18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime
Minister and Treasurer). - I inform honorable members that I have asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to act as Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories during theabsence abroad of Mr. Ward, as from the 4th June, for the period of Mr. Ward’s absence.
Business of Stats Governments and government instrumentalities.
– I have received a letter from the Woollahra Council, protesting against a notification given to it by the Treasurer, under date the 1st May, that, although a date had not been fixed, he proposed to specify, on or about the 1st August, 1947, certain authorities of a State or local-governing authorities, including the Municipality of Woollahra, to be authorities in relation to which sec tion 48 of the Banking Act 1945 shall apply. The right honorable gentleman added -
In effect this will mean that as from the date on which this specification is made a private bank will not be able legally to conduct business on behalf of any local-governing authority specified in the notice.
In view of the objections that are being lodged by various State instrumentalities, including local-governing bodies, will the Treasurer re-consider his decision, so that the instrumentalities concernedwill be able to continue to conduct their banking business with those banking institutions with which they have so far transacted it ?
– The notices thatI issued were sent only to those localgoverning authorities to which the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank assured me that that institution is in a position to provide all the banking facilities that they need.
– This is one process of strangulation of private banking institutions.
– Order ! The House is not concerned with that matter. The honorable member has asked a question, and must not interrupt while the answer is being given.
– Subsequent examination may have disclosed that notices were issued to some local-governing authorities to which the Commonwealth Bank cannot provide all the necessary banking facilities. I have no knowledge of any instances of that sort. Only in such circumstances, should the matter he brought . to my notice, would I re-examine the matter. The letter that I sent to the Woollahra Council, and which the honorable gentleman has read, was an act of courtesy towards that local-governing authority, intimating that, from the date specified, private banking institutions will not be able legally to conduct its banking business.
– The Woollahra Council was not happy to receive it.
– Order ! That is no concern of the House and, as I have intimated, the honorable gentleman is not entitled to interrupt while the Treasurer is replying to his question.
– It is true that courtesy is not always appreciated. My answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is, that I do not propose to reconsider the decision that 1 made in regard to the banking business of localgoverning authorities except in particular cases in which there may be a doubt of the ability of the Commonwealth Bank to provide the necessary facilities.
– Is it a fact that S’S. Gloucester was loading bombs and detonators at No. 13 Wharf, Pyrmont, last week and that explosive cargoes have recently been handled at Walsh Bay and Woolloomooloo? Have the authorities at Melbourne and ‘Sydney and also the Waterside Workers Federation drawn attention to. the risk involved? In view of the danger associated with the handling of such cargoes on munitions ships and wharfs, will the Minister give consideration to explosives being loaded and unloaded exclusively at powder anchorages in conformity with the practice that prevailed in pre-war days?
– I am aware that during the war the regulations dealing with the handling of explosives in Australian ports had to be somewhat relaxed, but I was under the impression that the pre-war practice of handling such cargoes had been reverted to. I am not aware of the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to make inquiries. I am sure that he also desires that the pre-war practice in relation to explosives shall again operate.
– As I understand that there is considerable disquiet in Sydney regarding allegations made in Smith’s Weekly of the 14th May, concerning the Commonwealth General Assurance Corporation Limited, can the AttorneyGeneral indicate the result of the consultation which he promised the honorable member for Franklin on the 15th May that he would have with the Prime
Minister? Have the allegations yet been investigated by Commonwealth authorities ?
– I hope to be able to supply to the right honorable gentleman either tomorrow or Thursday an answer which I think will satisfy him.
– Is the Minister representing .the Postmaster-General aware that thousands of applicants for telephones to be installed in ‘business premises and private homes in Brisbane are still awaiting the installation of these instruments? Will he say what the department is doing in this matter, and when is he likely to be in a position to inform the House that all requests for telephones have been satisfied ?
– I am aware that the Postmaster-General knows that thousands of persons in Brisbane who have applied for telephones are still awaiting the installation of these instruments. I am also aware that the Postmaster-General’s Department Ls doing everything possible to install telephones at the earliest possible moment wherever they are required throughout Australia. However, shortages of labour and materials, and particularly insufficient modern telephone exchanges, are retarding . the work of installation. I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to prepare a report for the information of the honorable member and I hope that it will be ready before the House rises on either Thursday or Friday next.
– I am informed that no supplies of nicotine are available for sheep drenches because the Government has made nicotine available for other purposes. What are the other purposes? Are they of such importance as to justify the withholding of supplies of nicotine for drenches? Will the Minister ensure that at least some of this essential commodity becomes available for use in an essential industry ?
– I know that nicotine is scarce, both for use as a spray on vegetation and for drenching stock. The honorable member may be assured that the highest priority is given to those activities which are considered to be of the greatest essential importance.
– What are they?
– I cannot say at the moment. Action is already being taken and it is hoped to make arrangements for producing our own supplies of nicotine in Australia.
– In the Sydney Morning Herald of Friday last there appeared a report that primary producers were unable to obtain wire netting, and that manufacturers might soon cease production because of the huge accumulation of netting in store. In view of the importance of wire netting to farmers in country districts, I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether it is a fact that there is any hold-up in the distribution of wire netting and, if so, what is the cause? If there is an accumulation in store, is it due to difficulty in distribution? If there is no accumulation, will the Minister do everything possible to ensure that primary producers get more netting?
– The Government is already doing everything possible to ensure that wire netting is .available in sufficient quantity. The report that production is likely to be held up because there is not enough storage capacity is without foundation. It is true that the works ceased production a little while ago. but it was because the companies could not net enough men to work as galvanizers. This is an unattractive job, and manufacturers have had difficulty in keeping their men. Some rime ago, a considerable quantity of wire netting was held in store. That was because netting, which had been allocated to distant States such as Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland, could not be shifted due to the shipping shortage. I am not prepared, because there is a temporary chipping hold-up, to release for distribution in Victoria and New South Wales, wire netting that was allocated to other States. T have said that the quotas will be.held in the hope that shipping become? available. As a matter of fact, during last week, two ships loaded wire netting, and have removed to the States to which it rightly belongs the greater part of the netting which was in store.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether there is any committee which controls exports of galvanized iron piping and roofing materials to the islands, which, I understand, are unable to absorb the quantities they are receiving? There is a heavy demand for these materials in Australia.
– The export of these materials to the islands is not controlled by a committee. The Department of Works and Housing allocates the supplies that are available. I believe, from memory, that the supplies total approximately 17,000 tons, and that the quantity allocated to the islands is only about 500 tons. The islands can procure their requirements only from Australia, and the Commonwealth must meet the obligation to supply them. The statement that the quantity supplied cannot be used, is not in accordance with fact. The PublicWorks Department in New Guinea is now controlled by the Department of Works and Housing, which, cannot secure a ‘sufficient quantity of these materials to do all the work that is needed. Therefore, I cannot visualize the possibility of altering the present allocation.
Customs Duties ox Church Gifts.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs about a mattei- which has been brought to my attention in a letter of protest. Is it a fact that customs duties are levied on gifts of goods sent to Church missions in the Australian mandated territories? If so, can this practice be reconciled with section 89 of the Constitution, which provide? for absolute freedom of trade between the components of the Commonwealth? Will the Minister consider applying the protective provisions of section 92 to the mandated territories as well as to the States of the Commonwealth ?
– I am not aware of the imposition of customs duty on goods exported from Australia to mission stations in the mandated territories. Possibly, in accordance with the requirements ofthe Wheat Tax Acts, a levy is made in respect of the proportion of wheat contained in foodstuffs exported to the islands; hut I do not know whether that provision applies to foodstuffs exported to mandated territories. I shall ascertain the facts from the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether bis attention has been drawn to a two-column statement published in the Brisbane Sunday Mail of Sunday last under the caption, “£1,000,000 Ghost Fleet. Naval Craft Rotting at Pinkenba “. That report states that the vessels mentioned include from 50 to80 speedy motor fleet launches, tugs and army supply ships which show the ravages of the weather, river thieves and neglect and that these vessels have been tied up for upwards of two years without care and attention. Is that report correct? If so, what action does the Minister propose to take in this matter?
– I have seen the report mentioned by the honorable member. The units referred to are owned by the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the Australian Government. We are acting only as caretakers of the units owned by t he other two Governments, and the ultimate disposal of these vessels is a matter for decision by those governments. We have taken up the matter with them in order to ascertain what they wish to do with those units. Some of the units belonging to the Royal Australian Navy have been placed in reserve; but, as the result of demobilization and other factors, sufficient personnel are not available to provide care and maintenance parties for each unit. It is true that the holds of some of those vessels have been reconditioned, and that maintenance parties are stationed on board the corvettes. Those who have been detailed to look after those units have performed their duty faithfully; but, at the same time, I realize that sufficient personnel are not available to ensure adequate care and maintenance of all units. The allegations of losses as the result of thefts have not been brought to my notice officially, but I am now investigating thataspect.
Visit to Australia
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the reports emanating from London and elsewhere that His. Majesty the King proposes to visit Australia next year? Can the right honorable gentleman indicate whether he has received information to support such statements, and, for the guidance of honorable members, can he say whether such a visit next year is probable ?
– I assure the honorable member that I have not received any information, either formally or informally, regarding the possibility of a visit to Australia by His Majesty. I did understand that it was His Majesty’s intention to visit each of the dominions, but in what order such visits will be made I cannot say. I have no information as to when His Majesty will visit Australia.
– Arising out of statements made in the course of the debate which took place in this chamber with respect to food for Britain, including allegations that fats were not being despatched to Great Britain in such quantities as could be made available, I have received a letter from a person who, after hearing that debate, directs my attention to the fact that thousands of tons of tallow are stacked in a paddock outside Melbourne whilst another firm also is holding big stocks of tallow in 44-gallon drums. Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any knowledge of a large quantity of fats or tallow being stored in Australia, and if so will he ascertain whether it is possible to make such tallow available, either to the people of Great Britain, or to the Australian people if they require it?
– Tallow for export falls into two categories, first,inedible tallow for the manufacture of soap and commodities of that kind, and secondly, edible tallow. In regard to inedible tallow, the position has been such that only recently it was deemed unwise to issue permits for the export of any further quantities of such tallow until Australian soap makers had sufficient supplies to cope -with the demands for soap of Australian housewives and laundries. As soon as that, position has been overcome permits will again be issued for the export of inedible tallow. Shortages of edible tallow on the Australian market have been such that it has been impossible to export tallow of that type. In order to encourage a saving of edible tallow the Prices Commissioner recently authorized a substantial increase of the Australian price which, it is hoped, will have the effect of making larger quantities available for home use and for export. I have no factual information as to the allegation that large quantities of tallow are held in store in Australia.
A census has been taken-
– The Minister should have such information. He asked for a report.
– A census was asked for by the Minister for Ti-ade and Customs. It was, however, conducted by my department. It is probable that manufacturers, being well aware that there will be a reduction of income tax in the financial year commencing on the 1st July next, are holding stocks of inedible tallow in order that they may make greater profits in a year of lower taxation rather than in this year while taxes remain at their present level.
– Does the Government’s immigration plan contain a proposal for the encouragement of agriculturists with sufficient means of their own to engage in farming in Austraila? If so, will the Minister for Immigration inform the House of its specific nature? Further, in view of the shortage of suitable labour, will the Minister consider inviting the youth of Great Britain and other countries to come to Australia to help in the planning and building of water conservation works, electric power undertakings, roads, bridges, dams and irrigation channels, so vital for the future of Australia’s rural industries?
– No part of the Government’s immigration plans provides for the encouragement of agriculturists with capital to come from other countries to Australia. In Australia there are many land-hungry farmers, and sons of farmers, who would resent the introduction of people from overseas to buy land in this country which they believe they should have the first right to purchase. As to agricultural workers, the Government has concluded an agreement with the Dutch Government, as I mentioned some months ago, under which 50 Dutchmen will be brought to Australia monthly, commencing <>u the 1st January next. Two parties of equal strength will come to Australia this year from Holland. They are all sons of farmers, and 80 per cent, of them will engage in farm work as labourers. After they gain experience in this country they might take up land of their own. The third part of the honorable member’s question refers to the importation of manual workers for the construction of water conservation works, electric power undertakings, roads, bridges and the like. The Government of Tasmania has submitted a group nomination for 900 such people, and we shall attempt to get them from Great Britain in the first instance. If we are unable to get British subjects, we shall endeavour to get persons resident in -Great Britain at the moment, such as Poles, Czechs and Yugoslavs. We have received a request from the Government of Western Australia to bring in 400 labourers of foreign .birth to work on the pipe-line supplying the Kalgoorlie mines. That request will .be given favorable consideration when certain further details are worked out. Generally, the Government places emphasis on the immigration of people from Great Britain first. However, we shall bring in people from other countries when our needs cannot be supplied from Great Britain. I have had disagreements with some of my colleagues and with State Premiers and Ministers’ as to whether we can get Australian or British people to work on dams, railroads and big electrical undertakings. I do not believe that at present Australians or Britons will do that sort of work and that, therefore, if we want it done, we 3hall have to bring in foreigners. If so, [ shall certainly do my best to bring such people to Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the fact that caustic soda is in short supply has come to his knowledge. Caustic soda is a necessary concomitant to soap manufacture, and the shortage is causing some anxiety. Can the Minister expedite the supply of caustic soda to soap manufacturers, and will he tell the House what he knows of the facts?
– I understand that there is an acute shortage of caustic soda and what is known as caustic soda ash, which are used in the manufacture of soap. I understand that the shortage is due to industrial disturbances which have been going on for some months. I shall gladly do anything that I can to assist in having increased supplies made available to the public and to the manufacturers.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government is negotiating a barter arrangement with the Government of India for the exchange of a quantity of wheat or other grain for linseed and linseed oil? What quantities of each commodity are concerned in any such negotiations? What is the basis of prices for such negotiations? If such negotiations are based on prices for wheat or other grain lower than current export prices, what action is intended to recoup the growers or the wheat stabilization fund? Is the difference to be made up from Consolidated Revenue?
– Some exploratory talks have taken place with representatives of the Government of India about satisfactory supplies of linseed for Australia on the one hand and an endeavour by the Australian Wheat Board to supply more wheat to the people of India, if we can find it, on the other. So far, prices have not been discussed. When we learn whether satisfactory arrangements can be made between the respective governments prices will be taken into consideration. I assure the honorable gentleman meanwhile that if any arrangement is made to supply wheat to India it will be sold at world parity.
Flights over Canberra.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Air inquire into the flying of Royal Australian Air Force aeroplanes over the Canberra city area? I am told that such flying occurs daily about 10.30 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. and that it is disturbing to people engaged on work requiring concentrated attention, patients in hospitals and mothers with young children. The flying may be necessary, but will the Minister inquire whether so much is required over the Canberra city area and whether it can be reduced?
– I do not know whether flying over the Canberra city area is unduly low or whether some of it is unnecessary; but I undertake to ascertain the facts. If flying over the city area can be obviated, appropriate action will be taken.
PROPOSED Visit bt Parliamentary Committee.
– I have asked the Attorney-General several questions about his intention to arrange for an all-party committee of members of the Commonwealth Parliament to visit Japan. In view of the necessity for honorable members to inform themselves on conditions in Japan in respect of both our own troops and the forthcoming peace treaty, has the Attorney-General yet made arrangements for such a committee to be set up ? If not, can he do so before the Parliament goes into recess?
– The honorable gentleman raised that matter before. Since then the situation has altered in that it seems probable that a conference will be held in Australia in August between the representatives of the British countries that took part in the war against Japan. I never thought that an all-party committee to visit Japan was the real object of the honorable member’s concern, because my concern was to get some assistance in an advisory capacity, which, of course, such a committee would provide, in working out the terms of the treaty with Japan. I still hope that that will be possible, but my view is that it should not be limited to members of Parliament on either side of the House.
– The Congress of the United States of America is sending a committee to Japan ?
– I know what the honorable gentleman refers to, butI do not wish to argue it now. There is something to be said for that. I am hopeful of setting up a committee, but not for the purpose of its visiting Japan - of course, the committee may suggest some such course if it thinks fit - but to consider Australia’s attitude at the forthcoming conference. I have in mind a committee including several members from both sides, representative of all political parties, to co-operate with the committee presided over by Sir Frederic Eggleston, who has been working on the problem of Japan for many months. The proposal will have to be approved finally by the Cabinet, but I hope that will be the course taken.
Expedition from Australia.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral why the ship associated with the projected Australian Antarctic expedition, now being fitted out at Port Adelaide, perpetuates the name of Wyatt Earp, a hard-riding, two-gun sheriff of Arizona? That was the name given to the ship by Lincoln Ellsworth. Anyway, we have had plenty of gunmen in our own history.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will find it hard to convince me that that is a matter of national importance.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s question so far is out of order.
– It is humorous.
– That is of no consequence.
– “Will the committee in charge of the expedition consider re naming the vessel, because this affords an opportunity to perpetuate the name of some distinguished British or Australian Antarctic explorer? The Australian National Airlines Commission commemorates the names of distinguished Australian explorers in the naming of its aeroplanes.
– I do not know the history of the person after whom the vessel Wyatt Earp is named, but I know that the ship was constructed some years ago, and has been selected by the committee as being suitable for the type of work on which it is to be employed. The vessel is not owned by the Australian Government, hut is simply under its control. If it were a new vessel I should giveconsideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral obtain from that Minister the following information : - (1) the names of all officials and members of the staff employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the several States of the Commonwealth; (2) the salary or wage paid to each of them?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Postmaster-General for reply.
Maize Bags - Delivery of Goods
– In view of the increase of10d. each in the price of maize bags, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture again refer this matter to the Prices Commissioner, so that the price for maize bags may be treated similarly to the adjustment made in the price of flour bags when the price of flour was recently increased by 14s. 10d. a ton?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Prices Commissioner and furnish him with a reply in due course.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and
Customs inform me whether the Prices Branch has made any investigation of the cost of re-instituting home deliveries by tradespeople who discontinued this service during the war? If so, what has been disclosed? “What steps, if any, has the Government taken, or does it propose to take, to ensure that these services shall be restored to housewives?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and furnish him with a reply in due course.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Eric Millhouse, will attend the biennial conference of the British Empire Service League in London on the 30th June next, to be presided over by Viscount Mountbatten ? Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Millhouse, as Australia’s delegate, intends to move that Empire troops who were prisoners of the Japanese shall he adequately compensated for work done by forced labour, and that payment of 3s. a day subsistence allowance, for the period of their incarceration, shall be made a first charge against the Japanese , Government ? Will the Prime Minister state whether or not the Government supports the league’s attitude?
– I did read in a newspaper that Mr. Millhouse proposes to proceed to the United Kingdom,but I have no official information of his visit, or of any motions that he intends to move at the forthcoming conference of the British Empire Service League. His actions at the conference will not be at the instigation of this Government. Perhaps his views on various subjects may be in conformity with those of the Government, but he has no authority to submit any motions on its behalf.
– The Minister for the Army will recall that meat works were established in the Northern Territory during World War II. to supply meat for the troops, not only in the Darwin area but also at Morotai and various islands north of Australia. The chilling chambers of Vestey’s old meat works were reconditionedfor use, and, in addition, the Government expended approximately £100,000 in building another chamber adjacent to them. At Katherine, about 200 miles south of Darwin, meat works were erected for the slaughter of stock, and the carcasses were then transported by rail to the chilling chambers at Darwin. The people of the Northern Territory are now seriously concerned regarding the future of the works at Katherine. Will the Minister inform me whether they have been sold, and will be used as a boiling down works for making Bovril? If so, he must know that the lessees of the smaller holdings might be “ pushed out “ by the lessees of the larger stations who dominate the north. Will the Minister make a statement to the House regarding the Government’s intentions. Will he also preserve the meat works for the use of the lessees of the smaller holdings?
– The Department of the Army ceased to lease the meat works some time ago, and they now come under the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior, whose representative will answer the question.
– The future activities of works to which the honorable member referred are now being investigated by a sub-committee of Cabinet consisting of the Minister for the Interior, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. When that body has submitted its report to Cabinet, I shall supply the information that the honorable member desires.
– In view of the recognized value of an emblem to any cause or institution, will the Minister for Information take steps to give prominence to the Australian flag in all educational films, booklets issued by the Department of Information, and similar publications designed to promote knowledge of and interest in Australia? In particular, will he seek by these means to encourage an affection and respect for the institutions of this country among immigrants who seek either freedom or opportunity on these shores?
– I recognize the value of an emblem to any cause or institution, and am in general agreement with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member. We do use the Australian flag on some of our literature, but I shall see that it is used on all educational films and all publicity material issued by the Department of Information. By that means, we shall help the assimilation of newcomers to our midst. I should like to go further, however, and say that, in my opinion, the time has arrived when we should legalize and regulate the use of the Australian flag in much the same way as has been done by means of legislation enacted in the United States of America to ensure that the American flag shall be appropriately honoured. In the United States of America, the “ Stars and Stripes “ has an honoured place in every court of law, and is displayed by every religious denomination in all its churches. I believe that the American experience has proved that the proper respect which is shown for the American flag has helped to build up American nationalism. I am sure that, if proper respect were shown for the Australian flag, which is flown by our warships and by our troops in battle, a healthy Australian national spirit would be promoted, and all Australians, whether newcomers or natural-born, would love and respect the laws of this country.
Visit to Australia by Aircraft Carriers.
– I understand that there is a likelihood of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier visiting Australia shortly. When the Minister for Immigration visits Great Britain in the near future, will he propose to the Government of the United Kingdom that, in view of the success which attended a previous voyage, when wives of Australian servicemen were brought from Great Britain to this country, and because of the existing shortage of ship ping, this aircraft carrier, or a similar vessel, shall bring migrants to Australia, and shall carry food for Britain on the return voyage?
– I have seen the press notice which announced that one or two aircraft carriers are to visit Australia. Probably that inspired the honorable gentleman’s question. If these vessels are coming from Great Britain, I shall do my utmost to see that they shallbe used, as were Victorius and at least one other aircraft carrier when they came to Australia, to bring migrants to this country. I believe that Victorius brought a number of war brides of Australian servicemen. The Minister for the Navy by interjection has now advised me that the vessels are coming from Hong Kong. In that event, it will not be possible to use them for the purpose suggested by the honorable gentleman. But I may succeed in obtaining the use of other aircraft carriers. For many months I have been trying to have people brought from Great Britain to Australia in aircraft carriers that have been placed out of commission. I understand that there are British subjects in Shanghai and Hong Kong who wish to come to Australia because of the conditions that exist in the Far East.
– In India, also.
– Maybe in India, too. I shall go fully into the question of the proper and complete utilization of aircraft carriers for the transport of British subjects from the United Kingdom to Australia. The suggestion of the honorable member that any vessel whichbrings migrants to Australia shall be utilized on the return voyage for the carriage of food to Great Britain also commends itself to me.
Black Marketing Operations
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the report published in the Melbourne Argus that trade authorities have estimated that, in 1945, 78,000 motor cars of a total of 81,000 were sold on the black market; that the average price in excess of the pegged price ranged between £100 and £200; and that it is estimated that. about 170 black marketeers are operating in the sales of .motor cars in Melbourne? Has the Attorney-General any knowledge of this alleged wide-spread .black marketing in motor cars? Has he, his department, or any other government department, any measures for dealing with it?
– This matter is administered by the Prices Branch. There is no doubt of the existence of black marketing in the sales of motor cars, particularly used cars. Equally, there is no doubt that a large number of convictions has ‘been obtained, and very heavy penalties have been imposed where convictions have been recorded, on charges of black marketing. It has been possible to obtain a conviction only when one of the two parties to the transaction, after proceeding for a certain distance with it, has notified the authorities of the likelihood of an offence being committed. Then, inspectors have been invited to be present at the completion of the transaction, and specially marked money has been used so as to make denial of guilt impossible. Because of the existence of a conspiracy, or something approaching it, in every case, the sheeting home of guilt by officers of the Prices Branch is not an easy matter. I do not know where exact figures could be obtained, apart from black marketeers themselves or people closely associated with them. The honorable member must realize the great difficulties that confront those who are responsible for the enforcement of this and all other controls. I shall refer to the Minister for Trade and Customs the fact mentioned by the honorable member, which 1 had not seen in the press, with a view to determining what action may be taken. I have no doubt that there is still a good deal of black marketing, despite the severe sentences that have been imposed. The matter presents considerable difficulty, as the honorable member must know.
– In view of the fact that during the long drawn-out metal trades dispute in Victoria the production of Victorian iron foundries was interfered with, resulting in a falling off of production, and that although work has been resumed, the continuity of operations in iron foundries is now threatened by a shortage of coke, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping arrange for a sufficient allocation of coke to Victoria to ensure continuous production?
– I shall ask the Minister for .Supply and Shipping to make inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether anything can be done to make more coke available to iron foundries in Victoria.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether all State parliaments have passed complementary legislation to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act? Having regard to the uncertainty that prevails because of the reported rejection of such legislation by at least one State, will the Minister say what action the Government intends to take to clarify the position in regard to the wheat industry?
– Speaking from memory, two States, namely, Queensland and Tasmania, have passed complementary legislation in exactly the form in which they agreed to pass it at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The South Australian Parliament has passed complementary legislation which is different from that agreed to at the conference. I understand that Western Australia also has passed complementary legislation. The Government of Victoria introduced legislation which, however, was not passed by the Torydominated Legislative Council in that State. The Commonwealth Government has honoured in their entirety the arrangements made with the States. It now rests with the State governments to indicate what action they propose to take.
Qantas Empire Airways
– Is it a fact that Qantas Empire Airways, not wishing to sell its private shareholding to the Commonwealth Government, was obliged to seek further financial assistance when the price of the Constellation aircraft it had on order increased sharply? Did the
Commonwealth Government take advantage of that situation to compel the company to surrender its private shareholding to the Government? Will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House setting out the facts?
– No pressure of the kind indicated by the honorable member’s, question has been applied to Qantas Empire Airways. It was apparent that Qantas Empire Airways, in which the Commonwealth Government has a holding as the result of buying some shares in the company, would have been called upon to provide considerable additional capital for an expansion of its services, [n the circumstances, and also for other reasons, the Government thought that it was desirable, seeing that it had to provide a. good deal of the money, to acquire the private holdings of the company. Recently, the honorable, member for Balaclava referred to the purchase of Constellation aircraft. This subject involved the provision of dollars. There was no possibility, so far as the Government could ascertain, of getting suitable aircraft from the United Kingdom. It was apparent from the evidence available that there would be delays in the production of Tudor I. and Tudor II. aircraft. In the circumstances, it agreed to provide dollars for the purchase of Constellation aircraft. Qantas Empire Airways would have bad to provide additional capital in order to purchase those machines, or increase its overdraft at the bank. I shall not go into details as to the negotiations that took place. Provision has been made for an overdraft sufficient to meet these commitments. The Government decided to purchase the private interests of the company in accordance with its general policy, which is also the policy of the United Kingdom Government, which is operating the flying boat part of the service. Generally, the Government believes that it is better that such undertakings should be controlled by governments.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that as certain glass products, particularly test tubes, are in such short supply the herd-testing associations may be obliged to cease operations ? Is he aware that Australian butter production, both as to quantity and quality, depends largely on the work of these associations? If so, will he take steps to ensure thai adequate supplies of the necessary glass apparatus are made available, by Australian manufacturers if possible but, ri necessary, by granting licences to import them?
– I was not aware thai there was a shortage of the glass apparatus required for herd-testing, but I am aware of the great importance of herdtesting and of the necessity for these organizations to have the necessary apparatus. I shall be glad to examine the position, and if any action of mine will overcome the difficulty I shall readily do what I can. In the event of apparatus of local manufacture not being available. I shall readily investigate the possibility of obtaining it from overseas.
Bill presented by Dr. Evatt, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to provide for the protection of approved defence projects. Its object is to prevent sabotage, or attempted sabotage, of approved defence undertakings. Honorable members will recall that, recently, the House discussed a motion relating to espionage risks in connexion with the guided weapons testing range in Central Australia. During that discussion it was shown that representatives or members of the Communist party had published certain propaganda which indicated that the primary objection to the tests was that it would endanger Australian aborigines, although the real object of that party was the prevention of the project itself. I showed to honorable members extracts from a pamphlet and from newspapers circulated in Australia which proved that point beyond doubt. That being so. the question resolves itself into a fairly simple issue. The substance of the propaganda in the pamphlet and in the newspapers was an allegation that Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America, were pursuing a policy directed against Russia, and that the building of the testing range was part of that policy. That allegation was so false that no person with any intelligence should give it credit. Nevertheless, it was broadcast far and wide in those documents. The third point to which I wish to direct the attention of honorable members, without going into unnecessary detail, is the fact that Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America are taking an active part in an attempt to establish an effective method of suppressing atomic weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction, such as those which will probably be tested in Central Australia. Until suppression of atomic weapons is effected internationally, vital defence projects must be gone on with provided they are approved by the Australian Government and the Parliament. The testing range is an approved project of that kind. The interests of the aborigines are fully safeguarded under the plan, and interferences with the project, either by boycott or threat of boycott, will not be permitted by the Government - subject to the approval which we are confident we shall obtain from the Parliament.
Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are matters which, no doubt, should he considered in connexion with this legislation, because certain of the groups which opposed the testing range project did not do so on the assumption that it was directed against Soviet Russia. That, it was so directed, was the argument of the Communists. The other groups were moved by a desire to protect the aborigines, and theirs was a perfectly legitimate argument to put forward. When the bill is examined, it will be seen that scope for advancing opinions of that character in regard to defence projects will remain. Although freedom of expression is vital, the Parliament cannot, and will not, tolerate attempts to prevent the carrying into execution of carefully-planned defence projects.
– What will be the position if the obstacles to the carrying out of a defence project take the form of strikes and industrial hold-ups?
– If the honorable member will bear with me, he will see that the point is covered in the bill. The sum and substance of the bill can be gleaned by a perusal of the few clauses which it contains. Clause 3 defines an approved defence project as follows: - “Approved defence project” means an work or undertaking for the testing of longrange weapons which is approved by the Minister of State for Defence by notice in the Gazette as an immediate defence project and includes any other work or undertaking, being carried out or to be carried out either within or outside Australia for the defence of Australia or any territory of the Commonwealth, which is so approved as an immediate defence project.
– Will it be necessary for any work or undertaking to be gazetted as an approved defence project before it will come under this measure?
– Even a long-range weapons proposal will have to be defined in some way in the Gazette so that no one who may be engaged in an attempt to defeat that particular project will be able to say that he did not know that it was covered by this legislation. For that purpose, it will probably be necessary for the Minister of State concerned to indicate the project in a general way, so as not to affect the requirements of defence or of military secrets. By the use of suitable words, projects of that kind can be described in such a way as to prevent the possibility of error or mistake.
– If it is proposed to construct a naval base in Queensland, for instance, will the project have to be gazetted ?
– A project is something to be done, so that a proposed naval base in Queensland would have to be gazetted, if it were desired that the proposal should come within the scope of this legislation. It is necessary to bring home to the minds of those who may be disposed to commit offences that particular projects are of i he kind which this measure is intended to cover. The essential word in the definition is “ immediate Thus, the bill relates, not to general proposals which may be put into effect years hence, but to immediate defence projects, upon which work has begun dr is about to begin.
– But surely it will not be desirable to publish in the Gazette notice of every defence project which the Government is contemplating?
– The honorable member is now following up the point raised by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). It might be of greater assistance to the House if I were to return to that point after discussing the prohibitions in the bill. Clause 4 contains the prohibitions and the limitations of the offences, and covers two kinds of action. It provides that a person shall be guilty of an offence if he -
Thus, the class of offender mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond is dealt with in this paragraph.
– What is meant by the expression “approved defence project”?
– It is a project which is not merely a matter of speculation or of possibility, but one that has the approval of the Executive Government or the Defence Department.
– ‘But is it open to persons to do. or say what they like in respect of projects which have not yet taken shape or substance?
– The right honorable member has put a rhetorical question-
– Well, the point could be of importance, but the distinction is between those defence projects which are part and parcel of the defence programme of the nation and those which, so far, are not. It is desired to ensure that the provisions of the bill shall apply, not to projects which are a remote possibility, but to those which represent the actual determination of the Government.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral take the view that, “ any person “ would include a State?
– No. I think there is a misunderstanding about that. I am now discussing the first part of clause 4 which deals with persons who institute a boycott, or declare persons or property black, in order to prevent, hinder, or obstruct approved defence projects. Paragraph a (ii) of sub-clause 1, of the same clause deals with publishing a declaration of a boycott, or threat of boycott, by means of which the sameobjective is pursued ; and paragraph a (iii) penalizes any person who,, by speech or writing, advocates or encourages the prevention, hindrance or obstruction of the carrying out of an approved defence project. But, in relation to all those three classes of action, it must be shown by the Crown that theaction sought to be penalized is without reasonable cause or excuse.
– Why ?
– In order to convert what might be an absolute duty into what might be a relative duty, according tothe circumstances of the case. Take, for instance, paragraph a (iii) of sub-clause 1, which penalizes any person who “ by speech, or writing, advocates or encourages the prevention, hindrance or obstruction of the carrying out of an approved defence project”. The persons to whom I referred in my opening remarks, such as pacifists or persons who believe that there is some special duty to the Australian aborigines when a work of this kind is contemplated might strongly advocate, at an early stage, the entire prevention of such a project. I do not believe that persons in that category should be made liable to criminal sanction without having regard to the circumstances. Even with respect to boycott, the question of reasonable cause or excuse seems to me to be one to guard, against the application of the criminal law to borderline cases where it is not proper that the sanction should be applied. The words “ without reasonable cause or excuse “ make it obligatory upon the court to consider all the circumstances when a case is brought before it. Therefore, not without great consideration because of the severe penalties provided, we apply the phrase “ without reasonable cause or excuse “ to those three classes of cases.
– A man who carries a firearm in Sydney to-day is liable to imprisonment for ten years; but under this measure a man who threatens the life of the Commonwealth is liable to imprisonment for only six months.
– That is not correct. When an. offence is prosecuted summarily, the penalty is a fine of not more than E500, or imprisonment for not more than six months, and when the offence is prosecuted upon indictment the penalty is a. fine of not more than £5,000 or imprisonment for not more than twelve months, or both. This provision is not intended to cover the whole law of sedition in this country, li is intended to provide, and I submit that it does provide, a means of dealing with attempts to boycott defence projects by declaring them black, or by actions of that character. Paragraph b of clause 4 (1.), the only other penalty provision, docs not introduce the words “without reasonable cause or excuse”, but makes it an offence for any person who “by violence or by threat of violence to person or property or by other unlawful means, prevents, hinders, or obstructs, or endeavours to prevent, hinder or obstruct, the can-ying out of a approved defence project. “ In that case, circumstances which might be pleaded in mitigation or justification are quite irrelevant. The unlawful act is made conclusive by the existence of violence, or threat of violence. I” have already indicated the nature of the punishment. In all cases it is intended that these prosecutions shall be Crown prosecutions.
That is how this matter has arisen. The background and the facts are known. This is not intended to supplant the ordinary law, but to supplement it; and I submit that something of this kind is needed because, although in the particular case I have mentioned there was a withdrawal from the position, of declaring the work black, it may well be that during the parliamentary recess a similar situation may arise. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) asked me a question with regard to the position of a State government. I do not see any action which could possibly be imputed to a State government, certainly not one arising out of a dispute between governments, which could come within, the purview of the bill.
– It was said by somebody recently that the State government would be included; and I simply wanted to obtain the right honorable gentleman’s view on the matter.
– My view is that this bill deals with persons who declare, or attempt to declare, black a defence project approved by the Government, or attempt to ban or boycott such work, and the bill brings such persons within the range of the criminal law under the conditions set out in the measure.
– Will the penalty provisions apply to newspapers?
– Paragraph (a) (ii) of clause 4 (1.) deals with the publication of any declaration of a boycott, or threat of a boycott, by means of which the carrying out of an approved defence project is prevented, hindered or obstructed, or is sought to be prevented, hindered or obstructed. That would be an offence if it were without reasonable cause or excuse. That is a good illustration of the difficulty of measuring the words to meet the particular problem. Take the publication of a black ban in a newspaper. It might be published simply as a means of making the ban effective. It might be published without testing the truth of the declaration that such a ban has been imposed. The words “without reasonable cause or excuse “ guarantee the right of reasonable expression if it is merely published in a newspaper for the sake of reporting news without any intention to forward the purpose of the boycott or declaration. But everything depends upon an analysis of the circumstances. A. newspaper may publish such a declaration in order to encourage the ban. That would be a more serious offence than an attempt which might be made by some obscure person to declare a boycott.
– Would a Communist who, while speaking in the Sydney Domain, makes a statement of that kind be guilty of an offence under that provision ?
– Publication includes not only written but also oral matter, and every form of what the law would call publication.
– Will this measure make persons liable to prosecution for any act in respect of which a person is not now. liable under any act of the Commonwealth ?
– I think that it would. To some degree a section of the Crimes Act overlaps this bill, and 1 and my advisers have consulted that clause very closely in drafting the hill ; but I believe that something of this kind is necessary to deal with the problem at present confronting us. I do not think that the relevant section of the Crimes Act meets the position at all, because it would not guarantee the success of any action which might be taken under it at this stage. There are other aspects of that matter which can be examined later.
– Reverting to the question of “ any person, “ does the right honorable gentleman say that a State is not covered because the word “person” is not appropriate to cover a State, or because of the nature of the offence ?
– Both reasons apply. Nothing that has occurred in relation to this defence project arising out of any rumour, or actual dispute, has anything to do with the real purpose of this bill.
– I follow that.
– The provisions of this bill are intended to deal with the problem E have endeavoured to discuss on other occasions in connexion with motions for the adjournment of the House. I must apologize for dealing with the bill in such detail, almost as though we were sitting in committee. I commend the T>ill to the favorable consideration of the House and submit that, as a Parliament, we must register our conviction that when a defence project is fully embarked upon by the Government we cannot permit the boycott to be used as a political weapon to stop its progress. There is a great distinction between a strike, to which the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred, and a boycott. A strike is an action by workers to improve their industrial conditions; a boycott of the character contemplated by this bill constitutes a misuse of industrial power, not for the purpose of improving the conditions of workers but for a political or international purpose contrary to the defence policy of the Government and the Parliament. Such a boycott cannot be tolerated and accordingly I ask the House to agree to the passage of this bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide page 3129), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This hill constitutes an amendment of thiprincipal act and proposes to increase the benefits which Commonwealth public servants have enjoyed under that act. It is necessary to say at the outset that honorable members on this side of the House approve of the principles of the bill. 1 am sure that the Minister in charge of the House will give us a smile of encouragement for that small mercy. There may be some criticism of the bill in committee, but with its general principles we do not find fault, and because that is so I think it is necessary that we should say why, because it is generally regarded as the duty of the Opposition to oppose. In Australia we are served by an increasing number of public servants. I have obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician figures which show that in 1923, just after the passing of the original Superannuation Act, the number of contributors to the Superannuation Fund was 26,876, whereas in 1946 the number was 46,213, an increase of approximately 80 per cent. Not all public servants contribute to the fund; there are temporary public servants who do not do so and their number is considerable. The extraordinary rise of the percentage of contributors between 1923 and 1946 indicates the way in which Commonwealth Government activities have increased and, correspondingly, the way in which the Government is bound in duty to provide for its servants. We, on this side of the House, believe - and at this point we are, of course, at issue with the Government - that this extraordinary increase of the number of Commonwealth public servants is due for a change, that there should be a diminution and not a further increase of the number. We hope that such activities as the Prices Branch, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction- and the Rationing Commission will, in the not very distant future, be subjected to very drastic reduction. ‘ We know, of course, that there are ominous signs to the contrary; if the cloud in the sky no bigger than a man’s hand is any guide a large increase rather than u decrease is likely to take place.
No matter on what footing the subject is approached it is obvious that a large number of public servants is necessary and will continue to be necessary for the administration of the affairs of this Commonwealth. Possibly also, as time goes on and Commonwealth activities extend, the number may even have to be increased beyond what some of us would hope. Because of the large number of its civil servants, the Commonwealth has a special obligation to recruit the best men possible. We have seen in the mushroom departments which arose as a result of the war plenty of illustrations of the evil of not having the right sort of men in public jobs. That was inevitable; we had to extend war-time departments quickly and the government of the day had to get men wherever it could obtain them. Consequently, there were plenty of unsuitable persons occupying public positions. At all reasonable costs, however, that must not be allowed to happen again and the Commonwealth must therefore attract to its service only the best men. In the past we have been and at present we are being well served by our public servants. I, myself, have criticized public servants on what I thought to be matters of partiality and sometimes even for being high-handed in their work, particularly highhandedness with ordinary members of the public ; but, by and large, it is my view - and it is shared by members on this side of the House - that the public servants of the Commonwealth have been, and are, competent, honest and patriotic, and it is appropriate that during the discussion of a measure of this sort we should say so. But in order to hold these men, and in order to obtain qualified men - because, having regard, to the increasing complexities of Commonwealth administration, qualified men are required - we must make them secure and contented and give them good standing in the community, lt is because we believe that this bill is directed to those objectives, and will help to achieve them, that we support it.
Turning to the bill itself, it is of course a complicated measure even for a lawyer. In order to understand it more fully I conferred with the Acting Secretary of the Treasury and the Commonwealth Actuary, and I should like to record my gratitude for the assistance and courtesy ‘which they rendered me. If one looks at clause 7 of the bill, for instance, and examines even for a moment the complicated formula therein set out, one realizes how difficult it is to understand a measure of this sort without some expert explanation. The main features of the measure are these: In the first place, there is to be a 25 per cent, increase of the unit value of the pension. Might 1 explain it in this way: The Commonwealth superannuation system is based upon the principle that each member going into the Service takes up a certain number of units according to his rate of pay, and as he climbs in the Service and his rate of pay increases, the number of units for which he is entitled to subscribe is increased. A man starting on an income of £260 a year may, and indeed is, I think obliged, under the existing act, to contribute for four units of superannuation. The value of each unit is £26 a year. Therefore, this represents a pension of £104 a year. The bill provides that the value of each unit shall be increased from £26 to £32 10s. a year, giving a pension value for four units of £130 a year. This will not involve any extra contribution on the part of the public servant. In other words, the Commonwealth will give him a benefit to the amount of 25 per cent, of the present value of his pension. Under the existing act, the Commonwealth contributes to the scheme on a. 50-50 basis with thu contributor. The bill proposes to change the rate of contribution to the proportion of 40-60 as between the contributor and the Commonwealth. The justification for this change is obvious. I have taken the trouble to obtain the cost of living index figures over a period of years, and they show that, between 1939 and 1947, the cost of living has increased by 26 per cent. That percentage i3 based on the “ C “ series index, which does not disclose the full hardship of the rising cost of living. Most honorable members hold the opinion that the cost of living has risen more than that percentage over the period I have stated.
The second feature of the bill is that it will increase existing pensions by 25 per cent. That is to say, retired Commonwealth public servants will be entitled to receive 25 per cent, more in their periodical payments than they now receive. The third feature is that amounts which persons are entitled to receive out of the Provident Fund Account will be increased. The Provident Fund Account provides for Commonwealth public servants who are not eligible to contribute to the ordinary superannuation scheme either because they were appointed to the Service after reaching the contribution age limit of 40 years or because they were not able to pass the required medical examination. Such persons contribute to the Provident Account Fund at the rate of 5 per cent, of their salaries and, at the end of their term of service, they receive double the amount of the contributions which they have made, plus interest. The bill proposes that the amounts which they receive shall be increased by 25 per cent. Other benefits are also provided for in the bill. The immediate nett cost of these, according to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr! Dedman), is estimated to be £150,000 a year. This will rise, according to an estimated increase of the number of Commonwealth public servants, by an additional amount of £125,000 a year. Another increased cost, in respect of the superannuation fund itself, is estimated at £50,000 a year. Contributions to the fund were calculated on the basis that the fund would earn income at the rate of four per cent, per annum. However, it has been found that the fund does not earn that rate. This wa3 particularly noticeable during the war, owing to the fact that large sums were invested in war loans. The actual return is at the rate of about .3f per cent. For this reason, it has been estimated that the fund will have to be subsidized. Payment of the subsidy will not be necessary at present, but it is calculated that, after the next five years it will involve a charge of £50,000. ‘
The provisions of the bill are generous, but not too generous, I consider that the
Commonwealth ought to deal generously, wherever possible, with its servants who, at the end of their working lives, are entitled to say, “ I have done the State some service “.
– I speak on behalf of Commonwealth public servants in the higher salary groups. I refer particularly to those who receive £1,500 a year. Although that appears to .be a high rate of pay, analysis of the facts shows that such public servants who have children whom they wish to educate for any of the .professions are penalized so much that their salaries are not worth anything like their face value. I met a man in Sydney yesterday, and he pointed out his anomalous position to me. I regret that I have not yet had an opportunity to study this bill in detail, in order to examine his arguments. This man told me that two of his sons are being trained as doctors. He received no allowance for tax purposes in . respect of the costs of their university training, whereas, if he received only £400 or £500 a year, he would be granted an exemption of £150 a year for each of the two boys. That decreases the value of his salary considerably. His income tax amounts to about £700 a year. He is little better off than a man with a salary of £500 a year, simply because he is trying to educate his boys in a profession. In addition, this man suffers from some sight defect, and is therefore debarred from contributing for extra units of superannuation in order to provide for his retirement. A grave injustice is being done to some senior public servants. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has raised this matter many times and, with his expert knowledge as an accountant, he may be able to enlighten the House further and, in doing so, sponsor my case. I remind honorable members that the children of highly salaried public servants have a background which encourages them to undertake training in the professions. Under present conditions, such public servants are unduly penalized. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to examine this anomaly and take action to ensure that men receiving £1,500 a year may be afforded a tax allowance in respect of expenses incurred in providing their children with university training. Unfortunately, these men are not in the position of members of Parliament, who can take action to increase their own salaries. Public servants have to take increases as they come, and under present conditions they are unfairly treated.
.- [ urge that a greater measure of justice be given to persons who have contributed to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund for many years, and who suffer by comparison with old-age pensioners, who do not contribute for their pensions. Persons in receipt of superannuation payments are obliged to contribute to the Commonwealth’s social services scheme at the rate of 3d. in £1 weekly if their annual income is £104, increasing to the maximum rate of ls. 6d. in £1 weekly if their annual income is £220 or more. Very few retired Commonwealth public servants are not obliged to make social services payments at the maximum rate. Receipts from the social services contribution amount to about, £51,000,000 a year. Age and invalid pensions account for the largest item of expenditure from that revenue; but, unless superannuated public servants’ incomes are not more than £100 a year, which entitles them to the difference between the amount of their income, and the invalid or age pension, they are debarred from benefit from the pension. Owing to their age they cannot qualify, except in almost miraculous instances, for the maternity allowance or child endowment. They are not entitled to unemployment benefit, because they have passed the age beyond which that benefit is not payable. So they are debarred from practically the whole gamut of social services. I ask the Government to see whether it is not possible for substantial justice to be done to people who by their thrift have disqualified themselves from benefiting from social services to which they have to contribute. That applies to not only superannuated Commonwealth public servants, but also superannuated State public servants, beneficiaries from private superannuation schemes and people who have insured their lives. That would involve abolition or less rigid application of the means test. Under the present system, the more liberal the social services structure is made for the benefit of the unthrifty, the more discriminated against are the thrifty. I know hundreds of people who have subscribed to superannuation funds, including the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, and who are striking examples of the need for the Government to do as I ask. They are subjected to an unwarranted hardship. Exemption from payment of the social services contribution either altogether or until their income is far more than the £104 a year at which level the ordinary wage-earner becomes liable to make the contribution would be a. tardy measure of justice.
– The Commonwealth public servants are a well-deserving section of the community. Discontent exists concerning the limitations of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund throughout the Public Service, particularly in the Postmaster-General’s Department. An enormous amount of money has been accumulated in the fund, indicating that much more money is being extracted from those compelled to contribute than is necessary. Because of their thrift many public servants are not entitled on their retirement to benefit from the age pension - this applies also to their wives - but that is not the only disability that they suffer as contributors to the fund. One publicservant with about twelve years to serve before retirement told me that, he had found that to take out another unit of superannuation he would have had to make an exorbitant contribution and that if he died on the job his wife would not receive any benefit from the fund. He found that he could take out a life insurance policy that would give him a cheaper rate, and greater benefits than would have accrued to him had he taken our another unit of superannuation. Moreover, immediately on his becoming insured, his wife became entitled, should he die, to payment of the full value of the policy. The amount for which he insured himself was £200. Accrued bonuses will make the policy worth much more than £200 when it becomes payable. So public servants would be wise to examine the benefits of life insurance policies before deciding to take out extra units of superannuation. They are likely to find that they are entitled to a wider variety of benefits for a smaller cost. The reason why life insurance policies are a better proposition than pensions from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund is clear. A great fund has been built up by the Commonwealth Superannuation Board.
– Who told the honorable member that a great fund had been built up?
– Does the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction not think so?
– I do not.
– The amount in the fund may not seem great to the honorable gentleman, because, for a long time, he has been administering the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, a costly department, from which not much benefit has accrued to the people. We know that the Commonwealth Superannuation Board has huge sums at its disposal because it is able to lend money.
– Nonsense !
– The Minister knows that my statement is correct. The amount of £14,000,000 in the fund may not seem much to the Minister, who used to propound a scheme to pull credits from the clouds as they went by; but it is real money to the people who have contributed it, especially those unable to obtain the benefits that should and could be given to them and are given to beneficiaries of similar schemes in other countries and to holders of life insurance policies. I sincerely hope that the Government will consider the possibility of charging less for an increased number of units and of removing the bar against superannuated public servants and others participating in benefits from age pensions and other social services. It is scandalous that social service contributions and income tax should be levied on superannuated officers’ pensions, because I have been told that the contributions made to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund have already been taxed during the beneficiaries’ working lives. I think any one, even the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, .will agree that that is an injustice. If he does not he is the only one who does not see it. The Government should take into consideration the imposition on people who are contributing, and should ensure that they are relieved from paying two taxes on the savings which they are compelled to make by contributing to the fund. I sincerely hope that these contributors will not be called upon to suffer because of their thrift. They should be relieved of the obligation to pay income tax on their contributions as well as on their pensions, and have extended to them the privileges which some citizens, who have squandered their means, receive under the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act.
.- I agree with the aims of this bill and with the proposals outlined by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), which are most welcome. Upon analysis it is evident that this amendment of the principal act is long overdue. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said : “ Taking into account the old-age pensions for which a man and his wife are eligible, an officer who has been taking ten units of superannuation will have on retirement no greater income a week than the officer who has been taking only four units “. The scale of pensions payable under the principal act provides that those subscribing for ten units receive on retirement a pension of £260 per annum, and those for four units, a pension of £104 per annum. It is evident that a married man with a wife to support who receives a superannuation pension of £104 per annum would be entitled to receive a full pension under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. A superannuation pension of £104, plus the old-age pension, would place them on a basis equal to a person receiving a superannuation pension based on a contribution for ten units. That is a point which I stressed in speaking during the debate on the Supply Bill, when I cited instances of thrifty public servants in the Queensland Public Service, who received a pension of 38s. 6d. a week, being deprived of the old-age pension of 37s. Gd. a week. A public servant who has .been contributing for ten units is no better off than one who has contributed for four, so that the Government, in order to make amends,’ proposes to increase the value of the unit of pension by 25 per cent., and also to increase its contribution to the Provident Fund. In all the circumstances the proposal is not too generous. The Auditor-General’s report shows that the assets of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund a mount to £14,524,000. Undoubtedly there are many liabilities to ‘be met-
– There ai-e big liabilities.
– The Minister himself admits that no additional payments are due in respect of some of the present proposals. Having regard to the great number of public servants who have devoted their lives to the services of the Commonwealth, I do not think that the raising of the exemption for income tax purposes to £150 would be too great. These people are building up their own assets, and the Government taxes them ou that amount in later years. In addition, they have to pay the ordinary income tax on their wages to build up the social service funds to provide benefits for others. Included amongst those who are entitled to receive the benefits of the social services legislation are the thriftless, many of whom dissipated their incomes in drinking, gambling and in other similar ways. That is responsible for the present discontent in the Public Service which this proposal seeks to remedy. In addition, the Government should release public servants from payment of income tax on superannuation pensions,, or grant them a higher exemption, particularly those on the lower pension rates, so that they may enjoy social service benefits in their old age and infirmity. Some consideration should be given to them. While we cannot discuss that aspect of social service benefits on this bill, I emphasize the necessity of making some provision in. this regard.
.- I have uo desire to delay the passage of the bill by dealing with it in general terms. A constituent has brought to my notice a class of case which he feels may not be covered adequately by the legislation before the House. I do not claim to be familiar with the point, but I bring it to the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), so that his officers may investigate it, with a view to amending this measure if it be considered necessary. His letter reads -
I joined the Western Australian Service in 1800, and was transferred to the Commonwealth when the Postal, Customs and Defence Departments were taken over in 1901. Asyou are aware, officers so transferred had their State rights preserved under section 84 of the Commonwealth Constitution. One of those rights, provided by the Western Australian Superannuation Act 1871, was the right to » pension ou retirement. I retired in 1 035 and during my last three years’ service, I, along with all other civil servants, suffered a reduction in actual salary in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Financial Emergency Act, although our normal or classified salaries remained stationary. The result was, that the pension granted to me on retirement was based on my reduced actual salary, averaged over the last three years of my service, which meant that I was granted £2!) 9s. 7d.’per annum less than I should have received but for the reduction in my salary under the Financial Emergency Legislation. This Amount, viz. £20 9s. 7d., was subsequently granted as an “allowance” under the Transferred Officers Pensions Act.
The anomalous position was brought under the notice of the late Mr. Lyons, when Prime Minister, who recognized that an injustice was being clone to “ certain transferred officers “. and the Transferred Officers Pensions Act 1934 was passed to remove the anomaly. This act provided that an “ allowance “ be paid_ to make up the difference between the pensions that would have been granted, but for the operation of the Financial Emergency Legislation, and the pensions which hnd been actually granted.
Now that it is proposed to increase the pensions of Commonwealth officers by 25 per cent., it seems quite clear that the “ allowances ‘’ granted under the Transferred Officers Pensions Act 1034 should be subject to the same increase, as these allowances are, to all _ intents and purposes, portion of the pensions payable. Unless this subject is brought specially under the notice of the Government, it is quite possible that the 25 per cent, increase will not be made applicable to the allowances as it is a matter which _ might easily have escaped notice when the bill was being drafted.
I place those facts before the Minister. I do not know whether the Government has considered this matter, or whether the Minister’s advisers have any advice to offer about it. My correspondent was. I understand, at one time a senior officer in the Pensions Department and, therefore, I assume that he has written with some authority on this particular subject. Perhaps the Minister, when replying to the second-reading debate, or in committee, will supply some information on this point.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the foregoing message be taken into consideration in committee of the whole House forthwith.
– I do not desire to delay proceedings; but in my second-reading speech I raised a matter which, to the constituent who wrote to me, appeared to be of some importance as affecting a number of persons, including himself, and on which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) should give some explanation.
– Order! The House is now considering the appropriation message. The matter to which the honorable member referred may be raised later.
– I should like the Minister to assure me that he will examine the matter.
– I suggest that the honorable member should raise it when the committee considers clause 31.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1946, as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1.947, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - considered as a whole.
.- In my second-reading speech, I submitted to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) the circumstances of a case which had been brought to my notice and which, according to my correspondent, relates to a number of Commonwealth pensioners. At the time, the Minister did not explain the point which I raised, but suggested that I should ask my question under clause 31. I do not desire to repeat what 1 said earlier. If the Minister will undertake to have the matter examined before the bill is transmitted to the Senate, I shall be satisfied. I do not expect him to reply to the matter offhand, because, probably, his advisers will need to consider it. However, I should not like the bill to be passed without obtaining from the honorable gentleman an undertaking that the case will be investigated.
– The matter which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has raised has received consideration. Under sub-clause 1 of clause 31, pensions in force at the commencement of this proposed act will bo increased by onequarter, except with regard to two categories. One of them is the class of pensioner whom the honorable member mentioned. I refer to pensions payable in exchange for transferred State pension rights, in respect of which no contributions have been paid. The value of the pension unit for which employees contribute will be raised by 25 per cent. The bill also provides that this increase shall be made retrospective so as to apply to former contributors who have retired and who are now receiving pensions, and to the widows of former public servants. Persons receiving pensions under section 51 of the principal act are in a different category. These were formerly officers of State public services, who transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service, and their State pension rights were preserved under section 84 of the Constitution. When the Superannuation Act commenced in 1922, these employees were given the option to transfer their pension rights, which did not include widows’ or children’s benefits, to the Superannuation Board for new pension rights for themselves, their widows and children.
The State pension was reduced by 27½ per cent. to provide for widows’ and children’s pensions. State pensions are based on two-thirds of salary, as against slightly less than one-half of the salary in the case of pensioners under the Superannuation Act. The State pensions are free; that is, they are payable by the Commonwealth without any contribution by the employee, as against fairly high rates of contribution payable by the contributors under the Superannuation Act. The State pensions had no maximum, as against the present maximum of £416 per annum to pensioners under the Superannuation Act. Some of the pensioners under section 57 receive far more than the maximum pension which is payable to persons under the Superannuation Act.
– Are those pensions payable by the Commonwealth?
– A proportion of each pension is paid, I understand, by the States. The arrangement preserves their State pension rights. One pensioner under section 51 is in receipt of £1,054 per annum. From those facts, the honorable member for Fawkner will see that this class of pensioner is in a different category from public servants who contributed to a superannuation scheme, because they did not make any contribution.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th May (vide page 3233), on motion by Mr. Chifley-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Before I deal with one or two other matters which are in my mind, I should like to refer for a moment to the position of butter producers, who are anxiously awaiting the findings of a special committee which the Government appointed to examine costs of production in this industry. The producers of butter have been exceedingly patient and have not pressed their requests for a higher and payable price for their product, pending the report of the special committee. A few days ago the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that the Government would accept the recommendations of this committee, if those recommendations were satisfactory. I recognize that the Government must have the final word in determining the price that is to be paid for this product, and the amount of assistance that is to be given to the producers. Nevertheless, in view of the great difficulties under which butter producers are labouring, and the importance of their work in providing additional food for the people of Great Britain and other countries dairyfarmers feel concerned at the prospect which appears to be opened up by the Minister’s statement that, when the long-awaited report is at last received, and the committee recommends, as I believe itwill, a substantial increase of price, there might then be hesitation, delay or even failure to approve its recommendations. If what was in the Minister’s mind was the possibility that this committee might not recommend a sufficiently high return to the producers of butter, and, therefore, he was reserving to the Government the right to ensure that those producers would receive a higher price than the committee might recommend, I have no quarrel with what he said. But this committee was appointed by the Government, and is composed of men whom the Government considered could be trusted to carry out a lengthy and detailed investigation, and to make a full report, embodying its recommendations. I therefore take this opportunity of impressing upon the Government the necessity of ensuring that when the report has been submitted its recommendations for the improvement of the lot of butter producers shall be given full effect.
While on the subject of dairying, I wish to refer again to the delay of the Prices Branch in dealing with the representations of the Milk Zone Dairymen’s Council of New SouthWales, and of myself personally on behalf of that council, in regard to the extra costs that have been heaped on the producers of whole milk, for which they are receiving no compensation by way of an increased subsidy. Many months have elapsed since this matter was referred to the Prices Branch, and it is still at the stage of a formal acknowledgment having been made of the representations, but no further reply has been received and no decision reached. The result is, that the producers of whole milk in the area concerned are finding themselves financially embarrassed by having to meet successive increases of the basic wage and of other costs which affect their industry, whilst at the same time being prevented from obtaining any compensation for those increased costs, which will become unbearable if they have to carry them much longer without obtaining relief from the Prices Commissioner and the Government. It was made known some time ago that the Government intended to relinquish prices control over the whole of the milk industry towards the end of this year; to review and withdraw the subsidies that are now being paid; and to restore complete control of the industry to the State governments, which in New South Wales would mean its restoration to the New South Wales Milk Board. Since then, apparently, some doubt has been raised, and some hesitation is now apparent in the giving of a firm expression of opinion as to whether the industry is to bc restored to the control of the State governments before the end of this year. I therefore ask that the Government shall take the earliest opportunity to make known to the milk producers of New South Wales its intentions in regard to the future control of the industry. Is the industry to be restored to the control of the State governments, or is the subsidy system and control by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to be continued?
This debate gives to me the opportunity to refer to the broadcast that was’ made through, I understand, every national ;md commercial broadcasting station a few Sunday nights ago, in support of the Commonwealth loan campaign. I raised this matter by way of a question, from the viewpoint that it is undesirable that there should be a blanketing of all radio stations on one night so as to compel all those who tune in to the radio on that night to listen to one programme, or be prevented from having any radio entertainment whatever. In information since supplied to me, it has been made clear that this hook-up of every radio station in the Commonwealth for the broadcasting of this one comprehensive programme was effected, not by compulsion being exercised over the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, but by the voluntary co-operation of those stations with the organizers of the loan campaign. Furthermore, the information supplied to me points out that the programme” provided on that night was one of very high entertainment quality. Neither of those considerations, however, appears to me to meet the real point that is in issue in this matter, namely, whether a had and an undemocratic practice, which was adopted in war-time to meet special needs, should , now be allowed to continue into the peace-time era. It seems to me exceedingly bad that the listeners of this country should be regimented and compelled to hear only one programme, no matter how excellent that programme may be in the opinion of those who provide it, or how worthy may be the object it is desired to advance, by obtaining support for that object from other people. Once we adopt and become complacent about the practice of blanketing all radio stations throughout Australia for the broadcasting of one particular programme, we shall be on the way to adopting the worst practices for causing injury to the rights of freedom of expression. Such practices have already been adopted in other countries, and the fate of each of those countries should give us cause to pause, and to be warned about adopting them in connexion with even the smallest matter which affects individual rights, as I suggest this very importantly does.
Many constituents have recently brought to my notice their inability to obtain replies to correspondence addressed by them to government departments. They have referred particularly to communications addressed to the Taxation Department and the Prices Branch. Whilst recognizing the difficulties which both of those departments may be facing through lack of staff and pressure of work, yet I cannot agree that there is any justification for consistent and repeated refusal to reply to letters that have been addressed to them by citizens of this country. Another government instrumentality which appears to be a flagrant offender in this matter is the Rationing Commission. Time after time people have informed me that they have written in courteous and full terms to the Rationing Commission expressing their needs, or submitting applications in accordance with rationing procedure, and have received no reply ; and even when they have again addressed the Commission, reminding it that no answer had been received, there has still been no reply to either communication. Attention needs to be directed to this matter, and those who control departments should be informed that the Government expects that the utmost care shall be taken that replies are given promptly to citizens who write in reasonable terms to the department on business which affects them.
A matter which is of equal importance is the delay which frequently occurs in obtaining decisions from government departments. Even though it may be possible to obtain an acknowledgment of communications within a week or so, it is not an uncommon experience for citizens who have urgent and important business with government departments to wait not merely a matter of weeks, but sometimes for months, before a final decision on their business is given. That has occurred to my knowledge in a great many instances in which it would appear that not more than a few days, .at the most, should have been necessary to provide an answer containing the decision sought by the citizen. That applies not only to correspondence addressed by citizens direct to government departments, but also to correspondence conducted on their behalf by members of Parliament. This is a matter also to which the attention of departmental heads should rightly be directed, so that decisions sought by citizens whose affairs are subject to control by government departments, shall be given with the utmost expedition.
One of the most urgent and difficult problems facing the Parliament is the task of restoring to the Parliament its control over the administration of the laws passed by it. It was inevitable that during the war years great powers should be transferred from the direct exercise of the Parliament and placed in the hands of government officials. The urgency of war-time problems, the need for quick decisions, the magnitude and the number of tasks which had then to be faced left no other course open. To-day, the authority and the power of the Parliament are weakened as the result of that transfer of power to officials during the war years. The machinery of the Parliament is not adequate to maintain the necessary oversight of administrative actions and decisions. I refer now, not merely to allegations of dishonesty on the part of government officials, although I take this opportunity to- defend the right of any member of the Parliament who believes that he has adequate information on which to base a charge, or to bring a matter before the Parliament, to use his position as a member of the Parliament to air such matters here, provided that he has exercised reasonable care in examining the information brought to his notice. It is highly desirable that such charges should be examined by the Parliament or its appointed representatives not only for the sake of maintaining public confidence in the purity of the administration, but also so that those who recklessly or carelessly bring charges to the Parliament can be properly exposed for their recklessness or carelessness, and also in the interests of officers whose reputations may be assailed. More than that, it is necessary to establish by the machinery of this Parliament means of exercising oversight of decisions which, while not dishonest, may be unnecessarily delayed, or high-handed, or not sufficiently considered. I repeat what I have said on previous occasions, that I should like the Parliament to establish a number of committees of its members to exercise oversight in these matters and to investigate specific complaints brought to the notice of the Parliament.
– The introduction of this bill provides an opportunity for the Parliament to study certain factors in connexion with Australia’s economic position. Exports from Australia in comparison with those of other countries represent a smaller range of goods while some hold a dominating position in the total of exports. Exports may be divided into two categories - first, those which are acceptable to the world generally, and, secondly, those which are supplied mainly t-.> the markets of Great Britain, and to a limited degree, the markets of other -Umpire countries. Before dealing with international markets, I wish to refer to the present condition of Great Britain. That Britain’s resources are diminishing is admitted by the United Kingdom Government itself in a publication entitled Economic Survey for 1947 issued for the information of the Parliament of Great Britain in February last. Paragraph 61 of that survey reads -
The central fact of 1947 is that we have notenough resources to do all that we want to do. We have barely enough to-day to do all that we must do. Whether we reckon in man-power, coal, electricity, steel or national production as a whole, the conclusion is unavoidable.
Again, in paragraph S3, it is pointed out that the industrial problem of 1947 is fundamentally a problem of coal. Paragraph after paragraph of the Economic Survey points out that the failure of the steel industry of Britain to produce the required amount of steel, the failure of power undertakings to provide electricity, and so on right down the whole line of production, is due to the failure of coal supplies to meet requirements, and therefore that the country cannot maintain the exports of coal on which it was able to rely in the pre-war period. In prewar days the coal-mines of the Newcastle district in Britain were largely responsible for putting bacon and eggs on the plates of Britons because there was twoway trade between the United Kingdom and Denmark and Holland, Britain sending coal to them and getting dairy produce in return. One of the difficulties of the coal industry in Great Britain is that the mines have been so long in existence that the seams are’ becoming more and more difficult to work. The United Kingdom Government have set themselves a target of 200,000,000 tons this year, but they do not expect to reach it. Before the war, the average production of coal was 240,000,000 tons a year. We must ask ourselves what remedy is to be applied if Britain is to continue to provide a market for our exportable products. Britain’s resources are failing. Britain has lost a tremendous amount of its overseas investments, as has been emphasized aa;ain and again in this House, and in the Par- liament of the United Kingdom, as well as in official documents published in the United States of America and other countries. Britain has also lost a vast quantity of shipping which produced much of its national income .before the war. During the war, Britain concentrated on the building of warships, leaving the construction of merchant ships to the United States of America. Now, with the war over, Britain finds itself with a depleted merchant marine in comparison with that of the United States of America. Britain, in concert with the dominions, must study the problem of future Empire development, including Empire defence, with equality of contributions in proportion to white population. I recognize that the contribution of India to the Empire’s war effort was magnificent. It was a wonderful achievement on the part of India to raise an army of 3,500,000 men, including some of the finest fighting men that took part in the war. That was an indication of the part which India can play when it settles down to its new dominion status within the Empire. War debts and credits must be shared throughout the Empire. The capacity of the dominions to consume their own products can be aided by immigration. The dominions are comparatively empty, and their industries comparatively undeveloped as compared with those of Great Britain. In the Dominions, raw materials have not been exploited to the same degree, and therefore they can he worked more cheaply. Apart from immigration, I believe that British manufacturers should be encouraged to move their factories and operators to Australia so as to manufacture here goods for supplying the eastern markets. If that were done, it would greatly strengthen the Empire as a whole, and we should not have the strength of the Empire concentrated in a small island off the coast of Europe, which, in another war, would be so vulnerable to attack by guided missiles and atomic bombs, and even to bacterial attack, which scientists have said will be more deadly even than the bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thus, instead of a great part of the manufactures of the Empire being concentrated in one island, with its population of 47,000,000 people, each of the dominions will have its due share of secondary and primary production, which will be wedded together in a sound and balanced economy so that the cities will be able to consume a large proportion of the products of the farms. Therefore, I hope that the Government will urge the transference of factories from Great Britain to Australia, as well as the transference of population. I realize the difficulties arising out of the shortage of shipping, but it might be possible to obtain, by lease or charter, some of the Liberty ships, or other vessels, from the United States of America, and fit them out for carrying immigrants, even though the accommodation be rough. With such ships, we could bring to Australia people from Britain and the northern European countries, instead of allowing them to immigrate to Canada and to the United States of America.
The Department of Immigration is producing factual films designed to induce people in Britain to migrate to Australia. They are very good films, but they could be improved in one respect. I understand that the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question to-day regarding the display of the Australian flag in connexion with Australian films. We know from looking at films made in the United States of America that the flag of that country is made an important feature of them. T trust that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) will see that the Australian flag, combining as it does, the Union Jack and the representation of the Southern Cross, will be prominently displayed in connexion with Australian documentary films, so that it may become woven into the hearts of the people who come to Australia to make this country their home.
The expansion of the Australian home market, so as to make it capable of absorbing more of our primary products, is a long-term policy; but, in the meantime, it is possible to develop international markets for our principal exports of wool, wheat and base metals. Just now, there is no difficulty in finding markets for these products. Lead and copper are scarce everywhere, as is shown by the high prices obtainable. Wheat is also scarce, and wool is commanding a high price, but it may not be maintained. Only last week, in Brisbane, there was a dangerous break in the market for certain kinds of wool, when American competition was withdrawn. At the present time, the market is being supported by the action of the French buyers who create the second largest overseas demand for our wool. Wool is acceptable to every country except the United States of America, which imposes a high tariff against it. We must do all we can to bring about a reduction of that tariff, which is at the rate of 34 cents per lb. clean scoured wool. That encourages the importation into that country of a greater percentage of the higher grades of spinning wools and tends to eliminate the lower grades. Dealing with the United Sates of America’s wool import policy, the bulletin of the American Department of State, dated the 3rd November, 1946, states -
The average ad valorem equivalent rate of duty on wools finer than 44’s but not finer than 50’s was 70.5 per cent, of the declared import value for the years 1030-39. On wools finer than 56’s the average was 02 per cent. Since the wool duty is specific, the ad valorem equivalent rises as the price of wool declines
Consequently, everything possible must be done to induce the American Government to reduce its present tariff. The bulletin, to which I refer, continues : -
With respect to pre-war imports, the burdeu of adjustment to fluctuations in both production and consumption fell on imports. That is very easily seen from a comparison of. the production figures of homegrown wool in the United States of America and import figures -
Domestic per-capita consumption, however, for the 1935-39 period was about the same as in 1925-29. In 1032, the United States imported but 13.5 million pounds actual weight of apparel wool compared to 378 million in 1918, 172 million in 1925, and 150 million in 1037. A comparison of the more prosperous years in each of the decades of the inter-war period shows a decline in average United States imports from 128 million pounds actual weight in 1925-29 to 80 million in 1935-39. United States imports constituted 9 per cent, of the apparel wool exported from the surplusproducing countries in the first period and but 5 per cent, in the second.
Thus, the present American tariff causes the widest fluctuations in wool imports into that country. I realize that the Government has, to the “best of its ability, put up a good fight at Geneva on behalf of the wool-growers of Australia. However, many of our growers believe, and I agree with them, that the negotiations could have been handled much better from our point of view. For instance, there appears to be a lack of knowledge among Ministers, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and Dr. Coombs himself, regarding America’s imports of wool. In reply to a question which I asked last Friday week the Prime Minister said -
I understand that the greater proportion of New Zealand ‘wool has free entry into the United States of America.
I interjected that that was not correct. America’s imports of wool from New Zealand as disclosed in the bulletin of the National Association of “Wool Manufacturers of the United States of America, volume 74, pages 274 and 275, show that for the ten-year period under review, the United States of America imported from New Zealand on the average 3,S30,000 lb. of non-dutiable wool, that is the lower counts, whilst the average imports of dutiable wool for the same period was 5,690,000 lb. a year. Thus, of the imports of wool from New Zealand by the United States of America 60 per centwere of dutiable wool and 40 per cent, of non-dutiable wools. All wool under 44’s are admitted in the United States of America free of duty, whilst all counts over 44’s carry a duty of 34 cents per lb. clean. I submit these figures simply to show that our delegation at Geneva, and the Prime Minister himself, have been badly briefed with regard to certain facts concerning the wool industry. It would be interesting to know why the Prime Minister made the mistake to which I refer, and the source from which he got his information. Our delegation would be in n much stronger position if it had more advisers. Attached to it is one growers’ representative, but it has only occasional conferences with Mr. Murphy, who is engaged on other work in the United Kingdom for the Wool Realization Commission, whilst it has no adviser representing the buying side of the trade. I am aware of the comments made from time to time with reference to buyers of Australian wool. However, the fact ‘remains that they know the markets of the world. They know where our wool was placed in pre-war years, and where it is likely to be placed in the future. They also know the technical side of the trade, and their advice would be of great assistance, indeed, to our delegation at Geneva.
Another point I emphasize with respect to the negotiations taking place with the United States of America is that we should explore the possibilities of showing American wool-growers how they could obtain contributory benefits from Australia which would go a long way towards helping them to overcome the difficulties at present confronting their industry, particularly with respect to production and marketing methods. Their marketing methods are costly because of the extraordinary way in which they put up their wool for market. The embargo against the export of merino rams from Australia has been a very sore point with American wool-growers and the American Department of State concerned. We have nothing -to lose but everything to gain by lifting that embargo in order to help American wool-growers to improve their flocks. By such action we could possibly influence American . wool interests to accept in place of their existing tariff protection a bounty from the American Government which would give them the price essential to keep them in production. Despite the high prices of wool in the United States of America, in the past during the war and now, there seems to be, for some reason or other, a ceiling on American production which holds United States wool production to not more than 400,000,000 lb. a year. We should explore that possibility and offer to the American woolgrowers and wool trade every technical assistance we can give for the development of better marketing methods to close the gap between the purchaser and producer. Secondly, we should explore the position with regard to the export of merino rams from Australia. I recall that when Professor Wilson of the University of California visited Australia a few years ago and sought permission to take back to the United States of America two rams and 30 ewes to see if it were possible to develop merino sheep suitable for 40-in. rainfall country in the
United States of America, he was refused a licence to do so. He could not obtain the permit for the export of the rams or ewes from Australia and the only way he could get merino sheep to the United States of America was by buying the progeny of stud stock imported into New Zealand from Australia. That matter could have been raised during the trade negotiations with the American Government.
The third point is that Australia and other “ apparrel “ wool-producing countries in the southern hemisphere should have united with the United Kingdom, which is also an exporter of raw wools to the United States of America, in presenting a common front on this matter. In 1937-38, of the total dutiable wools imported into the United States of America, imports from Australia represented 35 per cent., from Argentina 22 per cent., Uruguay 15 .per cent., New Zealand 13 per cent, and from South Africa 4 per cent. The Governments of these countries could have said to the Government of the United States of America, “We are great purchasers of your products; we represent a considerable amount of purchasing power in the markets of the United States of America for your manufactured goods; and if one of our chief primary products is not admitted into your country at a reasonable rate of duty, we shall retaliate and impose heavy duties on your products entering our countries “. That would have been a powerful argument which might have gone a long way towards enabling the wool of those countries to be admitted to the United States of America on terms that are more just than they are to-day. That possibility was, I believe, not explored. The woolgrowers are also disappointed because of the failure of the Government to confer with their representatives in respect of the wool policy to be developed in discussions overseas. When Dr. Coombs recently returned to this country for a short visit, as far as I know not one representative of the wool-producing in’terests of Australia was invited to Canberra to confer with him and to hear his views on the negotiations relating to wool now in progress at Geneva. Had practical wool-growers been included in the discussions that took place prior to the conference at Geneva, it might have been possible to induce the Government of the United States of America to accept restricted duties on Australian wool and to have given their growers a bounty.
I take this opportunity to bring before the House the plight of the white planters in New Guinea. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), who has just gone overseas, has from time to time brought before the House grandiose schemes for the development of New Guinea. An amount of £2,SOO,000 is being expended on that territory at the present time, and the Government anticipates increasing expenditure there. In spite of the assertion that works of all kinds are supposed to be being undertaken for the natives of New Guinea, they do not appear to be one whit happier now than they were during the pre-war administration of that very great man, Sir Hubert Murray. The plight of the white planters there has been growing steadily worse. Many of them are ex-servicemen from World War I. who have been encouraged by successive governments, both Labour and Liberal-Country party, to remain in New Guinea and to develop their plantations. I propose to recite some of the things that are happening in New Guinea to-day of which we hear very little.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– From December to May of this year many planters were unable to have their copra shifted to Sydney. Many of them also shipped cocoa-beans, which are worth about £180 a ton, but consignments were delayed at the wharves for many months and they deteriorated so much that they had to be destroyed when they arrived at Sydney. The consequent loss was enormous. Planters have also told me that they suffer severely from the strangling effects of red tape in the administration of New Guinea. When other countries are crying out for edible oils made from copra, the settlers are not permitted to extend plantations on their own properties without special consent. I have been informed that it is difficult to obtain such consent. Settlers also suffer grave injustice as the result of the price control imposed upon copra.
Copra produced in the Philippines, which is inferior to New Guinea copra because it is smoke-dried instead of kilndried, is sold at £71 a ton, and the British controlled price in Ceylon is £58 a ton. The Commonwealth Government allows New Guinea planters to obtain only £28 a ton, delivered at ports in New Guinea territory. The Sydney price is £36 10s. a ton. Apparently the difference represents the cost of freight. The planters are further penalized by the prices that they have to pay for goods which they must import in order to live and to carry on their plantations. The wheat from which flour is milled for New Guinea is charged against the flourmillers of Australia at the world price of 16s. a bushel, whereas the price for wheat used for flour sold in Australia is 5s. 2d. a bushel. The result is that New Guinea planters have to pay lis. for a 25-lb. bag of flour,, although the Australian price is 4s. 6d. Sugar in New Guinea costs 6d. per lb., although the Australian price is 4d. per lb. I have also been informed that, during the last twelve months, the price of tea in New Guinea has been 4s. lid. per lb., compared with 2s. 3½d. per lb. in Australia. Wholemeal is the basic food in the ration scale laid down for natives employed in New Guinea. The price of wholemeal in Australia is £11 a ton. However, before the wretched New Guinea planter can obtain wholemeal to feed his native workers, a duty is levied on it at the rate of £24 a ton, so that, with the addition of freight charges, the cost in New Guinea is £42 a ton. These are only some of the injustices which are causing unrest and dissatisfaction amongst white ex-servicemen on the New Guinea plantations.
There is a severe shortage of medical supplies in New Guinea. I understand that, before’ the war, patrols visited the villages and gave medical treatment to the natives. This service was given, not to labourers on the plantations, but to the ordinary native population. It is not being carried on now. Before the war, missionaries, planters and traders kept stores of medical supplies with which to treat the natives. I understand that the natives suffer from yaws, tropical ulcers, and tramboesin, and that many of them come to the plantations from their villages in order to seek treatment. The planters are not able to treat them now because of the excessive prices charged to them for imported medical supplies. The diseases which I mentioned are treated, I understand, by means of intra-muscular injections of a product called NAB - novo-arsenobilon. The pre-war British price of this drug was 6d. per ampule; in 1946, the price charged to these planters for NAB made in Australia was 4s. 9d. per ampule.
The way in which the War Damage Commission is conducting its affairs in New Guinea is another cause of complaint and dissatisfaction. I understand that the commission is still headed by that gentleman who has been given many high offices by this Government. I refer to Mr. A. W. Coles, who is head of TransAustralia Airlines and also of the Rationing Commission. If my information is correct, the conduct of the War Damage Commission in New Guinea deserves immediate investigation with a view to providing justice for the planters. A New Guinea planter whom I saw recently had to take some milking cattle to the territory. He bought cows in New South Wales. The cost of transporting them to New Guinea was £18 a head, so that the landed cost in New Guinea was between £30 and £33 a head. The War Damage Commission refused to pay more than £5 a head for cattle of the same breed which were destroyed during hostilities against Japan. Therefore, unless that decision is rectified, planters will sustain a loss of £28 a head in replacing their cattle. The niggardliness of the commission is amazing in view of the fact that the commission has millions of pounds of money which it collected during the war from the contributions of Australian citizens. All that the New Guinea settlers ask is that justice be done. The commission’s behaviour in this matter is entirely wrong. The planters also have a grievance arising from their treatment in relation to native labour which they took over from Angau upon the cessation of hostilities. Angau had recruited many natives to work with the Army, and the planters agreed to take over these labourers for the duration of their contracts. The planters were charged a re- cruiting fee of £4 a head by the military authorities. However, the AttorneyGeneral ruled that these natives should be paid off as soon as the civil administration took over again in New Guinea. This was done. The natives had worked for only a short time for the planters, but when application was made for a refund of the recruiting fees, the military authorities rejected the claim and the Government confirmed the decision. That was an immoral action. The Government should investigate this matter and take action to ensure that the administration of New Guinea shall dispense justice to the planters. Before the present administration took over native labour was customarily recruited for three years. That system was instituted by Sir Hubert Murray, who was honoured throughout the world as a man with the greatest capacity in dealing with backward races. Now, because some young anthropologist or missionary has advised the Minister that native labour should be recruited for no more than twelve months, that is the period for which it may be recruited. I have been told that it requires two or three months for the natives to settle down in their new environment and another two or three months to train them. Consequently they are useful for only six or eight months. Then the planters have to recruit an entirely new set of natives. I regard that as utterly wrong.
The Government ought to make a full statement showing whether its policy is to squeeze the ex-service planters out of New Guinea. It would appear from the examples of its administration that I have cited to-night that that is its policy. The planters should be told exactly where they stand. I have been told that the large companies may be able to battle through the times of stress imposed on them by the Department of External Territories under the direction of the present Minister, but that the “ small “ men have not the resources to stand up to them and that many, broken-hearted, are leaving their plantations. The responsibility is on the Government to ensure that the planters shall have justice and the opportunity of earning a living as before the .war.
.- I and all my colleagues from South Australia, at least those on the Government side, have made representations to the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) for more shipping to enable a greater volume of cement to be imported from Tasmania to South Australia. The frequent shortages of cement are hampering building in South Australia. Sometimes we have been able to obtain additional shipments of cement for a while, but then the supply has declined again. I know that the shortage of shipping is the cause, but I should like the Government to do everything possible to ensure continuity of supplies. I am most concerned because South Australia is no better off for houses than any other State, although great efforts have been made there to catch up the leeway. I do not think for a moment that the Minister for Supply and Shipping is responsible, but if he can improve the position he will have the wholehearted thanks of the people in the State.
The shortage of upholsterers’ tacks is hampering the manufacturers and repairers of furniture and the motor body building industry in South Australia. I understand that they are unable to buy tacks except from retailers and that the retail price is far more than if they were’ able to buy wholesale. When I last appealed on behalf of these people for a greater supply of tacks, I was told that the shortage would be overcome when one manufacturer completed the replacement of obsolete machinery with modern machinery that would enable a greater output. I hope that that change over will soon be completed so that South Australian manufacturers will be assured of an adequate supply of tacks. There are two huge motor body building works in South Australia, one being in my electorate, and there are many furniture manufacturers and repairers. I hope that something can be done to help them.
Every honorable member could probably make the same claim as I am about to make, on behalf of business men at Unley, the third largest provincial city in Australia, for telephones to be installed either in their offices or their private homes. The telephone exchanges at Unley, Norwood and Edwardstown are unable to handle the traffic. I have discussed this problem with the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia. He is most sympathetic and is trying to do everything possible. I appeal to the Government to give him the means to install more modern and bigger telephone exchanges in that district.
Community centres and youth movement centres play a prominent part in the welfare of the youth of South Australia. Centres are established at Mitcham, Colonel Light Gardens, and Edwardstown. They are doing everything possible for the youth of their districts. From time to time they have informed me of their need for financial assistance. Every one agrees that the National Fitness Council has played a most important part in promoting the welfare of the youth of this country. Paragraph 66 of the Ninth Interim Report of the Social Security Committee states -
The National Fitness movement is no longer a mere publicity campaign, but is operating solidly through education and the agencies concerned with the physical and social development of youth; because of this, the results are not always immediately evident, but the work accomplished during the years 1043 to 1045, since the Commonwealth grant has been increased and its sphere of influence widened, must have beneficial effects on the physical development of the rising generation.
Therefore, I stress the need for a larger grant to be made to the National Fitness Council, so that bodies of the type I have mentioned may receive assistance. They are helping young people from the age of seven to eighteen years, and to supplement the efforts of these well-meaning people we should establish various play centres for children and set aside areas for the provision of future playgrounds. These amenities involve a considerable financial strain on the parents of children, and the organizations which at present provide them are badly in need of money. I suggest that the Government make a larger grant in the next financial year to assist young people generally, and particularly those in South Australia.
– The bill before the House provides, in the words of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), “for the appropriation of £68,189,000, required to carry on the necessary, nor mal services of government for the first four months of the financial year 1947-48 “. The presentation of a supply bill gives honorable members an opportunity to criticize the administration of the Government and to make suggestions for its improvement. Because of the serious criticism which has been levelled at the Government by members of the Opposition and the press, one would expect the Government to have foreshadowed the adoption of new policies, and one would have thought that selfrespecting members of the Government would have had no hesitation in altering some aspects of its policy. But, on the contrary, the concluding words of the Treasurer indicate that it has profited nothing from the criticism of members of the Opposition, the press, and the general public. He said : “ No provision has been made for any new expenditure, and there is no departure from existing policy “.
We have heard a lot lately of the operation of various prices controls, particularly with regard to land sales. Most serious charges were made by the press and by a high officer of the Land Sales Control authority - charges which reflect on the integrity of members of the Government. We have also heard a lot about rent-fixing regulations; and if ever there was a more iniquitous method than the present one I should like to hear of it. However, my purpose to-night is not to discuss land sales controls or rent fixation; I want to say something about another form of control, which, for sheer, unadulterated absurdity, defies comparison. I refer to price control as it affects the sale of second-hand motor cars. That control is, in my opinion, the most futile and absurd that has been foisted upon an unsuspecting public. If the Government had deliberately designed its policy to destroy the morale and integrity of the community it could not have done that more effectively than by the introduction of this particular control. The present system is absurd in its application, and entirely ineffective, because it does not accomplish its purpose. It is iniquitous because it fosters dishonesty and encourages black marketing, and it is ineffective because it is impracticable for it to be policed. Furthermore, it penalizes honest people, and the Government should have no hesitation in abolishing it.
– Abolish prices control !
– As it applies to second-hand motor cars. I want to make that clear, because I have said certain things with regard to other forms of control, and I hope in time to be able to say even more about price controls. At the moment, however, I am dealing with the subject of second-hand motor cars. As an example of my contention, I cite the case of a man who owns a motor car and who has no further use for it. When he decides to sell that motor car he finds that he must accept a pegged price, determined according to the value of the car when he purchased it. T.ake. for instance, the pegged price as it applies to a 1939 model motor car. One cannot compare motor car values to-day with 1939 values, because prices have increased by at least 75 per cent., whilst the pegged prices remain unaltered. Compare that with the position in regard to the sale of land. The regulations governing the sale of land have some small degree of flexibility and provide some method for adjustment in accordance with variation of land values. But there is no such flexibility in the fixation of prices for the sale of secondhand cars. I shall summarize the position under three headings.
As I stated, the present system makes no provision to protect the honest man who has no further use for his motor car and desires to dispose of it at what he considers to be a reasonable market price. Secondly, it makes no provision for the alteration of motor car values to-day, compared with the values when the Prices Commissioner first pegged the price of motor vehicles. Thirdly, it allows no margin of profit to the dealer who trades in second-hand motor cars, and thereby forces him either to discontinue his trading or to exact by black marketing or other means a commission for the services that he renders in the transaction.
These are the facts. Under the present system of control, a motor car is worth, not the pegged price, but whatever the owner demands, because the pegged price at present has no relation to the sale of second-hand motor cars. Frequently - indeed, almost invariably - the pegged price is exceeded by 100 per cent, because of the failure of the Government to control price fixation. The present-day price of second-hand motor cars is not the pegged price, but the pegged price plus the black market price. I shall cite an example. In 1939, the price of a Chrysler Plymouth De Luxe sedan was £459. The pegged price to-day, regardless of whether the car has been almost “ run to death “ or is in excellent condition, is £338. The price of a new Chrysler De Luxe sedan is £754. I shall cite two examples of the completely absurd anomalies that arise under the existing system of price control.
– That model is not -file same as the Chryslers owned by the Government ?
– No, this is not the fluid drive Chrysler, but the standard model which the average citizen can afford. A man, having no further use for his car, might decide to sell it. As he has used it only at week ends for short pleasure trips, it is in excellent condition. If he be honest, he will sell the car at the pegged price, only to discover that the dealer who purchased it proceeds to re-sell it at a figure at least 100 per cent, in excess of the pegged price of £338. Honorable members have only to make some inquiries from reputable dealers in one of the large cities to ascertain that this car, on the black market, would bring more than £600.
– How does the honorable member know?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) can obtain that information from any reputable dealer. The position is that the honest man must be prepared for a dishonest dealer or other purchaser to make a profit of £300. If he is not prepared to do so, he says, “ If the Government cannot control the sale of second-hand motor cars, why should I make a present of £300 to an unscrupulous dealer ? Is it not far better for me to make the profit ? “ In this way, the black market is built up. Though inherently honest, the owner of the motor car is forced, because of the Government’s failure to administer its own legislation, to develop, not immoral principles, but a standard of morality which, in my opinion, is sapping the strength of the general community. Replying to a question which a member of the Opposition asked to-day, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that the policing of these regulations was most difficult, and that the only way in which the authorities could obtain convictions was for an honest person to proceed a certain distance in negotiations for the disposal of a motor car and then lay an information against the black marketeer. This dependency upon people to assist in securing convictions will create in the mind of the general community an “ informer “ complex, which will not be to the advantage of the country. Therefore, the Government must ensure that its legislation shall be fair, equitable and effective. I cannot conceive a more ridiculous position than that which obtains in regard to the sale of second-hand motor cars.
Suppose the owner of a second-hand car, being aware of the activities of black marketeers, decides to exchange the vehicle for a yacht. The value of auxiliary yachts and sailing craft, which are not subject to price control, has increased by from 200 to 300 per cent, since 1939. In many instances the increase is even greater. Yacht brokers and others make it their business to purchase these craft, and have placed on them an appraised price out of all proportion to their real value. I shall cite a specific instance, and if there is anything more absurd than this position I should like to hear of it. A type of yacht cost in 1939 approximately the same price as a Chrysler Plymouth De Luxe sedan, namely £459. To-day the price of the same craft is £1,150, an increase of £690, or more than 150 per cent. That is an indictment of this Administration. The Government has strained at the gnat and swallowed a camel on many occasions, but in this instance it is penalizing one section of the community. Let ns pursue the matter further. This man decides to offer his car in part-payment of the purchase price of the yacht at the pegged price of £338, plus £812 cash. An easy arithmetical calculation will show that a straight-out sale of the yacht for £1,150 would return to the owner a profit of £690 on the price that he had paid for it in 1939; but if he exchanged the yacht for the car on the terms that I have mentioned, and sold the car on the black market at a profit of £300, his total profit would be £953. Can the Government justify that? The Government acknowledges that it cannot police this control, which, is being so abused as to react detrimentally against the honest trader.
Let us examine the matter from the standpoint of new-car values. When prices were pegged, the value of new cars, if they could be bought, was 75 per cent, less than the present value. Surely, if the Government intends to continue this control, it must apply itself to a revision of pegged prices, so as to make them equitable for trading purposes, on the basis of either the condition of the car or the present high prices of new cars. Let us consider, the far-reaching effects upon reputable traders. The majority of reputable traders have given up dealing in second-hand motor cars, because they refuse to do business except at the pegged prices. Consider the competition that they have to meet. So lucrative has the black market become, that reputable tradespeople whom I know in Sydney have been offered many thousands of pounds above the value of their business premises, because the black marketeer who is trading in motor cars wants to use them as a centre for his illegal operations.
– Why does the Government, which believes in a White Australia, permit black marketing?
– Black marketing has a snowballing effect. It contaminates every section of the public which comes into contact with this branch of prices control. At present, from £2,000 to £3,000 is being paid for taxi licence-plates in Sydney. That price, of course, includes the consideration for the transfer of the ownership of the car. In 1930, the value of this goodwill was about £900, and it is freely predicted that it will soar much higher in the ensuing year. Many of the victims are ex-servicemen. Even if they are willing to pay a separate price for the plate, they could not obtain cars unless they paid also the fantastic blackmarket price that is demanded for them. During the debate on the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill, I showed the extent to which black marketing in car dealings could go. I then said that it had been authoritatively stated that 38 per cent, of the motor vehicles in Australia had been in service for sixteen years or longer. That means that there is a heavy demand for spare parts, in which, also, there is a “ racket “ ; because those who control the sale of spare parts to-day know that, a car having been put on the road, an extortionate black-market price can be obtained for it, and they will not allow it to be serviced unless they get a “ cut “ out of the proceeds. According to a recent survey by the National Roads and Motorists Association, the prices that are being asked for car parts at present are these - £27 for an axle worth £4 10s.; £35 for a differential ball race worth £1 15s. ; and £7 for a crown wheel bearing” worth £1 10s. Those are three classic examples of black marketing by those who hold spare parts, and are willing to release them for the servicing of cars only on the condition that they get a “cut” out of the “racket” that is associated with sales of used cars. It is one of the worst features of -prices control, and the Government has admitted that it cannot police it effectively. It is inequitable and unjust. It forces an honest man to sink his honest principles; because, obviously, he would be under a tremendous strain if, having sold at the pegged price a vehicle for which he had no further use, he found that the purchaser had openly, without the Government taking any action to prevent him, obtained a “rake-off’’ of £300 in excess of the purchase price. This sort of control is one of the worst that could be placed on the community. It is undermining public morale. These things encourage an amoral community. It is not right that a government should do anything to destroy the moral tone of the people. At the present time an inquiry is taking place in respect of charges made against high ranking officers associated with land sales control. That opens up a big question in connexion with the general policy in relation to controls. The Government knows that black marketing is taking place, but it blinks its eyes; in effect, it condones wrong-doing hy its inaction. The example that I have given to the House shows how ridiculous is the form of control that is being exercised in respect of used motor vehicles. Whatever may be said of the difficulties associated with this problem, we cannot get away from the fact that the continuance of these controls tends to encourage dishonest practices on the part of citizens.
– The introduction of this Supply Bill has provided honorable members opposite with an opportunity to express their views regarding prices control. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred to the control of the price of copra in New Guinea, which, he said, tended to destroy the value of the properties of settlers there. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), availing himself of the opportunity to criticize the Government, said that apparently there was no intention on its part to alter its policy in respect of controls. He went on to speak of land sales - a subject with which he has dealt extensively on other occasions. It is becoming the practice for honorable members opposite to make charges against persons associated with, the control of land sales. They have gone so far as to move the adjournment of the House to discuss this subject. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the continuance of some of the existing controls, especially those in respect of land sales and motor vehicles, was causing a lack of honesty on the part of a great proportion of the people. I am not prepared to accept his statement that the majority of the business men of. this country have so far fallen from the accepted standards of honesty and fair dealing as to justify (he charge that they are making, money by cheating the people. The honorable member practically said that nearly all dealers were affected by the wave of dishonesty which is sweeping through the community. It would have been better if he had said that some traders were guilty of questionable or dishonest practices. He should not have been so general in his remarks. Reference has been made to the small percentage of sales of used cars on the legitimate market compared with the number sold on the black market. The implication is that practically every dealer is guilty of breaches of the law. I do not say that there is no black market in motor vehicles, but it is ridiculous to argue that because some people are du lie nest the law which is broken by them should be repealed. Every day in the police courts of this country men are charged with burglary, but will any honorable member say that because there are unconvicted burglars in the community the law providing for their punishment ought to be repealed? It is unreasonable to argue that because these controls are not 100 per cent, effective they should be removed. Should honorable members opposite be successful in their agitation for the abolition of controls the immediate effect would be that prices would soar. I was in the United States of America early this year when prices control was lifted. One result was that the charge of five dollars a night for the room which I occupied was immediately raised to six dollars. That was a moderate increase compared with some others that occurred at that time. Seeing that I had to pay the bill I was, perhaps, a little more concerned than if my expenses had been paid by the Government. I remind honorable members that following the first world war, when there was no control of prices, the cost of a house rose as much as £300. Nevertheless, many people decided to purchase homes by paying a small deposit. New housing settlements were opened up and the people paid deposits on homes, but within seven years half of them had walked off their properties because they had acquired them on uneconomic terms. In 1931, the international financiers told governments that if they were not prepared to reduce expenditure and social services they could, in the words of Sir Otto Niemeyer, “ stew in their own juice “. All that happened because governments had no control over prices. I agree that the control regulations are being broken, and it may be that reputable men are forced to operate on the black market. However, if prices controls were removed prices would not come down. The honorable member for Wentworth spoke of a man who had paid, on the black market, £200 more for a motor car than the fixed price. Let me assure the honorable member that if prices controls were removed the selling price of that car would be more than £200 higher than the present fixed price. Prices would increase all round until the inevitable slump came, and then there would be economic chaos. The honorable member for Wentworth was right when he said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had not changed his policy. Honorable members on this side of the House support that policy, as does the Labour party. We stand for effective prices control until the time comes when controls can be removed, and things allowed to take their course. The honorable member said that the Government was winking at black market operations, that it knew what was going on, and was conniving at it. That is not true. The Government is not conniving at breaches of the law, but we know that if there is a prosecution, the Government will pay the costs, and the person charged may get off free. The honorable member said that if a person who was offered a black market price gave information he became, in effect, a pimp. There is another way of dealing with the situation, but I do not think that honorable members opposite would be. prepared to accept it. If the dealers are not prepared to obey the law, the Government itself might take over the selling of the goods.
– The Government fixed the price of land. Does the honorable member say that there is no black market in land ?
– The price of land was fixed, more or less, at the values prevailing in 1942. I have interviewed government valuers in South Australia, and the representative of the sub-Treasury there. I pointed out, in particular- instances, that land was bought at £5 a foot before 1939, and that nothing had happened to alter the value since, but they said that they could not increase their valuation on that account. I should be surprised if some honorable members opposite were not persuaded in the past by some glib salesmen to buy building allotments on the understanding that a tramline would be constructed to them in the near future, and that they would double their money in three or four years. Probably, if they could now get for those allotments what they paid, leaving aside the rates, they would be very glad. All over Australia, people bought land for speculative purposes, but that is no indication that the price they paid was a fair and just price. In every State, there is a panel of expert. land valuators who fix selling prices, but we know that transactions take place on the black market all the same. Nevertheless, price-fixing has had the general effect of keeping prices down, and there are many people to-day building homes on land which they bought at reasonable prices. I deplore the black market, and I deplore the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth which suggested to people that the present legislation was unfair and unreasonable, and that no one could be expected to obey it. Members of this Parliament should not speak in such a way as to encourage people to break the law, and to feel that they are doing no wrong thereby. I realize the difficulties involved, but I realize also that it is impossible to frame legislation that will be in all respects perfect. I remember that when I had been in Parliament for a year or two some one asked me for my impressions. I said that I had formed the opinion that it was impossible to legislate for the benefit of sections of the people. In a democracy, we must realize that it is necessary to legislate for the greatest good of the greatest number. When a law is made, whether it be introduced by a Liberal government or a Labour government, some one will always complain that it penalizes him as an individual. The objective of honorable members opposite in hammering at the Government during recent months to lift prices controls is to effect a return to pre-war conditions. If we want democracy to survive and the voice of the people to prevail, we must realize that the fact that a country has wealthy men and big buildings does not make that country great. The really great country is that in which the mass of the common people enjoy a decent standard of living.
If we abolish economic controls, the Opposition parties will fall from the frying pan into the fire. One of the most important problems confronting the Government to-day is the settlement of exservice personnel on the land. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), speaking in this chamber last week about the future of Australia, said that an increase of 10 per cent, of our present population would result in the consumption in this country of our present total export surplus of butter and meat.
He advocated a scheme of water con.servation, having in mind particularly the possibilities presented in this respect in northern New South Wales and Queensland. I agree with him that we must utilize to the utmost our water resources. In a country like Australia every gallon of water should be conserved and utilized in land settlement in order to enable us to increase production. However, I point out that three, or four, persons could be maintained on many properties now held by one person and not developed to the fullest possible degree. There is any amount of good land which is being allowed to go to waste under those conditions. Honorable members opposite urge the Government to abandon control of land prices. How could the Government carry out its obligation to establish ex-service personnel on the land if it abandoned existing controls? Surely, our past experience should warn us against such action. Of course, honorable members opposite believe that the law of demand is paramount. The operation of that principle would be the alternative to lifting control of land prices. I defy any honorable member opposite to point to any period in the history of this country when prices of land did not soar under such conditions. After World War I., when the principle of supply and demand was allowed unrestricted play, many returned soldiers of that war, after investing their war gratuities, deferred pay and whatever savings that they had managed to accumulate, in the purchase of land were obliged to walk off their properties within a few years. Honorable members opposite have a tendency to glorify the man who gets on in the world. They glorify the man who happens to take up, say, a banana farm in Queensland, and within a few years is able to buy a second farm, and still another farm a few years later. They say, “ My word, has not Bill Jones got on?” They do not stop to think of “ poor old Bill Smith “ who once owned one of those farms and later finds himself down and out; he is forgotten. After World War I., when land prices were not controlled, the government of the day purchased land at high prices for soldier settlement. Shortly after the conclusion of that conflict the price of wheat rose to 9s. a bushel and many exservicemen for that reason paid uneconomic prices for land. However, within six years the price of wheat declined to less than 2s. a bushel and, consequently, they were ruined.
– The farmers of Australia were urged by the Scullin Government to grow more wheat.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is obsessed by the fact that the prices of certain primary products are now at a high level, but he ignores the fact that such prices are only temporary. He allows himself to be carried away by such temporary prosperity, but I venture to believe that upon reflection he will admit that many of the proposals that he puts forward would not be a help but a hindrance to the future welfare of ex-service personnel who settle on the land.
I have had considerable experience of shipping at Port Adelaide. The most important industries in that State depend upon shipping, not only for supplies of coal but also as a mean3 of conveying their products to market. In addition to coal those industries also urgently require other commodities, for example, timber and cement. We have been informed that ample supplies of cement are available in Tasmania for despatch to South Australia if shipping could be obtained. The industries of South Australia are being hampered in every direction as the result of the scarcity of supplies arising from the shortage of shipping. Honorable members may say that these difficulties are to a great degree brought about by failure to turn round ships quickly in our ports. That may to some extent be true; I shall not argue the merits or demerits of such a statement; the fact remains that the shipping available in Australia is far short of requirements. I am gratified that the Government is makins such strenuous efforts to purchase additional ships, not only for our coastal trade, but also to bring immigrants to this country. The difficult problems confronting South Australian industries are causing grave concern. The Labour Government has contributed greatly to the expansion of those industries, and only by the continuation of such expansion may that State progress to a stage at which it will be able to carry on without assistance from the Commonwealth. New South Wales owes its pre-eminence not only to the efforts of its pioneers in opening up its rich lands, but also to a great degree to the encouragement given to the establishment of its secondary industries. That is equally true of Victoria which, until uniform taxation was adopted, was one of the lowest-taxed States in the Commonwealth.
– Before we were robbed.
– Prior to 1939 many Victorians were not called upon to pay federal tax but were paying State tax. After the 1st July a man with a wife and two children in receipt of an income of £300 per annum will not have to pay one penny in tax either State or Federal. Notwithstanding that, the Commonwealth will continue to make contributions to the revenues of the State on the same basis as in former years. People should not bc> misled by the specious argument that they would be better off if the States iri which they are resident were solely responsible for the imposition of taxes. Great benefits have resulted from the introduction of uniform taxation. Taxes were low in Victoria prior to the introduction of uniform taxation, principally because that State has a. larger population to the square mile than have the other States, and.its industries have been highly developed, enabling it to export large quantities of its manufactured goods to other States. The possibilities of the industrial development of Tasmania are very great, because of the comparatively cheap power available from its hydroelectric undertaking. South Australian industries are to a great degree dependent upon the maintenance of supplies of coal of good quality from New South Wales. With the assistance of the Commonwealth, the State Government has developed Leigh Creek coal-field, which, to some degree, has rendered South Australia, independent of coal supplies from the other States.
The development of the uranium deposits in South Australia and the use of uranium for the production of electric power would give a great fillip to South Australian industries. The generating of power from that source would place South
Australia in somewhat the 3ame position as New South Wales, with its vast coal resources, as Victoria with its huge supplies of brown coal for the generation of electricity at Yallourn, and Tasmania with its cheap power generated by the hydro-electric plants. I trust that the Government will render every possible assistance in the advancement of research into the use of uranium as a source of atomic power for the veneration of electricity. If success be achieved, South Australia will no longer be dependent on the Commonwealth for assistance.
– The bill before the House affords us an opportunity to discuss an almost unlimited range of subjects. The bill proposes that there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying costs of the year 1947-48 a sum not exceeding £68,189^000. We have just listened to a speech by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). It seems a strange coincidence that in the order of debate I usually precede or follow the honorable member. The honorable member usually makes a great target for any speaker. To-night I listened carefully to his remarks, and, in my view, his sole worthwhile sentence was a short one in which he said that he wants to do everything possible to settle men of the land. However, he did not say how they were to be settled on the land or how they could live, under present conditions, when they were settled. He also said that “ the common people “, a term that I do not like, must be treated properly if Australia is to become a great country. In Australia, the common people are faced with all sorts of problems under the administration of this Government. The honorable member referred to Abraham Lincoln’s statement about the greatest good for the greatest number. I remind him that Lincoln also gave a definition of democracy which every school child knows. He described democracy as “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. The policy of this Government is decided in the caucus room, and it will not accept even one suggestion from the representatives of the people who sit in opposition. Would anybody say that it adheres to the principles laid down by that great exponent of democracy,
Abraham Lincoln? In a true democracy, there should be freedom, honour, and justice for all. Life is still worth living while there remains one untrodden track for intellect and while men are free to think and act.
The policy of this Government is to weave a net of controls. The honorable member for Hindmarsh was mistaken when he said that the Opposition was attacking this bill with the object of abolishing prices control. This Opposition has consistently fought, as the men of the Australian Imperial Force fought in battle, for freedom in the community and the elimination of many controls that this Government wishes to foster. We are fighting, not merely against prices control and small restrictions of that nature,, but against big national restrictions, so that there may be freedom in this country. I say without fear of successful contradiction that this Government’s policy is one of socialization and nationalization. We advocate a policy of co-operative stabilization. There lies the difference between the Government and the Opposition. We in opposition have behind us the full support of an increasing number of Australians who are feeling the pinch of this Government’s legislation. I have in mind many cases in which this Government has struck a blow against national freedom, and, in dealing with them, I shall refer, not to the opinions of members of this Parliament, but to the views of people outside the Parliament who feel the effects of the Government’s enactments. I received a letter to-day from the secretary of the Shire of Gordon, in Victoria. I shall quote it, and I am prepared to lay it on the table of the House for the information of honorable members who may wish to examine it. It states -
I have been directed by my council to request that you will convey to the Federal Treasurer the strongest opposition of this council to the provisions of the Banking Bill requiring municipal councils to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. This council has been banking with the National Bank of Australasia for over 60 years and has always received the greatest courtesy and consideration in all its dealings with the bank. There is another trading bank in the town, but the council has never had any occasion to even consider transferring its banking business to the other bank. Bv compelling municipalities to trade with Ibo
Commonwealth Bank, the Government is taking away the right of the municipalities to exercise their freedom of choice, and while 1 <!r> not doubt that the local manager would trent tl.u council with every courtesy as far as lay in his power, I am afraid that the council’s interests would receive scant consideration if it did not coincide with government policy. It seems as if the rights of the people are being steadily whittled away and the sacrifice of the fighting men who gave their lives is fast hemming a mockery.
It is the principle of the matter that the council disagrees with, and as long as the present Government is in power, council will take a lot of convincing that the objects of thu bill are in the best interests of the people.
That is not just hearsay. It is a statement on behalf of the Shire Council of Gordon signed by the secretary of the council, Mr. Ross M. Graham. It is only one of many letters that I have received expressing opposition to the bank policy of the Government in this connexion.
– Does the honorable member object to it, too?
– Whenever I speak in this House, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and other honorable members opposite interrupt me with interjections. They do not like my statements being broadcast to the people. Nevertheless, the people must be told the truth, and the Parliament must pay heed to it also. Interjections will not prevent me from stating facts. The letter which I have quoted illustrates the tone of the objections to the Government’s bank policy which have come from all parts of Australia. The newspapers in Melbourne have published many such communications. The writers of these letters all say, “It is the principle that counts”. Th Government is slowly taking away the people’s freedom and, as the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has said, it is destroying- justice and honesty. Having referred to democracy, I hope that the honorable member for Hindmarsh will stand by its principles. If we cherish democracy, we must hold high the principle of liberty.
– Was the writer of the letter elected on a democratic vote?
– He wrote it under instructions from a shire council, which consists of men elected by the people. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that, after World War I., the cost of houses rose by £200 or £300. W<3 had concrete evidence in this House recently of an abnormal increase of building costs. Did not the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) present a bill to this House, as the result of rising building costs, for the purpose of increasing from £1250 to £1750 the permissible advance for applicants for war service homes? Did not the Minister state that a house could not be built now at the cost that was considered to be reasonable last year? Values have increased amazingly in Australia recently. The cost of building a house may have increased by £200 or £300 in another decade, but the fact remains that it has increased recently by £500 at least. The Government has acknowledged this by raising the advance for war service homes to £1750, and it is doubtful whether a good house could be built even for this amount. The honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke of a man who, he said, bought some land with the object of holding it and eventually selling it at a profit. Was he referring to a constituent of mine who owned land at Essendon in Victoria which was acquired by the Commonwealth Government early in the war ?
– Under an act passed by a tory government !
– I do not object to the acquisition of land for an aerodrome in war-time, but- 1 do object to the price offered. After years of dispute between my constituent- and the Government, the court ruled about a month ago that the offer was inadequate. According to a letter I received from the Minister a few days ago, the Government intends to increase its offer. Another constituent of mine had land at Laverton that was acquired at a price considerably below its worth. There has been no court case about that land, but is it fair that the Government should compulsorily acquire his property and refuse to pay the proper price for it? Is that democracy? If the people had the chance they would say with one great voice, “ No ! “ ; but that is the policy of the Commonwealth Labour Government. When men rise to talk about democracy they ought to know the foundation on which democracy rests.
The basis of democracy is an administration in which the people may have confidence^ - one that will deal fairly with them. Evidence that this Government is not of that type is amply provided in the press to-day. The Melbourne Age contains the following report: -
Post Office revenue for the past eleven months increased by £1,185,145 over the same period of 1945-46 - and amounted to f 27,21 0,320.
The huge profits of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department entitle the people to reduced postage, which they have been asking for ever since the war ended.
– Honorable members are constantly asking for new post offices
– The people want reduction of the postage. I must say in fairness to the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) that all his letters to me have been most courteous. My complaint is that the Government’s policy will not allow him to reduce the postage, which affects the common people about whom the honorable member for Hindmarsh talked so much. The same newspaper published the following statement by Mr. H. McLennan, president of the Newmarket Producers Association: -
If world parity for tallow, hides and byproducts were allowed in Australia it would cheapen the cost of meat to the public.
But the Government insists that the price of tallow, hides and by-products should be kept at one-third or one-quarter of world parity. That is one reason why the price of meat is so high. Is that honest or democratic? The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to-day whether a great quantity of fat was stored somewhere in Victoria. I listened attentively as the Minister replied, and observed that, although he told the honorable member everything else, he did not say exactly whether he knew that fat was stored. He did, however, intimate the possibility that the honorable member was right in his assumption.
– Tell the whole story.
– The whole story makes my point even stronger. The Minister went on to say that probably some people were holding tallow in the hope that they would reap larger profits when tax reductions came into force. That is probably true, but would it not be much better to allow the producers to sell tallow overseas at world parity so that local meat prices may be reduced and the purchasing power of the common man’s wages increased? But no, the Government’s tactics are to ensure that wages shall be counterfeit and inadequate to contend with rising costs. Mr. McLennan continued -
New Zealand calf skins were imported in Sydney at Cs. Gid. per lb., while best homegrown calf skins were allotted to local tanners at the appalling average of 10½d. per. lb.
Imported from New Zealand! What about that? We sell to New Zealand at low prices and buy from New Zealand at high prices. I have given up trying to follow the Government’s policy. It is impossible to find common sense where none exists. No wonder this country cannot restore full production. The Age also reported -
Reduction in country and suburban train services will be inevitable unless the Railway Department receives sufficient coal next week to meet consumption needs. This was stated yesterday by the Victorian Railway Commissioner.
Why cannot sufficient coal be produced? Does the Government realize that if coal production is retarded industry can be held up ? I believe that is the thing. The coal-miners, when they so desire, produce merely sufficient coal to keep industry going on a day to day basis. This Government has the industry of Australia in the palm of its hand, and can clench its fist at any time it wants to. Are these things fair and -just? Fancy any one speaking of this being a democratic country, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh did to-night, when these things are happening in the community! lt. is almost incomprehensible ! The same newspaper stated with regard to housing
Severe hail storms smashed the roofs and windows of many houses in the suburb of Redfern, Sydney. This storm took place last New Year’s Day,” and when the heavy rain in the last few days came, many families were in despair. They had to bail out their homes with buckets.
They had to do that simply .because there was not enough material available under the Government’s remarkable provident scheme to give the poor people of Redfern a chance to repair the ravages of the storm, although five months had elapsed. Government supporters talk about the “common people” but that talk is nothing but a farce. If you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, were not occupying the chair I should have thought I was at some sort of comedy - and not a musical one either. All those complaints in regard to the plight of the people in Redfern, the excessive postal charges, and the withholding of coal supplies from our railways could be elaborated, but I want to say something about the wheat industry. All the excuses which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture put forward to explain the failure of the Government to introduce a satisfactory stabilization scheme for the marketing of wheat amount to nothing more than talk. When he was questioned, he said, “ We have done our part; what are the States going to do about it? “ The Victorian Government is so disgusted that it has ceased to do anything about it. There are so many ridiculous statements in the Minister’s explanation that it does not make sense. The Australian Country party and primary producers stand for stabilization of the wheat industry, but they will not ‘accept a scheme merely because it bears a label “Stabilization”. The Wheat Industry Stabilization Act introduced by this Government did not stabilize anything. When I attempted in the course of a speech on the measure, to illustrate that the scheme should work like an insurance policy, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said, “ This is not an insurance policy “. I said : ‘ “ No, of course it is not; it does not assure anybody of anything.” I have a detailed plan prepared by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, setting out a practical scheme of stabilization, which is acceptable to it, and which, with the leave of the House, I propose to incorporate in Hansard.
– Is it the wish of the House that leave be granted?
– No, let the honorable member read it.
– Permission is refused.
– That shows the attitude of this Government, when it will not allow me to incorporate in Hansard-
– Why cannot the honorable member read it?
– Because I have other matters with which I propose to deal. If the Government will adopt the scheme put forward by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, the States will implement it, -and we shall have obtained something for which we have been agitating for a long time. L should like to place on record that this Government is not sympathetic, and that is why it refuses to allow this communication to be incorporated in’ Hansard. The present home consumption price of wheat is altogether too low. I am not referring to wheat for human consumption, because the Australian Country party has a definite policy in that regard. Time will not permit me to go into detail, but I wish to deal generally with the subject of wheat sold at concessional rates for stock consumption. The price of os. 2d. a bushel at ports was fixed in the 1938-39 season, and that price has remained unaltered since. A lot of wheat is being fed to poultry, and although 1 have heard even members of the Opposition ask that this practice should continue, the Australian Country party does not agree to it. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seems to be very amused about this, but it is a matter of great importance to men who are faced with the dire necessity for getting a proper return for their wheat, or going off the land. In 1939, poultry-farmers were receiving ls. lid. a dozen for eggs. To-day they are getting 2s. 7d. a dozen. Prime turkey goblers were returning 32s. 6d. to 40s. in 1939, and in May last they were selling at 50s. to 70s. each. Of course, some honorable members never tasted turkey until they entered Parliament! In 1939, roosters were selling at 9s. to lis.; to-day they are bringing 18s. 9d. to 22s. 8d. Porkers, light weight, were worth 33s. to 42s. formerly, whereas they are now worth from 76s. to 87s. 6d. Light-weight bacon formerly cost £3 to £3 10s. a side, whilst to-day it costs £6 13s. 6d. The wheat-growers are supplying feed for stock, most of which has appreciated 100 per cent, in price, and they are required by this Government to provide that feed at the 1939 price. When that price was fixed it was determined in relation to 1939 costs. The price of 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports has no relation whatever to present-day costs. As an example, I might mention some of the prices which have to be paid at Sea Lake, in the heart of the wheat country in Victoria. This information was supplied by Mr. Sam Lockhart, chief president of the Victorian Country party. Duplicates required for replacement of farm machinery show an increase of 14 per cent. Fordson tractors, which cost £345 10s. in 1939; now cost £628 10s. Petrol supplied to farmers in bulk lots, which formerly cost ls. 9d. a gallon, now costs 2s. 3£d., whilst power kerosene and fuel oil prices have increased from ls. 0£d. and Sd. a gallon to ls. 3d. and ll£d. a gallon respectively. Harvesting and cultivating machinery has increased in price by at least 25 per cent. Working boots which, in 1939, cost 15s. a pair, now cost 23s. 6d., whilst clothing costs have increased in that period from £6 to £8 a suit to £12 to £15. Steel posts for fencing, which were formerly sold for ll£d. each, now cost ls. 5d. each. All these prices have gone up sky-high, hut this Government still expects wheat-growers to sell their wheat at pre-war prices. Primary producers, who are obliged to buy personal equipment or farm machinery in the postwar market, and sell the products that they produce with them at pre-war values, are confronted economically with an impossible position. All these matters are great injustices that have been inflicted upon the community. Extensive reference has been made to the guaranteed price for wheat of 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports. On the 30th April last, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the following question: -
What was the total average amount per bushel, bagged basis at ports, wheat sale price, plus amount received from the tax, which the Wheat Board received in each year since the 1st January, 1040, for wheat sold for flour for home consumption?
The answer was as follows : -
Figures are given on a bulk basis.
The price of 5s. 2d. a bushel is mentioned so often that many people in the city, some people in the country areas, and even some Government supporters, believe that this amount is paid into the wheat-grower’s bank account. That is not correct. The amount of 5s. 2d. a bushel is payable at ports, and the amount which is credited to the Australian Wheat Board is also disclosed in another part of the answer to the question asked by the honorable member for New England. ‘ These injustices to the wheat-farmer should he corrected. At the instigation of caucus, the Government is continuing to submit legislation, which the Australian people are beginning to realize, is not in the best interests of the country.
The policy of the Australian Country party has been to maintain the price of bread at its present level. We have formulated a scheme which, if implemented, would give to the wheat-grower a higher rate, perhaps even 7s. or 8s. a bushel, whatever be the figure represented by the cost of production plus a margin of profit. At the same time, the price of bread would not increase, because the Government would subsidize the difference between the amount of 5s. 2d. a bushel and the price based on the cost of production, plus a margin of profit. For years, the wheat-grower has encountered all kinds of difficulties, including droughts and fires.
– When the Australian Country party assisted to form the Government, the wheat-grower was really “ up against it “.
– Politicians like the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) are another of the difficulties with which the wheat-grower is confronted. I read in to-day’s issue of the Age the following report -
A rise in the price of bread may take place in the near future according to’ Mr. A. M. Hay ton, secretary of the Bread Manufacturers Association.
He said that the cost of bread may have to bc increased owing to the sudden rise in the cost of bags.
They now cost £13 14s. a ton, a rise of 13s. 2d. due to the withdrawal of the Government subsidy on bags - with the increased costs since 1940 the baker faced a loss of 4s. 7d. net on each ton of flour he bought.
The cost of bran and pollard has risen to £6 18s. 9d. a ton, an increase of 14s. lid. a ton. I ask : Why does the Government allow such a substantial rise as the result of a trivial increase of the cost of bags? As I have shown, the wheat-growers have had to bear substantially increased costs of production, including the cost of farm machinery and personal equipment. During World War II., they submitted to many disadvantages so that the people of Australia should continue to receive bread at a reasonable price. But immediately the bakers encounter an increase of price of 13s. 2d. a ton for bags, they ask for an increase of the price of flour. By allowing an increase of the price of bran and pollard, the Government again demonstrates its inconsistency.
Some time ago, I discussed the levy on rabbit skins. Recently, I travelled through country districts, and spoke to men who are trapping rabbits, .and to graziers whose livelihood is being menaced by these rodents. I have trapped rabbits on many occasions. The position to-day is that although the price of rabbit skins is high - lis. or 12s. per lb. for special lots - the price in country districts ranges from 2s. to 5s. per lb.
– The price is considerably higher than that in country districts.
– With the imposition of this levy on skins, the rabbit menace may spread in Australia. The Government must not regard the rabbit as the basis of an industry, because the rabbit in Australia is a menace to grass, which is our most important crop. Wa must continue to regard the rabbit as a pest. The Government considers that the high price of rabbit skins justifies the imposition of this levy, and will enable the price of a hat to be reduced by approximately 10s. However, we must, take the long view. The existing high price for rabbit skins provides a great opportunity to induce increasing numbers of people to combat the pest. By impos ing the levy of ls. 6d. per lb. on the skins, the Government is not grasping the chance to rid Australia of these rodents. This matter should receive urgent attention.
Many people who live in northern Victoria have asked me whether the Government proposed to provide drought relief for wheat-growers whose crops in 1946-47 failed. I mention, in fairness to the Government, that I pointed out to these people that the Commonwealth could not provide drought relief unless the State authorities requested it to do so on a £1 for £1, or some other, basis. One correspondent, Mr. Edwin Jones, of Underbool, has written to me as follows : -
A number of farmers here, through no fault of their own, had poor to very poor crops, and at the present time are desperately needing assistance. Prior to the drought of two years ago, quite a number o’f farmers on the lighter type of country had been relying more and more on sheep. However, in many cases they either had to sell their flocks altogether, or considerable numbers died through lack of feed. Through very high prices for all classes of sheep, some farmers have not since been able to buy any at all, and where a purchase has been possible, returns for lambs and wool so far received have all been eaten up in paying for the sheep bought on terms. I mention this to show how much they arc relying on wheat at the present time. Quite a number of farmers harvested moderate returns of wheat, and even they are getting very short of cash, on account of such low prices being received. 1 assume that the only relief they can look forward to is an improvement in the basis of payment to that in force at present. The other section of farmers are those who harvested very little wheat at all, and, of course, they are urgently requiring some form of acreage payment. From my own .personal knowledge, many very good men are urgently requiring assistance, and, unfortunately, they cannot hold a caucus meeting and improve their position by a mere resolution.
That admirably expresses the feelings of country people. They cannot improve their lot by a resolution submitted to caucus. The letter continued -
Both salmon and pepper are between two and three times the price they used to be, and even these small things show just how hopeless the farmer’s position is, when he is receiving a price for wheat which even before the war would not have been particularly good.
There is still time for the Government to review its attitude; to put Australia on a stable economic basis; to enable the people to grasp the opportunity which lies to their hand; to make Australia’s name ring once again throughout the world as a land of opportunity, and to lay the foundations of a true democracy in this great outpost of the Empire. But that time will pass. The Government should act now. The people of Australia must realize that something has to be done, so that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, what is done will be for the greatest good of the greatest number, that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall be preserved, and that our Empire may set a glorious example to all peoples throughout the world.
.- Barely do I speak on a supply measure; but I am reluctantly compelled to do so on this occasion, because of the criticism that has been levelled at the Government by two Opposition members. I am sure that any person listening to the broadcast of the parliamentary proceedings prior to the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) must have then changed the programme, because that speech was one of the most disconnected that I have heard delivered in this House. The honorable member began by attacking the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), on account of what that honorable member had said in regard to placing men on the land. He then proceeded to deal with prices control, banking, local-governing authorities, coal, wheat, hailstones, hens, turkey gobblers, bacon, and. lastly, bunny rabbit. While he was referring to the great hailstorm at Redfern and householders bailing out rainwater with buckets, some of his radio listeners must have wished for a similar visitation in Canberra, with some of the hailstones penetrating the honorable gentleman’s skull. In such an event, the amount of “grey matter” exposed would be sufficient to fill, not a bucket, but only a small inkwell. The honorable gentleman should realize that if men are placed on the land there must be others who will consume what they produce. He should realize that every worker is a cog in the machine which makes Australia progress and provides a market for the products of men who go on the land. He spoke truly when he said that our soldiers had fought for freedom. But they did not fight for the freedom of anybody to exploit them when they wanted to go on the land, as happened after World War I., when ex-servicemen had to pay exorbitant prices for land. Land Sales Control was not the order of the day during and after World War I., but it” has been in operation since the termination of the last conflict and has rendered a great service to the community. After World War I., people paid as high as £120 an acre for land that was not worth £10 an acre, and could not have been sold for that price in other circumstances. Because of the high prices that were paid, many of those who took up land found farming unprofitable, and the property was possessed by those who held mortgages on it.
Most of the local-governing authorities are content to transact their banking business with the Commonwealth Bank, because they receive a better deal from it than from other banking institutions. Those councillors on whose behalf the honorable gentleman spoke are elected, not on a democratic adult franchise, but on a property franchise, and their only concern is for the landed gentry. It is time all local-governing authorities were compelled by the States to have an adult franchise and compulsory voting. Public opinion would then be truly reflected in those local-governing authorities which now go to pains to condemn the Government for having made it obligatory for them to transact their banking business with the Commonwealth Bank.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has been even more persistent than the honorable member for Wimmera in taking up the cudgels on behalf of those who want to practise exploitation, and to have Land Sales Control abolished. He stressed particularly to-night the control that is exercised in respect of sales of second-hand motor cars. Last week, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) urged the abolition of Land Sales Control, and the dismissal of officers of the Prices Branch, whom he described as a lot of bureaucrats who harassed business men. The honorable member for Wentworth commended the honorable member for Reid, and said that he had rendered a wonderful service, not only to this Parliament, but also to this community, by having raised the matter of prices control. The honorable member for Reid may have been too busy a man to take heed of what the honorable member for Wentworth said about him in this Parliament during the second-reading debate on the Financial Agreement Enforcement Bill on the 2nd March, a932, but 1 am sure that he will be interested to hear it now. According to the Hansard report, volume 133, page 495, he said -
In the case of New South Wales, however, the Premier (Mr. Lang) has unequivocally declared that he will not meet the obligations of his State, and it is necessary that pressure should be brought to bear to compel him to do so.
One has only to review the legislative record of the Government of New South Wales to discover’ how much out of tune it is with the feelings of the community. I am not referring now to the family endowment law and other pin-pricking enactments, but to such legislation as the Transport Act, which has thrown out of employment upwards of 4,000 nien, without taking into consideration those engaged in allied trades. These are the very men whom Mr. Lang claims to represent. The Transport Act was a blow at private enterprise, and also affected adversely the mechanical engineering industry, which was making rapid headway. The Arbitration Bill, which is now before the Parliament of New South Wales, is aimed at the very heart of industry. It is neither more nor less than an attack upon private enterprise, seeking as it docs to hand over the control of industry to trade union secretaries. It is reacting against business, and is driving out of the State the wherewith ‘1 that helps to make industry profitable, especially from the point of view of the worker.
– Who wrote that speech ?
– I am quoting from a speech made by the honorable member for Wentworth, in which he criticized the present member for Reid when he was Premier of New South Wales.
– Was it made while the honorable member who is speaking was Deputy Leader of the Lang party?
– I was not deputy leader of any party known as the Lang party, but I was a member of the State Labour party. The Hansard report continues -
This definite attack by Mr. Lang upon private enterprise has brought about a serious position in the industrial and commercial life of New South Wales. We see evidence of this in the silent factories that abound throughout the State, and in the want, misery and depression generally in the community.
Mr. Lang follows the practice of spoils tothe victor. He is out to smash the capitalistic system of New South Wales. He is not a man who can be held up to ridicule, nor can it be said that ho is blindly drifting to a financial collapse. I certainly believe that he has some plan in mind, and that he is determined to enforce it ruthlessly.
The conditions existing in New South Wales will continue until the dishonest Lang G’everment is forced to the country, and a parliament is elected which can restore that intangible but greatest of assets, confidence.
Mr. Lang owns about £13,000 in debentures in the Labour Daily, so he may be’ included in the mortgagee class. That is possibly why he has not pursued that section with greater vindictiveness. Mr. Lang proposed to increase the unemployment tax from ls. to 5s. in the £1, and thus to inflict further burdens on the workers of New South Wales.
His concluding remarks were -
Some honorable members have questioned the need for hurry in this matter. When the body politic is suffering from a cancerous growth it is necessary to apply with all speed the keenest lancet of political endeavour that is available to remove that growth so that the tissues may heal, and the Mother State of the Commonwealth regain a healthy body. That is why there is need for haste.
Now we see them sitting cheek by jowl, dining and wining, and the honorable member for Wentworth patting the honorable member for Reid on the back and saying what a good fellow he is. Truly politics makes strange bed fellows.
I have always been, and still am, a strong supporter of prices control. I believe that the officers of the Prices Branch have rendered wonderful service to Australia.
– They have encouraged black marketeering
– That remark leads me to say that I have never gone cap in hand to any officer of the .Prices Branch on behalf of any black marketeer. I shall be interested to know whether the honorable member for Wimmera can say the same.
– I can.
– Many members of Parliament have used their position as members to go cap in hand to Prices Branch officers to ask them to discontinue action and not to issue summonses against black marketeers. My only complaint concerning the administration pf prices control is that the officers of the branch have not sufficient authority. I believe that the regulations should give to them the powers of a policeman, so that when a person is charged with an offence, such as the sale of a motor car or of necessary commodities at excessive prices, they may arrest the offender, who then will have to remain in prison unless granted bail. That is one way in which black marketing could be stopped. “When I was overseas I had an opportunity to compare prices in Britain and other countries with prices in Australia. What I saw there made me proud of our Australian economy and of the way in which our system of controls had kept prices down. I did not have an opportunity to visit the United States of America hut some of my colleagues did. They have told me that the average price of a dinner in that country is from 15s. to £1, that breakfast costs 8s. 6d., a haircut 6s. Sd., and a toothbrush 3s. Id., whilst a night at a picture theatre costs 10s. and £25 is the price of a suit. We are told that it is impossible to control prices effectively, hut I say that it is the duty of every individual in this country, particularly every member of the Parliament, to do his best to ensure that the laws of the country shall be obeyed. No member of Parliament should attempt to use his influence to intervene on behalf of evil-doers against whom action is proposed. I repeat that, in my opinion, officers of the Prices Branch should have the power to arrest persons in certain circumstances. At times officers have been assaulted in the performance of their duty. I know of one instance in which n woman investigator was assaulted by the woman who owned a shop at Newcastle into which the investigator went in the course of duty, but the offender was let off with a fine of £5. Such a penalty is grossly inadequate for such an offence.
I have had a good deal to do with the transfer of small holdings, such as home sites. T have had occasion to interview Mr. Lush, the delegate of the Treasurer, and, whatever may be said of him, I have never encountered a more courteous or more able officer. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) may have known something to justify his suspension, but I still believe that he was one of the best and one of the most honorable officers in the Service, and I do not think he would do anything to encourage black marketing in land.
When the honorable member for Wentworth was speaking, I asked him whether he was in favour of the removal of economic controls, and he said that he was. 1 believe that if they were removed it would be a bad thing for ex-servicemen and others who are now trying to get a plot of land on which to build a home, or a home already built. Prices would skyrocket as they did after the last war. Far from removing controls, I would have them more rigidly policed. Prices officers should be given power to arrest offenders on the spot. At the present time, if an offence is committed in Newcastle, the case, must be reported to Sydney, which reports it to Canberra. Then, if a prosecution is decided upon, an instruction must he sent from Canberra to Sydney, and thence to Newcastle. The procedure is too slow. Prices officials should be given the same power to arrest offenders as police officers now have. In this way black marketing could be stamped out.
Honorable members generally take advantage of the debate on a supply bill to talk on matters which concern their own electors: but I wish now to speak on matters which concern everybody. I am sure that all honorable members have had representations made to them about the difficulty of obtaining telephones. At one time the Postmaster-General’s Department used to encourage people to have the telephone installed, and it advertised such slogans as “ Do it by telephone “. Now, the people who want telephones cannot get them. I have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister, who assured me that the demand was greater than the supply, that the department was installing more than 4,000 telephones a month, but could not overtake the demand. If that is so, let the department increase the size of its factory so that more telephones may be manufactured.
Since control of building materials was banded back to the State governments, an acute shortage of roofing materials, inmInding tiles, has developed in New South Wales. In the districts of Newcastle and
Hunter, there are 2,000 houses completed except for the roofs, and work cannot proceed until tiles or corrugated asbestos sheets are obtained. It was a mistake to hand over to the States control of these materials. If there is an over-supply in other States, materials, particularly roofing tiles, should be sent to New South Wales.
All over Australia to-day, there is a grave scarcity of bicycle tyres. Thousands of workers have to rely on bicycles for transport to their places of employment. The tyres are wearing out, and cannot be replaced. The shortage is hard to understand, because there is no shortage of motor car tyres. Is it that the manufacturers are catering for people with means and neglecting the worker whose only means of transport is his push-bike ?
.- A good deal of the discussion during this debate has revolved around the Government’s economic control policy, with particular application to certain items. It is opportune to spend a few minutes examining the general objective behind the control system, because when we take our minds back to the time when economic controls were imposed during a period of war we shall find that the very factors which influenced us to impose them are largely operating in reverse today. One of the most important objectives in the imposition of the controls was to divert man-power and materials from the production of goods for civilian demand to the manufacture of goods for the defence needs of the country. But once the country enters a condition of pea.ce, surely our economic objective becomes just the reverse. Therefore, we must set the process in reverse. People who have been engaged in producing munitions and defence materials must be got back to the production of goods for the needs of the public. Resources that were employed for the purposes of war must be diverted again into the channels of peace. Accordingly, one would have assumed that the Government, as soon as practicable, would have set the policy in reverse.
But what has been our experience? Much of what was regarded as a war-time expediency has become per manent peace-time policy. Honorable members opposite have spoken to-nigh i, as though prices control were something that is here for all time, ignoring the considerations which in pre-war days led every government away from a permanent prices control policy except in respect of articles which were the subject of monopolistic production. We can sec perhaps, the strongest condemnation of a peace-time policy of this kind in the very procedures which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has just outlined. He told us about what happens in peace-time when a government tries to track down some one who has offended against prices control. He said that we must have officials going from one place to another, reporting to their superior officers, who, in turn, report to Canberra, and from there emanates the correspondence and legal action which become necessary because of what is done. In that recital of the various procedures involved in the policing of such a system we have, perhaps, the strongest possible condemnation of the operation of a system of that kind in time of peace. While we maintain these official controls in a peace-time economy, we must also maintain, virtually, a police state. That is what is happening in this country. Men and women who could be more usefully employed in making up the shortages of goods which in themselves compel a price control policy in the eyes of this Government, and who could be more usefully employed in producing goods which would make prices control unnecessary, are, today, held in government departments which are a charge upon the taxpayer and community and but for prices control would have no useful function. Honorable members opposite have condemned those who would sweep aside prices control. Yet the very same honorable gentlemen will, on another occasion, condemn the wage-pegging regulations. The honorable member for Hunter himself has pressed repeatedly throughout the war and since for better conditions, increased wages, and amenities for coal-miners, all of which represent an increase of the price of coal and an increased charge upon the consuming public. When prices control comes under consideration, he argues that such controls must be maintained, but he says that wagepegging, which is a corollary of prices control, must we swept aside. At least honorable members on this side of the chamber are consistent. We say that there should be no place, two years after the war, for the continuance of emergency war-time measures in respect of wage-pegging, and that should apply equally to prices control. But, if the Government is not prepared to follow that course, let it snow some consistency and common sense in its application of prices control.
Much has been said about the control of prices of second-hand motor cars. If we are to apply the principle of price control to the prices of those cars, two factors should .be taken into consideration. The first is the condition of the cars; but that is not taken into account at all. A man may have an old car which has done about 50,000 miles but may still be in first-class order because it has been properly maintained. ‘ However, under prices control he is to receive the same price for that vehicle as another man receives for a car which has done 100,000 miles and has been allowed to fall into -complete disrepair. The Government cannot hope to enforce a prices control policy which ignores the condition of the article in respect of which it. fixes a certain price. Secondly, we have a ready barometer of values on which to adjust prices of old cars in a comparison with the prices of new cars which are now being imported, or are being manufactured to a limited degree at least in this country. The prices of new cars offer some rule of thumb when they are compared in respect of utility and service with the condition of second-hand cars. But has there been any upward revision of second-hand car prices on that basis? Of course not. The Government’s approach to this matter is utterly unreal. From information I have received from persons in the motor car trade, I know that the statistics quoted in the debate to-night are not exaggerated. More than 90 per cent, of the sales of motor cars to-day are not effected at prices pegged by the Government.
Turning to the control of land values, a powerful case, of course, can be made out in order to ensure that land prices shall not get out of control. Further, there are factors operating in respect of land sales which are not so cogent as those operating in respect of the production of many commodities, because we can restore a degree of competition in certain forms of production which cannot be restored so rapidly in the case of home construction and the provision of land for farming purposes. But even assuming that there is ground for the control of land values and the prices of homes, what justification has the Government for taking the year 1942 as the base year in fixing values? No one anticipates that land values are going to get back to the 1942 level, not in our lifetime at. any rate. We have seen a depreciation of the fi which is not confined to Australia. Currencies throughout the world have been depreciated because of war conditions. If the Government hopes to ensure observance of its policy of control of land values let it be realistic, and provide that the prices at which construction shall take place are in terms of to-day’s standards. If anything, the process of inflation is going to develop in this country to a greater degree than it has up to date. Therefore, if the Government hopes to maintain its control of land values it must be more realistic. It has overlooked the most important fact that so long as it fixes prices in respect of the transfer of houses, or land, which do not represent fair prices in the minds of persons who have properties for sale, it will freeze a host of properties which would otherwise come on to the market. I am quite certain that the housing problem could be very much eased if the Government allowed people willing to transfer their properties to do so at what they regard as a fair and reasonable price in terms of to-day’s values. A limited number of people engage in these transactions. In the main they represent double black market transactions, because, in order to obtain a price which he regards as fair, a person accepts the black market rate, knowing that if he wishes to buy another property to replace the one which he has sold he must buy on the black market. Many who have property which they are willing to sell or exchange, however, will not stoop to these practices. The younger members of their families having married and gone out of their homes, many elderly people are left with establishments larger than they need. If they desire to sell and obtain a smaller house, or a flat, they are not prepared to sell at one-half or two-thirds of the price that their property would fetch on the market, a price very much below what they know they would have to pay for comparable accommodation elsewhere. I repeat that if we must persist with prices control, at least let our policy be related to the situation of to-day, and let us not attempt to enforce it on the yardstick of values in 1939, 1940 or 1942, which have no realistic relation to the conditions of to-day.
I turn now to a matter with which 1 was primarily concerned when I learned that the Supply debate would provide us with an opportunity to air some of our grievances. It has some relation to the observations we have been making in relation to the control policy of the Government in general, the question of public morality. If a government expects a high standard of conduct from the citizens of the Commonwealth it must itself set a high standard in its dealings with them. The story which I now put before the House is one which shows up this Government in a disgraceful light and reveals a situation which should be remedied without delay. The case I bring forward relates to a number of men who served with credit in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. These men had been members of the Citizen Forces before the war, and were called up shortly after the outbreak of war for service in the Citizen Air Force, in pursuance of Air Force Regulation 445, which was proclaimed in the Commonwealth Gazette dated the 2nd September, 1939. Section 4 of Air Force Regulation 646 prescribes that a member of the Citizen Air Force, while serving under regulation 445, to which I have referred, shall be paid rates of active pay and deferred pay and receive the allowances prescribed for a member of the same rank in the Permanent Air Force. These men were called up under those conditions, and they were entitled to expect that they would be treated in accordance with the terms of the regulation; but for soma reason, which I hope the Government will make clear to the Parliament, years after they had joined up - in 1943 - an
Air Force regulation was passed which had the effect of wiping out the accrued deferred pay that they had already earned. The regulation did not simply provide that as from the date of the regulation they should not be credited with deferred pay ; it wiped out completely the deferred pay which they had actually earned from 1939. For many of these men this loss represented hundreds of pounds. Specific cases have been brought to my notice of amounts of from £300 to £400 being involved. The men challenged this action by the Government in the law courts, and there was a hearing first in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and then by the Full Bench of that Court. I do not want to quote the judgment extensively. The Full Court upheld the legal rights of these men. In the course of his judgment in the Full Court of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Mr. Justice Davidson, a gentleman who has earned the respect and trust of the present Government, because he waa appointed to preside over the Coal Com. mission which presented a valuable report to the country and to the Parliament, said -
It is almost incredible that citizens, invited by the Government to undertake defence service on specific terms, should be led into the belief that the money which they had earned on this footing, and which had been credited to them in accordance with such an arrangement and with the regulations, would be paid to them on their discharge, and yet should be informed when that event happened that a large proportion of their reward had been forfeited, without default on their part, and that they should be left with the contention that they had no binding agreement and were left without any remedy whatever. . . . Likewise it would be ludicrous to suggest that a proposed deprivation of members of the Defence Forces of money credited to them in respect of their past work could be aimed at securing the discipline and good government of the members, or to fall within the description of something required, or permitted to be prescribed, for the carrying out or giving effect to the act. Any course of action better calculated to cause indiscipline and unrest in operations under the act would be hard to imagine.
That is strong language, and it is not customary for judges, when dealing with what are primarily questions of law, to make comments on matters of that kind. Mr. Justice Davidson, however, felt moved to do so, and I believe all members of this Parliament would feel likewise, particularly when I add for their information that such of the men who were discharged from the service, many of them for disciplinary reason, received the deferred pay, whilst those who stayed on and continued to render excellent service, many of them rising in rank - in one case from flight lieutenant to group captain - were deprived of considerable sums which their services in the Air Force had earned. Because this Government was not content to accept the decision of any lower court the matter was brought before the Full Bench of the High Court, and the Government’ won its case. The High Court held that the Government undoubtedly had power to pass such a regulation, even though it deprived people of benefits which had accrued to them up to the date on which it was passed. I have no doubt that members of this Parliament .who are lawyers would not contest that decision as a matter of law. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note some of the comments made by the judges in giving their decision. The Chief Justice, Sir John Latham, said this -
I abstain from animadverting upon the action of the Commonwealth Government in altering the regulations notwithstanding the terms of appointment of the plaintiff, and doubtless of other officers.
This was a test case, and a man named Welsh appeared as the single plaintiff. The Chief Judge continued -
There may possibly have been some compensating advantage for the disadvantageous alteration.
If so, we have not been made aware of it, and the men directly affected are certainly not aware of it. His Honour added -
The court 1ms no information on the matter. But the Commonwealth Government was not either bound or invited to defend its action upon any other than a purely legal basis.
Mr. Justice Starke said ;
The result, 1 fear, works a great injustice to the plaintiff and other airmen in the same position but the court’s function is to construe the Regulations as it finds them much as one may regret the policy that dictated them and the injustice done to the plaintiff and others.
The Government finds itself in this happy position: By taking proceedings from one court to another and ending up with the Full Court of the High Court, it has secured a judgment that it had the legal power to pass a regulation depriving ex-servicemen who gave excellent service to the country in time of war of benefits which previous legislation had conferred upon them. But, if it attempts to defend its decision in this House or before the people, the Opposition, and the country as a whole, will not accept its defence. If it asks the citizens of Australia to obey restrictive regulations that are oppressive to them and continues to impose punitive rates of tax on certain sections of the people, and if, for its part, it proposes to behave in this utterly contemptible way, it can only expect the kind of conduct which it condemns in those who violate its laws. If it has any self respect, it will remedy this disgraceful situation immediately. I am not aware of any satisfactory explanation that could be submitted in defence of its action. No explanation was offered in the litigation in the courts or in response to representations made by many honorable members, including the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I could not allow the opportunity provided by the debate oil this Supply Bill to pass without expressing my criticism and my contempt for the attitude of the Government in this matter.
.- The debate on the Supply Bill provides honorable members with an opportunity to bring forward matters which they consider call for publicity, for the airing of grievances, and, if necessary, for criticism of the Government. Certain extremely disturbing things are happening in the community to-day, and they have been mentioned by more than one honorable member during this debate. I refer, in particular, to the criticism expressed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and others of the various controls imposed by the Government on the community, the value of which is extremely doubtful.. I shall not traverse again in detail the ground which has been’ covered by other honorable members, but I shall refer specifically to several of these controls. In respect of the pegging of prices for second-hand motor cars, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to state, at some appropriate time when he is in a revealing mood, what useful purpose is being served by this control. What is its value to the community? Whom does it benefit? If the Prime Minister can establish to the satisfaction of the House that this control is helping to prevent inflation, he will succeed in stifling most of our criticism. Having examined the facts to the best of my ability, I am unable to see how the pegging of motor car prices at the values which prevailed in 1939, subject to reductions for depreciation since that year at a fixed rate, will affect the cost of living. The honorable member for Wentworth stated the position adequately when he said that no person other than a fool or an utterly honest man would sell a motor car at the pegged price when he could obtain twice as much money anywhere on the market.
I refer now to the subject of land sales control, because I was one of the first to bring this matter before the House many months ago. In December, 1946, during the debate on the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, which determined which regulations would remain in force after the National Security Act lapsed, I said that as soon as the lid was lifted there would be a smell to high heaven from the land sales office in Sydney. I did not mean to imply then that there was corruption on the part of Mr. Lush or other officials. I said, and I repeat again, that the whole system of land sales control must be examined. I say further now that, in fairness to the officer who acted as the Treasurer’s delegate in Sydney, there should be a speedy dispensation of justice in order to establish the honour of that officer. I have had many dealings with Mr. Lush in the course of my official duties on behalf of constituents, and I have no reason to doubt his honesty and integrity. I believe that he was caught up in a system which compelled him to delay decisions and side-track matters until he received the advice and reports of valuers and others and until he obtained instructions from higher up. It would have been impossible for him or any other man in that job to give real satisfaction. Therefore, I say that the responsibility for whatever trouble exists in the land sales office in Sydney rests, not upon the unfortunate officer who is now sought to be made a scape-goat, but upon the Prime Minister himself who, month after month, refused to heed warnings given to him by members on this side of the House. The right honorable gentleman delayed until the trouble blew up, and now, apparently, he is prepared to make a scape-goat of an unfortunate official. There is no doubt that Mr. Lush’s honour is involved. I do not propose to act as a judge in this matter. I merely say that justice, in order to be true justice, must be done quickly, because the good name of a man is at stake.
Another control imposed by the Government which requires close examination is the clothes rationing scheme. This is a matter of great concern to the people at large, particularly in view of the fact that the most recent ration books issued contained only 56 clothing coupons for a twelve-months’ period, as compared with 112 coupons in the previous issue to cover an eighteen-months’ period. The reduction of the coupon issue could only be justified if a shortage of clothing had to be distributed equitably throughout the community. If such a shortage existed, and if it would have been impossible to supply the needs of the people without maintaining rationing, then good cause existed for the Government’s decision. If it can be shown by evidence that a heavy supply of rationed clothing exists in the retail stores, more clothing indeed than there are coupons to absorb, the time has arrived for an examination to be made of the position.
– Buy us some shirts.
– I tell the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) that I am going to quote some remarks made by Mr. J. H. Blakeney, managing director of Finney Isles and Company Limited, Brisbane, in a public statement on the subject. That firm conducts one of the largest drapery stores in Queensland. The drapery trade in Queensland has come to the point of virtual rebellion against .clothes rationing and the coupon system on the ground that all the retail stores in Brisbane have more rationed goods on their shelves than they can dispose of. The president of the United Retailers Association of Queensland, Mr.
Clothing rationing merely perpetuates the black market, and increases shoplifting. At present the people want winter lines, and cannot get them because of rationing. If rationing continues, they will be in the same difficulty over summer-wear when the winter season ends. Usually the winter trade expires about the end of June.
I am sure that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who is also in the soft-goods line, knows something about this matter.
– There are no coupons for woollen goods.
– I advise the honorable member not to be hasty. The newspaper account of what he said continues -
Mr. Blakeney regarded as specious the argument that lifting of rationing would cause panic buying.
– What goods are they?
– Ask Mr. Blakeney. I will not be side-tracked by any smalltown mercer.
Cotton goods from the United Kingdom were the only commodity on which control might be justified, said Mr. Blakeney. But there the solution lay in allowing the trade to implement its own rationing, he continued-
I assume that the honorable member for Hume will agree with this -
No business mau who valued his business would allow some customers to be oversupplied while other customers went short. Men whose livelihood depended on the trade could be relied upon to run a rationing system of their own volition if it were warranted.
It is clear from what Mr. Blakeney has said - and what he has said has been confirmed by the representatives of two other large firms, Edwards and Lamb and Barry and Roberts Proprietary Limited - that there are supplies of rationed clothing in Brisbane and that the public have not the coupons that would enable it to be bought. I am only speaking about
Brisbane, but I think the same position exists in other capital cities. The Brisbane firms have discontinued placing orders for certain articles for months to come, for they cannot dispose of what they have on their shelves because of the rationing system. What is the value of maintaining unnecessary rationing controls ? If those controls are necessary, by all means let them be retained; but when it can be shown that they are no longer in the public interest or necessary in order to distribute evenly through the community such clothing supplies as are available, the position should be examined and the controls lifted. How can a reasonable examination of the position be made by the rationing commissioner when the chairman is no other than Mr. A. W. Coles, who is also chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission and chairman of the War Damage Commission ? I believe that for the last few months he has been in America on behalf of the Australian National Airlines Commission. I am not criticizing his business ability but he cannot be three Coles in one and do justice to the Australian people, who are deprived by the rationing system of the right to buy what they need. He cannot be doing all those jobs at the same time. Therefore I think that the time has arrived to overhaul Mr. Coles’s position. Is he to be chairman of the War Damage Commission? We have heard criticism tonight of that commission’s treatment of the settlers in New Guinea.
– It was only from “ Joe “ Abbott that the honorable member heard that.
– In a belittling way the Prime Minister interjects, “But it was only from ‘ Joe ‘ Abbott “.
– When stating their disabilities, he did not tell the House that residents of New Guinea were tax free.
– No, he did not tell us that. Neither has the Prime Minister told us that when salaries for public servants in New Guinea were fixed consideration was paid to the fact that they are tax free and salaries were written down accordingly. If the Prime Minister needs to confirm that, he can do so by reading the Gazette notices of jobs in New
Guinea. Anyway, the complaints from New Guinea come from more than one source. But the germ of my criticism is that Mr. Coles cannot be chairman of the Rationing Commission and carry out his duties, chairman of the War Damage Commission and carry out his duties and chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission and carry out his duties. Something must go by the board. In fairness to the ordinary men and women of Australia, who need certain lines of goods and who are prepared to suffer any discomfort required of them by the Government if it is necessary, the Government ought to remove such discomfort if it is not necessary in the national interest. It has been stated by men with some authority in the clothing trade that the clothing controls are no longer necessary. I am not able, of course, to express an opinion as to the quantity of clothing in the stores, but I do say that an immediate examination by the Government is necessary, especially as winter is getting well on the way. Many people need to increase their purchases of warm clothes and, as the number of coupons made available was reduced to 56 in the last ration card, few people have coupons left for clothes waiting to be distributed of which there is no shortage.
Another matter with which I wish to deal is the position of the Australian sugar industry in relation to the negotiations taking place at Geneva. I do not know what instructions have been given to the Australian delegation in respect of the Australian sugar industry, but I do know that there is very grave disquiet amongst sugar-growers and others as to the possible outcome of the negotiations. Although Mr. Watson, who is held in high esteem in the sugar industry, wa3 sent to Geneva with the delegation, it is believed that he had not been admitted to any sittings of the conference and that he is, therefore, in the position of a person on the outside whose advice may or may not be sought and who has no real voice in the deliberations of the conference. I would remind the Prime Minister that there are about 9,000 sugar-growers in Australia, most of them growing sugar on areas of approximately only 50 acres. Approximately from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 capital has been sunk in their firms, and about £20,000,000 has been invested in sugar mills.
– By the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has only seven mills, and there are about twenty operated by co-operative concerns. Seventy-thousand people depend for their livelihood on the sugar industry, and the Government should take the utmost care to see that nothing is done to its prejudice. It is known that an offer was made on behalf of this country to forgo certain preferences in connexion with sugar. At present the price of sugar exported to Great Britain and Canada is about £3 35s. a ton, but if we take into consideration exchange depreciation of 25 per cent., we find that under average crop conditions the growers and refiners receive only half the price on a crop of 400,000 tons. The industry is of first-rate magnitude, particularly to Queensland and the districts represented by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) and others. I, myself, represent a large part of northern New South Wales, where sugar is grown. For that reason, I join with honorable members supporting the Government in advocating the utmost vigilance to protect the industry.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the Government does not appreciate the position?
– Without criticizing the honorable member for Herbert, who is new to this House, I point out to him that he may be unfamiliar with the methods adopted at these conferences. What we have to guard against is the possibility of being presented with a fait accompli after the conference, as we were after the Ottawa Agreement. Therefore, anything that honorable members have to say to protect the interest of Australia and of those whom we represent, should be said at this juncture, in order that the Government may know the feeling of the House.
– The things the honorable member is saying now have already been said by Ministers.
– If the honorable member is not already aware of the fact, he should know that offers have been made on behalf of Australia to concede some Empire preference in respect of sugar. I should like to know how far those concessions go, and how far they are detrimental to the interests of this country.
– No concessions have been made at all.
– The honorable member said “ offered “, not “ made “.
– I said concessions were offered in respect of sugar, in particular. Before the delegation left Australia it was stated publicly that that was one of the bargaining instruments to be used.
– What is the honorable member’s source of information.
– I am not revealing my source of information to the Minister. The Minister knows that what I say is true. He knows that certain offers were made.
– The honorable member can rest assured that sugar has never been discussed.
– If that is so, we have been misinformed by the Prime Minister’s own emissary. Without mentioning any names at this stage, I can tell the House that the Prime Minister’s emissary is the person who informed us that sugar was mentioned, and that a tentative offer had been made.
– The honorable member should know that every cane-grower has an organization.
– I have been a canegrower for many years, and I know as much about it as the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). What I am endeavouring to point out, before’ it is too late, is that if any whittling down of the present Empire preference price of £3 15s. a ton for sugar sent to Great Britain and Canada is made, it will cause serious damage to one of the most important industries of this country. Whilst I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister, I consider that it should have been made beforehand, and I trust that the Government representatives at Geneva will take into account these factors in any negotiations there.
.- The first observation which I wish to make is in regard to the payment of war gratuities, and I was pleased to hear this matter mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). He submitted that war gratuities should be payable to ex-servicemen to cover the cost of furniture and so on. - The case I wish to bring to the notice of the Government is that of an ex-serviceman who wishes to apply his war gratuity for the purchase of a pumping outfit for a small property in order to rehabilitate himself. I know of several similar cases. These ex-servicemen desire to produce food for Australia. For some time they hoped to be settled under that Government’s reestablishment scheme, but arrangements had not been made to receive them and they began on their own account. To help themselves they had expended all their money and they are now “up against it “ for cash with which to purchase equipment to enable them to engage in production. I submitted these cases to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and he wrote to one of these ex-servicemen as follows : -
With regard to the payment of your war gratuity, the War Gratuity Act and regulations empower a “ prescribed authority “ to approve of payment of gratuities before the normal due date of payment in 1951 only in certain restricted classes of case . . . However, from the information furnished, it appears that you may be eligible for a reestablishment loan, and I would advise you to make application to the DeputyCommissioner of Taxation, Riverside Drive, Perth.
On three occasions I pointed out in the House that under a certain direction which the Government issued it is impossible for any ex-serviceman to obtain a loan to enable him to engage in any branch of primary production unless he can satisfy the prescribed authority that he had engaged in that particular industry prior to ‘his enlistment. Sub-section three of section 91 of the Reestablishment and Employment Act provides -
Where a person is not an eligible person by reason only that that person, or the husband of that person, was not, immediately prior to his engagement on war service, engaged in an occupation, business or practice on his own account, as an active member of a partnership, as a share-farmer or as a contract worker^ the prescribed authority may, if it considers it desirable in the circumstances of the case, de. :mine that that person shall be an eligible person.
The prescribed authority submitted to the Government that that definition was too wide and asked that it be defined so that the prescribed authority would be able to determine what ex-servicemen might come under the terms of the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Directive No. 8, to which I have referred on a previous occasion, reads -
The lending authority may regard as an eligible person in pursuance of section 91 (3) of the Act a person who applies for a loan, who was engaged in an agricultural occupation prior to engagement on war service and whose experience, in the opinion of the lending authority, fits him for the agricultural occupation ho desires to pursue.
The whole difficulty arises from the definition of “ an eligible person “, which is narrowed down to the words contained in Directive No. 8. In the circumstances it is futile for these men to apply to any prescribed authority for financial assistance to enable them to rehabilitate themselves unless they had had experience prior to their enlistment. Apparently this Government does not care “two hoots whether these ex-servicemen have since obtained experience and proved themselves capable of earning a livelihood in the industry in which they desire to reestablish themselves. I regard it as almost disgraceful for the Prime Minister to have written in those terms, bearing in mind that that directive is still in operation. I appeal to the Government to give serious consideration to the position of those men who desire to be paid the war gratuity now in order that they may establish themselves on small properties. I do not believe that they would expend the money in an extravagant manner. “We know what happened after World War I., but surely a panel of suitable persons could be appointed to determine whether the war gratuity should be paid to deserving ex-servicemen in the interests, not only of themselves, but also of the country.
Earlier the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) referred to the substantial profits made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Bearing in mind those profits, I expected that in the department’s programme of post-war expansion telephone services and improved facilities would be provided to persons residing in outlying districts. We understand that the department is prepared to provide these services under certain conditions. In 1929 I made representations for the provision of telephone services in the portion of my electorate known as the Kulja-eastward railway area - the most north-easterly portion of the Western Australian wheat belt. The financial and economic depression intervened, and the services were postponed. The cost of providing them was a considerable factor. However, the matter was kept before successive governments, and I was informed only recently by the Postmaster-General’s Department in Perth that these facilities would be installed provided the number of subscribers were sufficient. This particular area includes Mukinbudin, Wialki and Mollerin. They would eventually be linked with telephone services. As the result of the financial and economic depression and World War II., there are comparatively few settlers in that area. In 1941, as the result of representations by the political parties which now constitute the opposition in this Parliament, a portion of the amount of £12,000,000 granted for the relief of farmers was provided for the rehabilitation of this area. The settlers are suffering all the inconveniences and disabilities of isolation, lack of amenities and hard work. The Postmaster-General’s Department has now informed them that they may obtain telephone services provided that they clear the route for the telephone lines, sink the post and stay holes, cart the poles and assist with the erection of the line. The settlers cannot possibly comply with those conditions. They cannot afford the time to leave their properties for the purpose of doing this work. I urge the Government not to penalize them any longer, because they need these facilities. They have gone so far as to assure the department that they will engage a contractor to clear the route and supervise the whole of the work, but the department is adamant that the settlers shall do the whole of it. As I have stated, it is beyond their ability to do so.
On a number of occasions members of the Opposition have endeavoured to obtain from the Government a statement of its policy regarding the wheat industry. Nearly every time the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has replied that he is still hopeful that the State parliaments will pass the complementary legislation for the purpose of enabling the wheat stabilization plan to operate. The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that State parliaments will not pass that legislation. To-day he facetiously commented on what certain governments had done, but omitted to mention that the Labour Government of New South Wales, which has been in office for a considerable time, is the only government which has not placed the complementary legislation before the Parliament of that State. He had a little gibe at the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia. Those two States provided that a poll of their wheatgrowers should be taken to decide whether the scheme should be accepted or rejected. It was rejected by the growers of South Australia, and in Western Australia the poll has been deferred pending the completion of an inquiry into costs of production, but I know that the growers of that State also will vote against it. At the present time, wheat-growers have to deliver their wheat under extended National Security Regulations, and they receive 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, bagged basis, with 3d. a ‘bushel less for bulk wheat. They can be required to contribute 50 per cent, of the difference between that price and the realization price, as a wheat ta.x. We have been unable to ascertain how much the Government is holding on their behalf. I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the report of the annual meeting of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation held recently in Sydney. The predecessor of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when introducing in this Parliament the wheat stabilization legislation, which was to become operative only in the event of complementary legislation being passed by the States, expressed great faith in the suggestions of that federation. I believe that every honorable member will admit that the federation can speak for the wheat-growers of Australia. The federation, at its annual meeting, agreed to quite a number of wheat stabilization proposals, among which were these -
The scheme to provide for a guaranteed floor price to be based upon and maintained at the determined cost of production, provided that the cost ‘ of production shall include a remunerative wage plus interest on the capital involved.
That under the wheat stabilization scheme the first payment be 5s. 2d. f.o.r. ports, bulk basis, until such time as the cost of production price be determined by the Wheat Industry Cost Inquiry Commission.
The stabilization scheme to operate with the next harvest after the scheme commences, and be for at least ten years.
The Australian Country party at the last general elections advocated that any scheme introduced should operate for a period of ten years. The federation also decided -
That the home price for wheat for human consumption in Australia be retained upon its original principle, viz., cost plus but subject to immediate and periodic review and adjustment in accord with fluctuation in cost.
That we oppose any sales of wheat for internal use at concessional prices by ministerial direction excepting wheat used for human consumption, unless the Australian Wheat Board is reimbursed to export parity by the Government.
The federation is not opposed to concessional sales for stock feed, dog biscuit manufacture, and the production of breakfast foods. Its contention is that the cost of the concession should not be borne by one section of the community, and that the Government should subsidize the farmers to the amount of the difference between the price received from concessional sales and the full realization price. Another proposal was -
That a stabilization fund be created and contributed to by growers in years when the realization exceeds the guaranteed price and drawn upon to maintain that price in the years when realizations fall below the guaranteed price, and that the amount of such grower contribution should be 50 per cent, of the excess above the determined guaranteed price, with a limit of 2s. 2d., and that any deficiency be made up by a grant from Consolidated Revenue.
That is a debatable point. At the moment, the majority of the growers would agree that they themselves should make the contribution. They have not asked the Government so far to subscribe one penny towards any stabilization fund. They are very concerned because another harvest will be delivered shortly. The
Parliament is to go into recess this week ami will not resume until some time in September. Harvesting operations will be begun in Western Australia within a month of our resuming our duties in this honorable House. What is to be the position of the growers who begin harvesting early in October, without the knowledge of what is to be done? Unless action is taken quickly, the National Security Regulations must be extended for a further period. The growers will deliver their wheat for which- they will again receive a poor price, and they will not know how much of their money is ‘being held by the Government. Other proposals were -
The Federal Government be requested to introduce legislation with the object of giving the Australian Wheat Board the necessary statutory powers to assume full control of the registration, licensing, acquisition, care, sale, distribution and export, in conjunction with the Wheat Stabilization Board, and the financing and marketing of Australian wheat, together with power under the authority of the Commonwealth Treasurer to negotiate” the necessary advances direct with the Commonwealth Bank.
The plan to be controlled by a board, the majority of members to be elected by a ballot of licensed wheat-growers in each State.
Such a board would be constituted on lines similar to those of the Apple and Pear Board, and would differ from that intended under the wheat stabilization plan introduced by the Government about twelve months ago, which proposed that the Minister should have complete power and the Australian Wheat Board should be stripped of any power which it then had. That the board has been stripped of. its power was demonstrated by the sales of wheat to New Zealand, arrangements for which were completed last January. Another proposal was -
That the board comprise two grower members from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and one grower member from Queensland. That one grower member from each two-member State retire at the end of two years, the remainder at the expiration of three years, such members to be eligible for re-election. Thereafter tenure to be for two years.
The advantage of that scheme is that it would be grower-controlled. This is w-hat the Labour party promised to the wheatgrowers in 1937, and prior to that date. It is both desirable and necessary. In common with other honorable members, I have urged that those engaged in not only the wheat industry but also any other industry know more about it than anybody outside it. If the Government desires that there shall be contentment in any primary or secondary industry, it should appoint to boards men who are engaged in it and who know the pitfalls that have to be avoided, the hardships that have to be overcome, and the requirements that have to be met. There could be a government nominee as chairman, if that were desired, but the bulk of the members should come from within the industry. That is in line with all the requests that have been made from this side of the House. Another proposal that I place before the Government for its consideration is this -
That a compulsory referendum be taken of all licensed wheat-growers before any stabilization scheme becomes operative.
It is only right and fair that the wheatgrowers should have a voice in deciding what shall become of their product. Other proposals of the federation are these -
That the Australian Wheat Board be not subject to ministerial direction in the exercise of their function to sell the wheat to the best advantage unless the board be reimbursed for any losses on concessional sales either internally or for export.
A properly constituted authority shall be set up to determine and provide for a refund to growers who have equity in the fund, if for any reason they are arbitrarily forced to cease growing wheat.
Under the scheme proposed by the Government it was not intended that a grower should have any equity in that fund should he, for any reason, be compelled to cease growing wheat. That meant that a wheat-grower in a small way - one who produces, say, 3,000 bushels of wheat a year - would make a contribution of about £150 a year to the fund. In three years he would pay about £450. Has any other section of the community been asked to do that? I bring these matters before the House because, unless something is done, the wheat-growers of Australia will be faced with another year under national security regulations.
Lastly, they recommend that provision be made for the issue of further farm registrations and permanent licences, with preference to ex-servicemen and the sons of farmers. These decisions of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation are not unreasonable; they are, in fact, things that have been promised to the farmers for many years. I ask the Government to give earnest and early attention to these matters.
Debate (on motionby Mr. Francis) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Banking Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 63, 65.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No.60.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - AppointmentDepartment of Civil Aviation - C. A. J. Lum.
Darwin Lands Acquisition Act, Lands Acquisition Act, and Lands Acquisition Ordinance of the Northern Territory - Land acquired for purposes of re-planning and development, and institution of system of leasehold tenure - Darwin, Northern Territory.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Service munitions ( Carriage by road Victoria).
National Security (Minerals) Regulations - Order - Mica.
National Security (Rationing) RegulationsOrder - No. 142.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 58.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Ascot, Western Australia.
Lang Lang, Victoria.
Port Wakefield, South Australia.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and
Northern Territory- ( Administration ) Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 1 - Matrimonial Causes.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 64.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
r asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Will he furnish the following information with respect to Trans-Australia Airlines: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The figures of other persons discharged include dismissals and voluntary resignations.
s asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the’ honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d. - On the 13th May the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I now advise the honorable member as follows ; -
See answer to No. 4.
Royal AUSTRALIAN Navy: PRIZE Money,
Mr, RIORDAN - With reference to the question concerning prize money for the Royal Australian Navy, asked on the 15th May .by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), I have made inquiries into the matter, but find that I can add nothing to the information I gave to the House on the 5 th March in reply to a similar question asked by the honorable member for Cook. However, as stated in my reply on the 5th March, as soon as a basis of distribution is decided upon, I will inform: the House.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470603_reps_18_192/>.