House of Representatives
21 February 1947

18th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon.- J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 103



Debate resumed from the 20th February (vide page 102), on motion by Mr. Menzies -

That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.


.- At this stage of the debate, it might be useful to review the answers, that have been given by Government spokesmen to the case made out yesterday by the Opposition in support of its motion of want of confidence. I refer to them as “ answers although I believe that any impartial observer who listened to yesterday’s proceedings would take the view that a good deal of the case presented by the Opposition was not answered at all, and so much of it as was answered was not answered effectively. In the main, the effect of the answers was merely to distort or misrepresent the arguments that had been put forward by the Opposition. So, I repeat, before proceeding to what I desire to say, I shall review briefly the answers that were made to the four main points brought out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).

Our charge of political jobbery was answered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and other Government speakers as though our criticism had proceeded from the assumption that the men concerned were unsuitable for the appointments they had received because they were, first, -defeated politicians, and secondly, defeated Labour politicians. That, of course, is an utter misrepresentation of the arguments that we advanced. It is inevitable that, when one looks for men to occupy .public positions of responsibility and prominence in this country or overseas, one must look for men, many if not all of whom have revealed clearly in their lives their political affiliations. In fact, political experience, training, and service in the Parliament may very well be a qualification for a public post. In some’ instances, those qualities may be a disqualification; but there are many instances in which they obviously are an asset. So, our criticism is not based on those grounds ; for quite obviously, as the Prime Minister and other members have gone to pains to point out, we when in office frequently appointed to public positions men with known political views. It is true that we differ from Labour administrations in this respect at least, that we have not confined our selections to men of our own party. If I may cite one notable example, we have appointed to public positions men such as the Prime Minister himself. The Menzies Government, .appointed .Mr. Chifley, then nol a member of Parliament but a well-known supporter of the Labour movement, .and a defeated politician in the sense applied by the right honorable gentleman, ‘as its Director of -Labour, and .a very good choice it was. One could mention many other instances of our having chosen men with pronounced Labour views to handle jobs which were of a governmental character. I recall that when I was Minister for Labour I appointed many men to positions in the Labour Department because I considered that their Labour and trade union background could bc an asset to the Government in the positions that they were to hold. So the real test is, not whether a man has had political experience or is a defeated candidate of one party or another, but whether he can suitably fill the position to which it is proposed to appoint him. That is the substantial test that we applied when making our series of appointments. We asked ourselves : “ Are they the best men available in Australia? “. The spirit, if not the very letter, of the Re-establishment arid Employment Act has been grosslyviolated in the appointments that have been made by the present Administration. The charge of political jobbery in its worst form has clearly been sheeted home against the Government.

Turning now to other issues I come to the Governor-Generalship. It is pleasing to know that the discussion of this most important matter has proceeded » along the lines of criticism of the constitutional principles involved. With the appointment, of a man of known party affiliations, active in parly politics up to and beyond the date of his nomination, it was inevitable “that that matter should come up foi discussion in this Parliament. The discussion has revealed a number of interesting features. In the first place, the man who is to be the King’s direct representative has been nominated solely on the advice of the Australian Government. The Prime Minister made it clear. He said, “ The Crown is not involved in any way”. But he also made it clear that only one nomination was presented to Has Majesty in respect of his own direct personal representative. It has been underlined for us .that there is grave non- stitutional danger in the situation which is thereby created. We have seen what can develop in the conduct of the nominee himself .after his appointment was made - conduct which however much it seemed desirable or necessary in hia own eyes, cannot fail to weaken the authority of the high office which he is to hold. I speak in a purely non-party sense when I say that we see that implication underlining the statement made by the Leader -of -the ‘Opposition, the honorable memberfor Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the Prime Minister himself that it is the nomination of the Australian government of the day. If the Australian government of the day can nominate, so the Australian government of the day can withdraw the nominee of a previous government. Are we to be faced with the intolerable position that the occupant of this high office is to be a man who can be placed there by an Australian government, that he shall remain there subject to the pleasure of that government, and shall be removable by another Australian government which dislikes him, or is politically opposed to him?- Two more such appointments - this is the real test of whether the Government has done a wise thing or not - of this character and the office of Governor-General and all that it stands for would be destroyed utterly. It is debatable whether the appointment, which according to the latest public opinion poll, is opposed by a substantial majority of the Australian people, ‘ has not already damaged irretrievably the prestige and authority of that office. But it is not an answer to this story to say, as I was astonished to hear the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) say, because he is a man with seniority of service in this Parliament, that our objection to this man is because he is an Australian. We on this side have no inferiority complex about the capacity of Australians to occupy the highest office in this or, indeed, in any other country. We know that our citizens can’ hold their own in any part of the world. It is a misconception of our criticism, and it reveals the superficial character of the Government’s examination of this matter, to .say that we object because this .man is an Australian. I leave it there,, because the matter has already been fully dealt with by others.

I pass to the other charges, not to examine them fully at this moment, because what I have to say will come out more clearly as I proceed. On the subject of taxation there has been no answer by the Government, to the charges levelled against it. It is admitted that government revenues are swollen and that government expenditure is far below the budget estimate. Yet, despite this, the Prime Minister is immovable. What are the facts ? On the latest figures available Australia has a national income of £166 a head “of the population. In taxation, direct and indirect, we are paying £51 a head of population. Thus eighteen months after the end of the war, the Australian people are paying 6s. in the pound of national income for purposes of government. Does anyone suggest that they are receiving a commensurate return? Is it suggested that there is uo scope for a substantial reduction of taxes that will give a fillip to our national economy ?

As for the industrial situation, the answer of government spokesmen to the charges brought against them can only be described as another chapter of futility in the Government’s long and pitiful record of bungling, evasion and retreat. However, no arguments are needed from this side of the House to establish the truth of the charges against the Government, because the real proof is to be found in- the state of Australia at this present day, eighteen months after the end of the war. What has become of all the fine prospects which were held out to us when the war ended? We came through the war with our territory virtually unscathed. Australia had developed a great industrial potential, and the people had accumulated savings. Our labour force was about to be augmented by the release from the services of 700,000 men and women - the best, the healthiest and the most energetic members of the population. At that moment, there existed opportunities for expanding our trade of a kind which the people of a young country would normally dream of but never really expect. There was the opportunity to use the country’s produc tive potential so as to improve the standard of living and give our young men and women a real start in life under the most favorable conditions. What has happened? Have we had to sustain the impact of competition from abroad? Have we .been deprived of essential commodities? Has any pressure, financial or otherwise, been put upon us to make conditions difficult in Australia? Of course not. The difficulties confronting us, and they are manifest, are of our own making - self-inflicted wounds, national lunacy - which have brought us to our present pass. This condition of affairs constitutes the real ground for censuring the Chifley Government.

No plea has been put forward that the Government did not have sufficient authority, or that it did not have a parliamentary majority, or that it was unable to gain the co-operation of State governments. In Australia, to-day, Labour governments are in power in five of the six States, and the Labour party has a majority in the House of Representatives and in the Senate of this Parliament. I repeat that the real ground for condemning the government is the state of Australia at the present time. What has been the effect upon the people? In commerce, golden opportunities have been neglected. In industry the employer is sick at heart from fighting against the control system and the deadening effect of taxation, while the employee is disillusioned, cynical and disheartened, so that he has become a willing tool in, the hands of agitators seeking to disrupt our industrial life; and, so far as the community generally is concerned, there is a demoralization and a cynicism arising out of Mack-marketing and racketeering practices which the people of Australia a few years ago would have condemned out of hand. These things must lie at the feet of the governments which have had the responsibility of governing the country through these times. I repeat that that is the essence of the censure levelled against this Government. Government.

In pre-war times it was the habit of economists to speak about the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty. We have a new paradox in this country today - the paradox of scarcity in the midst of full employment. We havetaken back into industry from the forces 700,000 men and women to whom we were looking to share the burden of administration and taxation, andthe task of giving to Australia thebetter living standards we knew were within our reach. Yet, paradox ically despite this augmentation of our labour forces, this increase of strength which should have enabled us to do such great things, we now find a condition of scarcity in the midst of full employment. If there is to be a depression, meaning a lowering of the standards of the people, we now have that occurring in terms of food, clothing and shelter and of those things which go to make life enjoyable. In that sense we have a depression, a man-made depression, at the present time; but if we are to have a depression in the sense in which honorable members opposite use the term, namely, a. condition in which there is not full employment, then it will be produced locally. It will not be something which we can say has been forced on us as the result of conditions overseas, but will carry the label, “ Made in Australia by licence of the Chifley Labour Government “.

Let me examine this industrial story in a little more detail, and. contrast what is happening in Australia with conditions in other countries, because a good deal of the defence put forward by honorable members opposite yesterday, ‘was that these things are not peculiar to Australia but are happening in all parts of the world, and that we are no worse off than peoples in other countries. Honorable members opposite point to industrial troubles in Great Britain and the United States of America, and say that we are not worse off than the peoples in those countries. If that were a true answer it would still be a very poor answer; but it is not even true. If we look at conditions in our sister dominions of South Africa, Canada and New Zealand we do not find anything comparable with the degree of industrial dislocation which we are now experiencing in Australia. Of course, those countries have their troubles ; no country is free of them. But if we compare conditions as a matter of degree we find that this country is infinitely worse off than any of the countries I have mentioned. Even in Great Britain industrial difficulties in terms of working days lost proportionately to the population have caused only one-sixth of the loss we have suffered in Australia. From that approach the answer given by honorable members opposite cannot be sustained; but there are other tests as well. It is suggested that these things are inevitable after a war which has dislocated the country’s affairs. But we had a war which caused a great deal of dislocation in1914-18; and this year, 1947, iscomparable with the year of 1920 in respect of conditions following “World War I. Those who have studied the economics of that period will know that the year 1920 ushered in for Australia one of the most remarkable periods of growth and prosperity that any country has known. Prom 1920 to 1927 there was a remarkable development. Was that the result of careful planning, departmental guidance, or bureaucratic management and control? Of course, it was not; it was the result of letting the energy, the enterprise and the resourcefulness of the Australian citizen and the Australian community manifest itself in relation to the problems of that day. They were able to get on with the job, and a remarkably fine job they did, too, and all sections of the community profited as a result. Contrast that situation with what we find at the present time. Here in Australia we have a condition of scarcity amidst full employment. The opportunities are there, the community is clamouring for clothing, homes and other necessities; but in the economic sense we are bogged down, just, as Great Britain is bogged down, because the governments of both countries are wedded to the doctrinaire system of controlled economies. Both governments have adopted slavishly the dogma of socialism; they have ignored the advice, the wisdom, and the experience of other parties and ‘ other countries. In this country, as in Great Britain, the Government is embarking upon the greatest gamble ever ventured by any civilized country. In both countries the governments are abandoning a system which, with all its faults, has brought about aprogressiveimprovementofstandards of living and has been responsible for great developments, a system which, as applied in the United States of America, has provided the highest living standards the world has ever known. The British and Australian Governments are abandoning .this well tried and proved system for the great gamble of socialist control and a socialist controlled state. Are they blind to the connexion between these things and what is happening in their respective countries? Is the Australian government blind to the connexion between, the perpetuation in a period of peace of a system which the Australian people will not tolerate in such a period? This is not a socialist country; there has never been a political majority for socialism in Australia, though there may have been a political majority for labor candidates giving lip service to socialism. We are a people who value our individualism and who recognize the advantages we have gained through the enterprise and the efforts of the individual in the past. The Government must be aware of the connexion between these things. What is the Government doing? Wo are finding that Australia is not able to make the products we had hoped for; commerce is unable to exploit opportunities overseas which are there to be taken ; and what is worse, we are finding that we are not getting productive effort or good-will from the great masses of Australian wage earners. In permitting this state of affairs to exist the Government is playing right into the hands of those whom it, claims to be its mortal enemies, the Communists. A great deal has been said in this debate about Communists. I never like to exaggerate the significance of the Communists in Australia because I have always believed that there was but fractional support for them among the people. The real significance of the Communist to-day, however, is to be found, first, in the manner in which he has been able to get into key positions in the unions which play such an important part in Australian affairs. In the second place the Communist has been able to capitalize on the discontent arising out of this Government’s policy and its mismanagement of the country’s affairs. But a little while ago, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was fighting and overcoming the Communists; now, we find the council brought in behind the Communists’ backs. Collective bludgeoning, bargaining or blackmail is becoming the order of the day, and men in this and other parliaments who, by their election by the people, have grave responsibilities to democracy, are associating themselves with policies and personalities directed towards the smashing of parliamentary democracy and the arbitration system which is complementary to it. In the Victorian Parliament we have the extraordinary anomaly of a Minister of Labor, Mr. Clarey, who is sworn to uphold the law, occupying the office of president of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and as such lending himself to a decision to hold a mass strike demonstration on the 1st May next in an attempt to fight and smash the authority of the Arbitration Court. Men elected by the people to uphold parliamentary democracy are sabotaging our democratic institutions by the activities in which they are indulging in other spheres. In this very -Parliament, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), again a man sworn to uphold the law, is also president of the Austraiian Workers Union, one of the most powerful unions in the Commonwealth, and one which only this week has decided, regardless of the decisions of our industrial courts or of our governments, that from the 15th March, its members will work only a five-day week of 40 hours. That is a wilful defiance of the authority of the governments and. of the courts. Here we have men in the equivocal position of hunting with the hounds, and also running with the “hares. They say that they are out to fight ‘ the Communists, but all the time they are strengthening the hands of the Communists. They fight only with words and when action is called for, it is never forthcoming. What has been the result of all this? We have in this country a. challenge and a threat to our system of traditional parliamentary democracy by the most powerful pressure group in our political history - a challenge which at this very moment shows every prospect of succeeding. And what do honorable members opposite propose to do about it ? They are elected to serve the Parliament and the people; but an inevitable consequence of the development to which I refer has been a weakening the authority of the Parliament. The ^policies of trade union groups, irrespective of whether they meet the known wishes of the people, are being placed above the Parliament and above the Government. So long as that condition continues and strengthens as it is strengthening to-day, there will not be any security for parliamentary democracy in this country, and if parliamentary democracy goes then the freedom of the people and all the other things that are our heritage and for which we have fought will go with it.

There are many things that one could say in a debate such as this, but I conclude on this note: A motion of want of confidence in this Government has been moved. We have given illustrations - they are merely that because they could be multiplied a hundredfold - which reflect the utter incapacity of this Government to manage the affairs of the country. We have shown that the Government has surrendered parliamentary autauthority to political groups outside of the Parliament which have no responsibility to the people of this country. Our words of no confidence aro no mere form or shadow of words. They mean not only that this Government has lost the confidence of its political opponents, but also that in the short time since it3 return to office, it has lost the confidence of its own supporters outside of the Parliament, of its own supporters in the Parliament, and if it searches its heart, it will realize that it has lost confidence in itself.

Minister for the Army · Adelaide · ALP

– But for the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) last night I would not have joined in this debate. I do not know whether what he said was a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts or was spoken in ignorance. I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and attribute his remarks to ignorance. I propose to inform his mind on some of the subjects with which he dealt. Before doing so, however, I intend to reply to the attempt of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), just now, and the honorable member for

Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), yesterday, to associate this Government with the Communist party?


– Then why is the Minister wearing a red tie ?

Mr SPEAKER (Hon J S Rosevear:

-Order !


– Last night the Opposition tried to shout down a Minister who was weary after his day’s work when he rose to speak, but I am fresh and I will not be talked down. I intend to expose the facts about political associations with the Communist party. Is it this Government or the Opposition that is associated with the Communist party?

Mr Bowden:

– That’s the stuff.


– Order ! Twice yesterday I warned Opposition members, who have been heard in complete silence so far, that I would not tolerate organized interruption. I warn the Opposition that the next honorable member to interject will be named.


– A fortnight from to-morrow the South Australian general elections will be held. Nominations closed last week. The list of nominations, which I have before me, proves conclusively that this Government has no association with the Communist party.

Mr Bowden:

– That has nothing to do with this debate.


– It has everything to do with it, because the motion of want, of confidence is partly based on the charge that the Australian Labour party is allied to the Communist party. Looking down the list of nominations, I find first of all “ Legislative Council, No. 1 “ Other than members of the Labour party have won that seat in days gone by, but the Liberal-Country League has not nominated a candidate for that seat and the only opposition to tha sitting candidate offered is that of an independent Labour candidate. Other than Labour party candidates have won the Adelaide seat in the Legislative Assembly, but on this occasion- two nominations have been received from the Labour party, one from the Communist party and none from the Liberal-Country League. I find Hindmarsh

Mr Bowden:

– What does the Minister expect?


– Order! The honoi:able member for Gippsland is usually very orderly.

Mi;. CHAMBERS.- This i& the first time in history that the Liberal-Country League has not contested the Hindmarsh seat. The Labour party candidate is being opposed only by a Communist. I know that the Opposition does> not like to hear this,, but it is true and cannot be challenged. Similarly, for the first time in history, the Liberal-Country League is not contesting Port Adelaide, the only candidates being one -member of the Labour party and one member of the Communist party. A similar situation exists- in some of the country electorates. For example, in the State divisions of Frome and Stuart, there are no Liberal-Country League candidates but Australian Labour party candidates are opposed by the Communist party. I stake my political reputation on this, that next Saturday week, the Australian Labour party candidates in the electorates which I have mentioned will receive the degree of support which, on an average, is accorded to the Australian Labour party, but that the votes for Communist candidates will be increased by Liberal-Country League support. In other words, the LiberalCountry League is utilizing the Communists in an endeavour to defeat the Labour party. Can members of the Opposition inform me where the Communist party obtained the money with which to buy the Green Coupon building in George-street, .Sydney, and Nock and Kirby’s building? The Communists certainly did not secure it from the Australian Labour party. I also remind honorable members opposite that in Adelaide, the head-quarters of the Communist party .are situated in Paringa Buildings, which are owned by the Cudmore family. Mr. -0. R. Cudmore is one of the most influential members of the Liberal party in the Legislative Council of South Australia, and I make bold to say that the Cudmores would not permit the secretary of any trade union to occupy rooms in Paringa Buildings, although they allow the Communist party to have rooms and hold, meetings there. And “the Cudmores are great Liberal stalwarts in South Australia.

Does not. that prove that, the: Communists are more closely allied with- the Liberal party and the Australian, Country party than they are with the Labour party?:

Last night the honorable member for Capricornia made certain statements which, I said, either misrepresented the true position, or arose from his lack of knowledge of the circumstances. First, the honorable member contended that ‘services huts, which the Commonwealth owned, should be made available to house homeless people. I inform the honorable member that during the short period that I have been Minister for the Army, these huts have been made available to each State government, and at present 6,0.00 persons ase housed in them. I have asked Senator Amour to ascertain whether any additional hats can he made available- in New South “Wales for homeless people, and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) is making similar inquiries in South Australia. Not satisfied with what has already been done, 1 am also asking honorable members from the other States to investigate whether other huts are available, and if they are, to request the State governments concerned to take control of them.

The honorable member for Capricornia also complained that motor vehicles operated by the services had not been made available to the public. On this subject I have some figures which will interest the honorable member. Of 130,000 vehicles held by the Army during the war, 95,000 have already been sold through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Does that indicate that the Government is not distributing these vehicles to the people who are badly in need of them ? We have done everything possible to release them. However, I will not ask the people to accept broken-down vehicles which would be of no use. Such vehicles may be seen in various parks throughout Australia. They will be held until they are repaired and can -be sold to the people in a satisfactory condition. In spite of this, the Government has already disposed of over 95,000 vehicles.’

The honorable member also referred to shipbuilding. Australia was in a sorry plight due to the lack of shipbuilding yards as the result of the inactivity of the parties which are now in Opposition. It is interesting and illuminating to study what happened when the present Opposition parties were in power and after this Government came into power. . I have made some figures.

Mr McEwen:

– “ Made “ is the right word.


– Then I have taken some figures from statistics, if that phrase suits the honorable member better. During World War I., total losses of British and allied vessels amounted to 15,000,000 tons. The outstanding lesson learned from that war was the absolute necessity for establishing, a shipbuilding industry in Australia and for building up a maritime service by purchasing vessels overseas for the Australian trade. During the period of three years from 1920-23, Australian companies bought overseas vessels to a total value of £9,000,000. The shipbuilding achievements of the Labour Government during World War II. were remarkable. During that war until the end of October, 1945, under a Labour regime-

Mr McBride:

– Who started it? .


– It does not matter who started it. The important point is, who finished it?

Mr McEwen:

– How many ships were built in yards started by a Labour government? Not one!

Mr Ward:

– Who sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers?


– Yes, who sold the ships that Australia did have? The parties opposite, when they were in power, gave those ships away. Those Australian vessels were taking Australian products overseas at freight rates that compared more than favorably with the rates charged by private companies. When the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers began to compete seriously with private enterprise, the anti-Labour government of the day disposed of its ships. It did not sell them; it gave them away. A considerable amount of money representing a part of the sale price of those vessels is still owing to the Commonwealth Government. Yet honorable members opposite talk now about encouraging shipbuilding in Australia! I shall give the figures of Australia’s achievements during World War II. under a Labour administration. During that war, until the end of October, 1945, Australia built 82 steel ships costing £25,000,000. . Of these, fourteen naval vessels were built for Great Britain and India. The size of the vessels built ranged from 700 tons to 9,000 tons dead weight, with speeds of from 30 to 36 knots. Seven more were launched after that date, and the programme provided for the completion of another five by the end of 1946. From the time that Japan entered the war, 12,160 merchant vessels, of a total weight of 53,000,000 tons, received, major repairs in Australia, and 1,SC9 vessels, of a total weight of 6,460,000 tons, were dry-docked in this country. The policy of this Government is that the shipbuilding industry must be maintained instead of being allowed to disintegrate as happened after World War I. To this end, and in order to provide an assured market for the output of Australian shipbuilding yards, the Government proposes that only ships built in Australia will be licensed to engage in the interstate coastal trade. To ensure that ships shall be replaced as they reach the end of their economic life, no ship will be licensed to engage in interstate trade after it has reached the age of 25 years. This will ensure that the merchant fleet will be kept in a modern condition. These proposals do not refer to ships which are already engaged in the coastal trade. They will still be licensed; but, as they fall due for renewal, they will be replaced by Australian-built vessels. Merchant ship construction will be established at the rate of 32,000 tons gross annually. The programme of merchant shipbuilding approved by the Government provides for the construction of thirteen 9,000-ton freighters, four 6,000-ton freighters, ten 2,500-ton freighters, and ten 550-ton freighters. This programme will be completed by about the end of 1947. In addition, the Government has decided to place orders for 25 vessels, the construction of which is to be spread evenly over a period of five years. At this rate of building, it is estimated that the industry will be occupied for ten years in replacing vessels lost during the war, and also in replacing over-age vessels as they fall due for replacement. One could enlarge on this matter, but I shall not detain the House longer with it.

Another matter raised during this debate is the industrial unrest in Australia to-day. We all realize the existence of that state of affairs.

Mr McBride:

– That is illuminating.


– It is all very well for honorable members opposite, who sit cosily in their seats in this House, to criticize the workers of this country. From the moment when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) submitted his motion yesterday afternoon, I have not heard one of them suggest means for solving the industrial unrest that exists not only in Australia but also throughout the world. I shall give reasons for its existence. We are suffering now because of what happened in the years that have passed, during which the workers of Australia were required to work fifty hours and even sixty hours a week. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to laugh and sneer. The fact remains that when the workers had produced all the goods that were needed for consumption in this or any other country, when the coal-miners had hewn so much coal that there was a surplus at grass, when Holden’s motor body building works had completed their contracts, there was no hesitation on the part of the employers in discharging their men and throwing them on to the unemployment market. Then war broke out. Honorable members should not forget that the hundreds of thousands of men who were in the forces are to-day distributed among various industries throughout Australia. Whenever they criticize the workers, they attack men who were prepared to lay down their lives for this country. I believe that the Australian worker is determined that never again will he be placed in such a position that he will be thrown on the industrial scrapheap, and be compelled to live on the dole, as soon as he has produced a surplus of consumer goods.

Mention has been made of the housing of the Australian people. What sort of housing did they have during the depression years? Out at La Perouse, many of them lived in shacks. In my State, people were compelled to live in tin huts and canvas tents on the banks of the Torrens river. Each day, they would collect their miserable rations. Their wives would sneak into the different stores, ashamed of being, recognized. Honorable members opposite sneer and sniggle. I assure them that should ever such a catastrophe occur as that which occurred when they were returned to office, they will never again be able to subject the workers of Australia to the miserable existence that those men had in past years. They have not starved as have many of the working class. They have not seen their wives and children in threadbare clothing. To-day, working people are living in houses more than one hundred years old, which ought to have been condemned thirty years ago because of their disgracefully dilapidated condition. So I say to the House, let us approach this matter from a different angle. Let us realize that the present conditions are a heritage that has been handed down to us. Let the press of Australia take a. different view, and give some encouragement to these men. Today, practically the whole of the- press of Australia condemns the Australian workmen, the very men who fought for Australia. We have to view the matter realistically. When the press and the politicians of Australia pay tribute to these men, who did so much to make their positions and their comfort secure, and ensure to them the living conditions to which they are entitled, I am confident that then, and only then, will they obtain the response that they desire. Never again will the workers of Australia accept a dole of 4s. lid. a week. Those conditions existed, not for a month or a year but for a number of years. I witnessed them, and they were partly responsible for my decision to seek election to this Parliament. I determined that I would do all that I could to prevent a similar situation again arising in this country. I would not be associated with any Government which countenanced such conditions. It is only five months since the last Federal elections were held, yet honorable members opposite have the temerity to claim that the Government has not the confidence of the people. I challenge them to watch for the results of the State elections that are to be held in South Australia in a fortnight’s time.

Mr McBride:

– Hear, hear !


– The honorable member who has interjected “hearhear!” will be rejected by the people at the elections that will be held in two years time. He only just squeezed in at the last elections. The parties that sit opposite claim that we have not the confidence in the people, yet they are not courageous enough to test their fortunes fully at the ballot boxes in the various States. In Western Australia, they have granted immunity to nineteen Labor candidates. That is a definite indication that even the Opposition realizes that the present Labour Government has the confidence of the people.


– This has been a most extraordinary debate, and the conduct of the Ministers who have risen, ostensibly to defend the Government but really to drag a red herring across the trail or to build up a man of straw in order to knock him down immediately, has been the most extraordinary part of it. Listening to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) I was reminded of the biblical reference to the guilty man who flees when no man pursues him. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) spoke last night of the difficulties Australians experienced in the depression years. Three or four weeks ago when I was in ‘Sydney which is in a State where there is a Labour Government, I met dozens of people living under conditions which forced them to confine their cooking to what could be produced by an electric jug, and even then they were almost afraid to boil an egg because of the danger of coming in contact with the live electric wires. They had scarcely any breakfast for days during the gas strike. Yet the Government did nothing. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that we in Australia are doing well. In effect, he said: “ We are only mortally sick, whereas the other fellows are dead. How happy we should be about it “. He went on to say that the coal-miners are producing as much coal to-day as in pre-war years. Daring the seven years that the honorable gentleman has been asleep the popu lation of Australia has grown by half a million, and there has been considerable industrial development. I remind him that much of the development for which the Government takes the credit was the outcome of the foresight and enterprise of the present member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) who, as Minister for Supply in the Menzies Government, started shipyards and other industrial establishments in which machinery from different European countries was installed. The Minister will admit that that machinery could not have been obtained after September, 1939. Australia’s war-time capacity to meet the crisis started years before the war began; yet the present Government claims the credit for Australia’s achievements, instead of giving some of the credit to its predecessors. The Minister takes pride in the fact that production in Australia to-day is equal to what it was in pre-war years. Paney a man saying that the pants which a boy had when seven years of age are good enough for him when he is fourteen years of age! Such an attitude is too silly for words. During this debate we have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and other Ministers reply to the charges levelled against the Government. But what did they say? They did not say anything on the vital matters which affect Australia. They have so far failed to give a lead to this House and the people of Australia that this House should have a free vote to show where it stands, first, ©a the question of reduced taxes and, secondly, as to whether British Empire preference should be maintained instead of allowing it to go down the drain because of some illusory possibilities which may arise from an international trade conference. These are vital matters to Australia; the first affects its internal development, and the second its external relations. If the Government will not give a lead, it should let the matter of reduced taxes be decided by a free vote of the House. I am convinced that if a vote were taken on the subject only members of the Cabinet would oppose a reduction. Every member on this side, and every member on the -back benches on the Government sidle of the House, would support a proposal to reduce taxes. What saved us. in the ‘20?s, the ‘30’s and during the “war but the Empire spirit which caused the British peoples throughout the world to rise up in the defence of one another ? The only political economic unit which fought uninterruptedly throughout the Avar for freedom was the British Empire. No other nation fought as it did, because the British Empire was in the struggle for freedom from the beginning to the end. I say to the Government and the people of Australia and, indeed, to the people of the Empire and of the world, that if men who fought together, speak the same language, think the same thoughts and whose words mean the same thing, cannot fashion out some sound economic policy we cannot expect the representatives of 30 or 40 different nations, of different races and thoughts, to evolve a successful and lasting policy. We must be careful not to give up the substance for the shadow; we must not give ‘up the great institutions of the British Empire for something as yet untried and which may prove to be illusory. Whatever pressure may be applied, we must not let the British Empire disentegrate. The maintenance of that Empire is more in the interests of Australian workers than is almost anything else, because they are the people who benefit from the free institutions associated with British tradition and have been freed from the evils associated with privileged classes in other countries. Because the maintenance of the British Empire is of more interest to them than to other sections of the community I believe that if we had a free vote on this subject in this Parliament we should have an expression of opinion which would make it clear to the delegates who are to proceed to Geneva what this Parliament and the people of Australia really stand for. My own experience in connexion with empire and international consultations is that if Australia takes a definite stand it can always win through. Now is the time for definite action.

Members of all parties appear to be agreed that times are bad. I am reminded of the words of the poet -

The time is out of joint, 0 cursed spite!

That ever I was born to set it right.

Australians ought to be able to do more than others to put things right, because when we compare Australia with other countries engaged in the recent war we are forced to the conclusion that we are most fortunate. Our land was not invaded; our machinery for both primary and secondary production was practically undamaged during the war; Australia had a great influx of wealth because of the presence here of British and American servicemen, whilst large numbers of Australian servicemen did not leave Australia and spent most of their pay in this country. Moreover, the things that Australia produces are the things that the- world needs - food, clothing, shoes, soap and so on. The lack of soap in war-devastated countries is one of the causes of the diseases to be found there. Why is it that we are not yet out of the mess? We had an unexampled opportunity to achieve great things when the war ended, but we failed to accept the chance offered to us. We have missed the ball because of the blundering incompetence of the Government in not making the Australian people keen to work and to produce the goods that are in demand. When we look around what do we find? On all sides there is a demand for fewer working hours and increased wages. How can we get these things except by increasing the total production and wealth of the country, by installing machinery to produce the goods more quickly, and by enabling the workers to buy more with their wages ? That result can be achieved only by reducing taxes; first, direct taxes, and later indirect taxes, thereby increasing the purchasing power of the community. How can a better start be made than by a substantial reduction of taxes ? The Government is obstructing Australia’s progress because of its restricted outlook. The Prime Minister rightly said that what is necessary to overcome our difficulties is a change of psychology on the part of the Australian people. We have been through six years of the torture of war. Women were in agonized suspense, not knowing the fate of their loved ones. Everyone was strained to the limit. Men were working long hours, and the population had to carry on in the face of all sorts of difficulties and restriction. From all this there was a natural physical and mental reaction. People cannot stay tensed indefinitely. We know from our own experience in this House that ia man, even though he may be feeling sick, can nerve himself to make a speech, but he then suffers a reaction. Now, two years after the war is over, the people of Australia are being asked to go on making, sacrifices, and putting up with controls and scarcity, even though the tension has passed. The war has left its mark on. those who went through it. Men learned that the application of force at the right time, .and in the right place, brought victory over the enemy, arid we cannot expect them to believe other than that the same tactics will bring them success in the industrial field. Of course, in peace there must be law and order, but if we cannot coerce men to preserve the peace; we must coax them. A man who has been laid up for five or six weeks suffering from typhoid fever cannot be put to hard physical work immediately he gets out of bed. He must be given proper treatment until he is restored to normal.

Some members of the Labour party must have read history, and know what ought to be done at this time, but apparently they are not strong enough to convince the Prime Minister that the first step towards economic recovery is to reduce taxes. After that, _ we should stimulate and encourage primary production, then expand our secondary industries and our overseas trade. We learn from history that after every great war a wave of idealism sweeps the world, and combinations or leagues are formed which, the people are told, will settle all the troubles of the world, for ever and ever, Amen. Such a league was formed after the Napoleonic wars, Britain taking a prominent part in its formation, but Britain got out of it after about two years. British statesmen tired of the endless and fruitless discussions. After World Wai I. the League of Nations was formed, but it became gradually more and more effete, and of less and less use as an agent for preserving world peace. Indeed, I believe that the world drifted more quickly into another war because the existence of the League of Nations had led statesmen to neglect proper defence measures.

Our first duty should be to render Australia capable of defending itself, and to this end .population must be increased. However, we cannot hope, to induce people to come to Australia unless taxes are reduced and social amenities improved. People who are used to good roads, houses, and such amenities as telephones, radio, electricity and water, will not come to Australia unless that they are assured they can get them here. The public works projects necessary to provide such amenities should bi: given the highest priority.

Let us go back over the record, and see where the Labour Government went wrong, so that we may find out how to get back to the proper path. I believe that the Labour Government took the wrong -turning at the very beginning, when it rejected the British plan of postwar credits. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) admitted, the rejection of that plan did more than anything else to restrict production in Australia, particularly the production of coal. The miners found that if they worked overtime in order to produce more coal they received practically no additional reward for it, because their increased earnings were taken from them in taxes. It was also a mistake to fix the rate of taxes on gross earnings rather than on net earnings, because the workers who, by increased exertion, earned an extra £100, had to pay practically the whole of it into the Treasury in tax. Naturally, the workers reduced their output. Another mistake which the Government made was to tie up the social welfare fund with income tax, and to reduce the amount of exemption to £50. The exemption has been increased somewhat now, but basic wage earners are still liable to contribute to the social welfare fund, and a man receiving £5 a week pays 7s. 6d. for social benefits. This is more than he would have been asked to pay under a system of national insurance. When I was Treasurer in 1923, the first thing I did was to raise the exemption to £300 for a single man, and to increase the exemption for married men so that a man with four children could earn up to £700 before becoming liable for any tax at all. If the same principle were applied now, workers would be encouraged to produce those materials which are now in short supply. All over Australia to-day there are partly finished houses lacking roofs or windows, and they cannot be finished because materials are not available. The Minister for Education in New South Wales, Mr. Heffron, has stated that his Government has a fund of more than £8,000,000 for the ejection of new school buildings, but he cannot get on with the work because materials are not to be had. What is the use of having all this money, the proceeds of high taxation, lying idle in “ kitty “. It would be better in the pockets of the people, who would then be encouraged to get on with the job of producing the goods of which we stand so much in need. It is absolutely senseless to hoard these huge sums in the Treasury and dole them out to the States when the States are powerless to undertake essential works because of the shortage of materials. The Government’s housing programme is in a muddle. The target set for Australia is 380,000 houses, but, during the last three years, not more than 3,600 houses, or less than 2 per cent, of the target, have been built throughout the Commonwealth.

Mr Barnard:

– That is more than the right honorable gentleman did when he had the opportunity as a member of past governments.


– What lies! If the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) examines the facts he will find that in New South Wales’ alone from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 a ‘year was expended on housing when the governments of which I was a member were in office. The point I now make is that the Government will not ensure the construction of houses by passing over the job to some commission or government instrumentality. Even to-day, the Government of New South Wales is letting this work to private contractors because it realizes that only private enterprise can get the job done efficiently and expeditiously. On the other hand, the ordinary member of the community is entangled in red tape. Only recently I met a man who had taken twelve months to obtain a permit to build a home, and last week he let the contract for his home to a private contractor, being driven in desperation to ignore go vernment instrumentalities, including the War Service Homes Commission. The present system followed by the Government in respect of housing construction can only be described as stupid.

Mr Lemmon:

– When the right honorable gentleman was Treasurer all the carpenters and bricklayers in this country were walking the streets looking for employment.


– That is not true; Statistics will show that in 1927 when I was Treasurer a greater number of persons was employed in factories in Australia than ever before in Australia’s history, and that the number then employed was not exceeded until the outbreak of war. During the period when I. was Treasurer the production of wheat, butter and fruit was doubled. Contrast that record with the record of this Government. For instance, during the last six years butte- production has decreased by 40 per cent., and there has been a corresponding loss in other primary industries. This Government’s record in the field of primary production can only be described as tragic. If honorable members opposite had the decency to keep quiet about that record, one would not mind; but they are constantly parading their claims before the public. I venture to say that Great Britain to-day would be much farther out of its difficulties had it, instead of cutting down its imports of food in an all-out effort to build up record exports, decided on a policy as soon after the war as possible of obtaining every bit of food it could obtain in order to feed its people adequately and so help to restore the normal health of the nation. It could then produce for export. I say that with great respect. I admit that Britain’s effort in this regard is most heroic and reflects determination; but I believe that the policy is unsound, and I am glad to note that Lord Woolton agrees with me on that point. Britain is a sick nation so far as the health of its people is concerned. Their first requirement is relaxation and the opportunity to recover normal health standards. In that way they will be enabled to face the tremendous problems of rehabilitation which have been aggravated by the grave losses sustained by Great Britain during the war.

The second ground of the motion of want of confidence against the Government is that it has maintained high rates of taxes although the war has been over for some time. Things have come to such a pass that all honorable members should be given the opportunity, by an open vote, to say by how much present tax rates should be reduced, and when. The next ground of the motion is the failure of the ‘Government to deal effectively with industrial unrest. To-day, wageearners generally are incensed because their wages are reduced by high taxes, and their purchasing power has been reduced because of the Government’s failure to maintain a proper balance between wages and prices. Indeed., the Government did not take any action to control prices until after I pressed it to do so over a period of six months in 1942 and 1948. On the 31st March, 1943, the present High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, who was then Minister for Defence, opposed my proposal to fix a price ceiling; but on the 12th April, 1943, after the House had gone into recess, the Prime Minister implemented my proposal by regulations. Unfortunately, however, the Government has left so many holes in the price ceiling that it has failed to maintain a proper balance between the purchasing power of wages and prices. The present high rates of taxes prevent the wage-earner from increasing his effective income by earning overtime. In addition, the Government permits the wage-earner to be robbed of his fair purchasing power by black marketeers. Only this morning I heard a bright remark about the operations of black marketeers in this country. Discussing the proceedings at the recent South Seas Regional Conference, an acquaintance remarked that while the Government had spent so much time to evolve measures to control the black people in the South Pacific region, not one word was said at the conference about controlling black marketeers in - Australia. The community is incensed because the Government not only permits strikes, but actually reward’s strikers as well. A little study of the subject will show that strikers invariably get something as the result of strikes against this

Government. Surely, the right course to follow in order to maintain the law is to ensure that those who break the law will not be rewarded for doing so.

The Government has sabotaged primary industry, which is of first importance to Australia, because primary producers provide the best market for local manufactures. In the Grafton press to-day 1 read that thirteen dairy-farmers have abandoned their farms in areas in my electorate whilst nineteen have advertised their herds for sale in the adjoining electorate. I cannot recall one exserviceman who has resumed dairyfarming. Nevertheless, this Government sees fit to tax our primary producers and taxpayers generally to the tune of millions of pounds by contracting to sell wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel, which is not sufficient to enable the grower to recover his cost of production and is 9s. below world parity. During the last Parliament I endeavoured to learn the amount by which Great Britain had paid Australia an extra price for supplies of butter in order to increase production. I was then informed that no overpayment had been made, but two months ago the Government paid a subsidy of £d. per lb. to producers, and I have no doubt that that subsidy was paid from a fund which the Government suddenly found in the Treasury resulting from overpayments by the United Kingdom under our butter contract. Now, we are confronted with a serious threat to Empire preference. I was amazed to read in the press a state attributed to Dr. Coombs, the clay after he spoke to the various parties, in which he appeared to take it for granted that Empire preference was going down grade.

Mr Calwell:

Dr. Coombs did not say anything of the kind.


– Will the Minis’ter for Information (Mr. Calwell) give me an assurance that the Government will not sacrifice Empire preference in any degree whatever? The Minister does not answer. In these circumstances, I ask that Parliament be given the opportunity to say whether it will maintain Empire preference. It was largely because of Empire preference that Australia was able to prosper following World War I.

The Government ha3 failed to maintain to an effective degree a policy for the migration of British people to this country. We want more of our kith and kin in the Old Country to come here. The Minister for Immigration has found boats for the conveyance of people of other nationalities. We should provide equal facilities for the transport of British migrants. There are at least from 70,000 to S0,000 who are waiting to come to Australia.

Mr Barnard:

– Despite our high taxes.


– They will be the first to vote against the Government’s present taxation policy. The first thing they will ask for is a national insurance scheme. The Government has also failed to give the highest priority to a programme of water conservation and power works for our future development and expansion. Figures relating to the Clarence River County Council undertaking show that the council has had on order for the last eighteen months £130,000 worth of equipment intended for the reticulation of electric power to farms in the district. Notwithstanding the fact that orders for the equipment were placed six or seven years ago - deliveries were held up during the war - to date the council has been able to obtain only £16,000 worth. It is desirous of expending another £700,000 for the provision of amenities for people living within the area of its franchise; but it finds itself placed right down on the list of priorities for materials. The Government should review the priority system with the object of giving such instrumentalities a fairer deal.

I propose to say a word or two about the contract for the sale of Australian wheat to New Zealand. I do not need to deal at any length with the facts; they are well known and were admirably dealt with by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), whose recapitulation of them was so thoroughly corroborated by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) when he admitted that the statements made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand in the Parliament of that dominion were absolutely true. A royal commission should be appointed to go into the whole matter to make certain that such things will not occur again and to ensure that information given by Ministers in this Parliament will, in future, be correct. Such a royal commission should also take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that provision be made in any future agreements for the disposal of the products of our farmers that such sale of products shall not be used to the disadvantage of farmers in an adjoining dominion. I know of no way more likely to bring about dissension between dominions than that followed by the Government in this matter. It is most unfortunate that the Prime Minister of New Zealand should have announced in the Parliament of that dominion that the agreement was being held up because of the Australian elections. There should be no attempt to relate the politics of one part of the Empire to those of another, and when a representative of Australia goes to another dominion, whether he be a private member of the Parliament or a Minister, he should speak for the whole of Australia and forget his party alinements. It is most regrettable that the politics of one dominion should be allowed to interfere with the politics of another dominion, and I trust that the disclosures made during this debate will result in steps being taken to ensure that there can be no repetition of these undesirable and unfortunate happenings.

Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration · Melbourne · ALP

– In closing this debate I desire to say a few words in reply to honorable members opposite on the questions of taxation, industrial matters, the economic state of the country and foreign policy. As I listened to the Jeremiahs opposite I was reminded of a phrase uttered by the late Mr. Lloyd George on the formation of the Ramsay Macdonald Ministry in Great Britain. Lloyd George had a flair for the picturesque; he was a master of the art of the graphic phrase; and in one of his oratorical moments he very untruthfully said, “ The western skies are black with the flight of capital “. If the country were in the bad position the Opposition has endeavoured to make out in this debate one would imagine Australia to be the worst country instead of the best country in the world in which any civilized community could reside; one would have imagined there was chaos in our financial affairs, that our economy was more or less bankrupt and that the nation was facing one of the worst disasters in its history. There is no substance in such claims. I am not a subscriber to the Melbourne Argus and I do not often read its Financial Supplement; but apparently I should become a devotee of that organ, if what it published in its issue of the 13th February is typical of the truths it will tell in future about the Australian scene. I read three interesting statements in the publication, to which I have referred. The first, which deals with the question of war costs and discusses the increase of the internal debt in Australia, reads as follows: -

Australia relied on internal borrowing th is time, and even paid off certain overseas debts, and accumulated overseas balances also. These balances will probably soon be required to purchase capital goods which we have done without during the war. But reduction of overseas debt will remain, and instead of £3 15s. a year which had to be paid overseas through exports on behalf of every single Australian to meet the interest hill we now have to send only £3 a year.

To whose credit is that but that of this Government? And if that situation is so good as to warrant encomiums from the Melbourne Argus, what have honorable members opposite to complain about ? The second statement, which deals with clearing house returns, reads -

Clearing house returns for the Commonwealth show that total clearings during 1940 were over 20 per cent, above the 1945 total, and included increases for every clearing house in Australia.

It does not look from the statement that the country is going bankrupt under the legislation or the administration of this Government. The statement continues -

The total for 1940 was £4.077,000,000, against £3,800,000,000 in the previous year.

If clearing house returns reveal the general state of prosperity of the nation the capitalist system seems to be thriving very well for those who control and operate it. When, however, the workers ask for a share of the increasing prosperity of the nation they are told that they must not expect any increases of real wages, that they can be given no marginal increases and no share of the increasing productivity of their labour. Well, theworkers do not believe in, that view, and so there is a good deal of industrial unrest. Capitalism is functioning very well in Australia to-day ; dividends are reaching a record high, transfers to reserves are greater than they ever were before,, and the amount of profit earned is the greatest in- the history of the country. There ‘have been some complaints that dividends have been reduced. If dividends have fallen in some cases it is because the policy of the nation in respect of interest charges as determined by the Commonwealth Bank, is to bring about lower rates, and that is the best thing that could happen in any nation. The third statement from the Melbourne Argus deals with the report of the British Export Trade Research Organization. This body, which has made a review of the Australian market, suggests that there is a huge volume of unsatisfied demand for both consumer and capital goods in Australia. The statement reads -

Australia is on the threshold of a period of remarkable economic development, in which Great Britain can share both by the export of capital and industrial skill and consumer goods.

Mr White:

– Quite right.


– If, as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) says, it is quite right, there cannot be much wrong with the country or its management by the Government, and there can be no justification for the motion of want of confidence which he ‘helped to engineer in the Liberal party caucus meeting early this week. I compliment the Opposition in one respect. The leaders of the Opposition parties have kept their wild men out of this debate. The honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. White) and Moreton (Mr. Francis) have been restrained, no doubt with considerable difficulty, and the honorable members for New England (Mr. Abbott) and Richmond (Mr. Anthony), two other irresponsibles-


– Order !


– Two other irresponsible gentlemen, politically speaking, have likewise been silenced on this occasion. “ The silence of Dean Maitland “ has nothing on the silence of the honorable gentlemen to whom I have referred. The case put by the Opposition-

Motion (by Mr. White) put -

That the question be now put.

Mr. Speaker having declared the motion negatived on the voices,


– The case put by the Opposition for a reduction of taxes is baseless. In fact, there is no case. Actually, honorable members opposite have expressed two points of view.

Mr. White having indicated his desire that the House should divide,

Mr SPEAKER (Hon J S Rosevear:

– Order! The honorable member for Balaclava suggests that there should have been a division. Does any honorable member of the Opposition support that view?

Mr Gullett:

– Yes.


– The House will divide.

The bells having been rung,


– In deference to the

Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who has intimated to me that the division should be called off, I should like to make it clear that the honorable member for Balaclava moved : “ That the question be now put “. I put that motion, and declared that, in my opinion, the “ Noes “ had it. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) then proceeded to continue his speech, but the honorable member for Balaclava insisted that there be a division. I then said : “ Does any honorable member of the Opposition support that view “ ? and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that he did. In the circumstances it was necessary to call upon the House to divide.

Motion (by Mr. White) put -

That the question be now put

The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)


NOES: 63

Majority….. . . 61



Question so resolved in the negative.

References to heavy taxes seem to be somewhat insincere, because the Opposition is not really concerned about the men in the low income groups. It is true that honorable members opposite would reduce the amount of income tax which men in receipt pf. low wages have to pay, but I point out that every one in the lower-income groups does not now pay income tax. Whilst honorable members opposite would reduce income tax, they would, as the right honorable member for Cowper said, introduce a national insurance scheme. That would mean the imposition, on low incomes, of a flat rate of tax very much in excess, in the aggregate, and in each individual case, of the amount which the workers pay to-day both for social security and as income tax. However, this argument was thrashed out at the last elections, and the Australian people, in their wisdom, and, I believe rightly, decided that the Labor government, which had done a good job during the previous four years, could be trusted still to guide the destinies of Australia sensibly and to the benefit of the whole community. I emphasize that the workers in Australian factories to-day receive in wages and salaries only 50 per cent, of the added cost of production, that is, only half of the amount paid for everything other than the cost of materials used, and power, fuel and light. They got that 30 years ago. The workers’ share in industry should not be static. In a progressive community, we have to ensure that the people who own the means of production, distribution and exchange, and who own the machines which are the product of the inventiveness of human genius, are not given the whole of the benefits of scientific advances. If we desire to have a contented community, we must see that everybody can have a happy and a full life. The average man and woman need very little to satisfy their material wants. .They desire a good home, a regular income and social security. They require an assurance that they will not be impoverished when some ill wind blows. They want to feel that they are living in a civilized Christian community. This Labour Government is trying to bring about that state of affairs.

The Prime Minister has said rightly that taxes will be reduced as circumstances permit. The Government has already reduced taxes on three occasions, first, by £20,000,000, secondly, by £17,000,000, together with an improvement of £4j000,000 in the means test situation, and thirdly, by indirect taxa-tion concessions totalling £20,000,000. The remissions of indirect taxes benefited most of all the great mass of the people on low wages. In due course, and at the appointed date, to use the classic phrase of the Prime Minister, taxation will be again discussed by this Parliament. Nobody desires to retain taxes at a high level. No member of this Government, or of the Labour party, is so sadistic that he desires to inflict upon the people a heavy burden of taxes, and then sit back and enjoy their suffering. The truth of the matter is that, relatively, we are not carrying any greater burden than the people are carrying in other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. To the leaders of the Liberal party who are so anxious for taxation reduction on their big incomes, I offer the solace that they are no worse off, and certainly not nearly so badly off, as is the Emperor of Japan who, according to a recent news item, has to pay 90 per cent, of his income as tax. In Australia, we have emerged from the most terrible situation in our history. We have done so with our economy intact, and with less disturbance, social and industrial, than has occurred anywhere else. We are probably in the best position of all the nations within the British Commonwealth, with the possible exception of Canada and South Africa, to take advantage of the opportunities to expand our trade. At least, the Melbourne Argus does not find any cause to criticize our handling of financial affairs.

Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -

That the question be now put.

The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)

AYES: 36

NOES: 29

Majority . . . . 7



Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Question put -

That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.

The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)

AYES: 28

NOES: 37

Majority . . . . 9



Question so resolved in the negative.

page 123


Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.

page 123


Withdrawal of Petition

The Clerk laid upon the table an Order of the High Court, which he had received from the District Registrar of the High Court, at Sydney, giving leave to Ronald Grafton Sarina to withdraw a Petition lodged by him against the return of William Paul O’Connor as Member for the electoral division of West Sydney.

page 123


Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the prevention or settlement by conciliation or arbitration of industrial disputes in connexion with stevedoring operations, to regulate industrial matters in connexion with stevedoring operations in the course of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States, to regulate and control the performance of stevedoring operations, to provide for the establishment of a Stevedoring Industry Commission, and for other purposes.

Bill presented, and read a first time.

Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.

Second Reading

Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs · Barton · ALP

by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The aim of the bill is to achieve industrial peace, and continuity and efficiency of work in the stevedoring industry, which is an essential factor in the transport of this country and thus to its economy. The importance of sea transport in the trade and commerce of Australia can hardly be overstated. The great bulk of interstate trade is conducted by shipping, and, indeed, there are parte of the Commonwealth which cannot be served commercially except by sea. The special position of Tasmania, of Western Australian ports, and of Queensland ports and Darwin illustrate the dependence of Australia on sea transport for interstate trade, while the entire overseas trade is carried out by shipping.

Stevedoring operations constitute a vital part of sea transport, and the costs of loading and unloading absorb a considerable proportion of freight charges. The costs of industrial dislocation in the conduct of stevedoring operations must inevitably be. reflected in shipping freight charges. Moreover, the relative efficiency or inefficiency of the industry will show itself in costs to be borne in the first instance in freights, and ultimately in the cost of living, and in the return to primary producers for their wool and wheat, and lead and zinc, and other articles of Australia’s export trade. The Government now proposes to Parliament that special machinery be set up to govern the conditions of the stevedoring industry. The bill will continue in existence the war-time Stevedoring Industry Com.mission, and empower this body to prescribe the industrial conditions of the industry, and administer the employment bureaus and amenities which it sets up and approves.

The Government believes this special action to be justified, after consideration of the history of the Australian waterfront, of the war-time experience of the present Stevedoring Commission, and of the steps which have been taken in other countries to achieve industrial peace and satisfactory working results. The Government, in formulating this special plan for the governance and supervision of the stevedoring industry, has had special regard to particular features, cither not present in other industries or operating with more marked and significant effect in the stevedoring industry than elsewhere. The Government is seised of the. necessity for providing machinery to ensure rapid settlement of disputes, since prolongation of industrial troubles has such immediate and serious effects on trade and commerce generally.

Grave and careful consideration has been given to the report submitted to it by His Honour Judge Foster, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The judge had a long inquiry, with many public sittings, at which evidence and opinion were taken from both employers and employees.

Soon after the outbreak of war with Japan, Australia was confronted with an emergency situation in respect of shipping. Accordingly, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, took action to meet the problem of obtaining a ‘better system of control on the waterfront, and a quicker turn-round for ships. A committee of advisers was called into consultation and devised a plan for the Stevedoring Industry Commission which was thereupon constituted by the Government under National Security Regulations.

The war-time commission then established included a. chairman, and an equal number of representatives of employer and employee interests.. A Government representative was added, the latter, how- ever, having no voting power. The operations of the commission met with a considerable degree of success, particularly as a man-power authority. Its operations were subject to criticism, and there were differences of opinion as to its possible retention in the post-war period. The alternative, so far as settlement of wages and conditions are concerned, was a complete return to the Arbitration Court, whose relevant awards remained the basic industrial charter of the industry, though subject to alteration by the Stevedoring Industry Commission acting within its defence powers.

On the 19th October, 1945, Judge Foster was appointed to -conduct an inquiry into the industry. The terms of reference to His Honour were comprehensive. The measure which has been drafted, and is now before the House, follows the broad recommendations contained in Judge Foster’s report.

I now state for the information of the House the main features of the bill. Upon the passing of the bill, Part V. of the National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations will be repealed. These regulations are the statutory authority under which the present Stevedoring Industry Commission is appointed and upon the repeal of the regulations the present body will cease to exist. The bill contains saving clauses in respect of the officers and employees of the present commission, provides for transfer to the new commission of the assets, liabilities and contractual obligations of the expiring body, and takes over as registered waterside workers all those persons who, at the date of operation of the proposed new law, are registered waterside workers, workers.

The new commission will consist of a chairman, who is to be a judge of the Arbitration Court or a Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner, and five other members, one to represent overseas shipowners, one to represent Australian shipowners,, two to represent the Waterside Workers Federation, while the remaining member, who will not be entitled to vote on the commission’s proceedings, is to be an. officer of the Commonwealth.

As in the case of the- old commission, the Waterside Workers Federation is to provide the employees’ representation on the commission. Judge Foster^ while specifically recommending that there shall be only one union recognized in the industry, has stated that in his view the abolition of the other union, the Permanent and Casual Union, whose members also work on the waterfront under Stevedoring Industry Commission orders, should be on terms appearing to be just to the new authority to be created. The hill provides, therefore, for continuance of existing registrations, thus guarding the position in this respect of members of the Permanent and Casual Union. At the same time, future employee registrations will be confined to members of the “Waterside Workers Federation, which includes the overwhelming majority of present waterside workers.

The bill also provides for the creation of Waterside Employment Committees fit ports on the same model as the commission itself. On these port committees there will bc equal employer and employee representation, with an independent chair-man. The appointments of members and chairmen of waterside employment committees will be by the Minister, on recommendation of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The committees, or in some matters, the chairman, will be assigned considerable powers in administrative and disciplinary matters: by the commission. The Waterside Employment Committee will be the local replica of the main commission, and its officers the local branch of the Stevedoring Industry Commission’s organization. On matters relating to discipline and offences against the commission’s or the committee’s order and direction, an appeal from the committee to the Stevedoring Industry Commission is provided for.

Mr Hughes:

– Is there any power to determine the number of persons who may become members of the union?


– There is no power in that sense, but there is power to determine the number of persons who may be employed in the industry, and in some circumstances when there is a demand for additional workers, they need mot be members of the federation.

Mr Menzies:

– Is the commission to be the employer?


– No. I refer to employment on the waterfront under the registration system. The officer’ of the Commonwealth to be appointed to the commission will have no voting power. Where the representatives of employers and employees take opposite views, a decision must be taken on the chairman’s vote. The chairman, therefore, will carry a grave responsibility. In an appreciable number of instances the decision of the chairman will, in fact, be the decision of the commission. The problems to be faced and solved will require patient and profound study, and success for the commission’s activities will demand from it painstaking efforts for which goodwill is essential. It is not to be expected that the commission will achieve instantaneous success, but I believe that it will provide the only long-term solution for the wage regulation of this key Australian industry. The difficulties which surround the waterfront do not appear to have been solved satisfactorily and finally in any part of the world. The chairman will have a role to fill as guardian of the general Australian interest. The Government’s view is that the chairman must, therefore, be skilled and experienced in industrial administration, and this of necessity dictates the choice as chairman of a judge of the Arbitration Court or a Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner. In connexion with the appointment of conciliation commissioners I mention that in a bill to be introduced later this session the Government proposes to take power to appoint conciliation commissioners with a substantial security of tenure and higher status than they enjoy under the present law.

The functions and powers of the commission are described in clauses 11 and 13 and the ‘Government purposes to clothe this body with the maximum powers which the Constitution allows and which are appropriate to industrial tribunals. The commission will exercise jurisdiction in relation to disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one .State - a jurisdiction, in respect of this industry, similar to that now accorded the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The commission will also exercise a jurisdiction in relation to industrial matters in connexion with stevedoring operations insofar as those operations relate to trade and commerce with other countries or among the States, it being possible to employ this latter power because of the direct bearing of stevedoring operations on interstate and overseas transport. The courts have decided that the operation of stevedoring is a part of overseas or interstate trade. Vested with these extensive powers, the commission will be legally, as well as technically, equipped to deal with practically every dispute or potential dispute in the industry wherever in Australia that dispute arises or is threatened.

In touching upon the powers and functions of the proposed new commission, it is proper to suppose that it will conduct certain operations which are either inappropriate to the Arbitration Court, or beyond the powers of that body. For instance the conduct of employment bureaus and the provision and administration of welfare services and amenities are functions for the performance of which the Arbitration Court is not designed. Decasualize tion - or the attempt to give permanent employment to workers in this industry - towards which a step has already been taken by the present commission’s order for payment of attendance money to men who are available for work but do not receive engagement, would, if decided upon, involve special administrative and executive problems also beyond the competence of the Arbitration Court. The conferring of these special functions on the commission illustrates the necessity for establishing it apart from the court, although in the main it will exercise the powers of the existing court.

The Stevedoring Industry Commission will not have power to alter the standard hours or the basic wage for waterside workers, or the principles upon which thatwage is computed, except in conformitywith awards of the Arbitration Court acting as a full court.

Mr Hughes:

– How is that reconciled with the power referred to in clause 13?


– Clause 16 provides that in respect of standard hours and the basic wage the commission must act in conformity with decisions of the court. The clause reads -

The commission shall not -

alter the standard hours of waterside workers ; or

alter the basic wage applicable to waterside workers or the principles upon which it is computed, otherwise than in conformity with the awards of the court with respect to standard hours, or the basic wage, as the case may be.

Mr Hughes:

– That is decided by the court, yet under clause 13 the commission may do certain things.


-Clause 13 must be read subject to the conditions contained in clause 16. Although the commission may regulate industrial hours and conditions it is obliged to act in conformity with the conditions set out in clause 16. With these exceptions, the Stevedoring Industry Commission will exercise complete industrial jurisdiction in the industry. Moreover, under the new act there will be no right of appeal from its decisions, although, as to its awards and orders in relation to matters of law, references may be made to the Arbitration Court.

The commission will have the important power to determine port quotas ; that is, the number of waterside workers necessary for the working of any port, and to rela te the number of registered workers to the quota which it determines. The importance of and necessity for this power is evident when the effect of partial or total decasualization is considered. The necessity for just and reasonable measures and discipline in the industry is agreed upon by all concerned, but the achieving of this result is notoriously a difficult task. The employees desire economic security and a reasonable sharing of available work, and thus equality of earnings at particular ports. Rotary systems of engagement are now in operation and attendance at pick-up centres is in general compulsory, but provisions of this nature are inconsistent with refusals by employers to accept men allotted to them by employment bureaus under the commission’s direction. The present mode of discipline is the suspension, or the cancellation, of registration by the commission or by waterside committees acting under delegated powers.

Almost inevitably employers and employees differ in their opinions as to the degree and severity of discipline to be enforced and as to the jurisdiction for imposition of penalties in particular instances. The commission’s specific power is that of cancelling or suspending registration of either employers or employees, and where such registration is either cancelled or suspended it will be an offence for the person concerned to engage waterside labour or undertake waterside labour, a.j the case may be. The commission, however, is not a court and cannot itself impose fines. Where it is reported to the commission that an offence has been committed under the proposed constitution, the commission may inquire and hear evidence, determine whether the offence has been committed, and record its opinion a? to the penalty which should be imposed.

Mr Menzies:

– Will that be binding upon some ordinary court?


– It is clear that it will not be binding.

Mr Menzies:

So it does not actually mean “determine whether the offence has been committed “.

Bv. EVATT. - Determine, not in the strict legal sense, but only in the popular sense. It- will be admissible before an ordinary court, but will not be binding on the court. I really think that this leads up to the further point that the real sanction in this case will be the registration system rather than the system of penalty.

Mr Rankin:

– In regard to casualization, who will have the authority to decide what men will go out of the industry?


– Under the system of quotas, that will ultimately turn upon a decision of the commission.

One of the major difficulties in achieving agreement between employers and employees in the past has resulted from there being no single employer or body of employers, but a number of separate and single employers. In a number of major instances the commission will act on behalf of the body of employers. The labour, as honorable members know, has been almost entirely .casual labour.

At the present juncture, attendance money is being paid by the commission, and some welfare amenities are being afforded by or for it.

Mr Menzies:

– I suppose that means that at present the attendance money is being provided for the commission by the Treasury?


– On the financial aspect, I shall indicate in a few moments what is being done now and what is proposed to be done.

Mr Chifley:

– At present, the commission makes the award but has not the money to make the payment. That is being provided temporarily by the Treasury.


– The employment bureaus are administered by the commission and its officers. The initial costs of these and similar steps, together with the administrative expenses of the commission, are met from Commonwealth Government funds. It has been decided that these charges, which properly belong to the industry, shall be recovered by means of a levy on employers. Taxation legislation is being prepared to give effect to this principle, and it will be introduced as auxiliary to the present measures. The proceeds of the tax will be paid in the first instance to Consolidated Revenue, and an equivalent amount will be credited to the Stevedoring Industry Commission fund. The commission will be required to prepare a budget and to obtain the approval of the Minister to it. The representative tax, which it is proposed shall be collected from employers on a man-hour basis, will be directly related to the representative expenditure by the commission. It is emphasized that the major portion of the commission’s expenditure will be undertaken by the commission. This is being done not only as a matter of convenience and for economy in administration but also because, although there are numerous employers in the industry, there is no one body of employers to undertake the general responsibilities of the industry towards the man-power which the industry needs.

It is apparent, from the account that has been given of this measure, that -the

Government, in presenting it, has provided a tribunal for the industry to fix its industrial and related conditions, but is not itself prescribing those conditions. The Government is merely establishing machinery to enable management and workers to co-operate in this matter under the chairmanship of an impartial adjudicator.

A considerable body of information has been made available to the Government regarding measures taken in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and elsewhere to regulate the stevedoring industries of those countries, and much valuable guidance can be obtained from what has been attempted elsewhere. The Government holds the opinion that its duty to the community and the Stevedoring Industry Commission is to provide the tribunal for determining conditions and the machinery for administering the industry. The bill also reflects the Government’s general approval of the Foster report.

A heavy and complex task awaits the new commission. The industry which it will govern has a long history of turbulence, and relations between employers and employees have frequently been embittered. The commission must, and no doubt will, strive to achieve co-operation between employers and employees in the industry. This co-operation must also extend to harbour authorities, and probably to controllers . of other forms of transport. There is an urgent necessity for a re-examination of all of these conditions, with a view to securing the maximum continuity of operations in the shipping industry, based upon the essential condition of employment for its workers, namely, a just reward for arduous public service. These are the tasks for the new commission. It is now in the power of the Parliament to equip the proposed commission for the discharge of its high functions.

It would be misleading to hail the bill a? a complete remedy or panacea for the evils which have disturbed the industry for so long. A very great deal will depend upon the skill, impartiality and sympathetic administration of the commission, and especially its chairman. Certainly, the. new plan will mark an important step forward. A very bold experiment is involved, and we must endeavour to make it a success.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.

page 128


Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Apple and Pear Organization Act 1938, and for other purposes.

Bill presented, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · Ballarat · ALP

by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the Apple and Pear Organization Act, No. 5S of 1938, to provide for the reestablishment of the Australian Apple and Pear Board, constituted under that act for the purpose of regulating and controlling the export of apples and pears from the Commonwealth. That board was set up inMay, 1939, but owing to the outbreak of war it had little opportunity to deal with other than preliminary matters before overseas exports ceased. Action was then taken to introduce the acquisition scheme under National Security Regulations, and a special authority named the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board was set up to administer the scheme. It should be stressed that the board with which this measure is concerned is the pre-war export board, and that it should not be confused with the emergency board that was established to handle the acquisition arrangements. “When the three-years tenure of office of the industry representatives on the Apple and Pear Board expired in 1942, action was taken to postpone the re-appointment of members of the hoard until more normal conditions were operating. In view of the gradual restoration of out export trade, the Governnent now proposes to reinstate the Australian Apple and Pear Board, so that t proper statutory body shall be available to advise and assist in dealing with the important industry problems that are likely to arise with the gradual rehabilitation of overseas markets. The board was composed originally of sixteen members, consisting of eleven growers, four exporters and a government member. As it is the view of the Government that more effective administration would be achieved by a smaller body, the amending act provides for a total of twelve members, who will be representative of the following interests: - Commonwealth Government representative, one, who will be Chairman of the Board; growers’ representatives, consisting of two for Tasmania and one for each of the other States, seven; exporters’ representatives, one each for Tasmania and Western Australia and one for the other States, three; and a representative of the employees engaged in the apple and pear industry; making a total of twelve. The persons to represent the growers in the industry are to be elected by a poll of the growers occupying an orchard of not less than five acres of apples or pears.

It is proposed to strengthen the provisions of the act in relation to export control so that more effective supervision may be exercised for the orderly marketing of overseas exports, thus bringing this act into line with the marketing legislation for such other export products as dried and canned fruits. Concurrently with the passing of the Apple and Pear Organization Act of 193S, legislation was enacted to enable the Apple and Pear Board to take action for the purpose of increasing and extending the consumption of apples and pears in Australia by means of publicity and research, and forthe improvement of production in the industry. The funds for this purpose were to be derived from a tax on all apples and pears sold in Australia for consumption as fresh fruit. Because of the emergency conditions which arose within the industry at the outbreak of the war these measures were deferred and have not been put into effect. The Government does not intend to proceed with this levy on local sales of fruit and has provided for the repeal of the Apple and Pear Publicity and Research Act and the related Apple and Pear Tax Acts. Provision has been made in the amending bill, however, for an extension of the functions of the Apple and Pear Board to embrace the [s] activities referred to in connexion with the welfare of the industry.

Mr Anthony:

– Will that mean the abolition of the present Equalization Boards ?


Yes ; they go out of existence. This board is financed ‘by a levy on all apples and pears exported from Australia. The Apple and Pear Export Charges Act provides for a maximum levy of id. a case, subject to a lower rate being prescribed. At present the prescribed rate is -Jd. a case. It is intended to introduce legislation to increase the maximum levy to Id. a case to provide for additional revenue for the board’s activities should such be considered necessary or desirable.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.

page 129


Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -

That leu ve be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the transfer to the Commonwealth Service of certain employees of the Repatriation Commission and of the War Service Homes Commission, and for other purposes.

Bill presented, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientfic and Industrial Research · Corio · ALP

by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act to permit the staffs of the Repatriation Department, other than those permanently holding statutory offices, and of the War Service Homes Commission being brought under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. At present the staffs concerned are not subject to the Commonwealth Public Service Act but are engaged by the commissions for such periods and are subject to such conditions as are prescribed. Representations that the staffs of activities such as these should be brought under the Public Service Act have been made to the Government by Public Service organizations whose membership covers most of the classes of employees affected. The committee which, at the request of the Government, last year investigated departments, by majority report also recommended that the staffs of Commonwealth activities generally should be under the Public Service Act. As a principle the Government feels that, as far as possible, all Commonwealth activities should be brought directly under the Public Service Act, thus ensuring a uniform system for staffing and for determining matters relating to salary fixation and the general conditions of employment of all Commonwealth employees by a centralized body which has had extensive experience in personnel administration.

It will be generally agreed that, unless there are very special reasons for a contrary course, no Commonwealth activity should stand alone, and, in effect, be excluded from the oversight and review of its organization, methods, &c, on lines which Parliament has laid down in section 17 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, just as none with financial responsibility is free from checks imposed by the Audit Act. The bill provides the machinery for transfer of the staffs concerned to the control of the Commonwealth Public .Service Act. Any information desired in regard to the separate clauses can be given at the committee stage. At this juncture it will suffice to say that the existing rights and privileges of the staffs are being retained in the bill, and that in respect of the staffing of the commissions the existing legislative provision regarding soldier preferences is not being altered.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.

page 130


In Committee if Ways and Means:

Prime Minister and Treasurer · Macquarie · ALP

– I move -

That, i” respect of all apples and pears exported from the Commonwealth, in lieu of the rate of charges imposed by the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938 and subject to a lower rate being prescribed by regulations under that Act as proposed to be amended by the bill to give effect to this resolution, charges be imposed at the rate of One penny for each case, two half-cases or three trays of apples or pears exported.

In explanation of this motion, I point out that the purpose of the bill which will be based on it is to increase the maximum charge which may be imposed on apples and pears exported from the Commonwealth. The Apple and Pear Export Charges Act at present provides for a maximum charge of three farthings a case, subject to any lower rate being prescribed by regulations. The rate at present prescribed by regulation is one half-penny a case. It is proposed to increase the maximum charge which may be imposed under the act from three farthings a case to one penny a case. The whole amount of the levies collected is paid to the Australian Apple and Pear Board and is applied to meeting the administrative costs and other expenditure of the board under the Apple and Pear Organization Act. By virtue of action proposed in the Apple and Pear Organization Bill, the functions of the board are to be extended to embrace additional services to the apple and pear industry. The increase of the maximum rate of levy is intended to provide for any additional revenue which may be considered necessary or desirable to enable the further functions of the board to be effectively applied in the interests of the industry.

Progress reported.

page 130


Parliamentary Sittings - Drought Relief - Land Settlement of exServiceme- Repatriation Hospitals - Food for Great Britain - Dairying - Tuberculosis - Empire Trade Preference- - Northern Territory : Allocation of Pastoral Land.

Prime Minister and Treasurer · Macquarie · ALP

[2.56J. - I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

I take this opportunity to inform honorable members that it is not proposed that the House shall meet on Tuesday next or on the following Tuesday.


– I take this opportunity to refer to two related matters, one of a general nature affecting the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, and the other affecting in particular the primary producers of Queensland. I shall deal with the latter first. Dairymen in Queensland have approached the Queensland Government and have sent telegrams to me protesting against those living in drought-stricken areas being denied the drought relief subsidy which is paid to primary producers in New South Wales. During the week the Government announced that a. subsidy of 2£d. per lb. would be paid to farmers in respect of commercial butter produced in certain drought-affected districts in New South Wales on condition that the State Government contributed to the expenditure on a £1 for £1 basis. Queensland is suffering more intensely from drought conditions than is New South Wales or, in fact, any other State. Proof of this is to be found in the production statistics issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, which show that prim ry production in Queensland in 1946 dropped to less than 50 per cent, of that for the preceding year. During the six months July to December, 1945, butter production in Queensland amounted to 21,392 tons. During the same period in 1946 production in that State fell to 10,856 tons. The figures relating to cheese production are even more depressing, the respective figures for the periods mentioned being 6,453 tons and 2,904 tons. I am aware that a subsidy has been paid to milk producers in Queensland, but no subsidy is paid to the producers of cream other than that included in the over-all fixed price of ls. 7-Jd. per lb. for butter. What is the reason for this discrimination against the producers of Queensland ? Is it because the Queensland Government refused to subsidize payments on a £1 for £1 basis?

Mr Scully:

-. - Yes.


– I thought so because I know that the Queensland Government has been unsympathetic towards those suffering from the effects of drought. Am. I to understand that the Commonwealth Government is still prepared to make the grant if the Queensland Government will fall into line and contribute to the payments on a £1 for £1 basis?

Mr Scully:

– Yes.


– Now we know where we stand. Dme to the policy of the State Government Queensland primary producers who have been affected to the greatest degree by drought conditions - some areas in the State have been drought stricken for three years in succession - will receive no assistance. 1 noticed a report in the press recently that the State Minister for Agriculture had claimed that the Queensland Government lias been very liberal in its treatment of those in need of sustenance. The liberality of the State Government, however, is restricted to loans. When a man is down and out because of drought conditions, when he loses his stock and crops, of what use is a loan ? Such a man does not want to add to his financial burden ; he needs assistance to help him save his herds and stock which are so vitally necessary if production is to be restored. T thank the Minister for his assurance and I shall be glad to pass it on to the dairymen’s organizations concerned.

The other matter to which I desire to refer concerns the welfare of returned servicemen settled on the land. Because of continued drought Queensland wheatgrowers have had to restrict their plantings to a minimum. There are at least 20 or 30 ex-servicemen -in the wheatgrowing .areas who are working their properties on a share basis. They invested every penny they had in getting the land ready. Some of them have cleared as much as 400 acres, which they proposed to work on a share basis, looking to the proceeds from their crops for the first year or two to compensate them for their outlay and their labour; but because the winter and early summer crops have failed they are in a bad way. Under the Reestablishment and Employment Act passed by this Parliament such men are entitled to sustenance payments for a period of twelve months. That period has now expired and the men concerned are at their wit’s end to carry on. I trust that the Government will agree to the extension of the period during which sustenance may be paid beyond the twelve months provided for in the act so that these men may be able to stay on their properties. Unless that is done, what is to happen to them? They have invested all they had in the venture and they cannot carry on without assistance. They have had loans from district businessmen to enable them to finance the planting of their crops; they are unable to make repayments as they will have no income until a new crop is harvested. I urge the Government to extend the period of eligibility in such deserving cases. I am assured by departmental officials in Brisbane that they have no authority to continue it beyond twelve months, and that an amendment of 1he act would be required for this purpose. In New Zealand, I understand, provision is made for an “ economic pension “ to meet borderline cases such as this. That is an example that could well be followed in this country. I am sure that the Government has no wish to see these individuals who have invested all their capital, and spent twelve or eighteen months in an endeavour to start production on the land, forced to walk off their properties when the continuance of the sustenance payment would tide them over until their next crop is harvested. We have had good rains in Queensland, and it is possible that some farmers will be able to derive a reasonable return from late summer crops, but there is an urgent need for the continuance of sustenance payments for a few months to help them through. I am sure that the Minister and the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the plight of these people.

Another aspect of the matter to which I should like to draw attention relates more to the Agricultural Bank in Queensland, but it is associated too with the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. I refer to the fact that ex-servicemen who are settled on the land that has been frozen pending a decision by the Queensland Government as to whether or not the land will be taken over for resettlement purposes, cannot obtain loans against machinery.

Mr Scully:

– ‘Can they not get the ordinary machinery loan?


– They say they cannot, and that is a matter that I should like to have cleared up. I was of the opinion that the machinery itself would be sufficient security as the advance would not exceed two-thirds of the value of the machinery. Why the fact that land is frozen should enter into the consideration at all is beyond my comprehension. I trust that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will have this matter examined and adjusted.


.- I bring to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) the deplorable conditions existing in Australian repatriation hospitals to-day. Sick and wounded patients in these institutions are not receiving the attention or the assistance that they have every right to expect. Conditions are far from satisfactory, and inquiries that I have made have convinced me that in the main, the difficulties are due to government policy or rather to the lack of government policy. Ex-servicemen charged with the administration of repatriation hospitals are doing their best, but they are being frustrated by the. lack of co-operation on the part of this Government. They are not being given a lead. There is delay and hesitation in replying to representations and in satisfying requests for assistance. Many hospital officials are becoming desperate because of the Government’s inaction. For example, take the position at the 113th Australian General Hospital at Yaralla, Sydney. In ward 23, which is a skin diseases ward, the patients, despite their disabilities, are required to make their own beds, sweep and polish the floor, fetch their own meals and meals for other patients who are confined to their beds. Regardless of the possibility of spreading infection they are required also to wash up dishes and to attend to the personal needs of bedridden patients. In the tuberculosis ward, which is next door, conditions are not any better, and. tubercular sufferers may be seen walking around with their flasks. During the war, the staff of the Yaralla hospital was supplemented by members of the Australian Women’s Army Service, efficient and keen women who rendered excellent service. Every effort should be made to secure the voluntary enlistment of women of this type while there is a staff shortage.

There .should” be no hesitation on the Government’s part in standing behind the Repatriation Commission and ensuring the full discharge of this country’s obligations to members of the fighting services who. because of war injuries or illnesses resulting from war service, are now inmates of our repatriation institutions. The Government should be prepared to move heaven and earth to provide the best possible assistance for these people. The 113th Australian General Hospital is situated on a river bank close to mud swamps. It is entirely unsuitable for tubercular patients who should be living in high localities. Conditions in other hospitals are not very much better. The staff shortage is acute at the Caulfield hospital in Victoria and also at the Greenslopes hospital in Queensland. Recently an article in Smith’s Weekly described conditions at Yaralla as “ barbarous and disgraceful “ and “ revolting for ex-service patients “. I urge the Minister for Repatriation to make an inspection of hospitals throughout Australia in an effort to improve the conditions of patients. On the 22nd February, 1947, Smith’s Weekly cited the case of an exserviceman, Mr. J. Rays, of Strathfield, who was suffering from a knee injury. He was forced to leave his employment because of his disability, and after reporting to his area medical officer, he was sent to Yaralla. Upon admission, he was required to wait for several days before being examined because the doctor who normally would have examined him was on holidays. I cannot understand the reason for that. No medical officer of a repatriation hospital should go on holiday before adequate temporary assistance has been obtained. After several more days delay, Mr. Rays had still not received attention and he applied for his discharge. This was granted and he left the hospital without having received treatment for his injury. This is an urgent matter. I have placed a question on the notice-paper in regard to it, ‘but urgent business before the House has delayed, a reply. I should like to hear a statement from the Minister for Repatriation to-day so that patients in these institutions may know how they are to be treated in future.

Greenslopes Military Hospital, Brisbane, is short of staff. During the war when the hospital was working at its peak, the staff and organization needed to cope with the extraordinary number of men and women in that and other military hospitals were established. What was possible then ought to be possible now, and I am sure that if the Minister appealed to the women of this country, they would come to his aid. The Minister should set up the necessary organization as quickly as possible in conjunction with the Red Cross, or some other appropriate authority, to ensure that the present situation, which has lasted far too long, shall continue no longer, and that the lag in treatment in repatriation hospitals shall cease.

Settlement of ex-servicemen on the land in Australia is a positive tragedy. Thousands of men returned to Australia from active service abroad believing that the Government’s promise that they would readily be able to settle on the land would be fulfilled long ago. The war began on the 3rd September, 1939, and here we are nearly at the end of February, 1947, with hardly one ex-serviceman settled on the land in Australia. Land settlement of ox-servicemen is a department of the Government’s administration that has been neglected, if not ignored. I concede that the Commonwealth Government has passed the buck to the States, but the passing of the buck does not remove from it the obligation to ensure that the money it has provided to the States for purpose of settling ex-servicemen on the land shall be expended on achievement of that purpose. This Government gave an unqualified pledge that the men who fought for this country and staved off invasion would have full opportunity to go on the land, but progress has been made in that direction in only one or two States. In Queensland, very little or nothing has been done, and whatever has been done elsewhere is only a fragment of what has been promised. 2*0 Minister can be satisfied. I implore the Ministry to stir itself to ensure the fulfilment of its undertaking.

Australia, in common with all other countries, needs more and more primary products. The obligation is on us to. relieve starving Europe. Ever since his return from overseas the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), week in and week out, has beseeched the Government to send more food to Great Britain to relieve the sufferings of the British people. The ex-servicemen are anxious to produce the food that is so desperately needed by our kinsfolk in Britain. Despite their meagre rations, while the war was raging, thousands of British families expressed their friendship to the members of our forces by extending them the hospitality of their homes. Those men are most anxious to reciprocate by sending to Great Britain the products of their own farms, but they are unable to do so because the laxity of the Government in promoting the land settlement scheme prevents them from having their own farms. I hope that the Government will not 0111 v take prompt action to get the scheme working, but will also, no matter how lukewarm some of its supporters may be in their regard. for the Mother Country, make, on the grounds of humanity, a substantial gift of food to it very speedily.

Minister for Repatriation · Bass · ALP

. - I desire to reply briefly to the observations by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) about the military hospital at Greenslopes. I regret that I was not in the chamber when he commenced to speak on this subject, but I gather that the burden of his complaint is that the Repatriation Department has not given sufficient attention to the needs of men whose incapacity as the result of war service requires that they shall have medical attention in- hospital. I have no apology to make for what has been or has not been done at Greenslopes Military Hospital or at any other hospital that is either under or is coming under the control of the Repatriation Department. There has been great difficulty at the Greenslopes hospital and the other military hospitals that are 11mv in the stage of transition from the Army to the Repatriation Commission. The honorable member quoted Smith’s Weekly as his authority for some of the things that he regards as complaints. I do not place very much reliance on Smith’s Weekly and many of the stories that it publishes, but I do know that there are shortcomings at Greenslopes hospital and other hospitals that have not so far passed completely over to the Repatriation Commission.

I have spent much time in trying to solve the problems and to meet the pressing need that I know exists to staff them with people of the right type to care for the men now in them. I should like to know what the honorable member would do about staff problems. It must be borne in mind that we have no power to conscript people to serve in our hospitals. The honorable member knows as well as I do that there is a general shortage of nurses in Australia. Repatriation hospitals have to accept a share of that shortage. It would not be fair to recruit full staffs at the expense of other institutions that care for the sick. Indeed, not long ago, I received a deputation from Western Australia on the very subject of recruiting a staff for the military hospital that we took over in that State. I agree that we should recruit our minimum needs to staff our hospitals and that is what we are doing. We are doing our best to recruit “Awas” or any one else who can help us. At Greenslopes hospital, when it was under military control, the staff could be housed under army conditions, but we are entirely in, a different position and have to- transport the staff several miles a day because we are without suitable accommodation. That is one of the problems. We are doing that because we must have staff, and we must accommodate them as best we can. We are now passing through a transition period. The Repatriation Commission has not complete control of the Greenslopes Military Hospital. The institution is partly under military control and partly under the authority of the Repatriation Commission, and, consequently, some difficulties are almost inevitable. I do not know what merit there is in the complaint that patients have been obliged to wait on themselves, but I shall have the whole matter investigated for the purpose of ascertaining whether the complaints are justified.

I assure the honorable member for Moreton that we are doing our best to secure complete control by the Repatriation Commission of the hospitals which were used for military purposes during the war. When we have obtained that control, and secured adequate staff and accommodation, there should be no complaints about these institutions. The problem is not an easy one. Greenslopes, Concord and Heidelberg hospitals have not come completely under our control. We have advertised for superintendents, and we have already obtained the services of a matron. Of course, the superintendent and the matron are the key persons to put in charge of a hospital before we can take complete charge of the administration and iron out existing problems. The complaints which have been made may have some justification. If the honorable member for Moreton had directed my attention to them, I would have had them investigated, as I undertake to do now.


.- In a news item entitled, “More Foodstuffs Offered Than Britain Can Ship “, which the Sydney Morning Herald published, to-day, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) is reported as having made statements which call for comment. The passage reads -

Britain was unable to provide refrigeration space for all the food Australia had offered to supply, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Pollard, said to-day.

The recent trouble on the Australian waterfront, ho said, had had a very minor effect on the quantity of food exported to Britain.

Mr. Pollard was commenting on .the statement made this week by the British Minister For Food. Mr. Strachey, who suggested that the Australian and New Zealand waterfront disputes had reduced Britain’s meagre meat supplies.

Mr. Pollard said Australia’s food supply to Britain was much better than last year.

I protest against this kind of misrepresentation. For a number of years, I have watched very closely the production and export of food to Great Britain, and I have taken considerable care to ascertain the facts. I have discovered that the only food for which Great Britain is expected to find refrigerated space, is apples and pears. Although the fruit is a useful item of diet, its food value is not high. Great Britain, because it has not been able to obtain from Australia basic foods such as meat and butter, has been compelled to divert its refrigerated space to Argentina and other countries, and allow the apples and pears to remain in Australia. The people of Great Britain do not need apples and pears so much as butter, milk, wheat and meat.

Mr Scully:

– How can Ave produce meat and butter when we have been experiencing such a- disastrous drought?


– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) has made a pertinent interjection, which leads me to the very subject about which I rose to speak. During the last eighteen months or two years, the honorable gentleman and his successor have been stalling off the requests of the dairying industry for a price which would enable dairy-farmers to increase production.

Mr Scully:

– How can we increase production when we are not able to obtain feed for the stock?


– On the returns that he receives for his butter, a dairy farmer on the north coast of New South Wales cannot afford to grow feed, and pay the award rates for labour. I cite my own example. I have more than one dairy. One I work on shares, and another I carry on with paid labour. I have kept an accurate record for the last twelve months of the accounts for the second farm, where I pay the employees award rates. My position is that over the last twelve months, the returns for butter have not been sufficient to pay the employees’ wages, let alone running costs, interest on capital, depreciation of herd, and the like. The result is that at two o’clock this afternoon, I put that herd under the hammer.

Mr Scully:

– The honorable member is not very patriotic.

M.’r. ANTHONY.- No dairy-farmer can afford to sustain a loss over a period of years. The Government isallowing the situation to drift from bad to worse.


– It would be of advantage to have a working proprietor om that dairy farm. The honorable member cannot expect to run it in his absence.


– No dairymen in the northern districts of New South. Wales and parts of Queensland can afford to produce butter at the present rates payable. Nearly two years ago, representations for increased payments were made,’ but the dairy-farmer has been stalled off repeatedly. Before the Parliament adjourned last December, the Mininster appointed a dairy costs committee to inquire into the cost of production of butter. On the 13th February last,- The

Land published the following report: -

The Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, at its first meeting held in Canberra this week, decided to start a survey immediately of costs in the industry in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

The task was a big one, stated the chairman, Mr. J. G. Crawford, as the committee’s officers would have to visit all recognized dairying districts in all the States. The detailed examination of more than a thousand farms would occupy about six months it was expected.

What will happen during the next six months, while this committee is wandering around Australia allegedly looking for information that the Minister already has in his departmental files?

Mr Pollard:

– The honorable member knows that the dairy industry itself asked for the appointment of this authority.


– What I do know is that the industry asked for certain things, and that the chairman of the Primary Producers Union, Mr. R. C. Gibson, whom the Minister has appointed to one luscious job after another, instead of carrying out this investigation, has accepted a trip to Geneva.

Mr Pollard:

– That is a lie.


– The Minister may say that it is incorrect, but-

Mr Pollard:

– We know that the honorable member has a personal vendetta against Mr. Gibson.


– I understand that he is to go to Geneva.

Mr Pollard:

– The honorable member understands wrongly.


– That is good, because, if he is not to go to Geneva, there is no reason why the committee should not expedite its work. Mr. Gibson gave to me personally a few months ago an exact list of costs taken from 30 dairy farms in New South Wales and Queensland proving that the cost of producing butter in the northern areas of New South Wales and in parts of

Queensland was not less than ls. ll£d. per lb. The dairy-farmers are paid ls. 7d. per lb. or 4d. less than the cost of production as determined by Mr. Gibson. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, asked what should be done to improve the supply of butter to Great Britain. One of the first things to do i3 to increase the price of butter to a profitable rate. By doing that, the Government can stimulate production more effectively than will all the propaganda that it may disseminate. I fear that, unless steps be taken at a very early date to provide some relief to dairy farmers, butter production will decrease even further. The Minister has only to look at the facts to understand what is happening. In the first year of the war, Australia sent 109,000 tons of butter to Great Britain. The war is over now; there is no excuse that the war-time services must be supplied with butter and that man-power has been taken from the dairying industry by the armed forces. In spite of the fact that our ability to produce butter is allegedly back ‘ to normal, shipments to Great Britain last year totalled approximately 50,000 ton3, compared with 109,000 tons in the first year of the war. The prospects are that production will decrease progressively. Therefore, I courteously ask the Minister to expedite this inquiry and to give to this House and the dairy-farmers of Australia at the earliest possible opportunity an indication of what action will be taken. I do not intend this matter to lapse, and unless the Minister does as I ask I shall continue to urge that actionbe taken. I hope that the honorable gentleman will be able to make a. statement to the House next week.


.- I refer to the provision of food for Britain, a matter which has already been mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I have discussed this subject many times in the last three years in the hope that the Government will do more than it has been doing to help the people of Great Britain. Australians generally are showing generosity and goodheartedness in sending food parcels to Britain. They realize the seriousness of the plight of the British people. State governments, municipal councils and other organizations have sent gifts of food and have supported the campaign in, many ways, but the Commonwealth Government, to our shame, has never sent one pennyworth of food to Britain at any time. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) informed me of this fact in answer to a question which I asked recently. I also asked what had been done by other dominions to assist the British people. The Prime Minister said that he did not know what the other dominions were doing. T shall tell the House what they are doing, and I shall give a few reasons why we in Australia should do more than we are doing. Although we may not all have an equal affection for our kin folk in Great Britain, at least we should realize that that country provides our greatest market for primary products. Great Britain has bought as much as 90 per cent, of some of our exports, and altogether it takes over 50 per cent, of all of our exports. The battle of Britain is still being fought. If Britain falls our most profitable market will disappear and we shall have to look for markets throughout the rest of the world.

However, I wish to put this matter on a higher plane than the merely commercial one. Great Britain is going through a harrowing ordeal, bread is rationed - something that the blitz and the submarine blockade could not achieve - and there must he something wrong in the Empire family that we are not more perturbed than we are. A week after the Prime Minister said that he did not know what the other dominions were doing to help Great Britain, the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand visited Australia and I asked him what that country had done. He said that New Zealand had. made a £1,000,000 gift of food to Great Britain. A fortnight ago, General Smuts, a man who was once our enemy, but who is a great Empire and world statesman, presented a cheque for £1,000,000 to the Government of Great Britain for the purchase of foodstuffs. Argentina, a neutral country during the war, has helped Great Britain. We read in the newspapers at Christmas time that there were many toasts to that country in Great Britain; many hearts were cheered by the gift of meat sent to Britain by that nation. After fruitlessly submitting proposals for the acquisition of food to be sent as a gift to Great Britain, I suggested to the Prime Minister in November last year that the Commonwealth Government should make a Christmas gift of food to the Mother Country. I wanted the Government to take action on a national basis rather than to leave the people to act individually. The Prime Minister said that he would consider taking some action of that nature. Time passed, but he made no further statement, and T asked him what decision he had reached. He said that, after considering the proposal, the Government had decided not to do anything. I think he qualified his statement by saying that such action would not solve Great Britain’s food problem. Of course it would not do so. But the hearts of the British people had been buoyed up by his earlier promise to consider the matter. On the 8th November, 1946, the day after he answered my question, the Daily Graphic, a British newspaper, published the- following item : -

Britain may get a special shipload of food ;>« a Christmas-box from Australia, if a proposal by the Australian Federal Parliament is agreed to.

That item raised the hopes of the British people, but. nothing happened. The Government’s attitude is Scrooge-like; but at least Scrooge did relent. I hope that the Government, too, will relent, even at this late stage. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) is aware of the situation in Great Britain, and I ask him to use his influence in the Cabinet to secure action by the Government along the lines I have suggested.

My proposal is not impracticable. Before the present High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom, Mr. Beasley, left this country, and when he was still -Minister for Supply and Shipping, I hold him that I knew that tons of foodstuffs were being destroyed by the armed forces in Australia. The Royal Australian Air Force had to draw supplies of tinned food from the Army. When fresh meat was available large quantities of tinned food were destroyed because the Air Force bad been instructed not 40 return anything to the Army stores. As the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) knows, tins of food were opened and the contents were thrown into bins to be used as pig feed. That happened at a camp in the electorate of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but I do not blame him for what occurred. Mr. Beasley promised me that an inquiry would be made and that he would have the practice discontinued and would endeavour to acquire surplus tinned food to send to Great Britain. However, the Government remained silent on this matter. The Minister said, a few minutes ago, by interjection, that ships with refrigerated cargo space are not available. We have heard that answer so often that we are tired of it. Refrigeration is not necessary for tinned food. Mr. Bankes Amery, who was British Food Commissioner in Australia for a number of years, had something to say on this subject. He is always most temperate in his remarks and he has never criticized Australia in any way. That is the British custom. The British people do not ask for charity, and they do not criticize other people, a fact for which they deserve our acclamation. He said -

There was no limit to the quantities of meat, butter, cheese, condensed milk, powdered milk, wheat, flour, sugar, eggs, rice, dried fruits and tallow which Britain was prepared to purchase from Australia. He wanted to dispel all possible misunderstanding about Britain’s food needs. They were so serious that the morale of housewives was lower than before the war ended. He was full3’ convinced that there was no Australian who would not be moved to make a great personal effort to increase exports if he could only see for himself the deprivation now being faced by the people of Britain.

Should not that rend the hearts of the Government as it has those of the people? I remember the discussions that raged in this House about whether we would help Britain in the event of war. When war did occur, we played a very fine part in it. It is a fallacy to think that we can stand alone in the world. If we try to do so, one day we shall find ourselves submerged. We are dependent on the help of the great Empire to which we belong. No honorable member who is acquainted with the facts can discount Britain’s generosity to us during the war.

Ifr. While

In answer to a question that I asked,. I was informed that Britain let us have- 1,691 aircraft at no cost to us. Thesewere to be used for training purposes. We had to pay only for aircraft which the Royal Australian Air Force used for operational purposes. We could never have manned the squadrons which fought in New Guinea and elsewhere had we not received those gift aircraft which enabled the Empire Air Training Scheme to hecarried through. When we lost H.M.A.S. Sydney., a fund was raised in Australia for its replacement. The municipal council at Brighton, in my electorate, paid a cheque for £1,000 into a fund which the Treasury still holds. Britain gave us Shropshire for nothing, and it played a. gallant part throughout the rest of the war. The Brighton Council, and many other bodies, have asked that the money contributed for a cruiser to replace Sydney shall be diverted to the purchase of food for Britain, but the Government has refused to accede to that request. It could not be more heartless if it were dealing with an enemy country. I urge the Prime Minister to give the matter consideration. I do not believe that he has considered it deeply. He paid a fleeting visit to Britain, but I am sure that in the brief period of his visit he could not have realized what the conditions were. The English housewife is allowed an ounce of cooking fat a week, yet we have imposed a prohibition on the export of certain fats except in parcels. That seems to be a wicked deprivation of a commodity winch the British people need. During the war, I spent two years in Britain. Those who merely visit Britain and live at Grosvenor House or the Savoy Hotel, as Ministers do, cannot know what the British people are suffering. When one lives there, one becomes acquainted with the heartbreak of the queues which old people have to suffer.

For years, no one except a fighter pilot or a child under six years of age could obtain an orange. British children had never _ seen bananas, or the other fruits which grow in Australia in abundance. We should not be human, if we were not sorry for them. Starvation, famine, and death are rampant in Europe, and to a lesser degree in Britain, because it lias done all that it can to feed the people of Europe. Yet in Australia, with its abundance of food and resources, the Commonwealth Government, the elected representatives of a generous people, has never contributed a penny. During the war, 13,000 members of Royal Australian Air Force air crews went to Britain. I was privileged in that most of those young men passed through my hands. Thousands of them were killed over Europe. Every one of them had the opportunity, at least once or twice, of being a guest in an English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish home. That hospitality was accorded to them before Australia made its own provision for them there. For two years, no provision was made there for our young men, and they were entertained gratis by British people, who gave the best that they had, even though they themselves were rationed and ‘had very little food1, Those young men who returned to Australia are now repaying that hospitality with an abundance of parcels. Can the Government not do what the people are doing ? I press this matter very strongly. I have exhibited a good deal of patience in regard to it for a long time. I was suspended from the service of this House on one occasion for having pressed the point, because my remarks happened to be out of order or conflicted in some way with a ruling which had been given.


– Order ! The honorable member was suspended as the result of a vote of the House, and he must not reflect on such a vote.


– I am not reflecting, but am stating exactly what happened. I exhort the Government to do what I ask that it shall do. It has the power to acquire food, and should exercise it. I do not underestimate the ability of the new Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). I know that, if lue says, “ We will acquire so many hundred tons of meat or so many tons of milk “, that will be done. I have been able to inaugurate a movement which has been responsible for sending already thousands of parcels of food to Britain. Possibly the Minister is connected with a similar scheme. But the Government, which raises taxes so easily for its own purposes, and last week made an agreement in regard to wheat which, in effect, will mean that we shall lose £1,S00,000-

Mr Pollard:

– That is not true.


– Well, call it £1,000,000.

Mr Pollard:

– The agreement may not result in. any loss during the period for which it will operate.


– I am prepared rather to take the word of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The Government is selling wheat to New Zealand at about one-half of the present export parity price. That is a gift from the Commonwealth Treasury to New Zealand. That dominion has an abundance of food, even though it may be short of wheat. On our waterfront, we have Communistcontrolled unions, composed of men whose loyalty is to Russia. They are RussianAustralians, not British-Australians. They worked in sheltered occupations during the war. Scarcely a man who leads those unions has done anything for Australia. Yet they are allowed to hold up the shipment of food to Britain ! The meat strike in Brisbane caused Britain to lose thousands of tons of meat.


– The honorable member’s time has expired.

Wide Bay

– I am considerably perturbed in regard to the effects of the last drought in Queensland on our dairying industry. The matter is of such great importance that this Parliament should take notice of it, and, if possible, devise a scheme whereby necessary relief may be provided by the Commonwealth to each State in times of such dire need. The recent draught probably was the worst that Queensland had ever experienced, and one of the worst that Australia has known. During the last sessional period, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), answering a question asked by me as to why other States had received from the Commonwealth up to £1,000,000 whilst Queensland had not at any time accepted or given any grant for drought relief, said that Queensland had not participated because the Government of that State had not asked for such .a grant.

The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that the Queensland Government did not believe in providing grants; its policy was one of loans at low rates of “interest. That means that the action of the Queensland Government has affected the dairying industry, which the Commonwealth Government is subsidizing to-day - poorly, no doubt - in the hope of securing increased production. Much of that effort is being lost by reason of the fact that hundreds of Queensland people left their dairying, properties during the last period of drought.

Young men and young women living on dairy farms have had to seek employment elsewhere in order to make a living. On many farms the return at the end of the month has ‘been nil, whilst other dairyfarmers may have a credit of £2 at the end of the month. That is a serious state of affairs. The loss of stock will have a serious effect on the industry when feed is again abundant. In Queensland the only assistance granted to the dairy industry is by means of loans to butter companies, so that there is no danger of any loss accruing to the State Government. The factory is responsible for repayment to the Government, plus interest after the first year which is deducted from returns. No amount is advanced for sustenance for the dairy-farmer and his family; the advance is made solely to provide feed for starving stock. The position in Queensland would have been better if that State had followed the practice of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, where grants are made to individual dairy-farmers by the Commonwealth and “State governments on a fifty-fifty basis. In Victoria £1,000,000 was made available to assist drought-stricken people, but the assistance granted to dairy-farmers and cane-growers in Queensland by way of loans would not exceed £300,000. Something should be done to induce the State Government to do its duty to primary producers. Each drought relief scheme involves a separate agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State government concerned. I understand that a scheme in respect of the last drought in New South Wales is now under consideration. I have in my hand an application form in respect of .a previous scheme in that State. The basic year was 1943-44, which was not a drought year. The scheme provides that in a drought period the return from the factory to the producers will ‘be 75 per cent, of the amount paid in that basic year. That system has encouraged those engaged in dairying to remain on the land. The policy followed by the Queensland Government has driven many dairy-farmers off the land. I know that it is outside the province of the .Commonwealth Government to direct the Queensland Government to come into line with the other States in this matter, but if the State Government could be induced to accept the money that is available to it for drought relief the dairyfarmers of Queensland would benefit considerably.


.-Before the House adjourned for the Christmas recess I brought to the notice of the Government the need to increase the vote for the sustenance for persons suffering from tuberculosis who could not receive treatment in hospital. The £250,000 set aside for this purpose may seem a large sum until we examine the number of cases it is intended to cover. When I spoke previously on this subject I cited figures relating to Victoria because I knew the conditions in that State best. There are 8,000 known cases of tuberculosis in Victoria, but there is hospital accommodation for only 700 patients. Many sufferers who should have had treatment in hospital received no sustenance at all, except from the social security fund, which is inadequate for the purpose. I also stated that patients in Victorian hospitals were kept there for an average of seven months, when they were discharged, although not cured, whereas in Canada the average time spent in hospitals is eighteen months, when, in most instances, patients are discharged cured. This is a problem which cannot be settled in a moment; it requires much capital expenditure on buildings, sanatoriums and hospitals, and also a good deal of organization is necessary. But the principle of assisting sufferers from tuberculosis has been acknowledged, and £250,000 per annum has been set aside for distribution among the States on a prorata basis. When I raised this matter previously I asked the Prime Minister to give urgent and favorable consideration to increasing the vote. I now find not only that that has not been done, but also that the amount already voted has not been paid.

Mr Barnard:

– Is the honorable member sure of that?


– Yes. I understand that the money has not been paid because the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to hand it over to the States until uniformity ‘among all the States has been achieved. That is not easy. The Victorian Government, which has gone thoroughly into this matter and has acted under distinguished advice, has introduced a scheme providing for weekly payments based on a minimum amount for the sustenance of a man, his wife and a child, after rent or home instalmentpurchase payments have been met. The scheme provides for a tuberculosis allowance of £4 15s. a week in addition to a social service payment amounting to £2 12s. 6d. a week, or a total of £7 7s. 6d. a week. The scheme is to be financed partly by the Commonwealth Government, Victoria’s share of the £250,000 being £59,633. The Victorian Government has already voted £10,000 for the purpose. The people were reasonably satisfied with the scheme, but now the Commonwealth Government says that until uniformity has been reached among the States the money available will not be paid to them. That is where the matter now stands. I mention it now for two reasons: First, I want the Government to do something immediately, and not wait until all the States have come into line, and some generally acceptable scheme has been worked out. In Victoria alone there are 1,000 very serious cases which are receiving no sustenance. These people are not in hospital, but are, for the most part, going about their work, with the possibility of infecting, not only their families, but also all other people with whom they come in contact The second point I wish to make is that more money is needed. The total amount of £250,000, with an allocation to Victoria of £59,000, is not enough. Probably as much as’ £1,500,000 will be needed, that is a great sum of money in these days of economy, and I put the proposal forward with some trepidation. However, I pointout that this Parliament has passed a. Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. It is not yet in operation, but when it is, the cost to Australia is expected to be £2,000,000 a year. So far as I know, the schemehas not been recommended by any one possessing knowledge of the situation. It is not favoured by the medical profession, and it certainly has not the approval of the chemists. Indeed, I have met no one in Australia, not even in this Parliament for that matter, who approves of this scheme. I suggest that the amount of £2,000,000, which it is proposed to spend on providing free medicine, would be better employed in caring for tubercular patients. In New Zealand, after the introduction of the free medicinescheme, the amount expended on medicineincreased by 500 per cent., yet doctors have told me that the more medicinepeople take the worse they become.


– It is well-known that Australia is to berepresented at an international conference overseas, at which tariffs and trade agreements will be discussed. On behalf of all Australians, I protest against the failure of the Government to state clearly in this House its policy regarding Empire preferential trade. It has been stated in the press that the leader of the Australian delegation which is to attend the conference has said that Empire preference is doomed.

Mr Dedman:

– That statement is untrue.


– It appeared in the press. In the Melbourne Herald of the 20th February, statements on this subject by prominent persons were published. Mr. S. C. Burston, president of the Graziers Association of Southern Riverina, put the matter in plain words that can be understood, and might even be appreciated, by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). He is reported as follows : -

If it were a fact that the British Government had decided to abandon Empire trade preference, it was astounding that the Prime Minister had made no announcement of this important decision, the president of the Graziers Association of Southern Riverina (Mr. S. C. Burston) said to-day.

He was commenting on a report from Canberra that Dr. H. C. Coombs who will be the chief federal official at the forthcoming Geneva trade talks, had warned the Federal Labour party in caucus, that the Empire preference system was doomed.

Mr. Burston said that instead of accepting the position as inevitable theFederal Government should explore new channels for increased reciprocal trade with Britain.

Empire preference had not only operated in the best interests of Australia’s meat and other exporting industries, but it had also provided a vital link between the nations of the British Commonwealth he said.

Another prominent man, the chairman of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, said -

There was also the strongest opposition to the proposed elimination of the long established Empire preference system. Several highly important industries had been built up and sustained by Empire preference. It was wishful thinking to imagine that possible tariff reductions in the United States of America would provide compensating advantages for its surrender.

As the representative in this Parliament of many primary producers in the Wiminera, in which electorate is situated Sunrasia, where some of the world’s finest dried fruits are produced, I should be failing in my duty to my constituents if I did not press the Government to make public the instructions which it has given to its representatives who are to attend the international trade conference. The decisions reached at this conference may well mean more to Australia than can be readily realized by the average citizen. They may even jeopardize the whole dried fruits trade of Australia. I am now making a formal, opening protest, having just read what the leader of the Australian delegation is reported to have said, but I intend to bring the matter up again and again in this House in an endeavour to obtain a definite pronouncement from the Government and to preserve Empire trade on its present basis. It was suggested in the debate on the motion of want of confidence that the Government was seeking to weaken the bonds of the Empire, and I am forced to confess that, since, I have been a member of this Parliament I have never heard any member of the Government refer to those bonds in patriotic terms. In any case, if the Government is really seeking to weaken those bonds, and to whittle down reciprocal trade between Empire countries, let the Prime Minister say so, and the people will know where they stand.

Northern Territory

. - I rise to draw attention to the delay which has taken place in allocating the pastoral land which has been resumed in the Northern Territory for soldier settlement. I have been trying for the last twelve months to learn from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) when this land will be thrown open. In June last, he told me that everything would be ready by the following October. When October came, he said that it would be done in another three months, but we are now in February of the following year, and apparently nothing has yet been done. No doubt the Minister will have excuses to offer. The reason is that there are no surveyors to subdivide and classify the country, and I am confident that the Government will not obtain those surveyors for the simple reason that the Chief Surveyor stationed in the Northern Territory last year was so disgusted with the treatment that he received from the department that he resigned. He is a. brilliant man, and knows the Northern Territory better than I do. He was so disgusted with the paucity of the salary he received and the way in which he was humbugged by the department, from either Canberra, or Darwin, that he took up a pastoral lease. That gentleman happens to be a brother of the man whom this Government recently appointed as the Administrator of the Northern Territory. No doubt the Minister will use as an excuse the lack of surveyors to deal with sub-divisions. I repeat that he is not likely to attract highly qualified surveyors for this work so long as present conditions of employment of surveyors in the Northern Territory are allowed to continue. I have received the following letter from the secretary of the Institute of Surveyors, Brisbane -

Dear Sir,

By direction I enclose copy of a letter posted this day to the Hon. The Minister for the Interior, Canberra.

My Council would be most grateful if you could in any way see that the matter receives prompt attention.

With compliments.

Yours faithfully,

D. Caldwell, Secretary.

This is the letter which was written to the Minister dated the 18th February -

Dear Sir,

With reference to advertisement in the Brisbane Courier if ail of January 2Sth last calling for applications from Authorized Surveyors and draftsmen for positions in the Survey and Property Office, Department of Interior, Brisbane, at salaries ranging from £370 to £05(1 per annum including cost of living allowance.

My institute makes a most emphatic protest at the action of the Commonwealth Government in offering such low salaries for authorized surveyors and in placing them on the same’ footing as draftsmen.

Surveyors employed hy the Queensland Survey Department are paid from £050 for junior mcn to £725 for senior mcn plus’ cost of living allowance £32 14s.

Dentists in Queensland employed by the State Government have just had salaries increased from £502 10s. to £048 10s. for the first year, from £527 10s. to £073 10s. for the second year and from £552 1 0s. to £698 1 0s. for the third year. We consider that a surveyor is at least as much value to his State as a dentist.

After matriculating at a university, a surveyor has to serve a cadetship of four years in the field under articles, or complete a three years’ course at the university and one year’s service in the field before he is allowed to take his final examination.

He docs all the field work of a survey and hands his notes and sketches to the draftsman, who under the surveyor’s supervision prepares the plans. The surveyor signs the plans and takes all the responsibility for the work thereon, including the draftsman’s, and the Commonwealth now purposes to pay the surveyor the same as the draftsman.

My institute requests that surveyors working for the Commonwealth be paid salaries at least equal to. if not better than that paid by the State. ‘

  1. agree absolutely with that opinion. I believe that is the very reason why the Commonwealth is not likely to obtain the services of surveyors for this work. If the Minister for the Interior were now present he would support that opinion, because the Commonwealth has failed to attract surveyors for this work despite the fact that advertisements have been appearing in the metropolitan press for a considerable period. The reason for the failure of surveyors to respond to such advertisements is that their professional attainments are recognized to a. greater degree by the public. I can only conclude that administrative officials dominate the policy of the department in this matter. Is this matter being handled by men who have not the slight est inkling of the technical qualifications required of registered surveyors? Apparently, those responsible for advising the Minister do not appreciate the professional attainments of surveyors. Were such officials obliged to qualify as surveyors they would immediately change their minds. I should like to know who is responsible for the foolish recommendations in respect of the low salaries offered to surveyors. Medical men have informed vue that the final examination which a surveyor must pass in order to qualify for registration involves a higher educational standard than confronts any medical man in any single year of a medical course. The time lag in subdividing lands for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel in the Northern Territory will continue so long as the Commonwealth fails to realize the value of the services rendered by registered surveyors and remunerate them accordingly.

The problem to which I have referred arises also in Western Australia and Queensland. The Minister for Lands in Western Australia, Mr. Panton, an old friend of mine in the 51st Battalion during World War I., although a member of a Labour government, has not hesitated to criticize the Commonwealth’s policy in this respect. That criticism has been echoed by the Minister for Lands in each of the States regardless of party politics. Twelve months ago, Mr. Panton passed the buck to the Commonwealth because of the lag in subdividing land for the settlement of ex-servicemen in Western Australia. Queensland finds itself in much the same position, although that State, being rich like New South Wales, did not sell its birthright to the Commonwealth whose officers are now trying to control ‘the land administration in all States. The Commonwealth is not equipped for this task. Its officers have not been trained for the job nearly so thoroughly as officers in the State Lands Departments, who have been handling this problem for the past SO years.

Unfortunately, however, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, being the weaker financial States, have practically surrendered their birthright in this matter to the Commonwealth Treasury which now dominates land administration in those States with the result that Commonwealth officers are now trying to tell State officers how to do their jobs. They even go so far as to criticize the work of competent land commissioners and surveyors in the State departments. Such a system does not make sense. State officers, due to the experience which their respective departments have gained over nearly a century, are familiar with the carrying capacity and the inherent value of their lands and of their soil and climatic features. Therefore, it is ridiculous for the Commonwealth to try to excuse itself in this matter because it has started off on the wrong foot. However, the smaller States, to some degree, must accept a share of the blame for their present predicament because they have practically sold their birthright to the Commonwealth. They were obliged to rely upon the Commonwealth to finance these projects. As I have said, Queensland also seems to be in a bad way. I do not criticize the Minister for Lands in that State, Mr. Jones. He is a bushman, and knows every inch of the country from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Charters Towers. No land-owner can “ put anything over “ him. He is very able. Nevertheless, he does not seem to be able to steer clear of the administrative labyrinth which is holding up the subdivisions. During the last few months, I have endeavoured to discover the causes for the lag in Queensland. There are two reasons: First, I blame the land-owners partly. Even before the boys went away all sorts of promises were made that land would be made available for their rehabilitation. I heard of the case of one lad, now dead, who before he even went to Malaya was led to believe that certain lands in his district had been made available by local pastoralists for subdivision for ex-service personnel who enlisted in that district. I hear nothing of that now. The owners, who then were almost sycophantic in their lip service, have now adopted a different attitude; but there are others who are willing to release their land at a nominal price in order that the Government may acquire it at a figure which is not uneconomic to ex-servicemen. The

State Government, however, has found that some land agents were over-valuing land. It was a case of “ You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours “. -Not infrequently, land worth £5 an acre was valued and sold for £7 an acre. I do not blame the Commonwealth and State governments for taking such restrictive action as is necessary to curb the activities of these people. However, I must say in fairness to land-owners generally that such were but isolated cases. Actually, the Commonwealth and the State governments “ froze “ all of the land. Much of it has since been released. Notwithstanding that, ex-servicemen are not going on the land, and insufficient land is being allocated.

Apparently, the Commonwealth Government is not courageous enough to exercise its authority in this matter, as it did in connexion with the acquisition of land at Darwin in the Northern Territory. There, it acted with impunity against the weak. If this Government ran true to form, it would not only confiscate wheat, but also acquire suitable land from the strong, deeply entrenched and wealthy landowners. I am informed on good authority that the Commonwealth is not courageous enough to acquire land in Queensland, and that any land which it obtains has been made the subject of negotiation and not acquisition. Is the Commonwealth Government “game” to acquire under the Lands Acquisition Act choice parcels of country from the rich people, as it did in Darwin? Or is the only land made available for ex-servicemen in Queensland such land as has been made the subject of negotiation with the owners? Let us consider for a moment the unfortunate plight of the ex-servicemen whose farms are being prepared for them at an uneconomic cost. That land should be acquired and all improvements erected upon it before it is made available to the exservicemen does not make sense. “Why should a property be first improved and then, as it were, handed on a platter to the ex-servicemen ? I was pleased to note that a committee of practical farmers, which met at Warwick recently, reported adversely on such a proposal. These men know what they are talking about. Every competent farmer, who has been bred on the land, will agree that any one who goes on the land prefers to carry out his own improvements. On many properties I have seen fencing which any sane farmer would immediately replace. A diligent farmer naturally wants to erect something of which he can be proud. He does not want fences which are falling down, and which will not keep out straying cattle. T would not go on to a property which had been handed to me on a platter in this way.

The Government always has a way out. It says, “ “We shall base the charge to ex-servicemen on an economic price. If the price is too high, we shall level it down”. If improvements on a property raise its cost to £1,500 I assume that the Government will give the property to an ex-serviceman for £600. What does the Government propose to do? Either under the day-labour system, to which this Government appears to be married, the improvements are far too costly and must be written down, or the Government admits that it is uneconomic to start de novo and improve a farm because the present price, of primary products does not warrant it, and so no farms are made available. I press the Government to give an answer to the questions which I have raised regarding lands in not only the Northern Territory but also in Queensland. I appeal to the Government to launch its land policy with expedition and sanity.

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · Ballarat · ALP

– Although the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) have spoken on the motion for the adjournment, the only ones remaining in the House are the honorable member for the Northern Territory and the honorable member for Flinders. As to the matters raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, which come within the purview of the Minister for the Interior, I shall be glad to refer them to my colleague for investigation. To the honorable member for Flinders, I give a similar assurance. I commend the honorable member for the manner in which he dealt with the all-important problem of the eradication of tuberculosis in this country, and I am confident that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) v. ill, at an early date, bring forward a plan which will constitute a real effort to stamp out this scourge. I agree that money should be made available to enable us to tackle this problem. As a matter of fact, some money has been provided for that purpose. The honorable member for Flinders suggested that more money should be made available. He pointed out that many people who were suffering from tuberculosis were moving about the community. They should be undergoing hospital treatment. I remind him, however, that money does not provide hospitals at the present time ; the building of hospitals requires man-power and materials, which are in short supply.

Mr Ryan:

– I realize that, but money has been made available in lieu of hospitals.


– The honorable member also said that many acute cases are not being treated. I assure him that the Government is fully alive to the great need for hospital facilities for the treatment of persons suffering from this dreadful disease, and plans will be brought forward as early as practicable in an attempt to eliminate tuberculosis in this country. The honorable member may rest assured that the governments of Australia, both Commonwealth and State, are doing all they can to deal with this scourge. The Minister for Health is endeavouring to bring about some uniformity in the expenditure of the moneys made available to the States by the Commonwealth for this purpose.

As to the matters raised by other honorable members who are not now present, I shall refer them to the appropriate Ministers for reply. Such matters as affect my own department will be given early attention, and honorable members will be furnished with a reply as early as practicable.


.- I desire to bring to the notice of the Government - and no Minister has a greater knowledge of this matter than the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who now sits at the table - a condition which has recently arisen in the live-stock markets in Melbourne. I refer particularly to fat stock sold to butchers in Melbourne by public auction. Upon such stock there is no limitation of price, but once an animal has been killed a price limitation is placed upon the carcass. Both wholesale and retail butchers are subject to the price control regulations. This state of affairs has brought about a position where butchers, in order to secure meat supplies, have by reason of intense competition in a short market, found themselves obliged to bid a higher price for a live animal than the price they are permitted to charge for the carcass. This has resulted, on occasions, in butchers selling at a loss, but it has resulted also in fairly widespread breaches of the law. Recently, there has been a sharp rise in the Newmarket prices for live-stock. That has been brought about by seasonal conditions - a reasonably good season following a succession of droughts - with the result that to-day many thousands of graziers are understocked, and are entering the market to buy even fat stock in competition with butchers. This, of course, is reducing the supplies of meat available to butchers to something less than the demand for meat in the community. Certainly, it has reduced the supply to such a degree that none is available for export. The result has been the forcing up of prices at the last couple of sales to a level at which butchers cannot afford to buy meat and still sell it profitably at fixed prices. Now, the butchers, being unwilling to operate on the black market, or to carry or. their businesses at a loss, have decided, and have informed the agents of the producers of their decision, that as from the next sale, they will not compete amongst each other for the purchase of live-stock, but will assess the value of the stock and, I assume, will instruct a nominee to bid on their behalf. The result of that, of course, would be to eliminate completely the traditional practice of open competition at auctions, and I am certain that meat producers will not send their stock to the market for sale in these circumstances. I am endeavouring to present a fair picture of the facts of the case. Obviously, producers will not send their stock to the market if they know that buyers are. going to put their heads together and place their own value on that stock. The buyers would be less than human if they did not fix a. price completely advantageous to themselves, and the producers have had sufficient experience to know that the only course left to them is to withhold their stock from the market. It is a difficult problem, and one that has been aggravated and, indeed, brought to a head, by the recent decision of the Prices Commissioner to fix a higher level of meat values in Sydney than that which operates in Melbourne. This has had the inevitable result of encouraging wholesale and retail butchers and speculators to go to Victoria, purchase stock there, and truck it to Sydney, where a higher selling price is permitted. That has been a contributing factor to the diminution of the quantity of livestock available for slaughter in Victoria; but there have been other factors’.

There is an overall shortage of live-stock in Australia to-day following the disastrous drought, which was the culmination of a succession of lean years. Estimates of the loss of sheep during this period vary from 21,000,000 to 40,000,000. That in itself would be quite sufficient to bring graziers into the market in competition with butchers, but, in addition, the higher price for wool makes the carrying of sheep more attractive, and the satisfactory season that has been experienced in most parts of Victoria and in the Riverina has induced producers to hold stock already on their properties, and to enter the market to purchase more. The point I wish to make is this : There will be what the newspapers describe as a meat famine in Melbourne if something is not done to curb this tendency. The problem is not one that can be solved by the producers and butchers fighting it out amongst themselves, because the situation has been brought about primarily by the intervention of the Government. I do not criticize the Government for intervening in pursuance of its price-fixing policy. All I say is that by applying this policy the Government has become a party to the dispute between the buyers and sellers of fat live-stock. I urge the Government not to stand by idly in the hope that by one side weakening, this problem will eventually solve itself. It will not. It is a most complex and difficult problem. I know of no other industry which presents so many intricate and insoluble problems to the price-fixing authorities as does the live-stock industry. It is not possible for any one to say arbitrarily that this is a store beast and can be bought only by a grazier, whilst that is a fat beast and can be bought only by a butcher. On the one hand we have the graziers who are not inhibited by any price-fixing regulations, and on the other, the butchers who are inhibitedby price- fixing. The problem could be solved in various ways, some of which, I realize, would be objectionable to the Government. It could be solved very simply by increasing the ceiling price of meat. I am not urging that that be done; but it would be the simplest solution. It could be solved also by allowing the present price scales to remain, but paying a subsidy to bridge the gap between what the butchers have to pay for their meat and whatthey can sell it for. That suggestion is not likely to be welcomed by the Government, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture himself knows that there are various other alternatives that could be adopted to solve the problem. It is not necessary for me to recite those alternatives at this stage, although if the dispute reaches critical proportions, I shall feel obliged to speak again in this House to set out more clearly the lines along which I believe the problem could be solved. At this juncture I wish only to bring to the notice of the Government the impending serious position, and to urge, as forcibly as I am able, that the Government should grapple with the problem in its early stages and not wait until a serious situation has arisen.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 147


The following papers were pre sented : -

Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c.- 1946-

No. 39 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.

No. 40 - Amalgamated Engineering Union; and others.

No. 41 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.

No. 42 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.

No. 43 - Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association and Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.

No. 44 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

No. 45 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.

No. 46 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.

No. 47 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.

No. 48 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.

No. 49 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.

No. 50 - Non-Official Postmasters’ Association of Australia.

No. 31 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.

Nos. 52 and 53 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.

No. 54 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union and Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.

No. 55 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.

No.56 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.


No. 1 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.

No. 2 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.

No. 3 - Repatriation Medical Officers’ Association.

No. 4 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.

No. 5 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; and others.

No.6 - Australian Journalists’ Association.

No. 7 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia; and others.

Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946. No. 182.

Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946. Nos. 189, 190, 191.

Canned Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 10.

Census and Statistics Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 3.

Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - A. C. McPherson.

Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 188.

Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act- Rules of Court - Dated 12th November,1946 Statutory Rules 1946, No. 168.

Commonwealth Public Service Act -

Appointments - Department -

Civil Aviation - A. R. Anderson, T. J. Broughton, J. M. Chapman, D. B. Fraser, B. Hann, D. Ross, R.O Walton.

Commerce and Agriculture - C. F. Dwyer.

External Affairs - H. T. Sullivan.

Interior - E. W.O. Perry.

Labour and National Service - F. H. Lindsey, A. W. Russell, O. P. Wickham.

Parliamentary Library - M. E. Harry, I. Maclean, J. B. O’Hara, R. J. Wallace.

Post-war Reconstruction - K. A. L. Best, P. J. Lawler.

Supply and Shipping - W. B. Dallwitz. T. D. Dimmick, C. L. Knight, W. C. Smith, G. A. Thomas, J. G. Tomlinson, D. W. Wansey, H. T. Watts.

Treasury - R. J. Randall, E. F. Warren.

Works and Housing - J. M. Cameron, W. G. R. Gilfillan, V. G. Holden, R. A. T. Ledger, H. T. Loxton, L. G. Redmond, E. F. Rowntree.

Regulations -Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 1, 2, 13 (Parliamentary Officers).

Customs Act -

Customs Proclamation - No. 668.

Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1946, Nos. 169, 178, . 179. 1947, No. 11.

Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -

National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations - Order- Capital issues (Declaration and exemption).

National Security (Prices) Regulations - -Orders- Nos. 2827-2848.

National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - 1947, Nos. 2, 3.

Orders -

Control of new commercial motor vehicles.

Control of new motor cars.

Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No.6.

Immigration (Guardianship of Children)

Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940. No. 195.

Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -

Brymaroo, Queensland.

Commonwealthoffice accommodation purposes -

Melbourne, Victoria.

Customs purposes -

Beenleigh, Queensland.

Clare, South Australia.

Yenda, New South Wales.

Defence purposes -

Adelaide, South Australia.

Bulimba Point, Queensland.

Guildford (Redcliffe), Western Australia.

Perth, Tasmania.

Puckapunyal, Victoria.

Stuart, Queensland.

Townsville, Queensland.

Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.

Zillmere, Queensland.

Postal purposes -

Albany, Western Australia.

Chermside, Queensland.

Coburg, Victoria.

Gaythorne, Queensland.

Guildford, Western Australia.

North Beach, Western Australia.

Nudgee, Queensland.

Telephonic purposes - Wanneroo, Western Australia.

Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations -

Statutory Rules 1947, No. 4.

National Security Act -

National Security (Apple and Pear Acquisition ) Regulations - Order - Apple and pear acquisition 1946-47.

National Security (Economic Organization ) Regulations - Order - Exemption.

National Security (Field Peas Acquisition ) Regulations- Order - Field peas ( Tasmania ) acquisition - Revocation.

National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -

Brushware (Consolidating) - Revocation.

Control of automotive spare parts (No. 2) - Revocation.

Control of rubber (No. 8) - Revocation.

National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orderss - Nos. 2791-2820.

National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 135-139.

National Security (Shipping Coordination ) Regulations - Orders - 1946, Nos. 51-63.

National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order - Deferment of banking business.

Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, Nos. 170, 171, 172, 174, 175, 176, 184, 185, 186, 192, 193, 194, 196, 197, 198.

Nationality Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947- No. 9.

Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 5.

Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances - 1946 -

No. 1 - Crown Lands.

No. 2 - Liquor Prohibition.

Overseas Telecommunications Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1946, No. 173.

Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinances - 1946 -

No. 9 - Native Labour Contracts of Service Validation.

No. 10- Supply (No. 1) 1946-1947.

Re-establishment and Employment Act -

Regulations - Statutory Rules - 1946, Nos. 177, 180. 1947, No. 12.

Science and Industry Endowment Act - Report by the Auditor-General on the accounts of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for year 1945-46.

Science and Industry Research Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 8.

War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 7.

House adjourned at 4.45 p.m.

page 149


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Mr Fadden:

n asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -

  1. Were tenders invited for the disposal .of the motor vessel Anaconda
  2. If so, what was the name of the successful tenderer?
  3. At what price was the vessel sold?

page 149


Mr Riordan:
Minister for the Navy · KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows:-

  1. Yes.
  2. Australian Fishing Industries Limited, of Sydney.
  3. It is not proposed to disclose the price paid. Tenders were publicly invited and one only was received. The Australian Fishing Industries Limited, if approached direct, may bc willing to furnish the information required.




s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. Will he obtain statistics and inform the House of the number of marriages in each State of the Commonwealth in 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1045 and in each available quarter of 1946?
  2. What was the number of houses built in each State in the periods mentioned?
  3. Are statistics relating to marriages taken into account in determining the number of houses to be built in each State during certain fixed periods?
  4. If not, will this be done in future?
Mr Lemmon:

– As the question rotates to housing statistics, the Treasurer asked me to reply. The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -


3 and 4. Statistics of marriage are amongst the factors which have been taken into account in deciding the number of houses required in a normal year. At present, however, the shortage of houses is so great that the numbers are fixed not with a view to meeting normal annual demands, but simply in terms of the

maximum physical effort possible each year. It is estimated that 750,000 dwellings will need to be built in the next ten years, so that it will be some years yet before Australia can deal only with normal building to cover annual population increases and replacement of old houses, apart from the factor of migration.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 February 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.