18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. 8. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a-m.
– It is reported in the press that the leader of the Australian Goodwill Mission to the Par East, Mr. Macmahon Ball, told Malayan, Chinese and Indian representatives that Australia’s opinion on the. White Australia policy would change within ten years, and that misunderstandings in Malaya over the White Australia policy were the result of individual administrative acts. I ask the Prime Minister whether those reports are correct. If they are, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether Mr. Macmahon Ball was authorized to discuss the White Australia policy on behalf of the Government? Bid his remarks represent a new departure from government policy as propounded by the Minister for Immigration? Does this mean that the Government is prepared to abandon the White Australia policy, which has been the basis of our development as a white race?
– The- Minister for External Affairs will answer the question.
– I am glad that the Acting Leader of the Opposition has asked this question, because its gives me the opportunity to state without the slightest equivocation that there has never been any suggestion of any deviation whatsoever in the fundamental migration policy of the Australian people, supported as it has been since Federation by every political party. The recent press reports from Malaya relating to Mr. Macmahon Ball represent no action, direct or indirect, on behalf of the Government in connexion with the same fundamental subject. Mr. Macmahon Ball’s official duties in South-East Asia’ were confined, as I told the House last week, to two matters, and two matters only ; first, the organization of relief for the people in those areas who needed it, the Australian Government’ having made a post-Unrra contribution for the assistance of people in that area; and, secondly, arrangements and machinery for the awarding of scholarships or studentships to persons in that area, which would bo tenable in Australian educational institutions. Those matters, and those matters alone, were committed to Mr. Macmahon Ball, and anything else said apart from them simply represents action of a personal character.
– Is it not dangerous for him to express personal opinions when he is leading a goodwill mission ?
- Mr. Macmahon Ball is carrying out duties on behalf of the Australian Government, and particularly the Department of External Affairs. J. do not wish to say more than that they are limited to the matters I have mentioned and do not include any others. I am glad of the opportunity, to .make that statement. There has never been any suggestion of a deviation in any respect from the accepted immigration policy of the Government, which, as I have pointed out before, has been that of every government of this country.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the report in yesterday’s Sydney newspapers that wool-growers are to receive £30,000,000 from the proceeds from the re-sale of the wool that has accumulated in- the United Kingdom and that is being disposed of by the Joint Organization? Is the report correct? If so, what will be- the position if the price of wool falls before the whole of the accumulation has’ been sold!
– The daily press recently published some articles dealing with the distribution of profits, if any, resulting from the operations of the Joint Organization and the Australian Wool Realization Committee. Those articles tend to mislead the Australian wool-growers and the Australian public. The position is that the Government has stated that any profits accruing to Australia as a result of the operations of the two organizations to which I have referred will he distributed to those wool-growers who participated in the war-time wool marketing scheme, and has announced its intention of bringing down in the September session of the Parliament the legislation necessary to enable that distribution to be made when the scheme is wound up. The cost of Australia’s participation in the scheme was approximately £40,000,000. At the time of the purchase by the Australian Government of the wool accumulation in the United Kingdom, it was estimated that it would take from seven to fourteen years to liquidate it. The surplus wool has been marketed so freely in recent years that it is now estimated that the liquidation can be completed in approximately seven years. It must, however, be clearly understood ‘ by the Australian wool-growers and public that no distribution of profits can be made until the scheme is completely wound up. It is true that at .the moment substantial sum? stand to the credit of the disposals scheme, hut, pending the disposal of the whole of the wool, it is not possible to say what the final amount will he. That is due to the fact that the Australian Government, in conjunction with the Governments of the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand, annually fixes a reserve price for the incoming clip. It is the responsibility of the marketing organization to buy in, if the growers agree to sell it, any portion of the clip that does not realize the reserve price. That means that, in the event of a catastrophic fall in the price of wool, the Joint Organization and the Australian Wool Realization Committee would be faced with the responsibility of buying in substantial quantities of the current year’s clip. Under those circumstances it will- be seen that there is no possibility of a distribution of any of the moneys being made until the scheme is finally wound up.
– Has the Prime Minister seen an article in the
Sunraysia Daily, of the 3rd June, dealing with the proposed Royal tour of Australia? It is headed “Bring England’s Pageantry Here “, and states -
We believe that if the band of the Life Guards or the Household Cavalry . . . were added to the Royal entourage, it would make » vast and lasting impression on the people of this land. . . . The inclusion of either of these famous bauds in the Royal ,id it would not he an expensive item. Neither would it he difficult. If it is not possible to bring the horses, Australia cun supply plenty which are used to crowds and music.
Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been drawn to that suggestion ? If so, does he regard it favorably? Will lie make investigations to see whether it r-an be adopted?
– I do not usually read the Sunraysia Daily, but my attention lias been drawn to the fact that there was ;m article in that paper - I do not know of what date - suggesting that one of the famous bands of the United Kingdom should be brought to Australia in connexion with the tour of Their Majesties and Her Royal Highness. No consideration has been given to such a proposal by the Government, the Minister in charge of the Royal visit or myself. I should think at the moment that the provision of accommodation in connexion with the Royal visit will he very difficult. The various States will have to provide accommodation for the Royal party and those associated with it. My first reaction to the suggestion is that apart from the expenditure involved, the provision of the requisite accommodation and transport would present a problem. However, I shall discuss the suggestion with the Minister in charge of the Royal visit.
– C - Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services inform me of the procedure in respect of the payment of age and other pensions to persons who emigrate from Great Britain to Australia? Are such pensions paid to them from Great Britain ; if so, for what period ? Has any arrangement been made with the British Government in respect of such migrants?
– Negotiations on that matter have taken place between the Governments of New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but I do not know how far they have proceeded. There is a working understanding between New Zealand and Australia on the subject. I am not sure whether we have made any arrangement with Great Britain on the matter. 1 shall obtain the information and supply it t<> Hie honorable member to-morrow.
-]. - A - As many reports have been published recently in the press attributing to the Prime Minister statements to the effect that he has promised, or threatened - I do not know whether it is a promise or a throat - to hand over control of rents and prices to the States in the near future as the result of the recent referendum, and as Victoria is preparing to take over such controls but, according to a statement published in this morning’s Melbourne press, the Premier of that State has sought information on the subject from the Commonwealth, but so far has not received a reply, will the right honorable gentleman make a statement to the Parliament setting out the position so . that the State governments and the people may know where they stand in the matter ?
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition asked a question with relation to this matter on the first day of the resumption of the sittings of the Parliament following the recent recess, and in my reply I indicated that Cabinet would recommend to the Ministerial party at its meeting next Wednesday that land sales control and prices control should be handed over to the State governments within three months and rent control within two months. On that occasion I simply said that that was the recommendation being made, and I did not elaborate the matter except to add that whatever administrative assistance could be given to the States in undertaking this task would be given. I might add now, however, that the departments concerned have been instructed to give to the State governments which will be taking over these controls the assistance which they require. With respect to staffs, assistance will be given by the Public Service Board, and with respect to administration it will be given by the Prices Commissioner. One important reason which actuated the Government in making its recommendation was that if the matter were allowed to drag on for any length of time present employees in the Prices Branch and other departments who are mainly temporary officers would most likely, owing to uncertainty about their positions, seek employment elsewhere. That has already been happening. Apart from that, it was considered that there might be some feeling that the Commonwealth officers no longer had the authority that they have previously had in view of the fact that prices control is to be handed over to different administrations. It was also considered desirable that all the physical resources available for the control of prices should be handed to the States as early as practicable and that if the transfer were delayed for too long the Commonwealth officers in the Prices Branch would have been appointed to other positions, which would have placed the States at an immediate disadvantage.
– How long will the transfer take - three months or six months?
– The Cabinet’s decision has still to be endorsed by the party on Wednesday of next week. Should it be endorsed, I shall immediately notify the Premiers who have made inquiries. A telegram that I received from the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, this morning is the first inquiry that I have received from him about the matter. I am always available to discuss such matters with the Premiers.
– Is the matter of subsidies to be considered by the caucus at the same time?
– The matter of subsidies, despite the newspaper reports has not been considered by the Cabinet, but it will be considered at an early date. In order to guard the national economy, the Government desires to make the transition as smooth as possible. If the
States have not the physical means of administering prices control, they will have a most difficult job to do.
– Will the Prime Minister have prepared a list of all government temporary employees in receipt of more than £500 a year, showing the positions occupied by and the length of service of each officer?
– I am always glad to supply whatever information honorable members desire, but, as I have said before in this House, I have been troubled by questions involving a tremendous amount of work for many officers who are already overworked. Before I came into the House to-day I saw one question on notice that involved an enormous amount of research in about five departments. . I shall see whether any such list as that desired by the honorable member exists, and if one does, I shall be glad to provide the honorable member with the information he desires, but, otherwise, I should be loath to comply with the honorable gentleman’s request, not because of a desire to evade the disclosure of the information, but because of the work that its preparation would involve at a time when labour is scarce, especially in the typing sections of many departments.
Gift of AUSTRALIAN Wool.
– It was stated ‘ in the press at the week-end that Australia and Poland had signed at Lake Success on Friday an agreement whereby Australia will give Poland wool worth £250,000, and will pay for its shipment. I want to know from the Minister for External Affairs what the terms of the agreement are. I also ask whether other nations are participating in the gift to Poland, and whether in fact Poland is a satellite of Soviet Russia and has refused Marshall aid because of that fact. What generally are the reasons for singling out a Soviet satellite for such relief, and what relief of a similar character has been given to the Netherlands and other allies in the war ?
– I am not able to give all the details, but as I intimated to the Acting Leader of the Opposition earlier, postUnrra contributions by Australia through the United Nations include gifts of wool. I’ shall obtain full information for the honorable member. I think that six countries participated in these gifts which were organized through the United Nations. Poland was one of those countries. I shall furnish the honorable member with the exact terms of the agreement. Certainly there has not been any selection of a particular country or a particular people. The one object has been to meet the requests of the Economic Council of the United Nations that these gifts should be made. At the moment, I cannot give the full list of such gifts, but I shall obtain it for the honorable member. I assure him that there has not been any discrimination of the kind he has mentioned.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether all building classes under the Reconstruction Training Scheme in New South Wales have been closed and the instructors paid off although 400 recommended men are waiting for training? Has the closing of the classes followed an order from the trade unions? If so, what order was given, by which unions, and to whom? This matter is causing considerable concern in other States. In Queensland young ex-servicemen who were selected for training, but have not begun their courses, are wondering if they are to be deprived of an opportunity to train as apparently has happened in New South Wales.
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “, and since all the other parts of it depend upon the answer to the first part, I have no need to refer to them.
– Some weeks ago, in the temporary absence of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, I drew the attention of his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, to a deadlock which had developed in one of the industrial committees functioning under the reconstruction training scheme. I asked whether, as a result of a union representative having refused to approve of certain establishments, the proprietors of which are members of the Timber Merchants Association, approval had not been given to the transfer of reconstruction trainees to any of those establishments. E understood that the Minister for Labour and National Service was to confer with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to see whether the difficulty could be resolved. Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction now able to make a complete report as to the success of the negotiations ?
– An obligation is laid on the industrial committees set up within the Department of Post-war Reconstruction to approve or disapprove of proposed employers for those who have been partly trained under the reconstruction training scheme. The honorable member will recollect that training is given up to 40 per cent, efficiency, the men being then placed in industrial establishments. During their period of further training, until they reach 100 per cent, efficiency, their employers are subsidized by the Government in order to make up the full award wages of the trainees. It is the duty of the industrial committees to approve of the employers concerned. It is necessary to have an authority to approve transfers, because experience has proved that some employers do not deal fairly with the trainees. That applies to only a small minority of employers, but, it is necessary to safeguard the interests of the trainees themselves. In addition to the union representatives on the industrial committees, there is a chairman who is an officer of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and a representative of the employers, and the committees as a whole have to approve particular employers in relation to this scheme. It is true that some difficulties arose with the Timber Merchants Association, but it is not true, though I do not know whether the honorable member for Fawkner has suggested it, that all members of tho
Timber Merchants Association have been placed under a ban by the union representatives concerned.
– That was my information.
– If that was the honorable member’s information it is incorrect. Some members of the Timber Merchants Association have been approved by the industrial committee as suitable for giving employment to these trainees, but some difficulty has arisen in regard to six others. The industrial committee will meet at the end of this week, and it is hoped that a satisfactory conclusion will be reached. The committee will probably not approve of at least one of the six firms concerned, but in most cases I think that a satisfactory result will be achieved.
– Reports are circulating among local governing authorities in Queensland to the effect that some portion of the annual grant to that State under the Federal Aid Roads and Works Agreement has not been paid by the Commonwealth Government this financial year, and that the amount of money available to the Queensland Main Roads Commission has been reduced accordingly. I ask the Minister for Transport whether any portion of the full amount due to Queensland under the agreement has been withheld, and if so, for what reason?
– I have no knowledge of the withholding of any part of the grant to Queensland, but in view of the ‘honorable member’s question, I shall have inquiries made and inform him of the result.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give the House any information concerning the Russian attitude to other occupation forces in Berlin?
– I” cannot at a moment’s notice deal with all the important implications of the honorable member’s ques tion, but I shall ascertain whether it is possible to prepare a comprehensive written answer.
– In view of the acute shortage of iron, steel and wire, and the consequent shortage of farm machinery, particularly in Western Australia, can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development say whether there is any truth in the statement that Australian exports of these materials are available in Malaya? If so, will the Minister ascertain what quantities are being exported to Malaya?
– I do not know whether Australian iron, steel and wire are being exported to Malaya, but 1 shall obtain that information for the honorable member. I remind him, however, that steel cannot be exported from Australia without a permit from the appropriate authority, and that such permits are not being granted for export? tei Malaya.
– Oan the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel say whether a ban has been imposed upon the loading’ of cargoes on Greek ships or. on ships which are to carry cargoes to Greek ports? If so, does the Government support the ban as a matter of policy? If not, what has been done to ensure that cargoes are handled in the normal manner?
– Apart from reports which, I understand, appeared in the press, the Government has received no information of a ban on Greek ships. However, it caine to my notice yesterday that there was some trouble regarding a Greek ship which was loading at Melbourne. I understand that the ship was chartered by a French firm which is loading cargo for France. I inquired about the matter yesterday afternoon and again this morning, and was told that the loading of the ship was still going on. The Government does not support a ban on the loading of ships for Greece.
– Last week the honorable member for Balaclava mentioned in this House a matter which, he claimed, was based upon a radiogram which he had received from the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea. As I have heard it said that no such message was ever sent to him, can the Minister for Externa] Territories say whether inquiries have been made into the matter, and whether the honorable member did, in fact, receive a message as he said, or was it his own creation?
– I have made no special inquiries because the honorable member “for Balaclava makes so many irresponsible and unsubstantiated statements that I did not think it was necessary. To-day, I received a letter from the secretary of the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea, and I read from it the following extract which will answer the honorable member’s question : -
Mr. White is alleged to have said that he had received a radiogram from the Combined Councils of the Public Service Associations of Papua-New Guinea conveying certain information regarding our representations to the Prime Minister and the Department of External Territories.
No such radiogram has ever been sent to the member concerned nor has any communication been addressed to any persons other than the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Territories, and (for information) the Department of External Territories with the knowledge and consent of the Combined Councils.
T am calling a meeting of the Combined Councils on Tuesday next to investigate this matter further.
I shall inform the honorable member of the contents of any further advices received.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable gentleman been misrepresented?
– Yes, very definitely. The Minister has answered a question prompted by himself, regarding a telegram I received last week, as a result of which I asked the Prime Minister a question. At that time, in good faith, I read portions only of the telegram - which appear in Hansard - but as it coincides with another received from the same source, it may be that there are two organizations. Knowing what we do about the Minister for External Territories, and the strange things he is reputed to have said and done in New Guinea and Papua lately, we may have been misinformed. I shall therefore read the full text of the message, which was addressed to the Prime Minister, who, I understand, received it. It is as follows : -
Meeting Combined Councils Papua-New Guinea Public Service Associations, 25th May, vitally interested your statement of personal concern with’ administration External Territories as broadcast national news. Consequently desire your urgent attention following matters. Grave general dissatisfaction and unrest in Public Service caused by conditions here and persistent continuous lack of action by Territories at Canberra.
That, no doubt, referred to the Minister and his control of the Territories. The message proceeded -
Despite numerous urgent representations, no positive information has been made available regarding long awaited revised salary rates including marginal allowances which have operated in Commonwealth Public Service for many months although Papua-New Guinea Service classification allegedly based on Commonwealth standards. Cost of living soaring here. For example electricity charges under new scale average £(! 10s. monthly per household and large number officers literally unable pay. Recently announced shipping fares and freight charges will further increase financial burden. Local price control system is considered utterly futile. Actual cost of living figures reliably computed submitted Minister last February received only formal acknowledgement but no evidence of positive effective action. All possible reasonable representations have been made to Territories without result except bare acknowledgements. Salary rates of administration personnel compare most unfavorably with those of Commonwealth officers serving here whose recent increased tropical allowances and retrospective marginal allowances aggravate position.
I did not cite all of the complaints, as the Prime Minister had the original message.
– Who signed it?
– The message continues -
In view special protest meetings to be held throughout Territory, Thursday, June 3rd, would appreciate definite information by radiogram on following matters. Firstly Minister’s proposals regarding salaries in relation local cost of living. Secondly precise nature of retrospective marginal allowances referred to in various official memoranda and when they will he paid. Thirdly specific ministerial action proposed regarding exorbitant electricity charges. We submit in all sincerity that persistent frustrations and disappointments combined with numerous resignations and failure to recruit new members in Australia make maintenance of efficient Public Service quite impossible. Whole matter now referred to you in sheer desperation anticipating definite information on matters contained in this telegram and not merely formal acknowledgement. - Councils Combined Public Service Associations, Papua-New Guinea. Port Moresby, 20th May, 1948.
I am very glad that the Minister has brought this matter up. I was thereby given an opportunity to read the text in full.
Concessional Fakes by Trans-Australia Airlines.
– I understand that certain concessions in airline fares are made by Trans-Australia Airlines to students of secondary schools of matriculation standard. Has the Minister for Civil Aviation considered recommending that similar concessions be granted to university students, particularly in view of the number of university sports held in the various States ?
– If the honorable member will supply me with details of what he requires, I shall undertake to place his request before the National Airlines Commission, the authority which determines whether concessions should be granted. The commission acts independently of the Minister, but I shall be glad to submit the honorable member’s request to that body.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that certain moneys have been made available for grants to persons who discover new deposits of uranium? Have any successful claims been lodged for the payment of such grants?
– It is true that the Government, through my colleague the Minister for Supply and Development, off cred a reward for the discovery of new deposits of uranium and thorium from which atomic energy may be produced. So far no one has claimed the reward, but I understand that a number of prospectors are still hopeful of making such a discovery. It is hoped that, as the result of the offer of the reward, new deposits of these two materials may be discovered in Australia and thus ensure that we shall have available the raw materials from which atomic energy may be produced in the future.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to the case of Mr. Lars Gustav Brundahl. a wealthy German, who, before the war, was German Trade Commissioner in Australia, and who was interned throughout the war as a dangerous alien. Since his release, among other exploits, he has been convicted of offensive behaviour, in the unlawful shooting of a neighbour’s dog, and of. spitting on a woman. For good measure, he stated in the court that he was an associate of Mr. J. S. Garden. How did it come about that this man was allowed to remain in Australia when Other prominent Nazis were deported? Were any representations made to the Government in his favour, and, if so, were any made by Mr. Garden? Finally, having regard to Brundahl’s notorious conduct, will the Minister immediately deport him so that he may cease any longer to be a nuisance in this country ?
– Jurisdiction over deportation and the right of any alien to remain in this country has been vested by an act of this Parliament in the Department of Immigration. An act of Parliament was also passed the effect of which was that matters df this kind should be referred to a special royal commission and Mr. Justice Simpson was appointed for that purpose. I am not conversant with the facts of the case to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall ascertain from the Immigration Department and the Commonwealth Investigation Service the facts relevant to the honorable member’s question and shall inform him in full of those matters which still require .answering. As to aliens who had been interned, the Parliament considered that their right to remain in this country should depend on a recommendation of a judicial tribunal. Whether or not such a tribunal dealt with Brundahl’s case, I do not know. I shall ascertain the facts a nd inform the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, recently the Minister for Information was reported as forecasting the likelihood of the introduction of legislation to amend the present system by which a majority of the electors in a majority of the States must assent to any proposed alteration of the Constitution? If so, was the Minister voicing Government policy? ‘ In view of the crushing defeat of the latest referendum proposals, will the Prime Minister state whether the Government intends to act as the Minister for Information indicated ?
– The subject has never been discussed. I have not heard it mentioned during my membership of this Parliament, and the Government has certainly not given any consideration to such a proposal.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether an early review of petrol consumption in Australia is contemplate( ? What effect is the reduced dollar expenditure of Australia during the next financial year expected to have upon petrol consumption?
– Who signed that message?
– It is signed “E. J. Ward on behalf of J. Garden “. To continue: Does the Government propose to curtail the quantity of petrol used by commercial air services? If so, will the Prime Minister ensure that private air lines are not placed at a disadvantage in comparison with any nationalized service in petrol supplies?
– The whole matter of petrol usage is being reviewed. Arrangements have been made by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to second from the Rationing Commission the Director of Rationing, Mr. Cuming, who in conjunction with officers of the Department of. Shipping and Fuel, is making a complete examination of all issues of petrol. The objective to date has been to ascertain what allowances are not absolutely essential. That, of course, does not exclude such allowances as are now made for private cars. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel and I have merely had an interim report so far, and I cannot give any indication of the result of the investigations until they have been completed and I have received a final report. However, it is hoped that, by tightening up the issue of licences and the quantities of petrol allotted to certain classes of motor cars, it will be possible to reduce consumption, without any hardship, to a rate that will conform to the quantity of petrol that we hope to be able to obtain and for which we hope to be able to pay. That relates to petrol. The use of aviation spirit is also being examined by the Department of Shipping and Fuel in conjunction with the Minister fc r Civil Aviation and his officers. I am not able to give any information about that investigation at the moment because I have not received an interim report yet.
– In the absence of the Minister for Immigration, I ask whether the Prime Minister has seen reports that the administration of Singapore refuses to admit two Chinese, Hid Tong and Foo Kai, and their Australian wives, who were deported to Malaya recently, because the men are prohibited immigrants under the restricted migration policy of Malaya? Did the Government make inquiries about the standing of the men and their wives before they were sent to Malaya? What steps are being taken to protect the interests of these Australian women? Is it not a fact that the manner in which these people were deported has resulted not only in offending the peoples of South-East Asia, but it has also caused embarrassment to the British authorities in Singapore ? Does the Prime Minister not agree that avoidance of mistakes of this kind would do much more to further goodwill for Australia in South-East Asia than the sending abroad of goodwill missions which, to say the least, are received very coolly.
– I understand that there has been some press publicity on the matter mentioned by the honorable member. One of the Chinese deserted from his ship in either 1945 or 1946, and was deported at the request of. the shipping company concerned, because shipping companies are liable to incur certain penalties in connexion with such matters. Regarding the second Chinese-
– Is that Hui Tong or Foo Kai?
– I do not claim to have particular knowledge in that regard. Iti respect of the second Chinese, there was an arrangement with the Malayan authorities during the war that British subjects would be evacuated from Malaya and Singapore to Australia, but in the exigencies of the war some aliens also were brought to Australia for sanctuary only, and for no other purpose. I understand that the second of the Chinese in question was brought here under those conditions. Naturally, in the fear and terror of the situation some aliens, of whom the second Chinese was one, entered Australia. I believed there would be no refusal by the Singapore cr Malayan authorities to accept this particular Chinese, since he caine from there originally, and was allowed into this country only for sanctuary. Quite a number of persons have been deported in similar circumstances. I understand that these two Chinese have been sent back to Australia. Until they can be deported to their own country, which, I understand, is China, they will be cared for m this country. The Government has not departed in any way from its rights, and I am sure that no country would depart from theirs by taking similar action.
Malaya exercises the right to exclude Europeans if it so desires. I believe that every country claims the right to say who shall become its citizens. Certainly this Government does not intend to alter the practice which has been followed by all governments to retain complete sovereignty in this matter.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that there is a great deal of discontent in the Royal Australian Navy over conditions of advancement, particularly among those who desire to be promoted to commissioned rank from the lower deck? These personnel claim that the existing regulations handicap them greatly, compared with other officerpersonnel who compete with them foipromotion. Is the Minister . aware that the regulations which are now in operation in the Royal Australian Navy had their counterpart in regulations in the Royal Navy, which have been changed, whilst those applicable to the Australian service have not. been altered? Having regard to these facts, will the Minister examine the matter for the purpose of ascertaining whether the Australian practice can be brought into line with the existing British practice, so as to remove the great handicap under which these personnel now labour?
– For some time, the subject of promotions from the lower deck to commissioned rank has been agitating my mind, and, in consequence, “I have made certain inquiries. As the honorable member has suggested, some of the regulations applicable to the Royal Navy Iia ve been altered. This action has been referred to as the “ democratization of the lower deck “, but some of the changes made by the British Admiralty in this respect merely bring its practices into line with those of the Royal Australian Navy. Now, I come to the matter about which the honorable member is so concerned. The regulations applicable to the Royal Australian Navy have been altered in conformity with the changes made by the Royal Navy, particularly with regard to the extension of the period of service for chief petty officers, and others. I have discussed the matter of promotion from the lower deck with the present Chief of the Naval Staff with the object of enabling the Royal Australian Navy to avail itself to the fullest degree of the trained and skilled men from the lower deck. It is the policy of the Government to extend,wherever possible, the avenues for promotion whether they are from the lower deck in the Royal Australian Navy or from the ranks of the Army or the Royal Aus- tralian Air Force.
Message recommending appropriation imported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sura for the purpose of financial assistance to the State of Western Australia.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
Or dered -
That Mr.Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr.Chifley. and read a first time.
– I move -
The the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the payment of an additional special grant of £1,000,000 to Western Australia in the current financial year 1947-48. This payment has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in a report dated the 24th May, which was tabled recently for the information of honorable members. Under the States Grants Act (No. 2) 1947, a total amount of £5,042,000 was provided for special grants to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania in the current financial year. These special grants were recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its fourteenth report. Subsequently, the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania applied to the Commonwealth for additional special grants in 1947-48. These applications were referred to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and its recommendations are contained in the report of the 24th May.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission takes the view that a system of paying additional special grants is undesirable in principle. The reasons for this view are referred to in the report of the 24th May, and are set out in more detail in the commission’s fourteenth report. However, one major reason advanced by the commission is that the practice of recommending additional grants late in the financial year would be incompatible with the obligations of the commission and with the proper exercise of the financial responsibilities of State treasuries. This view is shared by the Australian Government. The commission considers, however, that from time to time it may become necessary to depart from this general principle in order to meet emergencies. Therefore, the applications by the three claimant States for additional special grants in 1947-48 have been examined by the commission with these considerations in mind.
The commission has reported that, compared with the estimates available when making its recommendations in the fourteenth report, there has been some improvement of the finances of South Australia and Tasmania. At the time the commission made its original recommendation the deficit expected by South Australia, after receipt of the grant recommended by the commission, was £655.000. and the deficit expected by Tasmania was. £528,000. On the basis of figures available at the 30th April this year, the deficit expected by South Australia is £600,000 and the deficit expected by Tasmania is £300,000. In view of these facts, the commission has reached the conclusion that it would not be justified in making the departure from the principle which would be involved in recommending additional special grants to these two States in 1947-48.
The commission considers, however, that the case of Western Australia is very different. Whereas at the time of the commission’s fourteenth report the expected deficit of Western Australia in 1947-48 was £285,000, it is now estimated to be £1,397,000, so that there has been a deterioration of £1,112,000. Increased costs of £250,000 due to the 40-hour week, and increased losses of £546,000 on railway operations have contributed to this position. These arc factors beyond the control of the State, although, as the commission points out, the losses on railway operations might have been reduced by increased freights and fares. This possibility, however, was taken into account by the commission when it made its former recommendation as to the special grant which should be paid to Western Australia in this financial year. Social services expenditure has also increased by £505,000. The commission notes, however, that this increase, though substantial, is almost certainly not so great as to outweigh the favorable ‘adjustment in respect of this class of expenditure to which Western Australia would be entitled in due course by virtue of the fact that its expenditure per capita is lower than that of the nonclaimant States. Hence the Commonwealth Grants ‘Commission has reported that a strong case exists for departing from the -general principle, and making a supplementary payment of £1/000,000 to meet the special circumstances affecting the Western Australian budget for 1947-48.
The special grant already being paid to Western Australia in 1947-48 amounts to £1,977,000. Of this amount, £1,556,000 represents the grant assessed on the year of review 1945-46, and £421,000 an advance payment recommended by the commission on the ground that the assessed grant would not suffice to meet the indispensable needs of the State in 1947-48. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has indicated that if its prosent recommendation is approved the additional grant of £1,000,000 would be added to the advance payment of £421,000 already made this year, and the total amount of £1,421,000 would be adjusted by the commission in 1949-50 when the year 1947-48 becomes the year of review. The Commonwealth Government has closely considered the commission’s report, and has decided that in view of the special circumstances referred to in the report, the commission’s recommendations should be adopted. Accordingly, I commend this bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Apple and Fear Organization Act 1938-194.7.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure dealing with the election of growers’ representatives on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Honorable members will recollect that last year the Apple and Pear Organization Act was amended to provide for the reconstitution of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Provision was then made for the members representing the growers to be elected by a poll of growers of not less than 5 acres of apples or pears, or apples and pears. It was intended that candidates nominated for election as growers’ representatives should also possess the qualification of being growers of at least 5 acres. However, it has been found that there is a weakness in the wording of the act which would permit the nomination and election to the board of a person who may not himself be an actual grower of apples and pears. This amendment will correct the .position. I submit the bill for the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 4th June (vide page 1711), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the ‘bill be now read a second time.
On Friday I was dealing with the history of the wheat industry in Australia and endeavouring to reply to various statements that had been made by honorable members opposite. I referred to the fact that in the 1930’s circumstances arose overseas that affected the price of Australian wheat and caused hardship to Australian wheat-growers, but none of those circumstances affected the industry so drastically as the legislation introduced by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. A3 a result of the restrictions imposed by that legislation production was so reduced that Queensland was unable to grow sufficient wheat to meet its own requirements for human consumption, let alone to supply stock food markets and ‘the like, and Australia missed the opportunity to supply markets in adjoining countries such as New Zealand and India. The tragic policy of paying large sums of money to growers not to grow wheat was in force at a time when the Government was paying for the erection -of factories in which power alcohol was to be extracted from crushed wheat. Large sums of money were expended upon projects that were designed to consume wheat, but growers were paid not to grow it. One wonders what sort of an outlook the Government had. When I said that wheat imported into Queensland from the southern States of Australia cost ls. 6d. or ls. 7d. in freight charges in addition to the price of 4s. a bushel, the Vice-President -of the Executive Council interjected to say that that was not true.
– My interjection referred to another .statement made by the honorable member.
– If the honorable gentleman examines the official report he will :see the statement in regard to which he interjected. I repeat that the lowest price *ait which wheat -could be imported into Queensland from the southern States was 5s. 6d. or 5s. 7d. a bushel. That figure was made up of a first payment of 4s., plus ls. 6d. or ls. 7d. cartage costs. Whilst those sums ‘were paid from the Treasury, the honorable gentleman refused to allow -individual Queensland growers to grow more than 3,000 bushels and so avoid unnecessary transport charges. It -was only when production decreased to as low as 57,000,000 bushels that the Minister lifted that restriction and permitted growers in Queensland to increase their production. But following that action, when growers were able to produce the quantities they desired, the honorable gentleman entered into the agreement with New Zealand which was inimical to the industry. Later, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) introduced a measure which had many commendable features which I supported. However, it contained a retrospective provision under which an amount of 2s. 2d. a bushel was paid into the stabilization fund in respect of a crop which had already been sold, delivered and paid for. That provision brought about the down-fall of the scheme. Now, the Minister says, in effect, “ The industry shall take what I think is best. I have submitted a proposal to the growers, and they have turned it down. I shall therefore ignore the growers and their representatives on the boards handling the affairs of the industry.” The Government through the Minister persists in ignoring the advice of the growers when making contracts for the -marketing of primary products. It is applying that policy in respect of not only wheat but also other primary products, and has enacted several measures on that pattern. The -Government provides for the election of growers representatives on commodity boards, but in all cases ‘the Minister retains an overriding authority and he takes care to exercise it. The protests voiced by my colleagues and myself against that policy have been justified by action taken subsequently by the Minister. The reaction of the growers to the Government’s policy generally and to this agreement in particular is to lose confidence in their industry.
Growers must have confidence in their industry if it is to succeed. Where confidence is Jacking we shall not be able to increase production. Such confidence can only be established when the views and advice of growers are respected by the Government, and when the Government acknowledges the growers’ ownership of their product. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) referred to this bill as a co-operative measure. When he was criticizing the attitude adopted by members of the Australian Country party towards this agreement I interjected that the Government «ras pursuing a policy of socialization and State control. The Australian Country party favours co-operation in industry and co-operative marketing. It upholds the principle that growers are the owners of the commodities they produce, lt is an accepted principle in cooperative marketing that the whole of the realizations, less handling and marketing expenses, shall be paid to the growers of the product. Marketing schemes which ure based on that principle have invariably been proved to be successful. Who else has a right to those realizations? Even if the Minister acts as the representative of the Government in making contracts of this kind, the Government has no right to take possession of the proceeds from sales because, morally and legally, the product belongs to the growers. The Government is not justified in abrogating that principle; but it has done so in cancelling the contracts made on behalf of the industry. The Minister, following that course, sent Mr. McCarthy, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, as the Government’s representative to the conference at Washington. We have not been told whether Mr. McCarthy acted on his own initiative or on the Minister’s instructions while participating in the negotiations.
– Did Mr. McCarthy consult the wheat-growers?
– As I have said, the Government has completely ignored the growers in this matter. The Queensland Wheat Board had not even seen a copy of this agreement up to Wednesday last, whilst the Australian Wheat Board has criticized the agreement and intimated that it knew nothing about it. The Minister admitted that fact when replying to a question in this chamber. Whilst this agreement will have the effect of decreasing present prices, the Government has ensured that it will not affect our existing unfavorable agreement for the sale of wheat to New Zealand. Although Article XVII. provides that in respect of any agreement entered into prior to the 1st March, 1947, for the purchase and sale of wheat the Government concerned shall supply full particulars as to quantities and other details and that these shall be taken into calculation, no specific provision is made for. a review of the pricefixed under the New Zealand agreement. Nevertheless, such action is being taken to the disadvantage of Australian wheatgrowers in respect of our contracts with India and Great Britain. This agreement will have no effect upon our agreement with New Zealand, under which the Australian taxpayer is subsidizing the NewZealand taxpayer to an amount of nearly £2,000,000 annually.
This agreement does not guarantee that, buyers shall buy, or sellers shall sell. I admit the difficulty of making such a provision in an international agreement. Indeed, the enforcement of such a provision might involve an act of war. Li is clear that under this agreement buyer? can buy on an advantageous market such as exists to-day from their point of view. But they need not buy during the latter part of the term of the agreement when, if the Minister’s assumption be correct, we shall have caught up with production and there will be ample wheat available on the world market, allowing for the free wheat which the United States will then have for disposal as surplus stocks as -well as the stocks of Russia and Argentina. When that time comes
We shall have no guarantee that buyer countries which are signatories to this agreement will adhere to their bargain under it. No provision exists for the enforcement of the terms of the agree1 ment so far as the sellers are concerned. I said in reply to an interjection by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on Friday that it required consent of two-thirds of the sellers to make any variation. That means two of the three seller-nations - the United States of America, Canada and Australia. Australia does not command one-third of the votes, and, unless it induces the other two to agree to its demands, its views will not prevail. The agreement does not provide for a price sufficient to cover the cost of production in the fourth and fifth year of its operation. In the hope that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in his speech in reply, may be able to set my fears at rest, [ direct his attention to the fact that it appears that the differential freight charges and the hard wheat premium, which, in effect, means that Australia’s wheat is not worth so much as wheat grown in Canada or the United States of America, will mean that Australia will receive, under the agreement, ls. a bushel loss than the maximum price of 12s. a bushel. The basic minimum price for 1948-49, the first year of the agreement, is fl.SO. The basic minimum price will descend on a sliding scale in the next four years to $1.10. That will mean a return to 5s. 4d. a bushel at ports to the Australian wheat-growers in the fifth year. So, where is the guarantee of a minimum price of 6s. 3d. a bushel in the fifth year, when ls. a bushel has to be deducted to meet the differential charges and the hard wheat premium? In the fourth year of the agreement, the guaranteed yield to the Australian growers will be only 5s. lid. Neither figure is equal to the present cost of production. That is the strongest argument against the agreement. The committee appointed by the Government to determine the cost of production of wheat in Australia reported that it cost 6s. 3d. a bushel to grow wheat on present costs. So, with the costs increasing, how can we be assured that the coat of production will be met under the agreement?
– Is there not provision for a variation of the price to assure the growers of the cost of production ?
– The council may, in certain circumstances, vary the price within the maximum and minimum basic prices, but supporters of the Government have described the agreement as a measure to stabilize the wheat industry. When the lag in wheat production is caught up and supplies are plentiful again, we shall find the minimum prices operating, and that may be four or five years henceThen, the Australian wheat-growers will have to supply S5, 000,000 bushels of their grain at 5s. ll£d. a bushel at ports in the fourth year of the agreement and at 5s. 4d. a bushel at ports in the fifth year. The growers are required to. accept less than world parity for their wheat now when they are entitled to some compensation, and less than the cost of production towards the end of the term of the agreement. The agreement, in effect,, applies to the total quantity of wheat produced by Australia after edible needs and supplies for other industries have been catered for. Annual production- of wheat in Australia amounts to about 150,000,000 bushels. In time of drought it is considerably less. Hence, we may find it difficult to fulfil our contracts. We use about 40,000,000 bushels or more a year to feed ourselves and considerable quantities to feed our stock. We have to supply 85,000,000 bushels to comply with contracts made under this agreement and we have to place 25.000,000 bushels in the wheat pool. If one adds 40,000,000, 85,000,000 and 25,000,000 bushels and the number of bushels of wheat used for stock feed, we exceed the average annual production of 150,000,000 bushels. In addition to the other shortcomings of this agreement, it provides for no stabilization fund into which money could be paid at times when prices are sufficiently high to offset the effects of the slump in prices when it comes, as it undoubtedly must. I agree with stabilization of the wheat industry and to the degree that the wheat stabilization legislation provided stabilization for the industry, I agreed with it, but I told the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when the scheme was propounded, that its retro-active provisions presaged its doom. We have a chance when world wheat prices are high to take advantage of them and provide for stability in future years when lean times come to the industry. The agreement provides for the sale of cheap wheat to countries that we are not obliged to assist, except on humane grounds, which, I have to admit, must be considered. I agree with other honorable members that the agreement is seriously deficient in that it contains no provision for the inclusion of a fair percentage of flour in the contracts of delivery. The Minister himself seems satisfied- that we have no need to worry on that account, but I have yet to be convinced that if cheap wheat is available from countries outside the agreement, the buyer countries will be charitable and stick to their contracts. They will stick to the letter of the law and, when it suits them to demand fulfilment of the contract in wheat and not flour they will demand fulfilment in that way. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) rightly stressed the interests in this matter of the employees of the Australian flour mills. The Government should show more concern for them. Another important aspect of the need to mill in Australia as much of our wheat as we can is that the offal is essential as stock feed. It is absolutely necessary for the poultry, egg-producing and pig-growing industries whose1 products are urgently needed in the United Kingdom. The offal is also being used increasingly as stock feed by dairymen. Breeders of stud stock also are engaging more and more in that kind of feeding of their herds in order to achieve the best results. In droughts offal is used as stock food in other primary industries.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) was twitted by honorable members opposite with having exposed himself to ridicule by, on the one hand, claiming that he stands for the principle of an international wheat agreement, and, by on the other hand, criticizing the terms of this agreement. It is nonsense to claim that the honorable member displayed inconsistency in that respect. Of course, one can stand for a principle and disagree with the means by which the principle is applied. We agree with the principle of selling our wheat to New Zealand, but vehemently disagree with the Government for bartering it for far less than the cost of production. The honorable member is entitled to his view - and I share it - that however good” in principle an international wheat agreement may be, the present agreement contains so many deficiencies and anomalies that it is worthless to the wheat-growing industry of Australia. Experiments with international agreements since the termination of World War IT. have all proved unsuccessful. For instance, there were the international monetary agreements of which much was heard a year or two ago. To-day, we seldom hear the subject mentioned. We also have an International Food and Agriculture Organization, hut when we had a surplus of various primary products in this country and sought some information as to what countries required them, two or three months elapsed before any advice was received. If that is an example of the operation of international agreements, it is time we abandoned them. If the people of some nations are starving, as we are led to believe, the International Food and Agriculture Organization of. the United Nations should be able immediately to say in what countries shipments of food are urgently required. I do not think we have any reason to hope for any better co-operation under the Internationa] Wheat Agreement than we have had under the other international arrangements to which I have referred. The Internationa] Wheat Agreement suits wheat-importing countries at present and that is why we find 34 such nations prepared to enter into it. But there is no protection for the exporting nations. Particularly would such protection be necessary towards the end of the term of the agreement. We are prepared to assist Great Britain and Other countries that are worthy of our help, and have indicated their worth by the spirit in which they endured suffering on behalf of others, but I believe that those nations and our wheat industry could be assisted better by means of direct contracts than by the setting up of an international organization.
Briefly, my criticism is that the agreement is deficient in principle, unsatisfactory to the industry, and so lacking in any assurance of implementation that we should not proceed with it. As the agreement has not yet been ratified by the American Congress, what does the Government propose to do in the event of the failure of Congress to ratify it? Are Australia and Canada alone to represent the wheat-exporting countries in the agreement? Or is it proposed to defer ratification by Australia until America has ratified the proposal? Should we by any chance take the -premature step of ratifying the agreement only to find that the United States of America had decided againstparticipation, thus making its large surplus production of wheat available to the world’s markets, the result would he similar to, but of course of far greater magnitude, than the disaster we ure now suffering, because of the agreement made by this Government for the sale of wheat to New Zealand.
.- For some clays we have been considering in this chamber a bill to approve the acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement. The House was particularly interested in the secondreading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who attempted to convey, not only to honorable members, but also to the country, the impression that the negotiation of this agreement had been a real achievement by the Government and its representatives. Indeed, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), who was the second Government speaker in this- debate, suggested that the agreement was a charter for the wheat-growing industry.
In the course of the debate, great disappointment - and that is stating it mildly -has been exhibited by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and other Ministers at the lack of enthusiasm for the agreement on the part of members of the Opposition. That lack of enthusiasm is based on very real factors. Many of these have already been dealt with by Opposition speakers, and I do not wish to go over all the ground that they have covered. However, I believe that it is well worth while pointing out that any proposals affecting the wheat industry advanced by this Government are immediately suspended by the wheat growers throughout the length and breadth of the land.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and also the Prime Minister on occasions, have taken full credit for what they consider to he the prosperity enjoyed by those engaged in wheatgrowing and other primary industries ; a credit that does not rightly belong, to them, because conditions in our primary industries to-day are incidental to the times in which we live. We on this side of the chamber are particularly keen on the adoption of some scheme which will safeguard the wheat-growing industry of Australia. No other industry, primary or secondary, has suffered the same fluctuations of fortune as the wheat industry has experienced. Many attempts have been made, particularly by Governments formed by the Liberal and Country parties, to bring about some degree of stabilization in the wheat industry, and it was with that purpose in view that in the early nineteen-thirties, when the industry was experiencing one of the worst periods in its history due to low prices, droughts, and other factors, negotiations were entered into by the Lyons Government for an international wheat agreement. That agreement was reached, but unfortunately, as the Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, it failed because one of the signatory nations did not fulfil its undertakings. Upon the outbreak of World War II., certain action was taken by the Menzies Government to assist the wheat industry by enabling the marketing of its product to proceed even under the exigencies of war. Later, a stabilization scheme was approved by the Parliament, at the instigation of the then Minister for Commerce, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Under that scheme, a certain basis of security was provided for wheat-growers. Until then, all efforts to stabilize the wheat industry had been made when prices were low. For instance, the 1933 International Wheat Agreement was not made with the object of keeping prices down; it was made specifically to ensure higher returns to growers in the signatory countries. However, during World War II., and particularly since the war ended, the price of wheat, in common with that of other commodities, both primary and secondary, has continued to rise. Although a sound basis for the conduct of the wheat industry during the war had been established by the Menzies Government, as soon as a Labour Government assumed office, it immediately began to upset arrangements. For instance, it repealed the Wheat Stabilization Act passed in 1941, and substituted for it what has become known as the Scully plan. That plan, which was designed for the political advantage of one party, was responsible for a progressive decline of wheat production, with the result that Australia, instead of being an exporter of wheat, became an importer. Australia had been selling wheat at from 4s. 8d. to 5s. a bushel, but when it became necessary to import wheat we had to pay a great deal more than that for it. In pursuance of his party-political plan, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) actually indulged in the futility of subsidizing farmers hot to grow wheat. 1. know what the answer of the Minister is. I heard him say last week that the Government acted on the recommendation of a very prominent man in the wheat industry, Mr. Teasdale, I have no doubt that Mr. Teasdale made the recommendation. I have no doubt that the arrangement was a very good onn from the point of view of individual growers in “Western Australia, but it was a very bad one for Australia as a whole, and for the people of the British Empire who needed wheat. Moreover, it cost the taxpayers millions of pounds, and deprived the country of the value of the wheat which would otherwise have been grown. The Government also took upon itself to decide which industries were in need of cheap wheat, and, what is more important, to decide that the wheat-farmers should be the one section of the community to bear the cost, of providing the cheap wheat. The Government’s decision to sell wheat for stock feed in Australia at less than the world’s parity price, and even below the guaranteed home-consumption price, gave rise to one of its first conflicts with the growers. I do not deny that it is the duty of the Government to assist industries in need, but surely this assistance should be on a national, not on a sectional, basis. Any assistance given to the poultry industry, or the pig industry should be a’t the expense of the people as a whole, and not at the expense of one section alone. “When prices rose, the Government introduced another wheat stabilization scheme based very largely on the scheme that had been repealed in 1942. I was then, and I still am, in accord with the general principles of the scheme, but with some of the details, I, and the wheatgrowers generally, are in complete dis- agreement. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) pointed out. the Government attempted to make retrospective collections under the wheat tax. It ruled that wheat that had already been sold and paid for should pay the tax. The Government also continued the practice of making the wheat-farmers bear the cost of providing cheap wheat for other industries. The wheat-growers accepted without any qualification the proposal that wheat for local human consumption should be sold to consumers at less than the world parity price because they remembered vividly the time when the consumers paid them 5s. 2d. a bushel, although the world parity price was only about 3s. The growers, however, do not agree that the same principle should be applied to stock feed, the demand for which fluctuates very greatly. Before the war, only about 10,000,000 bushels a year were used for this purpose, but, because of drought, and for’ other reasons, the demand during the war rose to more than 40,000,000 bushels. ‘ The agreement which we are now considering postulates that 25,000,000 bushels a year wil be used for stock feed, but there is no assurance of that. The quantity might very well decline to something far below 25,000,000 bushels, and I am not overlooking the fact that we have made a contract to supply a fixed quantity of eggs to Great Britain. Stock feed represents a variable quantity, and is not a stabilizing factor in the price of wheat. The growers resent the proposal that wheat for stock feed should come out of the pool, and be sold at what is normally regarded as the home-consumption price. The present Labour Government and its Labour predecessors have consistently refused to allow the growers to take full advantage of high wheat prices. On the contrary, they have insisted upon sellingwheat at less than the world parity price. In normal times, this “ bearing “ of the market is a very dangerous practice. If supply equates demand, the action of one seller in offering a commodity, whether it be wheat or wool or anything else, at less than the ruling price can have a disastrous effect upon prices generally. The only reason why the Government’s policy in regard to wheat sales has not caused greater loss to the growers of Australia is that in recent years the demand has greatly exceeded the supply. Thus, although the world parity price was from 12s. to 16s. ,a bushel, the Government was. able to sell wheat to New Zealand at r>s. 9d. a bushel, and still not produce any important effect upon the general level of prices, but the effect upon Australian wheat-growers was very serious indeed. There can be no doubt that when the Government sold the wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel it intended that the growers should receive only that price. The Government had made a bad deal against the advice of the Australian “Wheat Board, but it was not until the Government realized that its action was unconstitutional - although that would have been a minor consideration, I suggest - and that the political effect of attempting to apply such a policy would be disastrous to the Labour party, that it decided that the growers should receive the world parity price for the wheat supplied to New Zealand. I have never known a government to be more extravagant with the taxpayers’ money than is the present Government, which now expects the taxpayers to bear the burden of the bad deal with New Zealand. Recently the Government made contracts with Great. Britain and India, but I believe that the people of Australia desire that, a great deal more assistance should be extended to Great Britain by Australia, than is the case at present. Public opinion is very strong on this vital question of assistance to the Motherland. T contend that, the question of assistance to Great Britain or any of the devastated countries of Europe should be approached from a national point of view; it is not a responsibility devolving on any particular industry in this country. Whenever the question of selling wheat, meat, butter, or -any other commodity arises in this House, and ft protest is made about prices, the Opposition is immediately accused of supporting the making of large profits out of the desperate conditions at present existing in Great, Britain. The Government immediately shelters behind the suggestion that it is in the national interest to ask individual sections of industry in Australia to provide such assistance. Consequent on this policy it makes contracts with Great Britain for the sale of wheat, again ignoring entirely the recommendations of the Australian Wheat Board. It suggest? that Great Britain should be provided with wheat at ls. 6d. a bushel below parity price, whereas in respect of India the Government insists that the parity price shall be charged.
– That is not true.
– I should be very interested to hear the Minister explain thiposition, but in any event what happened, was that the Government - against the recommendation of the Wheat Board - made contracts with England at that time, for the supply of certain quantities of wheat. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that when the pronouncement regarding those contracts was made, the whole of the conditions were published. It is noteworthy that in respect of New ‘Zealand, the contract price was very much below parity. There is a greater disparity now. That contract is preserved completely by the terms of the international agreement now before us, but in respect of Great Britain and India the contracts are varied to the degree that wheat not delivered before August this year will be charged for at the new price, not the old. Is it surprising, therefore, that. Opposition members have evinced no great enthusiasm for the agreement, that, we are suspicious, and that we examine closely any suggestion or agreement brought forward by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture or any other Minister of this Government?
I remind honorable members that when v/e were previously considering questions of stabilization, and international agreements, prices were low, and our main object when engaging in those negotiations, was to secure a higher price for our commodities. On this occasion the position is reversed completely; prices are high, and the principles actuating the negotiations are very clearly and correctly described in the preamble to the schedule to the bill as follows : -
Recognizing that there is now a serious shortage of wheat, and that later there may be a serious surplus;
Believing that the high prices resulting from the present shortage and the low prices which would result from a future surplus are harmful to their interests, whether they are producers or consumers of wheat; and
Concluding therefore that their interests, and .the general interests of all countries in economic expansion, require that they should co-operate to bring order into the international wheat market, have agreed as follows: -
It is perfectly obvious that when the Government engaged in those negotiations it was actuated by certain fears, since found to be unwarranted. I recall hearing the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. .Scully), when Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, expatiate on the New Zealand agreement; he pointed out that it would probably be a great boon to the wheat-growers of this country, but be has been peculiarly silent on that aspect of the matter during the present debate. Doubtless with the intention of lowering prices, the Government is now asking the wheat-growers of Australia to forego their entitlement to substantial sums of money which are already practically within their grasp, in order to obtain a “ long-term agreement “. The Government intends not only to reduce the prices embodied in contracts already entered into, but also -to compel Australia to supply wheat to the 33 signatory countries at a price very much below world parity. Various -estimates of the amount that the wheat-growers are being asked to contribute towards obtaining that security have been made, but I shall not attempt to make an estimate. It- is perfectly clear that, having regard to the variations brought forward, wheat-growers, under *he contracts already entered into, stand to lose £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 this year. That is a very substantial sum. Undoubtedly, some very extraordinary conditions are imposed under the agreement. Under this agreement Australia is committed to build up carry-over stocks amounting to 25,000,000 bushels of wheat at the end of each wheat year. In the normal course of events we inevitably have carry-over stocks; but under this scheme the farmers are to be compelled to deliver their wheat to a stated -authority, and to accept a certain price for it, irrespective of what the world price may be. Who, under all these changed conditions, is to be responsible for financing these 25,000,000 bushels and what, price will he paid to the growers in respect of that wheat ? That is a pertinent, question. If the cost is to be met by the general pool, and wheat-growers are tobe asked to finance the carry-over of 25,000,000 bushels, surely they have something to complain about. The agreement contains a most curious provision under which the Australian Wheat Board - which, I understand, will be the constituted .authority - when world prices fall below the rninimum price established in the agreement, will be asked to build up price stabilization stocks. .In other words, it is contemplated that the board shall buy 8,500,0.00 bushels of wheat for that purpose. If the price rises, and world parity is above the maximum price established by the agreement for that particular year the Australian Wheat Board will be asked to sell these reserve stocks. Again I ask, Who is tobe responsible for financing these reserve stocks? Is the requisite finance to be provided out of the common pool? Will the wheat-growers be asked to finance the stabilization of their own industry, or is it intended that the Government shall undertake it? I ask these questions because, in spite of the attempt of the Minister to convey an atmosphere of optimism, that desirable condition does not exist among the wheat-growers. If the Minister is so optimistic as to the final results of this agreement, why does the bill in no way commit the Government to ensure that the terms of the agreement shall actually operate during the five year period? If the price stabilization quota fails’ and we are unable to dispose of our 85,000,000 bushels of wheat - to say nothing of the additional wheat we may have in any particular year - apparently the Government proposes to do nothing about it. The fact that the wheat-growers are to give up from £10,000,000 to £20,000,000 under this agreement apparently means nothing to the Government. The growers, themselves, will be expected to meet any losses. It would do much to gain the confidence of honorable members on this side of the House, and of wheat-growers throughout Australia, if the Government would agree to the insertion of a clause in the bill ensuring that the conditions set’ out in the agreement shall be the minimum conditions that the wheat-growers will enjoy . during the next five years.
I do not propose to support the bill unless the Government is prepared to accept an amendment by which the acceptance of this international wheat agreement is deferred until a poll is taken of registered wheat-growers of Australia and the agreement, is assented to by a majority of them. I am not prepared to sell the substance which the wheat-growers now have for the shadow which the Minister has so optimistically forecast.
– I propose to approach this measure on broad general principles rather than go into the details of the agreement itself. The operative part of this bill is clause- 4 which reads -
Approval is given to the acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement in accordance with Article XX. of that agreement.
It seems to me that consideration, of this agreement can be approached from at least two angles; first,, is it in the best interests of Australia that we should approve of an international wheat agreement at all, and1, secondly, is this agreement of such a character that it will be to the advantage of Australia in the longrun ? As to the first question, I think that there- is no shadow of doubt whatever that it is to the advantage of Australia to- join in an- international- wheat agreement. Thehistory of the treatment’ of the wheat industry by governments throughout the years proves? that every government, irrespective of it’s- political’ colour, has endeavoured! t-o> conclude- am internationalwheat agreement. The reason for that is quite plain. History shows that the wheat industry is subject to> very violent price fluctuations. At times the price of wheat has. reached the very low levels of ls>. lOd. and ls. 3d. a bushel.. At other times the price in the world’s markets has been very high. While I was overseas last, year I was informed that certain European countries were paying Argentina 25s. a bushel for wheat. I think that that was- a disgraceful pried The Argentine Government was evidently exploiting to the utmost possible degree the misery and suffering of the peoples of Europe. I mention that price merely to show what violent fluctuations have taken place over the years. When prices are high the producing countries, and producers generally, always optimistic, say, “ We do not want an international agreement of any kind “. They believe that the high price will last quite a long time and, naturally, fear that an international agreement would be of no. value to them ; but when prices fall to very low levels they invariably favour an international wheat agreement. When prices are low, too, let it be said, the growers: in the wheat-producing countries always turn to their governments for assistance. Over the years, I understand that the wheat-growers of Australia have received government assistance to the amount of £40,000,000 - and that figure does not take into account the assistance that has been, rendered to them in indirect ways through the subsidies on fertilizers and cornsacks and by other means. The producers cannot have it both ways. They cannot say, in time of high prices, “ We will tak? what is offering on the world’s markets”, and then, when prices are low, turn to the Government and’ say, “ You ought to endeavour to enter into an international agreement in order to raise the price level “. If they want to take, the world price when prices are high, they cannot when- prices- are low, expect governments to- give them assistance on the scale on which such assistance has been given in. Australia in the past.
I’ arn quite sure that, if the questionweise put to Australian, wheat-growers in that: way,, there; could, be no doubt as- to their answer. On this- point ! accept the assurances.- of the honorable member for Riverina (jM-r. Langtry)-, the. honorable’ member for. Hume: (Mr-.. Fuller) and others who are in much-, closer contact with the wheat-farmers than- I am-. If given the choice, between accepting- high prices at one period and- extremely low prices at another period!,, or- a. guaranteed price- for a number, of years, I am surethat the growers throughout Australia would unhesitatingly decide in favour of an international wheat agreement guaranteeing them stability over a period of years.
– What is the guaranteed price?
– The guaranteed floor price under this agreement will be, I understand, approximately 6s. 3d. a bushel. Comparing that with the prices which were received by wheat-growers in Australia during certain years in the thirties, I think the farmers will get a very good deal indeed under this agreement. They will have a guaranteed minimum price, and the range will be from approximately 12s. 5d. a bushel, the upper limit, to 6s. 3d. a bushel the lower limit. M!y point is that, if the growers were asked whether they would prefer to take the high prices that are offering to-day and then, at a later period, take the low prices which are sure to come, at the same rime giving a guarantee not to apply to the Government for assistance or to urge it to reach an international agreement in order to increase prices-
– There will be no guarantee under this agreement.
– There will be a guarantee of 6s* 3d. a bushel under ike agreement.
– The parties to the agreement can walk out at any time.
– I am merely making a statement of general principle. I said at the outset that I was not prepared to go into details. The details have been dealt with very capably by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), and various honorable members on this side of the House. My point is that, if the wheat farmers of Australia were asked, “ Do you want an international agreement which will give you an average price over a period of years, or do you want to accept high prices as they are offered tc-day in the world’s markets, taking the risk of low prices that will come into force before very long?” I am sure that the answer of farmers throughout Australia would be, “ Give us an average price which will return to us the cost of production and a reasonable income over and abovethat, instead of allowing us to face the risk of very low prices in the years tocome “.
– Why not put thequestion to the growers?
– The Government has to accept an obligation to act in theinterests, not only of the wheat-growers, but also of every other group in the community.
The Constitution imposes on this Government the obligation to enter intotrade relations with other countries in ways which it considers to be advantageous to all the people of Australia.. Thi3 matter does not affect the wheatgrowers only. I propose to show what would be the effect of failure to enter intoan international wheat agreement. Members of the Opposition must face the facts. So far, not one of them, as far as I am aware, has stated in this debate that he isnot in favour of an international wheat agreement.
– I said it.
– I am sorry, but I did not hear the honorable member. If hedid say so, he is the only member of the Opposition who has made his position clear in this matter. As a matter of fact.. I believe that the honorable member was a member, or at any rate a supporter, of a previous government which endeavoured, to negotiate an international wheat agreement. However, that is by the way. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. ArchieCameron) - since I am dealing with hisinterjection - also said that I had declared-‘ a few years ago that Australia at that time had enough wheat to last for a couple of years, but that later we had been: obliged to import wheat. That is perfectly true. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), who is alsotrying to interject, went one step furtherand said that, for the wheal, which was allegedly imported, theGovernment had to pay far morethan the price which it obtained forthe wheat which was exported. The honorable member was quite wrong. Australia had to pay nothing at all for the- wheat that was imported. It came here under lend-lease arrangements.
– It was not entered as a balance.
– Order ! There have been too many interjections from the Opposi-tion during the Minister’s speech. I ask honorable members to desist.
– The honorable member cannot squirm out of it like that. He 3aid quite clearly that we paid more for the wheat that was imported than we obtained for our exports. The plain truth is that we received that wheat under lendlease arrangements and paid nothing at all for it. Thus, the honorable member for Wakefield is shown up for the twister that he is.
The circumstances of that case are quite clear. There was plenty of wheat in Australia at that time, but most of it happened to be in Western Australia. There had been a very bad season in the eastern States; but because of the necessity for a concentration of our effort in the war in the Pacific in order to finish it as quickly as possible, we had to provide the food requirements of a large number of American forces and of the British Pacific Fleet, which had come to Australia. Therefore, it was necessary for us to devote all of our energies to the production of as much food as possible. The wheat to which the honorable member referred was brought into Australia under lend-lease arrangements, specifically for use as stock feed.
– There were only two cargoes.
– That is so. That arrangement was necessary in order to build up food production in Australia at a very rapid rate. We did not have the internal transport facilities necessary to bring wheat from Western Australia. The honorable member knows quite well that, to say that the importation of a very small quantity of wheat at that time proved that I was wrong a couple of years earlier in saying that Australia had sufficient supplies of wheat to last for two or three years, is an exaggeration and distortion of the truth.
As I said earlier, the first thing to be decided in relation to this bill is whether or not it will be to the advantage of Australia to enter into an international wheat agreement of any kind. I say that the whole history of the wheat industry and of the treatment it has received at the hands of various governments of different political colours shows that every political party believes international agreement? to be in the best interests of Australia. The next question that arises is whether this agreement is the best agreement that could have been made. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to criticize the details of the agreement as they are set forth in this bill. Some honorable members opposite, at any rate those who have held ministerial rank, know that when a person attends an international conference he puts forward what he considers to be the best proposition from every point of view, particularly his own. Naturally, there is a period of bargaining, during which delegatehave to give way and make concession.of one kind and another. It is quite clear that the agreement is not the ideal document that would have been prepared had the Government and its representative, Mi McCarthy, had their own way. It would have contained certain other provisions could we have had them incorporated in it. Australia was only one of 36 countries represented at the conference, and naturally we could not get all our own way. This is the best agreement which our representative could obtain. Had we shown an uncompromising spirit, the other 35 countries might have said. “ Well, if Australia cannot agree to thi? it can remain outside and we shall arrive at some kind of agreement on our own”. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has never had any experience of negotiations of this kind. Other members of the Opposition have had such experience. I had the same experience at the conference which preceded the making of the Geneva Trade Agreement. When the final conclusion has been reached, one’s attitude must be, “ This is the best kind, of agreement I have been able to obtain because of the viewpoint of others who took part. in the negotiations “. The question which arises is whether this agreement is acceptable to us or not.
– It would have been better to stay away from the conference.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has stayed away from wheat production all his life, and does not know anything about it.
Mr. White interjecting,
– The honorable member, as a Minister in a previous govern-, ment, attempted to make trade treaties with certain -countries and failed completely to do so. He has no room to talk on ‘this matter.
M.r. White interjecting.,
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava is making .quite a nuisance of himself to the House, and I therefore ask him to cease interrupting.
– The honorable member for Wimmera seemed to imply that the Australian delegation was to be condemned because it could not get a better agreement than this. Every one who has taken any part in negotiations of this kind knows perfectly well that the best of everything cannot be obtained. The opinions expressed and the arguments advanced by delegations from other countries have to be taken into account. As I “have said the main point that arises is, not whether this is an ideal agreement, bu’t whether it is the ‘best kind of agreement we could get, and will be of advantage to Australia. On balance, the agreement will ensure that the wheat-farmers of this -country -shall obtain a stable price for their wheat during the period specified, & price ranging from 6s. 3d. to 12s. od. a bushel. That will provide them with a much better income than they have been in (the habit of receiving. It is true that at times they have -received very high returns, but it is also true :tha:t at other times they have received very low prices. The records show that during those periods when prices were extremely low thousands of wheat-farmers had to go through the bankruptcy courts of this country. Those were periods when the parties now in opposition were in office in this country. In spite of those years of high prices, taking into account the many years of low prices when anti-Labour .governments were in power in this country, wheat-farmers got deeper and deeper into debt. But from the time when a Labour Government assumed office, the farmers have been able to write off increasing amounts of their debts to the financial institutions of this country. All of this is history. I believe that this agreement will ensure to the wheatfarmers a period of prosperity. ‘Their income will be much higher for the five years during which the agreement is -to operate than it would be if they accepted the high prices ruling (throughout the world to-day and later had ito accept the low prices which inevitably will .rule after the expiration of that five-year period-
– Perhaps in twelve months.
– Yes, perhaps even in twelve months. I had intended to make some review of the current world situation in respect of the supply of wheat, the prices which can .be obtained .at the present time, .and the prospects for the future, but any .survey that I could make at this stage would be too short to deal adequately with the subject and I shall therefore content myself with saying that whilst demand is greater than supply at the present time everything points to the likelihood that before very long supply willi be able to meet demand and prices will .begin to fall.
– What, points to it?
– If the honorable member ‘will take the trouble to read a report made to ‘the President of the United States on European recovery and American aid, by Secretary of State Harriman, -whom I had the privilege <of meeting .in the United States of America, particularly .that section of it dealing with wheat production in Europe and the (prospect for the years to come, he will soon realize that in the future Europe will not require anything like the quantities of wheat it requires at the present time. The synopsis of the world wheat situation which Secretary of State Harriman made in his report is an excellent one. But I do not rely only on that. Yesterday, the Canberra Times publish-jd the following news item from New York, under the heading, “ First Estimate of World Grain Surplus “ : -
For the first time since the war created a shortage, a world surplus of grains above restricted needs is probable, according to a preliminary estimate of the exportable world surplus of bread grains - wheat and rye - made by economists for American wheat industry interests. They indicate that the volume of these grains available for export may total or exceed 910,000,’000 bushels, compared with the effective demand under present policies, of- 876,000,000 to 900,000,000 bushels.
The probable lower and upper limits of the exportable surplus of bread grains for the year ending 30th June, 1949, are estimated hy the economists as follows : -
Thu economists, whose conclusions are featured by the New York Times in a double column front page, warn that this prospect does not mean that production and conservation efforts can be relaxed since the 1948-49 grain supply depends on whether conditions and other factors, including the exporting policies of the various countries which may influence later estimates of grains available for export.
They add, however, “ If the weather and other conditions permit the indicated world harvest to bo realized, wheat rationing may be ended in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, some Scandinavian countries and possibly even in Italy and France”.
These experts, in assessing the probable world production of wheat, and the demand for it, have indicated that, in their opinion, the time will arrive shortly when supply will overtake demand. At that stage, prices will begin to fall. Although this is not an ideal agreement such as, perhaps, would have been reached had we had all our own way in the negotiations,I nevertheless believe that the agreement will benefit Australian wheat-growers generally, and provide them with a much higher standard of living than they have enjoyed in the past.
.- The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has dealt with a number of matters in a manner which calls for a reply. I had not intended to participate in the debate, but I do so in order to combat certain misrepresentations of the actual position. The Minister claimed that the International Wheat Agreement would stabilize the wheat-growing industry in Australia. I have before me the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act, which was assented to on the 9th August, 1946, and the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act (No. 2), which was assented to on the 14th December of that year. They may be regarded as successive stages in the Government’s activities to stabilize this industry. Section 4 of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1946 provided for the establishment of the Australian WheatBoard. A substantial number of its members were to be elected by wheat-growers, arid other members were to be appointed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The functions of the board are prescribed in section 10, which reads - 10. (1.) The board may, subject to any directions of the Minister, for the purposes of the export of wheat and wheat products, the interstate marketing of wheat -and the marketing of wheat in the Territories of the Commonwealth - (a.) purchase or otherwise acquire any wheat, wheat products, corn sacks, jute or jute products; [!>) sell or dispose of any wheat, wheat products, corn sacks, jute or jute products purchased or acquired by the board;
Australian wheat-growers are asking this question : In what way was the Australian Wheat Board consulted in accordance with the provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act regarding the disposal overseas of the wheat products of the Commonwealth ? All the evidence, and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction himself has admitted it, proves that this gigantic deal has been effected in the most authoritarian manner that any government could adopt without a single reference to the Australian Wheat Board. Now, the Govern- ment tells us that, because it is all-wise, we members of the Australian Country party, who have a special knowledge of the problems of the man on the land, should support the International Wheat Agreement. To that proposition we shall . not assent. At the moment, I shall not -concern myself with the intricacies of the agreement, because they have already been fully analysed by other members of the Australian Country party. For example, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), in a comprehensive -examination of the agreement, showed that, as an initial gesture, Australian wheat-growers will be asked to sacrifice no less than £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 In the first year of the operation of the agreement. The Government claims that by forfeiting that sum and the immediate prospect of additional money in the bank, wheat-growers will possibly achieve in later years a degree of stabilization in their industry. That submission is open to question. If that is to he the result, there may be something to be said for the -agreement, because it is a desirable end in itself, but that is only a . claim, and an examination of the facts will not substanti a te it. 1 shall refer briefly to the various countries to which Australia will make r.his concession under the International Wheat Agreement. For the moment, I pass over the United Kingdom, and grant that special concessional treatment may be accorded to our kith and kin because of their problems. However, Australian wheat-growers, and members of the Opposition in this chamber, claim that the rost of any special concessions which are ro be given to the United Kingdom at this particular period of its history when it so urgently requires them, should be borne, not by the wheat-growers alone, but by the whole of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. That remark applies also to other primary Products, including dairy produce. , Every Australian should be prepared to shoulder his share of any sacrifice which has to be made in order that Great Britain may be helped. I hold in my hand a booklet issued recently by the. Commonwealth Department of Information, which gives some information about contracts other than those made with the United Kingdom. It says that, in addition, as a result of the negotiations between the Australian Government and the Indian Food Mission. Australia has contracted to supply the Indian Government with 25,000,000 bushels of wheat from the 1947-4S crop at 18s. 6d. a bushel Australian currency, f.o.b. Australian ports. Although the Indian Government has contracted to take that quantity at 18s. 6d. a bushel, by the application of this agreement the price will be reduced to approximately 12s. a bushel. The wheat-growers and others in this country are entitled to ask the price at which the Indian Government is selling jute bags and sacks to Australia at the present time. Recently, I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs regarding the probable cost for the current season of corn and wheat sacks from India. The reply was that the price will be approximately 30s. a dozen, compared with about Ss. 6d. at the outbreak of war. The Indian Government is taking full advantage of the present world shortage of jute products, but the Australian Government, by reducing the price of Australian wheat sold to India by approximately 6s. 6d. a bushel, is making that country a present of about £8,000,000 in the current financial year. That money properly belongs to the Australian wheatgrowers. It is suggested that by this means stabilization of prices will bo secured.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction insulted the wheat-growers of Australia when he said that the Government had made them gifts and paid them subsidies amounting to approximately £40,000,000 over a periods of years. The assistance that has been granted to Aus.tranial wheat-growers is no greater than is the assistance that protective tariffs have given to Australian industrial workers. The wheat-growers do not concede that they have received any gift from the Government that is proportionately greater than the assistance that other sections of the community have received from our fiscal policy. The benefit of protection to Australian secondary industries over a period of years would amount not to £40,000,000, but probably to something like £1,000,000,000. It has been claimed that this agreement will result in stable wheat prices. If there were any guarantee that its terms could be enforced at any time when the price of wheat fell below that which is provided in it, there might be some merit in that argument, despite the fact that the representatives of the wheat-growers were not consulted and that the Australian “Wheat Hoard was ignored. How much reliance can be placed upon many of the countries that have signed the agreement? First, there is Afghanistan. Then there is Austria, which is now, unfortunately, a satellite of Russia. After Colombia mid Cuba there is Czechoslovakia. President Benes has just been compelled to resign the presidency of that country because it, too, has fallen under the influence of the Soviet.. Then there are the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, and New Zealand. There is no doubt that New Zealand would honour this agreement if it had occasion to do so, but it is already enjoying the benefits of a contract under which for the next three years it will purchase Australian wheat at 5s. 6d. a bushel, or a t about £2,000,000 a year les? rhan the market price. As a result of the famous New Zealand wheat Agreement which was negotiated by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) when he was Minister foi- Commerce and Agriculture, £2,000,000 a year is being lost by the Australian taxpayers. The honorable gentleman will be remembered for that long after he is otherwise forgotten. The agreement contains the names of thirty-three purchasing countries. With due respect to the best, of them, not one is in any way bound by the terms of the agreement other than by the mere statement that it will perhaps purchase wheat at some future date. If the price of wheat on the world’s markets falls below 6s. a bushel to, for example, 3s., is it conceivable that many of these countries .will buy wheat from Australia at 6s. when it can be obtained at half that price from other sources not affected by the agreement? If there is again a vast surplus of wheat in the world, anxious sellers from every wheatgrowing country will be trying to dispose of their surplus, because if they do not the weevils will get it.
– If there were no agreement, how would they be better off?
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council ask? how the wheat-growers of Australia would be better off if there were no agreement. In that event, they would be paid a price of from 18s. 6d. to £1 a bushel for the 1947-4’S crop. They would havethat money in their pockets. As a result of this agreement, they will receive a lower price and in three or four years’ time will probably be compelled to take whatever amount is offered.
My principal complaint about thisagreement, apart from its terms, is the manner in which is was negotiated. Th<Australian Wheat Board was created for the purpose of negotiating agreements in respect of wheat. In conformity with the claim of the Government that its desire was to give growers control of their own industries the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act provided that the Australian Wheat Board should have a” say in the disposal of the Australian wheat crop. That is set out in the clearest of terms, subject to one proviso, which is that the board may sell Australian wheat, grist Australian wheat, and manage and control Australian wheat subject only to the direction of the Minister. And the direction of the Minister is that they shall not perform any of those functions when it comes to anything worth while. The will and direction of the Minister is that in the sale of 85,000,000 bushels of wheat per annum overseas, and in respect of every grain of Australian wheat intended for export, the elected representatives of the growers shall have no say whatsoever. Control has been taken out of their hands. The deal has been negotiated over their heads not by the Minister but by a solitary public servant. I am not criticizing the capacity of Mr. McCarthy, the gentleman who was sent abroad to negotiate this deal. He is one of the best type of public servants. He is keen to discharge his duties, and I believe that he carried out his task to the best of his knowledge- and ability; but be is not all wise. No public servant, no individual, is all wise. That is; why growers’ organizations- exist to enable the growers to. make available the benefit of their experience, very often bitter experience over long years, in the negotiation of contracts of this kind. But the growers were completely ignored. Mr. McCarthy alone was sent abroad, and. he brought hack this agreement, which commits every wheat-grower in Australia to conform to its contents for the next five years whether they like it or not, and whether they believe it to be wise or not. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, in the course of his speech, said that he had not the slightest doubt that if this agreement were submitted to a vote of the wheat-growers of Australia they would approve it. If the Minister believes that, why did not the Government consult the representatives of the wheat-growers of Australia in its negotiations? That was a simple proposition. It was not necessary to take a vote of the growers; it was only necessary to convene the board which was elected for that particular purpose. The Government is just as confident of securing the approval of the wheat-growers to this agreement as it is of securing the approval of the people of Australia to its bank nationalization proposals.
-Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I refer to bank nationalization because it is similar to this proposal in that both represent an arbitrary exercise of power by the Government over the affairs of individuals.
– The House is now discussing not banking, but wheat.
– I shall not mince my words; the Government is pursuing its policy ,of usurping the right of the individual to manage his own affairs, whether he be a wheat-farmer, a grower of some other product or a manufacturer. In effect, the Government says to the wheat-grower, “ “We are wiser than you. We have more knowledge; we have more experience. We have concluded this agreement and we tell you. that it is good.
Whether you think so or not you have to take it and like it.” That is the attitude of the Government with respect to not only wheat but also any other matter that it brings before the Parliament. In respect of this agreement, the Parliament is nothing more than a rubber stamp, despite the fact that we are now being extended the courtesy, if one may use that term, of being given an opportunity to discuss this agreement which has already been signed, sealed and delivered. The Parliament can do nothing except talk about it and voice its protest.
– The Government has not ratified this agreement; it will not be ratified until the Parliament gives its assent to it.
– What rot! The Minister knows that the whole thing was settled before it was brought before the Parliament. We know that when our Ambassador at Washington put his signature to the agreement alongside those of the representatives of other signatory countries it was as good as settled as was the Bretton Woods Agreement and various other agreements which this Government has made.
– The honorable member is hedging.
– If the Minister is sincere when he says that Parliament has some say in this agreement, will he now accept a single amendment from either this side or the other side of the House?
– All that I am repeating to the honorable member-
– Order ! The Minister can say all that he wants to say when he is replying to the debate.
– I am afraid that the Minister cannot tell us anything about this matter that we do not already know. The agreement does not commend itself to any one who believes that the people of Australia have the right to conduct their own affairs in a reasonable way. It is further evidence of the policy of the Government to take out of the hands of individuals the right to order their own affairs. The Government says, “ We, the all-powerful and all-wise
Government, can use our power for S Il Ci ends as we decree whether you agree or not “.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– I do not think anything could have done more to deepen the Opposition’s mistrust of this measure than the speech made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) this afternoon. The Minister suggested that if this measure were approved, the Australian wheat-growers would have a guaranteed price for their product. The fact is that there is no provision in this measure for a guaranteed price. The only guarantee that it gives to the wheat-grower is that the prices-he is now receiving under existing contracts with the United Kingdom and India will be reduced by nearly 50 per cent. The Minister also claimed that if a poll were taken amongst wheatgrowers, these proposals would be favoured by an overwhelming majority. [ envy the Minister his confidence and self-assurance; but I remind him that only three weeks ago he was asserting just as vehemently that there would be a large affirmative vote in the rents and prices referendum. I am confident that a poll of Australian, wheat-growers on the rati-flea tion by this country of the International Wheat Agreement would meet the same fate as the Government’s referendum proposals.
The Government’s entry into this agreement has been disastrous. Only three wheat-producing countries havesigned it although 34 importing countries, which obviously are expecting to be able to buy wheat at a cheaper rate during the next five years than would be possible in ordinary circumstances, have signified their intention of participating. That is the real reason for the willingness of the 34 countries to enter into the agreement. It is also interesting to note that whilst the agreement will reduce the return to Australian wheat-growers, it will not interfere in any way with the contract entered into by the Australian Government with New Zealand. The price of the wheat that we have contracted to sell to India will be reduced from 18s. 6d. to 12s. a bushel for all wheat delivered after the 1st August next. In respect of the United Kingdom, the reduction will be from 17s. 6d. to 12s., but there is to be no alteration of the price of 5s. 9d. at which this Government has contracted to meet New Zealand’s wheat requirements for the next five years. Surely there should be twoway traffic. If it is in the interests of the whole world that an international agreement of this kind should be made, then the substantial reduction of the price at which Australian wheat is being sold to certain countries, should be accompanied by an increase of the price at which it is sold to New Zealand, a country which to-day has the most favorable wheal contract in the world. When the New Zealand wheat agreement was first mentioned, we were assured by the Government that no such contract existed. Australian wheat at that time was selling at approximately 9s. a bushel, but when the contract with New Zealand was finally signed, the price had risen to 14s: 6d., and not many months later it had gone up to £1. In justification of the New Zealand contract we were told that in probably two year’s time wheat would be selling on the world’s markets at very much less than 5s. 9d. a bushel. The measure now before the House indicates very clearly that the Government does not believe anything of the kind, and after all if we are guaranteeing only that there will be a reduction of the price that we shall receive this year, of what use will it be to the Australian wheat-grower?
We were informed by the Minister that Argentina had sold large quantities of wheat at 25s. a bushel. I remind the honorable gentleman that that country stands outside the International Wheat Agreement and that the more wheat it sells now at 2os. a bushel, the more it will be able to sell at a cheaper rate should the glut that we are told to expect within a few years, become a reality.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction read some extracts from an American newspaper indicating that the time was not far distant when the supply of cereals would be much greater than the demand. I thought for the moment that he had been reading last night’s Melbourne Herald which stated that a good wheat harvest in Australia was assured because of the present rains. Could anything be more stupid or ridiculous?
Gould anything show more clearly a complete ignorance of the subject? After all, the wheat-farmer himself does not know what his yield will be until the grain is bagged.
– Do not talk such rot.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) accuses me of talking rot. I should be prepared to accept him as an authority on rot at any time, because he talks more of it in this chamber than all the other members of the Government put together.
Forecasts such as that made in the Melbourne Herald have no real basis. I remind the House that in certain districts last year wheat crops were the most promising for twenty years, but that because of hail and continued rain which caused rust and other diseases, the actual yields were only half of what had been expected. To say now not only that the world’s demand for wheat will be met, but also that we shall have more wheat than we can use, is to adopt the role of a super optimist.
We are assured that until the Parliament ratifies this agreement, Australia will ‘ not be a party to it. I was under the impression that the agreement had already been signed by the Australian Ambassador in the United States of America and that we were committed to it.
– That is not ratification.
– Then we are asked to ratify an agreement that has already been entered into. The Minister’s interjection reminds me that when the rumoured sale of wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel was first mentioned in this House, it was indignantly denied. Government spokesmen said that no such agreement existed, and that nothing of the kind had ever occurred. However, after there had been a general election in this country and in New Zealand, we found that the agreement had been ratified and that the contract price was that indicated when the matter was first mentioned. I was disappointed that the
Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) in his speech on this measure, did not give the House some information on the New Zealand wheat deal because he was continually asked for it, and it is freely rumoured that he knows far more about it than any other member of the Government. If the honorable gentleman does know all about it. he has succeeded in keeping the information to himself. All that the Australian taxpayer knows is that because of the signing of that contract, he will subsidize the price of bread sold in New Zealand to the tune of £2,000,000 a year for the next five years. If he can derive any comfort from that knowledge he is welcome to it. If agreements of this nature are to be entered into without the people most concerned having any say in them, we are nearer socialization in this country than most people believe.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction referred to the affluence that wheatgrowers and primary producers generally are enjoying to-day, and endeavoured to give the impression that it was due to the actions of the Labour Government. 1 shall tell him the real reason. The tragic world conflict through which we have just passed is the sole reason for the enhanced prices of those commodities, and increased returns are being enjoyed by our primary producers to-day in spite of the administration of this tragic Government. I should not have participated in this debate but for the provocative manner in which the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction put the case for the Government. I am sure that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture realizes that the Government’s case looked much better before the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction tried to justify it. He made the job of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture much more difficult than it would otherwise have been. If it is necessary to enter into an international wheat agreement the people to be considered first and last are those who produce the wheat. They who labour throughout the year to produce this essential commodity are entitled to some say in its disposal.
– m reply - I regret that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is absent from the House because of illness. He led the debate on this bill on behalf of the Opposition. He criticized the International Wheat Agreement, and his criticism was certainly not constructive. It was not even merely destructive. lt consisted rather of a number of absolute falsehoods and of statements which had no foundation in fact, so that I must devote a considerable amount of the time at my disposal to refuting his allegations. The honorable member said that the agreement had been introduced to reduce the price on contracts of sale to the United Kingdom and India by from £12,000,000 to £13,000,000, and that it had taken this amount literally out of the growers’ pockets. On the other hand, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said to-night that the agreement had a desirable end in itself. Whom are we to believe, the honorable member for Richmond who said that the agreement had a desirable end, or the honorable member for Indi who made the infamous statement that the agreement was entered into in order to deprive the wheatgrowers of £12,000,000 or £13,000,000? The honorable member for Indi referred to this amount of £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 no fewer than four times. Evidently, he is a believer in the kind of propaganda used by Goebbels and Hitler to lead their unfortunate people astray. The honorable member further said that the Government was exposed as one which had no compunction in seizing the property of individuals, and bartering that property in accordance with its policies. Tn my second-reading speech I said - lt is true, of course, that in the first year, Australian growers will make a monetary sacrifice; they will receive less under the agreement than if there were no agreement.
That statement, however, does not justify the rash assertion of the honorable member for Indi that the growers would lose between £12,000,000 and £13,000,000. Indeed, it is possible, by a careful examination of the circumstances associated with this year’s wheat crop, to sustain a case that, in the absence of an international agreement, the loss could, in fact, be greater than £12,000,000, and that the price of wheat unshipped at the 1st August next would fall below the minimum fixed price of one and a half dollars provided for the first year of the agreement.
Our export wheat surplus this year is approximately 130,000,000 bushels. Because of road and rail transport limitations, the maximum quantity which we can shift to ports and ship before the 1st August is little more than half that quantity, and is about all that can be lifted by the ships available from the purchasing countries. All the wheat that the United Kingdom and other purchasers could lift in the time has already been shipped.
The Australian Wheat Board’s policy, repeatedly declared, is : Sales no further ahead than quarterly at prices then ruling. The United Kingdom is the only purchasing country with sufficient shipping to lift 80,000,000 bushels, spread over approximately twelve months, and is the only country able to provide ships for India for the smaller quantity of 25,000,000 bushels over about six to seven months. Without a provision in these contracts for a price revision in the event of an International Wheat Agreement the United Kingdom and India would not have agreed to contracts at 17s. and 18s. 6d. a bushel respectively. Obviously, the Australian Wheat Board’s quarterly quotation policy would have been a safer policy for them to follow. A gamble on good United States of America, Canadian, European, Russian and Danubian crops coming in after the 1st August, bringing prices down, would be a safer bet.
It has to be appreciated that the Wheat Board was prepared to supply the United Kingdom, and probably India, with the above quantities on the quarterly quote basis only. How, then, could the much-harped-on loss due to the International Wheat Agreement occur? As a matter of fact, it is highly probable that the revision provision in the United Kingdom and India contracts was’ a great factor in bringing those countries into the agreement.
Since negotiations for the international agreement were commenced in January, prices of United States of America and Canadian wheat have fallen about 80 cents. In January, Canadian Manitoba No. 1 was 334 cents f.o.b.Fort William. Yesterday, it was 261 cents - a fall of over 73 cents, or 4s. 6d. a bushel Australian. If falls of this ‘description continue, the price could go below the minimum of 150 cents, or 9s. Australian, fixed in the agreement for the first year. I do not say that this will happen, but it could happen. For the honorable member for Indi to say that the bill was introduced to reduce prices to the United Kingdom and India is stupid, although it was meant to be subtle. It fails in that respect for it is out of line with the Opposition’s accusation that this Government is not helping Britain adequately. The honorable member said that the Government did not warn growers that it might enter into an international agreement to reduce arbitrarily the value of their wheat. That accusation has been bandied about the country by other members of the Opposition, some of whom knew it to be untrue and others being completely ignorant of the facts. The statement of the honorable member for Indi is a perversion of the truth, for when contracts with the United Kingdom and India were entered into by the Government, every daily newspaper, and all the Wheat-growers’ journals, published the details in full, including the proviso for the revision of prices in the event of an international wheat agreement coming into operation. Does any honorable member deny that? Only a fool would expect purchasing countries with 80,000,000 and 25,000,000-bushel contracts to enter into an agreement which did not contain a stipulation for price revision. I do not regard the honorable member for Indi as a fool ; but he delights in trying to fool the farmers. Most reasonable people are astonished that under the International Wheat Agreement purchasing countries have agreed to a ceiling price as high as approximately 12s. 5d. a bushel f.o.b. Australia, a floor price in the first years of approximately 9s. a bushel f.o.b. Australia, and a continuing ceiling price of appoximately 12s. 5d. a bushel for five years, descending in ten 10-cent stages over the remaining period of the agreement until it reaches a floor price in the fifth year of between 6s. and 6s. 3d. a bushel approximately.
I come now to the most serious accusation that has been bandied about the country by the honorable member for Indi and members of the Opposition generally, some of them knowing it to be false, and others being completely ignorant of the facts. The accusation is, that the Government acquired the wheat without consulting either the growersor the Australian Wheal Board, and entered into contracts to sell for 17s. . a bushel to the United Kingdom and18s. 6d a bushel to India, when the residue was selling at 20s. 6d. a bushel and upwards. It is true that the Government acquired wheat without consulting the Australian Wheat Board. In that respect it followed the precedent established by the Menzies Ministry, supported by the honorable member for Indi, in 1939, and continued in 1940 by the Menzies Ministry, in which the honorable member for Indi was a Minister, and the Honorable Horace Keyworth Noek, of Nelungaloo fame was an honorary Minister. In theabsence of complementary State legislation for its 1946 Wheat Stabilization Act - legislation which the various States had agreed to introduce - the Chifley Government was faced with two alternatives. These were : To abandon Commonwealth organized wheat-marketing and throw the growers back to where they were in 1919, subsequently to reap the whirlwind between 1919 and 1939, or to carry on acquisition of wheat for another year, in the hope of the States enacting the complementary legislation previously agreed to. The Government did not continue the acquisition of wheat without consulting the State governments, and at the last Premiers conference, in August, 1947. all the State Premiers supported the following resolution : -
This conference -
re-affirms its previous decision in respect of the need for a stabilization plan for the wheat industry ;
endorses the decision to continue war-time powers for the 1947-48 crop only;
recommends an early special meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Agriculture for the purpose of working out a plan satisfactory to all governments and the wheat industry, and that representatives of wheat-growers be invited to submit proposals in writing to the conference.
In view of that resolution, does the Oppositionstill contend, that acquisitionof wheat should not have operated this year? The Premiers are all responsible men. The Premier of South Australia is a Country-Liberal party man, and the Premier of Western Australia is somewhat of the same political brand. I stress the point that no responsible wheat-growers’ organization has offered any dissent from the continuation of acquisition in respect of the 1947-48 crop. Why, then, should there be all this hullabaloo and all these accusations and theattempt to brand the Government with having done something evil?
Another knowingly false accusation was made by the honorable member for Indi when he said that the Government had entered into contracts with the United Kingdom without consulting the board. The honorable member well knows that to be a falsehood. I have no doubt he is well informed by Mr. Teasdale, his friend, in respect of most of the business of the. board. I base the statement that he knew better, largely on the fact that, in respect of the United Kingdom contract, Mr. Teasdale refused to treat as confidential certain correspondence which I had addressed to the board. I shall quote the initial correspondence in regard to that contract. This is a letter which I sent to the acting chairman of the Australian Wheat Board on the 1st September, 1947 -
You are no doubt aware that during the visit of Lord Addison to this country as Leader of the United Kingdom delegation to the British Commonwealth Conference he discussed with me the general problems of food supplies to Great Britain and indicated that the United Kingdom is vitally interested in supplies of wheat from Australia from the incoming crop, and is also prepared to favorably consider a long-tenn wheat purchase plan.
Under these circumstances, I think it right and proper that I should convey through you to your board the information conveyed tome by Lord Addison in our informal talks in respect to the general principles which he feels should form the basis of a mutually satisfactory arrangement.
I now ask that your board be good enough to submit as a matter of urgency its ideas as to what the board would consider a satisfactory basis of contract.
Is there any qualification about that ?
– Yes. Is that the International Wheat Agreement ?
– No. I shall come to that in due course, and blow out the honorable member just as effectively as
I am blowing out him and his friends in respect of this matter. The letter continued -
The outline submitted to me by Lord Addison followed the undermentioned lines: -
That policy was invariably favoured and followed by members of the Opposition in regard to contracts which they entered into. The letter proceeded -
In addition to the above-mentioned basis, I would be favoured if your board would also submit for consideration alternative propositions which may provide for the linking in with any international wheat agreement which may be arrived at - the possibilities of such an agreement being made, as you know, are to be explored again in January next. Consideration might also be given to linking this particular factor ill with the basis suggested by Lord Addison.
It is the wish of the United Kingdom authorities and the Commonwealth Govern ment that at this stage all exploratory talks on the whole matter should be treated as top secret, and members of the board should be informed accordingly.
I ask honorable members to note the intimation to the board about the International Wheat Agreement conference in January. The board has on it seven representatives of the wheat-growers. The fact that the International Wheat Agreement proceedings which were to take place at Washington in January was mentioned in my letter does not absolve members of the board from the responsibility of submitting to me or to the Government their views on any international wheat agreement that might be considered. On the 3rd September, I received an acknowledgment from the general manager of the Australian Wheat Board, who said -
The next meeting of my board is to be held on Thursday, the 11th September, 1947, when your letter will be submitted for its consideration.
As requested by you, the. members of the board will be advised that the matter is to be treated as a top secret.
I remind honorable members opposite that for nearly two weeks after I received the general manager’s letter of acknowledgment I received no further word. I decided, therefore, to make some inquiries and I sent a further telegram to the board on the 16th September. Honorable members opposite and some of their associates have accused this Government of indifference to the unfortunate plight of the people of the United Kingdom. It was the Australian Wheat Board which, for almost a fortnight, did not consider it important enough to reply to my inquiry as to the basis upon which a’ contract should be entered into with the United Kingdom for the supply of wheat for five years, which showed complete indifference to the plight of our kinsmen overseas. My telegram of the 1 6th September read as follows : -
Understand your board not yet met to consider subject-matter my letter 1st September. G Gravely perturbed lack of appreciation of need for prompt and urgent advice by board. Would appreciate prompt steps to deal with this matter as one of immediate urgency.
The following reply was received from the general manager on the 16th September: -
Replying your telegram board considered matter 1047-48 supplies at meeting last Friday but after some discussion deferred final consideration long-term agreement until meeting Wednesday, 24th September, when full attendance members expected. Three members were absent from last meeting owing illness and other una voidable causes. Letter setting out board’s decision 194.7-48 season has been posted you to Canberra.
Prom the minutes of the board’s meeting of the 11th and 12th September and from a letter dated the 16th September from the general manager I learned two things. The first was that the board’s price for wheat was increased by ls. a bushel to 17s. and 17s. 9-d. a bushel f.o.b. for bulk and bagged wheat, respectively. The second was that, following consideration of my request for its ideas on approaches by the United Kingdom for supplies, the board had expressed the view that r>0,000,000 bushels should be reserved for shipment to the United Kingdom, of which 300,000 tons would be as flour. The board also said that the price should be based on its current export quotation from time to time, less ls. a bushel, anil that firm contracts be arranged in accordance with its genera] policy, that is, shipment over three-monthly periods. Honorable members opposite have talked of concessions. I draw their attention to the fact that the board of its own volition had suggested a concession of ls. « bushel in respect of sales to the United Kingdom, at the same time as it increased the price of wheat by ls. a bushel. I received a letter from the board, dated the 16th September, from which 1 quote the following extracts :-
With regard to supplies from the 1947 -4– season, the board, after a full discussion, agreed to the following resolution: -
That, in reference to the request by tinMinister for suggestions in respect of it proposed wheat sale to Britain, the board considers that 50,000.000 bushels should bo reserved for shipment to the United Kingdom from the 1947-48 crop as wheat and flour. of which approximately 300,000 tons to be in the form of flour.
In regard to prices, the Board consider.that as any firm quotation for the wholeyear may prejudice their trade relations with other countries, the price should Inbased on the board’s current export quota tion from time to time less ls. per bushel, and that firm contracts be arranged it: accordance with the board’s general policy, i.e., for shipment over three-monthly periods.
Can any honorable member say how the loss of” £12,000,000 to £13,000,000, referred to by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) and other honorable members opposite, could have occurred had the price of wheat fallen in the third quarter of the year? The general manager also said -
The board also considered the matter <>< export prices generally, and in order to keep in line with increases in the United States ni America and Canadian prices, it advanced our export price by ls. per bushel, i.e.. to 17-. per bushel bulk basis f.o.b.
Under the board’s resolution, therefore, tinprice at which a contract would now be ma.d<for wheat for shipment during the quarter December to February, would be IBs. per bushel bulk basis f.o.b.; the flour price would be one based upon that figure.
In view of subsequent delays, I quote also the following extract from the general manager’s letter. He said -
It will be necessary for us to take early action with a view to having ships out here u> lift wheat from the new crop from about midNovember onwards, and, of course, contracts will have to lie arranged at an early date in order to achieve this objective. I shall thereforebe glad if you would furnish me, as soon as possible, for the information of the board, with any advices which you may have to offer in this matter, in order that arrangements can be finalized.
Right through this period the board was at liberty to negotiate and in fact was negotiating with the United Kingdom through its representative, Mr. Tadman, in London. On the 26th September, the boa rd, at its meeting recorded the following minute: -
Tthe board considered the Minister’s request thatmatters connected with United Kingdom negotiations be regarded as a top secret.
The board agreed to that course.
Messrs. Teasdale and Armstrong dissented. Mr. Teasdale moved that as the board had a potential, life of only one year, in which the 1947-48 harvest was disposed of, the board did not feel authorized to deal with marketing beyond the 1047-48 crop.
Does any honorable member opposite, in view of the refusal of two members of the hoard to regard the negotiations between the board and the United Kingdom as top secret, and the fact that the board could not offer any advice as to future marketing beyond the 1947-48 crop, believe t hat the board was the proper authority to inform the Government in regard to the terms and conditions of an international wheat agreement? Every honorable member knows that the discussions preparatory to the making of an international agreement of this kind are kept secret, and that the delegates assembled around the confer- ence table are in duty bound for obvious commercial reasons to keep their negotia- tions secret. Any leakage leads to gambling and nefarious practices on the stock exchanges of the world, to the detriment of wheat-growers and consumers all over the world. That, I believe, should effectively answer the charge that I did not bother very much about the Australian Wheat Board in regard to the international wheat agreement. The motion moved by Mr. Teasdale was ruled out if order and Mr. Teasdale then said that in the circumstances he could not be a party to the discussions and he left the meeting. He was perfectly entitled to do so, but fancy asking that gentleman for advice regarding t he negotiations taking place with respect to an international wheat agreement! Mr. Teasdale, who could not be present at the board meeting of the 9th and the 10th October, wrote expressing the view that the minutes of the previous meeting were inaccurate. He contended that “ there was no question of the motion being out of order “. Mr. Chapman, who acted as chairman at the previous meeting and others, said that the minutes accurately represented what had taken place; but the board agreed to add to the minutes that “ the chairman expressed the opinion that, in view of the dissent of Messrs. Armstrong and Teasdale, those members were not bound to secrecy “. In a letter dated the 29th September, the general manager conveyed to me the board’s decisions at its meeting held on the 24th to the 26th September. I ask members of the Australian Country party particularly to note these decisions. The letter stated -
In response to the Minister’s request for advice concerning a long-term wheat supply agreement with the United Kingdom the board expresses the opinion that it would be reasonable to make an agreement on the following lines: -
Quantities. - That quantities of wheat and flour be supplied from each season’s crop as follows: -
Wheat- 37,000,000 bushels or CO per cent, of the exportable surplus in wheat, whichever is the lower,
Flour - 300,000 tons or 40 per cent, of the exportable surplus, whichever is the lower.
Actual quantities to be declared by the 31st December in the year preceding export for each of the five years envisaged in the agreement such quantities to be for shipment in equal quarterly amounts during the respec- . tive years. In determining quantities, primary consideration to be given to keeping mills running to the maximum extent possible.
Price to be determined quarterly in advance on the basis of world parity to cover each respective quarter’s anticipated shipments.
What would be the position under those conditions in August next if a huge wheat crop were produced in Europe? If the world price were down to 6s. or 7s. a bushel, that would be the price paid for that quarter’s shipments of Australian wheat. The terms of the suggested agreement continued -
That was the board’s advice for a fiveyear contract with the United Kingdom. It made no provision for a floor price but proposed the adoption of a quarterly base price. Did that offer security to the growers? That was the board’s proposal for a contract covering 80,000,000 bushels of wheat. What an absurdity it would have been to ask the board for an expression of opinion as to the terms and conditions of the much more important contract involved in an international wheat agreement, particularly in view of the fact that some of its members could not be trusted to treat the matter as a top secret. The general manager of the board added, in the letter from which I have been quoting -
In the matter of the suggested adoption of a floor price, the board arrived at its view, as expressed above, after considering all angles, and in particular, that the existence of a floor price may have the effect of depressing generally the prices which could be secured for exports over a period of years.
The board is quite entitled to express its views, and they are respected by the Government. But how could one expect the Government to stand idly by when the board’s policy did not meet its own views, and, in fact, would have been detrimental to the United Kingdom, to the wheatgrowers and to the Australian economy generally ?
– But who owns the product?
– I shall deal with that in due course if the honorable member will be patient. The suggestion is pertinent, and I thank the honorable member for it. On the 5th October, the Australian Government received a cable from the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom stating that, in discussions between representatives of the United Kingdom and Australian Governments and Mr. Tadman, representing the Australian Wheat Board, the United Kingdom would not go beyond 14s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b., Australian currency, on. the ground that this price was higher than the new Canadian price of two dollars a bushel to be paid under contract for Canadian wheat. On the 9th
October, the following cablegram was despatched to the High Commissioner: -
It is noted from your 3537 that you have had further discussions in regard to the price for 75,000,000 bushels from the forthcoming crop. The Commonwealth Government has given detailed consideration to this matter and has decided that the question of the price for 1947-48 will have to be determined between the Ministryof Food and the Australian Wheat Board.
In view of that, what becomes of the accusation that I over-rode the Australian Wheat Board indecently and at an awkward time? The cablegram continued -
It is known that the board favours saleson the basis of quarterly contracts the price to be determined beforehand. The board has been advised of the foregoing and it is suggested therefore that future negotiations be between the United Kingdom Minister and the board, with the proviso that the price ultimately agreed must be concurred by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Australian). The question of a long-term contract has also been considered and the Commonwealth Govern ment is prepared to allot to the British Ministry of Food 60 per cent, of the exportable surplus for the United Kingdom and areas for which she is responsible in each of the four years commencing 1949. The question of prices in addition to the quantity is being discussed with the Australian Wheat Board and we hope to furnish you at an early date with further information regarding both matters.
The board, at its meetings on the 9th and 10th October, considered a letter from the acting secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture stating that it had been agreed to allocate 75,000,000 bushels to the United Kingdom. This included a. quantity for areas outside the United Kingdom, which the United Kingdom was responsible for supplying. The board agreed -
The acting secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture asked the board to submit its views on prices for each of the four years succeeding 1948. The board reiterated the views which it had previously expressed to me in the letter dated the 29th September. The executive of the board decided, on the 16th October, to offer the British Ministry of Food approximately 9,300,000 bushels of wheat for midNovember to February shipments and 200,000 tons of flour for December to February shipments. The prices quoted were -
Wheat, 112s. sterling per quarter.
Flour, £38 13s. 3d. sterling per long ton.
Both of these prices were based on a price of 17s. 6d. a bushel, Australian currency, bulk wheat f.o.b. The prices quoted for shipment to destinations other than the United Kingdom were -
Wheat, 118s.6d. sterling per quarter.
Flour, £4011s.6d. sterling per long ton.
These quotations were based on a price of 18s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. The flour price was increased by 5s. a short ton to allow for the 40-hour week.
I want honorable members to note the reference to the early determination of quantity, the provision for a quarterly price and the absence of any floor price. The board met on the 23rd and 24th October. This is a summary of its decisions on those dates : -
Cablegrams from the board’s London Committee regarding the United Kingdom negotiations were considered at this meeting.
The board decided that while it was prepared to reserve a quantity of wheat for twelve months it would not contract at a price beyond three months forward shipments.
What would have happened if the Government had not overridden the board but. had accepted its advice? The present: world price, based on Chicago and Winnipeg quotations, is about 15s 7d. a bushel f.o.b. Australian ports. Therefore, for the third quarter of this year, the price payable for shipments to the United Kingdom, according to the board’s proposals, would have been much less than the price of 17s. a bushel provided in the contract. The summary continues -
The board’s London Committed expressed the view that only by the use of British tonnage could the major portion of Australia’s surplus w heat be lifted. It said also that it would probably be necessary to use British tonnage to lift supplies for India.
The board said in reply that this view on shipping was only partly correct.It had received strong inquiries for wheat for European and various other countries.
In view of the expected arrival of an Indian delegation seeking wheat supplies the board decided to advise London that definite advice fromthe United Kingdom by 30th October would be appreciated.
On the 30th October, the general manager of the board submitted the following notes for my information about decisions made on the 24th October : -
Wheat Price. - The board raised its price to 19s.6d. per bushel bulk basis f.o.b. as from 24th October, 1947. This was for the purpose of keeping in line with Canadian and United States prices.
Export Commitments. - We have reserved 75,000,000 bushels (wheat and flour combined) for United Kingdom and other areas supplied by the United Kingdom Ministry of Food. This is in conformity with the Government’s decision.
In accordance with the board’s policy, we propose to make contracts in advance for each quarter’s shipments.
For the first quarter, we have offered to the Ministry of Food the following: -
1 ) Offered to United Kingdom Ministry of Food- 250,000 tons of wheat (9,500,000’ bushels) shipment to United Kingdom, December -February at 17s.6d. per bushel bulk basis f.o.b. 200,000 tons of flour (10,500.000 bushels wheat equivalent) based upon that wheat price if shipped’ to United Kingdom and upon 18s.6d. if shipped elsewhere.
Note. - Our general price was 18s. 6d. per bushel when the offer was made, and as you know, we allow a discount of1s. per bushel for shipments to United Kingdom to cover freight margins. 35,000 tons of wheat (1,250,000 bushels) to Eire, shipment DecemberFebruary on the basis of 18s.6d. per bushel bulk. (Neither of those offers has yet been accepted by the Ministry).
On the 1st November, the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom sent to the Government the following cablegram containing the views of the British Minister for Food, Mr. Strachey : -
At your Government’s suggestion my officials have been discussing the purchasing and handling of this grain with representatives of the Australian Wheat Board and have already chartered a further amount of shipping to lift the earliest cargoes and are trying to work out a freight programme to fit in with probable movement of the grain to the Australian seaboard. It is difficult for them however to make much further progress been use of the unexpected termsof the contract put forward by the board . The board’s proposal is that whilst prepared to reserve this total quantity for us they are willing to sell only one-fourth of this amount at a price of 1 12s. a quarter (14s. 6d. a. bushel.) and that we must make a fresh purchase for a like quantity every three months. . . . This, my officials feel, and I am hound to say that I fully share their view, is an unreasonable proposal and will make it impossible for us to arrange ahead the various substantial and intricate shipping programmes involved, besides placing in some doubt the continuity of supplies on which our rationing system depends. I am sure you will appreciate that this is a very real point of difficulty but 1 believe that although our views have been put to the wheat board by their London representative they are not convinced of the necessity to depart from this feature of their proposals. . . .
Mr. Strachey then asked for the Australian Government’s assistance in the negotiations. He said
I had hoped that some reconciliation of these opposing views in price would have been possible in the recent discussions between the representatives, but the board have been given no authority to modify the proposals they have conveyed to us, and a situation very near to deadlock has developed. Jt is this aspect of the negotiations which gives me most concern, and on which I should be grateful to have your assistance and that of the Government. It seems tome that it would be very much against the interests of both countries if the discussions on price were to be unduly prolonged and if it were to he suggested publicly either that my officials were sticking on an unduly low offer or that the wheat board were seeking a price which was unreasonably high. Our aim surely must be to find elbowroom for both parties.
The deal, however, covers a very large quantity of grain to be taken up over a period of twelve months, for which Chicago future prices may be more relevant, and involves questions of “shipping of some magnitude beyond the capacity of most buyers to solve. On such commercial grounds as these, I think a price of something less than 14s.6d. could be justified. Chicago prices cannot really be said to represent the true world value of wheat, or to hear any recognizable relationship to the costs of production,or the capacity of importing countries. Apart tram, the fact that the Chicago future price has already declined, it must be remembered that this price is in any case particularly influenced by the concentration on the United States of America of the heavy demand of European and other countries which are desperately anxious’ to secure wheat on a short haul at almost any price. The Chicago market is also affected by the pessimistic outlook for the new United States of America maize crop. Nor can I ignore the fact that the Canadian Government (on a four year contract, it is true, but taking a balanced view on the advantages for the Canadian economy) accepted $1.55 a bushel for the first two years and $2.00 for the third year of their contract with us. . . .
In a cable sent by the Australian Prime Minister to the High Commissioner in
London, on the 6th November - No. 353 - this was said -
Ministers have discussed views of the Min ister of Food. It was clear that to meet the ideas of the Ministry of Food regarding price, it would be necessary to arrive at ratesubstantially lower than those chargedto other countries’, and this would involve difficulties with growers and their organizations. There was also the problem that a country such as India would question prices which were substantially higher than those required of United Kingdom.
And rightly so, too! The message continued -
It was felt, however, thatsome reduction on board prices could be justified, in the light of the quantities taken, and the responsibility for such a large block of shipping which United Kingdom would assume, and it was decidedto propose16s.6d. Australian currency f.o.b. for United Kingdom and17s.6d. for delivery elsewhere. The Wheat Board explains that when it made the offer to the Ministry of 17s.6d. and 18s. 6d., its price was then 18s.6d. subsequently United States of America prices rose, and the board increased its price to 19s.6d. The fall in the United States of America prices which subsequently took place, and which is noted in the Minister’s letter, would bring the board’s basic price no lower than the 18s.6d. upon which it based its original offer to Ministry.
I shall summarize details of discussion at the Australian Wheat Board meeting on 6th and 7th November.
Honorable members interjecting,
– For a long timeI have been putting up with the lies, misstatements, and dirty, filthy innuendoes made by people who knew they were not speaking the truth, and I am now going to extend myself in revealing the whole facts of the matter.
– But these, are not your views ! [Extension of time granted.]
– I sat up until 4 a.m. on Sunday preparing this speech, so as to make it as distasteful as possible to the “ belly-achers “ of the Opposition -
Minutes of the executive of the board on the above date6th and 7th November) state that, no finality had been reached regarding the United Kingdom sale.
The general manager of the Wheat Board reported having had several discussions with the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture on the United Kingdom negotiations. A letter from the Secretary of the Department also indicated the United Kingdom Government’s anxiety for a twelve mouths contract as regards quantity and price. and further that the United Kingdom con- sidered the price for the first quarter’s shipments too high.
The general manager reported informing the Secretary of the Department that the Board considered in all circumstances that the price was reasonable.
Reference was made to the presence of the Indian delegation in Australia and that the Minister had requested that Australia should not be committed to more than 20,000,000 bushels for sale to India.
Later the board’s executive met the Indian delegation, and discussed the sale of 20,000,000 bushels at 19s6d. a bushel, bulk, f.o.b. The Minutes add that the Indian delegation proposed interviewing the Minister and then returning on November 13th to finalize details with the Board.
On the 19th November, the High Commissioner was advised that the price offered by the United Kingdom was not acceptable to Australia. That shows that the Australian Government was not trying to sell the Australian wheat-grower “ down the river “. The cable read -
After careful consideration of all factors, the Government regrets that it is unable to accept the Minister’s offer of 105s. 7d. sterling per quarter, and resubmits its original proposal of 16s.6d. per bushel for United Kingdom and 17s.6d. for other areas. . . .
It is our view that we must adhere to our original proposal of 16s.6d. and 17s.6d. per bushel and suggest that the Minister for Food make a firm offer to us on this basis. The matter is becoming urgent, as the Indian Mission is pressing us for decision on both quantities and prices, while we are delaying discussions with other countries pending completion of United Kingdom agreement.
You may inform the Minister for Food that we are prepared to give further consideration to the proposal regarding quantities, and will do our best to secure maximum quantities for the United Kingdom.
Our original proposal of 16s. 6d. and 17s.6d. per bushel envisaged a contract for twelve months and not three months as suggested by Wheat Board
In a cable dated the 25th October, 1947, the High Commissioner in London conveyed to the Prime Minister the text of a personal message from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as follows : -
I must approach you personally again about this wheat contract which is under discussion. This’ matter was so important to us that the Prime Minister decided on their message to you of the 3rd November and arising out of other discussions which have taken place with the Australian Government through the High Commissioner and Trade Commissioner in London a lengthy letter was forwarded by the Food Minister. The agreement that the contract shall be for twelve months instead of three months is most helpful and
I am glad of this decision. At this stage the basic quantity of 80,000.000 bushels has not been resolved but I know you are giving this serious consideration. But really I hope that our figure will be finally accepted but my chief concern for telegraphing direct to you is on the question of price for it is troubling me more than I can say. Your latest advice indicates a willingness to let us have the wheat for the United Kingdom at 105s. 7d. sterling a quarter (16s.6d. a bushel Australian) but you feel that a price of 112s. sterling a quarter (17s.6d.) for the other areas for which we procure must be paid. This creates a ‘ very great difficulty in principle to us in the United Kingdom for we will then be accepting a departure from all previous practice and will be called upon to charge our colonies for whom we procure a higher price than we ourselves are paying. This will unfortunately create a situation wholly inconsistent with our position as trustees for their peoples and we will be charged with the accusation that we were getting our wheat at a lower price at their expense.
hope you will agree that it has been both for the convenience of Australia and of the other areas concerned that we should procure on their behalf. But I feel I cannot publicly defend a contract made by the United Kingdom Government on behalf of the colonies which made the smaller economy of these colonies pay more than we ourselves are paying. It may be also claimed and I do not think it is your wish that Australia was demanding more for supplies to the colonies than to Great Britain. May I suggest strongly that the principle is that the price of 105s. 7d. f.o.b. (16s.6d. Australian) which we cannot but feel is a high price especially when compared to the recently fixed price with Canada should apply to all the wheat for which we contract. We for our part would be prepared to redistribute the cost of transport to the various destinations in such a way as to ensure that the same c.i.f price applied all round.
Keeping in mind all the factors may I request you to reconsider this important aspect of the proposed contract, for help in this matter not only enables us to maintain a long established principle of policy but also will assist materially in our great task in maintaining the unity of purpose among the peoples of our colonies whose influence in many different parts of the world means so much in these changing times.
I shall be glad of your further advice. . . .
On the 28th November, the Prime Minister sent the following cable to the High Commissioner : -
Your 317 of 25th November - Wheat. We have given careful thought to the views expressed in the personal message from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and appreciate fully the points which he has mentioned particularly the difficulty which the principle of two prices will cause his Government.
We are not averse to an overall price for the total quantity but the price of 105s. 7d. sterling l.o.b. would in turn cause grave difficulties for the Government. We are prepared to amend it from the basis of 16s. 6d. and 17s. (id. per bushel to the overall price of 17s. per bushel approximately 108s. lOd. sterling f.o.b. per quarter, and would consider an offer from the Ministry on these lines.
The matter is becoming one of urgency for us for the reasons mentioned in my 362 arid we would therefore appreciate the receipt of early advice that the Ministry is prepared to make an offer for the purchase of 75,000,000 bushels. The views expressed by us previously in regard to quantities beyond 75,000,000 bushels still stand.
On the 2nd December, three months after I had first communicated with the Wheat Board the High Commissioner said that, after a discussion with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister for Food, the last-named had requested him to send the following message : -
The reaction of the Australian Wheat Board to this decision is revealed in correspondence, but I shall not weary honorable members by reading the letters in extenso. They express some displeasure, but any fair-minded person will agree that in the circumstances surrounding all those negotiations and decisions, the Government would not have been a government worthy of the name had it failed to intervene at that stage. It was indicated that the negotiations between the Australian Wheat Board and the United Kingdom Government had reached a stalemate, and the Australian Government which had accepted the responsibility of acquisition, stepped in and concluded the arrangement now known as the United Kingdom wheat contract.
– The Minister’s statement could apply to any commodity.
– The honorable member for Richmond should not attempt to “ square off “. I direct the attention ot those who question the right of the Government to intervene and superimpose itself over the Australian Wheat Board to the Nelungaloo case. Certain wheatgrowers, mainly at the instigation of Mr. H. K. Nock, proceeded against the Government and others, but not the Australian Wheat Board. Mr. Justice Williams dismissed the claim, and Nelungaloo Proprietary Limited appealed to the Full High Court. Last week, the Full High Court ruled in favour of the Government.
– I should noi be very proud of that decision, if I were the Minister. “ Mr. POLLARD. - I am not quarrelling with or disputing the High Court’s judgment. We are not arguing about the court’s decision. My point is that had the court ruled in favour of Nelungaloo Proprietary Limited, the Australian Government and not the Australian Wheat Board would have been called upon to foot the bill. Does the honorable member for Richmond and the honorable member for Indi contend that, in these circumstances, the Australian Wheat Board should have unlimited authority and not be subject to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Government?
While I am dealing with the charge of unlimited ministerial authority let me illustrate concisely, and, I hope, effectively, what humbugs members of the Opposition in this Parliament and their supporters outside it are. Within the last twelve months the Australian Country party-Liberal party government in Western Australia - an anti-Labour administration - introduced legislation for the purpose of having in readiness an organization to handle wheat, should the Australian Government not continue to acquire the Australian wheat crop. This legislation includes all sorts of restrictions, and vests unlimited authority in the State Minister for Agriculture. Before I read some of its provisions, I remind the House that this legislation was sponsored by members of the same political parties as those to which members of the Opposition in this Parliament belong. Yet they have criticized this Government for having exercised authority which any government with a sense of responsibility must exercise in certain circumstances. Section 27 of the Western Australian “Wheat Acquisition Act reads -
With the consent of the Minister, the Board may make or arrange for advances on account nf wheat delivered and any payment made on account of the wheat may be made at such lime or times and on such terms and conditIons and in such manner as the Board may think fit.
Mv. Hamilton. - Who elects the hoard?
– The wheat-growers elect the members of the board, but the Minister for Agriculture of the day sits over the hoard all the time. Section 37 provides -
Hie Minister may, with the consent of the [Treasurer of the State, arrange with a trading bank or other financial institution for the milking by such bank or institution of advances to the Board.
Section 17 states -
The Board may appoint any number of its members to be an Executive Committee and may delegate to that Committee such of its powers and functions as the Board, subject to any direction by the Minister, determines. . . .
Paragraph b of sub-section 4 of. section 7 reads -
For the purposes of the provision of this Vet delating to the election by growers of persons to be- appointed to the Board, the expression “grower” means a person whose inline is, with the approval of the Minister, included in the roll mentioned in the next succeeding section, . . . [f the Minister does not like a wheatgrower’s looks, colour, attitude or anything else associated with him, his name need not be placed on the rolls. Sub.section 2 of section 16 states -
The Board shall not put into operation any resolution of the Board when the member nominated by the Minister under Section 7, ~u.b-section (<Z) paragraph (o), subpara.graph (ii) of this Act notifies the Board that in his opinion to put the resolution into operation will be reasonably likely to result in . . .
That is a complete and effective ministerial veto, yet honorable members opposite pose as persons who do not believe in this principle. The anti-Labour Government -of Western Australia has incorporated in its legislation the kind nf control which the Australian Government, with a due sense of responsibility, operates for the protection of the Australian people. I go a little further. In 1947, when a Labour Government was still in office in Western Australia, it appointed a committee to inquire into wheat-growing and stabilization. The members of the committee were John Smith Teasdale - he is one of the most knowledgeable men in the Australian wheat industry and a respected member of the Australian Wheat Board - Stephen Bede Donovan, J ohn Sadler, and Richard Philip Roberts, of the Department of Agriculture. Mr. Donovan and Mr. Sadler were wheat-growers. Paragraph 53 of the report of the royal commission, which was signed by Mr. Teasdale and his colleagues, states -
In order to implement the foregoing your commissioners make- the following suggestions : - (.a) Constitution of tse Board.
Four representatives of the growers.
One representative of the Government.
The representative of the Government to have the right of temporary veto over any decision of the board, pending reference to the Minister - if in his opinion any proposed action of the board will jeopardize the security for any advances made to growers or if the board decides to charge the consumers in Australia a. price higher than world parity, or higher than such other price as may he determined by Parliament from time to time.
That effectively answers the humbug on this subject that has been uttered in recent months. With regard to ministerial control, I have vivid recollections of the actions of a government that pre.ceeded this one in regard to meat contracts with the United Kingdom. [Further extension of time granted.] Out of consideration for the House, I shall not relate that story, but I assure honorable gentlemen opposite that it. is not a very . palatable one from their point of view.
The honorable member for Indi said it. was difficult to understand why the Government committed itself to the International Wheat Agreement without permitting the Australian Wheat Board or the producing industries to express their opinions upon it. I have already demonstrated that, in view of the attitude of the members of the Australian Wheat Board, it was useless to consult them in reference to the agreement. There was nothing to prevent some members of the hoard., or the board in its corporate capacity, submitting an opinion to the Government or to me as Minister in charge of the appropriate department. The honorable member said that I have prevented the Australian Wheat Board from being allowed to know even the details of what was being discussed at Washington. That was only natural. Then he referred to Mr. Tadman as an official out of the London selling broker’s office and as being merely an officer to advise Mr. McCarthy. The fact is that the Australian Wheat Board thought sufficiently highly of Mr. Tadman, its London representative, to put him in charge of the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the Australian Wheat Board for the sale of wheat. The Board knew that an agreement was under discussion. It had ample opportunity of its own volition to express an opinion, if it so desired. I emphasize the statements that I have already made about the attitude of the board on the United Kingdom agreement, which was that there should be no contract except on a quarterly price basis and no floor price. That point of view in itself excludes the board from forming a constructive opinion on the International Wheat Agreement. As far as producing interests are concerned, at the request of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, I met the federation’s executive officers in Canberra on the 27th April, 1948, when Mr. McCarthy explained every detail of the agreement and answered all questions. Although the Australian Ambassador formally signed the agreement in Washington, that did not commit the Australian Government to it any more than the signing at that stage on behalf of all other participating governments, including that of the United States of America, committed their countries. This Government by executive act - and the Washington signature was not that - could ratify the agreement, but it has not done so, and the agreement has not and will not be ratified until the Parliament approves of it. The lapse of time between the Government’s announcement of the conclusion of an agreement between the three exporting and 33 importing countries and the date on which the Parliament will pass this bill will be over two months.
Surely neither the honorable member for Indi nor any other honorable member will contend that that does not provide ample time for the growers and., others to examine the details of the proposals and to indicate their hostility to them if they wish to do so.
– They have done that.
– They have not. Notwithstanding the consultation on the 27th April, there has not been any move from the Australian Wheat Growers Federation to request the Government to desist from this parliamentary action to ratify the agreement. It should be emphasized that the Canadian Government has ratified the agreement by executive action and will not submit a bill to the Canadian Parliament, and that the United State? of America is taking similar action to that taken by the Australian Government. All attempts to link this question with party politics must fall to the ground, because Canada has a Liberal government and the Government of the .United States of America is certainly not a Labour government. As far as excluding the Australian Wheat Board from knowledge of details is concerned, 1 have only to refer honorable members again to the position taken up in regard to my request for advice on a five-year contract with the United Kingdom. Mr. Teasdale, Mr. Armstrong and the board adhered to the principle- of a’ quarterly basis and no floor price, and those two gentlemen referred to the end of their job this year. They said they had no right to advise, and consequently an impasse was reached.
The honorable member for Indi and other honorable members raised the objection that there is no penalty for nonperformance, but they offered no constructive suggestions as to how the Government of this country or of any other participating country could inflict penalties for non-observance of the agreement.
– What is the value of the agreement then?
– What was the value of the agreement that was negotiated by an anti-Labour Government in 1935, which also contained no penalties for nonobservance ? Honorable members opposite carefully skated round the fact that the
International “Wheat Agreement of 1933 - a bill to implement which was introduced by Sir Frederick Stewart - likewise contained no penalty for non-performance. That did not deter the Lyons Government from ratifying it. “What practical enforcement measures could be imposed? ls it suggested, for instance, that the Australian Government, either individually, or in co-operation with other parties to the agreement, could take military, naval or aerial action against a defaulting nation? Is it contended that if a defaulting nation has assets- in Australia, those assets should be frozen as a means of enforcing compliance with the terms of the agreement, or that economic sanctions of any kind could be imposed? If these suggestions were practicable, it is quite obvious that there could have been no agreement. This agreement, like many others, whether they be individual, national or international, depends upon the good faith of the participating countries, all of which regard as important the respect in which they are held by other nations. If the Australian Government ratifies this agreement, following a debate in this Parliament, it will honour it, and will expect other contracting parties to do likewise.
Reference was made to the importance of protecting the Australian flour-milling industry. The honorable member for Indi quoted an extract from an American trade journal expressing the alarm of American millers at the possible repercussions on their trade of implementation of the International Wheat Agreement. If the American flour trade is. alarmed, it would appear that no disadvantage is likely to be suffered by the Australian flour-milling trade. If the American flour-milling trade faces ruin, the ruin visualized would be as a result of a loss of export trade in flour, and such a loss to the United States would obviously react to the advantage of the Canadian and Australian flour trade. As a matter of fact, the Australian flour trade will not be disturbed in the slightest degree, because, even without the agreement, Ceylon, J ava, Malaya and other countries will want flour that Australia can sell to them. Under the agreement, this position will remain precisely the same. These countries either have no mills at all or insufficient mills. They must have flour, and we have it to sell to them. Prices for flour will be based on export prices for wheat, as they always have been, and therefore there will be no change. .
The honorable member for Indi continued to indulge in subtle propaganda when he spoke of the harmful effects which the agreement might have upon the poultry, pig, dairying and sheep industries. He deplored the insistence of the Government upon the sale of wheat to those industries at concessional rates. I and my colleagues when in Opposition in this House continually urged the provision of wheat for poultry and stock feed, but previous governments resisted our pressure. However, during the war period when ample wheat was available this Government implemented that policy and one result of it is that the poultry industry is now enjoying a greater, measure of prosperity than it has ever experienced in the past, whilst, at the same time, the Australian Wheat Board has been able to pay no less a sum than £12,000,000 to growers in respect of wheat supplied at concessional prices to those industries. At present, the board is required to sell wheat for stock feed at the figure accepted by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation as the actual cost of production of wheat in this country. The honorable member for Indi spoke a lot of “ hooey “ when he tried to play upon the fears of those industries. Had it not been for this Government’s concessional poultry feed price policy and its insistence upon: wheat being supplied to poultry-farmers at a price in line with the cost of production accepted by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, the poultry industry would not have reached its present magnitude.
The honorable member for Indi claimed that the Government had gained the support of primary producers on its promise that it would put the affairs of every primary producing industry in charge of a board of which the majority of members would be elected by the producers themselves; and he described that promise a* a confidence trick. lt must i>,- realized first, that on most boards appointed by previous government* to deal with primary production, the producers di<? not have majority representation secondly, that members of those boards were elected by primary producers only in rare instances; and, thirdly, that all of those boards were subject to ministerial control. This Government has at least made provision for majority representation of primary producers on commodity boards on an elective basis. The only exception I can call to mind is the Australian Wool Board on which the producers’ representatives are nominated by primary producers’ organizations.
The honorable member for Indi had much to say about price equivalents under the agreement. Obviously, he is confused with respect to the Australian equivalents. He mentioned India in this respect. The position is that before the war marketing machinery was such that Australia sold all of its wheat and flour, whether to the United Kingdom, India, Java or any other country, at world prices. They were European landed prices, less costs, and there was one f.o.b. price for all. In earlier negotiations with respect to equivalents, importing countries sought to preserve that system, the United Kingdom being particularly insistent upon it with regard to its. purchases for Malaya and Ceylon. Australia contested that position and, ultimately, a formula was evolved on the basis that where we may be in competition with Canada, as in deliveries to the United Kingdom, we sell at landed competitive prices, and where we are not in competition we sell at the Canadian f.o.b. price, a straight conversion into Australian currency without quality discounts or any other consideration. The difference between the old and the new methods varies according to freight. The procedure suggested by the honorable member for Indi would not have been acceptable to the United Kingdom when buying for Ceylon, Malaya and Hongkong, or to India, because Canada never sells in those markets except in an emergency. If we had insisted upon the procedure suggested by the honorable member it would have been impossible to reach, any agreement at all.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made much of his claim that the Australian Wheat Board had not been consulted in the course of the negotiations. He said that we carried through the United Kingdom contract
J/r. Pollard. without reference to the board and he described the Government’s procedure as the most glaring authoritarian act that one could imagine. Does the honorable member now withdraw that statement?
– No ; the Minister’s remarks confirm my opinion in that respect.
– To those honorable members who say that we should not have entered into the agreement because it does not contain any provision to guarantee enforcement, I again point out that such a provision has not been included in any previous agreement of this type, because it is impracticable to enforce such measures. Those who postulate the unworkability of an international agreement which does not contain enforcement provisions ignore the lesson.1: of the past. Several agreements lacking such a provision have been notably successful. I refer to the International Postal Union agreement and agreements made through the International Labour Office, as well as the International Food Council Agreement which met with outstanding success during the war. Every country associated with the Allied cause was a party to that agreement, and it honoured its obligations. That agreement is still operating although on a diminishing scale. Just as agreements of that sort succeeded, this agreement also can succeed.
Finally, the opposition to this measure advanced by honorable members opposite, with the solitary exception of that expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), has not crystalized into a determination on the part of either of the Opposition parties to vote against this agreement. Neither of those parties is game to call for a division on it. Honorable members opposite are. merely endeavouring by their ignorant criticism to shake the faith of those who believe in the wisdom of the agreement. Taking a long range view, honorable members opposite hope to bring about a position in which, eventually, they will throw the wheat of Australia hack to the dealers, merchants, and speculators, just as the Hughes Government did in 1919 : and the trade remained with them until the outbreak of the war in 1939.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
– I listened with interest to the speeches of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). As both of those Ministers are so confident that the wheat-growers of Australia will approve the agreement, I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “ but this act shall not he submitted for the Royal Assent until it has been approved by a majority of the registered wheat-growers of Australia at a ballot of wheat-growers held for that purpose “.
In order to honour this agreement the Australian Government will be obliged to acquire all wheat produced in this country. However, the Constitution provides that the Government can acquire property only on just terms; and it is questionable whether, under the agreement, the growers will be justly compensated for the wheat acquired by the Government. I do not intend to discuss the legal aspects of the problem. I move my amendment because I, believe that tie best approach the Government can make in the matter is to ask the wheat-growers, who are the real owners of the wheat, whether they are prepared to accept the agreement. As the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has stated that he is convinced that they will approve the agreement I have no doubt that the Government will accept my amendment.
Mr.TURNBULL (Wimmera) [9.30]. -It was my intention to suggest an amendment such as that now proposed by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride). It is essential that the wheat-growers of this country should have an opportunity to express their opinion on this vital measure. Much has been said by Government supporters about the wheat-growers having been consulted, but it is common knowledge that the growers throughout Australia have not been asked whether or not they approve of this International Wheat Agreement. What is really happening is that the Government is taking control of the industry from the growers, find handing it over to other countries, because, of the 1,000 votes to be exercised by the exporting countries, Canada is to have 490, the United States of America 350, and Australia 160. This means that little heed will be paid to Australia’s views when maximum and minimum prices are being fixed. The Government is taking control of the wheat industry from the growers, and being unable to exercise control itself, it is handing it over to dollar area countries, which obviously is not in the best interests of Australia in general, or of the Australian wheat-growers in particular.
On numerous occasions honorable members opposite, particularly the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) have said that the wheatgrower is not the only one to be considered. They admit that the wheat-grower is being called upon to make a sacrifice for the people of Australia generally; but surely the wheat-grower has made enough sacrifices. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out, the wheat industry has been subsidizing other primary industries by providing cheap feed for stock.
I support the amendment with pleasure and enthusiasm. It is only right that the people who grow wheat should have an opportunity to express their opinion on the Government’s proposals. No government has the right to ride rough-shod over any section of the community as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is doing now by forcing this agreement upon the wheat-growers. If the Government refuses to accept the amendment, it will be assuming the powers of a dictatorship in a so-called democratic country.
– The amendment is not acceptable to the Government. If this agreement is to operate, it must be ratified before the 1st July, and, regardless of the merits of poll of wheat-growers, there is not time to take such a ballot before that date.
.- What the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) wants to tell the wheat-growers of Australia is that this agreement is to be saddled on them whether they like it or not, and that no matter how much the surcingle may pinch, he intends to tighten it. The wheatgrower is to be made carry, not only the 3addle, but also the Minister sitting in the saddle and the International “Wheat Council as well. When the wheat stabilization plan was passed by this Parliament in 1946, not only the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture - then a private member - but also Ministers and other private members supporting them, gave the most unqualified and unequivocable assurance that the plan had the support of the wheat-growers of Australia. But what happened ? The plan was to be implemented by the passage of complementary legislation by the States, but, only one State - South Australia - passed that legislation.
– Two States passed legislation.
– What was the other State?
– Only one wheat-growing State passed it, and its proclamation was conditional upon the plan being accepted at a poll of the wheat-growers of that State. That poll was held and the plan was rejected. It would have been rejected by a much greater majority had the facts of the New Zealand wheat agreement been known early enough. Labour Ministers to-day, although they claim to be dyedinthewool democrats, are not prepared to trust the democracy which is the Australian wheat industry. They are not prepared to submit this agreement to the people who will have to carry it out. They do not care a ripe fig, or even one with fruit fly in it, whether the wheatgrowers like the agreement or not. They are determined to ratify it. These are the gentlemen who have told us for so long that they are the great servants of democracy and that they can survive politically only while the people of Australia are in agreement with the policy that they carry out. On occasions like this, we see them in an entirely different light. They are not concerned at all with the rights or the opinions of those who are to be affected by this legislation.
The Government is not prepared to submit these proposals. to a referendum of wheat-growers for the very reason that the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) gave when a referendum was suggested in connexion with the Government’s banking proposals. The honorable gentleman said that the Government would not be foolish enough to put to the country something that it knew would be defeated. It is a pity that the Government was not guided hy the same principle when it was considering the rents and prices referendum. I support the amendment “and I can assure the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that he will not have to shout for a division on it. The bells will ring.
.- -The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has made a lot of noise about the Government’s wheat stabilization plan. It is true that that plan was submitted to the South Australian wheat-growers and rejected, but the fact remains that growers’ organizations in every wheat-growing State favoured stabilization. When the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was passed by this Parliament, the Government gave a certain assurance to the wheat-growers’ organizations in regard to the cost of production of wheat. The plan then had to be approved by each State before if. could become operative. In South Australia, the proposal was submitted to a poll of wheat-growers and defeated by a narrow majority, only a small percentage of the growers voting. South Australia was the only State that took that action. To-night, members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were not “ game “ to back up the opinions that they have expressed upon this measure by dividing upon the motion for the second reading. They claim to be the elected representatives of the growers, but they had not the backbone to call for a division. Now they are asking the Government to submit the proposal to a poll of wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth so that’ vested interests may spend vast sums of money on propaganda aimed at defeating the plan. In almost every action taken by honorable members opposite relative t:o the wheat industry since the parties i.o which they belong have occupied the Opposition benches in this Parliament, there has been evidence of an endeavour to deliver the industry back into the hands of the merchants and private speculators. To-night, they were not prepared to divide upon the second reading of the bill. They want the Government to hold a poll of the growers so that the wheat merchants and their representatives may stump the country as they did when a poll was taken in South Australia on the wheat stabilization plan. On that occasion, the agents of such large organizations as Elder Smith and Company Limited and Dalgety and Company Limited were posted throughout the State to visit wheat-farms and disseminate propaganda aimed at securing the defeat of the proposal. But, even then, the -scheme was defeated by only a very narrow margin. To-night we have heard the humbugs and hypocrites of the Opposition saying, in effect, “ Let the wheat merchants do their damndest. We have ,1 nt the political backbone to vote against lie measure, but we hope that the power if money will secure its defeat.” I am confident that the Minister will not accept rite amendment and so will deprive the merchants and speculators of an opportunity to destroy the International Wheat Agreement.
.- The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) said that honorable members on this side of the House did not dare to try to defeat this measure by calling for a division on the motion for the second reading. Any one who is aware of the respective strength of the Government and the Opposition in this chamber, will realize how empty was the Minister’s gibe. The Minister knows quite well that, if a division had been called for, 38 regimented supporters of the Government from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the other cities - all advocates of the farmers’ interests, of course - would have trooped into the House to vote in obedience to the orders of caucus, so that the small number on this side of the House should be overwhelmed. Therefore, we did not waste the time of the House by making what would have been merely an empty gesture. We contend that the question should be decided by the wheat-growers themselves, the men who produce the wheat by their sweat and toil. They alone are entitled to say how their property should be disposed of. Replying to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that the agreement could not be submitted to a poll of wheatgrowers because it had to operate from the 1st July next. Although, by implication, he agreed that the growers ought to be consulted, he said that it would not be possible to do this and keep within the terms of the agreement. I have the agreement here, and it is evident that the Minister has not stated the position accurately. Paragraph 3 of article XX. of the agreement contains this passage -
With respect to governments which deposit their instruments of acceptance after 1st July, 194S. the agreement shall enter into force on the date of such deposit, provided that in no case shall articles I. to IX. inclusive be deemed to have entered into force before 1st August, 1948, as a result of such deposit.
Obviously, that means that the Government can, at any time after the 1st July, enter into the agreement and lodge a notification of acceptance subject to the general condition, that it would not be bound by certain obligations which would have operated had acceptance been lodged prior to the 1st July. However, the Government knows well that the agreement would be rejected if it dared to invite the opinion of the growers, the persons who have the greatest right to express an opinion. Since the Government has challenged us to a division on this issue, I inform the Minister that the honorable member for Wakefield and I, as well as others on this side of the House, will call for a division on this amendment, so that we may see just where members of the Labour party stand in regard to it.
.- The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) made the amazing statement that the poll of growers held in South Australia on the wheat stabilization scheme was lost because of the money power exerted by the wheat merchants.
That is the most insulting thing that has ever been said of the wheatgrowers by any Minister of State. Any one who believes that the wheat-growers know so little about their own business that they <-an be bought or bluffed by the expenditure of a few shillings by a city wheat merchant has a great deal to learn about the wheat-growers, however much he may know about the wheat industry. Since 1939, no wheat merchants have been operating in any State of the Commonwealth except as agents for the pool. Under regulations issued by the Government which preceded the present one, they were forbidden to trade in wheat.
– Their representatives were appointed to the Australian Wheat Board.
– Yes, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Appointed them. We were looking forward to the time when we should be able to return to normal conditions, but this Government is seeking to perpetuate conditions which ought to be regarded as any.thing but normal. I doubt whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Government of the United Kingdom will thank the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) for disclosing information which ought to be regarded «s top secret.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).L ask the honorable member to keep to i he point.
– Very serious observations were made-
– The honorable member must keep to the clause. He may not reply to a debate in another place.
– Then I *hall reply to it elsewhere. I remind the Minister for Works and Housing that legislation to implement the wheat stabilization scheme was not passed even in his own State, where there was a Labour Government. The stabilization scheme was put forward in May, 1946, and the Labour Government was not defeated until March, 1947. That Government, in company with the Cain Government in Victoria, the McGirr Government in New
South Wales, and the Hanlon Government in Queensland never had the enabling legislation passed. Now let the Minister “ buy in “ again, and try to excuse the Labour Government of Western Australia for having failed to put the legislation through - and he need not try to blame the Legislative Council, because it was not responsible.
– The honorable member must now get back to the clause.
– We are discussing an amendment to provide for the taking of a poll of growers. The Minister for Works and Housing made certain statements on the subject, and .1 am showing that in his own State of Western Australia the government failed to take a poll of growers.
– The honorable member is not entitled to go all around the world in order to show that.
– I I have not gone outside Australia yet.
– The honorable member can get pretty far astray even in Australia.
– The Government dares not submit this issue to a poll of growers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) knows that there would be no chance of the agreement being accepted by them. Were such a poll taken the Government would have to explain to the growers why they were being saddled with the agreement without their consent. Does the Government believe that the growers are not fit and proper persons to decide the issue? The very men who seek the amendment of the Constitution as this Government has done time after time are supposed to be fully qualified to express an opinion on the most intricate questions of law, but when the question is one of what the wheat-growers shall do with their own product the Minister for Works and Housing claims that by the expenditure of money a few Adelaide wheat-merchants can get the wheat on their own terms. I invite the Minister to accompany me to any part of my electorate and make that statement to the growers. He may choose the place and time, and I shall be with him, and we shall have a copy of the International Wheat Agreement. I made a similar offer to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), but up to date lie has not accepted it. He went to Pinnaroo without me. I now invite him to go there with me. I should not mind if the Minister for “Works and Housing accompanied us. I assure him although the citrus industry is not established There: he will get all the “lemons”- he wants.
– My response to the invitation of the honorable member to visit his electorate is that I have never liked his company, and I certainly would not put up with it in order to oblige him; but, should he visit my electorate, I should he pleased to debate with kim the subject of wheat or any other subject he might care to suggest.
– O - Order ! The Minister having said that, I suggest that he return to the clause.
– T - The honorable gentleman, on a visit to Western Australia, promised the Wheat-growers that when he returned to Canberra he would make provision to guarantee them 10s. a bag.
– And I put that through a Premiers conference.
– That is as far as the honorable gentleman went. We never received the 10s. a bag. As a matter of fact, the honorable member was a member of a government which offered us about ls. lOd. or 2s. a bushel.
– It did not.
– Order ! The Minister is getting away from the subjectmatter of the debate.
– The honorable member talked about a. poll of the growers and the failure of .the Government of Western Australia to pass a bill dealing with stabilization. That reveals his limited knowledge of the matter, because the Government of Western Australia did pass such a bill.
– I rise to order. In my view, the Minister is moving right away from the amendment. I ask the Chair to say whether Opposition members will be permitted to cover the same ground.
– The Chair will rule whether or not an honorable member i3 in order. The matter before the committee is the clause and the proposed amendment thereto.
– The amendment refers to a poll of the growers. Legislation passed by the Government of Western Australia included provision for a poll of growers. It was not embodied in the measure introduced in and passed by the Legislative Assembly. That measure could not become law, because of objections raised by the Legislative Council, until it included a provision for a poll of growers. Because complementary legislation was defeated in South Australia nothing was to be gained by proclaiming it or putting it into operation. Without the agreement of all the States the poll could not become operative. The honorable gentleman talked about there being no merchants operating who could, hecause of their financial strength, influence. growers in the matter of polls. The fact is that in all the wheat-growing States, all the wheat merchants are operating to-day as agents for the Australian Wheat Board. Furthermore, in Western Australia the position is somewhat, different, for the reason that 9S per cent, of the wheat produced is controlled by bulk handling, which is operated by one company. Throughout the war, the wheat merchants continued the practice of having registered offices and agents at all wheat sidings. Doubtless, they hope that the Commonwealth wheat pool system will suffer disintegration and they will again be able to go into the market as speculators. The honorable member for Barker has shown how little he know? about the physical handling of the wheal crop in Australia from 1939 to the present time.
– I support the amendment of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), because there is a. need for the growers to have a voice in the sale and distribution of their own product and in any contracts that may be made. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) earlier this evening said that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and other Opposition members had argued in favour of the grower? having s udi a voice, and accused them of having told a falsehood when they said that the growers. lacked it. The Minister ha3 deliberately misled the House, because our remarks were based on his own statement.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to say that the Minister deliberately misled the House. The phrase is unparliamentary, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it in deference to your ruling. Nevertheless, the arguments we have advanced in favour of growers having a voice were based on the Minister’s own statement in reply to a question by the honorable member for Indi, who asked -
Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say when it is intended that honorable members of this Parliament will have an opportunity to peruse the International Wheat Agreement in detail? Did the Australian Wheat Board have before it the full text of the document or was it given an opportunity of tendering to the Government any advice it wished to tender before a decision was reached that Australia should become a party to the International Wheat Agreement?
The Minister said that he intended to move later that day that he be given leave to introduce a measure to ratify that agreement, and added, “I shall probably bring down the bill. This is in the schedule to the bill “.
– Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause.
– I am proceeding to do that.
– The honorable member will have to do so immediately. He has been transgressing for too long already.
– I did not want to misquote or half quote the Minister.
– I do not know that the honorable member is entitled to quote remarks by the Minister which are not relevant to the matter before the chair.
– They relate to the subject of the amendment, which proposes that the growers shall have a voice in the disposal of their product. According to the Minister’s statement, the growers have been consulted through the
Australian Wheat Board, on which they are represented. When the honorable member for Indi interjected, “ Did the Australian Wheat Board have the agreement “, the Minister replied, “ No “. Surely, then, we cannot be accused of uttering falsehoods when we base our statements on the Minister’s own statement! The purpose of the amendment is to have the matter submitted to the growers. In Queensland, where a similar provision has been operating successfully, there is the same ministerial directive a? the Minister claims is embodied in the Western Australian legislation. But I remind the Minister that it is not applied automatically. Under the Queensland legislation, the growers have the right to demand a poll on the matter of the continuation of the term of office of the board and other such vital matters, if 10 per cent, of their number asks for one to be taken. It is available for automatic application should that be sought by the growers. Because the Minister here exercises the right to dominate the industry, he makes the charge that we have m> right to say that the Australian Wheat Board was not consulted, although hp himself said in this House that the agreement had not been submitted to the board, and the only member of the board who could be classed as a representative of the growers was a clerk out of the London office of the board.
– The honorable member is confusing two entirely different matters - one the contract with the United Kingdom and the other the International Wheat Agreement.
– I am dealing with the International Wheat Agreement. The honorable gentleman characterized as a falsehood the statement of the honorable member for Indi, that the International Wheat Agreement had not been referred to the Australian Wheat Board. What was said about this aspect of the agreement by the honorable member for Indi was perfectly true. The Minister cannot evade the issue by making such accusations against the veracity of an honorable member who is ill and unable to be present to defend himself. He should be prepared to accept the amendment and consult the growers on this matter.
– It is not surprising that the Government will not accept the amendment. It was never intended that the wheatgrowers should have a chance to express their opinion about this agreement.
– Quite right!
– The honorable member’s interjection proves conclusively what this Government thinks about the wheat-growers. The actions of the Government brand it as a dictator determined not, to give the wheat-growers a chance to express their views as to the disposal of the product of their labours. The- Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that if wheatgrowers were asked whether they would like to have very high prices, or good even prices, would they favour the latter. Certainly they would do so. But that does not entitle the honorable gentleman to assume that they favour this agreement. His speech consisted solely of apologies for the agreement and left us even more convinced that the growers are disgusted with it. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) devoted threequarters of an hour to telling us that he had written to the Australian Wheat Hoard in regard to the contracts with India and the United Kingdom and that, its the board had not answered his letters he did not. think it necessary to consult the board in respect of the International Wheat Agreement. That was the case submitted by the honorable gentleman in answer to criticism that he had not consulted the board.
– It was nothing of the sort.
– The Minister spoke about the agreement with India and the United Kingdom.
– The honorable member if as blind to the facts as is his friend the honorable member for Maranoa.
– In submitting a specious case, the honorable gentleman endeavoured to prepare the ground for justification of his refusal to discuss the agreement with the board.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The men to whom the Government should look for guidance in this matter are the president of the Australian Wheat Growers
Federation, Mr. George Evans, ami its secretary, Mr. Stott, both of whom came to Canberra to discuss thiagreement with the Minister about two months ago. After their interview with the honorable gentleman they issued « joint statement to the press - I was so interested in it that I learned it by heart - in which they said -
The International Wheat Agreement will h<ratified whether the growers like it or not.
That has been the position from the beginning of these negotiations. Is it any wonder, then, that the Government cannot accept the amendment ? The wheatgrowers are to be made a chopping block for this Government. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), clearly showed that he thought the wheatgrowers should make some contribution to the Consolidated Revenue as he stated that they had already received assistance from the Commonwealth amounting to approximately £40,000.000. That estimate may be right or it may be wrong - it is probably wrong - but even if the wheat-grower? had been granted assistance to that amount, they have contributed at least 50 times as much to the welfare of thi.country, and accordingly they should be given a chance to voice their opinion as to this agreement. The honorable member for- Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) spoke of the hardships endured by the wheatgrowers down the years. I notice that honorable members opposite are laughing.
Mr. James interjecting.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) would not like this sort of thing to be done to the coal industry.
– Order ! The honorable member is inviting interjections. I ask him to confine his remarks to the clause before the committee.
– I am dealing with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) and am endeavouring to prevail upon the Government to give to the wheat-grower?, even at this late stage, an opportunity to express their opinion in relation to the agreement. There is not the slightest doubt that, if they were given the opportunity to do so, they would reject it.
They would say “ No “, just as definitely as they did when certain proposals were recently put to them and to the people generally by way of referendum. The Government, however, will not give them that opportunity. They are not given the opportunity to take it or leave it - that would be bad enough - they have to take it in the words of Mr. Evans, “whether they like it or not “.
.- I regret that the Government will not accept the amendment. I am sure that upon reconsideration the Minister will admit that the reasons he gave for the rejection of the amendment have no foundation in fact. His contention that no opportunity exists for the holding of a poll of wheat-growers is entirely beside the point, for the agreement provides that the signatories may come into the scheme at any time. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) stated the real reason behind the Government’s rejection of this proposal when he made insulting remarks as to the capacity of the wheat-growers to express a considered view on this very important issue. The Government has not displayed any reluctance in the past in submitting to the people of this country, including the wheat-growers, many important questions affecting their welfare. When the Government’s proposals have been rejected, Government spokesmen have invariably said that the issues were decided not on their merits but as the result of undue influence or the incapacity of the electors correctly to assess the true position. We recently had an exhibition of petulance on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) following the publication of the results of the referendum on rents and prices.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– It has been suggested that a poll should not be taken because the wheat-growers are not competent to express an opinion on the merits of the agreement. The Government is afraid to consult them on the matter fearing that they would reject it. Those who expend their time, labour and money in the production of wheat, know something about wheat and have very definite ideas as to what should be done with the product of their labours. They should be given an opportunity to express their views regarding the merits or demerits of the proposed agreement without having their commodity sold willy nilly by the Government. I hope that the Government will agree to review the matter even at this late stage and accept the amendment.
– I rise to speak because the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who led the debate on this measure for the Australian Country party, is not here to-night, owing to illness, and I consider that he has been misrepresented and maligned by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) with respect to statements which he is supposed to have made about the right of the growers to be consulted about the proposed agreement. The Minister said that the honorable member had deliberately misled the House by stating that the growers’ representatives had not been consulted about the agreement when, in fact, he knew that they had been consulted.
– That is right.
– I take the opportunity to quote the statements made by the honorable member for Indi on this matter. They are relevant to the subject before the committee.
– Order ! I think the honorable member is referring to the second-reading debate, not to discussions of the committee. He is entitled to refer only to the clause before the committee and the proposed amendment.
– I am referring to the clause and to a matter which irrelevant to it.
– That matter is quite irrelevant to the subject before the committee.
– I quote certain statements made by the honorable member for Indi without specifying where they were made. The honorable member said -
I asked the Minister for Commerce in u question without notice, whether the Wheal Board had been consulted before thi: Govern ment decided to engage in this agreement. The Minister replied that the Board had not been consulted but that he would have been interested to learn the opinion of the board on the agreement, and then admitted that lie bad not put the board in possession of a copy of the agreement.
That refers to statements made by the Minister in this chamber at question time.
– I rise to order. If the honorable member is going to misrepresent what I said, I claim the right to reply. This is entirely irrelevant to the (da use with which the committee is dealing.
-Order ! The Minister is entitled to reply to any statements that are made. However, I conaider that the discussion is a little wide of the subject before the committee. The clause under consideration deals with the date of operation of this legislation, and an amendment has been proposed providing that a poll of growers shall be taken before the measure is put into operation. [ ask honorable members to confine their remarks to those two matters.
– I respect your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and shall not pursue the subject, other than to say that the Minister has made certain statements in this chamber. He has not been misrepresented. He used plain, common language that everybody can understand, and his statements are on record. The Minister has gone to great lengths in the course of his speeches-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. McBride). It is designed to give the wheat-growers the right to declare whether they approve of the proposed International Wheat Agreement, which has been signed by the representative of this Government at Washington and is now before the Parliament for ratification. As the .honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has pointed out, the agreement will be ratified whether the growers approve of it or not. I have never before known a Minister, who claims to represent primary producers in this Parliament, insult them as the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) did to-night. He said that the Opposition wanted to submit this agreement to a vote of the growers in order that vested interests might once again secure control of the marketing of wheat. In effect, he said that the wheat-growers of Australia are so stupid as to be incapable of making their own judgment about the international agreement and that they would be guided merely by the propaganda of agents. What the Minister did not tell the Parliament is that this Government, which is the very father of referendums, having referred more questions to the people in the course of its existence than had any other government in the previous history of Australia, is denying to the owners of the wheat the right to decide whether or not they will accept the proposed international agreement. The sooner the Government realizes that the farmers. are the true owners of their own products and that the Government i? merely the trustee of their interests, the better it will be for the producers and for Australia generally. The wheatfarmers have an absolute right to decide how their product shall be marketed. Therefore, the Government should conduct a poll so as to enable them to exercise that right. Whenever this Government has wanted to obtain additional powers under the Constitution, it has appealed to the people without the slightest hesitation. Yet it refuses point-blank to permit the wheat-growers, one of the most important primary-producing groups in Australia, to decide how their product shall be marketed ! I believe that the growers have never been consulted about the international agreement, either through their representatives in this Parliament or through the Australian Wheat Board. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in the very long speech which he made in this chamber to-night, told us a great deal about the contract which was arranged for the sale of Australian wheat to the United Kingdom and India, but he admitted that there was no arrangement-
– Order !
– I am pointing out that the Minister admitted -that there had been no conference between representatives of the Government and the growers, or the Australian Wheat Board, regarding the International Wheat Agreement. Consequently, I say that the growers should be given a chance to express their views by means of a poll.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. McBride’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. j. j.clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definition).
. -Clause 3 reads -
In this Act - “ the International Wheat Agreement “ means the agreement signed at Washington inthe United States of America on behalf of Australia and other countries a copy of which is set out in the Schedule to this Act.
I wish to know whether an agreement has been signed at Washington on behalf of Australia, because I understood, from what the Minister said, that it had not been signed. Perhaps the Minister would clarify the position and indicate if it is still competent for the House to determine whether that agreement shall proceed, or otherwise. I should also like to be informed, whether, under clause 3, it is not possible to utilize the provisions of Article XX., whereby it is not necessary for the agreement to be lodged at Washington by the 1st July.
– The honorable member is not entitled to discuss that matter.
– The International Wheat Agreement means the agreement signed at Washington in the United States of America, and I should like to know when can it become operative.
.-I move -
That the following definition be added to the clause: - “ guaranteed ju ices means the minimum prices mentioned in Article VI., paragraph ], as set out in the Schedule to this Act, and the payment of such minimum prices to the wheatgrowers of Australia is guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government during the currency of this Agreement “.
The effect of this amendment would be to put the wheat-grower in the only possible position in which the agreement could be of any use to him. if carried on. As it is, the wheat-grower is not protected against contingencies which may arise, and if the agreement should break down it would be too bad for him; he would get nothing. If the agreement does, in fact, mean what the Government has guaranteed it means - and is in fact worth what the Government says it is worth - then I contend that the only practicable way to express the intention of the Government is to insert the amendment I have suggested, defining “guaranteed prices” in clause 3. If this is done, the wheatgrowers of Australia will know that for a period of five years the lowest price they can get for any one of the crops grown in those five years, is the minimum price set out in the schedule. It will mean that for the crop being sown in 1948-49 the grower must get 1.50 dollars; for the 1949-50 crop. 1.40 dollars; for the 1950-51 crop, 1.30 dollars; for the 1951-52 crop, 1.20 dollars; and for the 1952-53 crop, 1.10 dollars.
It is not enough that the Minister claims that this is a wonderful agreement. [ say that it is not. I challenge the Minister, on his own grounds, that if the Government is sincere, this guarantee can be given without causing any worry; if the Ministeris not prepared to give such a guarantee, I say that he is speaking in the most eloquent way possible to the Australian wheat-growers, but that the Government has no faith in the document.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). If the Government is really behind this scheme, it will have no hesitation in accepting the amendment. On the other hand, if the Government does not accept the amendment, there is absolutely no guarantee whatever of the prices suggested during this debate being, available to the wheat-growers. As honorable members are aware, Russia and Argentina are outside the agreement. Should prices fall, the Australian wheat-growers will not get the prices mentioned in the agreement, and will stand to lose £12,000,000 immediately, from sales to Great Britain. I ask that the Minister reply on this aspect immediately, and inform the House clearly of the Government’s intentions regarding the guaranteed price to the wheat-growers. Of the 33 importing countries there may be some which will not stand up to the agreement.
– Order ! Will the honorable member resume his seat? The Chair has had an opportunity to examine the amendment, and has decided that it is not relevant to the clause under consideration. It is questionable whether it is based on a proper interpretation of the agreement. Therefore,I rule the amendment out, of order.
– I take objection to your ruling, sir, and, in conformity with the Standing Orders, I shall submit my objection in writing.
The honorable member for Barker having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling,
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron ) put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4. (Approval of acceptance.)
Clause agreed to.
– In view of the fact that there is an obvious misunderstanding in con’nexion with the submission of this clause. I move - by leave -
That clause 4 be reconsidered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 4 (Reconsideration).
– I desire to know when I may move the insertion of a new clause.
– Clause 4 is before the committee at the present time. Th<? honorable member may move the insertion of a new clause before the schedule is considered.
– Clause 4 states -
Approval is given to acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement in accordance with Article XX. of that Agreement
I wish to know whether it is in order to discuss matters in relation to Article XX.
– The clause is quite clear. It deals with the giving of approval to the acceptance of the agreement by Australia. Any remarks which are relevant to that matter will be allowed by the Chair.
– Article XX. provides that the agreement shall become operative if certain conditions are fulfilled. The Minister stated earlier that acceptance had to be notified by the 1st July next. Article XX. can, I suppose, be interpreted in many ways. Although I do not pose as an authority on its interpretation, it appears to me that it provides for the grant of an extension of time to parties to the agreement whose instruments of acceptance are not deposited by the 1st July. The article reads -
Articles X. to XXII. inclusive of this agreement shall come into force on July 1.. 1948, and Articles I. to IX. shall come into force on August 1, 1948 . . .
Articles I. to IX. deal with the objectives of the agreement, the rights and obligations of importing and exporting countries, the names of those countries, reports to the council, enforcement of rights, adjustment of obligations and a number of incidental matters. Article XX. continues - . . . between the governments which have deposited their instruments of acceptance by July 1, 1948, provided that any such government may, at the opening of the first session of the International Wheat Council, established by Article XI. of this agreement, which session should be convened in Washington early in July 1948 by the Government of the United States of America, effect its withdrawal by notification to the Government of the United States of America if in the opinion of any such government the guaranteed purchases or guaranteed sales of the countries whose governments have formally accepted this agreement are insufficient to ensure its successful operation. 1 assume that that means that if there is not ratification by a sufficient number of governments, the whole agreement will fall to the ground. The next part of the article is the one in which I am particularly interested, because it would give Australia further time, if that is desired, to enable investigations to be made to ascertain the views of wheatgrowers and others. The article continues -
With respect to governments which deposit their instruments of acceptance after July I, 1948, the agreement should enter into force on the date of such deposit, provided that in no case shall Articles I. to IX., inclusive be deemed to have entered into force before August 1, 1948, as a result of such deposit. lt is only common sense that a country such as Australia which fails to deposit its instrument of acceptance by the 1st July should have an opportunity to do so later, and that is expressly provided for. I suggest that the Government should exhibit a little hesitation before depositing the Australian instrument of acceptance.
.- An important aspect of the problem that 1= raised by this clause is the position of the United States of America, which is one of the three exporting countries. The agreement provides that its export contribution is to be 185,000,000 bushels. The American position must be clarified if there is to be any stability in this arrangement. Under Article XX., the countries concerned must indicate acceptance by the 1st July of this year. So far as I am aware, the legislature of the United States of America has not yet. adopted this agreement, . and, presumably, as it is in the nature of a treaty it requires the sanction of the American Senate. Obviously, if the United States of America does not ratify the agreement, and bearing in mind that Russia and Argentina are to remain out of it, the agreement would be an insubstantial affair so far as Australia is concerned. In view of the late stage we have reached - only a few weeks remain before thi? article will commence to operate in its present terms, can the Minister tell the committee what are the prospects of the agreement being ratified by the United States of America? I understand that public hearings have been held and, no doubt, there are in the United States of America those who have their doubts about the efficacy of an arrangement such as this agreement in which so many countries are involved ; and which, if previous experience be any guide, is not likely to have the smooth future which the optimists who present it have forecast. Having regard to the obligations Australia is to assume and the specific reference in Article XX. to the requirement that, as far as practicable, the signatory governments must indicate acceptance by the 1st July, can the Minister inform us whether the agreement is likely to be ratified by the United States of America, and, if so, when?
.- I should like to deal with several aspects of Article XX. The only question for the committee to decide is whether approval is to be given to acceptance by Australia under this article. Some countries - I think Canada is one - have indicated acceptance under the executive or prerogative powers of the Crown, without parliamentary sanction. What the Government is asking the committee to do is to approve its executive act of acceptance under the article. The only form of acceptance is that indicated in paragraph 2 of Article XX. which says -
This Agreement shall be subject to formal acceptance by the signatory Governments. Instruments of acceptance shall bc deposited with the Government of the United States of America by July 1. 1048: . . .
There is no alternative. The proviso mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) does not apply ro Australia. If Australia is to indicate acceptance, it must do so by that date.
– That applies also to the United States of America.
– Yes; it applies to the United States of America and to all governments unless they come within the proviso which, clearly, does not cover the United States of America.
– What is the implication of paragraph 3 of Article XX.?
– Paragraph 2 fixes the 1st July as the deadline for acceptance for Australia, and should we fail to accept by that date we should practically Ite vetoing the international agreement.
– Is not Australia affected by paragraph 3?
– No. Paragraph 3 operates partly from the 1st July and partly from the 1st August; but should it appear in July next that a country like the United States of America will not ratify the agreement, a right is given to countries already parties to the agreement - and I assume Australia will be one of them - to effect withdrawal. But should Australia, or any other country, wait until the last moment in order to see what other countries, such as the United States of America, do, that would get rid of the agreement.
– What about Bretton- Woods ?
– The Bretton-Woods Agreement differs from this one. Under this agreement a dead-line is fixed and Australia, if it is to be a party to the agreement at all, must accept it by the 1st July. The only purpose of paragraph 2 is to indicate whether approval would be given by the legislature to the course of action taken by the Executive.
– Is not paragraph 3 a reservation to enable countries to come in after the 1st July?
– Paragraph 3 enable* countries to effect a withdrawal; paragraph 2 provides that the agreement shall come into force as from the 1st July.
– Paragraph 3 provides for the deposit of instruments of acceptance after the 1st July.
– But that is governed by paragraph 2; governments which deposit their instruments of acceptance after the 1st July are importing countries which are prevented by a recess of their legislature from accepting this agreement by the 1st July next. Australia could not satisfy either of thosconditions. First, we are not an importing country; and, secondly, we are1 not prevented by a recess of the Parliament from ratifying the agreement before that date. Therefore, Australia cannot answer the description of a Government depositing its instrument of acceptance after the 1st July; we must be a Government depositing an instrument of acceptance by the 1st July.
– What are the prospects that the United States of America will ratify the agreement?
– I have consulted with my colleague and, in the words of the weather forecast, he says that the prospects are “ fair to good “.
Mr. TURNBULL (Wimmera) [10.58 1. - Article XX. is the most important in the agreement. Under it we shall approve, or reject, the agreement. It is the essence of the agreement.
– That is so.
– One could practically make a second-reading speech in respect of this article. However, I do not propose to re-open the subject as a whole. I take this opportunity to express again my disapproval of the agreement in its present form, and to reiterate that the Parliament has not been given an opportunity to deal effectively with the agreement. We must either accept it or leave it, and as the Government is determined to ratify it we must accept it whether we like it or not.
A ttorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has raised ;m issue of great consequence, which the committee should not lightly pass by. He said that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) is of opinion that the prospects of the agreement being ratified by the United States of America are “fair to good “. In other words, there is a considerable element of doubt as to whether the United States of America will adopt the agreement, and whether it will do so within the prescribed time. Assuming that the prospects instead of being good ms the Attorney-General hopes, are not good, and that, in point of fact there is such opposition to the agreement in the United States of America that that country does not come into the scheme, I invite the committee to see just where Australia stands insofar as the written text of this agreement affects us. I invite also the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Attorney-General to this matter because it may be that there are other avenues of escape for Australia. In paragraph 3 of Article XX. the only opportunity for a country placed as Australia might be placed to effect a withdrawal from the scheme would occur if it could be shown that there were insufficient purchasers to take the wheat that that country had guaranteed to sell. With the United States of America, Russia, and Argentina, remaining outside the scheme and selling on an open market at probably a higher price than would be available under the terms of this agreement, Australia might well find itself bound to honour the agreement approved by this Parliament. If there were sufficient purchasers to take all the wheat that Australia had guaranteed to provide, this country would be required to sell at the price specified in the agreement. Whilst that might not be so unsatisfactory in the. first year of the agree ment, as the years went by, with those other countries remaining out, the discrepancy between the cost of wheat on the open market and the price which the Australian wheat-growers could charge might, become very wide. The committee will require a stronger assurance on this matter than that given by the Government so far. We should, I suggest, be in an intolerable position if the United States of America refused to ratify the agreement, and the only way that Australia could withdraw from it was by establishing that there were not sufficient purchasers to take all the wheat that we had guaranteed to export. I invite either Minister at the table to clarify the doubt that has been raised in my mind on this point. I know that in other parts of the schedule there are provisions for representations to be made to the Council as a whole, but the Council is not yet in being. That may be a very shadowy right so far as Australia is concerned, and for the time being at any rate, we must look to the literal obligations that we accept under the agreement.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That after clause (4.), the following new clause he inserted: - “ (5.) The Commonwealth Government guarantees to the wheat-growers of Australia the minimum prices for wheat named in Article VI., paragraph 1, of the Schedule to this Act.”
– The proposed new clause is out of order.
– Ord Order ! The Chair rules the proposed new clause out of order.
– On what grounds?
– O - On several grounds. One is that the agreement cannot be amended in any way, and we are not entitled to place any interpretation on the agreement other than that already printed in the schedule. The proposal can further be ruled out of order on the ground that it may commit the Consolidated Revenue to a financial. liability for which no provision has been -made by the Governor-General.
– I rise to order. I think that the Chair has completely misunderstood the proposal. I have not yet submitted it in writing.
– I have heard it read.
– You have ruled out of order something that you have not seen.
– If the honorable member wishes me to see the proposed new clause and then rule it out of order, [ shall be happy to do so. Does the honorable member wish to present it to the Chair in writing?
– I think I am entitled to speak on the proposal before submitting it in writing.
– The Chair is entitled to have the proposed new clause before it, and I ask the honorable member to submit it in writing.
– I think that the Standing Orders provide that I may move an amendment and that after moving it I must submit it to the Chair.
– The honorable member has moved for the insertion of a new clause, and I ask him now to submit it to the Chair.
– The Chair ruled the proposal out of order before 1 had finished moving it.
– I have ruled it out of order, but if the honorable member wishes me to read it, I am prepared to do so.
– Now I know the conditions under which we are working, and I hope that the Attorney-General does too.
– The proposed new clause is clearly out of order.
– No. It is not an amendment to the schedule.
– The Chair is waiting for the new clause.
– I should like to know whether 1 am entitled to speak to my proposal before I submit it to the Chair. How long has it been necessary to submit an amendment in writing to the Chair before speaking to it? I have always understood that the practice of this House - and I understand that the practice is in conformity with the Standing Orders - is that an honorable member may move an amendment, and having spoken to it, he must submit it in writing to the Chair. In this case I have been ruled out of order before speaking to my amendment.
– I clearly heard the proposed new clause moved. The Attorney-General took the point that it was out of order.
– But the AttorneyGeneral is not the Chairman.
– The AttorneyGeneral raised the point that the proposal was out of order. I, too, took that, view and ruled accordingly. The business now before the Chair is the schedule.
– On article XIX there is a definition of “ free-market prices “. How there can be free-market prices without a free market I do not know. I have heard Ministers speak about the evils of a free market, and of merchants, but there cannot be a free market without merchants, and I should like to know under what, conditions the Government expects this free market to operate. Does it expect to re-establish merchants in Australia operating on a free market? I should like to know how this free market will work in the world in general, and in Australia in particular.
– 1 think that the definition of “ free-market prices “ is perfectly clear to everybody. Unlike the previous international wheat agreement, this agreement allows for the exporting of wheat other than that provided for in the agreement. For instance, Australia will be entitled to sell to the contracting importing nations 85,000,000 bushels of wheat annually, but the situation may arise, and in fact is likely to arise, in which Australia will have a quantity of wheat for export over and above that 85,000,000 bushels. That would come within the definition of freemarket wheat and Australia would be entitled to sell it on the world market at whatever price it could obtain for it.
.- I again press the Government to give some attention to the point which I previously raised. Quite clearly, the Parliament would not accept this agreement if it did not believe that the United States of America was a party to it. I do not approve of the agreement.
– Then why did the honorable member not vote against it?
– I am prepared to vote against it. I have no inhibitions on that score, and I am prepared to go on record as being opposed to it.
– Why is the honorable member against it?
– I am against it because it is visionary and wholly impracticable. It will break down under its own weight, I invite the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to remind me in five years’ time that I was a prophet of woe, but I am confident that the soundness of my observations will then have been established. The United States of America is one of the three principal exporting countries involved in the agreement. So far, the legislature of that country has not ratified the agreement, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) cannot give any assurance that it will do so. We are entitled to know what will be the position of Australia as a contracting party if one of the principal exporters refuses to adopt the agreement. Paragraph 3 of Article XX. provides, that if in the opinion of any government, the guaranteed sales of countries whose governments have formally accepted the agreement are insufficient to ensure its successful operation the government - in this case the Australian Government - could effect its withdrawal.
– That can be done at the opening of the very first session of the council.
– Then, before there are any international commitments under this scheme, Australia can withdraw?
– If the United States of America does not come in.
– And defection of the United States of America will be regarded as sufficient reason for Australia’s withdrawal. Is that the position?
– That is the position.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave) - read a third time.
The following papers were presented
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 32 - Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia; Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
No. 33 - Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia?
Nos. 34 and 35-Professional Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - E. H. A. Graham.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior- J. T. Gray.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs ( 93 ) .
Lands Acquisition Act-7-Land acquired for Repatriation Commission purposes - Turramurra, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
– On the 2nd June, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning the provision of an interim shipping service to Tasmania during the period the SS. Taroona is undergoing overhaul. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
The Bass Strait steamer Taroona will be laid up for her annual overhaul for approximately three weeks commencing about the middle of July, lt has not been possible to arrange for the provision of an interim service owing to the fact that there is no suitable vessel on the Australian coast available for this purpose. During the period of overhaul passenger traffic is very light, and if necessary, consideration will be given to the provision of additional air service.
Wire. Wire Netting and Galvanized Iron.
M.r. Chifley. - On the 5th May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me a question concerning zinc supplies for the manufacture, of galvanized iron. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Following upon the honorable member’s question, I asked the Commonwealth authorities concerned to furnish me with a statement as to the present position. I have ascertained that 450 tons of zinc for Lysaghts arrived at Newcastle on the 16th May and a further 300 tons on the 22nd May. I might point out that the Commonwealth Government 1ms no control over the allocations of zinc but the Department of Supply and Development endeavours to ensure that Australian consumers are provided with reasonable supplies. This has involved close contact with the producers, Electrolytic Zinc - Company of Australasia Limited, and representations to this Company have always met with ready response. The Company has given an assurance that it will use its best endeavours to improve the supply position, but for a number of reasons cannot undertake to provide Lysaghts with stock equivalent to a month’s usage. The Electrolytic Zinc Company states that only minor interruptions to production have occurred at Lysaghts owing to the shortage of zinc and these have been due to the shipping position which has now improved. There is no actual control over the export of zinc from Australia, but I am informed that approximately 75 per cent, is reserved for Australian industry, and that the rest is sold to Britain. It is necessary for some of the zinc sold to Britain to be shipped at a port on the mainland as direct shipping is not available from Tasmania. This is the reason why some of the zinc has been transshipped at Newcastle. I might add that the shipments made to Britain mean a great’ saving in dollar expenditure, because if the quantities supplied by Australia were reduced, Britain would have to turn to dollar sources of supply to meet her essential needs.
Australian Representation Abroad.
asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Who recommended to the Commonwealth Public Service Board the appointments of Mr. Fisher and Miss Saxby?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
I am not a member of the Communist party”
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– -It is not yet practicable to make an announcement on this subject, but an announcement will be made as soon as the Government is in a position to do so.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Has consideration been given tothe provision of the right of electors to make absentee votes at any polling booth within the Commonwealth, instead of merely within their own State; if not, will the matter be investigated ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Consideration has been given to the extension of the absent voting provisions to permit an elector for any division voting at any polling place within the Commonwealth, but for several reasons such an extension is regarded as inadvisable. At a general election it would involve the supply of printed Senate ballot papers for all States to all polling places with increased quantities of blank House of Representatives ballot-papers, lists ofcandidates for all divisions and lists of polling plaices for all States. The supply of so many different ballot-papers and forms and necessarily enlarged instructions, would ‘contuse many pollingofficials, resulting in frequent usage of incorrect ballot-papers, invalidating the vote. In many casesdoubt would arise as to the elector’s division and in consequence many votes would be recorded informally. Absent votes recorded at outlying palling places for distant divisions would take weeks to reach the appropriate returning officer for scrutiny and the finalization of the counts would be held up unduly. Electors’ absent from their home States are qualified to vote by post and may so vote at any time after nomination day. It is considered this provision reasonably meets requirements.
n asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– The answers’ to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Chancellery in Washington.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government spent 175,000 dollars on the Australian Chancellery building in Massachusettsavenue, Washington?
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows. -
Y - I refer to a question asked by the- honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), on the 15th April, concerning the Peace Treaty with Italy and further to my reply on that occasion am able to inform him that an instrument of ratification of the treaty of peace with Italy has been signed last week by the Minister for External Affairs and is being despatched to Paris for deposit with the Trench Government. The treaty comes into effect with respect to Australia from the time of the deposit of the instrument with the Trench Government.
– In reply to questions asked by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), on the 18th April, concerning the peace treaties with Roumania, Hungary and Bulgaria, I am now able to inform him that an instrument of ratification of the peace treaties with Roumania, Hungary and Bulgaria was signed last week by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and is being sent to Moscow for deposit with the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in accordance with the terms of the peace treaties. These treaties will become operative with respect to Australia upon their deposit in Moscow. With regard to regulations permitting British subjects, who were former residents in Italy,Roumania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland, to make claims against the ‘ Governments of those countries for restitution,compensation, &c., I understand that inquirers have been informed that pending the ratification of the treaties they should appoint an agent in the country where their property was situated to make a formal claim and watch the interests of the owner. When the treaties have been ratified, it is proposed that regulations under the bills will be promulgated and claims for restitution, compensation, &c. will then be transmitted through the appropriate official channels.
Russian and American Embassies.
t. - On the 5th May, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked me to give him particulars of the Russian and American embassies in Canberra. I gave the total number of adults connected with the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, but said that I could not supply off-hand “ the total number of persons in the United States ambassadorial and consular service in Australia “, but I promised to -ascertain the information. I am now able to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Canberra -4 officers (diplomatic), 7 clerical staff, 2 wives, and 3 children; total, 10. ,
Sydney - 3 attaches, 3wives, and 6 children; total 11.
Office of Military and Air Attaches - 3 Attaches, 5 enlisted men,5 wives, and 5 children; total 18.
Office of Naval Attache- 1 attache, 3 enlisted men, 2 wives, and 4 children; total 10. (Total, 55.)
Summary - Diplomatic staff and attaches, 11; staff, 15; wives and children, 29. Total, 55.
Consulate-General, Sydney - 16 staff (including 5 women), 8 wives, 9 children, 1 dependent mother; total, 34.
Consulate-General, Melbourne - 7 officers, 12 dependants; total, 19.
Consulate, Brisbane - 2 officers, 5 dependants; total, 7.
Consulate, Adelaide - 2 officers, 3 dependants; total, 5.
Consulate, Perth - 1 officer; total, 1. foreign Liquidation Commission, Sydney - 3 staff, 3 wives, 4 children; total 14.
Civil Aeronautics Administration,
Sydney- 4 staff (including 1 woman), 1 wife, 2 children; total, 1.
Grand total of American citizens ( including: dependants) in Australia for the purpose of Embassy, consulates and otherofficial organizations - 142.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480608_reps_18_197/>.