18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the decision of ‘the Parliamentary labour party to postpone ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to place before the management of the International Monetary Fund a request for postponement beyond the 31st December next, of the date for the enrolment of original members of the fund. If so, will the right honorable gentleman state whether the intention is to make the request before the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement is referred to the federal conference of the Australian Labour party, or whether this matter also must go before that superparliamentary body pending the making of a decision?
– The honorable member spoils his questions, and sometimes precludes -himself from gaining information, by addendums. I hope to be able to give consideration next week to the particular matter relating to a postponement of the date for the entry of original members to the International Monetary Fund. I cannot give a definite answer at the moment. The matter will probably be discussed by Cabinet next week.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will inform me of the actual position in regard to Australia’s internal monetary policy? What is being done to ensure that local requirements for developmental purposes will be met? How would our domestic position be affected if the Bretton Woods Agreement were ratified?
– It would take a considerable time to reply in detail to the honorable member’s questions. No limitation has been placed upon Australian currency for domestic purposes. At the moment it is not subject to either sterling or gold reserves. As the honorable gentleman is probably aware, the note issue has grown to about £200,000,000, and this is based entirely on the trust and faith of the people m the stability of the country. I know of no provision in the Bretton Woods Agreement or in any other international agreement which would in any way interfere with the right of Australia to control its own currency and internal economy. It has been suggested in some quarters that authorities to be established under the Bretton Woods Agreement might be able to .exercise an indirect influence on the internal affairs of member countries. My own view is that there could be no interference under that agreement with the internal economy of a country.
– A very long time ago, the War Expenditure Committee recommended the taking of action against certain persons connected with the Bankstown aerodrome and other Commonwealth contracts, those concerned being Stuart Brothers, McGrath and Fitzpatrick. As such an inordinate delay has occurred in bringing the matter before the court, will the Attorney-General state whether the Government is in earnest in prosecuting these people ?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member was mentioned a few days ago in the course of a debate in this House. The War Expenditure Committee brought certain facts to the attention of the Government. Thereupon, the Crown Law authorities advised that civil proceedings - not prosecutions - should be instituted for the recovery of moneys in connexion with those contracts. Proceedings for the recovery of those moneys have been- instituted in the High Court, and the case is now pending. Any delay that has occurred is attributable to the arrangement of the business of the court. I am obliged to the honorable member for raising the matter. >-
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, .as is reported, he has decided to modify the wage-pegging regulations. If he has, will he make a statement of the effect of the decision? Will it mean that henceforth employers will be able to make such payments as they desire to make to their employees; or will it be : necessary .for the employees .to .make applications to the court before any increases of wages can .be paid ?
– It is true that, in accordance with a promise which I made some time ago ‘to the Australasian Coun- cil of Trade -Unions and other unions, it lias ‘been arranged to relax wage-pegging regulations as circumstances ‘permit, ‘and it was stated that -the modifications would be made before Christmas. The approx - mate .date was chosen because of the physical difficulties in preparing drafts, &c, and I was also anxious to hear ‘the opinions of the various other organizations. I was receiving deputations on the subject right up to last week. The Attorney-General, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I conferred on the matter raised by the organizations, and I informed them that the modifications would take place before Christmas. Since then, it has been possible to. clarify the position, and. I have informed some of the unions that action would be taken before the 14th of this month. The honorable member for Fawkner is somewhat optimistic in expecting me to explain the nature of the modifications.
– - It is a most important matter which, the Parliament should consider.
– There is something in what the honorable member says. A rough draft of the variations is .being prepared !by the Attorney-General’s Department, and this will be available for consideration on .Monday or Tuesday next by the Ministers concerned. In the meantime, I do not wish to say anything which may later be used against me. I prefer to let the matter go at that, and not to give any further information in the .meantime.
Malaria - Wab Widows’ Pensions
– On the 29tb November, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked me the following question: -
As it has been reported in the press on several occasions .that ja, new cure for malaria has been discovered, will the Minister for Repatriation inform the House whether the cure is being made available through the Repatriation Department? If so, what steps must an ex-serviceman /take to secure treatment 7 ‘
It -would appear that the honorable member referred te the new drug paludrine, which has been available to the Repatriation Department since August last, and is being used for the -treatment of malaria in all appropriate .cases. The manufacturers released the drug upon the condition that it was to be administered only under strict medical supervision, and. only when a patient bad an attack of malaria which bad been proved by an examination of a blood film taken at the time of the attack. In order to obtain treatment, an ex-serviceman has only to apply to the Repatriation Department’s out-patients clinics or to any medical practitioner. It is stressed, however, that, unless the illness from which the ex-serviceman is suffering at the moment is proved by an examination of the blood to be malaria, paludrin cannot be supplied.
– In view of the fact that many ex-servicemen are forced to lose several days’ pay because of recurring attacks of severe malaria, will the Minister consider the granting of pensions to sufferers from severe attacks in order to compensate them for considerable pay losses resulting from this serious aftermath of war service?
– Ex-servicemen suffering from malaria or other warcaused disabilities should report to a repatriation medical officer for examination. If the medical examination and an investigation of the ex-serviceman’s medical history disclose that the disability is war-caused, the department grants a pension. If the honorable member has any particular case in mind and brings it to my notice, I shall be glad to have it examined.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation yet had time to consider an increase of the rate of pension awarded to war widows, which is now £2 10s. a week.
– I have discussed with the chairman of the Repatriation Commission the rate of pension now paid to war widows, with a view to ascertaining whether any action can be taken to ease the burden, particularly on those widows who have family responsibilities. The matter is still being examined.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that a number of soap manufacturing firms in the Sydney metropolitan area are unable to continue operations because of the lack of supplies of tallow? Is .the honor- able gentleman also aware that a number of laundries in that area may have to close down because of the lack of soap supplies? If that is so, is it because the tallow market has been cornered by certain interests with a view to obtaining a better price than the Australian marketprice? What action, does the Minister propose to take in order to ensure that adequate supplies of soap are made available to Australian users?
– My departmental officers have informed me that adequate supplies of tallow are available in Australia to supply all. soap requirements. It has, however, come to my notice that soap placed on the market by wholesale manufacturers has, in some instances, been bought by individuals or groups of individuals in the hope that they may be able to obtain a permit to export it. That may be one of the factors which are - contributing to the alleged shortage, and I believe that such a shortage does exist. The honorable member may rest assured that an endeavour will b& made to ensure that all soap manufactured for the local market reaches Australian users. The department will take action to ensure that no export licences are issued to those seeking- to corner the soap market.
– Do not let us build up an export trade at any cost.
– The honorable member apparently believes that these people should be allowed to export soap manufactured for local use. In my opinion, the export function should be left almost entirely to the manufacturer- or the wholesaler, and not to individuals who attempt to withhold from our home market products that are intended for use in Australia. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. I have watched this matter very closely, and .shall take every possible action, within my power, to ensure that adequate supplies shall be available to the Australian community, regardless of any hardship that that policy may inflict on those people who are apparently trying to corner the market.
Stabilization of World Prices
– Mr. S. M. Bruce, who is chairman of the World Food Board Preparatory Commission, has slated that the scheme for the stabilization of food prices throughout the world was likely to fail. Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether Australia has a representative on the WorldFood Board Preparatory Commission? If so, who is that representative, and has he made any representations to the Commonwealth Government regarding the present position ?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- Sir John Boyd-Orr, who is closely associated with this work, has made statements regarding the stabilization of the prices of primary products. Honorable members will recall that Sir John Boyd-Orr stated that some form of stabilization was essential, because he could see a world glut of certain primary products. In nearly all of the conferences which have taken place on this subject, Australia has been represented by Mr. Bulcock, the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture. I shall obtain the exact information that the right honorable gentleman requires.
Training Depot at Newcastle.
– For many years, a naval training depot was located atNewcastle, but, for the purposes of economy, it was closed in 1928. As Newcastle has always been a prolific source of recruitment of men for training in the Royal Australian Navy and the Merchant Navy, will the Minister for the Navy urgently consider the re-establishment of this depot?
– I shall have the matter investigated immediately.
– In the electorate of Hindmarsh, a large number of workers depend on bicycles to transport them to and from their place of employment, but at present they find it impossible to obtain new tyres for their machines. The explanation is that the vendors of cycles are using the available supply of new tyres on new bicycles. This shortage inflicts a severe hardship upon employees on the waterfront, because the men are scattered over a wide area and must use bicycles to travel from place to place. They have asked me to ascertain whether special provision can be made for employees in this kind of industry. For example, a number of tyres could be made available through a particular agency, and an official of the industrial organization concerned could issue an authority stating that the men required new tyres in connexion with their work. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping make inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether anything can be done to assist these employees to obtain bicycle tyres?
– All controls have been lifted from rubber goods. I realize that a degree of hardship is being suffered by bicycle users. I have had complaints about the inability of people in my own electorate, particularly school children, to obtain bicycle tyres. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to see what he can do in the matter. The best way to approach the problem now that controls have been lifted is, in my opinion, to ask the manufacturers whether they will make available to distributing organizations in areas such as that referred to by the honorable member, a sufficient supply of bicycle tyres to meet requirements.
– Some months ago I made representations to the Department of the Navy on behalf of theRedcliffe Council for the payment of compensation for damage done to theRedcliffe jetty by the American Fleet. Can the Ministerfor the Navy inform me whether the matter has yet been considered, and whether a decision has been reached that fair compensation will be paid?
– I shall make an inquiry and furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman later.
-Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that Noumea hides have been sold at from 21d. to 24d. per lb., whereas the best quality hides produced in New SouthWales are being appraised at present by the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board at rates ranging from 9d. to10d. per lb.? If the honorable gentleman is aware of this position, does he intend to compensate the producers of hides in Australia, or is it intended that they shall subsidize the fellmongers and manufacturers of leather in this country?
– I am aware that while the honorable member for Wakefield was a Minister or an Assistant Minister in a previous government, he set up the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board. That board has continued its work, and an equalization system is in operation whereby the prices obtained locallyand those received for hides exported are equalized. I am also aware that the price ruling for hides outside Australia is higher than the price inside Australia. I shall examine the position closely, with a view to ensuring that justice shall be done to the people concerned.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation yet handed over to the Department of Works or the Department of the Interior the project for the extension of Mascot aerodrome? Are the works to be carried out by day labour? If not, will the department arrange that ex-servicemen who have purchased trucks and are not permitted to participate in the work of the transport pool will be given a fair proportion of the work at the aerodrome?
– The preliminary work in connexion with the development of Mascot aerodrome is now being undertaken. I believe that the project will be under the control of the Department of the Interior, and I expect the work to be begun on an active basis in a very short period. I shall bring to the notice of the authorities in charge of the work the matter of ex-servicemen who have purchased trucks being enabled to participate in the work with a view to seeing that the desire of the honorable member may be met.
Australians in Japan - Peace-time Establishmen t.
– I understand that it is a part of Army policy to transfer to Japan the wives of Australian soldiers who are members of the occupation force in that country. Is the Minister for the Army making special shipping accommodation available for that purpose, or intensifying the shortage of passenger transport on the Australian coast by withdrawing shipping from it? Is the Australian occupation force in Japan larger numerically than the British force?
– In the early stage, the existing shipping accommodation between Australia and Japan will be sufficient for the transport to that country of the wives and families of members of the Australian occupation force, and there will be no necessity to ask for the provision of special shipping. The answer to the second question is” Yes.”
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether, within the last day or two, the Government has agreed to a certain re-organization of the Australian Army for peace-time purposes. Will that organization be limited to one regular division and two militia divisions? Does the Minister recall the statement in this House in, about, 1942, that the number of divisions necessary for the defence of this country is no fewer than 25 ?
– No decision has yet been made on the matter raised by the honorable member.
– For many weeks, I have had on the notice-paper a question which asks for information to be supplied in regard to the exports of textiles and the amount of subsidy that is being paid on the goods that are being exported. I understand that the Parliament is rising to-day for the Christmas recess. I should therefore like to know whether the question is likely to be answered. Seeing that the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs has promised measures designed to ensure that the
Australian community will not be deprived of soap, will lie also ensure that textiles, suit-lengths for tailoring purposes, and other materials that are badly needed by the public, will no longer be exported, at prices that are very profitable to the exporters, whilst they are unobtainable in this country.?
– I shall endeavour to expedite the answer to the question which the honorable member has on the noticepaper. In regard to exports of textiles, I can only say that steps are being taken to .ensure .that adequate supplies will be available for local requirements, whilst at the same time fostering an ex-port market, which has very great potential value.
– Has the Minister few External Affairs read in the press recently the statement that at the Unesco talks, J. B. Priestly advocated a world university of the air, and that the Australian delegates voted in favour of it? Oan the right honorable gentleman make some explanation of the plan, and give the assurance that Australia will participate in this scheme of adult education?
– I have been informed, and understand, that Australia gave genera] support to the proposal, and that a committee has been appointed to inquire as to how such a scheme could work. The Government, is interested in the matter, which will be handled by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs a question in relation to the anomaly that exists in Tasmania, arising out of the extra charge for freight which retailers are allowed to add to the prices of their goods. I refer to Commonwealth Gazette No. 193 of the 14th October last, which contains a list of allowable charges, based on the distance between retail establishments and general post offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Townsville, Darwin and Perth. No Tasmanian general post offices are mentioned, the nearest general post office to retail establishments in that -State being the Melbourne General Post Office. In view of the fact that Tasmanian retailers have to bring their supplies by sea and, upon arrival at Tasmanian ports, by road or rail transport, to their shops thus adding considerably to their freight costs, because of extra handling, will ‘the Minister representing <the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs have the whole position investigated’? Tasmanian retailers are in an extremely unfair and unfavorable position in this regard.
– I shall be glad to refer the question to the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs. I shall request am examination of the situation mentioned by the honorable “member, and the furnishing of information to him.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Works and Housing .a question about the planning of Darwin, in the Minister’s own .State of Western Australia, it is prescribed by the Town Planning Commission that the minimum depth of city allotments shall be 165 feet, but in Darwin, under the direction of an unprofessional planning committee, allotments are being subdivided into areas 70 feet wide and 80 feet deep. Will the Minister arrange for the Director of Town Planning in Western Australia, Mr. Davidson, to make an independent report on the Darwin plan before the town is irretrievably spoilt?
– Mr. Davidson is a State officer, and I have no power to instruct him to prepare a report on Darwin.
– The Minister could arrange, through the Premier of Western Australia, to have Mr. Davidson seconded to this work.
– In view of what the honorable member has said, I shall examine the position, and try to obtain Mr. Davidson’s opinion on the Darwin plan.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions say whether it istrue that a large quantity of ammunition has been stolen from a dump at Bowral? Can he say how much ammunition has been stolen altogether from the Defence Department, And whether any one in authority has been punished in connexion with the matter ?
– I haveno information on the subject, but I shall cause inquiries to be made to see whether there is any truth in the allegation.
Taxation of Prisoners of War
-Earlier this week, I asked the Treasurer a question about the taxation of the earnings of Red Cross officials who had been prisoners of war. He was good enough to send me a reply in writing which suggests that I did not accurately convey mymeaning in the original question. The point I raised was whether any income tax should be imposed upon the earnings of a Red Cross official, as such, during the period when he was a prisoner of war. Regular members of the forces captured and imprisoned in similar circumstances did not pay income tax on their earnings while prisoners of war. I now invite the right honorable gentleman to consider, not only whether the total amount of the tax should be treated as payable in one year, but whether any tax should be imposed on the actual earnings of Red Cross officials during the time they were prisoners of war. Will he consider that aspect of the matter, and advise me regarding it at some convenient time?
– There has probably been some slight confusion in my mind over the matter. Philanthropic institutions who sent representatives overseas were given the benefit of tax concessions which were approximately equivalent to those given to soldiers in the Australian Army. I understood that there had been an accumulation of income, and that the officers would be taxed on the higher amount received in any one year, which would appear to be unfair. I pointed out in, my letter to the right honorable gentleman that I was sympathetic, and would have thematter adjusted. The point now raised is that the general tax concession should be extended to representatives of philanthropic institutions who served overseas by amending the act to provide that, during such time they were prisoners of war, or were interned by the enemy, income tax on their earnings should be remitted. I shall have that point examined. It would probably involve an amendment of the act,unless the amount were just written off.
– There are not many of them.
– If the right honorable gentleman has any particular cases in mind I shall examine them if he supplies me with particulars.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether it is true that a number of Australian women who married American servicemen have been divorced in the United States of America, and are now stranded, trying to earn their living, and to get passages back to Australia? Is it not the opinion of the Government that some as sistance should be given to them to enable them to return? I have made representations to the Department of External Affairs oh the subject, and have been informed that it is in touch with the Australian Ambassador in Washington, but nothing has been done.
– I. am obliged to the honorable member for drawing my personal attention to this matter. It seems to me that some provision could be made to give assistance in cases of the kind mentioned.I shalllook into the matter.
– Two or three weeks ago, I asked the Attorney-General a question about a document stolen from a Security Service file, and it appears that sufficient time has elapsed for a reply to have been prepared. Have inquiries been made, and, if so, with what result? May we assume that, because as what may be revealed as the result of such inquiries, the AttorneyGeneral intends to withhold the informationuntil Parliament rises?
– A formal answer to the honorable member’s question has been supplied to-day. As he would probably expect, however, there is no information to add to what was given to honorable members in the course of a recent debate. The document referred to by the honorable member in his question is the same document so frequently mentioned in the recent debate in this chamber. I informed honorable members of every aspect of the matter within my knowledge. I also said that inquiries were not complete, and that is still the answer to the honorable member’s question. Further particulars, which may have come into the possession of the investigating officers, either independently, or as the result of the debate in the Parliament, are now being inquired into.
Position of Apprentices
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Repatriation on- the subject of apprentices who served with the armed forces. I have in mind the case of one lad who after serving three years’ apprenticeship a’s a fitter and turner, had his i dentures cancelled so that he might enlist in the Air Force. He is now discharged, but because he worked as a wireless mechanic in the Air Force, he has been told that he cannot be accepted on the 40-60 basis to resume his training as a fitter and turner, although the firm to which he was apprenticed is willing to take him back. I took the matter up with the authorities in Adelaide, and was informed that this is only one of many similar cases. I ask the Minister is it possible to amend the regulations so that men who gave up their apprenticeships in order to enlist may return to their former avocations?
– The provision of the Re-establishment and Employment Act to which the honorable member refers is one of the most important from the Government’s viewpoint and, accordingly, it has been very carefully and sympathetically administered. The act lays down that any youth who broke his apprenticeship in order to enlist in the armed forces is entitled upon discharge to resume his training without .cost to himself. Many of the youths, upon discharge from the forces, are 20 or 21 years of age and are entitled to full rates of pay. I have not had a single complaint regarding the administration of this provision in the legislation. There have been, of course, instances where young men, because of some new experience in the forces, have chosen to follow a new calling. They come into a different category. The Government has made the requisite arrangements for all broken apprenticeships to be completed without loss to the ex-serviceman, the Government subsidizing the employer in accordance with the provisions of the act.
DISTILLERY AT WARRACKNABEAL.
– It has been stated in this House on several occasions, in answer to questions that when wheat is available the power alcohol distillery at Warracknabeal will be put into operation. Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping able to give definite information as to when the distillery will be operated, and, if not, in view of the fact that it cost nearly £500,000 to build, and that maintenance costs amount, to approximately £140 a week, will the honorable gentleman ascertain whether the establishment can be used for other purposes with a view to relieving the taxpayers of this burden?
– The power alcohol distillery at Warracknabeal was established in order to meet a need which might have arisen during the war period. Expenditure on installations of that kind is, in fact, a form of insurance which the Government had to provide lest our petro! supplies be cut off by enemy action. That is legitimate war expenditure. As to what is to be done with the distillery in the near future, I shall consult with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and ask him to supply an answer to the honorable member.
– I have received com”munications from two share-farmers at Rochester stating that they have ordered 300 cornsacks from Permewan Wright limited, of Rochester, and have received only 75. I have also been advised that another farmer, who had ordered 1,000, had received only 100. These farmers have already started stripping their crops and have sufficient cornsacks for only one day’s stripping. The silo at Rochester has not yet been opened. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take the requisite action to ensure that adequate supplies -are made available in the Rochester district, if necessary by the diversion of supplies from districts where the crops are not so advanced. Will the honorable gentleman also get in touch with the Premier of Victoria and request that the Rochester silo be opened by the Grain Elevators Board immediately?
– The Grain Elevators Board, which is under the control of the Victorian Government, handles the incoming wheat crop on behalf of the Australian Wheat Board, and no doubt it will open the silo at such time as is considered suitable by the board. Cornsacks are distributed to farmers through various distributing agencies. I understand that, because of a fear that there may be a great shortage, some merchants have over-ordered and an attempt is being made by the distributors to allocate available cornsacks in a just manner. If the honorable member will supply me with particulars of the cases he has mentioned I shall endeavour to ensure that the farmers concerned obtain their requirements.
– I understand that there is a seething mass of Australian people anxious to visit Canberra for the purpose of viewing the unparalleled beauty of the Molonglo and also some of the temporary structures into which millions of pounds have been sunk but are precluded from doing so because of the lack of accommodation. Will the Minister for the Interior give consideration to the improvement of accommodation for visitors, both as to quantity and quality, so that after the visitors leave Canberra we, the members of the Parliament, may be able to enjoy some increased comforts during our brief sojourns in this city?
– It is admitted that an urgent need exists for the improvement and extension of hotel accommodation in Canberra. The lag in the housebuilding programme, however, precludes the diversion of man-power and materials to that class of work at present. The matter has been thoroughly investigated. The Government is fully aware of the need for increased accommodation. It is hopeful that in the near future the Hotel Ainslie, which was delicensed some time ago, and has since been conducted as a private hotel, will .again be licensed and thus serve the needs of the travelling public. I assure the honorable member that the Government has not overlooked the urgent need for the improvement of accommodation in the capital city, and immediately the opportunity offers the Government will take steps to increase it.
– During the budget debate I raised many matters concerning the welfare of white settlers in New Guinea and other matters demanding attention there, including the lack of facilities for the export of copra. The Minister for External Territories undertook to make a statement of Government policy on these and other matters relating to the territory. Will the honorable gentleman make the statement to-day, and if not when is it likely to be made?
– I had an opportunity to note that the remarks of the honorable member during the budget debate consisted of a mass of inaccuracies. In response to a request made by two honorable members on this side of the House I agreed to make a statement in regard to the progress achieved in the rehabilitation of the territories under my charge. I had hoped to be in a position to make the statement this week. I shall make inquiries and ascertain whether the information is available to enable me to do so before the adjournment of the House to-day.
– In view of the very strenuous efforts made by the Government of the United Kingdom to develop important export markets by ensuring that some of the production of British manufacturers is sent abroad, even at the expense of the home market, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether it is the policy of the Government to permit, and indeed to encourage, Australian manufacturers to send a proportion of their products abroad in order to build up markets for Australia? .
– It is the policy of this Government to endeavour to develop markets abroad, not only for our primary products, but also, and with equal vigour, for our secondary products.
Free Medical Scheme
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform me when I may expect a reply to a question, standing in my name on the notice-paper relating to certain matters associated with the Government’s free medical scheme.
– I am not sure, but I believe that the answer to the honorable member’s question has been prepared. I shall ensure that he receives it before the House adjourns.
– The Liberal Government of South Australia has decided to grant certain living allowances to officers of the Education Department who are stationed in country districts where accommodation is expensive and is difficult to obtain. Will the Treasurer inform me whether the Commonwealth intends to tax those allowances? If so, it will reduce the benefits that the allowances are intended to give to such officers.
– The income tax law, whatever it may be on that particular point, will be applied. It is not for me, as Treasurer, to say how the Commissioner of Taxation shall apply or interpret the law. If we consider that an injustice is being done to these people, we shall need to recommend to the Parliament an amendment of the income tax law before the matter can be rectified. I assume that school teachers and public servants in country districts of South Australia are being paid an allowance to meet the higher costs of living there.
– That is so.
– I shall discuss th« matter with the Commissioner of Taxation, and’ advise the honorable member of the result.
Debate resumed from the 5th December (vide page HOO), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
– I should like to know whether the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) proposes to adopt the procedure followed last night, and on this measure allow a general debate on the three bills which constitute the legislative bases of the Commonwealth’s wheat scheme.
– Subject to Mr. Speaker’s approval, I have no objection to the three bills being considered concurrently.
– If the Minister is satisfied and it suits the convenience of the House, the Chair has no objection.
– This measure and the Wheat Tax Bill and Wheat Export Charge Bill are designed to give effect to the Commonwealth Government’s plans regarding the wheat industry. Only the intricacies of the Constitution made it necessary to introduce three bills instead of incorporating all the proposals in one measure. The Government should not expect the Parliament to pass these three hills in the present circumstances. They were introduced almost at the close of the sessional period when the Government considered that they were likely to slide through smoothly and rapidly. The Minister appeared to hope that the bills would receive very little consideration. In this chamber early this morning, we had the remarkable spectacle of the honorable gentleman when introducing the bills, blandly stating by interjection that he did not propose to make second-reading speeches on them because be had explained them fully in the Committee of Ways and Means. The facts are that the copy of the speech which- he made in- the Committee of Ways and Means bears the words “secondreading speech “. I have known that procedure to be followed on only one occasion in the past, and I believe that we should not encourage it, although, in the present circumstances, we may be forced to condone it.
These three bills, considered concurrently, vitally affect the whole basis of the wheat stabilization legislation which was passed a few months ago. On that occasion, a vigorous and even at times an acrimonious debate took place. The legislation excited a great deal of interest throughout Australia. The Minister must accept the position that the Government is now attempting to defy the decision of the electorate on the 28th September last, when the people refused to grant to the Commonwealth powers over industrial matters. If this legislation stands, and J. believe that the tost will never be satisfied until the High Court has pronounced upon it, the Commonwealth will not be obliged to appeal to the people for increased powers over primary production. If this tax proposal be good in law, the Government, notwithstanding its professed lack of any power to control production, will be able by using its taxing power, to adopt almost any policy that it likes towards any primary industry in the Commonwealth.
– Or any other industry.
– Yes. If this law be valid the Commonwealth’s powers will be unlimited. The second matter to which I direct attention relates to the method under which the wheat stabilization legislation, which is now being amended, was brought before the Parliament. It was the outcome of several conferences between the Commonwealth and the States, at which certain agreements were reached. Good or bad, those agreements formed the basis of certain legislation which the Parliament of the Commonwealth should pass, and complementary legislation that each State should pass. The Opposition contended that the wheat legislation should not become law until it bad been approved by
The Wheat Export Charge Act limited the Commonwealth’s right to collect a tas on wheat to the wheat that was actually exported. Under this amending legislation, the Wheat Export Charge Act will cease to operate and, by a very devious and roundabout method, the Commonwealth will levy a tax, not only on wheat for export, but also on all wheat produced in the Commonwealth and used for domestic consumption, stock feed and industrial purposes. This far-reaching proposal completely alters the basis on which the Commonwealth, in future, will treat with the various primary industries. It stands to reason that if the Commonwealth can “ get away “ with this form of tax on wheat, it could similarly levy a tax on other grain, wool, potatoes or butter, or any secondary product. It is all very well for the Minister to shrug his shoulders, but I think that he is like the little boy with the bomb, and is perfectly innocent of the explosive nature of the charge that he is handling. I do not believe that he realizes what he has. and the most I can say in his favour at present is that I think he has received this toy and he proposes to try to make it work. I wish him much joy, and I hope that, personally, he will not be severely damaged; but I am afraid that the wheat-growers of Australia will take a very different view of this measure from that which the Minister hopes they will take.
The method of assessing this tax is without precedent in the Commonwealth..
Never before have I known a Committee of Ways and Means of the House of Representatives to authorize th’e Government to found a bill on the principles that are laid down in this one, because growers of wheat will not know, until the pool is wound up, what their liability for tax will be. He has been told that the tax can never exceed 50 per cent, of the total realizations on export wheat in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel, but that is the only beacon he has to guide him. Another entirely new feature is that the Minister will receive a recommendation from the Australian Wheat Board. It is a complete departure from ordinary taxation procedure that a recommendation should come from an outside body, though I admit that the final responsibility will rest with the Minister.
This whole proposal gets right away from the principles of taxation as we have understood them. The primary principle which should be adhered to is that everybody who is liable to pay the tax should know on what basis he is liable to pay it, and the second is that every person has a right to know the rate which he is liable to pay. The only basis that is set down in this instance is that the farmer will have to pay a tax on every bushel of wheat he grows. This applies not only in the future, but it also affects the harvest now being harvested and that harvested in the 1945-46 season which has already gone into consumption. On all this wheat the farmer will know that he will be taxed at an unknown percentage on the export profit in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel; but no one can possibly know what the tax will be until all the wheat has been sold. It may be that in the event of there being a small surplus of wheat owing to shipping difficulties, which seem rather prevalent to-day, some wheat may not be disposed of for three or four years. That will mean a delay in settlement. It stands to reason, therefore, that the procedure which the Government is suggesting is absolutely unjust. No tax should be imposed except on a proper principle. In this case there is a complete lack of principle. It is only meet and proper that farmers should know what this tax is when he is called upon to pay it. A provision of the Wheat Export Charge Act now being amended was that a tax of up to 50 per cent, of the difference between 5s. 2d. and 9s. 6d. a bushel should be imposed. If the export wheat realized more than 9s. 6d. f.o.r., the excess was the farmer’s property. Under the proposal now before us the farmer can be taxed an amount not in excess of 50 per cent, of the total realization in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel. That is an entirely different proposition, and under it the farmer will not know what he will be called upon to pay. In the event of the Government making a miscalculation - some of my colleagues who are not so mild as I am would say a blunder - and the miscalculation not being discovered for as long as two or three years hence, the Government will be entitled to recoup itself in respect of the dues of a particular farmer from the proceeds of the next succeeding harvest, or from any other moneys that may be due from him to the Government. That, of course, is in accordance with normal income tax and land tax law, but we are not dealing at the moment with ordinary tax legislation. The Government is attempting, at one and the same time, to stand on two different pieces of ground. I heard it said again and again in my electorate during the election campaign, by protagonists of the Government who did not have the courage to wear the Government’s label on their coats, that this money was to be placed in a trust fund and that the Treasurer would never handle it. I say that the money will be paid into Consolidated Revenue and that it will be used for any purpose, in connexion with London or other overseas funds or otherwise, just as the Government desires. It will not be ear-marked for wheat stabilization purposes. It was a mere flight of the imagination of the previous Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and certain so-called leaders of wheat-growers that this money will be set aside and that no one will be able to’ touch it. Undoubtedly, the proceeds of the tax will be paid into general revenue and will be available for use by the Government for whatever purpose it determines from day to day, and, as we discovered in relation to . the measure that was before us yesterday, the money may have been spent for many months before Parliament will even have an opportunity to authorize the spending of it. This is a serious matter.
A much more serious matter, however, to which I referred yesterday, but to which I must refer again to-day, is brought to notice in connexion with the proceedings initiated by the Neelungaloo Proprietary Limited in the High Court. The company is claiming compensation in respect of wheat acquired from it for the 1945-46 pool. I shall not go over the whole argument again, but I reiterate that no attempt has been made to refute the statement of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, who gave a guarantee in this House to representatives of the wheat-growers of Australia that the farmers would be paid the full market realization of the 1945-46 crop. That promise, for reasons best known to members of the Government, and on which the members of the Opposition can only conjecture, was not honoured by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Because it was not honoured, the proceedings to which I have referred have been launched in the High Court, though it does not appear that the case will be heard this year. Last month I asked the Attorney-General whether he would take steps to expedite the hearing, and he said that he would inquire into the matter, but up to date we have had no further information on it. Of course, it is quite clear that from the point of view of the Government delay is not dangerous, and is in fact particularly safe, because if the amendment of the law which is now before us be agreed to, the decision of the High Court will not matter very greatly, for the Government will be able to protect its own interests. That end will be achieved, however, only by a provision of the Constitution, which honorable members on both sides of the chamber have always understood could operate in a certain way, being operated in an entirely different way. The Government is proposing to say to the farmer, “ “Well, although your compensation as fixed by the High Court may be 10s. a bushel, we shall take our cut out of that “. Such an action would be absolutely indefensible on moral, political or legal grounds, and the farmers should not be subjected to such treatment. They should not be deprived of the beneficial effect of the High Court judgment simply because legislation of the “description now before us has been passed by the Parliament. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has contended that we should not discuss certain cases which are pending before the High Court, but I refer to this case specifically because it is possible that, under the action now being taken by the Government, the whole basis of affairs may be completely altered. Even if the court reaches a decision in respect of the 1945-46 harvest which is favorable to the farmers, the company which initiated the action could have saved itself the trouble and expense of approaching the court because of the amendment to the law which the Government is now seeking to effect.
The introduction of this bill was a complete surprise. Only one honorable member on this side of the chamber knew, until yesterday, that it was to be introduced; yet the measure, if agreed to, will have a far-reaching effect. Our whole constitutional position will be altered and both primary and secondary producers, including wheat-growers, miners, fishermen and others, will not know in future where they stand, for the Government will be able to take for itself the fruits of their labours, and even the bread out of their mouths, and leave them nothing but the dust. If this is to be the law, it should not have been introduced in such circumstances, but should have been brought down early in the session, in the light of day, so that the Opposition might have had an opportunity to consider it. All that I have been able to do has been done while listening to the debates during the last 24 hours. I have had no opportunity to look up records, or to consult authorities, and can only do the best of which I am capable in the circumstances. This is a dreadful way in which to introduce legislation of a far-reaching and major character. I cannot agree that the legislation is right and proper, or believe that the representatives of wheat districts who sit behind the Government - very silently, I admit - can go into their constituencies and justify what it is doing. I got in touch with Adelaide yesterday, and understand that one State government at least did not h’ave accorded to it the courtesy of being told What the ‘Government intended to do.
– Government supporters cannot justify it in this House.
– It will be most amazing if even one of them attempts to justify it. They learned a lesson as the result of the last debate on wheat, and it still holds good. However, the Government -has the numerical strength to ensure the passage of this legislation. According to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who is a very great authority on such matters, immediately after the last general elections the Government was given by the electorate the greatest blank cheque that had ever been given to a government. From the stand-point of the wheatgrowers, this is the first amount that is being filled in over their signatures. I do not think that they will like it.
– As the author of the first scheme which, in 1938, gave to the Australian wheat-grower a home-consumption price above world parity, and as the Minister who, in 1940, introduced the first guaranteed price for the whole of the Australian wheat crop, whether consumed in Australia or sold overseas, the price being 4d. a bushel above world parity, I regard it as appropriate that I should make some comments on these wheat bills. You, Mr. Speaker, as a New South “Welshman, will know that whatever mandate the Government may have in regard to other legislation, unquestionably it has no mandate to pass this class of wheat legislation. On this side of the House there are new members who come from wheat districts. I mention the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr, McBride) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse). The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) just scrambled home iri a field of eight, after waiting for three or four weeks in agonizing suspense for the counting of preferences. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) had given up the fight when he suddenly found that, by the grace of God and the help of Mr. Leth- bridge’s preferences, he ha’d again been returned-. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr-. Lemmon) had a very much closer call than he had previously. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) defeated a Government candidate. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) owes his election to the preferences he obtained from an opposing candidate. An examination of the vote throughout Australia shows that in the wheat-growing districts-and they are the only districts which should ‘be taken seriously into account in this matter- there was a definite declaration against the Government. That lends point to what is being done in certain State parliaments, which are insisting in their legislation that the wheat stabilization plan shall come into existence only as the result of a vote in favour of it being given by the wheat1 growers of Australia, for the reason that the second season’s wheat covered by it has been delivered, and the farmers had no voice as to whether or not it should be sold. I am certain that in South Australia, at all events, there will be a record of the opinion of the wheatgrowers. The main stabilization plan was brought down last August, before the general elections. The electors had an opportunity of voting upon it; and gave their verdict.
These bills seem to me to represent u high record in the muddling and blundering which have characterized the Labour party’s handling of the Australian wheat problem. This is the third instance within 30 years of betrayal of the wheatgrowers of Australia by a Commonwealth Labour government; and twice the betrayal has been during a period of war, when the Government had splendid opportunities of conferring a ‘permanent benefit. The Government has brought ignominy upon itself, and has disclosed the weakness of its position, by reason of the fact that, having discarded my stabilization plan for five years, it resurrected it four or five months ago, made alterations to it, and then submitted it as the Chifley plan. During the war period, the Government acted like “ a bull in a china shop “, or rather, like a donkey in a china shop. It has done stupid things. During the last five or six years, ft has committed every agricultural, economic and tactical blunder that could be conceived. Its last effort constitutes the worst muddle that has ever been made in connexion with any primary industry in any country which regards itself as being civilized. Its policy during the war had the effect of reducing this great wheat exporting country to the expedient of importing wheat for ordinary purposes, at a time when the whole world was crying out for food. In ordinary times, we have had an exportable surplus of 100,000,000 bushels. Under the Government’s mishandling, the value of the Australian wheat crop dropped from £29,000,000 in 1939-40, the first year of the war, to £7,000,000 odd in 1944-45, the last year of the war, despite the fact that during that period the price of wheat increased by more than 2s. a bushel. At a period of the world’s greatest shortage of food, the Government paid the farmers of Western Australia not to grow wheat, giving as its justification lack of transport. I could never understand why acreages were not increased in the eastern portion of Australia, where plenty of transport was available. We had to beggar other countries in order that we might feed our stock, keep our poultry alive, and ensure the continuous operation of our mills. The Government brought down a plan, under which it made certain that all the bigger growers who had plenty of land and machinery, would go out of business. The Scully plan provided for the payment of 4s. a bushel up to 3,000 bushels, and guaranteed only 2s. a bushel on the balance of the crop. In consequence, millions of acres went out of wheat production, and as a result we are in a mess at the present time. The Government went further, and sabotaged the Page stabilization scheme of 1940, which had started with the goodwill of every government and every wheatgrowing association in Australia, by preventing it from operating during the years of war. If honorable members will look up the record for 1940, they will find that that scheme was universally acclaimed by every wheatgrowing organization iri Australia. In fact, I discussed it fully with wheat organizations, and any amendments which they suggested were embodied in the bill. The scheme should have been responsible for the establishment of reserves, and the accumulation of credits which would have amounted to £20,000,000 at the present time. The public investment would have been so large as to ensure its continuance. Had it been operated, the goodwill of the farmers would have been retained, and the national asset would have been of such value as to compel the introduction in this Parliament of an amendment of the Constitution to make certain that the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which was. brought into being for the purpose of carrying us over wartime difficulties, would be continued in peace-time. Instead of that: the Labour Government bedevilled the whole constitutional position, by all sorts of shifts and changes. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) brought down two Constitution alteration bills. When he met the Constitution Convention, he placed before it a third measure, and when he presented the final measure to this Parliament, it was different from the others. In fact, the first submission to the peope wiped out the proposed alteration of section 92, which would have enabled the people to have a straight-out vote on a marketing scheme which embraced co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. Now that the war is over, and the wheat farmers have had the one good crop at payable prices that they have had for three years, the Government says to them, “ We missed our opportunity to stabilize during the war period. We will now commandeer a quarter of the crop “. That is what is being done. Practically a quarter of the total amount which the farmers would have received for their wheat - at least, it was a quarter without this legislation, but, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has pointed out, it may easily be onethird or more when these bills have been passed, because the maximum of 9s. 6d. a bushel has now been lifted, and can be any amount which the Minister may fix - is being commandeered, at a time when the farmers are in probably the worst position they have occupied in the history of this country. The total value of the wheat crop rose from between. £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 in the first year of World War I., to more than £20,000,000 in the last year of that conflict. The position was in reverse during the recent hostilities, the total value of the wheat crop decling from £29,000,000 to £7,000,000. This is going to be done, despite the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) assured the growers that they would receive the full value of their crop. That is the essential difference between the Chifley scheme and the Page scheme. The main machinery and verbiage of the two schemes are practically the same, but there is a great difference in the approach to the problem.
– Why did not the right honorable gentleman put his scheme into effect?
– We did. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was a member of a government which sabotaged the scheme, and on his shoulders lies the blame for thousands of people starving in other parts of the world. The verdict of history will be that the action of the Labour government was the greatest blunder ever committed in time of war - and it was done with such complacency ! These fellows opposite are so stupid that they do not even realize what they did. Their attitude is, “ We have won the election, we have kept our seats, so everything is well “. In the scheme which I introduced, the farmers were asked to enter it for the next year’s sowing only. If they did not like the scheme they could stay out by refraining from planting wheat. The Chifley scheme compels the inclusion of the 1945-46 harvest which has been delivered, and now the 1946-47 harvest, but the farmers have been given no voice in the matter. The least that could be done if it was desired to include this year’s crop was to let the matter be determined by all wheat-farmers in Australia. The second point of difference between the Page and Chifley plans is that the guaranteed price that I offered to the farmers was 4d. a bushel above world parity. To-d.a.y, the guaranteed price is less than half of world parity. The Page plan was agreed to by the representatives of the wheat-farmers, who recognized that the price offered more than covered the cost of production. The Chifley plan does not guarantee that the farmers will be re-imbursed the cost of production. All the representatives of the wheat-growers agree that, in order to cover the cost of production, the price should be at least 5s. 9d. f.o.b., whereas the Government is offering only 5s. 2dIt is obvious that a stabilization scheme that does not guarantee a price to cover the cost of production is merely so much fiction. Who can be expected to go on growing wheat if the returns are not sufficient to enable them to pay their way? They will go out of production as happened in the dairying industry. So many farmers have given up dairying that it will take ten years to build up the herds again.
This attitude of the Labour party to the primary industries is not new. In 1915, when there was a drought in Australia, and when the wheat crop failed, the Holman Government in New South . Wales commandeered at 4s. a bushel the wheat grown in that State, while it was paying 8s. a bushel for wheat imported from Argentina. In 1938, the Labour party strenuously opposed my proposal to fix a home-consumption price which was about ls. above the cost of production. When that effort was defeated, Labour tried to make the homeconsumption plan depend on the yearly consent of Parliament, instead of making it a permanent feature as I had done. Ever since 1943, the Government has been putting into Consolidated Revenue money advanced to it by the British Government for the purpose of encouraging the production of food in Australia. Under the present plan, everything received for export wheat over 5s. 2d. a bushel is to go, allegedly, into the stabilization fund, but actually, as the honorable member for Barker pointed out, into Consolidated Revenue. For last year’s crop and this year’s crop it is expected that nearly £15,000,000 will in this way be put into Consolidated Revenue, and the growers have never been asked for their consent. The money is really theirs, and there should be proper safeguards, as in the case of the National Debt Sinking Fund, to ensure that the money is devoted to the proper purpose. Those in charge of the fund should not be men subject to the will of the government of the day. If the stabilization scheme really means anything at all, it should not lie with the Parliament to determine what it does with the fund, but with independent trustees who would manage ‘the fund on behalf of the men who grew the wheat.
I hope that the House will agree to an amendment to provide that, before the stabilization scheme is put into operation, & plebiscite of wheat-growers shall be taken all over Australia. They have already been registered, and a poll could be taken within a fortnight. If it is proved that the growers are satisfied, then I shall be satisfied, but I am convinced that the growers will, by their votes, indicate their belief that this is one of the most shameless and indecent acts of robbery that has ever been perpetrated against them.
.- ft is extraordinary that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) should pose as the friend of the farmers, when he, more than any other man, was responsible for their misery and bankruptcy. He has dared to speak about confiscation, but he was the man who, as Minister for Commerce in the Fadden Government, took the farmers’ wheat at ls. 4d. a bushel for the No. 1 pool at the outbreak of this war.
– I rise to order. The honorable member’s statement is utterly untrue. He said that the right honorable member for Cowper had commandeered wheat at ls. 4d. a bushel. The right honorable gentleman was not even in the Ministry at the time.
– There is no point of order involved.
– I do not take back a word of what I said about the price that was paid for wheat in the No. 1 pool. My own neighbour received as low as ls. 4d. a bushel for his wheat. When I entered this Parliament in 1940, the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce, and he fixed a guaranteed price of wheat at 3s. lOd. a bushel less expenses. I said at the time that no farmer, under that scheme, could he assured of the price he would receive. Fortunately, the scheme was dumped because the Government was dumped and the farmers received a much higher price under the Labour Government. An amount of £26,750,000 was provided by the Government to acquire the wheat in an estimated crop of 140,000,000 bushels. Thus, the amount of money to be paid was fixed, and if the crop had exceeded 140,000,000 bushels, obviously the full guaranteed price could not be paid. The right honorable member for Cowper said that he did not expect that the crop would exceed 140,000,000 bushels. A conference was called at Temora by the wheatgrowers’ executive council, and Mr. Kendall told the delegates that if the crop exceeded 140,000,000 bushels, the amount of £26,750,000 would be spread over the whole crop. When I was elected to Parliament, I asked the right honorable member for Cowper if Mr. Kendall had been correct in what he said, and if he had been in possession of facts which I had been refused in answer to repeated questions in the House. The right honorable gentleman said that his reply -was the same as before - he did not expect the crop to exceed 140,000,000 bushels. Nobody can tell what a crop will yield. I have been growing wheat all my life and I frankly admit that even the most experienced wheat-farmer might underestimate or over-estimate a crop to the extent of 4, 5 or 6 bushels to the acre. Until the crop is actually harvested it is impossible to make a close assessment of the yield. In my district wheat-farmers who expected to obtain 5 bushels to the acre this season in many instances got only one or two. The right honorable member for Cowper is as well aware of these facts as I am. He poses as the great friend of the farmer. Not only was he Australia’s most tragic Treasurer; he has also been a tragedy to every primary producer in Australia. What has the right honorable gentleman done for those for whom he professes such great friendship ? During the regime of governments of which he was a member the prices of primary products fell to the lowest level ever recorded in this country. The Labour Government has made an honest endeavour to stabilize the wheat industry, and every other primary industry, and it will not be deterred by caustic criticism emanating from honorable members opposite and their attempts to influence members of the State legislatures not to pass the requisite complementary legislation to enable the wheat stabilization scheme to be given effect. If the right honorable member for Cowper had remained in office the primary producers would find themselves to-day in the position they found themselves in from five to fourteen years ago when they were carrying a huge load of debt due to the banks and were fortunate if they could stay on their properties. What would be the position of wheat-growers to-day if these conditions still prevailed? Australia k to-day experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history. Many farmers?, in my electorate have for the third year in succession no crop to harvest, at a time, when, because of world conditions following the war, the prices of primary products have reached an all-time high level. This Government has guaranteed fair prices for all primary products. I include myself with many farmers who are proud to be associated with the Government’s wheat stabilization plan. If it fails no blame can be laid at the door of “the Government. The right honorable member for Cowper did a great disservice to the primary producers when he agreed to the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, for immediately following the sale of the vessels overseas freights soared and the additional costs had to be borne by the primary producers. Yet the right honorable gentleman would have us believe that he is a friend of the farmers when in fact he is their enemy. It is said that we should profit by the mistakes of the past. I have very vivid and sad recollections of what took place when honorable members opposite were in office. At that period I, in common with other primary producers, had a very harrowing experience trying to make ends meet and we were fortunate indeed in being able to retain our properties. I served for two years on the Rural Industries Committee and, in the course of its investigations, 1 gained a great deal of knowledge of rural affairs throughout Australia. I also found that there was general acceptance of the view that farmers were at last getting a fair deal from the Commonwealth Government. As the champion of the cause of the primary producers, the Australian Country party is a standing disgrace. When the members of that party shared the responsibility of office with our other friends opposite, the plight of the primary producer was worse than it had over been before. It was not until this Government took office that primary industries were placed on’ a sound economic footing.
It has been said by honorable members opposite that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation rejected the Government’s stabilization plan. That is a deliberate misstatement calculated to mislead the people and, although it has been repeated, by honorable members opposite over the air, in the press, and in this House on many occasions, the farmers themselves will not be fooled by it. Mr. “ Ernie “ Field, of Wagga, a member of the Australian Wheat Board, and one of the foundation members of the Farmers and Settlers Association, who, by no stretch of the imagination could be regarded as a Labour supporter, told wheat-growers to “ grab the wheat stabilization plan with both hands “. Mr. Lilley and Mr. Walker, who are also prominent members of the federation, and who possibly know more about wheat-growing than any honorable members opposite, also unreservedly support the plan. These men have the interests of the wheat-grower at heart; they do not merely render lip-service to the man on the land. Some doubt has been expressed as to the constitutionality of this legislation. I know nothing as to that; I leave that to the lawyers; but I do claim to know something of the needs of the primary producers and I paid dearly for my knowledge in the years before the Labour Government was returned to office. Much has been said about farmers walking off their properties. Is it any wonder they abandoned the land considering the treatment meted out to them by the members of the so-called Australian Country party in the legislatures of the Commonwealth and the States ? It has been said that in New South Wales alone no fewer than 2,000 farmers walked off their properties and refused to go back to them. Obviously, they were so disgusted at the treatment meted out to them by anti-Labour governments of earlier years that they could tolerate it no longer. The “ tripe “ broadcast by honorable members opposite in relation to the wheat industry will not fool any one. Why are they not courageous enough to say truthfully that the present Government is the best friend the primary producers have ever had? I trust that the wheat stabilization scheme will become law and that the industry will never again drift back to the conditions under which it laboured prior to the advent of a Labour Government in 194.1. So long as this Government remains in office, the wheat industry will not be neglected because this is the most countryminded Government that has ever held office in the history of this Parliament.
.- It is agreed by all honorable members that a wheat stabilization plan is necessary and desirable. I have no quarrel with honorable members opposite on that point, but f believe that the Government’s scheme does not go far enough and that it should not be initiated at the expense of the farmer. The measure now before us should be amended to make the scheme lore effective and of greater benefit to the farmers. A great deal has been said about the inclusion in the scheme of the 1945-46 crop-. As the result of talks I have had with farmers and after having lived among them, I am firmly of the opinion that the 1945-46 crop which, by comparison with those of the two preceding years, was a particularly good one, should be left out of the scheme. Farmers generally looked forward to the proceeds of the 1945-46 crop to rehabilitate them after years of low to poor yields. They hoped to benefit from the prevailing high prices, but they have been denied the opportunity to do so. I have been assured that the late Mr. Curtin made a definite promise to farmers who interviewed him in Canberra that the 1945-46 crop would not be included in any stabilization scheme. In my view it is unsound economically and unfair politically to levy a retrospective tax. The farmers should know just “what is ahead of them and what taxes they are liable to be called upon to pay before they plant their crops.
To impose a retrospective tax and thus penalize the past labours of the farmer is most unjust. Costs of production are not always easy to determine and they vary in different districts. All that the farmer asks is that he be assured of the cost of production determined by an independent body, plus a reasonable margin of profit. The prices fixed by the Government, however, do not give him such a return. The tax proposed to be levied under this bill is unsound in principle. The farmer might be expected to pay a tax of 50 per cent., and the present high price of wheat - again an accident of the war - which at the moment is 13s. 2d. a bushel, may make the farmer liable for a tax of 4s. a bushel on all wheat grown. At present, he is expected to pay the tax on wheat for export, and with wheat as 9s. 6d. a bushel, he is liable for a tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel. The experts assure us that the present high price of wheat should be maintained for a few years, so the farmer is liable to pay a severe tax at a time when he can ill afford it. This season is a very bad one, and the main concern of the wheat-grower is whether he will get sufficient quantities of seed quite apart from the quantity of wheat he will be able to market. So, I appeal to the Government to introduce a more realistic and generous stabilization scheme, and exclude the 1945-46 crop. If the Government desires to learn the views of the farmers towards this plan, let it take a poll of the growers, so that they, who are the principal persons concerned, may express their opinions. If the growers are in favour of the proposed scheme, the Government will then be justified in introducing it in its present form; but if the growers suggest amendments, their proposals should be incorporated in the legislation, in justice to this section of the community which requires assistance urgently at the present time.
.- I am one of those people who always believes in the old adage that all comparisions are odious, and I do not believe that we can advance very far by making comparisons between the actions of one government and another, because different diseases require different remedies, and different times require different approaches to various subjects. My purpose in taking part in this debate is to reply to certain loud-voiced gentlemen opposite, who have been .broadcasting false propaganda in the hope that they will be able to “get away” with it. The average price of wheat to the producer for 25 years is 3s. 11½d. a bushel, and that equalled the proposed price in the first Scully plan of 4s. a bushel, less a certain amount. One important fact which honorable members should not overlook is that the average price of 3s. 11½d. a bushel to the producer was obtained on the “ supply and demand “ market when wheat was sold in unlimited quantities. The much-heralded Scully plan operated in a period when production was curtailed, and the price of 4s. a bushel was guaranteed for only the first 1,000 bags. Those facts answer this false propaganda that since the Labour party came into office the primary producer, who apparently had starved for years, miraculously had money with which to purchase the necessaries of life. The public should know the truth, and I believe that it does.
The Labour party opposed the passage of the National Security Bill, which subsequently empowered it to do something for the .primary producers which previous governments, through constitutional limitations, had not been able to do. Honorable members opposite compared, to their own satisfaction, the price of wheat in 1938-39 with that ruling in 194.6. The price of 3s. lOd. a bushel, which the then Minister for Commerce guaranteed in 1938-39, was the growers appreciation of the cost of production, plus a margin of profit. That is very different from the cost of production plus a margin of profit to-day. The payment of that price in 193S-39 meant providing an amount from Consolidated Revenue to supplement the world parity price. The position is vastly different now. The world parity price is immeasurably higher than the pretended guarantee under the Labour party’s proposals, and, instead of being obliged to make a grant from Consolidated Revenue, this Government is actually depriving the producer of some of the return to which he is justly entitled for his crop, and is paying it into the Treasury. That is the essential difference between the policy adopted by the Minister for Commerce in 1938-39 and that adopted by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to-day. We should make an honest approach to these matters, and I give credit where credit is due. As I stated, the Labour party opposed the passage of the National Security Bill some years ago; but now honorable members opposite boast and preen themselves before the people that, because they possessed the powers conferred by the National Security Act in war-time, they have been able to do certain things for the benefit of primary producers.
Shortly before the last elections, the Government introduced legislation to give effect to its wheat stabilization plan and offered a guaranteed price which was less <than one-half of world parity. I say to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and other honorable gentlemen opposite who represent wheat-growing districts that if the law of supply and demand were allowed to operate freely to-day, the price obtained for wheat sold overseas, with the addition of ls. 10½d. a bushel about which they “ skite “, would raise the overall price throughout the years to a figure substantially higher than the Labour party is guaranteeing to-day.
– All that my constituents desire to know is what will become of this scheme now that the members of the Australian Country party are endeavouring to sabotage it.
– We shall tell them. If any wheat-growers are listening to the broadcast of this debate, they will hear some interesting facts. If the honorable member for Hume is not careful, I shall spend a week in his constituency during the next elections.
– I hope the honorable member will spend a fortnight in my electorate, and thereby make my position doubly secure.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Gippsland to address the Chair.
– Before the last elections, the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) introduced this alleged wheat stabilization plan. It was supposed to be an election winner. To the consternation of the Labour party, that hope was not realized. Supporters of the Labour party who had represented in this House two or three wheat-growing electorates were defeated, and several others were re-elected only with the support of Opposition preference votes. It appears that the States will not support the operation of this alleged stabilization plan. During the last election campaign, the Government held a referendum in an endeavour to obtain for the Commonwealth power to enable it to conduct the “ organized marketing “ of primary products. That referendum proposal was defeated. So, beset with the people’s denial on two sides, the Government now proposes to utilize the Commonwealth’s taxing power to get its’ own way. It refuses to obey the will of the public. I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that they are the servants of the people. However, they propose to invoke the Commonwealth’s taxing powers in order to get their own way. With loud voices and false imputations they are attempting to justify their actions in the eyes of an outraged public.
– The majority of wheatgrowers voted in favour of the stabilization plan.
– No, the wheatgrowers voted against it, as the results of the recent elections show. Two or three seats in wheat-growing electorates which were held by supporters of the Labour party were won by the Opposition, and the Government’s candidates in several other seats had a hard fight. That cannot be denied. Although the wheat-growers opposed the plan, honorable members opposite now pretend that their wheat stabilization proposals will be of great advantage to the farmers. They will not. As a matter of fact under this plan some of the wheat-growers’ money, which will be paid into a fund allegedly for the benefit of producers in the distant future will be confiscated. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture refused to state what would become of any money remaining in the fund at the expiration of the stabilization plan. However, an answer to a question which we received from a Minister in the Senate, after the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in this chamber had refused to answer it, was that the money in the fund would not be paid to the producers.
– That is wrong.
– I stated that a Minister in the Senate did not deny the truth of my statement, as a reference to Hansard will show.
– The honorable member heard what the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture refused to give a reply when I asked him a direct question.
– When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I gave to the honorable member a direct answer.
– The honorable gentleman did not. We were compelled to follow up the matter in the Senate, where a Minister, who was either less discreet or more honest, said that producers would not be paid any money remaining in the fund.
– I am just as honest as the honorable member is.
– I refer the honorable gentleman to the reply which, a Minister in the Senate gave to the question. It appears in Hansard. I realize that the honorable gentleman is trying desperately to defend an indefensible action. He may do so if he chooses, but what I have said is correct. The stabilization plan embodies a new form of confiscation. The bushrangers in the old days were crude. They robbed at the point of a gun. But the Labour Government has invented a way of doing it without a gun. That is what it means. The money in the fund will belong to the wheat-growers. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) deny that if the price were .allowed to be determined by the law of supply and demand, the average over the years would be immeasurably higher than the Labour party boasts that it will pay to the producer to-day. I should like to extend my remarks to include other primary products such as butter, but if I were to attempt to do so, I would be called to order by Mr. Speaker. I have been goaded into- making a statement of this kind by the falsa imputations that, ha.ve been made: against, the Opposition,, and by the cheap sneers at the Australian Country party. Even the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser), who is an intelligent man, suggested that, while he was greatly pleased that a com:mittee had been appointed’ to investigate certain matters, he had grave doubts when he Beard that, some of the members were associated with the Australian Country party. That is a cheap way of ensuring endorsement at the next elections. If I had to stoop to such practices, I would go out of politics. Fortunately, I do not have to stoop in that way.
– The honorable member lias- stooped low to-day by misrepresenting the price paid for whea.t. and in not stating the. full facts.
– A few days ago, I did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the courtesy of placing- in his Hand a booklet which set out exactly what I have stated’ here.
– The honorable member -fated the price- of 3s. Hid-, a- bushel was the average price for 25- years, and he did nob say that that was the amount, payable at ports. He made it appear that that was the price payable at sidings. The difference between the two is approximately ls. a bushel.
– The price to-day is 4s. a bushel at sidings.
– The honorable member referred to the Scully plan. He should not confuse it with the price payable t.o-day. Yet he talked about misrepresentation !
– It was the Labour party which introduced the Scully plan.
– The honorable member compared the price of 4s. a bushel at sidings with 3s. lid. a bushel at. ports.
– My statement was, “ 3s. lid. a bushel to the producers “. The present stabilization price is payable at ports. I stated that the price payable to the farmer was 3s. 11½d. a bushel. That is not the price at ports. I make those remarks: in- reply to the- statements made by honorable members opposite when they criticized the Australian
Country party. There is- no- comparison between1, to-day’s, conditions’- and; those of 19.3&-39.
Sitting suspended from 12:Wto 2.15 p.m.-.
’. - I wish to direct attention to certain significant features of this- bill. The first is that it was introduced in the dying hours of the sessional period’- and in the early hours-, of the .morning. It. has- been1 the custom for members of this’. Government to introduce important legislation in this way under conditions which preclude honorable members- from giving their best attention to- it. The resolution in regard to- this matter1 was considered in a Committee of Ways- and5 Means about 3 a.m. to-day: Obviously honorable members are not in a fit condition physically or mentally at such an hour- to deal with highly important legislative proposals. The next significant feature is that whereas the wheat stabilization scheme which the Government submitted’ to Parliament some months’ ago was discussed with keenness by government supporters at that time; this measure has been received by them in silence, except for the honorable member for Riverina (Mr: Langtry): The fact of the matter is that after honorable gentlemen- opposite bad debated the Government’s wheat stabilization scheme on a former occasion they realized that it: was- without any sound foundation. As they had only a weak case to support, they applied the principle that discretion is the better part of valour, and became- silent. They also apparently intend to refrain from debating this measure. The third signify cant feature is that an examination of Hansard will indicate that when certain vital amendments were the subject of divisions on a former occasion when wheat stabilization was being debated, some’ honorable gentlemen who represent important wheat-growing electorates were absent, and- their names did not appear in- the division list.
– But they were paired.
– I do not. desire to embarrass- the honorable members con:cerned, so I shall, not name, them; but the fact that they were not, present, for the- division is significant.
We believe that every wage-earner, every primary producer and every business man should receive a fair deal, but the wheat-growers are not being treated fairly on this occasion. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) stated this morning that in the 25 years between 1919-20 and 1944-45 the average price netted by the wheat-grower for his whea t was 3s. 11½d. a bushel. That statement was ridiculed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and also by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– I still ridicule it.
– I hold in my hand h copy of a graph prepared by Mr. B. Gillespie from information supplied, by the Victorian Government Statistician, Hud it shows clearly that the net return to the wheat-growers over the 25 years mentioned was 3s. 11½d. a bushel, the gross realizations having been 4s. 7d. a bushel. When honorable gentlemen opposite discuss wheat prices they usually choose the year when prices have been high, but we all know that the price of wheat has fluctuated very greatly. For that reason the wheat-farmers are anxIOUs that conditions in the industry shall be stabilized. I have always advocated stabilization, but I shall not support any scheme which is not equitable. The British people, as we all know, are a peace-loving race, but they will not accept peace at any price. Because they would not do so, they have been able to bring into being the greatest empire that the world has ever known. The wheatgrowers are a peace-loving people, but they will not accept peace at any price, aor will the members of the Australian Country party do so. Tor that reason we intend to fight the Government’s stabilization scheme. We do not regard it as fair and equitable. I listened to the speech of the honorable member for Riverina, but I .must say that the honorable gentleman is more entertaining when he sings “ Murphy shall not sing tonight “, than when he is speaking on the wheat industry. I have the greatest respect for the honorable- gentleman personally, hut when he discusses the wheat industry in this House he nearly always takes us back to the days of the bullock drays and cabbage-tree hats. We want something more up- to date than that. Honorable members on this side of the chamber intend to insist on a wheat stabilization- scheme which will yield, the wheat-growers the cost of production and a fair margin of profit. It is one thing to fix a price for wheat for home consumption in Australia, and quite another to provide that wheat required for feed for stock and poultry shall also be sold, at that price. Why should the wheat-growers alone among the workers in industry in Australia be required to support other industries on an unfair basis? When world parity for wheat is high the Australian wheat-growers are entitled to enjoy the advantage of it. We ask what will happen under the Government’s scheme if the price of wheat should fall? Some honorable gentlemen opposite have said that the price of wheat is sure to fall. It may do so some years from now. What will happen then, especially if the price falls below 5s. 2d. » bushel? Under the Government’s scheme the wheat-growers will receive only 4s. a’ bushel. That price, compared with the 3s. Hid. a bushel- which is the average net return to the growers over the last 2.”> years, would be worth only about ls. 6d. a bushel having in mind the much higher cost of production in these days. When the Government’s wheat stabilization scheme was before the House some months ago, the present Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) said that the scheme should have been put into operation fifteen or sixteen years ago. I quite agree that, in view of rising costs of production and the rising cost of living in Australia, wage-pegging should be modified, but I consider also that the condition? governing the wheat industry should have relation to high production and living costs. Why should the wheat-grower be hemmed in on the rails with no chance of getting out? Some honorable member? have referred recently to the unsatisfactory position of dairy-farmers because of the present price of butter. I agree that the dairy-farmers are not receiving a fair deal, but they are in paradise compared with wheat-growers. We have heard complaints, too, that the wool-growers have had about £9,000,000 withheld from them from recent wool realizations. If the Government has its’ way the wheatgrowers are likely to have anything from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000 withheld from them under this scheme. That, in my opinion, is most unjust.
A poll of growers was asked for, without success, by some honorable members to ascertain whether this scheme was favoured by the majority of the wheatgrowers. Now a similar request has been made from various States. Surely if this were a democratic government it would accede to these requests, but it has declined to do so.
– Who has accused the Government of being democratic?
– I used the word if “. A poll of growers should be held to ascertain their views on this scheme. Quite a lot has been said in the House during the last few days about black marketing. The treatment that is being accorded to the wheat-growers of Australia is, in my opinion, an incentive to black marketing in connexion with food production. Both the honorable member for Riverina, and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), have declared that the wheat-growers favour this scheme, but I have been receiving letters almost every day which indicate that the contrary is the case. I received a letter on the 4th December, only two days ago, in which the writer says, “ We farmer* are nothing to this so-called Government “.
– Was the letter written by a Labour supporter?
– He is not a Labour supporter, but he might have been if the Government had treated him fairly. This Government is driving people from the ranks of its supporters week by week because of its stubbornness. The writer also said -
The world wants food, but this Government gives no encouragement with its “take-all, give-all, do-nothing “ methods.
I could spend half a day in describing the deficiencies of the Government, but I will not do so. The Minister in his second-reading speech said that the measure was necessary to give proper legislative authority to the acquisition of the 1945-46 and 1946-47 crops. Fancy introducing a measure at this stage in connexion with the acquisition of the 1945-46 crop, and doing so in the dying hours of the session. If the Government intended to act in this way it should have done so before now. It appears, however, that the Ministry realizes the desperate position in which it stands in relation to the wheat-growers, and Ministers are prepared to clutch at any twig in order to save themselves. We have been informed also by the Minister that unless the terms of the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means be put into legislative effect, an amount of £6,000,000 which is being held somewhere or other may not be paid in to the fund. If this legislation is not passed, the money will not be paid into the fund. I am not concerned about that; because, if it is not paid into the fund it cannot evaporate into thin air but must go somewhere, and it will go to the wheat-grower; who is the rightful owner of it. Therefore, we oppose the measure. In travelling around, I found that every wheat-grower was opposed to the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop in the stabilization scheme. Had the Government accepted the amendment of the Australian Country party for the exclusion of that crop from the scheme, it would not have been up against the trouble it is meeting to-day. The fear has been expressed that once the money has been put into the fund it may be utilized in connexion with some other government activity, as has occurred in the past in connexion with other funds derived from primary production. The fear seems to be well founded. Writs have been issued out of the High Court, to compel the Government to pay a just price for the wheat crop that it acquired under wartime regulations. Although the matter has not yet come before the court, the Government is attempting to bolster its position by this legislation. I have no doubt that the bill will be passed. If the foremost thinker of all time brought forward a. scheme which would give to the primary producers the greatest benefit the world had known, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would not accept it, and every government member would vote against it.
– Why does not the honorable member have a record made of his speech ?
– I have had many records made of my speeches, and have distributed them throughout Australia. They have been listened to appreciatively by people all over the continent. The more records that can be made of the fight which the Australian Country party in particular, and the Opposition generally, have waged and are waging agains this wheat stabilization scheme, the better it will be, because it would appear that we cannot penetrate into the mind of the Government, and induce it to realize that this class of primary production must be assisted.
I now move on to the matter of the price per bushel. The Government, and others who are in favour of its wheat stabilization scheme, have told the people that the wheat-grower is receiving 5s. 2d. a bushel for his wheat. I have previously stated that his return is approximately 4s. a bushel. An intellectual genius is not needed to prove that when the cost of cornsacks and other charges is deducted, the price falls below 4s. a bushel. I believe that, if it were generally known throughout the country that the wheatgrower is receiving only 4s. a bushel, there would be a national outcry against the injustice. If this legislation does not pass, the Government will not be able to obtain the £6,000,000 which it is withholding on account of the 1945-46 crop. It is retrospective legislation to which anybody would object. How would the workers perform, if in order to guarantee to them a weekly wage of £6, a deduction of £2 a week was made and paid into a fund ? There would be a revolution in no time, and rightly so. That is what is being done to the wheat-grower. About one-third or more of the proceeds from the sales of his wheat is being withheld, in order to ensure that he will receive a certain price. There are many injustices in this bill, and in other bills, which need to be ventilated. I would not continue to speak unless I thought I was righting for what is right. By reason of droughts the wheat-growers have had one of the worst times in history, yet the man whose crop has been a complete failure is to receive only 12s. 6d. an acre. When I sought to make the amount £1 every Government supporter voted against it.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman knows that he must not refer to a debate that has been concluded and that he must not reflect on a vote of the House.
– I want to emphasize that I stand for stabilization. I do not need to emphasize it in my electorate, because my constituents know my attitude. But in this House, the honorable member for Hume particularly, and other honorable members, have endeavoured to “ put a tag “ on me on many occasions, namely, that I do not favour stabilization.
– The honorable member cannot shift it. He said in the last Parliament that he was here to destroy the stabilization legislation.
– What the honorable member for Hume says does not carry any weight. The Minister has made it clear that the money may be paid back to the wheat-growers out of the fund. It may be paid back at some time. He has said that the stabilization fund will not be allowed to become excessive, and that a formula gives the method by which contributions will be kept to the lowest figure practicable. Yet, according to the honorable gentleman, it has been impossible to find a formula which will satisfy legal requirements. The Government is taking money from the wheatgrowers to place in the stabilization fund, without giving consideration to when it will be paid out. What will be the value of a temporary wheat licence, which may be withdrawn at any time? A man may have contributed a couple of thousand pounds to the fund. If he ceases to produce wheat, that money, which may represent one-third of his income, will remain in the fund. What will become of it, only the future will reveal. People are not always in good health. A man may insure his life, in order to obtain a certain amount at the age of 60 years. When he reaches 57 years of age, he can obtain the surrender value of the policy.
– This is not an insurance bill.
– I am happy to agree with the right honorable gentleman. It does not insure anybody, and does not assure anything. That is the point which I am making. It does not give any assurance as to where the money will go, once it has been taken by the Government. When I said to a supporter of the Government in my electorate, not a wheatgrower, “ There is no provision in the bill to show where the money will go “, he retorted, “It is all contained in the bill”. I handed the bill to him, and said, “ If you can show me where it is, you will enlighten not only me but also every member of the Opposition at Canberra ; and I hope that you will enlighten most Government members “. I am sure that the Prime Minister does not know what is going to become of this money. Even if he gave us the assurance that certain things would be done, that would not amount to anything, because he may not be Prime Minister in another three or four years. Verbal assurances, given by the Prime Minister, a Minister, or anybody else, do not count for anything. If I agreed to purchase fat lambs at 35s. a head, and offered an immediate payment of 25s. a head, theseller would immediately read the contract to ascertain when he would receive the balance of 10s. a head. If the point was not covered by the contract he would refuse to give delivery. However, in the case of wheat, delivery has already been given. The consumers have eaten the bread, and the fowls have eaten the wheat. The farmers cannot do much about it, and that is why we are fighting for them now. Most of the wheat produced in Victoria is grown in my electorate by farmers who do not enjoy the same amenities as do city residents. The Government’s idea is to keep food prices down in the cities, which is just another factor making for over-centralization. By improving city conditions as compared with country conditions, the Government is encouraging people to drift to the cities and stay there. Something should be done to improve conditions in the country. I am not opposed to the workers getting cheap food, but they should not get it entirely at the expense of the farmers. The primary producers have suggesteda scheme under which they would receive fair treatment while not increasing the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for home consumption. It has been suggested that a committee of inquiry should be appointed to find out the actual cost of producing wheat. If, for instance, it were found that the cost was 6s. 2d. a bushel, then the farmers would be paid 1s. a bushel out of ConsolidatedRevenue. Thus, every one would contribute to make up the difference, and not the farmers only. However, that suggestion was just brushed aside by the Government, which does not want to take anything out of ConsolidatedRevenue. It wants to keep on putting money in. If it were totake something out of the fund, and give to the primary producers what really belongs to them it would be much better for the country as a whole. I favour market stabilization, but it must be just. Like the British people who want peace, but are prepared to go to war in defence of justice, so I will continue to fight against any stabilization scheme that fails to do justice to the growers, who are entitled to as good a deal as is given to producers of secondary goods.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the question be put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon, J. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That thebill be read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Gover nor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1946.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; import adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 5th December (vide page 1170), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 5th December (vide page 1170), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
States Grants (Drought Relief) Bill 1946.
Wheat Industry Assistance Bill 1946.
States GrantsBill 1946.
Ministers of State Bill 1946.
Census and Statistics Bill 1946.
Qantas Empire Airways Agreement Bill 1946.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1946.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Sitting suspended from §48 to ^ p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committed (Consideration- of Senate’s amendments) :
Senate’s Amendment No. 1. - First Schedule, third column, before “80” insert “65”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment has the effect of preserving regulation 65 of the National
Security (Supplementary) Regulations. The regulation in question provides that, while it is in force, persons shall not be bound to furnish forms or notify changes of address as required by the National Registration Act of 1939. It is not desired that the regulation should terminate, and the abovementioned obligations revive. The continuance in force of the National Registration Act is a matter’ which will receive early consideration by the Government. All the amendment does is to continue for some time the regulation previously in force under the act, leaving it to the Parliament to determine, probably next year, whether the National Registration Act will be amended or repealed.
– Are we to understand that when the Parliament reassembles next year it will be given an opportunity to amend or repeal the act?
– I do not say that such an opportunity will occur during the first sessional period next year, but it will be some time next year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s Amendment No. 2. - Second Schedule, after the item “ Control of Tinplate Order” insert the following item: -
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment preserves an order relating to cordage and fibre made under National Security (General) Regulations No. 59. Control by the Commonwealth of cordage and fibre was originally introduced on the 19th December, 1941, fol lowing the entry of Japan into the war. Japan’s occupation of the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies cut 01 the supply of manila and sisal hemp, and threatened India, the .source of supply of jute and coir. Rope, cordage and twine manufactured from these fibres, and from flax and cotton are vital war materials, and are necessary to the maintenance of essential industry and public utilities.
Jute, mon iia and sisal fibre remain in world short supply owing to factors such as the slow rate of recovery of territories from Japanese occupation, decreased plantings and crop failures. Prices, particularly of jute and manila, have risen to very high levels. These fibres are urgently needed for the manufacture of cordage and plaster board, which are highly important uses in our national economy, and control has been maintained so as to ensure that fibres are not used for unessential purposes. The Commonwealth is obliged to pay very large subsidies in order to keep prices at reasonable levels. During the last two months, the supply position has sharply deteriorated. The lifting of controls in India has created an extremely critical position in regard to jute, and the position of hard fibres - - manila and sisal hemp - has not improved as expected. It now seems clear that these fibres will be in critically short supply until the end of 1947. It was hoped that it would be practicable to allow the control to expire on the 31st December of this year. However, in view of the worsening in the supply position, it is now proposed that the control should be continued under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill. Control over these items has been maintained in Great Britain and the United States of America. Except in respect of a few items, it is proposed that control over the end use of fibres, so far as it affects the consumer, will be removed, and no detailed machinery will be necessary for its administration. Control will be exercised over allocations as between industries, and a limited number of specific uses, such as sisal lashing, binder and hay baling twine.
– I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without protesting against the action of the Government in introducing amendments at this late hour. The bill provides for the renewal of regulations which vitally affect the lives of the people in times of peace. The measure was forced through this chamber in a series of late sittings, which continued until three o’clock in the morning, so that eventually the legislation was passed by a process of exhaustion. In this way the Government got through in a matter of hours a bill which would ordinarily have been debated for a fortnight or three weeks. Even then, no indication was given to honorable members here that the Government proposed to introduce further amendments in the Senate. We heard nothing of them, and have had no opportunity to consider them. Such procedure cannot be tolerated in a democratic community. Important amendments of this kind should not be thrust upon the Parliament in the last few minutes of the sessional period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sena te’s amendment No. 3. - Second Schedule, after the item “ Jute Goods Order” insert the following item : -
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment preserves an order under general regulation 59 relating to shirts, collars and pyjamas. This order relates now only to the styles of shirts and pyjamas being produced. The con tinuance of the control is necessary to maintain a satisfactory flow of shirts and pyjamas to meet all the community’s requirements. The shortages both of man-power and materials and the existing restrictions conserve materials and prevent the addition of frills and fitments which would add to the present difficulties. They do not materially affect the quality or usefulness of the garments in question, but their elimination would tend to lead to the immediate reversion to the manufacture of pre-war types, which would involve increases of costs, with consequent applications for price increases, and a decrease of the quantities produced. This would particularly affect consumers in the lower income groups, not only in regard to the prices of the garments that are produced, but also to their prospects of obtaining a fair share of available supplies. Honorable members will understand that, in dealing with a list of regulations of such dimensions, it was inevitable that certain omissions would be discovered. That is what has happened in this case.
– Having regard to the explanation of the Minister, it would appear that in future these garments will be known as the “Evatt” shirts and pyjamas instead of the “ Dedman “ shirts and pyjamas.
.- It seems extraordinary that in the last hours of the sessional period, and after what have been virtually three all-night sittings, we should now be confronted with this earth-shaking amendment. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) after his epic victory over Mr. Molotov, has returned to his own country with new ideas about shirts and pyjamas. Here are a few gems from the order which show that our masters are giving us a little more freedom. The order prescribes that a person shall not manufacture men’s or boys’ shirts with hems on the tails of more than one-quarter of an inch. This is a highly important matter by comparison with the trifling legislation wo have been discussing throughout the days and into the early hours of the mornings of this week. The order also directs that a person shall not manufacture men’s or boys’ pyjamas with more than one pocket. Under austerity conditions necessitated by the war the present Minister for Defence, then Minister for War Organization of Industry, would not let us have even one pocket on our pyjamas. Now we are allowed to have one pocket. What progress! While the taxpayer will have very little to put into it, at least he will welcome this great concession to democracy. The order further provides that a person shall not manufacture men’s or boys’ pyjamas with a finished collar of a width exceeding 3 inches at the widest part. Undoubtedly, this provision was inspired by the Russian style observed by the Minister for External Affairs during his close acquaintance with Stalin.
Mr.Chifley. - If manufacturers were given a free hand there would be 500,000 fewer shirts on the Australian market, and shirts are already in very short supply.
– Yet, in spite of that, we are subsidizing the export of all kinds of textiles. Why these trifling matters are brought before the Parliament passes my comprehension. It is indicative of the statesmanlike minds of the rulers of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 4.18 to 4.55 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill (No. 2) 1946.
Wheat Export Charge Bill (No. 2) 1946.
Without requests -
Wheat Tax Bill 1946.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
On behalf of the Government I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) for the co-operation that they have extended to it during the year. I desire also to thank you, Mr.
Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees, for haying guided our deliberations. Our thanks are also due to the Clerks and the staff of the House of Representatives; the members of the Hansard staff, who are so important to the work of the Parliament; the permanent heads of departments of the Parliament and their staffs, who have assisted, not only Ministers but also members of the Opposition when they have required information ; the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Library staff; the Manager and staff of the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms; and last, but not least, the representatives of the press, who report the debates of the Parliament.
In wishing all honorable members a happy Christmas I express the hope that the recess will enable them to muster new energy to debate the important legislation which the Parliament will consider next year. As a guide to honorable members, I inform them that, at the moment, it appears that the Parliament will re-assemble in the middle of February. Easter falls early in April next year, and from the middle of February until Easter, we shall be able to deal . with a number of bills. I thank honorable members for the many courtesies which they have shown to the Government. Life is much more pleasant when one receives co-operation. I do not suggest that honorable members opposite should refrain from criticizing the Government. Sometimes, I may take objection when the criticism is repeated ad nauseam, but I do not resent criticism in tabloid form. Although this Christmas will be free from many of the dangers and difficulties that we faced after 1939, that does not mean that all our difficulties have been overcome. Most countries to-day have very serious problems to solve, and I hope that the unsettled state of the world to-day will become more composed in the coming year.
. On behalf of the Opposition, I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for the kindly references that he has made to honorable members on this side of the House for the co-operation extended to the Government during the year. That the adjournment of the Par liament for the Christmas recess has a mellowing influence on honorable members, is indicated in the words of the right honorable gentleman when he thanked us for our continued opposition. I assure him that next year, honorable members on this side of the chamber will continue to co-operate with the Government, and that means, of course, that we shall continue to be an Opposition which will guide the Administration in formulating its legislation. Three years hence, we expect a big change in this House, and we, as the Government, will offer encomiums.
The Opposition associates itself with the remarks of the Prime Minister regarding officers of the House. In the world to-day, service to the community sometimes lacks courtesy and dignity, and for that reason the standards of service are somewhat lowered. Therefore, it is a matter for comment that we, in this House, continue to receive courtesy from the officers in rendering service to honorable members. Their dignity and courtesy provide a pattern for those who have forgotten the dignity of service, and the courtesy associated with it. I pay a special tribute to the Hansard staff, and do not overlook the excellent services that have been, rendered by other officers of whom mention has been made. They perform most onerous duties. Hansard reporters are called upon at all hours of the day and night to record utterances which give expression to our thoughts and, in our opinion, are of some benefit to the nation and guidance to the Government. On that account, I believe that they merit special commendation. The Opposition extends to all honorable members, and to others associated with the services of the Parliament, its best wishes for a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.
.- In the absence of my leader, I associate the Australian Country party with the sentiments that have been expressed. We appreciate very highly the assistance we have received from and the courtesy that has been extended to us by the staffs of the House. Although Mr. Speaker is not always on our side, he nevertheless has many excellent qualities, which we hold in high regard. We leave this, the first meeting of the Eighteenth Parliament, fearing that we have not made very much progress ; but we shall return full of hope, and will do our utmost to be of assistance, and to convince even the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) that the Government is robbing the wheat-growers. Although we may be politically opposed to honorable members opposite, wo shall always meet them socially as friends. We wish you, Mr. Speaker, and every other member of this Parliament, a very happy Christmas. When we meet again, our constant aim will be to assist this country to emerge from the very serious position, in which it was placed by the unfortunate circumstance of six years of war.
.- I join in the felicitations that have been exchanged by honorable members on both sides of the House. Undoubtedly, only by co-operating in what is best, and discarding what is detrimental, will we achieve what is most advantageous for the country to which we are fortunate to belong.
There is a matter which should be mentioned to-day; otherwise, action in respect of it may be taken which will be irrevocable. Yesterday, I asked a question in- regard to the initial training school at Somers, Victoria, which is unique. It is now empty, and is surplus to the Royal Australian Air Force. I asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to confer with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), and other Commonwealth and State authorities, with a view to ensuring that the buildings at Somers will not be demolished. The Melbourne press has mentioned that this week the camp has been handed for disposal to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Probably, the huts will be auctioned and sold separately. That would be a tragedy. At the camp, there are approximately 100 huts, huge gymnasia, and every kind of amenity, which cost many thousands of pounds to provide.
– I am taking action in the matter.
– It is a training ground on which some of the early members of the Royal Australian Air Force were trained, and is famous in a way because of its association with the training of men like Truscott, Marrows, Armstrong, and other young men, many of whom did not return from active service. Without cost to the Government, the land was planted with hundreds of trees and shrubs. The press has stated that it would be suitable for use as a great public school, or a camp. I ask the Minister to take early action to prevent its being scrapped. It could be used for the emergency housing of hundreds of families in the district; but being 45 miles from Melbourne, there may not be great scope in that direction. It could be used as a training camp for school cadets, who could occupy the huts instead of being under canvas. It could be a staging camp for immigrants. If it were destroyed, no peace-time government would vote the money to re-establish it. I say that advisedly, as I was commanding officer of the station for the first eighteen months after its construction. I ask the Minister to confer with the Premier of Victoria, the State Minister for Education and other interested authorities so that these buildings may be obtained for the purposes that I have mentioned.
– My purpose in rising is not primarily to join in the expressions of goodwill and appreciation which have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), though I do so in all sincerity. My principal purpose is to bring to the notice of the Government a matter which I know to be of the utmost importance and urgency, namely, the deplorable situation in which large numbers of sufferers from tuberculosis find themselves to-day.
– The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) is at present conducting a survey into the whole field of tuberculosis.
– My suggestion may entail the expenditure of a not unappreciable amount of money. During the budget debate we have been discussing huge sums of money running into astronomical proportions on both sides of the ledger. We have to-day considerable buoyancy in our revenue. Accordingly, I have no hesitation in suggesting that a considerable sum of money be made available for the eradication of this dreadful disease. A narrow financial approach to the problem cannot be justified either on humanitarian or economic grounds. It is a constant factor of our political life that things which we cannot measure exactly have a tendency to be under-estimated. Have we, for instance, ever considered the great economic loss occasioned by the common cold? Have we ever considered not only the suffering that tuberculosis imposes upon its victims, but also the great economic loss which this country suffers as a consequence of its incidence amongst our people? There is one feature of this disease that does not apply to the majority of the ailments that affect the lj um an race, namely, there is a possibility of eradicating it completely from this country. That aspect has not been sufficiently emphasized. The steps being taken to eradicate tuberculosis seem to be quite inadequate to deal with the ravages of the disease. 1 propose to cite some figures relating to the incidence of the disease in Victoria. They may bc taken as applicable to ali States. In Victoria (here are 8,000 known cases of tuberculosis and in addition there are many thousands of others which have not yet definitely been diagnosed. Of the known cases only 700 patients are in hospital beds. A large number of acute cases require to remain in bed but no accommodation is available for them. The hospital bed situation to-day is extremely acute. In Victoria the Repatriation Commission has done an excellent job by increasing the number of hospital beds for tuberculosis patients from 200 to ‘600. Notwithstanding the great volume of building now in progress only 400 beds will be made available in civilian hospitals for tuberculosis sufferers when the buildings have been completed. There are now no fewer than 1,500 persons with the disease in an acute form who require hospital treatment. Even now patients are kept in hospital for only seven months after the expiration of which they are dis charged and join the general community. The majority of them are not cured, and are still carrying infection. In Canada, where this disease is taken much more seriously than it is here, patients are kept in hospital for eighteen months. In Victoria, as has been pointed out, 2,000 more beds could be occupied if they were available. 1 know that it is difficult to build, because labour and materials are in short supply, and even if the buildings were there it is difficult to get nurses. I do not blame the Government for that, but I suggest that it should pay adequate sustenance allowances to infected persons so that they might remain away from work, and be treated properly by doctors and nurses in their own homes. The money which would be normally expended on their treatment in hospitals could be diverted to pay them sustenance allowances. I know that the Government has made a grant of £250,000 for this purpose, of which Victoria’s share is only £59,000, and it is not nearly enough. I ask the Treasurer, as a Christmas gesture, to make an increased grant for this purpose until hospital and sanatoria accommodation is available.
.- I support remarks made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), and I wish particularly to draw attention to the position of children suffering from tuberculosis. I know that there arc clinics where children may be examined, and advice given to their parents regarding treatment. However, the children continue to go to school, and to mix with other children who, themselves, may not be very strong, and are therefore susceptible to the disease. Children are not always particular in some matters. They all drink from the same cups or from the same bubblers, and sometimes their handkerchiefs are “exchanged. This disease is particularly dangerous at present when so much overcrowding exists as the result of the shortage of houses. I shall cite one case, but I know that there are hundreds of similar cases. A husband and wife, who are both advanced in age, have Irving with them their daughter who is stricken with tuberculosis. She is unable to obtain hospital treatment. She is absolutely bed-ridden, and lives in a room beside the room occupied by her elderly parents. A third room in the same house, which is of only small dimensions and is situated in an industrial suburb, is occupied by a man, his wife and their three small children, each of whom is under eight years of age, the youngest being an infant eight months old. Their room is very small; but that is their home. That room is situated alongside the room in which the girl I mentioned previously is bed-ridden with tuberculosis. . She is unable to obtain any care or attention, other than that which she might receive from her elderly parents. The Parliament should give further urgent consideration to the provision of homes for the people, even should our only choice be to deal with the matter on the basis of a national emergency. Surely, prevention is better than cure. Unless housing conditions are improved tuberculosis will spread to an amazing degree. We must attack this ‘problem at its roots by providing adequate housing conditions for the people. The facts I have given should emphasize the necessity to attack the housing problem in order to protect the health of the community.
– I take this opportunity to acquaint the House and the country of the latest steps which have been taken in respect of the clearing of drifting mines. As I have previously intimated, immediately upon receipt of advice of the tragic occurrence at Townsville, when a fishing boat, whilst in a prohibited area, came in contact with a moored mine, I requested the naval authorities to explore the various ways and means of stepping up the mine-sweeping programme, so that all minefields in the Barrier Reef area could be cleared within the shortest practicable period. Honorable members will appreciate that, with personnel justifiably anxious for demobilization, it is not a simple matter to arrange for such a stepping up, involving az it does the availability of suitable men as well as ships. A conference to investigate the position has been held by the naval authorities and, in view of the urgency of clearing the Barrier Reef area of mines, the following decision has been made : - The mine-sweeping flotilla, which is at present in harbour for leave and re fit, will be considerably augmented, and by curtailment of leave and priority in repair over other vessels, the delay to which must be accepted, will be ready to sail on the 14th January. This is the earliest possible date. So far as manning the increased number of vessels which it has been decided to employ on minesweeping is concerned, action has been taken to request experienced men who are now due for discharge to volunteer to defer their demobilization, whilst personnel in certain categories who have actually been discharged are being re-entered.
Arrangements have also been made for a re-allocation of personnel in other ships so that permanent and some war-time personnel, who are experienced in minesweeping and who had already been drafted to these ships to relieve higher points “ hostilities only “ personnel, can be made available. This will necessitate a temporary cessation of other naval activities such as survey work, which must also be accepted if we are to keep faith with personnel now due for, and desirous of, demobilization. As regards the ships - the existing unit of the mine-sweeping flotilla will, as mentioned previously, be available by the 14th January, although two of these vessels which are in urgent need of major refits will have to be replaced by two similar vessels which are now due to be recommissioned. In addition, arrangements have been made for two vessels, which were in the process of paying off, to be re-commissioned immediately, whilst two additional harbour defence motor launches will also be brought forward from reserves. This will mean that a total of ten vessels will, from the 14th January, be available for mine-sweeping, and it is the intention to concentrate all our efforts on the clearance of the mines in the Barrier Reef area as soon after the 14th January as the flotilla can arrive in the locality.
.- The eighth report to the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, consisting of Mr. F. J. S. Wise, chairman, Mr. J. F. Murphy, Mr. S. M. Wadham and Mr. C. R. Lambert, on Irrigation,
Water Conservation and Land Drainage, contains an obviously stupid statement that concerns me as the representative of the Division of Bendigo, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEvven). It is as follows: -
Victoria. - This State was the first to adopt irrigation on a large scale. Development has been fairly continuous; Figure 2 and Table 3 show the position as it is at the moment. Again it is necessary to emphasize that the irrigation authority is not fully satisfied with the accuracy or completeness of the gauging data. Again the main conclusion .to be gleaned from this information is that the major sources of water supply (except the Snowy River and the further impounding of Murray water) have been utilized; new storage will therefore be relatively small.
The Eildon weir at present retains 306,000 acre-feet of water. During the recent drought 6,000,000 sheep were held in the area from slightly east of Shepparton to Swan Hill, and a vital service of water was supplied for domestic and stock purposes to the Wimmera eleci e:ite. It has been proved by irrigation engineers, including Mr. Savage, the American engineer, who is a recognized world authority on earth dams, that a further 2,350,000 acre-feet could be impounded. The colossal benefit to the Murray Valley, the State of Victoria and Australia generally would be so great that when the chairman and members of the Rural Reconstruction Commission who pose as authorities make a statement like that, it worries the Victorian people, particularly, those in that area. I raise thi3 matter because we must look to the Commonwealth Government for the necessary finance to build additional dams. It is obvious that Victoria, which, under the uniform tax scheme, is subsidizing New South Wales and other States to an amount of £4,500,000 a year, is not in a position to attend to these matters and must get assistance from the Commonwealth Government. I hope the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) will inform the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction of the utter stupidity of the statement. It is a matter of extreme seriousness. The benefit to Victoria and Australia generally is so great that such statements cannot be allowed to pass without comment.
– As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) said, this matter also concerns my electorate, because extensive channels serve the Wimmera district. Therefore, I am concerned when I hear such an authority state that “ new storage will be relatively small “. A vast volume of water runs to the sea every year along Australia’s “ Mississippi “, the Murray River. Much greater storage is possible in northern Victoria, and would be of immense benefit to primary producers foi’ domestic use and also for irrigation. The report is misleading. Another aspect of the matter to which consideration must be given is the advisability of installing pipe lines. In open channels the loss through seepage and evaporation in arid and sandy country is substantial. It is estimated that the installation of pipe lines would provide four times as much water as is at present conserved. I raise this matter because under the uniform taxation scheme, substantial sums of money are going from Victoria to other States, and it is impossible for some States to implement legislation providing for the construction of necessary pipe lines. The Goulburn and Waranga Water Users United League has also produced a pamphlet urging more water conservation. The league has prepared a plan that is well worth investigation by the Government. It would involve some expense, but the results would more than justify it.
I shall deal now with the revival of rifle clubs. I have received the following letter from Mr. Walter Gluvell, the secretary of the Rosebery Rifle Club -
Early this year I wrote you concerning the re-formation of rifle clubs and no. doubt your efforts in this respect helped to influence the authorities to announce the rifle clubs would resume on 1st July, 1946.
We were advised to hold a meeting and elect officers which we did early in August (as did all clubs) but that is all that has been done. We have been waiting since then (about four to five months) for ranges to be inspected and rifles and ammunition made available to enable us to start practice.
I am therefore instructed to write you (and I know lots of clubs are doing the same to their federal members of the House of Representatives) and ask if you can do anything to hurry the matter up and get the clubs shooting again. England held their first post-war
King’s prize meeting early in July,1946, whereas the clubs in Australia have not fired a shot since 1940 so we are a long way behind them.
I stress the need to speed up the work of re-establishing rifle clubs throughout Australia. These organizations are of great importance, and I hope that the Government will give immediate attention to the matter.
– With reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), I wish to state on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) that the Commonwealth Government has already granted £50,000 to the States on a £1 for £1 basis to assist in diagnostic treatment of tuberculosis, a further £50,000 as a contribution to after-cure treatment, and £250,000 to assist special necessitous cases. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) in conjunction with the State Minister for Health is about to inaugurate a campaign against this scourge.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Science and IndustryResearch Act - Twentieth AnnualReport of Council foryear 1945-46.
Ordered to be printed.
Bankruptcy Act - Eighteenth Annual Beport by Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July, 1946.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 166.
International Labour Organization - Twentyeighth Session, Seattle, June, 1946 - Reports of the Australian Government and Workers’ Delegates.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Portland, Victoria.
National Security Act - National Security ( Shipping Co-ordination ) Regulations - Order - 1946, No. 49.
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order - No. 33.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinance - 1946 - No. 8 - Auctioneers.
Sugar -Protocol relating to the International Sugar Agreement (signed in London, 30th August, 1946 ) .
House adjourned at 5.30 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Postmaster-General’s Department : Allowances to Postmasters; Broadcasting Branch; Telephone Services.
Mr.francis asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
. How many ( a ) allowance postmasters, and (b) allowance postmistresses, are there in Australia?
What is the total amount of allowances paid to (a) allowance postmasters and (b) allowance postmistresses each year?
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– On the 4th December the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to indicate the intentions of the Government concerning the erection of automatic telephones in country districts?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: - lt is the policy of the Post Office to proceed as rapidly as the circumstances will permit with the installation of automatic exchanges iti rural areas. Already 159 such exchanges are in operation. Equipment is on order for the establishment of a further 100 exchanges and it is expected that the delivery of the units concerned will commence in July.. 1947.
Tam worth Aerodrome.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Capital Territory: Population.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– This matter was fully discussed in the House on 3rd December, and I have nothing to add to the statement I then made.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 29th November, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following questions : -
Detailed information in answer to all the honorable member’s questions is not available, but the following particulars have been ascertained: -
Wool: Appraisement Centre at Townsville.
– On the 28th November, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edwards) requested information regarding the wool appraisement centre at Townsville. Estimates of the costs proved to be very much in excess of the figure submitted to, and approved by Cabinet. The additional expenditure would be incurred on the foundations if the building was constructed on the site selected. In view of this the calling of tenders has not been proceeded with pending reconsideration of the site originally proposed.
Pearling: Japanese at Broome.
n. - Last week the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) sought information concerning the return to Broome of two Japanese recently released from internment and also asked whether any information had been received that Japanese, disguised as Indonesians, are being brought from the islands to Broome.
The Minister for Immigration and Information has supplied the following information : -
According to the Director-General, Commonwealth Investigation Service, who is also Acting Director-General of Security, two former residents of Broome who had been interned have been released. The first is James Minero Chi, who was born at Broome of a Chinese father and a Japanese mother. This man was residing at Broome at the time of his internment. He is not a Japanese national, but is a natural-born British subject.
The second person is Jukichi Richard Murakami, also born in Broome of a Japanese father and an Australian-born mother of Japanese race. Murakami is one of a family nf six sons and three daughters, eight of whom are Australian born. The whole family were residing at Darwin at the time of internment. Murakami also is a natural-born British subject.
The Acting Director-General of Security has reported that these men were released from internment unconditionally, there being no security grounds for restricting them in any way. As British subjects they are free to move wherever they wish in the same way as any other citizen.
With regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, neither the Department of Immigration nor Security Service has any knowledge of Japanese disguised as Indonesians being brought from the islands to Broome. Since March of this year fourteen natives of Timor, Dutch nationals, most of whom were pearl-divers on the north-west coast prior to the war, left Melbourne for Broome. The presence of these Timorese in Broome has probably given rise to the rumour that Japanese, disguised as Indonesians, were entering Broome.
Floating and Moored Mines.
n. - On Wednesday last, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) asked me how many naval personnel with experience of mine disposal had been demobilized in the last three months, and how many had been demobilized in the last fortnight? The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
To answer this question categorically would involve examination of 30,000 navy records of men who have been demobilized, or alternatively an examination of drafting records over the last four months when 7,000 drafts took place. This would involve the undivided attention of all personnel employed in drafting and/or demobilization for several days with the resultant hold-up of personnel awaiting demobilization. It can be said, however, that six mine-sweepers were paid off between June and August and approximately 378 officers and men ex-mine-sweepers were either demobilized or dispersed among other ships to allow “ hostilities only “ personnel to be demobilized.
Two ships were in process of being paid off and their crews on the point of dispersal - some few to demobilization and others to relieve “ hostilities only “ personnel on demobilization. These dispersals have been stopped and action taken otherwise to deal with the relief of “ hostilities only “ personnel by paying off temporarily other ships.
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Assisted clubs are granted free use of Commonwealth aerodromes and, where available, the use of hangars and other buildings free of charge. In addition, the clubs have been permitted to purchase aircraft and other surplus equipment at concession rates through the Disposals Commission.
Commonwealth Disposals Commission : Sales at Cowra.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that at an agricultural machinery and equipment sale, conducted by the Disposals Commission, at Cowra on the 16th and 17th October, an officer of the Commission, before the sale commenced, stated that no price controls were to be observed and that the machinery was to be sold for whatever it would bring?
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
y. - On the 5th December, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It is a fact that, due to the acute shortage of certain ingredients, the manufacture of certain classes of explosives was curtailed during the war, but these were replaced by suitable substitutes of high-class quality. Some little difficulty was also experienced during the war years as a result of the amendments to the New South Wales Safety Code of Mining Legislation, which prohibited the use of non-permitted explosives which previously had been used in certain classes of mines. Arising from more recent complaints by the minors concerning the quality of certain explosives imported from England, the whole position has been fully investigated and all interested parties have agreed to the local manufacture of a special batch of a permitted explosive that had been in general use some time prior to 1940. This explosive will be carefully tested under strict supervision of the appropriate authorities and its future will depend upon results obtained.
Royal Australian Navy : Discharges.
n. - Earlier this week, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following questions : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The first formal communication from the United States authorities in relation to Manus was made on 20th March, 1946, prior to the conference of Prime Ministers held in London in April and May. The general principle of post-war use of Pacific bases and their facilities was informally discussed at that conference and substantial agreement was reached between the British nations directly interested. Since the communication referred to, discussions have taken place on an informal basis; the fullest practicable information as to the nature of the discussions has been furnished to the House from time to time and at this stage it is not proposed to table any papers.
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The following figures have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician as representing permanent new arrivals, i.e.. persons who intended to remain in Australia for one year or longer, who landed in Queensland during the year 1945-46 and the three months ended 30th September, 1946: -
The Germans, Austrians and Hungarian immigrants included in the foregoing statistics belong to the displaced and persecuted classes whose admission was authorized on applications by close relatives in Australia in a position to accommodate and maintain them.
n. - On the 3rd December the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked a question as to when Parliament would he supplied with the details of the plan for the production of aluminium in Australia, including the estimates of cost and of the probable Australian market; whether the Government believed that the cost of the locally produced aluminium would be comparable with the cost of the imported product and whether it was proposed to subsidize the production of aluminium or to impose a protective tariff.
The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following information : -
No details of the plan or costs of production of aluminium can be given until the Aluminium Production Commission has completed its investigations. In this regard 1 com mend to the honorable member the first annual report of the commission, which clearly sets out the stage that has been reached. I can only say generally that upon analysis of samples of Australian bauxites a worldrecognized authority has expressed the opinion that the establishment of the industry in Australia is a sound and practicable measure. Whether the local cost will be lesser or greater than the imported cost will be determined when the investigations are completed, but it should be noted that from the outset the commission has held the view that the industry should be established on an economic basis. The Government will determine its further policy on the matter when all the facts are known of it.
d. - On the 4th December, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked a question concerning supplies of salmon. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
As a member of the International Emergency Food Council sitting in Washington, Australia is dependent upon that body for its allocation of canned fish, including salmon, from available world supplies. Early in lune this year it was announced that, owing the world shortage of canned salmon it would be necessary to limit the allocation of this product and Australia’s total allocation was 2,733 ions iv 1.94.0-47 production. The source of supply nominated by the Food Council was Canada, and the quantity allocated represents approximately 50 per cent, of our imports of salmon from Canada during the year 1038-39. In accordance with existing procedures, it is understood that, even if Australia drew on Siberia for supplies, the quantity so obtained would be debited against the total Australian allocation. From information received it is understood that the Canadian salmon pack is less than the estimate upon which the original allocations were based and there is, therefore, a prospect of a reduction in the quantity of 2,733 .tons allocation to Australia. The Department of Trade and Customs has cabled the official representative in the United States nf America seeking verification of the reported reduction in the pack, and at the same time, advice is being sought as to whether the International Emergency Food Council would permit importation from Siberia without debit against the Australian allocation in the event of supplies becoming available from that source. I might add that small shipments eai Australia’s allocation from 1946-47 production have already been made but the additional quantities to arrive will depend upon the extent of the over all reduction in allocations by reason of the shortage in the pack as compared with the estimate.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister, for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : - 1 and 2. I shall have inquiries made and will give the honorable member a reply in due course.
Pearl-shell In dustry.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. 1934-35 and 1935-36, £4,000’ and £1,327, respectively (unconditional grant to assist industry) ; 1934-35, £5,000 (relief to sufferers from tornado at Broome) ; 193S-39, £5,300 (grant to assist industry subject to similar contribution from State of Western Australia ) . In addition, approval was given in 1938-39 for recoverable advances totalling £64,000 either direct by the Commonwealth or by the Commonwealth Bank under the joint guarantee of the Commonwealth and the State governments concerned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19461206_reps_18_189/>.