of drought on the position of the farmers. We must have regard to the persons whom this clause will affect, and to understand how it will affect them we must understand also how they have been affected by drought. Therefore, I submit .with . respect that your ruling is wrong.
– I see no reason for altering my ruling.
– You, Mr. Chairman, incorrectly anticipated my argument. I was about to say that, owing to the drought, many farmers would not contribute to the fund from the proceeds of the 1945-46 crop. It is .highly desirable that the contributions of wheatgrowers to the fund should be as even as possible. Therefore, there seems to be a sound reason for omitting the 1945-46 crop. Another consideration is that northwestern Victoria, and parts of South Australia and New South Wales are now faced with the danger of a serious grasshopper plague.
– Order !
– I submit that the money for the 1945-46 crop would enable them to take measures to cope with the grasshoppers. Honorable members may laugh, but if they understood how necessary it was for farmers to get a good crop next year they would not laugh. It is a very serious matter. The growers are certainly opposed to the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop, and I now voice my opposition to it also.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has advanced reasons which, he claims, should induce the Minister -for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to exclude the 1945-46 crop from’ the provisions of this measure. One ‘ reason wai that when wheat-farmers fallowed for the 1945-46 crop, they undertook’ commitments to business people, storekeepers, &c, and that as a consequence, they are in dire need of the full price realized for that wheat twelve months after it was harvested. But the export parity price ruling when fallowing for the 1944-4’S wheat crop was carried out was 6s. 5d. a bushel - it had risen sharply from January, 1944, when it was less than 5s. - so 63. 5d. should be acceptable. However, that is not the reason why honorable members opposite are protesting against the inclusion of the 1945-46 wheat crop in this scheme. Their object is to prevent the inauguration of any stabilization scheme that will give to the grower, over the years, all that his labour produces. They want to make the product of the wheat-farmer something on which they can gamble. I have listened to honorable members opposite criticizing certain individuals who have been accepted by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as advisers, for which service they have been paid out-of-pocket expenses. Questions such as “ Is he on the pay-roll ? have been asked. I am sure that not many honorable members opposite can live on their parliamentary allowances of £1,000 a year.Most of them have other interests, and I do not say that disparagingly. The point I wish to make is that the real reason for the opposition to this scheme and the criticism of this particular phase of it, is a desire to torpedoe the stabilizaiion plan altogether. However, the wheatfarmers are awake to that danger. The -following letter was sent to me by a wheatfarmer in my electorate, and has been published -
As a returned soldier from two world wars I have some knowledge of what we owe to Britain and the British.
When I find that we are selling wheat to Britain at 10s. 4d. per bushel, and when we know that the British are literally starving themselves to feed the rest of the world, I wonder if we realize just how much we owe to the people of that country?
We are selling wheat for milling at 5s. 2d. per bushel, and we are selling wheat for stock feed at 4s 6d. per bushel, but we demand the full export price when we sell wheat to the people in the United Kingdom.
I am a wheat-grower and I can find plenty to do with all the money I get, but Iwould be glad to take less for my crop if the British people were to get cheaper food.
A lower price to Britain could be partly balanced by a home-consumption price of 10s. 6d. per bushel.
I can visualize honorable members opposite saying to the people of this country, “ “We intend to charge 10s. 6d. a bushel for wheat consumed in Australia so that we can sell wheat to Great Britain at 5s. 2d. a bushel “. It is not hard to imagine what the reply would be.
The letter continues -
As things are going now, it looks as if we should remove the kangaroo and the emu from our coat-of-arms and replace them with Ned Kelly and Shy lock, the notorious Jew.
That letter, written by Mr. K. T. Allen of Bob Roy, New SouthWales, is commented upon by “Peter Snodgrass” in the New South Wales Journal the Land as follows: -
People generally are not conscious of any responsibility in this matter. It is none of our business if the people in other parts of the world are starving, it is their business.
That is the attitude of honorable members opposite. They are concerned with only two things: First, they seek to make political capital out of the starvation of unfortunate people -overseas; and secondly, they want to torpedo a scheme which in the long run will mean the salvation of the wheat-grower.
.- It is most significant that in the course of this debate we have not heard from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) any attempt to justify” this clause. The honorable member forCalare (Mr. Breen) has made a valiant endeavour to stop the. drift, but with little success. He has sought to establishtwo things : First, both in his speech and by interjection, he has alleged that the Opposition’s amendment is opposed to letting the British people have wheat at a low price. We on this side of the chamber all favour Great Britain having wheat at a low price, if that is necessary; but - and this is the vital difference - we do not believe that the burden of such a concession should be carried entirely by the Australian wheat-growers, of whom there are only approximately 60,000. If Great Britain needs wheat at a price less than the world parity price we should meet that need; but let the burden be carried by the whole community. The honorable member’s second contention was that the Opposition’s amendment was intended to torpedo the stabilization scheme. The honorable member has not proved that statement merely by making it. He was driven to that extremity in order to find some explanation for this unjust clause which makes provision of the inclusion of the 1945-46 wheat harvest: So that there will not be any misapprehension about this matter, I foreshadow an amendment following upon that of the honorable member for Wimmera. Clause 4 (1) (a) provides that a charge shall be levied on all wheat harvested on or after the first day of October, 1945, and exported from the Commonwealth, whether by the board or by any other person, on or after the first day of December, 1945. With the object of excluding the 1945-46 harvest I propose to move that the words “ on or after the first day of October, one thousand nine hundred and forty-five “ and “ on or after the first day of December, one thousand nine hundred and forty-five “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ on and after the commencement of this act” in each case.
It is, I hope, competent for me to move the amendment which I have foreshadowed. Sub-clause (1.) (a) would then read -
A charge .is imposed and shall be levied and paid -
On all wheat harvested on or after the commencement pf this act, and exported from the Commonwealth, whether by the board or by any other person, on or after the commencement of this act.
The proposed amendment, if agreed to, .would exclude the 1945-46. harvest. It would place the issue clearly before the committee, and would enable us to decide whether or not the 1945-46 harvest ia to be included.
– I rise to order. I submit that it is not competent for the committee to agree to an amendment such as has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr; Spender). I think that he knows that that is so. This bill is the result of a resolution carried in Committee of Ways and Means. That committee instructed the Minister to bring in a bill to give effect to that resolution. The amendment would alter that resolution.
– Order! The honorable member for Warringah has only foreshadowed his amendment.
– I thought that -the time of the committee would be saved if I made that point clear.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair will determine that point when it arises.
– Whenever the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) participates in a debate in committee, he seems to get lost. The Minister in charge of the bill said that there was no distinction between making a levy in respect of a past crop and imposing a levy in respect of a future crop. I do not know what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) thinks about- that; he is of age and can speak for himself. I am sure, however, that he would not controvert that there is a vital distinction between a levy made retrospectively and one made prospectively. This is a levy made retrospectively, and I repeat what I have said before, namely, that a levy made retrospectively is a vicious thing unless the most overriding reasons of public policy justify it. I have heard nothing so far to justify this retrospective levy excepting a reason which the Government is not prepared to admit, namely that it is another way of stealing something from wheat-growers. When the 1945-46 crop was acquired by the Australian Wheat . Board under the Wheat Acquisition Regulations there was vested in the wheat-grower a right to compensation. That compensation must be full and adequate. Where the wheat has been realized - where there has been a market to show its realization figure - -it has been made clear that the realizable value is the amount of the fair and adequate compensation. The second point is that when the wheat was acquired the wheatgrower was entitled, as a matter of right under the then existing law introduced by the present Government - I refer to the Wheat Acquisition Regulations - to full and adequate compensation determined in accordance with the realizable value of his wheat. Australian wheat is being sold in New Zealand at a fraction over 9s. 7d. a bushel; in other overseas countries it is being sold at 10s. a bushel. The effect of this legislation is that the wheatgrower is to be deprived retrospectively of his right to that money by the imposition, of a charge of 2s. 2d. a bushel on wheat already taken from him and vested in the board. Sub-clause 4 of clause 4 reads -
Where wheat products are exported, the charge shall be imposed on the wheat equivalent of those products.
That is to say, the charge will operate in respect of all wheat in the possession of a wheat-grower. During this debate I have not heard one word to justify that provision. I do not raise my argument on any legal or narrow approach. I raise it upon the rights of between 60,000 and 70,000 wheat-growers under the Wheat Acquisition Regulations of 1942-43. .So that the matter may be debated, I desire to make further reference to those regulations. They provide that upon a proclamation being published in the Gazette the crops became vested in the board. Thereupon, all property in the wheat crop passed to the board. The wheat-grower’s right was then converted into a claim for full and adequate compensation, because regulations provided that compensation should be equal to the realized value of the wheat, less certain specific charges incidental to realization. No honorable member can say that on the faith of those regulations a wheat - farmer would not have been entitled to. the equivalent of export parity for his wheat, less certain charges incidental to realization. The Government’s proposal is to take from the wheat-grower, under the guise of a retrospective levy, the compensation to which he clearly was entitled.
– Rubbish ! The honorable member does not understand the position. x
– The honorable member for Dalley is not now presiding -over our deliberations, and it is competent for honorable members to dispute with him. The honorable member thinks that he is the only member who knows anything.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! ;
– I am confining my remarks to the subject before the Chair. I hope that the honorable member for Dalley will do the same.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The t Chair will take care of that matter, should it arise.
– No honorable member can say that, both legally” and morally, the wheat-grower is not entitled to the full realization of his 1945-46 crop, less the charges incidental to realization. That is his right under the regulations, and -also in commercial morality and decency. By this manoeuvre the Government seeks to take from the wheat-growers of Australia large sums of money which will have the effect of relieving the Government from the necessity to meet the costs of its stabilization scheme. If the Minister cannot see any distinction between taking away a vested right and taxing .the wheat-grower in the future I am afraid that I cannot help him to see the inequity of his proposal. The Government can defend its action only on the ground that it was agreed to by somebody who did not represent all the wheat-growers. In respect df the future the wheat-grower knows where he stands ; he can plan his budget and knows the incidental effects of the bill on his operations. In respect of the past he had every right to assume that the price of realization was his but that is now to be taken away from him.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Sub-clause 1 of clause 4 reads as follows : -
A charge is imposed and shall be levied and paid - («)’ on all wheat harvested on or after the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and fortyfive ….
I emphasize- the year 1945. This is the 23rd. day of July, 1946, and we are now considering imposing a levy “ on wheat harvested on and after the 1st October, 1945, almost ten months ago. That wheat was probably sown in May and June, 1945, thirteen or. fourteen months ago. When the facts are stated in this manner it becomes obvious that this levy constitutes a retrospective tax on the wheatgrower. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) expressed the optimistic view that the Minister might accept his amendment and exclude, the 1945-46 harvest from the provisions of the bill. The honorable member is indeed an optimist because, if his amendment were accepted it would mean that the Minister would have to drop about £7,000,000 of “ loot “ which he proposes to take from the wheat-growers in order to initiate this so-called stabilization scheme. It is apparent that the scheme is to be financed initially not by the Government placing a sum of money to the credit of the fund to be drawn upon in case of necessity, but by a tax on the wheat farmers of Australia amounting to no less than £7,000,000 in respect of the 1945-46 harvest. It is evident indeed that the Opposition is fighting a forlorn battle; the numbers are against it and the Government will have its way. Whilst honorable members opposite who are supposed to represent wheat-growing electorates should be willing to range themselves alongside the Opposition in its attempts to exclude the 1945-46 harvest from the provisions of the bill they are strangely silent. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) read a letter from a constituent who would be very generous with the wheat-grower’s money. The writer was prepared to sell to the under-nourished people of Great Britain wheat at lower than world-market prices. ‘ He said that if we did otherwise we would be guilty of exploiting the straits in which the people of Great Britain were placed. Whilst 10s. 4d. a bushel might be considered a high price by comparison with the price that prevailed over the last few years, I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that if generosity is to be shown to the people of any country the cost of that generosity should be borne by the whole of the community and not by one section whose product is required by them. The support of the honorable gentleman for such a proposal is to say the least of it extraordinary.
– That is a wrong deduction to make from my remarks.
– It is the only deduction. 1 am able to make. We realize that all our efforts on behalf of the wheat-growers will be fruitless because we have not the numbers to prevent the Government having its way; nevertheless., we shall not be prevented from objecting to this proposal with all the vigour we can command.
– It obviously does not prevent the honorable member from stone-walling the bill.
– We are prepared to light against a principle which we believe to be wrong, whether applied to the wheat industry or any other industry. What would the Minister say if honorable members in Opposition suggested that the wages of workers should be subjected to a tax having a retrospective effect over the last twelve months? However, because the wheatgrowers represent only -a small body of approximately 60,000 individuals the Government believes that they will stand for anything. It has been suggested that the issue should be determined by a ballot We know that the holding, of ;i ballot is the last thing the Minister desires to do.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAX.The holding of a ballot is not involved in the clause.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera was that the clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government to exclude the 1945-46 crop. [ consider, that I am in order in giving reasons why a ballot should be held.
– The Chair will determine whether or not the honorable member is in order.
– Reasons must be. given otherwise there would be no substance in the claim that the clause should be postponed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair has already ruled that the holding of a ballot is not involved in the clause.
– How may I advance reasons for the postponement of the clause if I am not permitted to proceed ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair will decide what are the limits of debate permitted in the discussion of the clause.
– It is obviously futile to attempt to move the Government in this matter. In raising their voices against this iniquity honorable members on this side of the committee are apparently only beating the air. However, a poll of a different character will shortly be held and this iniquity will rapidly be removed.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to order. Has not the honorable member already addressed the committee on this clause?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Calare has done so once ; .lie is entitled to speak on the clause for two periods each of fifteen minutes.
– Both the honorable members for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and Richmond (Mr. Anthony) have canvassed what they claimed was the injustice of a retrospective tax. The honorable member for Warringah said that in imposing a retrospective tax in respect of the 1945-46 harvest, for which realizations were high on a bushel basis, the Government desired to avoid making contributions from public funds t.o initiate a scheme that might subsequently not prove self-supporting. Do they suggest that public money should be used to finance such schemes at times when annual or periodical realizations were low and that there should be no producer contribution at times when realizations were high? If the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Richmond assume that that is the idea of the wheat-farmers, they are deluding themselves. The Robertson scheme provides for a levy on wheat when prices are high to create a fund from which equalization payments shall be made when prices are low. That is the scheme in this bill, which provides for a guaranteed minimum price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. The Opposition is protesting against the inclusion in the scheme of a crop harvested when uncontrolled inflation was rampant in some countries overseas and Unrra was demanding food for the starving people of Europe regardless of the cost. That is why the price .for that harvest was so high.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– If the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Richmond think the returns from that harvest should not be used to supplement the pool against the day when prices may be low, I think they are the only people in Australia who hold that view.
.- The amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) narrows this discussion down to one of the most impor tant and controversial issues. While many other amendments have been moved and many speeches have been made, this is the first time a clearly recognizable specific issue has been brought before the committee in a manner that it is impossible to evade. It is the issue on which we intend to divide the committee in order to see who stands for stealing from the wheat-growers and who is opposed to it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member must not use unparliamentary language.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but that is the language that the wheat-growers recognize.
– I rise to order. The term used by the honorable member for Indi is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
-The Minister for Post war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) says that the term used by the honorable member for Indi is offensive to him and asks that it be withdrawn.
– I take it, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you direct me to withdraw the words to which exception has been taken.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask that the words be withdrawn.
– In deference to your request I withdraw, but it seems to me that the Minister has readily identified himself as one of those who engage in that objectionable-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman may not proceed along those lines.
– It appears that I might have chosen my language more discreetly and said that we would divide the committee to discover those in favour of taking money from the wheat-growers in a manner which I am sure the wheatgrowers believe to be both illegal and improper. The issue is simple. It is whether the levy is to apply retrospectively or not. The wheat-growing industry is subject to periodic vicissitudes and is committed to the disadvantage of periodic droughts.
– Order ! The Chair will not permit a discussion along those lines. The honorable member will not be permitted to make a second-reading speech at this stage of the bill.
– Having passed that point, I was about to mention that the product of this industry has both high and low overseas prices. Those who are engaged in it can maintain themselves in it only by averaging their income. When the bulk of the wheat-growers planted the 1945-46 crop they had been through a series of adverse seasons and prices, but a year ago they had moved into a period when they knew from answers to questions given by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that the export value of their wheat had reached 9s. a bushel. They were sustained by the knowledge that they could recoup some of. their losses from the high overseas prices. Upon that assumption, which was founded upon the whole of their experience and their conviction of their rights under the Australian Constitution, they budgeted for the next year, as every one engaged in rural industries is bound to budget in advance. They now are to be obliged, as the result of this legislation, to re-assess their incomes from a crop that they have harvested. Here is what they find in simple figures. If the amendment be rejected and the bill be passed in its present form, every farmer who delivered 1,000 bushels of wheat will receive £54 less than he expected. But, of course, 1,000 bushels’ is not a normal delivery. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) said that in twelve days he had sown 500 acres of wheat.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member will not be permitted to indulge in a wide discussion of the industry on this clause.
– It is clear that a man who sowed 500 acres of wheat would expect, on an average yield, to harvest from 7,000 to 8,000 bushels. A man who harvested 7,000 bushels will have his income reduced by £379 if this bill be passed in its present form. If he delivers 8,000 bushels his income, under this pernicious measure, will be decreased by £433. There has not been an occa sion previously in the history of this country when men have produced a product and have had it compulsorily acquired by the Government under terms which were explicit at the time of the acquisition, but which has been subjectlater to a decision by caucus to introduce legislation the effect of which will be to take from £300 to £500 from individual growers. The industry cannot bear such an impost upon the incomes of those engaged in it. This is not an abstract argument; every wheat-grower, with pencil and paper, will work out how much he is having stolen, or improperly taken, from him. With the permission of the committee I incorporate the following table in Hansard: -
Amount proposed to be withheld for stabilization fund 2s. 2d. per bushel, being 50 per cent, of difference between 5s. 2d. and 9s. 6d. (calculations on basis of 50 per cent, of poo) being exported) -
My final point is that the legality of the inclusion of the 1945-46 harvest in this scheme has been challenged by two eminent King’s Counsel in this chamber, namely, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender).
– The Leader of the Opposition did not challenge its legality.
– Apparently the Minister has some difficulty in interpreting the language of the Leader of the Opposition. I listened carefully to the right honorable gentleman, and’ I have no doubt on that point. The Minister knows that the legality of this measure has been challenged, not only in this chamber, but also in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, where wheat-farmers are banding together and voluntarily subscribing funds with which to fight the Government in the courts.
– The honorable member knows that the Australian Country party is responsible for that agitation.
– The Minister cannot shout me down. He cannot shout down the High Court. The point I make is that if an appeal to the High Court be successful, and this provision is proved to be ultra vires the Constitution the measure as a whole will be invalidated. The Government is jeopardizing the whole scheme by obstinately proceeding with this pernicious proposal. Every grower has -raised his voice in protest against - I nearly said “ steal “ - this expropriation. I appeal to the Government on the ground of equity and fair play. If it has any regard for our customary system of fair play it may still see the light and exclude the 1945-46 crop from the scheme. Secondly, I put the very powerful view to the Government that if its persistence with its proposal results in an adverse decision by the High Court, the scheme as. a whole will be invalidated, and everything the Minister is trying to achieve will be lost.
– I- cannot understand why the Government refuses to accept the suggestion that it postpone the commencement of the scheme until next year. Many attempts have been made to stabilize the wheat industry along these lines. We had an extraordinary opportunity during the war to obtain details with regard to all wheat farmers in Australia, including their names, acreages and production. I am loath to believe that the Govern ment would “ wantonly throw away the opportunity now presented to it to capitalize what has been done in respect of the industry during the war. The Government, by persisting with its proposal to include the 1945-46 crop in the scheme, will seriously jeopardize the whole plan, because our experience has been that when the various States as well as the Commonwealth must enact legislation in order to make a pooling system possible, a small number of men are able to cause trouble, as was caused in respect of dried fruits and wheat. Therefore, we should try to establish the greatest possible goodwill towards the scheme generally. I estimate that the levy to be imposed on the wheat-growers will average 2.s. 6d. a bushel in respect of the total Australian crop. That levy will antagonize the wheat-farmers, particularly as it will follow the worst financial result in Australia for many years in the marketing of wheat.
– The average would not be 2s. 6d. a bushel on the total Australian crop.
– It will be 2s. 6d. a bushel on all wheat exported,
– That is not on the whole crop.
– Usually from one-third to one-half of the crop is disposed of in Australia, but frequently from one-half to two-thirds is exported, whilst in some years as much as threequarters of the total crop has been exported. The question arises as to why the Government persists with this proposal. It is obvious that it cannot help the farmers financially in the ensuing year if they are to pay a levy of 2s. 6d. a bushel. The effect must be to cause the farmer a certain amount of harm. The Government cannot need this money as a special loan because it is well known that arrears of income tax amounting to many millions of pounds have not been collected. Is the object of the proposal to bring in money to the Government’s coffers by way of a loan which does not carry interest? Judging by our experience after the- war of 1914-18,- substantial amounts will be paid into the pool during the next few years. Why does the Government persist with this proposal? Does it wish to antagonize the farmers, or does it hope that the bill will be invalidated? Despite the interjection by the Minister when the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was speaking, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) supported the point made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that the wheat acquired up to the present must be acquired on just terms. Apart from the 1945-46 crop, an agreement must be made with respect to the acquisition of future crops. If that be done, growers will know the conditions under which they are to plant and deliver wheat in the future. They can then determine whether the conditions are just. They grow the wheat, they own the wheat, they need the money. The growers take the responsibility of accepting the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth; but obviously, the proposal to include the 1945-46 crop is expropriation. In those circumstances, the Government is not acquiring the wheat on fair and just terms. The only effect of this proposal will be to antagonize a large majority of wheat-growers, and arouse opposition to the stabilization of the wheat industry. That is the last thing that the Government should do. In the final analysis, this opposition will lead to an appeal to the High Court or the Privy Council, and the destruction of the stabilization scheme. That fate befell other marketing schemes, because a few growers were antagonistic to the proposals of the government of the day.
– If the 1945-46 crop were excluded, members of the Opposition would still raise objections to the scheme.
-In 1940, I introduced a wheat stabilization scheme. Before doing so, I discussed the proposal with the representatives of the wheatgrowers of Australia, and with the Australian Agricultural Council. Between 100 and 130 representatives of the Commonwealth, States and wheat-growers’ organizations assembled in the Senate chamber, and after a full discussion, agreed to exclude the 1940-41 wheat crop which had been planted. The scheme commenced with the new season’s crop, namely, the 1941-42 crop, although the bill had been passed in December, 1940. We realized that by excluding the 1940-41 crop, we would remove one of the causes of possible antagonism to the scheme. Recognizing that a stabilization scheme is necessary now, I urge the Government not to antagonize wheat-growers unnecessarily because any opposition to this plan may lead to the legislation being declared unconstitutional.
.- During this discussion, I have heard hon-. orable members opposite threaten to submit amendments, although they knew that those amendments would not be in order.
The amendment which is in order is that which proposes to postpone the operation of this clause. We should examine the clause for the purpose of determining whether there will be an expropriation or robbery which honorable gentlemen opposite have mentioned. The essence of the clause is that there shall be deducted from the proceeds of the sale overseas of all wheat including the 1945-46 crop, the amount in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel. Onehalf of that excess will be paid immediately into the pool for distribution, and the other half will be retained for the purpose of stabilizing the wheat-growing industry for the next five years. If, at any time, the price of wheat should fall calamitously as it has in the past, the money which is retained for stabilization purposes will be paid to the farmers to guarantee that the fixed price will be maintained. Therefore, it is obvious that all this talk about robbery is so much political “ eye-wash “. The only money that the farmers of Australia will lose will be the cost of administration by the board. That will be a charge against the accumulated funds of the wheat pool. As the farmer will have returned to him everything that was taken from him, how can- there be any robbery or expropriation. It is all very well for the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to “throw his weight about” as a legal man, but he knows as well as I do that my analysis of the position is correct.
– I do not.
– Honorable members opposite assert that the Government’s proposal is wrong, and that before this scheme is introduced, the farmers should be invited, by ballot, to express their opinion regarding it. I ask: What will become of the minority of wheatgrowers who would be opposed to the scheme ?
– We have discussed that.
– If the Govern ment’s legislative proposal will result in robbery and expropriation, will it not be robbery, through a referendum-
– I rise to order.Is it competent for the honorable member for Dalley to discuss a proposition which we debated on clause 2? The Chair ruled that honorable members on this side of the chamber were not in order in discussing the taking of a ballot of wheatgrowers.
– The Chair has allowed members of the Opposition to make passing reference to the subject, and, in the circumstances, will permit members on the Government side to do so.
– I rise to order. When I made a passing reference to this matter, the Chair ruled that my remarks were out of order, and refused me permission to proceed. Therefore, I submit that the Chair should not allow the honorable member for Dalley to proceed on similar lines.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair is not prepared to have its ruling canvassed.
– After those two interruptions, I shall discuss the questions of robbery and sanctity of private property, about which the honorable- member for Warringah spoke at length. If his argument about the sanctity of private property and. the property rights of growers in their crops is valid, the position will not be altered by the fact that a majority of wheat-growers are in favour of the stabilization scheme. If the stabilization of an industry by legislation is wrong, its stabilization by a majority vote of the producers is equally wrong; The minority, in such circumstances, will still retain their rights to their property.
It is true that, at present, high prices are ruling overseas for wheat. The people of Great Britain, we are told, are underfed. They need wheat and,’ like Shylock, we are extracting the last drop of blood from them by charging them 10s. 2d. a bushel.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture fixed that price.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The honorable member for Indi has already spoken on several occasions, and should not interrupt.
– We are squabbling to-night over the difference between 5s. 2d. a bushel that Australians will pav for their wheat, and 10s. 2d. a bushel which we are extracting from the undernourished people of Great Britain.
– What is the Government doing about it?
– Let us face the position honestly.’ The fact that honorable members opposite are so anxious to exclude the 1945-46 crop from this scheme is the clearest indication that they have no faith in the future of wheat prices throughout the world.
– Let us examine the position to see whether my statement is nonsense. If the honorable member for Indi has faith in the continuance of the high prices’ ruling overseas, it does not matter whether the Government commences the stabilization scheme this year or next year. If the scheme were postponed until next year, the Opposition would still raise the same bogy about robbing the wheat-farmers.
– That is nonsense, too.
– The honorable member for Indi, like a greedy kid, wants all the toys and a big doll, too. He wants the people of Australia, through the Commonwealth Government, to guarantee for five years - I heard him advocate even a period of ten years - the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, and allow farmers, on the 1945-46 crop, the full benefit of the high prices ruling overseas. Such things ought to work both ways. I believe that the success of a scheme can best be assured by starting it in a year when prices are high. A scheme could not prove successful if it were begun after there had been a calamitous collapse of world prices. There must be that “ nestegg” of a successful crop at the beginning. As we proceed, if existing prices overseas be maintained, and ‘year after year the excess be applied, one-half to the pool and one-half to the stabilization of the price, at the end of the scheme all of those whose wheat had been included in it will share in the distribution of the excess amount.
– The Minister will not admit that.
– The Minister has said so throughout.
– He has not said so once.
– Of course I have.Mr. ROSEVEAR.- If, subsequently, the scheme proved successful, it could be a continuing scheme. The equity of the farmer in his wheat will not be destroyed by the excess being withheld from him, one-half of it being placed in. the pool and distributed, and the remainder being used to guarantee a’ price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for a period of five years. It. is purely humbug and hypocrisy to talk about expropriation, and robbing the farmer, when we know that the only portion of the money collected by the Australian Wheat Board, whether in Australia or overseas, which the farmer will lose, will be the cost of administration of the scheme. The proposal to postpone the scheme is merely an attempt to defeat the objective of stabilizing the wheat industry. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has joined in the chorus of voices demanding postponement. That has. been the tragedy of the wheat industry.
– I secured the legislative enactment of a scheme, and it was sabotaged by the present Minister.
– Year after year, for fifteen years; while the right honorable gentleman was Minister for Commerce, this problem arose, and he was never game to face the issue.
– This is a replica of my scheme.
– The right honorable gentleman did not on any occasion attempt to bring down a real- stabilization scheme. His policy was that of patching and mending year after year, with a levy here and a levy there, in one year excluding from the benefits of the legislation those farmers whose income tax reached a certain level, and in another year embracing all of them when the Government was dependent upon the Australian Country party for its existence. The right honorable gentleman now wants to continue to patch. Is that the sort of administration we can expect from him - waiting all .the time to see what will happen?
– What rubbish!
– With a knowledge of the disastrous consequences of the legislation that was passed during the years when he was Minister for Commerce
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! “ The honorable member for Dalley is getting a long way from the clause. - Mr. ROSEVEAR.- I have said enough to prove conclusively that all this talk about expropriation and robbery is bo much “ eye-wash “. Believe me, the wheat-growers are a “ wake-up “ to all that they have been hearing for years. They are in favour of this scheme. But the people who stand behind and finance the Australian Country party want the scheme to fail so that they can continue to exploit the farmers and obtain for themselves the advantage of overseas prices.
. - Recently, some bouquets were thrown at the honorable .member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). If he is to continue to enjoy the reputation of being a convincing debater, he should choose his subject with care. He has exhibited to-hight an abundant lack of knowledge. In arguing that it does not matter whether the wheatgrower receives the extra money from high prices this season or in five years time, he has revealed how little he knows about the wheat industry generally and its sufferings during the last few years. I say, in favour of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen), that he expressed the belief that Australia should supply Britain with food at a lower price than is being asked. But I definitely support the contention of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), that in such an event the cost should be borne by the whole community. All Aus- tralians should agree with that. Theconcessional price at which wheat is being sold for other purposes is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the wheatgrowers at the present time. There have been countless arguments in favour of the amendment, which proposes that the clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government that the 1945-46 harvest be excluded from the stabilization scheme ; but there has not been any logical- argument in support of the inclusion of - that crop in the scheme. Summing up the arguments in favour of the amendment, I say that its acceptance would place the great food-producing wheat, industry on a sounder footing; allow the wheatgrowers to make certain renovations, which would help to maintain the wheatproducing equipment that is such a great national asset; allow them to meet some, at least, of their financial obligations; and enable preparations to be made for the maximum production of food at a time when it is most urgently needed. The growers are in favour of this course being adopted. Regarded generally, it would be in. the best interests of Australia and Australians, and in consonance with British justice.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Turnbull’s amendment).
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. C. Barnard.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-With the consent of the House, I shall incorporate in Hansard the following reply to a statement made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) on the 12th July. On the motion for the adjournment of the House, he complained at some length about the administration of import licensing regulations by the Division of Import Procurement. The right honorable gentleman mentioned, in particular, ball-bearings for harvester machines, 1-lb. hammers supplied with certain agricultural implements, and roller-chain for agricultural implements. It is not possible, from the particulars given to identify definitely the ball-bearing transactions, but I have ascertained that an application for the importation of ballbearings from Sweden was received by the Division of Import Procurement on the 23rd January, 1946, no supporting data being given. On the 27th February, the applicant was advised that a licence would be granted for 4,544 bearings, but that the balance of 1,900 bearings was available from United Kingdom sources. This advice was based on the best information available to the department. The licence was issued on the 7th March, six weeks after receipt of the application, not three months as stated by the right honorable member. Only in June was the department advised of possible difficulty in obtaining delivery from the United Kingdom, and subsequent information from that country indicated that at least half of the most important types could be delivered within twelve to fourteen weeks. It it the usual practice of the department to check applications for import licences for ballbearings against surplus stocks held by the Department, of Munitions, and secondly against available supplies from the United Kingdom. However, to avoid the possibility of harmful delays, the Division of Import Procurement some time ago authorized the granting of licences to a total value of £20,000 c.i.f. and e. to S.K.F. Ball Bearing Co. (Australia) Proprietary Limited, without such check. “With regard to 1-lb. hammers, the particulars given are insufficient to identify the transaction in the departmental records, but if the right honorable member will supply more details, a further inquiry will be made. Three applications were received on the 13th, 14th and 20th May, respectively, for licences to import roller-chain. The issue of licences in respect of all three applications was authorized on the 20th June. During the war, stocks of motor vehicle and tractor spare parts were maintained by government purchase, in order to avoid breakdowns of essential equipment. The slight delay which occurred was unavoidable, as it was necessary to check the goods shown on the applications against remaining stocks. The right honorable member will realize that the process of checking licence applications against available supplies, first, inside Australia, and, secondly, from sterling sources, which is essential if our limited overseas currency resources are to be conserved for essential requirements, is one which inevitably involves a certain amount of delay. The delays encountered are not excessive, in view of the great volume of transactions involved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre-‘ sented : -
Customs Act - Customs Proclamations - Nos. 055, 050.
National Security Act - National Security (Shipping Co-ordination) RegulationsOrders 1946, Nos. 18-22.
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Return for year 1945-40.
Baw Cotton Bounty Act - Return for year 1945.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for year 1945-46.
Tractor Bounty Act - Return for year 1945-46.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for vear 1945-46.
Wire Netting Bounty Act - Return for vear 1945-46.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
Canned Pineapples : Exports.
Mi”. FRANCIS asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the quantity and value of canned pineapples exported to the United Kingdom and Canada for each year from 1943 to the latest available figures?
e. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
Exports of canned pineapples to the United Kingdom were as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answers:-
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What amount was spent by the department on constructional work during the financial year 1945-46 in - (a) the Commonwealth; (6) each State; and (c) the capital city of each State?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - l.695. 2-. (a)-
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he make immediate arrangements to ensure that, at the forthcoming federal elections in the Northern Territory, a polling booth is provided in Darwin and at Parap, as was the. custom until the 1943 election, when all votes became postal throughout the Northern Territory?
– Arrangements will he made for a polling booth to be provided at Darwin and, if possible, at Parap.
n asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The Territories of Papua and New Guinea are at present being administered as one area under the Provisional Administration of Papua-New Guinea. Separate accounts are not being kept for the Territory of Papua. Commonwealth expenditure in relation to the administration of Papua-New Guinea for the year ended 30th June, 1946, was £282,205 under the following headings: - (i) General administration expenses, £208,509; (ii) development and native welfare, £43,674; (iii) shipping, £30,022.
n asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Woollen Textiles: EXPORTS to New Zealand.
e.- On the 17th July, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked a question concerning exports of first-class suiting materials to New Zealand which, he suggested, were to be increased.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now informed me that no further exports of worsted-content cloth to New Zealand will be permitted this year. Apart from token shipments already authorized, all exports of this, type of cloth have been suspended pending a general review of the supply position.
e. - On the 17th July, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked me to make a statement on the future continuance of clothes rationing.
As the honorable member is aware, it was publicly announced in November, 1945, when many items were removed from the coupon scale, that the present issue of clothing coupons would have to last until December next. It is not possible at this stage to determine whether clothes rationing will be required in the public, interest after this year. This matter will depend upon later information regarding the prospects of obtaining piece-goods from the various- supplying countries and Australian stocks as revealed by the national census nf piecegoods to he taken on the 31st July next.
y. - On the 16th July, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked a question concerning assistance to primary producers in southern Queensland.
The. provision of drought relief is primarily a matter for the States. Commonwealth contribution is made only in exceptional circumstances, and even then only after consideration of a detailed case submitted by the States.
Wool: Australia-United Kingdom Agreement.
y. - The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked me to lay on the table of the House papers - concerning the war-time disposal of Australian wool.
It would not be possible to lay on the table of the House the files embodying the arrangement with the United Kingdom Government for the acquirement, by appraisement, of the war-time clips of Australian wool, which ceased to operate on the 30th June last, and thus embraced seven seasons. ‘ The broad principles of the arrangement have been frequently stated in this House and in the press. If there is any aspect of the arrangement upon which the honorable member desires specific information, and if he will indicate his wishes in the matter, I shall be glad to give them consideration.’
r asked the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The answers to the hon- orable member’s questions are as follows : -
Rental of machine tools - £120,144 - by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Limited. 3. (a) £1,334,089; (-6) £405,232.
IRON and Steel.
t, asked the Minister- for Works and” Housing/ upon notice- 1.. Will he furnish -the House with a statement showing, the tonnages of (a) steel, (b) rods, (c) plates, Id) bards, and (e) other steel products held at the works “of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, and Australian Iron and Steel Limited?
– The full analysis required is not immediately available, but ‘ it is suggested that the following figures will meet the requirements of the honorable member, If not, ‘arrangements will be. made for the companies to supply a complete analysis: - 1: The total, quantity of steel held by Broken’ Hill Proprietary Limited, Newcastle, and Australian Iron and Steel Company Limited, Port Kembla, iB 30.337 tons.
GALVANIZED Wire and Wire Netting.
r asked the Minister -‘for Works and Housing, upon’ notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.. Is sales tax charged on a net price which includes freight on goods transferred from city wholesale firms to wholesalers in the country which supply retailers and primary producers?
Mr. CHIFLEY - -The; answers to. the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 19th July. 1946, the honorable member ‘for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked me a question about the disposal of lend-lease road-making, equipment. There has been no delay by my department in making lend-lease road-making machinery available to State government departments and local government authorities, which require it for road ‘making and other public works. In Queensland, the matter is handled on behalf of the State Government by the Premier’s Plant Allocation Committee under the chairmanship of the Deputy Co-ordinator of Public “Works, Queensland. The committeehas had submitted to it a very large quantity of plant,, including many lead-lease items and, although large quantities have been allocated; there are still numerous applications awaiting finality, mainly because the plant which has been offered to the authorities has not yet been accepted by them. Additional plant is coming forward from service departments almost every week, and as this is received by my department it is readily made available to the various
States. I can assure the House that there is no. delay on the part of the Commonwealth Government in the allocation of lend-lease and other equipment to the States for ultimate disposal. As a matter of fact, my department would like to see the surplus equipment taken up more readily by State instrumentalities, but this is entirely in the hands of the State authorities. I suggest that the honorable member refer the Associated Chamber of Manufactures, Queensland, which complained of delay in the allocation of lend-lease plant, to the chairman of the State Allocation Committee with a view to expediting any cases which may have been brought to notice.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460723_reps_17_187/>.