House of Representatives
5 November 1948

18th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 2558



Incident of Adjournment


– I wish to refer to an incident that occurred last night when I did not see the honorable member for Balaclava rise to speak to the motion for the adjournment of the House. Whilst regretting that I did not see the honorable member, I point out that it is the practice of a number of honorable members to rise preparatory to leaving the chamber as soon as the question for the adjournment is put from the Chair. Some of them, jokingly, pretend that they desire to speak. It would be more in keeping with the dignity of the House if honorable members, unless they have a genuine desire to speak, remain silent in their places until the Speaker has left the chair.There would then be no misunderstanding such as that which occurred last night.

I also direct the attention of the House to a caption in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times which reads, “ Members Threaten Acting Speaker in the Lobbies “. That is quite untrue, and apart fromthe question of privilege, is a reflection on the honorable member for Balaclava, who did not threaten me in any way. This is not the first occasion in recent weeks onwhich that newspaperhas, in a caption,grossley misrepresented happenings in the Parliament. I do not know whether this is deliberate policy, or just bad sub-editing. On this occasion, and for the last time, I give the editor of theCanberra Times the benefit of the doubt.

page 2559



Mr.BEALE. - I bring to the notice of the Prime Minister the fact as stated recently by Sir Cecil Weir, head of the Economic Sub-commission in western Germany, that western Germany is staging a striking economic recovery, including recovery in the export field. What efforts, if any, are being made to develop trade between Australia and western Germany? Is it fact that it is almost impossible to obtain import licences for German products, some of which are not obtainable in other parts of the world ? Will the right honorable gentleman have this matter looked into with the object of reviewing the issue of import licences for the procurement of goods from western Germany so that we in this country may obtain the benefit of reciprocal trade?


– The possibility of importing essential goodsf rom . Bizonia, in western Germany, was considered by me and in collaboration with the Minister for Trade and Customs some weeks ago. It appears that we mightbe able toobtain some essential goods from that area. The prospects of developing such trade are still being explored. The honorable member referred to difficulty in obtaining licences for the importation of goods from western Germany. It may he true that such difficulties have arisen, but the honorable gentleman must remember that the area is still under occupation.

Mr Beale:

– I referred to action in Australia.

Mr.CHIFLEY. - It is not of much use to issue import licences unless we have an assurance that the goods covered by the licences areobtainable in the area. I shall examine the matter further and have a statement prepared for the information of the honorable member.

page 2559




– I ask the Prime Minister to say what steps are being taken to protect the Liberal party headquarters in Sydney from the Communists, who occupy the ground floor of the same building. Have the premises been double-locked for the last few weeks? Have security measures been taken to protect Liberal party files from the Communists, and, what is equally important, to protect Communist documents from the Liberals?


– This matter was raised yesterday, and I indicated that I had heard something about the matter. I understand that the Liberals were rather alarmed to find themselves in such close proximity to Communists, and I have no doubt that they have taken ample precautions to ensure that none of their documents shall find their way into the hands of people of that character. I assume also that the Communists have taken similar precautions. It is only fair to say that I understand the Liberal party is only occupying its present premises because of certain technicalities associated with the lease.

Mr Harrison:

– The Liberal party is purely a tenant of the building.


– That, is so.


– Is the Prime Minister aware of the fact that Spencer SmithWhite, of 7 Merriwa-street, Gordon, New South “Wales, who is the secretary of the Communist-controlled Australian Association cf Scientific Workers, left for England on Orion? Is he aware that Spencer Smith- White, who is lecturer in botany at Sydney University, is a member of the Kuring-gai Branch of the Australian Communist party? Has Spencer Smith-White gone abroad on a government mission, and, if so, will .the Prime Minister obtain a report on his Communist activities, and forward it to the British authorities? Is the Prime Minister aware that Paul Klemens who is an honours graduate in physics at the University of Sydney, and who was acting secretary of the Australian Association of Scientific Workers, also has left on a research scholarship granted by the National University at Canberra, to engage in certain important studies at Cambridge University? Are precautions taken to make certain that such scholarship holders are net affiliated with Communist organizations, prior to their being given credentials for overseas study, especially such studies as involve contact with the work of nuclear physics? Is Klemens to return as a lecturer in physics at the Australian National University in Canberra?


– I have no recollection of the names of the two gentlemen mentioned by the honorable gentleman having come before me in regard to any matters associated with the Government. Providing persons met the requirements of the law they would normally be able to obtain passports to go abroad. That fact has been made clear on other occasions. I do not know what the position i9 regarding the individuals mentioned, because it has not previously come to my notice, but as the honorable gentleman has raised the matter, and has particularly referred to the appointment of one of them to a. lectureship at the Australian National University, I shall certainly have both cases investigated and let the honorable gentleman have a report upon them.


– Has the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General seen the announcement in to-day’s issue of the Canberra Times that Communists plan to seize control of Malaya? The announcement reads -

Long-matured plans to undermine the Malayan trade union movement and substitute organisations solely aimed at creating a Communist republic, have been discovered by a British Government Investigating Mission comprising Mr. S. S. Aubery, M.P., and Mr. F. W. Dalley, former assistant general secretary of the Railway Clerks’ Association.

The report also states -

The mission found that-


– Order ! What is’ the honorable member’s question ?


– Since it is well known that a Communist cell exists in Darwin, which is in close proximity to the Malayan archipelago, I ask the Minister whether it would be possible to second some of the older members of the Darwin police force to form the nucleus of a security service in Darwin? Such a service could keep check on the local Communists and ensure that they do not establish liaison with the Malayan Communists.

Minister for Labour and National Service · MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP

– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honor- . able member, but I realize that Darwin would not be any more free of Communists than any other part of Australia. Whether the menace is sufficient to warrant the appointment of a local security service-

Mr Blain:

– The people of Darwin want such a service, and have asked for it.


– I shall convey the honorable member’s request to the Acting Attorney-General.

page 2560



Inter-Union Dispute in New South Wales.


– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement that coal supplies for locomotives in New South Wales have been cut bv 60 ner cent? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the coming wheat harvest in that State will require transport to the seaboard, in the near future? Has he also seen the statement reported to have been made -by the Acting Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, that his Government is examining a certain course of action with a view to safeguarding coal supplies? Will the right honorable gentleman give an undertaking to the Parliament that his Government will assist the Government of New South Wales in whatever course it may take to obtain increased supplies of coal?


– I have not seen the statements to which the honorable member has referred, but I am in constant touch with the Acting Premier of New South Wales, the Joint Coal Board, and those who are endeavouring to settle the dispute. To assist in dealing with legal aspects of the stoppage, I arranged yesterday for the Acting AttorneyGeneral to go to Sydney to confer, if necessary, with the State Government, and with other interested parties including the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. I have already made it clear that I regard the action of the miners’ federation in refusing the offer of the other union, and in withdrawing its men from the southern and western coalfields because of the demarcation dispute, as a disgrace to trade unionism. I shall not make a lengthy statement on the matter at this juncture, because, 1 understand, that Mr. Baddeley is holding a special meeting to discuss the dispute this morning. The honorable member for New England may rest assured, however, that my colleagues and I are just as distressed as he is at the prospect of a transport hold-up, particularly in view of the necessity to provide adequate rail facilities for the forthcoming wheat harvest. The Acting Premier of New South Wales will have my full support in any action that he may take. It is with that end in view tha.t I have arranged for the Acting AttorneyGeneral to be in Sydney while the matter is under consideration.


– Will the Prime Minister inform me what steps the Government is taking to prevent the hardship, unemployment and misery that will be occasioned te the community as a consequence of the present coal strike? Was not this strike organized by the executive members of the Australian Communist party who are members of the central council of the miners’ federation ? Are those individuals not the same people who endeavoured to plunge Australia into a “ black “ Christmas about two years ago? Has the Government the authority to protect the community from those who would, for their own aggrandizement, plunge the economic life of the community into chaos? If the Prime Minister considers that he has not the necessary authority to act, will he take action immediately to introduce into this Parliament legislation to protect the rights of the community?


– I have already answered a question on that subject this morning and I have nothing to add to what I have already stated, except that I shall answer the portion of the honorable member’s question on whether the members of the central council of the miners’ federation, which was responsible for what has happened, are Communists. I understand that some members of the council are Communists, although I cannot say how many of them are. I know that Mr. Williams, the general president of the miners’ federation, is a well-known Communist and I understand that there are several other Communists in executive positions in the federation, although ] do not remember their names. There arc fourteen members of the central council of the federation. As I have already stated this morning, I am in constant touch with the New South Wales Government and the coal board on this matter and I have arranged with the Acting Attorney-General to keep me informed so that he will be ready with advice on any action necessary.

page 2561




– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform his colleague about thi most unsatisfactory position that exists in regard to air mails from Adelaide to Canberra? On a number of occasions, I have complained to the department about late deliveries, but .1 still find that air mail letters posted in Adelaide often take as long to reach here as do letters by the ordinary mails. For instance, an air mail letter which was posted in Adelaide last Tuesday afternoon reached me in Canberra yesterday morning, but

Tuesday afternoon’s issue of the Adelaide News was on the file in the reading room of the Parliamentary Library yesterday afternoon. When people pay the surcharge tb have their letters sent by air, they should have the benefit of a rapid service, and should certainly receive their correspondence more expeditiously than they would if it were sent by cr.din.ary mail.

Minister for Immigration · MELBOURNE, VICTORIA · ALP

– 1 shall ask the Postmaster-General to investigate the honorable gentleman’s complaint and furnish me with a reply at the earliest possible moment. I shall impress upon the Postmaster-General how deeply the honorable member feels about the matter because he believes that the instances which he has quoted are typical of a general rather than an occasional happening.


– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Air mail to Western Australia closes at 3.20 p.m. at Parliament House and at 3 p.m. at the Canberra Post Office, presumably to catch the late afternoon mail plane to Melbourne. Is air mail carried by the plane which leaves Canberra at 8.50 p.m. via Mildura? If not, will he arrange, for the despatch of air mail by that service; and, if so, will he arrange for air mail for Western Australia to close at an appropriate hour in the evening at Parliament House?


– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General.

page 2562




– The PrimMinister will recall the circumstances in which the Government intervened, in the attempt to keep alive the Mount Bischoff mine at Waratah in Tasmania. The assets at the mine are now being disposed of, and I am informed that a large quantity of galvanized iron, sufficient to provide roofs for -twelve houses, has been sold in one lot, and is now being sent to another State. As that galvanized iron originally formed a part of the allocation to Tasmania, will the Prime Minister investigate the circumstances surrounding its disposal with a view to having it re-allocated to that State? [f that is not possible, will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to make good the deficiency in the allocation of galvanized iron to Tasmania?


– The honorable member for Darwin has taken a most active interest in Mount Bischoff and the disposal of the tangible assets at the mine. It is true, as the honorable member has stated, that certain equipment associated with the mine has been sold. I do not know that quantities of galvanized iron have been disposed of, but I shall have the matter investigated immediately and. ascertain whether the honorable member’s request can be granted.

page 2562




– I understand thai the ration of petrol and kerosene is made available to agents in rural areas on a monthly basis. During the next three months, wheat-growers will require additional quantities of petrol for .harvesting operations, but for the last week I have received many complaints from persons in my electorate about the inadequacy of the petrol ration, and I understand that similar complaints have been voiced in other wheat-growing districts. The position is that inadequate supplies of oil fuel will delay the delivery of wheat, oats and hay. I realize that the position is difficult, but I ask the Minister representing’ the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to impress upon his colleague the need to increase the ration applicable to farmers during the next three months in order to avoid delays in the delivery of the staple commodities which I have mentioned.

Minister for Defence · CORIO, VICTORIA · ALP

– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. I am not aware that the allocation of petrol and kerosene to primary producers has been made on a monthly basis at the behest cf my colleague, but I know that the whole position in relation to fuel oil generally is most critical. I am sure thai the Minister will do his utmost to ensure that adequate supplies shall be made available to primary producers in order to expedite the delivery of wheat and oats.

page 2562




– A newspaper this morning contains the statement that a tuan named Savage, who held an Australian passport then current, had been, at the direction of the Australian Government, recalled from an appointment he bad with the United States forces in Korea. I ask the Minister for Immigration whether Mr. Savage held a valid Australian passport that was current at the time of his return from Korea, and whether his return was at the direction of the Government. If a person holds an Australian passport giving him freedom of movement and accreditation to other countries, what principle is applied in recalling him and preventing his passport from having effect?


– I have not seen the newspaper report. I shall have a look at the file and let the honorable gentleman have an answer some time next week if he asks the question again. I warn him, of course, to be very careful about accepting newspaper reports.

page 2563



Isolation Block


– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing when a fence will be built enclosing the isolation block at the Canberra Community Hospital? The lack of the fence is daily menacing the health of the community. The matter would not he raised in this House except that every other method of having the fence built has so far failed. “ Every other method “ has included letters of request, telephone reminders, interviews, and deputations. In the two years since the Department of Health requisitioned the work we have had very many sympathetic replies for which we are very grateful, hut what we really need is the fence.

Minister for Works and Housing · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The construction of the fence has been delayed because, although we have twice called for tenders for the job, no tenders have been received. The only alternative to the letting of a contract for the work is to have it carried out by day labour. I have laid it down as a policy, for which [ take full responsibility, that our day labour gangs are to be employed on the bigger jobs, because if we plucked men from the day labour gangs for every little job that arose, the main works programme would be delayed. As we have failed to receive a tender for the job and as the absence of the fence is, as the honorable member has said, a menace to the health of the people of Canberra, because they ignore the notices warning them to keep away from the isolation block, I propose, notwithstanding the policy that I have laid down, to have the work done by members of our day labour gang.

page 2563



– The Institute of Surveyors of Australia at ite biennial conference in Melbourne last week voted to continue support of the idea of entrusting the complete geodetic survey of Australia to .the States through a civilian body, the Department of the Interior, under the direction of the Commonwealth ‘Surveyor-General, as chairman of the National Mapping Council. The mapping of Australia was important to the Australian Government in 1945 because the then Minister for the Interior convened the conference of Commonwealth and State Surveyors-General that was held in the Senate Committee Room on the subject of the surveying and mapping of Australia. I have in my possession a copy of the report of the proceedings of thai conference. I now ask the Minister for the Interior whether he will call for a report from the Commonwealth SurveyorGeneral in order that without delay the precise mapping of Australia may be proceeded with so that there shall be delineated not only the physical features of the continent but also their precise heights above sea level, particularly along the recognized aerial routes.

Minister for the Interior · KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The matter raised by the honorable member has been under consideration for some time. As a matter of fact, the Director of Lands in the Northern Territory, Mr. Barclay, came to Sydney only two months ago to discuss it. The Director of Lands has arranged to send me a report of the discussions. Every effort is being made to bring up to date the survey of land in the Northern Territory.

page 2564




– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in a position to furnish some indication to the House of the progress of the land settlement scheme in Queensland, particularly in the acquisition of sugar-cane properties?


– Land settlement schemes for ex-servicemen in Queensland are progressing very satisfactorily. I take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the Queensland Government for its valuable assistance to me in connexion with this matter. Over 3,000 ex-servicemen are in receipt of agricultural loans or re-establishment allowances. The total amount which has been expended to date is nearly £1,000,000. More than 50 sugar-cane properties have been approved for acquisition by the Commonwealth. The settlement of exservicemen on sugar-cane properties i3 not easy because of the complicated arrangements governing the matter in Queensland. However, we receive cooperation by Queensland authorities such as the Central Sugar-cane Prices Board. Acting in conjunction with that board, the Commonwealth has approved of the acquisition of a large number of properties in various areas, including seven properties in the Johnstone Mill area, and five in the Macnade area, which is in the honorable member’s electorate. In order to ensure the proper working of the industry in Queensland, the crops of various properties’ are assigned to certain mills. If that were not done, some mills would receive more sugar-cane than was required, whilst others would not receive adequate supplies. The Central Sugarcane Prices Board has determined which mills should receive the sugar-cane from the properties that have been approved for acquisition.

page 2564




– A subsidy is paid to gliding clubs as an adjunct to aviation. In Victoria no payment was made last year to two clubs which, because of differences between them, cannot merge, although payments were made to such clubs in all other States. Will the Min ister for Civil Aviation confer with theofficers of his department to see that this impasse is overcome, so that payment” may be made, either on a per capita basis 0)’ on hours in the air, and that any such payment is made retrospective to lastyear?


– I think that thehonorable member used the wrong term when he suggested that these two clubs - “ cannot merge “. I think he should have said they “ will not “ merge. Until they are willing to come together and agree, it is very difficult for the Department of Civil Aviation, although it isanxious to assist, to do anything about the matter. However, I shall confer with the Director-General of Civil Aviation with a, view to seeing if we can exercise some persuasion on these two clubs tomake an arrangement whereby they will receive the benefits of the subsidy, as dosimilar clubs in other States. At present they are acting against their own. interests.

page 2564




– Recently I asked the Minister representing theMinister for Social Services a question relating to the method of paying pensions,, and he replied that pensioners, if they desired, could have their pensions paid by cheque in order to save them waiting in queues at post offices. I have justreceived a letter from a pensioner whopoints out that 9d. has been deducted from her own and her husband’s cheque,, that is, a deduction of ls. 6d. a fortnight in respect of the couple. She says that she complained about the deductions tothe department, but received no reply. Can the Minister explain why such deductions are made?


– As I said in reply to the honorable member when she raised this matter previously, pensioners, if they so desire, can have their pensions paid by cheque. Some years ago theCabinet decided that all pensions should be paid by cheque, but following protests by pensioners’ associations it was decided to make payments by cheque only to those pensioners who preferred that method of” payment. It is news to me that 9d. hasbeen deducted when the pension has been. paid by cheque. That is not in accordance with the practice of the department. A mistake must have been made in the case mentioned by the honorable member, and if she will give me the details, I shall see that it is rectified,

page 2565



Victorian Slaughtermen’s Strike


– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ascertain whether in the opinion of his departmental officers there has been any diminution in the supply of fat lambs available for export to Great Britain under the contract with the United Kingdom as the result of the strike of slaughtermen in Victoria, which has now lasted for some weeks? If his departmental officers are of the opinion that supplies have been decreased for that reason, will he make a statement to the Parliament giving an estimate up to the date on which he makes such a statement of the number of additional carcasses which, had been there been no strike, would have been available for export to the United Kingdom?

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · ALP

– I do not need to obtain any opinion from my departmental officers on the matter raised by the honorable member. I have my own opinion on it, and, consequently, I do not need to consult anybody about it. The honorable member is well aware that it is impossible to calculate the number of carcasses or the total weight which has not been available for export for the reason he has mentioned. He also knows that every effort is being made by the Government and other responsible authorities to bring about a settlement of the unfortunate dispute, and that the men who have remained at work and those who are not working will confer tomorrow to determine whether they will accept the proposals that have been made for the settlement of the dispute.

page 2565




– I address a question to the Minister for External Territories arising out of comments made recently at the United Nations by the Soviet delegate with respect to New Guinea. Those comments reveal considerable knowledge of conditions generally in New Guinea including such transactions as land deals. Has the Minister any idea where the Soviet delegate got his information from? What Communists are known at present to be residing in New Guinea? What facilities have they for obtaining information of the kind that is being used by the Russians? Has any member of the Russian Legation in Australia visited New Guinea recently? What Commonwealth public servants have visited New Guinea recently, and what is their background in this regard? Will the Minister institute an inquiry into the leakage of information with a view te preventing further disclosures of this kind ?


– In the absence of the Minister for External Territories I shall answer the question. I should have thought that all general information concerning New Guinea was made available in the reports that were made by the Australian Government first, to the League of Nations, and subsequently, to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. In addition, a number of people other than Australians had access to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea prior to World War II. Investigations of its potentialities have recently been undertaken by representatives of Britain and other countries which are interested in developing new enterprises there. The questionnaire that was issued by the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations to the Australian Government and other governments administering territories as trustees was a very long and comprehensive document. It would not have been possible to supply answers to all of the questions that were asked of us except after making an exhaustive investigation; but we have supplied a great deal of information in regard to the portion of New Guinea for which we are responsible as trustees of the United Nations. The honorable gentleman has asked whether there are Communists in New Guinea and whether it has been visited recently by any members of the Russian Legation in Australia, or by Commonwealth public servants whose political activities may be open to suspicion. There are Communists in every part of the world. I understand that they have even penetrated to Iceland.

Mr Beale:

– They are here, too.


– That is true. There were prominent Communists in Australia when anti-Labour governments were in power. I shall request the Minister for External Territories to supply the honorable gentleman with such information as is available on the points he has raised.

page 2566



Tinned Meats


– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to a number of letters written to the press by Australians who send food parcels regularly to Britain, in which the writers have complained that som* of the tinned meat, and particularly bacon, that they send to their relatives and friends is found to be in very bad condition when the tins are opened. It is unfortunate that the cupidity of some people should cause generous gifts to become a source of worry to the recipients; but, in addition, it is a bad advertisement for Australian tinned meats. I realize that the Minister is concerned in this matter only indirectly, but I ask the honorable gentleman whether there is any way in which he can ensure that suppliers of tinned meats for despatch overseas will act more fairly in preparing goods for Australians who, at this period cf the year, wish to make a Christmas gesture to their relatives and friends overseas ?


– I have not seen the press statement referred to by the honorable member, but only last week the honorable member for Barker inquired whether any method could be devised to ensure that canned meat sent to the United Kingdom in food parcels was of decent standard. I know that some canneries prepare meat products which, although quite wholesome, do not open up in attractive condition, whilst other preparations are not of high quality and are badly packed. However, I point out that the supervision of foodstuffs canned for consumption within Australia is the concern of State Health Departments and not of the Australian Government. In any event, State Health Departments are concerned only with the wholesomeness and not with the quality of food intended for consumption in Australia. Although some of the canned products sent to the United Kingdom are alleged to have been passed for export, it is obvious that the Commonwealth authorities cannot inspect every parcel sent to the United Kingdom.

Mr ARCHIE Cameron:

– What about requiring the canneries to guarantee their products?


– Some of the canners appear to be worse than the Communists, but I have previously assured the honorable member for Barker that his suggestion is being investigated. It is deplorable that when people are good enough to send canned meat in food parcels to the United Kingdom-

Mr Beale:

– The Government should select the right canners to prepare food for export.


– I am attempting to answer the question, but if the honorable member for Parramatta thinks that he can answer it more satisfactorily than I can, I shall give way to him. I suggest to those kindly disposed persons who incur the expense and trouble of purchasing canned meat for food parcels that they should themselves sample any brands with which they- are unfamiliar before including them in food parcels. If a product is found to have a mushy or unwholesome appearance it will not, of course, be included in food parcels. In that way people can ensure that their parcels contain only real meat preparations.

page 2566




– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when the Australian Apple and Pear Board, created under the Apple and Pear Organization Act, is to begin to function. What is the reason for the long delay in bringing it into operation?


– The Apple and Pear Organization Act which was passed by this Parliament some time ago was placed on the statute-book in order that we should have available an export control authority at the stage when the war emergency apple and pear board completed its work. However, conditions in the apple export trade are such that it way well be said that the industry has not yet emerged from the aftermath of war. Apple and pear growers in Tasmania and Western Australia are experiencing very difficult conditions and therefore it is likely that the war-time apple and pear board will again handle the marketing of Tasmanian and Western Australian apples this year. That board will probably remain in existence for some time, and it would not be desirable to have two authorities operating in the same field. The honorable member may rest assured that the Government is anxious to divest itself of all war-time responsibilities and to return to normal conditions as soon as possible. Therefore, the new act will be proclaimed immediately circumstances warrant that action.

page 2567



Prime Minister and Treasurer · Macquarie · ALP

by leave - Some time ago, a number of honorable members asked me to make a statement about governmental assistance to the gold-mining industry. I have had a statement prepared, and with ,the consent of the House, I shall incorporate it in Hansard. lt reads as follows: -

During the past twelve months the Govern ment has had under close attention the trend of events in this industry, particularly in Western Australia, where a fairly large population is dependent upon gold-mining almost entirely, owing to its location in desert areas not capable of other production. The industry’s post-war problems have been complicated by shortages of skilled labour, and a slow but gradual rise in costs against a fixed price for gold. Within recent months its problems have been intensified by a marked movement in costs and it has become apparent that certain mines, particularly in Western Australia, can no longer operate on a profitable basis.

In December last, the Western Australian Chamber of Mines applied through my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, for financial assistance to fifteen gold-mining companies operating in Western Australia. I arranged for the chamber’s application to be investigated by the Treasury with technical assistance from the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources. Reports furnished as a result were discussed by me with the Minister and a representative of the chamber. Following discussion it was decided that the mines should be classified according to three main categories -

profitable mines - not requiring immediate assistance an it appeared that they would be able tu continue profitable operations during 1948;

marginal mines - that is, mines which might require some form of assistance during 1948 as it appeared that operations may result in a loss; (el worked-out mines - those mines which were in process of closing down or, in other words, salvage propositions.

On this basis, of the fifteen mines included in the Western Australian Chamber’s application, seven were classified as profitable, four as marginal and three as worked-out mines. The one remaining mine was considered a near-marginal proposition and would probably not qualify for assistance during 1948. The Government agreed to assist the four mines included in the marginal category.

This general plan of assistance is to provide these mines with subsidies to cover their legitimate costs and give them a margin of 4 per cent, on their paid-up share capital after taking into account income from all sources. Certain conditions applicable to the circumstances of each individual case were laid down. Generally speaking, these conditions covered such matters as limits on the type and extent of development, minimum head values of ore mined and maintenance of tonnage milled.

There has been some criticism of the percentage margin allowed by the Commonwealth as a return on capital. But the critics should bear in mind the fact that the Government’s scheme is virtually a “ cost plus “ method and gold-mining on this basis cannot be expected to yield the level of profits to which the industry has been accustomed. A further important fact which should also be remembered is that gold-mining does not attract income tax at all. To provide any mining company with a 4 per cent., tax-free profit at the expense of Consolidated Revenue on what is virtually a “ cost plus “ basis of assistance is regarded by the Government as fair under present circumstances. That some of the mines are operated by United Kingdom companies and that the United Kingdom Government sees fit to collect income tax from them are not factors which can be permitted to influence the basis of a scheme devised to assist an Australian industry.

Before the Government decided upon the present method of assistance a number of different suggestions was made that an overall form of subsidy should be made available to the industry. The various formulae suggested to the Government were carefully examined but it was found that some anomaly was inherent in each formula which rendered it unsuitable for the needs of the particular mines.

Besides this objection the Government considered that no overall basis of assistance was justified as many of the mines are capable of earning reasonable profits. Of course, it is recognized that the future profit margins will not be as high as in recent years. On a review of these factors the Government decided that the only practical method of assistance was to pay according to the needs of individual mines.

I realize that some of the companies which are not now included in the subsidizable category will probably not be able to stand the full impact of rising costs next year. For this reason I have undertaken that a further review will be made of the Western Australian industry early in 1949, in the light of events then existing.

My remarks have been confined to the industry in Western Australia. In the main, Western Australia’s production comes from mines in remote areas where townships, supporting considerable populations, depend almost entirely upon the continuance of the industry. We should also remember that gold production occupies an important place in the whole of that State’s economy. Neither of these factors is applicable to other States. Although gold mines in the latter States are also confronted with rising costs, they have not, except in a few isolated instances, to contend with problems as acute as the difficulties being experienced by the industry in the remote areas of Western Australia. Generally speaking, producers in the sparsely populated areas of other States are winning some gold in association with other minerals, but as a rule in these cases gold production is incidental to the mine’s main activities.

In every gold producing country there is the common problem of costs rising more or less rapidly against a fixed world price for gold based on the United States buying rate of $35 per oz. This rate has remained unchanged since 1934. It has to be acknowledged that the United States Government has a predominant influence on the international value of gold both through its voting power in the International Monetary Fund and in its own right as the world’s chief buyer of this metal. Under the International Monetary Fund Agreement par values of the currencies of some 45 countries are expressed in terms of gold as a common denominator, or the United States dollar of the weight and fineness in effect on the 1st July, 1944. As a member of the International Monetary Fund, Australia has therefore responsibility to see that its policy does not undermine or threaten to undermine the standard upon which the relative values of member-countries’ currencies are based. For this reason there is an obligation to ensure that the price paid for gold in this country is maintained in harmony with world parity.

I have frequently had my attention drawn to the fact that goid is sold at high premiums in certain open markets. My answer is that these are for all practical purposes blackmarket transactions and these prices would subside quickly enough if the main producing countries (which are at present directing their output to the United States) began selling in these open markets - it would merely be a matter of supply and demand.

There is the further point that sales on these open markets would not provide the Sterling Area countries with the currencies that’ are much needed to purchase goods and services in “ hard currency “ countries, such as the United States and Canada. It is apparent that high premiums are paid in markets where the currencies acquired are usually inconvertible and this applies particularly in countries where confidence in the future of the national currency is lacking or where political conditions are disturbed. I might go further and say that an Australian seller of gold on these so-called open markets would be in a worse plight if he merely acquired more orless useless currencies that we would not purchase because we do not want them.

Admittedly the question of price is fundamental to the maintenance of the industry but it would be wrong to believe that declining returns are the industry’s only difficulties. Besides the shortage of skilled man-power, labour turnover as between mines on the Kalgoorlie field is reported to be as high as 100 per cent. per annum and in other places even higher. The Commonwealth has given some assistance in helping to solve the industry’s labour problems and is also facilitating the procurement of machinery from overseas.

In many of the mines the ore being extracted is showing an appreciable decline in value and this factor together with labour problems is making it increasingly difficult for the mines to maintain production. Ore reserves of a number of mines are low due, in some instances, to restricted development during the war, and in other cases, I regret to say, to unwise financial policies in the past.

In my dealings with the industry, I have stressed that the present assistance scheme must be regarded as a temporary arrangement designed to give relief to marginal mines in remote “areas whilst the future of gold remains uncertain. The industry should realize that the Government is faced with a difficult situation. Admittedly, it would he helpful to our balance of payments problems if produc-. tion could be raised to its pre-war levels, but labour shortages and difficulties tend to restrict production regardless of price and whilst an increase in the price of gold would undoubtedly give the industry a strong stimulus, the key to this situation is held by the United States. The Government recognizes that, until the position is clarified, it will be necessary for the time being to continue the present form of assistance and for that reason the promise of a review early next year was given.

I move -

That the papeT be printed.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.

page 2568


Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 4th Novem ber (vide page 2556), on motion by Mr. Pollard -

That the bill be now read a second time.


.- After 88 years of chaos and uncertainty, of “ boom and bust “, the Australian wheat industry is at last to be put on a secure footing for the future. As the son of a farmer who grew wheat in the Wimmera district of Victoria for 30 years, I claim to have some authority for joining in this debate, even though the Tasmanian electorate which I represent is not an important wheat-growing area. The scheme for which the hill provides has been prepared after years of near-war between various groups and political parties in Australia, and I am sure that the passage of this legislation will give great satisfaction to the thousands of wheatgrowers who have been victims of this conflict and have been treated as political footballs. It is good to know that honorable members opposite generally agree with the principles of the Government’s plan although, in the committee stages, they may suggest a few minor amendments. No legislation that has been introduced into the Parliament this year has had more general support than this measure, a fact which augurs well for the wheat industry and the farmers. I congratulate the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) on the successful battle which he has waged in .order to bring this plan before us. His predecessor in office, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), also deserves the highest praise for. his work on behalf of the wheat industry during the difficult years of the war, which helped to lay the foundations of this plan. When this scheme is in operation it will constitute the biggest blow that has ever been directed against the vested interests in the wheat industry. The scheme embodies several interesting innovations, to which I should like to refer. One of them is that the State governments have been asked to establish State boards to function in either an advisory or an administrative capacity as the State may decide. Those boards will, in effect, be the State replicas of the Australian Wheat Board. I congratulate the Government upon bringing the States into the scheme in such a way. The Minister has indicated that where a State government does not desire to establish a. State board as a subsidiary of the Australian Wheat Board, the machinery of the central authority, that is, the Australian Wheat Board, shall function. The State boards are to be composed of a majority of growers’ representatives. Such a provision is, I believe, fundamental to any satisfactory scheme for the marketing of primary products. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -

The rights of State organizations are preserved so that bulk-handling organizations and boards in the States may keep the position they have under State law.

The growers are to contribute to the scheme while prices remain high. It would be impossible for growers to finance a scheme such as this when prices are low. During boom times millions of pounds are to be set aside from the growers’ incomes to be utilized later to offset losses in bad times, which unfortunately may come only too soon. The Minister also said -

Growers will contribute while prices are high, commencing with the 1947-48 crop, from which it is expected that the fund will receive about f 15,000.000. The taxation limit will be 2s. 2d. a bushel on the export surplus.

If the funds collected from the growers are more than enough to meet the guarantee, the surplus will be repaid to them. If the growers’ contributions prove to be insufficient to meet the guarantee, general revenue will meet the deficiency. Again, the contribution will be limited to 2s. 2d. a bushel.

That is a very sound basis for the establishment of the stabilization fund. The general taxpayers of the Commonwealth will assist to provide the guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a -bushel if the contributions made by the growers are insufficient to meet it. I am sure that the people of Australia, generally, knowing something of the disasters which befell the industry in the past, will be only too pleased to assist it in time of crisis by making up the deficiency in the stabilization fund to enable the grower to he paid the guaranteed home-consumption price of 6s. 3d. a bushel. The maintenance of primary production is of paramount importance to the economy of Australia. The principal sections of Australian industry which are wholly dependent upon primary production for their existence are the tractor machinery manufacturers the wire manufacturers, a branch of the steel industry, the manufacturers of fertilizers and soap, tanneries and hides and skin merchants. All the employees of those industries are entirely dependent upon the strength and prosperity of primary production for their daily employment. There seems to be a false impression in the minds of some people that there is a conflict between the producers and consumers in the community. That is not true. Each is dependent upon the other. Purchasing power in the consumer’s pocket means markets for primary products. A great deal is said these days about markets for our products. What are markets? In my view they are the mouths of millions of people needing food and the bodies of millions of people needing clothes. The demands of the people are regulated by their purchasing power. The quantity of food that people eat is dependent up to a point upon the amount of money in their pockets. The quantity of clothes they buy is likewise partly dependent on their purchasing power. Demand is created, regulated and conditioned solely by the purchasing power of the people. This plan will ensure stability in the wheat industry and added purchasing power among the primary producers. By its economic and financial policy the Government has greatly increased the demand for farm products. The price of wheat sold overseas is fundamentally based on the purchasing power of the peoples in the buying countries, which in turn is dependent upon the economy of those countries. Those matters are beyond our control. Within the Commonwealth, however, these factors are within our control and this Government by its financial and economic policy has brought about a solid economy which will enable a greater volume of our primary products to be consumed, in this country. There is no need for conflict between producers and consumers. If the consumer is penniless the producer receives almost nothing for his product. We experienced that state of affairs during the financial and economic depresmon. The tragedy of the depression was brought about not by over production but by under consumption because of the inability of the people to buy the goods they needed. In those days wheat was destroyed or burned as fuel in ships, cotton and many other foodstuffs were destroyed or wasted because there was not sufficient money in the pockets of the peoples of the world to enable them to buy the goods they needed. The prosperity of the consumers is inextricably bound up with the prosperity of out producers. They are interdependent. Many farmers are waking up to that to-day. At one time they said, “ Fancy paying £4 or £5 a week to farm hands ! “ ; but that was stupid. While farmers enjoy security and high prices, the working man, who is the consumer, must also have a good wage to buy farm products. Many farmers to whom I have spoken have awakened to the fact that prosperity must be general. It must be shared by producers and consumers alike. The prices of products must be above the cost of production, and the wages of workers must be sufficient to enable them to buy the foodstuffs that the farmer produces.

I shall give a brief outline of the history of the wheat industry between 1928 and 1940 to emphasize the strength of this measure. My own personal experience of wheat-farming goes back to the depression days when I worked with my father on a wheat farm in the Wimmera district. Unfortunately, I saw the industry at its worst. Wheatgrowing in this country was on its way out. After the boom year of 1928, the price of wheat fell from about 6s. 8d. a bushel to less than 2s. a bushel in 1929 and 1930. At one stage, in 1931, it was being sold at ls. 6d. a bushel. Even in those days no farmer could grow wheat economically at ls. 6d. a bushel. How did this tragedy gradually develop? When the price fell, the wheat-farmer could not pay his bills to the machinery agent, the fertilizer company, the manufacturer, the merchant, and the local storekeeper. Each year more and more promissory notes ‘came into circulation - “ I promise to pay on such and such a date in February, such and such a sum of money to such and such a firm”. Those promises were made in the hope that .after the ensuing harvest wheat prices would be sufficient to enable farmers to pay their debts. But invariably during those five grim years of depression, the promissory notes were extended for two months or three months at a time. Sometimes, because of the good nature of the person or firm to whom a promissory note had been given, its term would be extended until after the next harvest. But that could not go on indefinitely, and in 1932, 1933, and 1934 many manufacturers and banks had to put pressure on the wheat-farmers to meet their commitments. Gradually the wheat-farmers got so far behind that the banks said, “ If you want enough money to put your new crop in, we want a lien on that crop and on your livestock”. Sometimes those liens extended even to farm machinery. That meant that if the crop failed, almost all that the farmer possessed came into the hands of the hanks. That happened in thousands of instances. Banks took over farms and paid the farmers £3 10s. or £4 a week to work them. Virtually, the wheatfarmer lost all his equity in the land, on which he had worked for so many years. That was our experience. After 30 years of wheat-farming, my father was forced off the land in 1940. The price of wheat varied to such a degree that he never knew at the beginning of a harvest what be would receive for his product at the end of the harvest. Agents followed farmers up and down the paddocks at harvest time offering a farthing a bushel more than they had offered on the previous day. Such an offer may have sounded all right, but usually the farmer wanted to know what the other agents would offer, >and he would Ting them up at night. The farmer was under the constant strain of not knowing just when he should sell his wheat, or how long the price would hold. Exploitation of the wheat-farmers was rife. Throughout the entire harvest period they were gambling on prices which varied perhaps a farthing up or down week by week. Agents hounded the farmer on his farm during the day and over the telephone at night. This plan will remove from wheat-farmers all the strain and stress associated with that gamble. They will know when they plant their crops in June or July what they will get for them when they are harvested in the following February, whether the yield he great or small. What a remark able psychological effect that security will have on Australian wheat-farmers! No longer will they be harassed by that constant ever-riding uncertainty. They will be able to plan their production and apportion their costs. Thus, they will become more efficient farmers. By 1935, the wheat industry was in the throes of tragedy. In 1934-35 the total debts of wool-growers and wheat-farmers in Australia amounted to £288,000,000. The wheat crop in that season was approximately 135,000,000 bushels cf which no less than 60,000,000 was required to meet interest charges- carried -by the industry. This was a colossal debt and a heart-breaking burden upon the wheatfarmer. At that time the word “ mortgage “ came into its true meaning - “ dead hand “. The wheat-farmers had to mortgage everything they possessed to live. In 1935, the industry was in such a state that the Lyons Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into it. The need for relief was desperate. Up to that time, 2,500 wheatfarmers had walked off their properties in Western Australia, approximately 2,000 in Victoria, and from 1,500 to 1,700 had passed through the bankruptcy courts in South Australia. About 80 per cent, of the wheat-farmers in the Commonwealth could not pay their way. Between 1930 and 1935, 20,000 primary producers left the land. According to the Commonwealth Year-Booh farms growing twenty acres of wheat or more, numbered 59,885 in 1930-31. By 1940-41 that figure had dropped to 49,172, or a decrease of 10,113 in the 10-year period No greater example of the tragedy that had come to this great industry could be given. Those farms simply went out of existence. Some of them are gradually getting back into production now as the result of this Government’s policy during the war years. The farmers’ debt adjustment plan, which came into operation in 1935, was a temporary measure to try to save the wheat industry from annihilation. The Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act provided for the distribution of £12,000,000 to farmers in necessitous circumstances throughout the Commonwealth. To my own knowledge, that legislation .enabled many farmers in the Nhill district in

Victoria to remain on their properties. The speeches which some members of the present Opposition made on the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill become most interesting when compared with their speeches on the bill now under consideration. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) Indi stated in 1935-

I do not suggest for a moment that the whole of the difficulties of these industries can be met by revision of the tariff; but we should not ignore the statement by the royal commission

The honorable member referred to the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry -

That a capital obligation amounting to not less than ?500 is added to the burden of the average wheat-farmer by the incidence of the tarin*. Complementary action would involve marketing legislation, to give the producers control of the marketing of their product. It would also involve the establishment of home consumption prices, and of price stability. There should be, in addition, such action as would reduce, wherever possible, the costs of production.

The honorable member for Indi has changed hie views considerably since he made that speech in 1935. He is the most difficult member in this House to convince of the soundness of stabilization, even after the experiments which the Government conducted during World War II. Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, who was the United Australia party member for Gwydir, made an excellent speech on the wheat industry during the debate on the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Bill. He said, inter alia -

Australian governments cannot continue indefinitely raising money from the taxpayers, or borrowing it. The necessary effort must be made by all who are concerned in the welfare of our primary industries.

He was thinking mainly of the wheatgrowing industry. The extract continues -

In those I include the great financial institutions, which have been singularly lacking in any definite assistance of a voluntary nature up to the present. We must all agree that the effort which is being made at the present time cannot be confined purely to governmental action, as it is in this bill. One must ask oneself whether the practice of borrowing money to lend out again in order to retrieve the position is sound. Personally, I do not see that it is.

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), who is now Minister for Labour and National Service, interjected as follows: -

If the honorable member thought a little, he would say straight out that it was unsound.

Mr. Abbott replied ;

To put it definitely, I think it is unsound. . . No matter what has been done by governments for those industries in the past, there is no escaping the fact that their financial position is unsound. Instead of giving the House columns of figures, the honorable member could have simply confined himself to the fact, which has been often pointed out, that of the people engaged in primary industries at the present time, only about 5 per cent, contribute anything by means of income taxation to the finances of the States and the Commonwealth.

The statement that only 5 per cent, of primary producers in 1935 had a taxable income is a stark revelation of their financial position. Mr. Abbott continued -

I have no desire to attack the financial institutions. . . . but he had to admit that certain financial institutions were pressing the farmers most ruthlessly for the payment of their obligations. He read a letter which a settler in the north-west part of ‘New South Wales had received from his bank. It is dated the 10th December, 1934, and I shall read it to the House in order to show the desperate plight of wheatgrowers at that time. It is as follows : -

Dear Sir,

I regret to have to advise you that my inspector has refused to again sanction your limits, and he instructs me that I am to’ pay no further cheques on your account without reference to him. You must, therefore, advise me before hand of any future drawings, and wait until I obtain his sanction before issuing cheques.

He further instructs me to say that we will be glad if you will arrange for your finance elsewhere - your woolbrokers may be able to arrange an outside loan for you by which you could clear up the debt to the bank and make a fresh start. If you are not able to do this, then you must endeavour to sell the property while some equity remains.

The Hansard report continues -


– From time immemorial people- have gone on and off the land, but I contend that to-day more pressure is being brought to bear by financial institutions on settlers to meet their commitments than has been the case for the last th’ree years.

Mr Abbott:

– Which Mr. Abbott was ref erred to?


– It was Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, a former member for Gwydir, not the honorable member for New England who has interjected. I now refer to what Mr. Nock, who has been fighting the stabilization plan during the debate on this bill, and was then an honorable member of this Parliament, said on debt adjustment during the debate in 1935-

The Commonwealth Government . . . afford to delay in bringing this about. It should cut out the system of bounties, and take the rural industries out of the political cockpit, by giving them control boards and either by excise or by a home-consumption price, benefits which will stabilize them, and make the proposals contained in this bill and the efforts of the producer worth while.

Mr. Nock is today fighting the present measure. Mr. Scholfield, the then member for Wannon, also spoke on the necessity for stabilization, as did Mr. A. Lane, who was a member of the United Australia party and represented the district of Barton in this Parliament. Mr. Lane said, according to Hansard -

I do not believe that men on the land, with only a small surplus, such as ?600 on a ?4,000 property, can carry onwith the present price of wheat; and, according to the report of the royal commission, there cannot be any sudden rise in price within the next three or four years. If that is the position, the only way to avoid the necessity for paying bounties and borrowing money to rehabilitate the farmer is to stabilize him in his price for wheat, following the system which, as adopted in Queensland, has proved capable of stabilizing the industry and preventing its collapse.

These statements illustrate the concern of many men at that time for the introduction of a measure such as the present one. The Scullin Government’s guarantee of 4s. a bushel to wheat-growers during the depression years has been the subject of discussion during the present debate,but the true story about that matter is not always told. Mr.Scullin asked for ?18,000,000 from the Commonwealth Bank Board to stabilize the wheat industry at 4s. a bushel, but the Commonwealth Bank Board, which was then dominated by the private banks, refused him a penny and he was unable to carry out his guarantee. It is interesting to note what the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said during the debate, according to Hansard -

The Scullin Government had not the power to give a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for wheat, and it lacked the courage to enforce its own legislation in this respect.

But of course the bankers saw to it that Mr. Scullin could not put that into effect.

The honorable member went on to say -

I am not blaming the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) for what happened. He did the best he could according to the light available’ to him at the time, and the fact that the market went against the primary producers was not foreseen by him any more than it was foreseen by the trading and financial interests. If the banks and financial institutions could have foreseen the drop of prices they would have called in their advances to the farmers long before, and would have refused to advance further sums onrural security.It is not right tosaddle any particular party with the responsibility of what happened, and I do not attempt to do so.

As usual, he was fair minded and his statement absolved Mr. Scullin of the blame that was placed on him in the many attacks in this House. I conclude by a reference to the bogy of socialization that has been put forward with regard to the present measure.

Mr Turnbull:

– What about discussing the bill itself?


– This is around the bill.

Mr Turnbull:

– All around it.


– The Opposition, in its criticism, raises the bogy of socialization so as to scare the farmers. The Prime Minister said at the triennial conference of the Australian Labour party, on the 30th September last -

We will manage our own affairs. We will have nothing to do with imported ideologies, whether of the extremeleft as in Russia or the extreme right as in nazism and fascism. We can work out our own destiny.

That is a strong statement and it disproves the constant gibes of honorable members opposite that we are trying to introduce a Russian system to this country. I say quite definitely that this country is completely unsuited for a transfer, en masse, to the Russian way of life. The plan for the wheat industry is not a Russian plan of socialization. It is a system of co-operation between governments and wheat-farmers to provide a guaranteed price. The present measure gives security to the wheat-farmer and brings order into an industry where there has been disorder, chaos and trouble. If the Opposition, like the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), thinks that this measure represents socialism then all I can say is that the farmers, by their vote, have said in effect, “Let us have more of it “. The whole thing boils down to the question of the correct definition of the word “ socialism “. The Opposition slings around words like “ socialism “ and “ communism “, but it never tries to define them, and when a measure is introduced that will benefit the wheat-farmers, they claim it represents socialism. The farmers are sick and tired of hearing the Opposition’s story. The farmers are saying, “If this bill can give us what it claims to be able to give us, and if that is socialism, then we want it “. That is what they are saying, in effect, irrespective of what the honorable member for Indi says. I received a letter yesterday from a wheat-grower, who was a supporter of the Australian Country party until 1940, but thereafter, like my own father, who also was a supporter of the Australian Country party, but saw the light, he voted for the Labour party. His letter states -

We had a lovely rain about a fortnight ago and the crops have improved out of sight and with the good prices your Government are getting for us farmers, makes farming worth while. We have never been so well off and 1 hope you can keep it up. I know you will. Vested interests are no good for the working class and we are among them.

  1. think that is a very interesting statement from a man who, I know personally, voted for the Australian Country party until 1940 or 1943, but has swung right round to the realization that the Labour party, which has been branded as an industrial party only, has in the last eight years proved itself to be the only truly rural party this country has ever had. I say that in all sincerity, and with a full understanding of the wheat industry, I believe that the committee that inquired into the margin of profit and. was attacked so strenuously by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) last night, has given the Minister all the facts he requires and has put them on a basis whereby in three years time there shall be another complete review of the cost of production. Prices will have a due and proper relationship to the cost of production during the time the scheme is in operation, and if at the end of five years it has worked satisfactorily the Government, I understand, will give the farmers the option of having ii carried on for a further five years.

The wheat-growers can look to the future with a greater degree of security than they have ever had in the past. The measure will remove from the wheat industry the element of chance with its chaos and disorder, and put wheat-growers on an equal footing with other workers who are guaranteed an award wage irrespective of other considerations.


– The measure before the House concerns an industry that, judging by the diverse comments expressed from all sides of the House, has been a problem child of political parties for many years. Many of the opinions expressed and the quotations given have been connected with honorable members who were in this House long before I was elected to it. I desire to say, quite definitely, at the outset, where 1 stand in regard to organized marketing. I believe in stabilization under a system of orderly co-operative marketing, when the growers have decided that they want such a system. I also believe in a board with a preponderance of grower representation. Such a system has proved successful in Queensland, and I support the measure wholeheartedly to the degree thai it meets those requirements. The Queensland State Wheat Board, although it had to meet competition from bountiful crops in southern States, has proved its worth. A similar system, operated on a Commonwealth basis, could undoubtedly be successful. The Queensland State Wheat Board operated its orderly marketing system for nineteen years prior to the beginning of the last war, against competition from the southern States, and has a very creditable record. As I have stated before in this House, the Queensland State Wheat Board was able to return an average of 4s. 5d. a bushel to the growers during that period of nineteen years, and it did not have the up-to-date, efficient storage that is available to-day. I admit that its geographical position benefited Queensland as did the fact that the Queensland crop did not reach such high proportions that the Queensland growers had to depend to any degree upon export markets. I have been particularly interested in the debate on this bill because it is the third plan for the stabilization of the wheat industry introduced since the Labour party took office. I exclude the International Wheat Agreement, which would have operated in a wider field.

Mr Rankin:

– And was still-born.


– The first plan was introduced in 1943 and became known as the “ Scully plan “. It is noteworthy that in this debate its author, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), has ‘been the only honorable mem;ber to eulogize it. In fact, he spoke in his own defence. I cannot imagine that even the most fervent supporters of the Government are happy about that scheme, because it failed. The first reason for its failure was that it reduced wheat production. Figures received from the Government Statistician only this morning show that, in round figures, the average production for each of the five years ended the 30th June, 1939, was 154,000,000 bushels. It fell in 1943-44 to 109,000,000 bushels and to only 32,000,000 bushels in 1944-45. I must be fair and concede that the reduction of the drop in 1944-45 by about half was attributable not only to drought, but also to the reduction of the acreage sown, which declined from about 13,000,000 acres in 1938-39 to only 7,875,000 acres in 1943- 44 and to 8,463,000 acres in 1944- 45, the last year of the operation of the scheme.

The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) criticized the offer of a guarantee of 5s. 9d. a bushel to the wheatgrowers by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in his 1943 policy speech. He ridiculed that offer, but failed to mention that the Scully scheme guaranteed the growers only 4s. a bushel.

Mr Pollard:

– One figure was “ at ports “ and the other was “ at sidings “.


– I am quite aware »f that. The 5s. 9d. a bushel was f.o.r. at ports, and we can reduce the figure by about1s., but 4s. 9d. a bushel at sidings is obviously better than 4s. a bushel at sidings. The offer of os. 9d. a bushel f.o.r. ports made in 1943 was also better than the proposed guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a bushel to-day, because the “ C “ series index shows that the index number in the September quarter of 1943 was 1138 compared with 1311 in the September quarter of this year. The rise of the cost of living makes the offer of 5s. 9d. a bushel in 1943 obviously better than 6s. 3d. to-day. So the Minister for Works and Housing had no justification for belittling the offer made by the Leader of the Australian Country party to the wheat-growers.

Mr Pollard:

– The honorable member is speaking about the offer made by the Leader of the Australian Country party in 1943, hut the right honorable gentleman slipped back to only 5s. 2d. a bushel in 1946.


– The bill of 1946 provided for 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports. The amendment submitted on behalf of the Australian Country party was designed to guarantee the growers 5s. 2d. a bushel at growers’ sidings. The second reason for the failure of the Scully plan was that the reduced output lessened the sales that could have been made overseas. An interesting feature of the speech made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council was that, in an attempt to justify it, he divulged information about the New Zealand wheat deal that had never been made known to us before. However much the honorable member talks about the deal, he cannot escape from the fact that he sold wheat to New Zealand at prices lower than he, as a responsible Minister, was justified in accepting. I do not desire to labour the subject of the sale of wheat to New Zealand by the honorable gentleman because I have debated it many times before; but the deal, together with the smaller output that resulted from the reduced acreage sown, brought about the cancellation of the scheme and the honorable gentleman’s consequent removal from the position of Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.

Mr Pollard:

– That is a lie.


– That is my view.

Mr Pollard:

– He was promoted to a higher position.


– The policy was not acceptable to the wheat industry. The Government was aware that it had failed, and sought to supplant it with the 1946 scheme. The Scully scheme was the first. Then we had placed before us the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill of 1946, which became law and which I may describe as “ the Pollard scheme “.

Mr Pollard:

– I was not Minister for Commerce in 1946. 3Ir. ADERMANN. - That legislation contained sections that applied retrospectively to the 1945-46 wheat crop. I desire to pin’ the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) down to that. Recently I read my secondreading speech on that bill and I am happy to stand by every word I said about that bill and particularly why it should not contain retrospective clauses. Those provisions brought about the downfall of the scheme. We spoke against those provisions and the growers themselves opposed them. To mend the position the Government now intends to repay to the growers the money collected from them in 1945-46. The reasons advanced in opposition to those retrospective .provisions were that the growers would have to provide the whole of the stabilization fund because of the short period for which the guarantee was to operate. The guarantee was to have ended in 1950. That was the principal objection to the entire legislation, but objection to the retrospective provisions was intense because at the time practically all the wheat had been delivered by the growers. According to its wording, the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1946 covered five seasons, but, in fact, it covered only four, because one had already passed. I said then that there was no need for a guarantee of 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports because we could see sufficiently far ahead to know that the world wheat shortage would assure the growers of valuable markets and that the guarantee, to have any value, would have to be for a period extending beyond 1950. That has been borne out. The claim that the plan provided no real stabilization for the industry has also been borne out by the fact that the. Government is now seeking to repeal the 1946 legislation and to pro vide a stabilization plan until 1953, instead of 1950. I objected to the limitation of the guaranteed price to the five years ending in 1950. The period provided for in this legislation is also unsatisfactory. Under the 1946 legislation the growers were allowed to sow an unrestricted acreage, which they were prevented from doing under the Scully plan, which limited the guarantee to the first 3.000 bushels delivered. When the growers had the opportunity to grow extensively they were not able to keep the full benefit of the 1945-46 crop. So far as Queensland is concerned - and I expressed an opinion on behalf of Queensland at that time - the crops of the two previous years were affected by droughts. Although the 1945-46 crop had been a good one, the farmers were deprived of the opportunity to recoup their losses of the previous two years, and had to pay 2s. 2d. a bushel into the fund. At that time I asked what justification existed for taking money from the farmers, in order to bolster up a fund to provide for future lean years when at the time the growers were suffering because of adverse seasonal conditions. That was obviously wrong, and the arguments that I advanced then apply equally to-day

I agree with the stabilization scheme now proposed by the Government in all but several aspects, with which I shall deal separately as I proceed. I submit that the scheme being debated fails to provide for permanent stabilization; the term is too short. The conditions obtaining when the 1946-47 bill was brought down apply to a degree to-day. In other words, I consider that there will be no necessity for any Government contribution between now and 1953, unless world conditions change rapidly. Since the shortage of food in the world is still acute, I consider that the wheat market will not be over-supplied within the period of five years covered by the proposed scheme. For real stabilization a five-year period is too short a term. I favour stability of prices for an industry, rather than that that industry should be governed by the law of supply and demand. I have always been in favour of stabilization schemes. When there is a shortage of a particular commodity in the world I contend that the home price of that commodity should not soar to world-high prices; neither should it drop to glut prices when there is a bountiful supply. A stabilization scheme, to be of real value to the industry, should provide for payment to the grower of a price which is sufficient not only to compensate the grower for his cost of production, but also to guarantee to him a reasonable profit. That is the policy of the Australian Country party, and i9 one which I strongly support. That policy should be applied, where practicable, to other agricultural industries also. Such a stabilization scheme would encourage the grower to carry on, in the knowledge that if he experienced a bad season, he would be compensated in good seasons.

Under the proposed scheme the Minister will have the right to veto any decision of the board, notwithstanding that the growers hare a majority representation on the board. I strongly opposed a similar provision being included in the previous act, because I considered that grower-elected boards could handle, satisfactorily, the marketing of the crop. In other words, if such a board were elected by the democratic vote of the growers to handle the marketing of their crop, I believe that it would face up to its responsibilities. I cannot remember any board that failed to do so reasonably. Over the years seventeen of such boards in Queensland have functioned successfully. Growerelected boards, in effect, place themselves in the position of a Minister or a banker when handling finance. The members of the board are trustees in every sense of that word. No grower-representative could even consider paying out more than a fair sum of money, because he would realize that if it subsequently became necessary for him to attempt to reclaim money from the growers, his day as a board member would be over. Therefore he would be very careful in his actions. The Minister already carries the responsibility of export. I consider that the board could handle related problems satisfactorily, whenever -a licence to export was granted. The bill imposes an additional responsibility on the Minister; he will bear the responsibility for international sales. What I object to in this measure is that the grower will not retain his full equity in his product.. The Minister has been indefinite on thispoint, and I hope that he will clear it up when replying. As I understand thescheme, the grower will retain an equity in amounts of up to 2s. 2d. a bushel that are collected from him and paid into the stabilization fund. He would receive a proportionate amount of any surplus distributed to the growers. I should like the Minister to make it clear whether the growers retain an equity when paymentsare made to them from the fund in times of adverse seasonal conditions. I understand that in such cases they do not retain any equity. The Minister nods; presumably my interpretation of the measure is correct. The difficulty in that connexion is that a grower who suffers a real hardship by being blasted by drought may not get anything. Frankly, this is likely to be a difficult matter to overcome. The grower may contribute to the fund for five years, at rates up to 2s. 2d. a bushel. The sixth year may be a year of low prices, or his crop may be affected by drought. Whilst other growers who entered the industry during that year, and who had made no contribution to the fund, would receive full benefits from the fund, the grower who had paid in over the previous five years would not receive any additional benefits as a result of his contributions. We should try to overcome that anomaly. If we can do so only by providing insurance in some form against drought, such provision should be made. Otherwise, many growers will not retain any equity in the fund to which they have contributed. Whilst a grower who may suffer as the result of adverse seasonal conditions would get little benefit from his contribution, another grower who, on coming into the industry, enjoyed a bountiful crop in a different district would have his price made up to the full amount of the guarantee and would thus reap a benefit to which he had not contributed. If there is no other way of overcoming that anomaly, the Minister should consider the provision of insurance against drought.

Mr Francis:

– It might be overcome by averaging production.


– That may be possible, but this matter is so important that it should be worked out on an actuarial basis. I do not propose to deal with any aspect of the bill which conforms to the policy which I have invariably enunciated. I believe in stabilization. During the general election campaign in 1946 I did not hesitate to discuss the stabilization of the wheat industry. I told the wheat-growers in my electorate that in a time of plenty they had an obligation to make a contribution to the fund, but, at the same time, the Government also bad a responsibility to contribute to such a fund. Under the agreement for the sale of wheat to New Zealand, the Government originally intended that the difference between the open market price and the price set out under that contract should be made good by the wheat-growers themselves. Later, however, the Government altered that decision by placing that deficiency upon the shoulders of the taxpayers as a whole and thus obliged them to pay a subsidy to the taxpayers of New Zealand. No provision of that kind is made in this bill. Having regard to the duration of the scheme, which is limited to only five years, the whole of the burden of financing it will rest upon the growers themselves. They will provide their own insurance fund, because it is clear that within the next five years the industry will not require any financial assistance from the Government in order to maintain the guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. When supporters of the Government eulogize the scheme and praise the Government for its readiness to assist the growers, they know that it is most unlikely that within the next five years the Government will be called upon to make any contribution at all towards the scheme. The scheme will be financed wholly by the growers themselves. In new of that fact, the Government should make some contribution in order to rectify the anomaly which I have mentioned by ensuring that growers who suffer as the result of drought will reap the full benefit of the payments they make to the stabilization fund in good seasons.


.- I support many features of the bill. I made ray position with respect to this legislation quite clear when I was approached by a number of wheatgrowers’ organizations both inside and outside my electorate, when I told them that whilst I disagreed strongly with a number of its provisions I believed that this bill was the best that the growers could expect from the Government. I then had in mind, of course, the stubborness of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). In those circumstances, I told the growers in my electorate that it would be disastrous for the industry if they did nol accept this legislation, particularly when they knew that at no distant date there, would be a change of Government and the measure could then be amended in order to give them the right to handle their own product under any scheme in respect of which the Government was not actually . called upon to provide financial assistance. I advised the growers strongly to vote in favour of this scheme and to look forward to the day when another Government would amend the legislation to make it completely acceptable to them. My statements about the scheme were unequivocal; and the growers in my electorate voted by a very large majority in favour of it.

However, I strongly object to certain features of the measure. First, I object to the principle of the Minister being given complete directional power over the Australian Wheat Board. Although the growers’ representatives will be in a majority on the board, it will not have any real power. I disagree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who strongly supports the principle of ministerial control. All honorable members recognize the principle that any government, when it is called upon to finance a scheme of this kind, must insist upon exercising control over the disposal of the product. However, in this instance the Government already holds in trust the sum of £15,600,000 which the growers have contributed by way of wheat tax; whilst under this scheme it is estimated that in respect of this year’s crop they will contribute another £10.000.000, making a total contribution of £25,600,000 which the Government will have in hand. That money belongs to the wheat-growers. A ‘< serious fall in the price of wheat, or of the price of any other grain product, is not likely to occur within the next few years.

Mr Pollard:

– Does the honorable member know that at present we cannot realize 5s. a bushel f.o.b. for oats?


– A price of 5s. a bushel f.o.b. for oats is a very different return from 6s. 3d. a bushel for wheat.

Mr Pollard:

– The price obtained for oats not long ago was 12s. 5d. a bushel.


– We must .remember chat wheat is the staple food of the white race, and that it is becoming increasingly one of the staple foods of the peoples of the eastern countries. For instance, whilst the quantity of wheat which India required a few years ago was practically negligible, to-day that country has made arrangements with Argentine for the supply of 350,000 tons of wheat in return for supplies of jute and other products. We all know that the price of wheat must eventually fall, but there is no sign of a serious reduction at present. The ruling price in the Chicago wheat market, which is the greatest wheat market in the world, is now 226 cents. There is no justification for suggesting that within die next three years the price of wheat will fall to the guaranteed price or below it. The Government will not be called upon to bear any financial loss in this connexion. The wheat industry is being stabilized with the wheat-growers’ money and not with the Government’s money. [ agree that it would not be practicable to allow the wheat-growers completely to control the marketing of their crops if they were asking for assistance from the taxpayers of Australia, but as long as the industry itself is able to finance this scheme, there is no justification for giving to the Minister the dictatorial powers that are sought to be given to him by this bill.

The wheat-growers, as a body, do not object to concessional prices for wheat for human consumption, but they do object to unlimited quantities being made available to stock-feeders at such prices. lt would be unfair and foolish of other primary industries to expect the wheatgrowers to supply them with wheat at those prices. The wheat-growers’ organizations agree that 15 per cent, of the export surplus should be sold for stock feed at concessional prices. That is a very generous action, and, in fact, I am surprised that they should agree to do so. I do not object to wheat being made available to poultrymen, dairymen and sheepbreeders at concessional prices, but I object very strongly to one small section of the community being asked to carry the consequent financial burden. During the war we required large quantities of food for Britain, our American allies and the people of the islands and in the East. One of the few statesman-like actions of the Labour Government was to make that food available cheaply. However, the Australian wheat-growers should not have been asked to carry the hurden; it should have been spread over the whole of the people of Australia. The Minister is asking for an extra 5,000,000 dozen eggs for export to Britain. I agree that the poultry-farmers must be supplied with wheat at reasonable prices so that that extra production may be achieved, but I am sure that, in his heart, the honorable gentleman does not believe thatthe wheat-growers should be expected to supply it at those .prices.

Mr McEwen:

– I think he does.


– I do not. I have more faith in the Minister’s common sense than that. I agree that, whatever board may be appointed, the Government must have the power to ensure that sufficient wheat shall be retained in this country to meet our own requirements. That power is inherent in the Constitution, and I am sure that no one will object to the Minister exercising it. We do not want again to be compelled to import wheat from America at 13s. 9d. a bushel, as we did in the past. In the samples that I saw there were seeds of three very dangerous noxious weeds. It was of a grade that we used to call seconds. The late Senator Keane, or some of his departmental officials, made the arrangements under which that wheat was imported. I do not know whether they saw it or not. It would appear that they did not, because I cannot believe they would have been stupid enough to buy such rubbish if they had seen it. I agree that the Government must have this power.

The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) made an impassioned speech. In fact, while the honorable gentleman was speaking I began to wonder whether the Treasury might not be involved in some expense over this plan after all, because I thought that he might knock in the top of his desk ! The honorable gentleman attacked the Australian Country party very violently. I noticed that a number of other honorable members opposite also attacked the Australian Country party violently in the course of this debate. The strange fact is that they all have Australian Country party opponents at the next general election. Every one of them has a “ touch of the breeze”.

Mr Pollard:

– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) attacked Mr. Cullen, a member of his own party.


– That was a matter for the honorable member for Indi to decide. I did not agree with that attack. Mr. Cullen is a personal friend of mine. “We disagree on a number of matters relating to the wheat industry and we have a ding-dong argument on many occasions when we meet, but we remain very good friends. I consider that Mr. Cullen is an honest man. As chairman of the wheat and wool-growers’ organization in Victoria, he did a great deal for the wheat-growers of Victoria and of Australia generally. I have been in close association with him, particularly with regard to ex-servicemen. Many ex-servicemen were, at the time they joined the forces, boys working on their fathers’ properties. Some weird public servant got the idea into his head that if an ex-serviceman did not own his own property and hold a wheat-grower’s licence before he joined the forces, the fact that he fought for his country for six years was not sufficient to entitle him to a licence. I know of two young brothers who served with distinction during the war. One attained the rank of full colonel and the other that of lieutenant-colonel. When they were demobilized, they sold a small property that they owned. Of course, the wheat-grower’s licence had to go with it. They then bought a fairly large property, which they intended to use for grazing. They wanted to sow a crop of wheat in a part of it each year and sow it down in pasture. They could not obtain permission to grow wheat. Altogether about 50 young men were in a similar predicament. Although they were not all constituents of mine, most of them served in the 2nd Cavalry Division, which I commanded during the recent war, and I felt that I was responsible, in some degree, for their welfare. I interviewed a number of “wooden heads” on their behalf, but the interviews left me in a state of despair. However, I mentioned the matter to Mr. Cullen, and, the young men received wheat-growers’ licences within a fortnight. Two years ago, when transport was difficult because of the curtailment of railway services, brought about by the miners’ refusal to produce coal, wheat-growers were in a desperate plight. Heavy rainstorms had occurred and no railway trucks were available to shift the wheat stacked in the fields, some of which was surrounded by eighteen inches of water. I went to Mr. Cullen to see if something could be done and he exploited every avenue of likely assistance in Melbourne and did everything humanly possible. Eventually we succeeded in obtaining transport to move the wheat. I also know that on other occasions he has rendered splendid service to the wheatgrowers of this country, often at his own expense. As I said previously, he is a personal friend, and I know that he is absolutely honest. Therefore, if the Government sees fit to appoint Mr. Cullen to the chairmanship of the Australian Wheat Board, there will be no “kick” coming from me. Sir Olive McPherson, to whom the previous Labour Government had to turn in its hour of need, told me that Mr. Cullen had done a very good job and was an excellent servant of the wheat-growers. Incidentally, Sir Olive McPherson, like Mr. Essington Lewis, to whom the Government also appealed for assistance during the war, was trained by private enterprise, and a Labour government, which professes to abhor private enterprise, was only too glad to avail itself of their services at a time of desperate need.

Turning again to discussion of the bill, I point out that the provisions which relate to stock feed contain certain serious weaknesses. Although, in times of drought and near drought there will be a big demand for feed wheat, when every bushel will be sold at concessional prices regardless of the world parity price, in , times of plenty, graziers, dairymen and poultry-farmers will not purchase wheat at all because they will grow sufficient supplies for their own requirements. Nevertheless, the measure contains no assurance to wheat-growers that when the world parity price falls below the guaranteed price stock feeders will purchase one bushel. At present, sheep-farmers are receiving extraordinary prices for wool, and only a few days ago some was sold for100d. per lb. Certainly that particular wool was of exceptional quality, and it is exceeded in value, I believe, only by a certain class of Tasmanian wool. However that may be, I consider that primary producers have no right to expect wheat-growers to share all their troubles without participating in their prosperity. As a dairy-farmer I believe that we have no right to expect wheatgrowers to supply wheat at lower than the world price. In my own district we receive from the local butter factory 2s. 8½d. a lb. on a butter-fat basis, for our milk. Unfortunately, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has not insisted on Australian producers of wheat or butter getting a proper return for their produce, as does the Government of New Zealand. I emphasize that the measure contains no guarantee to wheatfarmers that if the world parity price of wheat declines other primary producers will continue to purchase wheat. That is a most important consideration for wheatgrowers. The Government should review the measure so as to ensure that wheatgrowers will be adequately protected in times of adversity, and the Minister should make a definite statement of the Government’s intentions.

No indication has been given as to whether or not the Government intends to restrict wheat acreage. Of course, I trust that neither the present, nor any future, administration will be so stupid as to reintroduce a policy of restriction of acreage. Some years ago, the former honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) visited Tasmania and returned with the story that wheat stored in the temporary silos in that State would be completely destroyed by weevils. Of course, he did not know that weevils cannot live when they burrow more than twelve inches into a stack of wheat because the temperature of the wheat inside the stack rises to approximately 117 degrees.

Mr Archie Cameron:

Mr. Wilson should have known that from personal experience.


– The trouble is that, so far as I know, he never grew sufficient wheat to make a stack.

Mr Pollard:

Mr. Wilson did not make any such statement.


– He stated that weevils would destroy the wheat in bulk head silos.

Mr Pollard:

– No, he did not.


Mr. Wilson’s statement was published in the newspapers at the time, and he also stated in the House that much of the Western Australian wheat crop would be destroyed by weevils. Of course, any one who knows anything of wheat is aware that when it is taken out of stack it weighs more, even after allowing for partial destruction by weevils, than it did when it was stacked. Wheat always gains weight, particularly in winter. One of the main sources of profit of the proprietary companies which used formerly to market our wheat was the natural increase of the weight of wheat consignments on the voyages to the United Kingdom.

Mr Hamilton:

– To which Mr. Wilson was the honorable member referring?


– To the fellow who betrayed his masters and received his 30 pieces of silver.


– Order ! The honorable member must return to discussion of the bill.


– I am referring to the bill, which I contend is not legislation of the kind to which the industry is entitled. If we treat the wheat-farmers decently, r.hey will substantially increase the pro.duction of wheat, which is so badly needed at present, not only ,by Australia but also by the rest of the world. One disability under which wheat-farmers labour at the moment is the shortage of tractors. Although a great many things have been imported under licences issued by the present Government, no proper provision has been made for the importation of tractors and other agricultural machinery. Although I do not object to the Government permitting the importation of machinery for secondary industries, because we must expand those industries if we are to develop our economy, I object to the importation, at the present time, of expensive aircraft, cars and other luxuries. The agricultural machinery of this country has never been in such a poor condition as it is to-day. Of course, that is not the fault of the wheat-growers, nor is it entirely the fault of the Government. However, the Government is responsible to a certain degree because it has not made dollar funds available for the importation of machinery or spare parts. Australian machinery firms, which Supply a great proportion of our requirements

Mr Pollard:

– There is no restriction on the importation of parts.


– There is a restriction on the importation of aircraft parts, for instance. Applicants cannot obtain import licences. There is a restriction on agricultural machinery-

Mr Pollard:

– But not on parts.


– I can tell the Minister about the case of a man who needed parts for an American tractor. His daughter had’ manned an American officer and was living in the United States of America. He wrote to her and -:lie bought the necessary parts with her own money, not with dollars from Australia’s pool, and the parts were shipped to Australia. When I last heard from that man, the parts were lying in a customs store at Melbourne and he was not allowed to take them out of bond, although their purchase had not cost Australia anything. Because of that, the tractor was immobilized. It is of no use for the Minister to say that there is no restriction, because there definitely is a restriction.

I believe that, with reasonable treatment, Australia’s .wheat industry can be greatly expanded. I do not agree that people should be told what to grow and when to grow it. I am opposed to that sort of regimentation. The law of supply and world demand will influence the production of wheat. Farmers will grow more wheat if it is needed, and I am confident that, if the world parity price remains anywhere near its present level, Australians will want to grow wheat. The bill will not provide sufficient stability for the industry. I draw the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the fact that scores of ex-servicemen are going on to single unit farms in Victoria and that many others are being established on wheat lands by their fathers. Although the process is slow, eventually hundreds of men will be placed on soldier settlement blocks. The Minister should realize that approximately two years must elapse between the time these men begin work on their properties, if they have the necessary machinery and plant, and the time when they begin to reap crops. They must let their land lie fallow for a fairly long period before they plant crops. They cannot expect any return from their labour in less than two years. By then, less than three years of the period of the proposed stabilization plan will remain. At the very least, the period fixed for the plan should be ten years. My view is that the scheme should be based on the cost of production plus a reasonable profit, and that it should be carried on from year to year without any time restriction. The industry deserves well of the nation. I remind Australians that they are able to get a 4-lb. loaf of bread for ls. 0½d. Had they been obliged to pay world parity price for wheat used for bread, they would have to pay 2s. 6d. or more for a 4-lb. loaf. Australians and New Zealanders have the cheapest loaf in the world. I shall refer to the New Zealand wheat agreement later. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the next day of sitting.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

page 2583



The following answers to questions were circulated: -


  1. What were the approximate average returns per bushel tto the Wheat Board for wheat sold from No. 10 and No. 11 pools to date?
  2. What waa (a) the average of all sales from each pool, (6) the average of all Bales for export and (c) the average of all sales for local consumption?
  3. How much tax has been collected on the wheat, or from the growers of the wheat, in pools Nos. 9 and 10?
  4. When will this tax money be refunded to growers?
  5. What other residues belonging to growers remain in the funds of these two pools?
  6. Will the Government now allow cornsacks to be supplied by the board and debited against the wheat to be delivered?
  7. In connexion with the new wheat proposals, ia the guaranteed price to be paid to farmers on delivery or paid by instalments?
  1. No. 10 pool - 98. 3id., bulk, f.o.r. ports; No. 11 pool - 14s. 3bd; f-a.q. bulk, f.o.r. ports.
  2. No. 10 pool- (a) 9s. 3Jd.; (6) 15s. 8Jd.s <o) 4b. 11¼d.; No. 11 pool- (a) 14s. 3R; (6) 17a. lid.; (e) 0s. 2*d.
  3. No. 9 pool - £6,900,000; No. 10 pool - £4,329,780.
  4. At an appropriate time after the hill authorizing the refund has been approved by this Parliament.
  5. No. 9 pool- £173,216; No. 10 pool- £211,231.
  6. It is impracticable to alter the procedure at this late stage in deliveries.
  7. This ia a question for decision each season by the Government of the day.

Export Licences

It is the practice of this department to give careful consideration to all applications for export licences regardless of whether ot not the goods involved are under export restriction. Each application in respect of restricted goods ia dealt with on its merits in relation to the supply position of the goods and other relevant factors at the time. It is not considered that the revival of the Export Com.mittee which waa established to deal with war-time and immediate post-war problem* could be justified. If any person who hat been refused an export licence during the past six months is of the opinion that the circumstances in which the application war refused have changed hia case will be reconsidered should he renew hia application. It itimpracticable for the department to initiate any re-examination as suggested. In the cast of tennis racket strings, to which the honorable member particularly referred, supplies of raw materials for their manufacture are dependent upon seasonal slaughtering of live stock and applications for licences to export tennis gut must be considered in relation to the supply position in Australia from time to time.

Wran Netting;

Was approval given a few months . ago for the issue of a licence to import a quantity of wire netting of Japanese origin? If so. what quantity was covered by the. licence and at what price will it be sold to users? Haiany arrangement been made to ensure priority of supplies to primary producers?

The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information -

A licence was issued in August, 1948, for the importation from Japan of 20SJ tons of wire netting. The value shown on the licence if approximately double the wholesale selling rice of locally made netting, but it is not known what the Belling price to the user will be. The distribution of the goods after in)portation ia not being handled by the Commonwealth Government.

Re-establishment : Reconstruction Training Scheme.

  1. Is it a fact, aa reported by the Victorian president of the Returned Soldiers League, Mr. Holland, in Brisbane several days ago,, thai trade unions were determining what should bo done in reconstruction training for ex-, service personnel?
  2. ls it a fact, as reported, that, at the end of last year, classes for carpenters, bricklayers and plumbers were cut out, that there were 10,000 men in New South Wales alone awaiting training, and’ that representations to the Minister had resulted in only sixteen mira getting training in plumbing?
  3. Has the Returned Soldiers Congress asked the Government to make a full review of the scheme and to reconstruct it to fulfil promises made to ex-servicemen; if so, what is proposed in response to these representations?
  1. No.
  2. There were not L0.000 ex-servicemen awaiting trade training in New South Wales at the time stated. The correct figure for all trades in New South Wales at the commencement of this year was 4,780. It is a fact that in New South Wales training in plastering, plumbing, carpentry and bricklaying was temporarily discontinued at varying dates. Training has been resumed in plastering and plumbing, but entries to bricklayers’ and carpenters’ classes are still under suspension. However, in these two trades alone there are 4,074 men in current training in New South Wales.
  3. No representations covering matters discussed at the recent Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia conference in Brisbane have yet reached the Government.

House adjourned at 12.54 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.