20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HAYLEN presented a petition from certain citizens of New South Wales praying that this House express its opposition to the proposal to rearm Japan, and instruct the Government to oppose this rearmament by every possible means.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is it a fact that recently there has been a sharp reduction in the export quota for fatty acids that are associated with the production of glycerine? Is the quota fixed on a quarterly basis, often after the quarter has begun? Is that action taken by the Tallow Advisory Committee which is under the Minister’s control, and the members of which are to a great degree representative of the trade? As the result of the committee’s action1: has the production of glycerine in Australia been considerably reduced and is that not causing great shortages in the production of glycerine for explosives to be used in the mining industry and in projects like the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme? Will the Minister conduct a personal investigation into this matter and consider the method adopted by the Tallow Advisory Committee in fixing the quota so that Australian producers of glycerine, especially the smaller ones, can have an adequate export quota and a reasonable levy to ensure that the maximum amount of glycerine is produced in this country? Will the Minister investigate that matter urgently and personally?
– I am not able to answer the right honorable gentleman immediately. A policy exists which affects tallow, glycerine and certain other fatty acids, and which is administered by a committee that has no statutory status and which is known as the Tallow Advisory Committee. I understand that the committee, which was established by a former government, is considered to be necessary because the local price of tallow, which is fixed by State legislation, is lower than the export price. If some form of control were not exercised, all Australian tallow would be exported in order that producers might enjoy the benefit of the higher export price. A quota ‘system is in operation, under which tallow is allocated for end uses, local consumption and export. The Tallow Advisory Committee, of which an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is a member, if not chairman, tenders the advice upon which the Government makes its decision. I appreciate the importance of preserving a proper balance between tallow for local consumption, for export and for the production of glycerine and other end uses. T shall investigate the matter and advise the right honorable gentleman accordingly.
– Supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the Australian price of tallow is £32 10s. a ton and that the overseas price is £120 a ton? Is it not a fact that this enormous difference is causing a severe diminution of the production of tallow and glycerine? Will the Minister approach the State Ministers in charge of prices control with a view to having local prices increased so as to provide an incentive to primary producers to produce more?
– I do not know whether the figures that the honorable member has given are exact, but I have no doubt that he has correctly informed himself on the price differential. It is commonly known that a very wide price differential exists between the price fixed by the State prices authorities for local consumption and the export values, and it is known that the lower price that has been fixed for both tallow and hides by the State authorities has an effect in diminishing the production and, on occasions, the delivery of both of those items. From time to time the attention of the State governments has been drawn by both me and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to the implications of the difference in the price levels as established. I assure the honorable member and the House that, insofar &> we have a view about the effect of local prices on the local volume of production, we inform the State governments of that view.
– Has the Prime Minister received official confirmation of reports that efforts are being made to extract from Chinese resident in Australia ransom in respect of their parents and other relatives who are living in China under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Communist Government? Will the right honorable gentleman say whether Chinese consular officials in Australia are investigating these efforts? Has the Australian Government received any communication upon the matter from them ? Is any form of exchange control exercisable that would prevent the free operation of a blackmail plan launched against persons resident in this country from places abroad?
– I have not the information sought by the honorable member, but I shall be pleased to obtain it.
– I refer to the probable imminent sale of 32 Commonwealthowned ships to private companies that are now clamouring to buy them. Is the Prime Minister aware that if the sale took place, the Australian Shipping Board would cease to exercise control of the destinations and use of the vessels, which would be to the detriment of Tasmania in particular? Can the right honorable gentleman guarantee that, if the ships are sold, they will not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency, prejudice, compromise, pressure politics or appeasement of private interests? If, despite what the Opposition says and does, the ships are sacrificed, will the Prime Minister give serious consideration to making Tasmania a grant from the people’s money obtained from the sale of the ships, in order that the State may establish its own shipping line ? Shipping is Tasmania’s life-line and life-blood. In dew of the world situation, will the Government defer making a decision upon this matter until the Parliament reassembles next year ?
– As the assumption made in the first sentence of the honorable gentleman’s speech is wrong, the rest of his speech falls to the ground.
– Has the Prime Minister received any reports upon the projected Australian youth festival? If not, will he request security officers to investigate the nature of the festival and ascertain the character of the organizations responsible for its inspiration? If security reports indicate that the festival is Communist inspired, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that no Communists shall be admitted to Australia from overseas to participate in the festival? “Will he also place every possible obstacle in the way of the efforts of the festival organizing committee? If security reports show that the festival is in no way inspired by Communists, and will not be used for the purpose of spreading Communist propaganda, will the Prime Minister, upon receipt of such advice, make a statement to that effect in order that youth organizations that at present are not prepared to associate themselves with the festival may know its exact nature?
– A report has been received upon the proposed Australian youth festival. The report indicates that the festival is Communist-inspired and Communist-organized. The Government will deal with the problem in the light of that report.
-Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House when he proposes to make the statement that he promised to make with regard to the issue of passports to persons who go to youth festivals in Germany and finally find themselves behind the Iron Curtain? Is it a fact that passports are readily made available to agents of commercial interests which permit them to go behind the Iron Curtain in order to trade in strategic material such as wool and other commodities with the Russian authorities?
– I hope to make a statement on this subject before the House rises. If I am able to do so, I shall make it to-day. However, it is necessary to provide certain notifications to officer? overseas before a public statement can be made on this matter in Australia. I point out that there has never been a complete prohibition on the movement of Australian nationals to countries behind what the honorable member has referred to as the Iron Curtain. . The only restriction that has been imposed has been that the permission of the Australian Government has had to be obtained before a passport would be made valid for those countries. I have repeatedly pointed out that a passport is not, in itself, an authority to travel. It might be described as an official reference from the government of the country which issues it commending its citizen for proper attention in and free access to the country to which the passport is made valid. There have been several cases in which permission was sought for purposes, including commercial purposes, which were considered proper by the Government and to which approval was given.
– Does the Prime Minister recollect that he opened the first Australia-wide local government convention that was held at South Melbourne early last year? If so, does he recall the promise that he made to that body that a conference of Commonwealth and State governments and local government authorities would be called to examine the responsibilities and resources of each instrumentality for the purpose of evolving ways and means to re-adjust the financial responsibilities of each? When does the right honorable gentleman propose to call such a conference?
– The terms of the question that the honorable member has asked indicate that this matter should be put straight. I did not say that I was going to call a conference. I said that I thought that a discussion of a three-cornered kind between the three instruments of government would be extremely useful. I still hold that view, but it is not the function of the Commonweath to call a conference of local government authorities because the governments that are in direct relation to them are the State governments. Therefore, so long as those governments are unwilling to convene such a conference there will be great practical difficulty in arranging for one to be held. As I said at the time, and as I still believe, these instruments of governments have certain problems in common and therefore a three-party discussion of them would do nothing but good’.
– Can the Treasurer say when the moneys that were collected under the wool sales legislation since the 30th June last will be repaid to those from whom they were collected ?
– I have been in constant contact with the Commissioner of Taxation with respect to the matter that the honorable gentleman has raised. I assure the House that the’ payment of such refunds to those who are entitled to them will be completed this week.
– I address a question to the Treasurer that relates to capital issues control. I point out that on the 13th November, the Supreme Court of South Australia gave a judgment in which it upheld a magistrate’s ruling that certain interests were not shares, or debentures, within the meaning of section 365 of the South Australian Companies Act. The court dismissed an appeal by the police against the decision of a stipendary magistrate in the Adelaide police court in respect of a charge that certain persons were unlawfully offering shares for sale to the public and were engaging in the hawking of shares. As the decision of the South Australian Supreme Court opens up the possibility of, unscrupulous share-hawkers operating in other States as well as in South Australia, will the right honorable gentleman have investigations made to see whether such activities can be curtailed under the capital issues regulations? Share-hawkers rob poor, unfortunate people who, apparently, have no protection against their depredations. As such activities are contrary to the purposes of the capital issues regulations, is it possible to curtail them under those regulations?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter that the honorable member has raised. However, I should say offhand that the Commonwealth could not control the activities of share-hawkers because the construction and administration of companies is a matter for the States.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the fact that yesterday an expedition from Argentina, which consists of two ships and three aircraft, started for the Antarctic regions? Can the right honorable gentleman indicate to the House the progress which has been made towards the despatch of an Australian expedition, and the establishment of a permanent station, or stations, in Australian territory in the Antarctic?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred. The area to which the expedition from Argentina is going is outside the Australian section (if the Antarctic, and, therefore, it is not likely that any of our rights will be infringed. We have been active to establish our own position in our own area. As the honorable member is doubtless aware, we already have two posts in that area, and it is proposed shortly to conduct another expedition with a view to establishing a further post.
References have been made publicly to a projected flight to the Antarctic by Captain P. G. Taylor. Serious technical and other difficulties relative to time-table have arisen which will make it impossible for that flight to be undertaken at the end of this year, and, therefore, it will have to be postponed. But the other activities to which I have referred will continue.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that exchange of Id. on all postal notes which are paid into accounts in the Commonwealth Bank is made a charge on the depositors. I? it a fact that poundage is paid on postal notes when they are purchased from post offices? If my statement is correct, will the Treasurer inform me why the Government imposes an additional tax on the public, who are now paying both ways for this service?
– I shall have the honorable gentleman’s question examined, and shall supply him with an answer.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether it is a fact that secondary schools, such as grammar schools, while they are subsidized by the State governments, are dependent to varying degrees on outside sources for donations? In view of the increased financial difficulties of such schools, will the right honorable gentleman regard donations to their funds as allowable deductions for the purposes of income tax? Donations to universities are exempt from income tax, and, therefore, it seems reasonable to make a similar concession to the secondary schools, which provide the students for the universities.
– The question which the honorable member for Darling Downs has asked involves a matter of government policy, but it has already received, and will continue to receive, consideration. A decision will be announced in due course, having regard to the financial position.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will consider a reduction of sales tax on trophies presented to competition winners in amateu * swimming clubs at their annual distribution of prizes, in view of the valuable national work; that such clubs perform in teaching and developing swimming among the youth of Australia? Failing that, will he consider a. rebate to such clubs of a reasonable amount of sales tax because those surf amateur swimming clubs in New South Wales, apart from developing our youth, are the potential field from which the surf life-saving clubs obtain their young recruits from year to year? They are conducted by middle-aged men with a view to giving youths training to fit them for surf rescue work.
– I assure the honorable member that I shall give consideration to the points that he has raised when the sales tax legislation is next under review.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the decision of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, Mr. Butler, to introduce an excess profits tax bill into the British Parliament at an early date? Fortified with this precedent, will the Treasurer implement the intention of imposing an excess profits tax which he expressed three times in this House during 1950 by introducing a bill for that purpose ?
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is, “ No “.
– Has the Minister for Health seen a report to the effect that two American doctors have warned the United States Government against the use of DDT. They claim that this chemical, which is used by farmers to spray their crops, and by manufacturers in the production of food, is the cause of the nervous disorders and the damaged livers of their patients. Will the Minister examine the report and discuss it with his colleagues? If the report is found to be correct will he see that proper steps are taken to protect the health of the people?
– The matter which the honorable member has raised comes within the province of the State Ministers for Health. I shall bring his suggestion to their notice.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development about the production of certain rare minerals in Australia, and I point out, by way of explanation that it has been fully recognized that molybdenum is an important trace element in fertility in various States, and is particularly effective in the northern and southern tablelands of New South Wales. I understand that the only mine that produces this mineral in Australia is at Kingsgate, on the northern tableland of New South Wales. Will the Minister discuss with the Minister for National Development the urgent importance of assisting the development of this undertaking which, I understand, can also produce bismuth? I understand that the Mines Department of New South Wales is considering some form of help for the project. If fully developed, the mine would be able to produce sufficient bismuth to save an annual expenditure of about 2,000,000 dollars for the purchase of that and other rare minerals overseas.
– I shall certainly discuss the matter with the Minister for National Development and will supply the honorable member with a reply as soon as possible.
– In view of the serious shortage of sulphuric acid, which is a component of superphosphate and other fertilizers, is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture satisfied with the efforts that are being made by the Minister for Supply to improve the supply of sulphuric acid ? If not - and nobody who is aware of the seriousness of the shortage could be satisfied with the situation - what action does the Minister propose to take to ginger up the Department of Supply?
– No action that I am aware of was taken to produce a substitute for sulphuric acid from imported sulphur until the present Minister for Supply undertook the task. As a result of his efforts in co-operation with the Minister for Defence Production, there is now in its final form a plan to deal with this most important problem which, apparently, was completely neglected by the Labour Administration.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral explain for the benefit of pensioners the method by which they can obtain broadcasting listeners’ licences at the special concession rate?. Many persons have written to me on the subject. One correspondent, for instance, has informed me that for the last two years he has had to pay the full amount of the licence-fee in order to enable him to listen to broadcasts of debates in this House. Apparently there has been a fairly general misunderstanding for some years, with the result that many pensioners have been obliged to pay £1 for a listener’s licence instead of 10s. In future, of course, the general rate will be £2.
– The law provides that a pensioner may obtain a broadcast listener’s licence for 10s. a year instead of £2, which is the general rate. A pensioner, in order to be qualified, must he living either with another pensioner or with somebody else who is in receipt of a low income. The concession applies not only to invalid and age pensioners but also to widows, subject to the means test, and to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Application for the concession should be made to the wireless superintendent at the general post office of the State in which the pensioner lives.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that an announcement of a social engagement of the GovernorGeneral in London appeared as an advertisement in a Sydney daily newspaper last Friday? Was Commonwealth revenue used to pay for the advertisement ? If the Government did not pay for it, will the Prime Minister ascertain who paid for this press announcement in the form of an advertisement?
– I shall be very glad if the honorable member will show me this document. I have not seen or heard anything about it previously.
– By way of explanation of a question to the Minister for Supply, I state that people in the Mallee electorate are keenly interested in having more use made of the port of Portland, in Victoria. “Will the Minister, in cooperation with the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for National Development, endeavour to have more supplies unloaded at that port for distribution to points north of it, and also to have exports from those northern areas, including the Mallee electorate, shipped through Portland?
– Oddly enough, that very question was brought to me a few days ago in my rooms by a senator, and we were able to make arrangements under which, I think the next shipment of cotton, which is coming into this country shortly and which will be stored in the districts that the honorable member has referred to is, I believe, to be unloaded at Portland and not at the port of Melbourne. I undertake in conjunction with my .colleagues, to examine the matter that the honorable gentleman has raised and give it the best consideration that I can give it.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question that is supplementary to a question that the honorable member for Boothby asked the Minister for Social Services yesterday. Has the Premier of South Australia made representations to the Prime Minister with the object of having provision made in the amendment of the “War Service Homes Act for all ex-servicemen who purchase homes from the South Australian Housing Trust to borrow the maximum amount provided of £2,750 under the act? Has the Government decided that homes constructed by the South Australian Housing Trust are to be regarded as existing homes and that ex-servicemen who purchase them will be able to borrow only £2,000 under the act?
– This matter has been the subject of consideration. It was also raised, as the honorable member has said, by the honorable member for Boothby. I do not wish to answer “ off the cuff “, so to speak, as to the nature of the consideration, because I am not quite clear about it in my own mind, but I shall have an answer prepared and forwarded to both the honorable member for Kingston and the honorable member for Boothby.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs a question in relation to the black market in poultry feed and its effects on the poultry industry. Is it a fact that poultryfarmers in New South “Wales are holding meetings this week at which demands are being made for a 50 per cent, increase in the price, of eggs because of the high price of poultry feed? Is it a further fact that all stocks of feed have been “ cornered “ and are being black marketed at prices too high for the poultry-farmers to pay? If these are facts will the Minister endeavour to prosecute the gang of crooks who are operating against the best interests of the people of this country?
– My attention has not been drawn to any allegation of black marketing in poultry feed. However, when it is known that a higher price will be paid for new season’s wheat, quite apart from legislation on the subject, I think that it is quite inevitable that there should be some hoarding of that commodity, which would result in a shortage and the charging of higher prices by black marketeers. As the honorable member’s question relates to high prices being improperly charged, action in regard to this matter falls within the administrative responsibility of those who administer prices control. I therefore suggest that the honorable member direct his question to the Premier of New South “Wales, who alone is in a position to take the necessary action in relation to New South “Wales.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that Convair aircraft such as are used by TransAustralia Airlines have established a very satisfactory record both in Australia and overseas in safety, time-keeping and maintenance, and are regarded as giving first-class passenger and freight service. If he is not so aware will he request the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation to have a comparison made between Convair and other aircraft that are used by airline operators in Australia so that if such is necessary the airtravelling public may be completely reassured in respect of unwarranted suggestions to the contrary?
– As I have pointed out in reply to questions previously asked in this House, Convair and other aircraft are subject to a most rigorous examination by the technical officers of the Department of Civil Aviation. My departmental officers and myself are satisfied that the Convair aircraft are quite equal to any other aircraft now flying in the skies.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I desire first to refer to an answer that he gave to a recent question of mine in connexion with the Sister Kenny treatment for poliomyelitis. He said that the difficulty about the establishment of Sister Kenny clinics is that there is only one Sister Kenny, with her personal drive, imagination and enthusiasm. The result is that Kenny clinics, whether established in Australia or in other countries, do not get the same results as Sister Kenny is able to achieve personally. He added that there was no question but that Sister Kenny by her methods was able to get very good results. As the one and only Sister Kenny is now back in Australia and as I understand that her services are available to Commonwealth and State governments in an advisory capacity, I ask the Minister whether he will consider the establishment of a Kenny clinic at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Canberra, for the purpose of investigating the cause and cure of poliomyelitis. Selected cases from all over Australia could be sent here for observation and treatment, as was success fully done at Minneapolis in the United States of America.
– I assure the honorable member that one of the worst places in Australia in which to establish a Sister Kenny clinic would be a city of the size of Canberra. The medical school in Canberra is at present conducting basic research. One of .the great difficulties in dealing with poliomyelitis cases is involved in the securing of sufficient orthopaedic surgeons and staff to treat them. At present such staff can be found only in the bigger centres of population. The establishment of clinics is at present a matter for the State governments.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the South Pacific Commission.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
– Leave is not granted.
– We do not oppose the granting of leave.
– Order ! I distinctly heard “ Noes “ from my left, and that is all that I am concerned with. Leave is not granted.
– -by leave - The eighth session of the South Pacific Commission was held at Noumea from the 29th October to the 9th November, 1951. Delegations attended from the member governments of Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Australian delegation was led by the senior Australian commissioner, Mr. J. R. Halligan. “While the commission was in session, authorized representatives of the member governments signed an agreement extending the scope of the commission to include Guam and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under United States administration. The commission, which is an advisory and consultative body, is engaged on 39 projects for the advancement of native welfare in health, social development and economic development.
The commission decided to engage an expert to carry out the recommendations of an international’ conference on filariasis and elephantiasis, held under its auspices in Tahiti last August, and to supervise the commission’s part in the campaign against these diseases. The commission reviewed the field research carried out in territories last year by a tuberculosis team. The approved programme for the area will be completed next month, and the Research Council of the South Pacific Commission at its next meeting, will study the results of the survey. The commission authorized a continuance in 1952 of field studies on nutrition problems, including infant feeding, and the collection from territories of technical information on nutrition. In conjunction with a survey of leprosy, the’ commission authorized the engagement of a leprologist to work in territories requesting the services of a specialist in this disease.
The commission will arrange a con~ference of fisheries experts to take place at Noumea next year and will continue research and experiments relating to the introduction and distribution of economic plants, including improved strains of coco-nuts. The Research Council willundertake a survey of present and future industrial development in the islands. A community development project is being carried out in the Fiji group by the Fiji Government with commission assistance. The Australian Government is considering a proposal that a similar project be undertaken by the commission in association with the Administration of Papua and New Guinea on one of the Tabar group of islands in New Ireland. A housing survey of the Pacific to discover the type of native dwellings and public buildings in various territories most suitable for the varying climates and conditions will be .continued next year.
The work of the South Pacific Literature Bureau set up this year by the commission was reviewed at the recent conference, and its continuance approved. The bureau’s main function is to stimulate the production of simple literature including text-books and readers, and to promote their circulation throughout the islands. An agenda was approved by the conference for the second South Pacific
Conference, to be held at commission’ head-quarters early in 1953. The con)ference is held at intervals of not more than three years and comprises repre? sentatives from the territories, mainly indigenous’ people. Emphasis will be placed on the economic- aspects of problems of the South Pacific in relation to the conservation, and improvement of the resources of soil and sea. Other topics will include the role of women and women’s organizations in the area, and health education, of the peoples. For the further information of honorable men> bers I lay on the table the following, paper : -
South Pacific Commission: - Report for 1950.
– by leave - The normal pay-day for age and invalid pensions and for allowances to wives and children is Thursday the 27th December,, which is not a public holiday in any State. We therefore propose to pay pensions and allowances on that day. The normal pay-day for widows’ pensions and child endowment is Tuesday, the 1st January, 1952. Both Monday, the 31st December, and Tuesday, the 1st January,, are public holidays in all States and we therefore propose to pay widows’ pensions and child endowment on Friday, the 28th December, in all States except South Australia, where payment will be made on Thursday, the 27th December.
Conversation being audible,
-Order! There istoo much conversation in the House. It must cease. The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
– The 28th December is a public holiday in South Australia. Where widows’ pensions and child endowment are paid by cheque the cheques will be posted in time to reach the recipients by the 27th December in South Australia and by the 28th December in other States. It is proposed to make arrangements with the banks for child endowment payable at bank branches to be available on the 28th December in all States except SouthAustralia, and on the 27th December in South Australia.
Reports on Items - Annual Report.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following items: -
I also lay on the table the following report -
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual report for year 1950-51, together with summary of recommendations.
Except in the case of the report on formaldehyde, copies of the reports are not yet available for circulation to honorable members.
The following bills were returned from the Senate.
Without amendment -
Beer Excise Bill 1951.
Superannuation Bill 1951.
Income Tax. and Social Services Contributions Assessment Bill 1951.
Tea Importation Bill 1951.
Customs Bill 1951.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill 1951.
Commonwealth Grants Commission Bill 1951.
Public Service Bill (No. 2) 1951.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1951.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1951.
Without requests -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1951.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1951.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1951.
Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1951.
Customs Tariff (Export Duties) Bill 1951.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill (No. 1) 1951.
Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill (No. 2) 1951.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The serious financial plight of local governing authorities throughout Australia, aggravated by the failure of the Commonwealth Government to ensure adequate finance for the urgent defence and development programmes of local authorities.
– I move -
That the. House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– Local government has for long held a very important place in the government of this country and in the lives of our people. Through the years, the difficulties of local governing bodies have increased as their duties and functions have increased. Those difficulties have been faced courageously. Governments have come and governments have gone, but in all circumstances, the local government bodies have accepted their responsibilities and have rendered yeoman service to all sections of our people. Now, conditions have altered drastically. Local governing bodies obtain finance by levying rates, and from time to time they receive grants from the revenue derived from the petrol tax. Because those moneys have proved to be inadequate to finance the expanding services which they were providing, they have raised loans from time to time. The loan moneys were expended upon the purchase of plant, and upon roadworks, electricity reticulation schemes, water and sewerage schemes and many other projects vital to the defence and development of this nation.Recently, however, local governing bodies have discovered that that source of income is no longer available to them.
On Tuesday, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) read to the House a statement on this matter. The statement may have been worth something as a partisan document and a propaganda sheet, but it was cold comfort to the people who are engaged in local government. It left them without hope, and gave them no word of encouragement. Local government bodies now regard it as inevitable that their works programmes will have to be abandoned and that there will be unemployment throughout the land. The propaganda sheet that was read to the House by the Treasurer was no more than a prop to the budget. It forms part of the structure of the budget, because the shortage of loan moneys is due entirely to the financial policy of this ‘Government. The policy for the restriction of credit that is being enforced is not a selective policy. No preference is being given to local governing bodies, which are doing valuable work in developing this country by providing better roads and by undertaking water supply, sewerage and electricity reticulation projects. Local governing bodies are in the same position as a second-hand car dealer whose credit has been restricted. If a form of government in which we all believe is to be retained in this country, it is necessary that local governing bodies should be treated by the Commonwealth now as least as favorably as they were treated in the past.
No one has faith in the Government. The collapse of its financial policy and its abandonment of sound principles of finance have completely destroyed the loan market. It has been unable to raise loan moneys for its own purposes. Therefore, it is not surprising that other governmental bodies are encountering great difficulties in raising loans. This Government encouraged local authorities to submit their loan programmes to the State governments and, through them, to the Loan Council. The loan programmes that were submitted to the Loan Council were approved by the council after being reduced, in the case of New South Wales, from £24,000,000 to £18,000,000, but now this Government is sitting on the sidelines and is telling local authorities that it can do nothing to assist them, because that matter is the responsibility of the States. We know that the States have never been responsible for raising money required by local-governing bodies. The States .have been the medium through which the claims of local-governing bodies have been transmitted to the central authorities on credit and finance - the Loan Council, the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Government - which is responsible for the good order and government of our land.
In my electorate, at least two works programmes are being held up. The Central Tablelands County Council was authorized to raise a loan of £200,000 but, after a great deal of difficulty, it has raised only £40,000. I have been advised by the Clerk of the council that, unless more money is obtained, the council will be forced to abandon a project for the reticulation of water in country districts. That is a matter which should interest this Parliament. Surely the Treasurer should indicate to the House that he is prepared bo try to do something to assist local-governing authorities. The right, honorable gentleman should not adopt a disinterested attitude, or attack local authorities, as he has attacked the States, by saying that they have acted irresponsibly by going ahead with projects without having first ascertained that the necessary finance could be made available. He himself should have considered all those aspects when, through his influence, the Loan Council approved of those programmes. When I asked a question about this matter on a previous occasion, the right honorable gentleman promptly replied that, as he was chairman of the council, he could express its views without having to consult it.
Because of the non-availability of requisite funds, the Central Tablelands County Council and the Blaxland Shire Council will have to abandon essential works that they have undertaken. Local government authorities generally will not be able to provide water supplies, sewerage facilities and electricity in their areas because of the shortage of finance. Many of them will have to abandon road maintenance and construction programmes. Such a policy must do incalculable harm to the nation. It will discourage the decentralization of population and impede production and defence preparations generally, and will thus render the country more vulnerable than it is to-day. The Government should act more and indulge less in lip service in respect of defence. We shall make Australia secure only by adequately populating our inland districts. But the Government wants to establish a permanent pool of unemployed. The outlook for the people is indeed bleak.
The people nave already undergone a change of heart towards the Government because it has failed them so badly. 1 have heard honorable members opposite criticize the Government just as much as I am doing now because of the attitude that it is adopting towards local government authorities. The Government remains completely indifferent to the financial needs of those authorities. In this matter, one must deplore the baneful influence of the Australian Country party, which claims that it is protecting the interests of country people and is endeavouring to provide adequate amenities in rural areas in order to arrest the drift of population to the large cities and coastal areas. Yet, the Treasurer, who is the Leader of the Australian Country party, entirely disclaims responsibility in this matter.
The seriousness of this problem lias been stressed by not only members of the Labour party but also local government authorities, many of whose members are not Labour supporters. They have been impelled to make such protests because they are patriotic Australians. Recently the Australian Council of Local Government Associations epitomized those protests in the following telegram that it forwarded to the Treasurer -
The Australian Council of Local Government Associations now meeting in Adelaide invites your urgent attention to refusal of private institutions to finance local government loan works approved by Loan Council for current year. Such refusal will result in widespread unemployment and cessation of progressive development unless immediate remedy is found. Strongly urge that your Government will guarantee and/or underwrite « II local government loan commitments already approved by Loan Council. Will appreciate urgent reply by telegram care Adelaide Town Hull before Australian Council meeting concludes Wednesday afternoon.
The reply that the Treasurer made to that protest was in keeping with the doleful statement that he made to the House last Tuesday. The Government’s betrayal of country interests and its action in transferring responsibility in this matter to others, because it has abandoned the sound financial policy of previous governments, must offend its supporters who are really concerned about the development of their native land. I point out that Senator
Wood, of Queensland, and Senator Tate, of New South Wales, who are members of the Government parties, endorsed the protest of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations which .1 have just read. That protest is evidence of the widespread alarm that has been caused by the Government’s failure to face up to the real problem of developing this country. The Government invariably emphasizes the necessity to increase the production of foodstuffs in order to meet not only our own requirements but also those of other countries, particularly Great Britain. The Government will achieve that objective only by encouraging more people to enter primary production by providing amenities in country areas.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I agree with the rem.arks that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) made in the first part of his speech. He applauded the effective work that local government authorities have accomplished down the years; and I join with him in paying a tribute to those bodies. However, I refute his statement that this Government has deprived them of a proportion of the moneys that were made available to them in former years. I remind him that this year an additional £S6,000,000 has been made available to the States compared with the amount that was made available to them last year, and that they are now receiving annually £179,000,000 more than was made available to them in 1949. Those are facts that cannot be refuted. However, considerable misunderstanding has arisen in the minds of many people on this subject; and, unfortunately, the Labour party has indulged in colossal misrepresentation of the Government’s attitude in its financial relationships with the States.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should be an authority on rubbish because he talks more rubbish in this chamber than does any other honorable member. During the current financial year, the Government has made available to the
States from petrol tax revenue a greater sura than was made available to them in any previous year. The .States -are now receiving under that heading grants at the record rate of 6d. a gallon for the maintenance and construction .of roads.
– Our roads have never been in a worse condition.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is attempting to draw a red herring across the path. Our roads are now in the worst condition that they have ever been in simply because of the failure of the railways to handle heavy goods which, consequently, are now being transported by road. As a result of that breakdown of a nationalized industry, the responsibility of overcoming the transport problem has devolved upon private enterprise.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is an authority on rubbish. I remind the Opposition that it was left to private enterprise to provide the means of transport that would ensure that residents of the congested cities would be fed. That service has been provided, but to the detriment of roads. However, the fact emerges that more money has been provided by the present Government for the construction and maintenance of roads than was made available by any of its predecessors.
– That is not true.
– This Government has made three times as much money available for the maintenance and construction of roads as was provided by any previous government.
– The relevant figures tell the true story. Last year, £14,000,000 was made available for that purpose, and this year £16,000,000 will be provided for roads from the proceeds of the petrol tax. This Government has increased the allocation from that tax from 4d. to Cd. a gallon. Yet Opposition members have the audacity to declare that this Government has wilfully deprived local authorities of their power to expend money. Have Opposition members forgotten that local governing bodies are the instruments of the State governments? That cannot be denied.
The State governments are actually .most jealous that the Commonwealth shall not trespass upon their preserves. I recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) informed a conference of local ‘government bodies in Victoria that “he considered that the time was ripe for a discussion between representatives of the Commonwealth, the States and local authorities on the matter of finance. Some of the Premiers received his proposal unfavorably, and reminded him that the local governing bodies were the responsibility, not of the Commonwealth, but of the States.
The Commonwealth will make available for loan works this year £80,000,000 more than the allocation last year, -and has, in fact, agreed to underwrite loans to a total amount of £225,000,000 for the public works of the States. The Government has adopted that policy because it believes that the States cannot obtain their requirements of loan money on the market. Yet Opposition members have the consummate impudence to claim that the Commonwealth is responsible for the present difficulties of the local governing authorities. Such a statement is so far from the truth that refutation of it should be unnecessary. I know that local governing bodies are experiencing serious difficulties, and that they are unable to obtain adequate and competent labour to do the work that they are prepared to undertake. The contention of the honorable member for Macquarie that the policy of the Government will cause unemployment is without foundation. Local governing bodies in Victoria have the utmost difficulty in obtaining men to do their ordinary maintenance work. Repeatedly, contracts for road construction are advertised, but no tenders are received. I admit that during the war our roads were neglected, not only because all our energies were strained for defence purposes but also because labour and materials were not available to maintain the roads. Had it not been for the additional expenditure on defence to which we have been committed the scheme that was proposed by the Treasurer to finance a road construction programme over a period of ten years at a cost of £200,000,000 would be well under way. Could any one here have foreseen that within, twelve months of the formulation of that policy, Australia would be committed! to almost that amount of expenditure’ on defence in one year? Would Opposition) members say that such moneys should not be: sO’ expended? It Ls essential that, we make provision for the defence of this country, and’ if such preparations’ mean the curtailment of expenditure in other directions, we must put up with, any inconvenience that may result. I remind the House that local governing bodies financed their- operations in the past by means of rates. Many of them have, increased their rates substantially this year, but, unfortunately, they are three- years too late in. taking that step., During the last few years, the country has been most prosperous, and local governing- bodies had a wonderful opportunity to collect as much money as they were expending. Unfortunately, not only local authorities but also other bodies that had an income of, say, £10,000 a year, proceeded merrily to expend £15,000 a year. To-day, we are told that State governments are committed to the expenditure of colossal sums and that the Loan Council cannot provide the necessary funds for them. The States are apparently guilty of particularly bad business practice. An efficient businessman makes a budget so that his receipts shall not be exceeded by his expenditure. Yet the States consider that they can spend merrily all the time, because the Commonwealth must eventually come to their rescue.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have pleasure in seconding the motion-
-Order! It is not necessary for the honorable gentleman to second a formal motion for the adjournment of the House.
– But he may still do so.
– I have pleasure in supporting the motion, the purpose of which is to direct attention to the serious financial plight of local government authorities throughout Australia, which is aggravated by the failure of the Commonwealth to ensure that their finances shall be adequate for their urgent developmental schemes. I agree- with the comment of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) that the statement that was made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was nothing but party political propaganda. I have no hesitation i» saying that the present Government is the greatest calamity government in our history. It is helpless and hopeless. Each day brings it closer to complete annihilations.
– Then why does the honorable gentleman complain?
– The policy of the Government is suicidal, and its downfall will follow before long. The Government cannot deny that it has issued a directive to financial institutions, including the Commonwealth Bank, to clamp down on loans to local governing bodies. Such a suicidal policy will have grave effects throughout all country districts, and will drive thousands of persons, who now live in the rural areas, to the congested cities. Yet this Government attributes the loss of rural population to the policy of the preceding Labour Government. It is discarding the policy of decentralization and will finally cause unemployment and stagnation in our rural districts. If this nation is to be developed, we must give to our rural population the real amenities of life and, in order to do that, we must extend electricity (services to the farmers. What objection could there be to providing farmers with electric power for their dairies and their shearing sheds, and also for their homes so that their wives may enjoy the ‘benefits of modern labour-saving devices? We must ako extend water and sewerage schemes to country areas wherever POSsible and provide for the citizens of those regions better roads on which to take their products to the markets and the factories. Yet this Liberal? Australian Country party Government has wilfully and deliberately clamped down on lending to local government authorities. I have concrete evidence of the plight of several shires and municipalities in the electorate of Hume that have been refused loan funds for water, sewerage and electricity projects and for the purchase of new plant for road construction, and I shall produce it at a later stage of my speech.
Gould there be a more suicidal policy than the policy this Government has adopted ? You, Mr. Speaker, are a country man and you know how serious is the situation in country districts to-day. Good roads are the economic life-line3 of the modern community, which depends greatly upon rapid and economical transport. Good roads will also save the expenditure of many millions of pounds a year upon the repair of costly vehicles that are damaged by jolting over rough road surfaces. Defence requirements make an adequate network of good roads a prime necessity. The only limitation upon road building and maintenance should be the availability of labour and machinery for the work. Money should not be taken into consideration. Millions of pounds must be expended in order to restore our roads to good condition. This is one of the most important of the matters that call for urgent attention in Australia to-day. The roads of New South Wales are in a deplorable and often a downright dangerous condition.
The Government should implement the policy that it espoused when its representatives sat in Opposition in this House. At that time, they declared that all petrol tax revenue should be made available for road construction and maintenance. Why have they reversed that policy? The task of restoring existing roads and building the new roads that are urgently needed would cost millions of pounds in addition to the revenue that is collected from the petrol tax. The New .South Wales Main Roads Commissioner, Mr. Toyer, estimated in his report for 1950-51 that £24,000,000 would be needed to restore the main roads of the State to what he described as a proper condition. Responsibility for our neglected roads rests upon this Government, which is the only taxing authority in Australia. The Treasurer should jettison his suicidal policy and loosen the purse-strings so that residents of our rural areas may have good roads, improved water schemes, sewerage services and electricity services. Money should be made available also for housing in country areas These works must go ahead if Australia is to develop and become a great nation.
As I said previously, I have concrete evidence of the serious effect that the Government’s policy of credit restriction has had in the electorate of Hume. I refer to the Shire of Tumut, because I am intimately acquainted with its problems. There are three important towns in that shire - Tumut, Adelong and Batlow. Batlow, for example, is a prosperous town situated in a large fruit and vegetable growing district that has also valuable timber resources. It has a packing house and cannery as well as other important industries. This town, with its everincreasing .populations, is crying out for an adequate water supply scheme. But the Tumut council is now unable to complete the scheme that it started several years ago. It went ahead with the work as quickly as it could obtain the necessary materials, but then, like a bolt from the blue, came the direction that no further loan money should be made available to it! The council had previously obtained authority to obtain a loan of £5,000, but it was not informed of the new restriction until essential materials became available and it lodged an application for the money in order to purchase them. Its application for a grant of money for the purchase of road-making equipment was similarly treated.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the problems of local government authorities. Had there been any doubts in my mind on this subject, they would have been removed by the forceful arguments of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald). Everybody who is closely interested in the welfare of local governing authorities agrees that responsibility for those organizations rests primarily with the State governments. I remind honorable members that those authorities that have sought to make direct applications for aid to the Commonwealth have invariably been instructed to submit their claims through the State Premiers. It is pleasing to find on this occasion that the Labour boys are in sympathy with the Government for a change, because we all remember bow the former Labour Government, in pursuit of its programme for the nationalization of banking, tried to force local government bodies to transfer their accounts to the Commonwealth Bank, those bodies fortunately were able to claim with, success that they constituted a part of the structure of the administrations of the States with the result that the Chifley Government failed to enforce its direction to them.
Most honorable members are keenly interested in the welfare of local governing authorities. But for that fact, the speech of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) would have been utterly futile. Local government bodies consider that they have a contract with the Commonwealth in relation to the provision of such facilities as roads, health services, fire protection, and street lighting. They contend that these services are not the responsibility of the State governments and that they have the right to approach this Government direct in order to negotiate for the payment of just compensation for the services. I am prepared to join with any honorable member in this House in an endeavour to persuade the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that he has an obligation to local authorities and should use his influence to ensure that they shall be able to meet their commitments for the provision of such services. Furthermore, any action of that kind on his part would have the effect of forcing the State Treasurers to honour their obligations by making some contribution to the revenue of local authorities for the services that they provide for the States. If the State Treasurers were to put their heads together, they might thus provide enough material to lay the road from Canberra to Sydney with wood-blocks. If they do confer on the matter I hope that they will decide to meet those obligations, because once the State governments make up their minds to make a contribution to the local government authorities, the Commonwealth will have to fall into line. This argument has been raised in this House on several occasions and I am sure that all of us who are interested in local authority administration, are in agreement on that score. I hope that local government and the people who serve in that field will not become a political football to be kicked round in this House to further the ends of any political party.
I listened with great interest to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). Most of his remarks were directed to the welfare of the farmer and to criticism of this Government and of the policy of State governments. As far as South Australia, my own State, is concerned, it is the responsibility of the State Government to maintain main highways. The money expended on those highways comes from disbursements from the Commonwealth’s collection of petrol tax and from the revenue that the State collects from motor registration fees. That money is passed on to the Commissioner for Highways, who has the responsibility of maintaining roads such as those to which the honorable member for Hume has referred. In the main, the responsibility does not rest with local authorities, which should therefore not be the object of the criticism that has been levelled at them this morning by honorable members opposite. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave a most reasonable definition of the Commonwealth’s attitude to local government in answer to a question that was put to him last year. The question and answer appear in Hansard of the 21st June, 1950, at page 4641. His answer was as follows: -
The Government appreciates to the full the immense significance of the cities to which the honorable member has referred, but it will be appreciated that as a Commonwealth our direct relationship is with the governments of the States in matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the States. All the bodies mentioned are the creation of State laws, and have no immediate relation to the Commonwealth. It is therefore very desirable, as a general principle, that any discussions should be with the States. Any matters connected with municipalities must come to the Commonwealth through the States.
In the vast majority of, if not in all, cases, it is readily agreed that it is to the State government concerned that local government authorities must look for assistance to raise loans or to deal with any of the problems that come within their ambit. Any effort on either side of the House to make use of the case on behalf of local government for the purpose of offering caustic criticism of the Treasurer and of the Government’s policy is in bad taste and will not be well received by those who are vitally interested in local government activities. I regret that this motion was not prepared in a form that would enable us to deal with the rightful claim that local authorities have against the Commonwealth in respect of the payment of rates so that we could achieve something within a field in which the Commonwealth has a moral responsibility, hut in which, unfortunately, it has not up to now been prepared to honour its obligations. The Commonwealth Bank sets a good example to the Government^ because it has put itself on an equal footing with other trading banks in relation to the payment of rates to municipal and shire authorities. It therefore makes a just payment for the services and privileges that it enjoys, local governing authorities do not wish non-government ratepayers to have to provide all the funds that are necessary to provide essential services for the enjoyment of which the Commonwealth pays nothing. If on any future occasion the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) submits a formal motion for the adjournment of the House in relation to that m atter, I am sure that a very interesting discussion on it will follow. I see no good purpose at this stage in the submission of a motion of this kind. I regard it as being completely out of order, a.nd dealing with a matter that is outside the ambit of this House. It will not have the support of local governing bodies throughout the Commonwealth.
.-Having been a municipal councillor for many years, 1 have been particularly interested in remarks made by honorable members on ‘both sides of the House in relation to this matter. I think it is generally agreed that, in the last fifteen or twenty years, the functions and responsibilities of local governing bodies have greatly increased, and that in the last five years the community has realized that, if local government is to function satisfactorily in future, more financial assistance to it must be forthcoming from the Com monwealth. It is of no use for Government supporters to claim that local government is exclusively the responsibility of the States and that they should provide the wherewithal to enable local government bodies to function. In the existing financial structure th*> Commonwealth has control of financial policy. Periodically it gives hand-out to its poor relations, the State governments. To suggest that the State governments should be responsible for the financial obligations of local governing bodies is therefore to beg the question, because the fact is that the State governments themselves are unable, because of lack of finances, to carry out all the functions that they wish to perform.
It may be profitable for honorable members opposite to claim that this matter has been raised for the purposes of party-political propaganda, but that contention is completely false. I have received representations on the subject of local government finances from municipal “bodies, the majority of the members of which are anti-Labour in sentiment. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) read a telegram that .had been sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations in Adelaide some weeks ago. Nobody could claim, by any stretch of imagination, that local government as we know it to-day is Labour in its sympathies. As a matter of fact, anti-Labour forces control the majority of local governing bodies, even in electorates that have returned Labour party candidates to this House. That fact lends point to the disapproval of the Government’s activities in relation to local government finances that emanated from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. The Commonwealth .should face up to its responsibility in the matter, because, after all, it has control of the nation’s finances.
The resources now available to local governing bodies are entirely inadequate to meet their general needs. That position “has resulted from the extraordinary increase of the cost of running municipalities and shires. Another reason .is that the amazing development of road transport since the war has led to a tremendous intensification of the necessity for the construction and maintenance of roads. It is incorrect to say that the ‘development of road ‘transport is the result of the failure of the State railways systems. All over the world traffic is leaving the fixed railways systems and transferring to the roads, irrespective of whether the railways are owned by the State or by private enterprise. As a result of the tremendous increase of “the number of transport vehicles that now use the roads they are unable to cope with the volume of traffic.
The municipalities have found themselves hamstrung by the new and extensive social and cultural services that ratepayers have pressed them to provide. Consequently they have become quite .unable to finance their activities from rates m accordance with the system that has been in existence ever since there has been local government in the British-speaking world. That system is . now altogether inadequate because rates are levied only on the owners of property, who have to provide money for activities which are .the moral responsibility of the entire community. Any activity from which the entire ‘community benefits should be financed -from a community tax pool and the only ‘tax pool that is contributed to equitably -by the community is controlled by the Commonwealth. Because of the ever-increasing pressure that has been brought ito bear on the local bodies by the people, those bodies ‘have -had to increase the ‘scope of their functions and are ,now -responsible for ‘the -conduct -of such activities as libraries, ‘kindergartens, sp.or.ting facilities, and baby health centres. Consequently they have found themselves (quite .unable to finance all their activities satisfactorily. The Government should recognize that_ its responsibility does not lie only -in giving a “ hand-out “ to .the State governments and suggesting that they .should pass it .on to local authorities.
The ‘chief obligation of -the local government bodies is the upkeep of roads, and country authorities experience .great difficulty in fulfilling this function. State instrumentalities, such as the Main Roads
Board in New .South Wales and the Country Roads Board in Victoria, which are financed by the State governments, have experienced difficulty in keeping roads in repair. The Treasurer said that the Victorian Country Roads Board had £2,000,0.00 in hand at the end of the last financial year, and, consequently, did not require any more money. I interviewed the chairman of that board on this subject and he informed me that the amount mentioned had -been allocated for expenditure within the next two months. The roads in Victoria are fast deteriorating. It is only fair and equitable that the Australian Government should give every penny that it receives from the petrol tax to the State instrumentalities in order to enable them to maintain the roads. During the last two or three years this problem has ‘been accentuated by the expansion of road transport. Vehicles of 20.tons ace much more common now than they were three or four years ago and the position in this respect will become worse. Unless the Australian Government recognizes that the money collected f rom the petrol tax should be expended on the upkeep of the roads it will not be very long before they will be in .a .similar .state to that which they were in when John Batman was alive, 150 years ago.
The ‘Government cannot lay the responsibility for the upkeep of roads on the State governments. ‘The Common-wealth has assumed the responsibility for financing the ‘State governments which now have very little -means of raising revenue because the collection of income tax .has been taken fr.om them by .the Commonwealth. Therefore it is the ;.duty of this Parliament to -make money available to the State governments for the maintenance iO,f their -roads and to make grants ito the municipalities in order to enable ,them to fulfil their obligations. Why should .a person, because he owns si house and is, therefore, a ratepayer, be called upon to finance projects which al’.e the responsibility <of the whole community? ‘.There should be a complete recasting of the method of financing local government bodies. Because of the .extensive ramifications of local government those bodies are unable ito obtain sufficient funds to meet -their commitments and the necessary money can be supplied only by the Australian Government.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is regrettable that the time of the House should be wasted on a propaganda motion of this nature. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that this House should be used as a forum for the discussion of local government administration and finance because the Australian Government has no connexion, either constitutional or other, with municipal administration. It is ironical that those who have expressed the wish to preserve the sovereign rights of the States should ask the Australian Government to usurp the functions of local authorities and interfere with the sovereign rights of the State governments in regard to matters that are and always have been the jealously guarded preserve of the States.
– Honorable members only wish the Government to finance these authorities’.
– Yes. But it would be just as logical to ask the Government to finance the police forces of the States or to interfere with the land laws, schools, ambulances, or other services which are obviously under the Constitution, the concern of the States. The Australian Government has no constitutional power to give direct assistance to local government bodies.
I received a copy of the motion only this morning, although I am the Minister whom it concerns. This is a part of a new technique that is being used by the Opposition. The copy of the motion that I have is dated the 23rd November, a date prior to that on which I made a statement in the House - the 27th November. It mentions “ the serious financial plight of local government authorities throughout Australia “. Nobody will deny that the plight of local government authorities is serious and nobody will blame any honorable member for taking an active interest in those bodies. I know very well how heavy is the pressure that has been exerted in this connexion. The State governments have endeavoured to “ pass the buck “ on to the Australian Government in accordance with their usual practice. The responsibility of the State governments is definite in regard to the plight of the local authorities. The Australian Government has no power, either constitutional or other, to deal direct with the local government bodies.
– The Government can make grants to the States for the purpose of assisting local authorities.
– The States have received money from the Australian Government for that purpose. One would think, after hearing the speeches that have been made on this motion by Opposition members, that because the Australian Government administers the uniform taxation laws - which the present Administration did not introduce - that it retains the whole of the money that it collects under its taxation powers. What are the facts? This Government has given most generous treatment to the State governments, and by virtue of that treatment has virtually established itself as a trustee to collect, on behalf of the States, a very liberal portion of the Australian income tax. The Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, at its last meeting, allocated to the States £33,000,000 more than they would have received under a formula which had been written into the uniform income tax legislation. That money was given to the States in order to assist them in their present financial difficulties. From what source is the Australian Government to get all the money that would be needed to meet the demands of honorable members opposite?
The Opposition ignores the fact that it was because of our generous advances to the States to assist them and their instrumentalities, including local authorities, that we were forced to introduce unpleasant and unpopular taxation measures. The Opposition strongly criticized us for introducing those measures, yet now it is criticizing us because they were not more stringent. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. For the first time in our history an Australian Government has underwritten loans raised on behalf of the States.
Judging by the ill-informed criticism inside and outside the Parliament one would think that we had unlimited financial resources; that the Australian Government controlled all loan raisings, the Loan Council, and the financial agreements made under the Constitution. The Loan Council, by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution, is composed of representatives of the six States and the Commonwealth. The States have one vote each and the Commonwealth has three. Therefore, the States have a preponderance of voting power.
The Loan Council considers the loanraising programmes not only of the States but also of the local authorities of the States. By virtue of being members of the Loan Council, the States are responsible for their own loan raising, but because certain projects are approved it does not follow that the requisite money will be available for them. It was because of that fact that we agreed to underwrite loans for the States to a total of £225,000,000. That is a most liberal and generous amount, and it is a full recognition of the financial difficulties of the States and the consequential difficulties of State instrumentalities, including local government authorities, harbour authorities and other regional authorities. We are taking action to ensure that the States will get the £225,000,000 agreed to by the Loan Council. We hope to get it by loan-raising. The amount by which the loan-raising does not produce that sum will be guaranteed by the Government. The Government has underwritten loans to ensure that the States and their instrumentalities shall obtain the full amount allocated to them. How can we ensure that the States shall obtain all that they have been allocated when there may be a difference between what can be raised by loans and £225,000,000? We must do that by the unpleasant and unpopular methods that have been so roundly criticized by honorable members opposite. The only way in ‘ which the Australian Government’ can bridge that gap is by obtaining the money from taxation. The people who criticize us for increasing taxes are the very people who are now urging us to add to our finan cial responsibilities by underwriting the loan programmes not only of the States but also of local authorities.
We heard a lot of nonsense talked this morning about the McGirr Government’s desire for decentralization. Let us consider the facts about that matter. It is quite apparent that the policy of the New South Wales Labour Government has been one of centralization and destruction of local government. It is a lot of humbug, and is merely illconceived propaganda, to speak as honorable members opposite have spoken to-day. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) shed crocodile tears about the condition of our rural roads. Listening to the criticism of honorable members opposite one would think that this Government has never done anything to assist local authorities financially. When honorable members opposite were in office they gave to State governments, in the year 1945-46, by way of federal aid for roads, £3,327,000. the next year they advanced £4,805,000 and in the following year £6,308,000.
– The amount allowed was constantly increasing.
– Yes, but by how much ? I suggest by very little in proportion to the amount that has been given by this Government. In 1948-49 £7,630,000 was advanced as federal aid for roads, but in the year in which this Government assumed office £14,143,000 was granted for the same purpose. That was nearly double the amount granted in 1948-49 by the Labour government. The present budget proposes to increase that grant by another £2,000,000, which will bring the total amount to be granted this year by the Commonwealth as federal aid for roads to £16,000,000. In the light of those facts it is pure humbug for the Labour party to try to make propaganda by saying that this Government is disregarding the difficulties of local authorities.
Let us now consider the statement made by honorable members opposite that the Australian road system has deteriorated. Of course it has deteriorated: Let us ask ourselves why it has done so. It has deteriorated because people have diverted the carriage of their goods from inefficient and unsatisfactory State railways systems to the road system, which they have found more expeditious and more satisfactory in every way. Having regard to those facts, and to the propaganda of the honorable member for Hume, let us now consider what has been done by the New South “Wales Government to repair its roads and place them in reasonable traffickable condition. At the 30th June last the New South Wales Government had unexpended State road funds totalling £524,000. The Queensland Government had unexpended road funds of £1,158,000. It should be remembered that the New South Wales and Queensland Governments are using all the propaganda that they possibly can in order to try to force the Australian Government to take over the responsibility for their own State instrumentalities. Not only have they been generously treated, but they have not even expended the money advanced to them by the Commonwealth specifically for restoring their roads.
– Now come to Victoria.
-Victoria has unexpended road funds totalling £1,265,000. The total unexpended road funds of all Australian States is £5,541,000. Therefore the whole argument of the Opposition is a tissue of arrant humbug. I have nothing to add to the factual statement that I made on this matter last Thursday, and I suggest that the motion will collapse of its own weight because it is nothing hut a monument of propaganda that should have been used in State parliaments and not in this National Parliament.
.- Mr. Speaker - -
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
-The delegation from the House of Commons to present the new mace will arrive at 4 p.m. I suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) that the bells be rung for two minutes before that hour in order to give to honorable members an opportunity to take their seats in the chamber and to pay a compliment to the gentlemen who have come to this country for this purpose. Seats will be available in the (Speaker’s gallery for the wives of honorable members whose names have been handed in to me. The public gallery on the Government side of the chamber will be reserved for senators. The other gallery will be used to accommodate visitors who cannot be accommodated in the Speaker’s gallery.
” IRWIN “ AUTOMATIC TELEPHONE EXCHANGE, PERTH.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and. on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Erection of the “ Irwin “ automatic telephone exchange, Murray-street, Perth.
The existing Perth central exchange building is filled to capacity with equipment, and is incapable of providing for the constantly increasing development without relief from the establishment of a new exchange area. The proposed Irwin exchange will provide for local automatic operation, will house a modern trunk-line exchange and long-line equipment, and will provide for a small post office and urgently needed office space for departmental administrative activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department in Perth.
The proposal envisages a structure with two basements, ground floor, mezzanine floor and ten upper floors. It was explained to the House in some detail when my predecessor moved, on the 7th December, 1950, that the proposal be referred to the committee for investigation. The committee asked for advice on certain matters and made certain recommendations. Having conferred with the technical officers, it withdrew its recommendations, and now has agreed to the original proposal. I recommend’ that this House approve of the project proceeding at an estimated cost of £852,000.
.- The Opposition agrees with this proposal, which has been approved by the Public Works Committee. The building in which the exchange is now housed is inadequate from the viewpoint of efficient work and the convenience of the staff. Because there is general agreement upon this matter, and not because it is one of little interest, I shall say no more except that the Postal Workers Union believes that some alteration of the proposal could be made which would improve the building considerably. Mr. Myers, the president of the union, has suggested two minor alterations in respect of amenities which, if made, would result in a great improvement of the comfort of the staff. I trust that the Minister will take note of representations made by a man who works on the job and is responsible for a large body of employees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The erection of a building in St. John’s-street, Launceston, for telephone exchange and other purposes.
The existing telephone exchange in Launceston, which is of the manual type, is located in the General Post Office building and is badly overloaded. The proposed building will provide for an automatic exchange and trunk-line exchange, long-line equipment, transmission laboratories, central telegraph office, &c. The project was fully explained to the House when I moved, on the 12th July, that it be referred to the committee for investigation. I concur in the committee’s recommendations, and recommend that approval be given to the project at an estimated cost of £710,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.20 p.m.
Motion, (by Mr. Holt, through Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the National Service Act 1951.
Debate resumed from the 28th November (vide page 2966), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition opposes this measure because it regards all of the Government’s budget proposals and related measures as being completely unjustified and as calculated to increase the present inflationary pressures. The Government has imposed new taxes and increased existing taxes and, at the same time, it has budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000. Under this measure, it now proposes that that sum of money shall be vested in the National Debt Sinking Fund for the purposes of the fund. The Government will not achieve the objectives that it claims the budget is designed to achieve. The National Debt Sinking Fund was set up for the purpose of redeeming over a specified period the financial obligations of the Australian Government and of the State governments. During the last financial year, the fund bought and cancelled approximately £30,000,000 worth of securities. In addition to the securities that the fund may purchase, or cancel, during the current financial year, the Government now proposes to make the budget surplus available to it for the purpose of buying securities on the Australian market. This proposal to vest that additional sum of money in the National Debt Sinking Fund is wrong because such action will not check inflation. On the contrary, if the purposes for which the fund was established are carried out, this huge sum of money will ultimately be paid to persons who are creditors of the Government to that degree, and thus it will increase still further the purchasing power of the community. Consequently, inflationary pressures will not be checked. On the contrary, the urge that now exists in the community to spend money will be aggravated by this huge addition to the appropriations that ordinarily are made in respect of the National Debt Sinking Fund.
This proposal is the crowning condemnation of the Government’s budget proposals. As the result of the implementation of those proposals prices will certainly rise. No one pretends that the volume of purchasing will decrease. Indeed, the present rate of expenditure in the community will increase if only for the reason that prices will be considerably higher as the result of the increases of sales tax and other taxes. Yet, the Government has budgeted for a vastly increased revenue from collections of taxes. This proposal fully justifies the Opposition’s criticism of the budget. I repeat that the payment of this huge amount into the National Debt Sinking Fund must mean that the money will ultimately find its way into the hands of the general public. The only reply that can be made to that argument is that holders of government securities can now sell them if they wish to do so. However, certain factors tend to deter them from doing that. The first of them is that, due to the Government’s policy, Australian securities are now at a discount. The only justification that the Government advanced for its budget proposals was that the surplus would not be expended but, to use the words of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), would be immobilized. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that that surplus would be expended only over his dead body. Now, the. Government proposes to pay that huge surplus into the National Debt Sinking Fund which, at present, is in credit to the amount of approximately £9,000,000. It seems certain that the fund will expend that money in order to redeem Australian Government liabilities. In normal circumstances, if the taxation position from the viewpoint of the taxpayers themselves justified it, that would be a laudable idea, because it is wise, if the taxpayers can stand the necessary imposts, for the Government to reduce the national debt in times of prosperity. However, we are now confronted by the fact that this vast sum of ready cash will be added to the purchasing power of the community and thus will nullify the Government’s budget proposals. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) repeatedly emphasized that point in the course of his speech on the budget.
The Government has also indicated that this sum will be used by the National Debt Sinking Fund to underwrite State government loans or loans for governmental purposes. Such a procedure merely relieves’ the Government of the obligation to implement sound economic and monetary policies. To-day, vast sums of money are available in the community for investments but their owners cannot secure good investments. That is evidenced by the fact that huge amounts are lying to the credit of depositors in savings banks and also in current accounts in the private banks. The depositors concerned are seeking opportunities to invest that money in a sound way. In the main, they are not seeking investments that will return high dividends but rather investments that will yield a reasonable return and will be secure. If proof is needed for that statement, it is provided by the fact that depositors are prepared to leave such huge sums of money in current accounts in private banks or to deposit them at low rates of interest. The small investors and insurance companies are seeking security for their investments, and are not concerned so much about obtaining a big return from them. Therefore, all the circumstances are in favour of the successful flotation of loans for governmental purposes. Why, then, have Australian Government loans failed? I remind the House that, in the last loan, the Government sought to borrow £40,000,000. The country was enjoying a period of great prosperity, and vast sums of money were lying in current accounts in the banks. Therefore, a loan of £40,000,000 represented a very modest request to investors, but it failed by approximately £7,700,000.
The reason for that failure, despite the propitious circumstances, is clearly the responsibility of the Government. While this Government has been in office the investing public of Australia has expected interest rates to be increased.
When I refer to the investing public, I mean, not the ordinary men and women who invest small amounts from time to time in .government loans, but the corporate investors and wealthy persons who have substantial money lying idle. Those interests expected, from the moment this Government was elected, that interest rates would be increased. There was no justification in economic theory and in practice for such an opinion. The era of cheap money while the Chifley Labour Government was in office had conferred a great boon upon the people of this country. Low interest rates during that period provided an offset to the high cost of lousing, and of building and equipping factories. It was, in every respect, an admirable policy to pursue, and waa completely justified by the conditions at that time.
However., -the large investors certainly knew that .this Government had a hig responsibility to the financial institutions, particularly the private trading banks, which wel:e responsible for its .return to office. They had paid .heavily in order to secure .the (election of this Government, and .were .determined to obtain payment for .their .services. As time passed, it became abundantly clear that the Government was not unwilling to repay the trading banks for their services, and was merely seeking an .excuse ‘to justify .a decision to increase interest rates. Df course, no real justification existed for .the taking ;6f such action. Ample money was “available for investment in Australian Government loans. Vast sums of .money .were lying in the banks in current .accounts, on which interest was not .payable, and other large sums were earning only .a very small return. Persons who were buying houses appreciated the low rates of interest, and business firms ‘were happy that, in addition to their mounting costs, they were not obliged to pay a higher rate of interest on their ‘overdrafts. The loan of £40,000,000 to which I have referred was floated by the Government as a ‘.cash ‘and conversion loan. The conversion loan was not fully subscribed, because investors were not ‘willing to convert from 8’f per cent, to a lower rate in view of the prevailing uncertainty about the policy of this -Government. But “the cash portion of the loan, to which small investors, including persons with family responsibilities, contributed, was oversubscribed by approximately £8,000,000
The Government, in pursuit of its grim determination to increase interest rates regardless of the means that it .employed to do so, then issued a loan at a discount of 1 per cent That policy had not been adopted during or .since World War II. However, the Treasurer claimed that it was .justified by the sale value <of Australian .securities on the open market. There “was a .slight weakening of Australian securities at 3 1/8 per cent., but these was no weakening of the securities at .3.^ per cent., which were available to investors on .the .open market. Securities which carried a .higher rate ..of interest were .selling ,-at swell above par, but that was only natural, because <of the lower interest rates -which prevailed for other securities. The weakening Ito which I referred could have been ^corrected, had the Treasurer given an unqualified assurance that the Government .would noi increase .interest rates. However, the r4gh.t honorable gentleman refused to give that assurance, and .the Government was silent .on the matter,. It was then clear that the Government was determined to increase interest . rates, regardless .of the consequences to the people. That slight weakening in securities could also have been corrected, had the National Debt Commission .operated .with -strength -at the time and bought every Australian security which declined in value.
– Bid -not the NationaDebt ‘Commission .follow that policy? :mt. tom BURKE.-No
– Of course it did !
– -So far as I am able to ascertain, the commission did not follow that policy. The Treasurer did not -state that :such action was being taken. Had .he done :so it could have corrected the weakness in Australian .securities. He could have made two important declarations of policy. He could .have said that the Commonwealth was determined to resist the pressure that was ‘being brought to bear upon it :to increase interest .rates, ;and he could .have stated that the Government was prepared to make additional money -available, if necessary, to the National Debt Commission to enable it to resist the downward pressure upon Australian securities.
– ‘Only Mandrake could have achieved, those ends.
– The weakening oT securities would ‘not have .occurred ‘had the Treasurer given ‘an unqualified assurance that an increase .of interest rates ‘was not -necessary, and “would -not be sanctioned. The honorable “member for Mitchell (Mr. ‘Wheeler1) interjected a moment ‘ago Hat only Mandrake could have achieved the objective that I have mentioned. .1 remind ‘him that three months after the issue ;of the loan .at a discount of 1 , per cent., Commonwealth .bonds -at 3£ per cent, sold at £100 plus 10s. .over .the ordinary rate and, I assume, with ‘dividends accrued. It is true that securities at 3.J per .cent, could not he bought at .a discount on the market in Australia. That .fact proves beyond doubt that those securities at 3J per cent., even in that atmosphere of uncertainty, were bringing a .satisfactory return to their holders at that time. Although the flotation of a loan at ‘a discount of 1 “per cent, was .a clear -indication to “wise investors that an increase of interest rates “was imminent, the loan was oversubscribed. The public of Australia, even then, was willing to support Commonwealth loans if they were assured of the financial faith of the ^Government. However., ‘the necessary .assurance was not forthcoming.
The previous loan of £40,000,000 was successful, .and the Treasurer then informed ‘the Australian Loan ‘Council that the .Government insisted upon .a higher rate »f interest. It is idle to-day to say that the Loan Council agreed to increase interest ‘-rates. The Commonwealth .undoubtedly insisted that the ‘rates must be raised. The Loan Council was told that the vast borrowing programmes of the States would not be financed by the investors of Australia. What was the justification for .that statement? Loans bald been oversubscribed, vast .sums of money “were lying idle in the banks, and investors recognized that the easiest and safest form of investment, provided the Government kept faith, was an Australian securities.
The Treasurer .ha-s since informed the Parliament that the Government .desires to raise, in It-he ‘form of a .budget “surplus, an .amount 4>f £114,50.0,000 .by taxation in order to ensure that, .despite the failure of the loan programme, money will be available for public -works. The statement of the light honorable gentleman is an admission -of lack of financial policy and of leadership. It is a confession ‘that investors have no faith in this Government. The amount of £114,500,000 will “be extracted from ‘the Australian people without .any regard for the circumstances of individual taxpayers. Incomes .are ‘increasing from .quarter to quarter as a result of basic wage adjustments and people are finding themselves in higher income groups for the purposes of taxation, and -so have to pay more income tax. The money will be raised without regard :for :the principles of taxation or for persons with family responsibilities, or for those ‘with contractual obligations. The Government .considers that it must raise (the money -by that means in order to meet a .situation which nas been brought .about by its own .actions. The Government has also deprived .the farming .community, which is .one .of the most -vulnerable .sections -of .an age-old benefit in .respect of taxation, and .by that means will collect an additional £4.7,0.0.0,0.00 from .them. Men, women .and children in .all classes from age pensioners to the .youngest child .are , being called upon to pay a penalty for the Government’^ financial mismanagement. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has .proudly .boasted of the vast sums of money that are lying in current accounts in the .banks, yet the Government because of its muddling policy, is unable to obtain sufficient loan money .for its requirements.
The story of the Government’s mismanagement does not «nd at that point. The Treasurer claims that “his budget surplus of £-114,500,-000 will be a counter to inflation. Yet that money is to be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund, and the National Debt Commission will be instructed to use it to purchase Australian securities on the open market in order to bolster Australian loans. If the Government raised £114,500,000 by loans in the current financial year, the money would be obtained from people who have surplus funds available for investment. They would be willing to lend it to a government they could trust, but they a.re not willing to lend it to a government that has proved by its actions that it is prepared to sacrifice the financial welfare of investors who have faith in governments. The Government will not ask the people to subscribe to loans because of that simple fact. However, if it had a financial record upon which the people could rely, it would take the amount of £114,500,000 that is available in the community for current expenditure and would immobilize it in longterm loans. That would have the same effect as will be achieved by levying extra taxation. But, in addition, the money would be obtained from those citizens who have funds to spare and who are constantly adding to their financial holdings.
The process of immobilizing that surplus money for a long term would, to some degree, lessen the inflationary strain on our economy. Nothing short of a system of rigid controls will reduce inflation, but borrowing to the amount of £114,500,000 as I have suggested would have a tendency to ease the situation. But the Government will not approach the loan market because it has been rebuffed already on account of its actions. Therefore, it intends to obtain the same amount from the people by means of straight-out taxation. That is grossly unfair. Taxation does not take from the people only the money that is left to them after their needs have been assessed, their obligations measured, and their responsibilities fulfilled; it takes money from them regardless of those factors. The Government’s surplus revenue will be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund and will be used, I assume, to finance the Government or to repay bond holders. That indicates the financial mess into which the country has drifted. I have used the word “ drifted “, but, as this state of affairs has been brought about within a period of two years, the fact is that the change has been hastened by the lack of a wise financial policy. The Opposition contends that the Government’s entire budgetary procedure is wrong.
– That is proof that it is right.
– I have no doubt that it appears to the simple-minded honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) to be right, but he is a lonely figure in the Australian community. The fact is that the Government’s policy has been proved to be entirely wrong. Prices jumped sky high immediately after the budget was presented. The basic wage is expected to rise by £1 or £1 10s.a week during the first quarter of 1952.
– Order ! The honorable member must not reply to interjections.
– If you would restrain the exuberance of the honorable member for Gippsland, Mr. Speaker,I should not be obliged to answer them.
– Order ! I am trying to restrain the honorable member for Perth at the moment.
– The Government once again has exhibited its lack of financial knowledge and ability. It is unwilling to adopt the correct financial policy because that policy would harm the individuals upon whom it relies so heavily for support.
– Such as the wool-growers ?
– Order ! There will be no discussion of the wool-growers at this stage.
– The Government also relies on the great private banks and other financial institutions. Those organizations have demanded an increase of the interest rate, and the Government has given it to them. The Treasurer will not even say to-day that 3¾ per cent. is the maximum rate of interest that will be paid on Government securities. He could assure the full subscription of government loans if he would merely make such a declaration, but he has not done so. The right honorable gentleman issued a loan of £40,000,000 and, for some strange reason, he or a Government spokesman said, “It is a small loan to test the market”. What an incredibly stupid statement for any Government spokesman to make!
– The announcement did not come from the Government.
– It waa reported in the newspapers under a Canberra dateline, and the Government has not denied the statement from that day to this.
– I did not see al] the newspaper reports.
– The right honorable gentleman needs a press reader to keep him abreast of statements by members of the Government. I emphasize the fact that he has not contradicted the announcement. Furthermore, he has not declared that the Government will not tolerate an increase of the interest rate, with all the difficulties, hardships and price rises that would ensue. The Government has not justified its financial practices. at any time since it assumed office. This bill is final proof of the correctness of the Opposition’s attitude towards the Government’s policy.
.- I have no intention of wasting the time of the House by making a second budget speech, as did the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). Heaven help us if the honorable member or anybody else with similar financial views ever happens to be elevated to the position of Treasurer! The honorable member declared that the Government’s financial methods were unsound and unjustified and would aggravate inflation, and that this was a penalty that the country must pay for the Government’s mismanagement. As I have said previously in this chamber, a period of prosperity is the time when a government should increase taxes in order to set aside a nest egg for the future. In other words, now is the time for the Government to draw off the surplus spending power of the community by means of increased taxation and to use the increased revenue to reduce its overall liabilities. That is precisely what the Government is endeavouring to do and what it will succeed in doing. A few months hence, I believe, it will be applauded for its present actions. I hear many comments on the Government’s policy from persons who know a great deal more about financial measures than do members of the Opposition, who probably have not had much to do with money matters. Those comments are to the general effect that, although the measures adopted by the Government are severe, they are justified and will lead to the results’ that it hopes to achieve.
– Such as unemployment!
– When members of the Opposition persist in talking about unemployment while there are at least 100,000 unfilled jobs in Australia, I am forced to the conclusion that their wish is father to their thought. They believe that their only chance of regaining power is to have a depression with widespread unemployment. I believe that there is no likelihood of either of those unhappy circumstances arising.
The honorable member for Perth suggested that the foreshadowed surplus of £114,500,000 would be added to the National Debt Sinking Fund and used for the purchase of existing securities. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that the people will allow the value of government securities to continue to decrease and will sell them on a falling market simply because the Government is prepared to purchase those securities. What is the real position? We have explained it on innumerable occasions in this House, but obviously we cannot drive the facts into the heads of members of the Opposition. The position is that the States want £225,000,000 of loan funds for their public works programmes during the current financial year.
– They want £300,000,000.
– No, the amount is £225,000,000. That figure was agreed upon by the Loan Council. The State governments are well aware that they will be able to raise only about £125,000,000 by means of loans during the year. Therefore, this Government has guaranteed the payment to them of the full amount of £225,000,000. Where will the difference between the anticipated total of £125,000,000 of public borrowing and the required amount of £225,000,000 be obtained? It will come from the surplus of £114,500,000. Therefore, the amount paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund will be, not £114,500,000, but the difference between that amount and the amount that the Government pays to the States to enable them to carry out their works programmes. The suggestion that was made by the honorable member for Perth was utterly stupid. The bill specifies an amount of £114,500,000 because that is the amount of the anticipated surplus. It would be entirely wrong at this stage to provide for a surplus of only £20,000,000 or £25,000,000.
– What would happen if the surplus amounted to £250,000,000?
– The honorable member must be much more agile than I am at making financial calculations if he can foresee any prospect of amassing a surplus of £250,000,000 after the Government has honoured its obligations to the States in accordance with the agreement that was made at the meeting of the Loan Council.
I was unable to follow the meanderings of the honorable member for Perth in relation to the general financial situation. He complained about increased taxation, but earlier to-day, in a debate on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, members of the Opposition complained that the Government was not making adequate provision for the n-3eds of local governing authorities. If the Government is to incur additional expenditure as they wish it to do obviously it must obtain additional income. The Opposition is trying to convince the people that, if it were in power, it would be able to reduce taxation, and at the same time increase expenditure, and also provide for a record budgetary surplus. I cannot understand the mentality of persons who can envisage such a fantastic prospect. The Opposition is trying to mislead the people. It contends that vast sums are available in the community for investment. A man told me recently that he had £300 deposited in a savings bank but wanted to keep it for a. rainy day. There are more than a few such people in the community who do not wish to invest their savings, which they at present have in the savings” banks. They are not interested at the moment in Common wealth loans or any other investment as they wish to have their money where they can get it readily. I say quite definitely that the vast sums in the savings banks that represent the people’s savings are not available for investment in loans at present. If they were so available there would not be as much necessity as there is at present for capital issues control, nor would there be such a poor response to loans.
The Opposition has continually endeavoured to blame the Government for the decision of the Loan Council in relation to public borrowing. If I understand the constitution of the Loan Council aright, the Commonwealth has only one quarter of the voting strength on that council. Unless the voting happens to be equal, each State has one vote and the Commonwealth has two votes. It was the Loan Council and not the Government, which made the decision in relation to public loans. I believe that there was no direction in that matter by the Commonwealth, but that perhaps even Labour State Premiers have a higher degree of intelligence than is possessed by Labour party supporters in this House, and that their appreciation of the present financial system led them to exercise their judgment in favour of an increase in interest rates. We have been criticized because of the increase of interest rates, which was decided on by the Loan Council, yet only a short time ago we were told by honorable members opposite that if. the last Commonwealth loan was not a success a formal motion for the adjournment of the House would be moved to enable the matter to be discussed.
Even at this late stage of the session I should like an honorable member opposite, perhaps the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), to tell this House and the people what the financial policy of the Labour party is, because during the last six or eight weeks I have not heard in this House one constructive proposal from honorable members opposite in relation to the Government’s budgetary proposals or the financial position generally. I believe that all we have heard during the debate to-day has been merely a continuation of Labour party propaganda, and that the Opposition has made no attempt to accept its obligation to advance really constructive criticism. I am certain that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (.Sir Arthur Fadden) would give consideration to any construction criticism, but naturally they will not take much notice of criticism of the type that members opposite have voiced.
.- In response to the invitation issued by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), I propose to say a few words on this measure.
– Is the honorable member going to give us his policy?
– I propose tq give the House my views, which are the views of the Labour party, on this matter. When we once again 1become the Government we shall announce a policy that will be appropriate to the situation that then exists. We do not know how bad the country’s position will be at that time, so that any policy that we announce now to meet a situation in the future would certainly require to be amended. The Opposition is consistent in its attitude to this measure. We have opposed every item of the budget that provides for increased taxes.
-Order! I have already ruled that the budget is outside the scope of the debate.
– I was merely saying that .we have opposed everything in the budget that provides for increased taxes. We now oppose the disposal .of the estimated and hoped-for surplus, in the way in which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) proposes to dispose of it. If the Treasurer intended to .establish a trust fund in which he would place this huge estimated surplus of .£114,500,000 so that it would be sterilized and could not be expended by him and so have the effect of accentuating inflation, there might be some value in his proposal. But what he is seeking to do is to take that vast sum from the people, which he claims is excessive spending power that ought to be taken away from them because the spending of it would accentuate inflation, and to expend it himself. He has told the people that if they spent that money, as he thinks they might do, its expenditure would only increase his difficulties as well as their own, but that if they let him have it he will look after it for them. He proposes to look after it for them by expending it on various Commonwealth and State government activities.
If the money were left in the hands of the people a great part of it would not be spent, and, therefore, inflation would not be worsened to such a degree as it will be under the present proposal. The Treasurer proposes not to lock this surplus away where it can do no harm to the economy but, in his own words, to invest the money, if necessary by purchasing Commonwealth securities on the market, or by subscribing to new loans. If the money is expended by way of subscription to new loans its expenditure obviously will have an inflationary effect. If it is expended on the purchase of government securities on the market, obviously that expenditure will not have an inflationary effect. Similarly, if it were used for the purpose of reducing our short-term debt to the Commonwealth Bank, it would not be inflationary in effect. We object to the Treasurer first of all taking the money from the people, who would not spend it all, and then deliberately setting out to spend it himself. The effect of his action will be to defeat his avowed purpose.
We should like to know why loans have been failing in recent times. There has been no campaign against the loans. The second-last loan was under-subscribed by £8,000,000. We understand, from what we hear, that insurance companies and trust companies did not subscribe to it because they wanted to be paid a higher rate of interest. They held the Government up so that they could make more money from their investments. If that is true, they were guilty of an anti-social act. The loan which closed only recently may or may not have failed. We do not know, because it is a Kremlin secret as far as the Government is concerned. We may be told in due course that the loan has succeeded, but it can have succeeded only if the Government has put extra pressure on the insurance companies and trust companies now that the interest rate has been raised. If the Government has put pressure on the insurance companies and trust companies, I have no doubt that the loan has succeeded, but I know that if it has succeeded it will not have done so as a result of investments from ordinary people.
– Order ! This bill does not deal with the recent loan, but with the disposal of the estimated surplus revenue.
– That is so, Mr. Speaker, but if you will read the Treasurer’s second-reading speech you will find that the passage of the measure is intended to enable him to expend money on the purchase of Commonwealth securities on the market, or by subscribing to new loans. We object to the Government subscribing to new loans, because that procedure will accentuate inflation. We need to know what has happened in respect of recent loans before we can decide whether the Treasurer is justified in subscribing, on behalf of the Government, to more loans. We wish to know how many municipal districts in Australia subscribed their quotas to the last loan.
-Order! The la3t loan is not covered by this bill.
– Well, the bill proposes to enable the Treasurer to purchase Commonwealth securities on the market. Those securities would be securities of the last loan, or any previous loan, and I suggest that a discussion on these loans is germane to my contention that we should know what the Treasurer has been doing on the loan market before we vote him any more money for operations in the future, either in respect of existing loans or loans that he proposes to float. In any event, he has indicated that the States are not likely to be able to fill their loan quotas. He has stated that the Government has guaranteed loan accommodation to the State governments for this financial year, to an amount of £225,000,000, and he has expressed great doubt about whether that amount of money is available on the Australian market for investment. The Bartholomew group, of course, might put some money into loans if he speaks to its principals in a more friendly manner than that in which some of his supporters spoke yesterday. Short of that I cannot see where the Government will get the money to meet the vast amount of its requirements. There is a great deal of money in savings bank accounts. Why does the Government not encourage the people to invest their savings?
– Because the honorable member told them to spend, spend, spend.
– What I said to the people in November, 1950, was, “Buy all you can, while you can “. It was good advice, as is shown by the fact that prices have risen by about 200 per cent, since I gave it. In any event, if I sinned in giving that advice, I sinned in good company, because I was only repeating a statement made by the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) fifteen months before in the days of the Chifley Government, and before he had been re-elected to the Parliament. If honorable members opposite remind me of what I have’ said they will find that I have ample justification for my statements in their own utterances.
– The honorable member is always right.
– No, generally left. The banking legislation of 1945, which this Government has not been game to amend in any vital respect, empowers the Treasurer of the day to determine the bank rate of interest. The Treasurer of the day having that power, can, of course, indirectly determine the current rate of interest on government bonds. There is no need for him to seek the advice or opinion of the Loan Council. If he were a real Treasurer, who had the interests of the country at heart and knew what he wanted, he would say, “ This is the interest rate and we are not going to alter it”. But this Government listens to investment companies and the like, and does not even protest when such bodies send circulars round to their friends telling them not to invest in government bonds because the interest rate is too low. The Government takes no action to interfere with such activities, and it has allowed several loans, including a Victorian State Electricity Commission’s loan and a Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works loan to fail. We of the Labour party have very definite views about interest, government loans and profits, and we do not change our views lightly. I consider that the Treasurer is in duty bound to put this estimated surplus where it will not be able to do any harm to the community. I am certain that the expenditure of it by the Government will not do any good to the community, and I hope that before the Parliament rises the Treasurer will reveal some of the Kremlin secrets to which I have referred, and will tell us what really did happen to the last government loan, which closed a few days ago and about which the country knows next to nothing.
– I shall discuss a few matters relative to the bill which, in effect, proposes to appropriate the estimated budget surplus. It is estimated that the revenue to be collected by the Government this year will exceed expenditure by £114,500,000. Clause 5 provides that this surplus may be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund, which is an important entity in our financial structure. Fluctuations in the value of government bonds are having an important impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. Under section 16 of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923- 1928 the commission can purchase at par Commonwealth stock and bonds accepted at par by the Treasurer in payment of probate, succession and estate duty and, if surrendered before the date of maturity, all Commonwealth stock inscribed in the name of the Public Trustee. Apparently it is accepted that in some circumstances people have to realize on their Commonwealth bonds before maturity and provision is made for the Treasurer to redeem their securities at par. Deceased estates must, of course, be wound up and provided that the Treasurer accepts the bonds at par, the National Debt Commission is bound to redeem them at par. A similar provision applies to compulsory sales of bonds by trustees. It has been suggested by the Opposition that when people in necessitous circumstances are compelled to sell long-term bonds they should be redeemed at par by the Government. The market value of bonds is determined by what is known as the “investment yield “. Because the currently accepted rate of interest on government securities is about 4 per cent, those people who have invested their money in bonds which will not mature for five or six years at 3£ per cent, have, in many cases, to accept only £92 or £93 in payment for a £100 bond. Some people who have invested £2,000 or £3,000 might have to realize on their investment and lose up to 10 per cent, of it. I suggest that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) should extend the provisions of section 16 of the act to enable him to purchase bonds from persons whom he is satisfied are forced by circumstances to sell them.
The twenty-eighth annual report of the National Debt Commission sets out on page 22 a summary of the transactions that have taken place in relation to Australian bonds held in London and New York. The face value of Australian bonds repurchased and redeemed in New York during the financial year 1950-51 was £43S,302, but the redemption of those bonds cost the Government £910,532, or more than double the amount of the initial investment. It has cost more to redeem these loans than the amount of the original debt incurred because they were raised in New York in dollars and the rate of exchange has altered. The warning here is that if the Government raises further dollar loans it might find itself committed to heavy repayments because of future fluctuations in the exchange rate.
Clause 5 of the bill indicates the intention of the Government in relation to its projected budget surplus. The Treasurer has described his action in budgeting for this surplus as being partly an antiinflation measure, but it is not primarily an anti-inflationary measure. It is designed to underwrite the loan programme of the , Mates. Clause 5 (1.) of the bill states -
The commission may apply moneys paid into the fund under the last preceding section in repurchasing or redeeming Commonwealth securities.
What would be the effect on the Australian economy of the repurchase of securities by the commission? The money which the Government has collected in taxation, supposedly as an antiinflation measure, would provide wilh spending power people whose bonds had been redeemed. Such an action would contribute to inflation. Money which had been “ frozen “ would have been made available for spending. If it were spent its effect would be inflationary. If the whole of the. Government’s estimated surplus of £114,500,000 was used in that way it would simply have been taken from oneset of people the taxpayers, and given to another set whose bonds had been repurchased.
Sub-clause 3 of clause 5 of the bill reads - (3.) Until moneys paid into the Fund under the last preceding section are applied in the manner provided by sub-section. (1.) of’ this section, the Commission may -
Apparently the Treasurer has assumed that’ the commission will not spend the whole £114,500,000 in repurchases and redemptions. If it did spend that amount the claims of the Government would be mere hypocrisy and. subterfuge. The real intention of. the Government is to underwrite the loan programme of the States because it knows that the community has not sufficient confidence in it to enable it to be sure that all the loan fundsit requires will be obtained by the usual method of floating loans. If the community had confidence in the Government there would be no need to underwrite the State loans. But it has been assumed by the Government that it will he necessary to underwrite these loans. Under this bill the commission has power to purchase Common wealth securities with those funds whether by way of subscription to loans issued by the Commonwealth or by the redemption of old securities. The commission may also place these moneys on deposit with any bank. It is not confined to making deposits with the Commonwealth Bank. The reason for that provision is not clear.
Sub-clause 4 of clause 5 provides -
The Commission may sell securities purchased under the last preceding sub- section.
The sale of securities by the commission would have an anti-inflationary effect on the economy; If people purchase securities they cannot spend the money so used in another way. In the long run, whether the £114,500,000 that has been mentioned will have an inflationary or anti- inflationary effect on the economy will depend on the manner in which the Government disposes of it.. If the money is used only to underwrite the. loan programmes of the States the effect of that action will not be anti-inflationary. The money wilt be spent by the States instead of by the taxpayers.
The Treasurer’s statement that the imposition of taxation to an extent which will give the Government an estimated surplus of £114,500,000 is an antiinflationary measure is partly camouflage. The Government has proposed that it should collect this money by way of. taxation because the community has not. sufficient confidence in it to subscribe to its loan. This proposal is a new feature in the financial history of the Commonwealth. The Government has only guessed that it will have a surplus of £114,500,000. The budget is. only an estimate of likely receipts and expenditure during the next twelve months. The Treasurer has regarded the difference between his estimate of receipts and his estimate of expenditure as a real entity whereas it is merely a guess which may be right but which will probably be wrong. It is a new development for a Treasurer to propose that Parliament should appropriate a precise sum. which hasbeen based on a guess. The. honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) have rightly condemned the hypocrisy of the Government, which is attempting to perpetrate a fraud on the people of Australia.
– I have some very serious objections to this bill. I object most strongly to the Government paying into a special fund the sum of £114,500,000 which it believes will be the surplus of receipts over its expenditure during the current financial year. The Government is due for a great deal of condemnation because it has done absolutely nothing to use the money which it claims it will have as a surplus in-order to ensure that the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme will have ample funds to continue its developmental work. Instead of arranging for the whole of this money to be paid into a particular fund the Government should have established a special trust fund of at least £50,000,000 to be known as the “ Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Trust Fund “ from which the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric: Authority could draw in order to ensure the procurement of adequate supplies of materials which in future may be either scarce or unobtainable. At present the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority cannot obtain sufficient money from the Government to carry out its developmental programme as it would like to carry it out. We have the disgraceful spectacle of a project capable of producing 3,000,000 kilowatts of power in a country badly in need of electricity being starved out of existence or being prevented from completing its- programme. I have been informed on fairly reliable authority that the Snowy Mountains scheme-
– Order!’ The honorable member cannot develop an argument about the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme.
– I desire to point out that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has been refused sufficient money to carry on. its activities1. I believe that there should be a trust fund:-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot deal with that matter in this debate.
– I am detailing my objections- to the bill. I object to money being paid to a sinking fund, because part of it should be paid into a special trust fund for the use of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Having made that statement, I intend to proceed to show why L believe that another trust fund-
-Order!. I do not intend to allow an argument to develop about the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, you are in the box seat:-
– Order! If the honorable member proceeds along the line that he has apparently commenced to travel he will come to a sudden stop.
– I shall, not proceed any further on that line. I object to the action of the Government in seeking to establish a fund to be used to underwrite State loans, because I believe that it is deliberately closing its eyes to the fact that there is at present in this country a financial conspiracy on the part of certain investment companies to ensure that all government loans shall fail. Instead of establishing a fund to cover the failure of State loans, which will be inevitable if the policy of certain investment companies prevails, this Government should attack the causes of failure. Loans that are not fully subscribed are apparently to be filled from taxation. I have examined the activities of certain investment companies in Australia and I have been amazed and intrigued at the part that is being played by the appointees of those interests who are now members of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Some of the members of that board are playing a major part in ensuring1 that Commonwealth loans shall fail.
– Order !’ The honorable member cannot develop an argument about the Commonwealth Bank Board. The measure before the House is to deal with the national debt sinking fund.
– I shall now consider the part that is. being played by Mr. G. H.. Grimwade, a. director of Perpetual General Insurance and Guarantee Company Limited-
– Order ! The Perpetual General Insurance and Guarantee Company Limited is not involved in the measure bef ore the House. The bill deals only with a national, debt sinking fund.
– I. am attempting to point out that there is a reason for the failure of Australian loans.
– Order! The failure of certain loans does not come within the ambit of this bill.
– I suggest that it does. The purpose of the proposal, if I may say so with respect, is to establish, a fund which can be used to bolster up government loans if it should become apparent that they are likely to fail.
– Order! That matter, is not involved in the bill.
– During his second-reading speech the Treasurer said that that was the purpose of the bill. I submit that I am entitled to point to the reason why State authorities have to rely on this means of filling their loans.
– Order ! The honorable member must adhere to the terms of the bill. He cannot traverse the matter of State authorities, insurance companies, the Commonwealth Bank or other organizations of like nature. I allowed a certain amount of latitude to the honorable member who opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition, but I do not intend to allow the debate to develop into a fishing expedition.
– As I do not wish to be thrown out of the House, when we are so near the festive season, for disobeying your rulings, Mr. Speaker, I have no alternative but to resume my seat.
– I join with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) in appealing to the Government to honour its obligations. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) said that honorable members on this side of the House are not as conscious of their responsibilities as are honorable members on the Government side. During the last war high pressure appeals were made, not only to the investing public but also to the general public, to invest, at whatever sacrifice, in Commonwealth loans. The average working man of the community sacrificed and underwent difficulties to invest small amounts in government loans. Now,because of the inflation that is due to a great extent to Government policy, and because of increased interest rates being paid on new loans, the market value of the war-time bonds has declined. Inflation has made it necessary for many people to redeem their bonds, and they must do so at their depreciated value.
At the present time members of the Liberal party in Victoria are campaigning for an increase of the rents of dwellings. They say that because of inflation the owners of dwellings are not getting a reasonable return on the money that they have invested. I suggest that the same argument may be applied to government bonds. Because of the depreciation of the currency the holders of these bonds, when they redeem them, will not be paid the full amount that they have invested. I suggest that that is repudiation on the part of the Government. I suggest that the Government would not be unmoved by appeals such as this if a bigger and more powerful section of the people was involved. Simultaneously with the inflation from which we are suffering our overseas funds have been depleted and there is an overseas trade balance of only £164,000,000, which is more unfavorable than it has been for many years. The factors which I have enumerated will ensure that ultimately the people who wish to cash their bonds will have to take considerably less than their face value. Those factors also militate against the success of State loans, the loans of State instrumentalities and Australian Government loans. I suggest that unless pressures are brought to bear on the investing sections of the community future loans will be no more successful than was the last loan.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot develop an argument on the recent loan. This bill deals with future loans.
– The honorable member for Petrie said that the £114,500,000 that was to be paid into the sinking fund was to be put there because the States would not be able to borrow the £225,000,000 for which authority had been given. As a warning I point out to the Government that danger lies ahead-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the questionbe now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker- Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority .. ..18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Mr.THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [3.54].- Clause 4 empowers the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to pay into the sinking fund a sum of £114,500,000
The Treasurer expects that there will be a budget surplus of approximately ?114,500,000. The object of this bill is to enable him to dispose of that surplus. He will not be required to wait until the surplus has been accumulated. At any time he will be able to pay into the sinking fund the sum of ?114,500,000, or any portion of it. Let us assume that at the end of this year there is not a surplus of ?114,500,000. If the Treasurer had paid that amount of money into the sinking fund, there would be a deficit. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; progress reported.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Yesterday afternoon I received a letter from the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is dated the 8th November, and reads as follows : -
I am sending this letter by the hand of the Bt. Hon. Richard Law, the Leader of the Delegation that has been entrusted with .the very pleasant task of making the formal presentation of the Mace which by direction of His Majesty is being presented on behalf of the House of Commons to the Commonwealth House of -Representatives.
I am very glad that one of my first duties on my election ;as Speaker of the House of Commons is to be associated with this gift which is being made to mark the Jubilee of the Commonwealth Parliament.
I recall with pride that the Chair in which I preside over the House of Commons was presented by Australia.
My predecessor had the opportunity of welcoming you and other Speakers -of Commonwealth Legislatures when the new Chamber of the House of Commons at Westminster was opened. I sincerely hope that it will fall to me to welcome you at Westminster again during my own tenure of the Chair.
Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) W. S. Morrison, Speaker.
The Serjeant-at-Arms having reported the presence, within the precincts/ of the delegation sent by the Commons House of the Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to present a mace to the House of Representatives,
– With the concurrence of honorable members I shall receive the delegation at the table.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
The delegation - The Right Honorable Richard Kidston Law M.P., the Right Honorable David Rhys Grenfell M.P. and Mr. Joseph Grimond M.P. who were accompanied by Mr. T. G. B. Cocks, Senior Clerk - having entered the chamber and having been received accordingly and being seated,
– Gentlemen of the House of Commons, I welcome you to the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia on this your jubilee mission to us. I ask you to address the House.
Mr. RICHARD LAW (Leader of the Delegation). ; Mr. Speaker, members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, I must first thank you for the very warm welcome that you have accorded to us, and I must express our gratification at the fact that we are here to bring to you the greetings of the House of Commons at Westminster.
Just four months ago, His Majesty directed that a mace, the symbol of Royal authority, should be presented on behalf of the Commons House of the Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to mark the jubilee year of the foundation of the Commonwealth of Australia and to make good a loss which, we understood, this House suffered at a much earlier date. My colleagues and I have come here by the order of the House of Commons and in fulfilment of the King’s direction. We are, severally, members of the three main political parties in that House, but we do not represent those parties here. We represent the House of Commons as a whole, whose servants we are. We have come here at its bidding, and to do its bidding.
Sir, as the seconder of the motion in the House of Commons which sent us here pointed out, you are not the only people who have lost a mace in the course of history. We lost one, too. The principal difference between our experiences in that respect is that we know who took our mace. And because of what Oliver Cromwell did to us, we do not have the original mace on the table of the House of Commons. We have one that is barely 300 years old, but I think that in every sense it is as good as new. The same processes which made our mace in the time of Charles II. have been applied in the making of the mace that we have brought many thousands of miles to Canberra. It has been gilded by the same ancient mercury process, and I think one can safely say that it will stand for centuries untarnished. That process has been handed down from generation to generation of goldsmiths and silversmiths in Clerkenwell which, to-day, is the centre of a craftsmanship that is unequalled anywhere else in the world. Of course, there are some differences between our mace and the one that we hope this House will accept. In place of our own ;great seal this mace has the great seal of the Commonwealth of Australia below the arches of the crown and it carries the coat of arms of each of the Australian States.
That is true even though we do not permit the King to enter our House. But there is in the halo which surrounds the mace something of the Royal prerogative, and the mace is essentially the symbol of the Crown which unites our two parliaments and our two peoples.
On behalf of my colleagues here present, on behalf of the 625 members of the Commons House of the Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and on behalf of the whole of the people of the United Kingdom, I ask you Mr. Speaker, to accept this gift.
Mr. Law thereupon handed the mace to the Serjeant-at-Arms. The SerjeantatArms having advanced to the head of the table, the Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms removed the old mace. The SerjeantatArms having faced the Chair and replaced the new mace on the table,
Mr. GRENFELL.; Mr. Speaker, it gives me very great joy to have been allowed to come to Australia on this special mission, which originated in the House of Commons and which has been accomplished in your House of Commons here in Canberra. We have for six and a half centuries endeavoured to build up a working system for the self-government of our people under the necessary restraints of conscience and goodwill. We have, from time to time, near the site of the present Houses of Parliament in London met as representatives of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland. There has been a slight change in that respect that we all deplore. We have practised parliamentary government on that spot and the people of Great Britain have always been proud of their great privileges and so tenacious in the holding of them that they have been enabled to offer leadership to the whole world for many centuries. We have a very special pleasure in coming to Australia, because Australia consists of people who came from Great Britain and Ireland in the early days to this country. They exercised their usual right to make representations on their own behalf; and it has slipped my knowledge if at any time Australia did not assert its rights.
There is a very checkered physical story to tell about our Houses of Parliament. But for nearly six and a half centuries we have operated near to the present House of Commons. Sometimes the Parliament has been impaired. It has been suspended by fire and by sword, but it has prevailed over all the obstacles and has lived to wield an influence which is world-wide in character and has, perhaps, been the most potent instrument in the building up of the reputation of the British people. We are composed in those islands of various national divisions. I call myself a Welshman. Mr. Speaker, if you were in Great Britain, you would probably call yourself a Scotsman. Likewise, Englishmen and Irishmen play their part. We have managed to avert many of the problems of national recognition which have troubled our neighbours and contemporaries in this process. I should like to observe that there is no more united body in the world than the House of Commons, which we represent here to-day. We are divided into various political parties. I belong to a party which was only small when it began. Its fortunes have been varied, but its . authority has been augmented by the passage of time. Such a happening could not have occurred anywhere else in the world with such little friction, bad feeling and conflict as has been experienced in the House of Commons.
To-day we are in Australia. Last week we ‘ were in New Zealand. I need not assure members of this House that there is a fundamental affinity between the people of Great Britain and the people of those two dominions. We have had occasion, time after time, when tragedy, war and disaster have threatened the Old Country, to note that there has been welcome evidence that our children overseas were with us for good or ill. We have each taken our part, and made our common sacrifice and our common contribution.
We are very proud indeed to be joined with you in promoting what I believe is the only stable form pf government and of political organization, and the only kind of organization which permits people to speak freely and to speak the truth in all circumstances. ‘
We have come here to-day to assure the people of Australia, if that be neces- sary, that we are very mindful of their problems. Australia is a large country, and is different from the little land in which we live. There, 50,000,000 of us live on a smaller piece of land than ever contained so many people before. Never before, anywhere, at any time, have 50,000,000 people lived on an area of 100,000 square miles. We try todo it, but we are conscious at all times of the fact that we must call upon the assistance of those who occupy the broad open spaces - thu people who are of ourflesh and blood, who have inherited and won their way to the occupation of larger areas of territory.
We have economic problems in common. This is not the occasion to speak of them-, but they are never absent from om minds. We feel a kind of kinship that ismaterial in a sense, but overriding all’ material considerations is our comradeship and our sense of common nationhoodand common purpose.
I am very pleased indeed that I havebean allowed to come to Australia. Thereis a special reason that affects me and my family. My wife was brought up in the State of Victoria. I am not throwing out a challenge, but I am sure that nc better wives are to be found anywherethan in Victoria. I have lived happily with a wife who has hardly ever ceased topay tribute to her childhood days in the Goulburn Valley. Perhaps, for that reason. I have become attached in a personal way to Australia; attached tomy wife, as any good husband should bo. and attached also to the land which bore her and gave her to me. She was a girl with more than the average education, more than the average good sense, and’ more than the average good feeling.
I thank Australia for the part that ithas played in the struggles of GreaBritain, and I do so in the full confidence that, come weal or woe, Australia. Great Britain and the rest of the dominions are inseparable, because we all stand for the great cause of human justice and’ human freedom.
– It is a very great honour for me to join with my colleagues in the making of this presentation. If I speak briefly, it is only because I know that you have reached5 -a rather important moment in your parliamentary year, and it would ill become me, as the junior member of the delegation, to put off unduly the date of your holiday. We have brought out not only the mace, but also the warmest wishes of the House of Commons. We shall certainly take back very happy memories of this great continent of Australia. We certainly hope that this mace will escape the fate of its predecessors both here and at home, and will long remain a symbol of the friendship which has always existed between the British peoples, wherever they may be, however far divided by oceans or great distances, and in which many of us think the best hope for the happiness and prosperity of this whole world now lies.
- .(Hon. Archie Cameron). Gentlemen of the Commons House of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on behalf of this House, I accept the mace which you have been so kind to present to us on this occasion. It is true that it is the symbol of Royal authority in this House. Every bill which passes through this chamber begins, as do bills that pass through the House of Commons, with the statement, “Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty “, so that in the symbols of the particularly Australian character which have been engraved upon this mace, you have expressed in very practical terms the fact that His Majesty the King is King of Australia just as he is King of Great Britain.
We in this country are still about 97 per cent, of British stock. Some of us are of mixed stock, and that is sometimes to the good. But, to this country, we have ^accepted in years past men from other parts of Europe, just as Britain, or particularly England in its early days, accepted the Angle, Saxon, Jute and Dane. In this Parliament to-day, where you are assembled, you will find on the roll of members, names which could only come from Denmark, Holland, Germany and Italy. Those individuals have accepted -our way of life. This institution, which i3 an offshoot of your institution, appeals to them, as does this country. I trust that the. mace will always be on the table of this House because, having definite views on Cromwell, I should not like to see it removed under any circumstances.
I have some knowledge of the history of maces, ‘because one of them contributed to the conquest of England in 1066. It is recorded that Odo, who was the halfbrother of William the Norman, and the Bishop of Bayeux in Normandy, rode into battle with a mace. But I think that the weight of the mace which Odo carried on that occasion would have been less than the 17? lb. mace which you have presented to us to-day.
The brevity of my welcome just now was deliberate, but I wish you to understand that it is a warm welcome that we tender to you in this chamber. We shall prove it to you before you leave the dining-room some time to-night. On behalf of this House, I accept this symbol of Royal authority which proves that we, who are 12,000 miles away from the land in which our ancestors originated, are still in fact and in thought, in mind and in heart, part and parcel of Great Britain.
– I move -
We, the members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, express our thanks to the Commons House of the Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the Mace which, by direction of His Majesty the King, it has presented to this House. In accepting this generous gift, we do so with a full realization of the good wishes that accompany it and of its significance as a symbol of the freedom and the responsibility which we, as members of the British race, have inherited from the House of Commons. We ask the members of the Delegation to convey our affectionate greetings to their colleagues and we express our confidence that the highest aspirations of our peoples will over find expression in their House.
In submitting this motion, I do not desire to take up any time unnecessarily or to say anything that will dim our recollection of the notable addresses with which we have been honoured to-day by members of the delegation. But I hope to be allowed to mention, with considerable brevity, three aspects of this historic occasion which present themselves clearly to the mind. The first of them is that this mace comes to us from Westminster. It comes to us from a Parliament which we call the Mother of Parliaments. It comes to us from a building in which there still stands, through all its battering, a hall - Westminster Hall - which is literally the cradle of the entire parliamentary institution. Anybody who had the imaginative ear of history and walked through Westminster Hall, past its smoke-stained walls, would hear the voices of debate in De Montfort’s parliament and would know that he was in the very spot, not only from which the British Parliament derives but from which every free parliament in the world derives. So, I should like to think that this mace comes to us from the great hall of William Rufus, with all the history and association that surround it.
Again, this mace has been borne here for us by members of all political parties in the House of Commons, and that fact, in itself, is a vivid reminder to us that every party division under our parliamentary system is conducted within the overall unity of the parliamentary idea itself. There is a genius about that conception, as it has worked itself out through the centuries, which, I believe, explains the durability of the idea of parliament, and also explains how so many hundreds of millions of people in the world, who are outside the tradition of our race, have seized upon this idea and found in it something which reconciles conflict with unity, and, therefore, enables a full national life to be lived. I hope that I shall be allowed to add, without making any invidious distinction, that every member of this House feels a little extra pleasure at receiving here, as the leader of this delegation, the son of Bonar Law. He is the son of a man who was one of the great men in the parliamentary tradition and one of the great parliamentary figures of this century Finally, I mention, in my own way, an idea that has been touched on already. The mace began as the symbol of power. This mace lies on the table of this House, as the mace lies on the table of the House of Commons, not any longer as the symbol of power in an arbitrary sense, but as the symbol of a free parliament chosen by a free people making their iaws freely and rendering to those laws a free and dignified obedience.
– ‘It is a great honour on behalf of His Majesty’s Opposition to second the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Various points of view have been expressed in relation to the mace and its history, but there are three matters that must occupy our thoughts this afternoon. As the leader of the delegation pointed out, originally the mace represented the authority of the Crown and, I suppose, that is still true to-day. Of course, the Royal prerogative is as much a part of our institutions in Australia as it is in Great Britain, but the changes over the years during the history of the House of Commons have been so vast and yet so gradual that it is correct to say that the mace has come to represent the parliamentary institution - not the King vested with his own powers and prerogatives in person, but the King in Parliament with the responsibility of his Ministers to the Parliament. I think of that as being perhaps the most important aspect of this visit of the representatives of the House of Commons to us. But this visit demonstrates most of all a simpler fact - the .cense of kinship between our peoples. There is no substitute for that. We cannot define it. It is always there. It has played its part in all the great crises of our history and, as themotion states, the message that we ask the distinguished members of the delegation to take back to the House of Commons is a message of affection between kinsmen. I agree with what has been said by the delegation. The contribution of Great Britain at the best is represented by what has been done in the House of Commons. I believe that contribution to the British Commonwealth and to the world will go on, and that wisdom, courage, strength and justice will be shown by the Britain of the future even more gloriously than they have been shown by the Britain of today or the Britain of yesterday. That belief expresses our feelings towards our kinsmen in Britain. I venture to saythat this ceremony has done much to symbolize what is, after all, the most important feature of this visit - thecommon traditions of the whole British Commonwealth but particularly of this country, New Zealand and Britain itself. A hundred and fifty years ago, a very great English poet wrote, when Britain was under an imminent threat of invasion -
It is not to be thought of that the Flood
Of British freedom, which, to the open sea
Of the world’s praise, from dark antiquity
Hath flowed, “ with poomp of waterun withstood”
Housed though it be full often to a mood
Which spurns the check of salutary bands,
That this most famous Stream in bogs and sands
Should perish and to evil and to good
Be lost forever. In our halls is hung
Armoury of the invincible Knights of old
We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
That Shakespeare spake; the faith and morals hold
Which Milton held. - In everything we are sprung
Of Earth’s first blood, have titles manifold.
have much pleasure in seconding the motion.
Honorable members having expressed their approval of the motion by rising in t heir places,
– Gentlemen, will you please accept that resolution of this House? It will be delivered to you in writing later for transmission to your House.
The delegation thereupon withdrew from, the chamber.
– This is an appropriate moment to state that, earlier this year, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), acting on behalf of the House, received from the Countess of Albemarle, who was then in Australia, a replica of the footstool used by the Speaker of the House of Commons, which had been entrusted to the Countess by the National Council of “Women’s Federation of the United Kingdom. That footstool is now in the Speaker’s room in this building.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 3088).
– Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Tub Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Francis) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to express in legislation the benefits for reestablishment of members of the forces engaged in operations in Korea and Malaya. Provision was made in December of last year for the benefits that were necessary in the early stages of the operations, such as war pensions and medical treatment of disabled members. It was possible at that time to come to decisions on all other benefits provided in the regulations under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and these also were extended to the members and their dependants. Benefits of the character covered by the Reestablishment and Employment Act were deferred for further consideration. The necessary decisions have now been reached, and this bill is designed to insert in that act a new part which will express the benefits to be extended to the forces engaged in the present operations. Taking the order in which they are provided in the principal act, they are as follow : -
Part I. - Preliminary.
Division 1 - Reinstatement in Civil Employment.
Division 2 - Preference in Employment.
Division 4 - Modification of Conditions of Entry to Employment.
Division 5 - The Commonwealth Employment Service.
Part IV. - Disabled Persons.
Division 2 - Re-employment Allowances.
Division 3 - Re-establishment Loans.
Division 4-Business Reestablishment Allowances.
Part VIII. - Housing.
Part IX. - Legal Service Bureaux.
Part X. - War Service Moratorium (four divisions relating to various phases).
Part XL - Miscellaneous.
The new part will be Part XI., and the existing Part XI. - Miscellaneous will be renumbered Part XII. Division 3 of Part II. - Apprenticeship will not be necessary. Apprentices were not to be enlisted; the few who may have enlisted can be satisfactorily assisted under a provision in the regulations made under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act Part III. relates to vocational training. The Repatriation Commission is now responsible for activities of this character the main scheme, the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, having been placed under the control of the commission about two years ago. The scheme for the forces engaged in the Korean and Malayan operations will be broadly similar to that scheme, and it will be more satisfactory toplace the necessary legislative provisions in the repatriation regulations.
Part V. - Demobilization will not be necessary, and has not been extended.
Division 1 of Part VI. made provision for periods of re-establishment leave to facilitate the process of demobilization of the great numbers of members of the forces that were engaged in the 1939-45 war. As a measure of this nature will not be necessary in connexion with members covered by this bill, it has not been extended to them.
The intentions of Part VII. - Servicemen’s Settlement - can be effected by suitable extension of existing arrangements under other legislation.
Most of the benefits covered by the new Part XI. can be extended with very little alteration or adaptation of the existing provisions in the Parts and Divisions that cover the particular benefits. As well as dealing with re-instatement in employment, Division 1. of Part II. contains much that, although necessary to meet the position as it was in 1945, is not necessary for the present purpose. The provisions deemed suitable for the present occasion are set out in Division 2 of the new Part XI.
Part IV. - Disabled Persons, instituted a scheme whereby members of the forces and other persons substantially handicapped in obtaining employment could, by occupational and other therapy and training, be fitted to obtain, and maintain themselves in, employment. So far as members of the forces were concerned it related to those whose disabilities were not due to service and who were not eligible for therapy under the Repatriation Act, or training under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Tn 1948, a similar scheme was established, under Part VIII. of the Social Services Consolidation Act, for the general community, including any members of the forces who came within its scope. It is working out satisfactorily and by Division 3 of Part XI. of this bill, it is provided that members of the forces engaged in Korea and Malaya, who are disabled persons but are not eligible for treatment and training under the Repatriation Act, may be granted the benefits provided under Part VIII. of the Social Services Consolidation Act as though they were within the classes of eligible persons to whom the part relates.
That is a brief summary of the reestablishment benefits for the forces engaged in Korea and Malaya and of the form of the legislation to meet the position. It will be realized, however, that the position is very similar to that which obtained when the principal act was passed in 1945. Hostilities had not ceased, and a number of extra provisions had to be made in the light of certain developments, such as the cessation of hostilities, the changing of the farces from a war-time to a post-war character, and the fact that members continued in the forces instead of resuming civil life. In fact, . the bill contains amendments on points that have arisen only recently in connexion with the re-establishment of members of the forces engaged in World War II. and their dependants, which will be explained at the committee stage. The most important of these concerns the time within which an application for a re-establishment loan or a business re-establishment allowance may be lodged by a widow of a member. [Quorum formed.] Under the existing provisions, she must apply within the time within which her husband could have applied had he not died. The unexpired portion of that time may be fairly short, and it is proposed that, in such cases, the widow may apply within twelve months of her husband’s death, or, if she has children under the age of six years, up to the time when the youngest child attains the age of six years.
The second material purpose of the bill relates to the scope of the regulationmaking power. Section 137 of the act provides to the effect that the act may be amended by regulation. The Opposition at that time realized that with the task of demobilizing and re-establishing several hundred thousand members, amendments and extensions of the provisions in the act would have to be made, sometimes urgently and promptly, while the Parliament was in recess. Thirty-nine such regulations were made, affecting the act at many points. The amendments were necessary, and none of the regulations was disallowed by the Parliament. However, on the representations of the Opposition when the bill was before the Parliament, it was further provided in section 137 that any such regulations should, by force of the provision, if not sooner repealed, be repealed at the termination of all the wars in which His Majesty was engaged at the time, that is, August, 1945. It is hoped that formal termination will he reached within the next few months, but the opportunity of putting the provisions on the normal legislative footing is taken in this bill.
The regulations in question were contained in a set entitled “ Re-establishment and Employment Regulations “. Clause 3 of the bill provides for their repeal, and for the substance of those that are still necessary to continue to have effect as if the provisions had been enacted by the present bill. Part XI. - Miscellaneous, has been re-numbered Part XII., and has been re-written. It will be seen that the regulation power is now on the normal basis, the power to amend the act by regulation having been omitted. The part also contains amendments to the Public Service Act to make suitable provision for members of the forces, engaged in Korea and Malaya.
Debate (on motion by Mr. HAYLEN adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 28th November (vide page 2971), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure is rather extraordinary. When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) introduced it he found it necessary to read a seven-page speech and, in addition, to interpolate a great deal of other information regarding this proposal and the wheat industry generally. That was at about midnight last night. I can only say that I regret that this measure should have been introduced at this very late stage of the session when it is too late for the Parliament to give to it the serious consideration that it merits. I assume that the Minister decided to introduce it at this late stage because he is conscious of the fact-
– Rubbish !
– An honorable member opposite says “Rubbish!” although he does not know what I was about to say. I assume that the Minister has introduced the measure at this late stage because he is conscious of the fact that for too long has a measure on similar, but more generous, lines failed to materialize. I am, of course, referring to the promise that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech during the December, 1949, general election, when he had this to say in reference to the wheat problem -
In particular, we support a long-term stabilization of the dairying industry for ten years (by subsidy where the price is not raised) and believe that the Wheat Stabilization Scheme should operate for a similar period.
I point out that, up to now, the Government has introduced no legislation for the purpose of operating the wheat stabilization scheme for a period of ten years. The Prime Minister continued - and in the light of this measure this is an important statement -
Home-consumption prices should be periodically reviewed, and losses on concession sales recouped.
Two years after that statement was made we have this measure to recoup, not the losses on those concessional sales to stock breeders, but a portion of the losses only. It can be plainly seen that the Government has failed to keep its promise in this respect as it has failed to keep every other promise that it has made to the electors. -On this particular issue, likewise, the Treasurer, now Sir Arthur Fadden-
– ‘Order ! The honorable member must not use the name of another honorable member, even to enjoy the pleasure of mentioning a title.
– I was rather tickled about that title in view of the promises that have been broken by the right honorable gentleman. When the Treasurer was asked to state the attitude of the Government on this important matter he wrote a letter to the New South Wales Wheat Growers Federation, in which he stated -
The difference between the export value of the product consumed in Australia, other than for human consumption, and the price determined by the Government for sale to other primary industries for production purposes shall be paid out of consolidated revenue to the Board controlling the marketing of the industry. This provision is to keep down costs to the consumer and to prevent increased costs to other industries without loss to the industry concerned.
The Treasurer has not honoured that promise and the difference between the price of wheat to the stock-breeding industry and the export parity price has not been made up to the wheat-growing industry in the fullest sense and is not being paid to the Australian Wheat Board for distribution to the wheat-growers.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has now introduced this measure in order partly to fulfil the Government’s promises. He has acted two years too late and has provided too little. The attitude of the Government is in sharp contrast with the attitude of the Labour party, which originated the Wheat Stabilization Scheme in 1948. Before the general election of 1949 the Labour party made no promise to alter the Wheat Stabilization Act. The Labour Government had drafted the act and was justly proud of it. In 1949 the Wheat Stabilization Scheme was in its initial stages and was operating satisfactorily. The wheat-growers had argued that they should be paid the full export parity price for wheat consumed as stockfeed but the Labour Government was not prepared to agree to that proposition. When the wheat-growers understood the offer of the Labour Government they voted to accept it even though they did not approve of the plan in its entirety. The attitude of the Labour Government t.o the electors was honest and decent. It did not promise to liberalize the act and during the last election campaign the Labour party adopted almost the same attitude. If members of the Labour party had been political humbugs they could have outbid the promises which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer made in 1949. I delivered Labour’s rural policy speech in which, after I had referred to the wheat industry problem, I said -
On this), as with every other issue involving rural policy, Labour has never been other than honest and consequently made no commitments in its 1949 policy speech in regard to concessional stock-feed sales nor does it now - other than to promise, before implementing any new plan, to review, in consultation with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, any anomalies which may have arisen in the operation of the existing act.
Two years later this Government has produced a half-baked plan. [ am ashamed that I have to come into contact in this Parliament with a party which by its activities or lack of activity during the last two years has coerced the State Premiers into accepting its proposals. The Government has, in effect, said to the State Premiers, “We are not going to honour our election promises but if you increase the price of wheat to stockfeeders by 2s. a bushel we will provide a subsidy of 4s. Id. a bushel in order to bring the total price to the wheat-grower up to 16s. Id. a bushel “. What a shocking state of affairs! The Government has bludgeoned the State Premiers into accepting its offer. It has humbugged the State Premiers, the State Ministers for Agriculture, the people of Australia in particular, and the wheatgrowers by promising that concessional wheat sales would be recouped fully from Consolidated Revenue if the Government were returned to office. The Opposition has never indulged in that sort of humbug. The Minister is guilty of a dirty piece of coercion.
– Order 1 The honor* able member should not use the word “ dirty “.
– Well, I shall say “ smudgy “.
– Order !
– Perhaps 1 can say that this is a dirty piece of political coercion and 1 regret that three Labour” Premiers should have accepted this pre position under threat. The wheat industry is the beneficiary under a plan to provide it with a home-consumption price for all wheat consumed in Australia for five years, subject to a variation every year in accordance with variations of thu cost of living. In addition, the plan provided for the payment of an amount equal to the home-consumption price for all wheat exported from Australia. That price would have been paid in respect of the 100,000,000 bushels of wheat usually exported from this country each year. The wheat-growers voted to accept that plan. They have not, like many other sections of the community, suffered the full effects of inflation because, ever since the wheat stabilization plan commenced, as their costs have risen the price of home-consumed wheat has risen also.
The committee of inquiry into the cos! of production of wheat found, after it had surveyed 635 farms, that the average cost of production of wheat for the five years that ended in 1947 was in the vicinity of 6s. a bushel. The Chifley Government accepted the basic cost as 6s. 3d. a bushel. When the scheme commenced to operate during the financial year 1948-49, as it was some time since the figures had been compiled, a new investigation was made and a price of 6s. 3d. a bushel was fixed in respect of that year. In 1949-50 an increase of 5d. a bushel , occurred in production costs and this raised the price to 7s. Id. a bushel. For the year 1950-51, after this Government had been in office for twelve months, the cost rose to 7s. Id. a bushel, an increase of 9d. a bushel - nearly twice the increase that took’ place in each of the previous years under the Chifley Administration. In respect of the year 1951-52 the found increase of the cost of production of wheat, as the
Minister has stated, is no less than 2s. 3d. a bushel. In each of the years of Labour administration the increase of the cost of production was only 5d. a bushel. There is no more glaring instance than that of the degree to which inflation has occurred during this Government’s period of office.
In respect of the next twelve months the poultry industry, the dairying industry and the pig-raising industry are faced with an increase of the price of wheat by 4s. 3d. a bushel, 2s. 3d. of which will represent the found increase of production and 2s. the increase under the plan that the Minister has proposed. A rise of 5d. a bushel in the price of wheat would result in an increase of .38d. a dozen in the price of eggs. A similar rise in the price of bran and flour would result in a further increase of .38d. in the price of eggs. An increase of 2s. 3d. a bushel in the price of wheat would result in an increase of 3.7d. a dozen in the price of eggs. The addition of another 2s. a bushel to the price of wheat would result in the price of eggs being further increased by about another 3.7d. ‘
As a result of the plan of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the price of eggs to the consumer will be increased by 7.4d. a dozen. The proposed bounty will not prevent that increase from taking place. ‘If it were not for the granting of the bounty, the price of eggs would probably be another ls; 2d. a dozen higher. The increase of 7.4d. in the price of eggs will not be the last burden that the consumer will have to bear under this proposal. The increase of the cost of wheat for stockfeeding will result in an increase of the cost of dairy products which will have to be borne by the consumers. The annual cost of production assessment will be declared in June of next year and the increase of that figure will be substantial. The pig raising industry uses considerable quantities of feed wheat and that industry will have to appeal to the prices authorities for an increase of the price of bacon, which already costs about 5s. 6d. per lb.
In view of these facts I shall not oppose the payment of the proposed bounty be- cause if it were not granted the increase of food price would be double the amounts that I have mentioned. There could be no better illustration of the complete inability of the Government to control spiralling costs than the increase of 2s. 3d. a bushel in the found figure for this year. I cannot blame the wheatgrowers for striving to obtain a better price for their product. I attach the Warne for the existing position to the Government which, after shirking its responsibilities and pushing them on to the State governments, has agreed to fulfil a part of its promises by granting a subsidy of 4s. Id. a bushel in order to make up the difference between the price of 12s. a bushel which the poultry, dairying, and pig raising industries will pay for wheat, and the International Wheat Agreement price of 16s. Id. a bushel. We must support that, because we dare not face the alternative of the consumers having to pay probably 2s. a dozen more for eggs if the whole price were passed on.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that this measure would ensure an adequate supply of stockfeed wheat for the pig, poultry and dairy industries. It will not. In 1947 the stock industries of Australia used 25,000,000 bushels of wheat for feed, but according to the plan now to be inflicted on the State governments the stock industries will be pegged to 26,000,000 bushels a year.
– That quantity was based on the suggestion of the State governments.
– I do not care who suggested it. The Minister told the States that the Treasurer could make only a certain amount available. That placed the State Ministers for Agriculture in the position of having to decide that a limit of about 26,000,000 bushels should be set. All. that I can say is that the plan is the creation of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and has been designed to evade the pledges that he and the Treasurer first gave to the people of Australia in 1949. The 26,000,000 bushels limitation will impose a great hardship on stock-feeders. In 1947, they used 25,000,00 bushels.
– Included in that quantity was wheat used for sheep feeding.
– Sheep-feeders got wheat at the stockfeed price, but very frequently they sold their own wheat at Australian Wheat Board prices.
– They will not be able to do that under this plan.
– No, they will not get
Huy sheep-feed wheat at all.
– Indeed they will.
– They will, but only if they buy wheat at the full market price. My concern is mainly that the poultry industry will not be able to obtain its full requirements because the quantity available has been pegged at 26,000,000 bushels. Perhaps in the years ahead the production of other feed-seed crops may not be up to expectations and the poultry industry will need a lot more than 26,000,000 bushels of wheat. If the promises that I made when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and the promises that I expect the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture made when he was in London, to export the maximum quantity of eggs to Great Britain, are to be honoured, the demands of the poultry industry for feed wheat will continually increase.
– What has the honorable member to say about other feed grains?
– They are not grown in large enough quantities to meet -the demands. The Minister’s second-reading speech clearly indicates that coarse grains will rise in price because of this plan. In it he said that the plan was submitted to the State Ministers for Agriculture at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. A report submitted to the council showed the relationship of feed wheat prices to coarse grain production. He said that that alone would justify a rise of the price of feed wheat because the competition of cheap wheat precluded the prospect of increasing the production of coarse grain. Because the poultry industry is to get so-called cheap wheat, the coarse grain-growers will not get enough money for their products. If we make the feed wheat dearer for the poultry-farmer, then we shall also make the coarse grains dearer.
The Minister also said that an adequate supply of feed grains is a prerequisite for sound economic development of important food-producing industries. In my opinion he is doing the right thing in providing this bounty. It will relieve a position that otherwise would be untenable. However, the situation will be bad from the stand-point of the consuming public. The impact of the increased feed wheat prices on the cost of living will be of the most serious nature. Eggs must increase in price by 7d. or 9d. a dozen. Bacon must also increase in price. They are sure to be the effects of the new plan which will be imposed on Australia by the Minister. The State governments are to be the instruments used by the Government to impose the increased feed wheat price. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has the easy part because he does not actually have to impose these increased prices. However, the Opposition will support this bill in order to keep prices down as much as possible. It is a very poor showing by a Government which, by virtue of its broken promises, is responsible for the lack of confidence that has been displayed- by wheat-growers.
The Minister said that this measure would increase the wheat yield. If the wheat yield increases within the next two or three years that increase will not have been brought about by the operation of the Minister’s plan. A study of wheat acreage statistics will indicate that after due allowance has been made for droughts, as wheat prices increase the acreage sown with wheat decreases. That is not an argument for low wheat prices; but if the Minister believes that this measure will provide an incentive to wheat-farmers to increase their acreage, and to other persons to grow wheat, then he is daydreaming. The statistics show conclusively that, whether by co-incidence or for some other reason, the higher the wheat price the lower the wheat acreage and the lower the wheat price the higher the wheat acreage. Therefore, the hope of the Minister will not be fulfilled. This measure is a very poor attempt, to increase the wheat acreage.
– How would the honorable member increase wheat production?
– I would never have been a party to a policy of promising wheat-growers something, doing nothing for two years, and then putting forward this plan. This measure has been designed to recoup wheat-growers only partly for their concessional losses. The confidence of the growers in this Government has been completely shattered. That fact plus high wool prices, plus the necessity to rest land and so on have caused the reduction of Australia’s wheat acreage.
We support this measure which will provide a bounty to keep prices down. We deplore the coercing of State governments into a position where they had to agree to a policy that will increase the cost of wheat for stockfeed by 2s. a bushel, and will cause a consequent increase of the cost of living.
.- If I understood the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) correctly, the Opposition supports this bill. That is a matter of satisfaction to me because I. find that for the first time it is necessary for. me to oppose a measure introduced by this Government. I haw been forced to oppose this bill for a variety of reasons. I have devoted much of my life to a study of the production of wheat, wool and other primary products, and I claim with some humility to know a little about them. I have been active in negotiations, with a succession of governments, that have extended over a quarter of a century. It grieves me that this Government should have presented a bill entitled the Wheat Bounty Bill 1951, which will defeat the objectives expressed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in his second-reading speech.
Obviously this is not a. bill to provide a wheat bounty, and to my certain knowledge the growers will resent the implication that it is to provide a wheat bounty. In fact, it will do the very opposite. It is designed to correct a grievous wrong done to the wheat-growei-3 by the previous Socialist Government. The honorable member for Lalor must accept a very large share of the responsibility for that wrong. This bill is an attempt to correct that wrong. It provides for the subsidization of stock-feeders so that the feed wheat price may be increased to a price comparable with the maximum price stipulated in the International Wheat Agreement. The bill provides also that the Australian Wheat Board shall be responsible for the payment of freight charges upon wheat for Tasmania and Queensland.
– The bill does not provide any such thing.
– In God’s name, how can a bill with those three specific purposes be justly entitled “Wheat Bounty Bill “ ? It is a bill to increase tha price of wheat for stockfeed purposes to the maximum price under the International Wheat Agreement. It is a bill to provide for the subsidization of the pig, poultry and dairying industries. It is a bill to fit into the general scheme of things, which requires complementary State legislation. Yet it is described as the Wheat Bounty Bill. Probably that is accidental.
– It is a constitutional requirement. That is the explanation.
– I accept the Minister’s explanation. In my humble opinion, the bill is wrongly named, because it does not make provision for the payment of a bounty to the wheat industry, or to any one associated with it.
On the 2nd November of this year, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement to the effect that Cabinet had at last resolved the vexed problem of the price of wheat for stock feeding. For years, the wheat industry has directed the attention of this an’d the previous Government to the flagrantly unjust and dishonorable practice of making unlimited quantities of wheat available for that purpose at prices that destroy the wheatgrowers’ equity in their own production. In 1949, the present Government parties gave an undertaking that, at the first available opportunity, they would correct that grievous wrong. I express my persona] satisfaction that, on Friday, the 2nd November, the Prime Minister intimated that Cabinet had reached a decision on the matter. The right honorable gentleman said -
Cabinet this morning considered the problem nf concessional sales of wheat. For a number of years wheat has been sold in Australia by the Wheat Board for stockfeed purposes at the same price as the home-consumption price of wheat for Hour. Wheat-growers have criticized this on the ground that it imposed upon them a liability to subsidize other primary producers to the extent of the difference between the local price and the overseas price of wheat. The Government has decided that this state of affairs should hot be allowed to continue.
That gave great satisfaction to those of us who have been associated with the wheat industry and who have some knowledge of the dishonorable practice conceived by a Socialist government. * Quorum formed.’)* The Prime Minister’s statement continued as follows: -
The Government believes that thu price of wheat for stock feed- should he based upon the price established for quota wheat nuclei’ thu International Wheat Agreement, lt will, therefore, request the States to pom-ur in the passing of the necessary legislation to effec this change. As the egg industry would bc seriously affected by a substantial increase in the price of its wheat, the Government will take steps to subsidize that industry.
The Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Senator McLeay, is seeing representatives of the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation to-night and State Ministers next Monday. He will discuss these matters at these meetings. He will also point out that, having regard to the substantial increase in Australian wheat returns which will result from these decisions, such matters as the freight on wheat to Tasmania and, more recently, to Queensland will have to be borne by the Australian Wheat Board as part of its general outgoings.
That statement was the genesis of this bill. I take the strongest possible exception to the addendum which, for all practical purposes, reduced to dust and ashes the great satisfaction with which we learned that the Government had decided to- correct a grievous wrong.
It is important that the House should understand what concessional sales of wheat for stockfeed have meant to the valiant men and women who bring the arable land of this country into production.
– What about the poultryfarmers? Do not they do anything?
– I could address myself to the poultry industry, but at the moment I am addressing myself to a bill that is erroneously called the Wheat Bounty Bill. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that, during the year when the No. 12 pool was in operation, the wheat-growers of this country delivered to the Australian Wheat Board for sale 202,700,000 bushels of wheat. At that time, the export parity price of wheat was 14s. 7.7d. a bushel and the price guaranteed under the most objectionable wheat stabilization plan ever conceived - it was conceived by a Socialist government - was 6s. 7.7d. a bushel. On each bushel of wheat sold for flour or for stockfeeding in this country, the farmers made a concession of Ss. In that year, 35,170,000 bushels were sold for flour. As a result of a concession willingly granted to the consumers of flour in this country, in that year the wheat-growers lost £14,06S,000. Owing to the objectionable and dishonorable practice of making unlimited quantities of wheat available for stockfeeding they were involved in a further loss of £8,812,000, because 22,030,000 bushels of wheat were made available -for that purpose.
In the following year, during which the No. 13 pool was in operation, 174,200,000 bushels of wheat were delivered to the Australian Wheat Board for sale. At that time, the export parity price of wheat was 18s. 9.4d. a bushel and the price guaranteed under the wheat, socialization plan, as it should be called, was 7s. Id. a bushel. In that year, the concession that the wheat-growers made to the economy of this country under this most objectionable scheme was lis. Sd. a bushel. They had conceded concessional prices to flour consumers, and the loss incidental to that arrangement - was £18,666,667. I emphasize that the wheatgrowers voluntarily and willingly made that concession to the people of this country. They did so because the people, during the doleful days when the price of wheat reached unprecedentedly low levels, agreed to pay the industry on the basis of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat for human consumption in this country. In the year during which the No. 13 pool was in operation, 22,000,000 bushels of wheat were made available for stockfeed at ti price immeasurably lower than the export parity price or the maximum price under the International Wheat Agreement, and the wheat-growers lost £12,133,333. I venture to say that no other industry could have borne those fabulous losses over the years.
In the year when the No. 14 pool was in operation, 160,000,000 bushels of wheat were delivered to the Australian Wheat Board for sale. The export parity price was 18s. 6d. a bushel and the guaranteed price under the socialization scheme was 7s. 10d. a bushel, a difference of 10s. 8d. a bushel. The loss that the wheat-growers incurred in that year by subsidizing the price of wheat for stock feed aggregated £11,733,333. By subsidizing the price of wheat for human consumption the wheat-growers lost in those three years a total of £50,868,000. The growers provided that subsidy freely and willingly in order to help to stabilize the national economy. During the same three years, the wheat-growers lost a total of £33,37S,666 in respect of the sale of wheat for stockfeed at concessional prices. That contribution was forcibly extracted from the growers. No real benefit was thereby conferred upon the community. Under that scheme, the growers were forced to render that assistance on the spurious plea that it would help to reduce the cost of living. During those three years, the losses that the wheat-growers sustained under the old scheme, including the cost to them of stabilizing their industry, amounted to £123,240,332. That loss was sustained by an industry that was supposed, as recently as 1945, to be impoverished. It could have been disastrous not only to wheat-growers but also to the national economy as a whole but for the fact that the industry experienced an exceptional sequence of prolific seasons. But for the gigantic crops that have been reaped in the intervening years, the industry would have been ruined completely.
The wheat-growers derived great satisfaction from the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government had decided to end the dishonorable practice of forcing the growers to make unjust contributions for the benefit of other industries. However,’ the Government has dissolved that good impression under this hill by introducing another dishonorable practice. Therefore, I strongly oppose the measure. The Government now says to the wheat-growers, in effect. “ We shall correct a grievous wrong that has been visited upon yon by a Socialisgovernment, but in return for such consideration you must accept another indignity and dishonour, or else we shall continue the dishonorable practice that was introduced by that Socialist government “. Those terms have been rejected repeatedly by the growers through th, Australian Wheat Growers Federation. However, the Australian Agricultural Council greedily accepted them. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was abroad at the time, wa.better informed than the Government was on this matter. He knew that the Socialist government had made a demand upon the Australian Wheat Board to pay the freight on wheat to Tasmania and that the board had done so until it realized that such a practice was unjust. In conjunction with representatives of wheat-growers’ organizations, it immediately made representations on the matter to the Socialist Prime Minister. Subsequently, when the board refused to pay freight on wheat to Tasmania on the ground that such action was outside its powers and normal functions, the Socialist government accepted its contention, and since then the Commonwealth itself has paid that freight. But, to-day, a truly democratic government is in office, and I am astonished that whilst it has undertaken to correct injustices from which the industry has been suffering, it should, at the same time, perpetrate another grievous wrong to the detriment of the industry.
I am confident that the Australian Wheat Board will maintain the attitude that it adopted towards the Socialist government and will continue to refuse to pay freight on wheat to Tasmania and Queensland. Any one who knows anything about the wheat-growing industry will agree that limitations upon production that may prevail in any one State should not be used as a pretext for imposing a charge upon growers in other States. A disastrous drought of the kind that has occurred in Queensland this year may occur in all the other States in subsequent years. The Australian Wheat Board, if it wishes to remain consistent. must refuse to pay freight on wheat to Tasmania and Queensland. The State Ministers for Agriculture were aware of the board’s attitude in that respect when this matter was discussed recently by the Australian Agricultural Council, but the Government itself was not aware of it. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was abroad at the time and the Government imagined that the States’ proposition was entirely novel, lt was not aware that the same proposition had been successfully resisted by the industry for many years. The Government thought that following the increase of the homeconsumption price for feed wheat from 7s. lOd. to the International Wheat Agreement price of 16s. Id. a bushel, no section of the industry would object to the Australian Wheat Board paying freight on wheat to Tasmania and Queensland. The Cabinet did not know that such a proposal was wrong, and that an identical proposal had been rejected by the industry. Apparently, the Government does not yet realize that the industry and the Australian Wheat Board will continue to reject such a proposal. However, the Government will be placed in an embarrassing position when the State Ministers for Agriculture make a demand upon it to pay the freight on wheat to those two States. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in his second-reading speech, said -
The necessary provision to enable the Australian Wheat Board to meet the freight on wheat delivered to the principal port in Queensland, and also in Tasmania, will be embodied in the State legislation. This action by the board will then be a condition precedent to the maintenance of the higher prices for feed wheat.
Is such a proposition practicable or reasonable? Has the Government forgotten what the proper functions of the Australian Wheat Board are, as the Government itself has interpreted them? On that point, I quote the following passage from a statement that was made by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board in a report that he made recently to the Minister who was acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture while the latter was abroad -
There appears to be considerable confusion in the public mind as to the real status of the board under the law. Fortunately, in that respect, I am able to quote Professor Bailey who, in the course of an opinion in respect to our powers to build terminal storage facilities at Ardrossan, said, “ The board being an artificial person created by statute, aud &c”.
I interpret that phrase to mean that the board is not an instrument of the Crown operating on behalf of any or all of the States or on behalf of the Commonwealth, but is a trust which has been given life by the federal Parliament until September 30th, 1953, but whose principal function is to run annua] pools each of which is a. separate trust in itself, statistically and financially.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Silling suspended from 5.57 to 9.-45 p.m.
.- Ju3t before the protracted suspension of the sitting, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) described what he regarded as the grievous wrong and injustice that had been inflicted upon wheat-growers by what he termed a Socialist government. I propose to examine whether the wheat industry has been done a grievous wrong by a Labour government. As a matter of fact, it was a Labour government that first subsidized the wheat industry when it required assistance. It was a Labour, government that placed the industry on a stable footing. The Labour party is not opposed to the provision of stability for any industry, whether it -be a secondary industry or a primary industry, and it is wrong to believe that, as the honorable member for Riverina has suggested, a. grievous injury was done to wheatgrowers by a Labour government. It was a Labour government that appointed a committee to inquire into costs of production in the wheat industry. That was the first occasion on which that industry had been given an opportunity to have its costs properly assessed.
What is happening to-day? Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party would have us believe that unless the Parliament agrees to the present proposal, certain sections of wheat-growers will suffer a great wrong. Let us examine that position. Wheat-growers, even if they were not granted 16s. Id. a bushel for wheat for stockfeed, would still receive the cost of production, as determined by the committee to which I have referred. Therefore, they could not justifiably claim that they were producing wheat at less than the cost of production. If that committee has adopted a wrong basis for its calculations, the proper course for the Government to adopt is to alter it. But the Government would not be justified, in order to appease a section of primary producers and encourage them to sow a greater acreage with wheat, in giving them a price in excess of a fair and reasonable figure. Consumers of bread and of other commodities that are made from wheat should not, in such circumstances, be required to bear the higher cost.
When the committee that inquired into the cost of production in the wheat industry determined the price, it took into account a number of factors, such as depreciation, and’ allowed interest- at the rate of per cent, on capital that was invested in the industry. Allowance was also made for interest paid on mortgages, rates, and the wages of the fanner and members of his family who were engaged in the industry. Farmers when they required assistance in the past, were given payments in the form of drought relief and a fertilizers subsidy. Such moneys were provided by the general Australian community. This Government, which claimed during the general election campaign in 1949 that the whole of its purpose was to put value back into the fi, and reduce the cost of living, has bludgeoned the State governments into agreeing to a proposal the effect of which will be to increase the costs of various commodities that are consumed by the general public. Such a policy is wrong.
The present home-consumption price for wheat of 7s. lOd. a bushel will rise, as a result of increased transport costs and other higher costs, to 10s. a. bushel as from the 31st December next. Under the agreement that has been entered between the Commonwealth and the States, certain users of wheat for stockfeed are to be supplied with wheat for 12s. a bushel, and the difference between that price and 16s. Id., which is the price under the
International Wheat Agreement, will be paid by the Commonwealth by way of subsidy. What will that mean to the consumers of foodstuffs? In my opinion, the State governments - and I include Labour Premiers in this statement - had no right to agree to such a proposal, or to permit the Commonwealth to force thom to accept it. The States are to subsidize the price by 2s. a bushel.
– I direct attention to the state of the House.
– Order ! 1 hin e counted the House, mid I find th;u a quorum is present.
– I rise to order. L remind you, Mr. Speaker, that you ordered me to leave the chamber on a previous occasion when I directed attention to the state of the House, and you found that a, quorum, was present. I submit that you should mete out similar treatment to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett).
– The honorable member for Henty will take no further part in the proceedings of the House for the remainder of the sitting.
Mr. Gullett thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– The subsidy of 2s. a bushel, which is to be paid by the State governments, will be provided from their already inadequate funds, which are urgently required for other purposes. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) will be in great difficulty if he attempts to contradict figures that I propose to cite for the purpose of illustrating the effect of the higher price of wheat upon the cost of living. The price of butter will be increased by 3d. per lb., of milk by Id. a quart, of eggs by from 7d. to 8d. a dozen, of bacon by 6d. per lb., and a 2-lb. loaf of bread will cost ls. Wheatgrowers who are eager to obtain the highest possible home-consumption price will not be satisfied with the attainment of their immediate objective. They will contend that they should not be expected to subsidize’ the rest of the community by providing wheat for it at a figure that is less than the world market price. Their next demand will be for the abolition of any restriction upon the price that they may secure on the home market. If their present request is acceded to, their demands in future will doubtless be granted. The Australian Baker, which is the trade journal of the baking trade, predicts that, within twelve months, the price of a 2-lb. loaf of bread in Australia will be 2s. 6d. Hence the Australian community, particularly those persons who are on low fixed incomes, is faced with a serious position. The Parliament is about to adjourn for a period of some months. A few weeks ago, the Government increased age and invalid pensions by 10s. a week, and certain other social services payments were adjusted pro rata., although the great majority of war pensioners were ignored. [ Quorum formed.]
I understand that I was in error a few minutes ago when I said that State governments were to meet a part of the higher price of wheat by way of a subsidy. The position is that the consumers are to pay that additional amount, and that makes the situation infinitely worse than I believed it to be. Wheat-growers, when their industry was in a precarious position, when prices were below the cost of production, and when serious difficulties were encountered as a result of drought, asked the Australian people to assist them with bounties in various forms. Therefore, I believe that when the wheat industry is in a most prosperous position, it is only right that farmers should return some of the good that the general community extended to them in the past.
I am not altogether in favour of the policy that is being applied by this Government of extracting every penny that it possibly can from our unfortunate kinsfolk overseas who are short of food and of the means of purchasing it. We should be reasonable in any agreements that we make with our kinsfolk in respect of the disposal of our surplus primary products. Yet, this Government extracts the last penny from them, and drives the hardest possible bargains with them. Government supporters constantly refer to the heroic sacrifices that were made by the British people in war-time, but when an opportunity occurs to give to them practical assistance, the Australian Country party sends the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture overseas to strike the hardest possible bargain with them. After having secured high prices from the British people, they wish to use such agreements as a lever to compel the Australian community to pay the same prices. The effect of such a policy will be to force up the cost of living in this country.
Wheat-growing is a most important Australian industry. No member of the Labour party believes that a wheatgrower, or any one else, should be expected to produce a commodity at a price that is below the cost of production. But, in view of the work of the committee that inquired into costs of production in the wheat industry, no member of this Parliament can convince me that any farmer is growing wheat at a price below the cost of production. The honorable member for Riverina suggested that an injustice is being done to farmers and to the wheat industry. He believes that farmers, because they can get a higher price for their wheat overseas by taking advantage of the world-wide shortage, should not be asked to sell their wheat in Australia at a price that is below what can be obtained on the world market. That will be the next demand that will be made by members of the Australian Country party. The first step is to increase the price of feed wheat. The next step will be to destroy the home-consumption price. If the Australian Country party can extract from the Australian public the highest possible price for wheat, the community will have to pay heavily for staple items of diet, such as bread, eggs and dairy products.
The Government, before it can justify the granting of a subsidy in respect of wheat, should be able to prove, as a result of a proper examination of the industry, that such a payment is necessary. I agree with the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). Experience in this country has shown that, in many primary industries to-day, high prices have not encouraged increased production. Evidently some primary producers have been working on the theory that, because they are receiving high prices, it is advisable that they sow a reduced acreage. They contend that when they move into the higher income groups they are merely working for the Government. That was the sort of argument that they used when the Labour party was in power. There is no guarantee that continual price increases will lead to the planting of a greater acreage of wheat in Australia. Production must be increased. One factor that has restricted the sowing of wheat is that other crops are more profitable than wheat. What do the Government and its supporters say about workers if they leave an important industry to take more profitable employment in other occupations? They accuse them of sabotaging the national effort by retarding production ! The wheat-growers should not be given preferential treatment over any other section of the community. As the representative of a city electorate, I supported every measure that was introduced during the regime of the Labour Government for the purpose of assisting primary industries, but a halt must be called eventually. If we permit larger and larger incomes to be diverted to country areas, regardless of production costs and profit margins, the cost of living will be forced steadily upward. The people of Australia have been severely taxed in the past so that the Government could subsidize primary industries. That means that the general community has been required to subsidize those industries. I protest against the bill.
.- I was very interested in the comments of that primary producer from Paddington, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the self-styled hero of so many political campaigns. One excellent reason why every primary producer should continue to support the Liberal party and the Australian Country party is that the honorable member objects to this bill and other legislation of a similar character. I suggest to my colleagues that they circulate copies of the honorable member’s speech throughout their electorates. It is characteristic of the honorable member’s political outlook that he wants to obtain everything for nothing. He is like a hungry man who orders a large meal in a restaurant without having any intention of paying for it. He complains because the Government wishes to ensure that the wheat-growers shall receive al least the cost of producing the wheat that they sell. Would the honorable member for East Sydney advocate that the wages of industrial workers should be based on the cost of production? Such an argument would be a logical development of the argument that he has used to-night. He also complained about the present system of prices control. I remind the House that control of prices was transferred to the States by the vote of the people at a referendum, and that the States agreed unanimously to the Government’s proposition for the payment of a bounty on wheat.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is sending member? of the Opposition out of the chamber.
– That is untrue.
– Order ! The honorable member for Mitchell will continue.
– The Opposition i.not vitally interested in this bill. If that were not so, there would have been more than four honorable members present on the Opposition side of the House when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) spoke this afternoon.
The honorable member for East Sydney appears to stand only for class hatred He is a bitter opponent of free enterprise, and he objects to the primary producers having the right to own their own properties. Workers in secondary industries enjoy rates of pay and conditions of work that are established by arbitration tribunals on the theory that a fair day’s work merits a fair day’s pay. The working week is limited to 40 hours. If the primary producer worked for only 40 hours in each week, abided by all the provisions of industrial awards and exploited every cause for grievance, as do many industrial workers, the costs of primary products, about which the honor.able member complains so bitterly, would he considerably higher than they are.
-Order 1 There is too much noisy conversation in the chamber. Unless honorable members are prepared to maintain order I shall have to suspend some of them, although 1 should be reluctant to do so. T have had to suspend one honorable gentleman already, and I do not wish to suspend others.
– 1 rise to order, Mr. Speaker. An honorable member recently asked you whether the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was in order in moving about the chamber apparently counselling members of the Opposition to leave it so that there would be no Opposition audience for the honorable member for Mitchell. Since that point was raised, considerable numbers of Opposition members have left the chamber. Do the Standing Orders permit an honorable member to move from place to place in this House ostensibly to counsel other honorable members to leave the chamber? If so, one fan imagine that, if the process were carried to its logical conclusion, the proceedings of this House would become utterly disorderly. There would be a shambles if every honorable member tried to exercise that right. Presumably some limitations on the movements of honorable members must be prescribed. I should like you to state, sir, whether yon COnider this practice to be in order.
Mr. Tom Burke. - I wish to discuss the point of order. It seems to be clear that honorable members on the Government side of the House are trying to make use of the broadcasting of proceedings fcl the purpose of disseminating propaganda. They have repeatedly directed attention to what they have alleged to be a fact. I am not aware of its being a fact, and I doubt whether you view the matter in such a light, Mr. Speaker. The Standing Orders do not debar any honorable member from conferring with his colleagues. Furthermore, even if the point of order could be sustained, you, Mr. Speaker, in order to sustain it, would have to be a mind reader. It seems that members of the Government and their supporters are wilfully raising points of order and interjecting in order to publicize their miserable propaganda. I ask you to rule against the point of order.
– I, too, rise to order. I direct attention to the fact that only seven members of the Labour party are sitting in the House.
– The raising of thai point of order is further evidence in support of my statement.
– I have listened carefully to the point of order raised by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). It is a fact that seme honorable gentlemen on my left walked out of the chamber a few minutes ago, and it is also a fact that at about the same time, a considerable number entered the chamber on my right. It is not for me to judge such actions by honorable members. I can judge, not by what I see, but only by what I know. An honorable member said earlier that it was apparent that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had counselled some of his colleagues to leave the chamber. I cannot be a judge of appearances. It is a fact that attention was called to the state of the House by an honorable member on my right at a time when 43 members, two more than the number that constitutes a quorum were present. I ordered that honorable gentleman to retire from the chamber. He must not return during the remainder of this sitting. The only advice I can give to the Minister is that, if the House is not interested in the debate, an obvious course of action is open to him.
– I raise a point of order. I suggest that the reason why very few members of the Opposition are present is that it is impossible to listen to the arguments of the honorable member for Mitchell-
-Order ! That is not a point of order. The honorable member for Mitchell will proceed.
– I hope I shall be permitted to digress slightly in order to remark how impressed I was by the ceremony of the presentation of the mace this afternoon. The mace represents freedom of speech.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Mitchell in order in discussing the presentation of the new mace to this House?
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Mitchell and any other honorable member who mav wish to speak later in this debate to confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– The honorable member for East Sydney complained about the rising prices of butter, eggs, bacon and other primary products. Is not the primary producer entitled to a fair return for his labour? Many farmers work from dawn to dark on seven days a week. They face the risks of bad seasons, bush fires, floods and other adversities. I am sorry that the honorable member objects to the rising cost of his breakfast bacon and eggs, but I ask him to realize that even pigs must be fed and that eggs must be gathered. The farmer must work from early morning to late at night in order that his products may be available to the city-dweller. I suggest that the honorable member visit the electorate that I represent and see primary producers at work. He constantly speaks of the difficulties of workers in secondary industries. I refer him to an instance of hardship suffered by a family that lives in the Division of Mitchell. A man and his wife worked from dawn to dark daily in order that they might be able to pay for the education of their two sons. Having achieved that purpose, the head of the family obtained employment in a secondary industry. One of the first remarks that he made to me after he had made the change was, “ How long has this been going on? How long have easy jobs been going in industry? “ The honorable member for East Sydney may know something about production in Paddington, but he knows nothing of primary production.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the Government had coerced the six State governments into agreeing to the provisions of this bill. If that be so, it is remarkable that those governments have been eager to claim the credit for having evolved the plan. We had the exhibition of the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture trying to beat the bell by making an announcement in the press. He was followed by the Minister of Agriculture in Victoria who claimed that this compromise was a result of the deliberations of the States themselves. The honorable member for
Lalor made insinuations against the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and you, Mr. Speaker, were good enough to reprove him for his choice of language. I can tell the honorable member that I have introduced several deputations of primary producers to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and the members of the deputations have told me that they did not know that there was such tolerance and courtesy in a Cabinet Minister as that gentleman had shown to them. I suggest that their remarks on that score constitute a reflection on the ministerial attitude to such deputations in the past.
It is interesting to watch the antics of the honorable member for Lalor. It is of no use for the honorable member to strut round like an enraged bantam cock complaining that the sun is not rising in the right quarter because lie no longer can crow in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. It is also of no use for him to claim to be the saviour of the wheat and poultry industries. I went to New Zealand last February to plead the case of certain citrus-growers in my division and heard some pointed comment there concerning a. wheat deal in which the honorable member had a band when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government. So I repeat that it is of no use for the honorable member to pose as the saviour of those industries, because the fact is- that they have been languishing for some time past as a result of the administration for which he was responsible when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Therefore, it ill-becomes him to criticize the present Minister. For years the wheat and poultry industries have been battling against the position caused by ‘the poor prices that they received under agreements concluded by the previous Socialist Government. The fact is that the honorable member for Lalor was a poor negotiator. I can imagine those English traders responsible for the agreements reached by the Chifley Government with the Socialist Government of Great Britain at that time, sharpening their knives and saying to each other, “Let us carve this colonial youth up “. Of course, those negotiations were all tinged with, a certain degree of socialistic principle, one socialistic government trying to assist another socialistic government. If the honorable member for Lalor is under any misapprehension about his skill as a negotiator, I suggest that he visit my constituency and hear what my electors have to say about the matter.
– The honorable member will not represent that constituency after the. next general election.
– If the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) visits my constituency during the next general election campaign, I shall be assured of an even greater majority than I had last, time.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) made a speech on the measure; but I regret that, as I did not have the aid of a Gaelic interpreter, I could not follow the course of his argument closely. That honorable member represents a wheat-growing area, whilst I represent a constituency that is largely composed of stockfeed consumers. So if my arguments differ from those that be advanced the reason is that I shall be arguing along the lines of the special interests of my constituents in relation to this bill. The bill represents a compromise between suggestions made by the States and suggestions made by the Commonwealth, and it is not my purpose now to discuss whether this compromise is adequate, fair or reasonable. It is fait accompli, and we understand that it is the best that could have been achieved under the circumstances. If it achieves nothing else at least it will end a period of hypocrisy for one State Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Graham, of the New South Wales Government. I have read carefully prepared questions in the New South Wales Parliament Hansard, all “Dorothy Dixers,” posed to the Minister for Agriculture in an atten.pt to belittle this Government. I have some sympathy for that Minister insofar as he has been walking along a political tight rope. On the one hand he lias been telling the wheat-growers of his own constituency that they should secure the Lest prices possible for their wheat, whiist in the State Parliament House in
Macquarie-street he has been besot by delegations and deputations of stockfeed consumers and has told them that he would see that they got a fair deal from the avaricious wheat-growers. This bill will end quite a period of strain for Mr. Graham, who will be pleased to learn that the matter has been completed.
The purpose of the bill is to give some encouragement to wheat-growers to produce more wheat. Naturally enough, stockfeed consumers hold the view that any increase of the price of wheat is objectionable, but they must accept the fact that unless they pay more for their stockfeed wheat they will soon find themselves unable to secure any. The bill provides for the payment of a subsidy in respect of stockfeed wheat for the pig, poultry and dairying industries. The dairying industry, as we know, has reached large proportions. The pig industry had an industrial value of £30,000,000 last year and “the poultryfarming industry was worth £34,000,000. I consider that this compromise, like all compromises, has faults, which may be capable of adjustment as the agreement operates.
The Minister indicated in his speech that 26,000,000 bushels of wheat were to be devoted to stockfeed. I agree with the honorable member for Lalor that that might not seem sufficient. Some problems arise in connexion with it. Some questions that will have to be resolved are: If a shortage eventuates how that amount of wheat for stockfeed is to be allocated among the States, who will decide the allocations and in what proportions the allocations will be made to the three industries concerned. As the poultry industry is dependent on wheat for feed, those matters are of vital importance to it. It is obvious that in the event of a drought there will be a shortage of bran and pollard, and the supply of those commodities will depend on a three-shift milling programme. The question is whether the wheat required will be taken out of the stockfeed quota. A shortage in one State that made necessary a transfer of wheat from another State would also cause difficulties.
In many cases damaged wheat is provided for stockfeed and the question has been posed to me whether a price of 1 6s. Id. a bushel will be charged for such damaged wheat, .because if the consumer Ls required to pay 16s. Id. a bushel for stockfeed he must ensure that every grain of every bushel shall be good, serviceable wheat. If damaged wheat is to be supplied to the industry, we shall want to know whether is will be counted against the quota. Another question that arises is in relation to the export prices for pig meats, I airy products and eggs. Here again [ disagree with the honorable member for East Sydney. We have experienced the tragedy of the Socialist system of trading on a government-to-government basis. It has now been established that the British Government has agreed, in principle, to pay the cost of production for butter and pig meats. The present price for eggs in Great Britain represents about half the cost of production. When the new prices are being calculated for the British contract, will the cost of production be calculated on the basis of the price of 16s. Id. a bushel for stockfeed, or on the basis of the subsidized price paid by the stockfeed consumer? Another question that arises is whether, if the price of wheat sold under the International Wheat Agreement falls below 16s. a bushel, local stockfeeders will receive the benefit of that decrease of price and so be placed on an equal footing with stock-raisers overseas.
The honorable member for East Sydney raised the subject of the prices received for primary products sold to Great Britain. It is a strange and new experience to find sympathy for the British people coming from honorable gentlemen opposite. I believe that the negotiation of prices for our primary products has reached a stage now ‘at which it should be based on the cost of production and not entirely on a basis of sympathy. It is well established that Great Britain is a hard trader. When it comes to buying, Great Britain always buys with a poor mouth, but when it comes to celling, demands a full price. lt is without doubt that we owe some obligation to the British people, but I believe that that debt should not be discharged through the sale of our primary products to Great Britain at less than the cost of production. As a member nation of the British Commonwealth, we have some obligations to the Mother Country, but those obligations should be discharged in such a manner as will allow us to remain financially strong, and capable at all times of meeting our responsibilities in case of emergency. I cannot see any advantage in our indirect subsidizing of British secondary industries by supplying our primary products to Great Britain al less than the cost of production.
– Where does the honorable member stand ?
– I think 1 stand more firmly on the side of the people than the honorable member does. 1 suggest that we should get fair prices for our primary products, and I have doubt that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will ensure that we shall do so. I commend the Minister for hi? attitude of encouragement to the production of coarse grain. We must make an effort to produce substitutes for wheat, hut before we proceed to do so certain anomalies should be removed. One of them arises from the fact that wheatgrowers in the past have been accustomed to take wheat into silo, get the full price for it, and then buy it back as stockfeed at a reduced price. That practice will have to be discontinued. 1;’ encouragement is given to the production of coarse grain some hardship must fall on pig producers, who cannot produce their own grain from the poor soil on their farms, and also in respect of tbpoultry industry. I know of a pigmeat producer, Mr. D. A. Campbell, who has a large stud at Wamberal, near Gosford, New South Wales, in Mielectorate of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), on which he harvested up to 70 bushels of grain sorghum an acre.
Naturally labour is a problem for the primary producer, who also has many other problems to contend with. Mam young people have left their parents’ farms for more attractive, jobs in the cities, so that many farms are now being run entirely ‘ by elderly people. The previous Administration was in no small degree responsible for this drift of rura workers to the city.
This bill represents a compromise between propositions advanced by this Government and the State governments, but it is a compromise to which the Sta.te governments agree, and there cannot be any valid suggestion from honorable members opposite that the States were coerced in the matter. This agreement is to be commended. Its results will be watched with a great deal of interest and I hope that it will succeed.
.- The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) began his speech as a complete and enthusiastic supporter of the bill. He ended it as a very lame apologist for the Government’s proposals. The quandary is his, not the Opposition’s. It is his duty to decide whether the poultryfarmers and other users of the stock-feed wheat in his electorate will be more heavily disadvantaged as a result of this proposal than they would have been had some other scheme been evolved. But the honorable member is in a complete quandary. He is clearly on the horns of the inevitable dilemma. He wants to support the Government, which has declared itself in favour of all the freedoms but believes in its innermost heart in dominating and exacting tribute from the people. This Government has come into office after a Labour government which carried this country through a period of war and a period of post-war reconstruction. It was a Labour government which took office when a government of which some present Ministers were” members was incapable of carrying on the administration of Australia.
– The honorable member should not talk nonsense.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) does not wish me to discuss this matter. I can understand his reluctance to discuss it. Ho was a. Minister in the Government which, after failing the country, was superseded by the Labour Government.
– The Labour Government bought itself into office.
– I wonder whether the Minister is willing to make that statement on the steps of this building, from which his colleague the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made a statement recently. I wonder whether he is prepared to say from outside this House that Mr. Coles was bought in order to defeat the Fadden Government. That is the test of the Minister’s sincerity.
– Order ! That subject has nothing to do with this bill.
– The Minister for Defence has stated that men were bought, in order to defeat the Fadden Government. Am I not allowed to reply to that contention?
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has twice defied your ruling, Mr. Speaker. He has diverted his remarks to some interjection by another honorable member which, in itself, was not in order.
– I am not so experienced as is . the PostmasterGeneral
– Order ! I merely asked the honorable member for Perth to keep to the bill. I did not hear the remark to which he has referred because several interjections were made at the time and I had occasion to give some instructions from the Chair. If honorable members will refrain from interjecting and if the honorable member for Perth will refrain from answering interjections, we might complete the business of the House a little earlier.
– As I said before, Mr. Speaker, I am not so experienced a parliamentarian as is the PostmasterGeneral, and when an honorable member, by interjection, says that a man who was a friend of mine and a leading citizen of Australia was bought–
– Order ! There is an appropriate method of dealing with that matter which the honorable member may adopt.
– Then I shall ignore completely the irresponsible, incorrect and unjustified remark of the Minister for Defence.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) delivered a very able speech as an honorable member representing a city constituency whose interests embrace the whole Australian community. The honorable member for Mitchell referred to him as “ the wheat-grower from Paddington “. I do not know the industry from which the honorable member for Mitchell has come, but I understand that he has an interest in the wheatgrowing industry. As a man who has grown wheat and as a member of a wheatgrowing family, I stigmatize as an enemy of primary producers the gamblers in wheat futures - the members of the stock exchanges who sell forward in wheat and then arrange the price toaccord with the contracts that they have signed. That, I understand, is the interest of the honorable member for Mitchell in the wheatgrowing industry. He should be ashamed of having referred to a member of the Labour party as “ the wheat-grower from Paddington “. The honorable member for Mitchell might be termed “the wheat-grower from the stock exchange “. Let him tell that to the working farmers of Australia who have gone through drought, fire and famine, and who have experienced high prices and low advances from banking institutions which urged them to borrow money at 8 per cent interest and then pressed them to repay their overdrafts when the price of wheat fell to1s. 8d. a bushel. The wheat-growers of Australia will judge between the “ wheat-grower from Paddington “ and the gambler in futures on the Sydney Stock Exchange.
The honorable member for Mitchell said that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government had done a disservice to the wheat-growers. I shall tell honorable members what the honorable member for Lalor did. He submitted a wheat stabilization scheme to the wheat-growers and when he asked them to vote on the proposal members of the Australian Country party travelled round Australia and argued against it. They told farmers that they would sell their birthright if they bought into a socialistic scheme. Whom did the wheat-growers support, the members of the Australian Country party, many of whom have never grown a bushel of wheat, or the honorable mem- ber for Lalor the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government? The answer is history. About 60 per cent of wheat-growers voted in favour of the proposition of the honorable member for Lalor and against the advice of the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Lalor won the approval of the wheat-growers in the face of the combined opposition of the Australian Country party and that great figure in Australian wheat production, Sir John Teasdale, the self-confessed adviser of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and of the present Government. Not only in Western Australia did this titled gentleman plead his case. He also went throughout the continent arguing against the honorable member for Lalor - arguing for the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and for the Australian Country party. But the wheat-growers rejected his arguments and clearly gave their verdict for the honorable member for Lalor. The honorable member for Mitchell gave expression to a cheap jibe that has been heard before by saying that he went to New Zealand and heard some pertinent comments about the honorable member for Lalor. At a period when the future of the wheat industry and of every other commodity was uncertain-
– The honorable member should sing this part of his speech.
– The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) might well go back to where he began in the service of a Labour Minister in the Parliament of Great Britain. He does no useful service here. At a period when it was not possible to assess the future and when the Government believed that Russian and French wheat production would shortly be restored and that American and Canadian grain would again flood the markets of the world, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government made a forward contract with the New Zealand Government which appeared to be reasonable. It provided a basic price and a diminishing price which would apply as world production recovered. His assessment of the position was shown to be incorrect with the maturing of world events. However, he had acted not on his own judgment, but on the advice that he received from the officers of his department and on sources of information throughout the world. Those facts provided sufficient justification for the signing of the wheat agreement with New Zealand. But what Minister made that agreement? The honorable member for Lalor has taken the responsibility. That is evidence of his loyalty to his colleagues. The contract was actually arranged by his predecessor in office - the then honorable member for Gwyder, Mr. Scully, who at the time was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government. The cheap sneers and miserable jibes of the honorable member for Mitchell leave our withers unwrung and they will leave the primary producers unmoved.
The honorable member for Mitchell related a fairy story of some primary producer who walked off his land. I presume that he had a flock of sheep and plant and machinery. He had a producing farm, yet according to the honorable member he walked off the land and went to work in a 1 factory in some city. I have never before heard such a fairy story as that in this House. The honorable member said he had observed a new regard for the people of Great Britain on the part of the Opposition. That was another cheap jibe. It is a statement that will not ring a bell in the minds of the Australian community. Before the war the late John Curtin stated in this House that Opposition members indulged in no flag-waving. He said that they uttered no false and emotional sentiment but stood loyally for the people of Great Britain and were willing to help them in all their problems and trials. Unlike Government supporters, Opposition members do not indulge in emotional propaganda. We desire no electoral support because of what we do for the Mother Country. Wherever the Labour party can help, it does so. We always give the fullest support to Great Britain. The jibes from the Government benches ring falsely from those who have never given any direct aid to Great Britain. Day after day in the last Parliament the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page)-
– What has this to do do with the measure ?
– It is useless to answer the honorable member. In the last Parliament the Minister for Health moved that Australia should make a gift of £30,000,000 worth of foodstuffs to the Mother Country.
-Order ! The honorable member has exhausted half his time, but he has not yet said anything about the bill.
– I believe that to be true, Mr. Speaker. As yet I have confined my speech to replying to the honorable member for Mitchell, who said that the Opposition has now adopted a new attitude, that it now believes in support for Great Britain, and so on. One of the leading figures in this Government, the Minister for Health, argued during the Nineteenth Parliament that £30,000,000 worth of foodstuffs should be given to Great Britain. He has been strangely silent to-day. This Government sent the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to Great Britain. The first report that the Opposition had about his activities was contained in a newspaper article which reported - “ Mr. McEwen states-
-Order ! The honorable member must not refer to a Minister by his personal name.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was reported in the Australian press under a London date-line as having said that unless the British people increased the price that, they were willing to pay for Australian foodstuffs they would get no more food from Australia. He was reported to have said that we shall sell our food in the world markets where we can get the highest price for it. Honorable members should remember that that was said by a member of a government which has jibed at the Opposition for being luke-warm towards helping Great Britain. I shall now turn to the bill before the House.
– Ah, the honorable member is on the bill at last.
– Yes, that is because I have had to answer a lot of extraneous arguments that were advanced in this House by the honorable member for Mitchell.
– And the honorable member has done it very badly.
– In this place I am not permitted to answer properly the Minister for Defence; otherwise I would do so. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said in his secondreading speech that wheat-growers will not be forced to subsidize other industries by providing them with cheap feed at the wheat-growers’ expense.
– “Well, what is wrong with that?
– If the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and his loquacious colleague the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will remain quiet for a few moments, I shall endeavour to explain to them what is wrong with it. The Minister said further that he had called a meeting of the Ministers for Agriculture of all the Australian States and that they had come to a unanimous decision in favour of increasing the home-consumption price of wheat to 16s. Id. a bushel. The newspapers have a habit of reporting conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers. They at first indicated that every State Minister had refused to agree with the proposal of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. They further reported that a gentleman whom we all know and esteem, Mr. Playford, of South Australia had broken away from the solid phlaanx of State Ministers that was opposed to the Australian Government, and had ceased to oppose the Commonwealth proposal. The newspaper reports further indicated that every other non-Labour State government would be either coerced or induced to desert and make common cause with the Australian Government. For what purpose were they so encouraged? Surely not to serve the cause of the wheat-growers, but rather to ensure that the Minister and the Government should be no further discomfited. In the face of that pressure, the State governments finally capitulated to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Australian Government. References have been made recently to Ned Kelly and his tactics during the early history of Australia. I suggest that, if Ned. Kelly were alive to-day, he would ,take second place to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and would come a long way behind the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), because of the methods displayed by those gentlemen in the coercion of their victims.
The Minister has said that in addition to proposing an increased price for wheat, he sought to encourage an increased production of wheat. How will the Minister achieve that aim? He has suggested that he will do so by paying a higher price for wheat. Does the Minister know the countryside of Australia, or is his experience confined to stock dealing? Does the Australian Country party understand the reason for the limited output of the country people and why the production of wheat is decreasing? I do not believe that they do. I suggest that the Australian Country party and the Government have no comprehension of the real Australia. They sell primary products, as the honorable member for Mallee does, they take an intellectual interest in country matters, as the honorable member for Gippsland does, and so on, but they do not understand the problems of the farmers.
I shall endeavour to explain why the production of wheat has decreased. Australia’s wheat-growing area was pushed out into a dangerous belt of country. As time passed the country showed its true worth and the run of the seasons forced many farmers into bankruptcy. Consequently, the farmers withdrew from these marginal lands and then other problem.beset them. They needed more machinery and more labour. This Government tools no notice of their problems. It did nothing to assist them to obtain more machinery and labour. The Government has offered to increase the price for wheat to 16s. Id. a bushel, but not one word has been said abou! machinery to increase production. The farmers need more superphosphate to make their ground productive. The Government has withdrawn the superphosphate subsidy and has put superphosphate beyond the reach of the average farmer. Only wealthy graziers can now secure it because they are able to pay the prices required. The new settler, the returned soldier and the farmer’s son are battling along because they find it difficult to pay the increased prices for superphosphate.
There has never been a reasonable argument advanced in support of such a proposition as that farmers should subsidize other Australian industries, and to-day, while they are reasonably prosperous, they have to meet their extra costs out of the sale of sideline products. Again, the more the farmers produce at to-day’s higher prices the more the Government will take back from them in ordinary taxation and through the modification of the averaging system.
This Government trumpets to high heaven about its great interest in the primary producers, but has taken no action whatsoever to help them. On the other hand, it has decided that because the farmers have money, it will take away the superphosphate bounty, modify the averaging system and remove everything that tends to give to the fanners an incentive to produce more. Professor Sir Douglas Copland has said that the farmers of Australia are far too prosperous to-day. In the two sorry years during which the Government has been in office it has been beset with problems, but they are as nothing compared with the damage that it has indicted on the hard-pressed people of Australia. The result of this action of the Government will be seen in two years’ time, and I prophesy that by that time it will have been shown clearly that the result will not have been an increased wheat production. The farmers’ friends may be found, as they were found in the Christian world of old, among those who render service to them. The farmers know that Labour governments have put to them propositions for the permanent stability of their industries, have sought their views on measures of vital interest and have helped them in all possible ways.
– The honorable member will convince himself if he is not careful.
– I might. I have a chance of being convinced because I take an intelligent interest in these matters. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has never been guilty of doing that. This Government should get more machinery for the farmers so that they can clear and farm more land. Instead of that, the Government has offered a great volume of windy propaganda. Its action.have convinced nobody and the farmer.will undoubtedly give their verdict on this matter at the next general election.
.- The speeches of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr Ward) have led us nowhere. The speeches of the last two honorable gentlemen indicated clearly where the Labour party stands in relation to this matter. Th,honorable member for Lalor said that thi wheat-growers are not getting enough money. Then the honorable member for East Sydney said that they are getting too much money. The honorable member for Perth confirmed the opinion of th, honorable member for East Sydney and also said that the Government is taking everything from the wheat-growers. J’ is quite apparent that this measure igiving something to the wheat-grower.*. It is a significant fact that during thiwhole of the time that the honorable men1 ber spoke he rarely touched on the bill.
I shall now proceed to correct some of the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Perth. Both those gentlemen know nothing about our primary industries. They are more at home on th,footpaths of Sydney and Perth. Their speeches proved that they knew nothing about the subject that they attempted to discuss. I sympathize with the honorable member for Lalor, who knows a little about the wheat industry. He made the best of a- very bad case, but he could not disguise his frustration. This bill is a good one and it is difficult to speak against it. He said that he deplored the fact that the wheat-growers will receive the higher prices for which the bill makes provision only during the last two years of the currency of the wheat stabilization scheme, but I remind the honorable gentleman that the Labour party, when it was in power, had an opportunity to make higher prices for stockfeed operative during the whole of that five-year period. The inability of the honorable member for Lalor to understand the significance of the wheat stabilization scheme was revealed when he said to-night that the higher is the price of wheat the lower is the acreage under wheat.
– I said that the figures showed that that had been the position.
– I leave it to the House to decide whether I have quoted the honorable gentleman correctly. Above all else, I want to be fair to the members of the Opposition.. It is not necessary to be unfair to them, because the deplorable case that they have presented can be answered very easily. The honorable member for Lalor said that the higher is the price of wheat, the lower is the acreage under wheat.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull).
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor cannot make a personal explanation at this stage. He may do so when the honorable member for Mallee has concluded his speech.
– I repeat that the honorable member for Lalor said that the higher is the price of wheat, the lower is the acreage under wheat. If that be the position, it is logical to assume that the lower is the acreage under wheat, the higher is the price of wheat. But, under the wheat stabilization scheme, if the acreage under wheat declines and the wheat crop becomes smaller, the average price that the wheatgrowers receive for their wheat decreases, because smaller quantities are available for export. The wheat-growers receive high prices for wheat sold overseas, but for wheat consumed in Australia they receive only the bare costs of production.
The honorable member for East Sydney said that the wheat-growers should make some return for what the Commonwealth and the States have done for them. If they returned every penny that they have received in the form of subsidies, drought relief, &c, and if the Commonwealth and the States paid to them the money of which they have been deprived, they would receive approximately £120,000,000 more than they repaid. The honorable gentleman asked why the Government desired that the wheat-growers should receive increased prices, and said that they were receiving the cost of production. In 1948, the cost of production was assessed on the basis that a wheat-grower was worth only £6 a week, although at that time there were, on Flinders-street railway station in Melbourne, neon signs offering jobs to youths of eighteen years of age at £12 a week, if a little overtime was worked. No person in the community works more overtime than does the man on the land, and the wheatgrower in particular. The honorable member for East Sydney suggested that farmers were, so to speak, on “ Easy Street “. “When a farmer sows wheat, he knows that he may receive no return for his labour, because the crop may fail ; but a city worker receives each week at least the basic wage. How many city workers would leave their jobs and go into the Mallee or other places where they would have to face droughts and all the other difficulties that beset men on the land? If city workers prefer to stay in the cities, with the protection of the basic wage, that is their concern. But if a man goes on the land and for years fights against adverse conditions, and then for two or three years receives good overseas prices for his products, he is fully entitled to them. The drift to the cities proves where the easiest jobs are to be found.
I compliment the Government and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) upon this bill. Foi- many years the Australian Country party has directed attention to the anomaly of the wheat-growers subsidizing other industries. N o one has yet advanced a satisfactory reason why wheat-growers should be required to subsidize the pig and poultry industries. I know of no connexion between pigs and poultry, and wheat, except that pigs and poultry eat wheat. The proposal is that the price charged for wheat used for stockfeed shall be the cost of production, which is now 10s. a bushel, and an additional 2s. a bushel, and that the Commonwealth shall pay a consumer subsidy equal to the difference between 12s. and 16s.1d. a bushel. In the first year of the operation of the scheme, that will cost the Government about £5,300,000.
The honorable member for Perth said that many Australian wheat-growers had been pushed off their land. They were pushed off by Labour governments. A farmer at Sealake, which is in my electorate, had 50 acres of self-sown wheat, but under a Labour government he was not permitted to strip it, although the crop ran to five or six bags an acre. He was told that if he stripped the 50 acres, he would have to leave 50 acres of the rest of his crop, some of which went to nine bags to the acre. A. farmer in the Wimmera electorate wanted to put an additional 30 or 40 acres under wheat, but he was not permitted to do so. Restrictions of that kind drive farmers off the land. The decline of the acreage sown to wheat has been due to several fundamental causes. The first of them is that wheat for stockfeed has been sold at the home-consumption price. That fact encouraged stockfeeders to use wheat instead of other cereals the production of which consequently declined. Under this measure, wheatgrowers will be assured of obtaining a fair price for wheat for stockfeed. That fact alone should tend to increase the production of wheat. Another reason for the decrease of the acreage sown to wheat is that in recent years wool prices have been so good that farmers have found it more profitable to run sheep than to grow wheat. But. now. the wool market is not so goodas itwas . Last year the. average price for wool was 19s. 4d. per lb. It is now approximately 80d. per lb. This development also will tend to increase the production of wheat.
I am confident that wheat-growers will welcome this measure. It is not correct to say that under it they will be obliged to pay freight on wheat that is shipped from Adelaide and Melbourne to Tasmanian and Queensland ports. The bill makes no provision whatever in that respect. I understand that the point is covered by State legislation. On previous occasions, I have clearly stated where I stand on this matter. I do not believe the wheat-growers should be called upon to pay the freight on the transport of such wheat. As a result of the passage of this measure wheat-growers’ income from the sale of wheat for stockfeed will be increased by approximately £8 within the next twelve months. The industry as a whole has been fighting for recognition of the principle that is embodied in the bill, and I commend the Government for having introduced it.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put -
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
.- This clause provides that - “ the guaranteed price “ has the same meaning as in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1948.
Having regard to that definition, I emphasize, particularly for the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), that the guaranteed price is the price that is defined in the complementary legislation that was passed by the six State governments in1948, and that that legislation empowered those governments to fixe that price. Of those governments, three were Liberal governments that were supported by the Australian Country party, and the other three were Labour governments.
– Do not be silly. What about the Victorian Government?
– At that time the Hollway Liberal Government was in office in Victoria.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause before the Chair.
– I have made the point that I rose to make.
Clause agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 11.28 p.m. to 12.1 a.m. (Friday).
Friday30, November 1951.
Clause 4 (Bounty on production of wheat).
– This clause provides for the payment of a bounty on the production of wheat, and, therefore, represents, in essence, the substance of the bill. Opposition members have suggested that this legislation, which is a part of a pattern of Commonwealth and State legislation, is the result of action by this Government to bludgeon the States into accepting a certain policy. I point out to those honorable gentlemen that in a federal system of this kind, it would be quite improper for this Government to submit to the Parliament legislation that had its origin in the coercion of State governments. I propose to refer briefly to the origin of the legislation in order to place it in it proper setting.
The origin, of course, is in the action of the present Government to discharge one of the undertakings that it gave- during the general election campaign in 1949 to establish conditions that would be acceptable to the Australian wheat industry for the extension of stabilization from five years to ten years, and an appropriate adjustment of the wheat stabilization legislation on groundsof’ equity, justice and common sense for the balance of the present five-years’ stabilization plan. . To that end, I, acting as the instrument of the Government, invited representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation to meet me. At the subsequent conference I asked themto formulate, after they had consulted their constituent bodies, provisions that would be acceptable to the industry. Accordaingly, the representatives proposed to me seventeen points which covered all that they required for the industry. Cabinet considered them for the purpose of determining whether they were proper, in the public interest, and I was able to inform the Australian Wheat Growers Federation that the Government was prepared to approve, either in their entirety or in principle, subject to some further discussions, sixteen of the seventeen points. Regarding the seventeenth point, which was the request for an amendment of the homeconsumption price, the Commonwealth had no constitutional authority. At the suggestion of the federation,. I undertook to make representations to the State governments, which alone could legislate to that end. I honoured that undertaking, and this legislation is the outcome of those negotiations applied to the balance of the present five years’ stabilization period. The Commonwealth has successfully acted as the negotiator on behalfofthe wheat industry in that it has persuaded the State governments to agree to a matter on which they alone have power to act, namely, amendment of the homeconsumption price.
– And bled the rest of Australia.
– I advise Opposition members to compose their differences on this legislation. Their interjections and speeches might then be more intelligent than they have been to date.
– The Labour party wil i soon be in occupation of the treasury bench again.
– One of the principal reasons why the present Government is in office is that many wheat-growing electorates rejected Labour representatives. The preceding Labour Government, when it evolved the stabilization scheme, held the electorates of Forrest, Canning, Moore, Wakefield, Angas, Wannon, Riverina, Hume, Gwydir, Farrer and Lawson.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! I ask the Minister to relate his remarks to the clause.
– I was pointing out that eleven wheat-growing electorates, which are now represented by Government supporters, were lost by the Labour party as a result of its treatment of the wheat-growers. However, I shall not elaborate that point.
I have referred to the conferences that E had with representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. Cabinet proposed that the Australian price for wheat for stock feed should be increased from the guaranteed price of 7s. lOd. a bushel to the price under the International Wheat Agreement of 1.6s. Id. a bushel, and offered to subsidize the egg industry. That proposal was submitted to the six State Ministers for Agriculture, five of whom rejected it on behalf of their governments. They were quite entitled to do so. This Government does not attempt under the present federal system to dictate policy to the States. However, it said, in effect, “ That is our proposal. What is your proposal ? “. Five of the six State governments advanced the proposal that is now the subject of this legislation. I mention, in passing, that three of those five governments are Labour governments. The Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia have accepted that proposal which, in substance, is no different from the prime objective of the Commonwealth’s own proposal, because it achieves for the wheat-grower a return of 16s. Id. for every bushel of wheat that will be sold for stock feed. The representatives of the other five State governments were not bludgeoned into an agreement by the Commonwealth. They conferred in my absence and agreed upon a proposal, but attached the condition that the Australian Wheat Board could charge that higher price only if it met the freight to Tasmania and to the principal port of Queensland.
Some complaints have been voiced against that proposal, but I point out that this bill would not now have been under consideration if its principles had not been supported by the Labour governments of Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland. If the Commonwealth had declined to accept the proposition which, five States said, was the only one with respect to which they were proposed to legislate, the wheat-growers would have received, during the forthcoming year, 10s. a bushel for wheat for stockfeed, whereas under this legislation they will receive 16s. Id. a bushel. That is the explanation of how this bounty proposal came to be submitted to the Parliament.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) suggested that even last year the Commonwealth Treasury should have made up the deficiency between 7s. lOd. and 16s. lcl. a bushel by way of a subsidy. He should know that the adoption of such a proposal would have cost Consolidated Revenue nearly £30,000,000. Does he believe that Australian taxpayers should bear such an impost in a year in which the wheat-growers have almost a record crop, as well as record prices ? This Government does not accept such a proposition, and, furthermore, does not believe that an industry that is so important as is the Australian wheat industry should be subject to annual political patronage by the parliaments of Australia. No industry can enjoy stability if it is able .to carry on only on the basis of annual subsidy subventions. Such conditions spell ruin. I remind honorable gentlemen of what happened to the butter industry when the preceding Labour Government placed it upon a basis of annual subsidy subventions. The present Government has engaged in a struggle with State Labour governments to try to prise the dairying industry loose from dependence upon the annual decisions of State governments and Prices Commissioners. Every one is aware of the drift that has occurred in the dairying industry as a result of the policy of the preceding Labour Government. It has been my task, as the instrument of this Government, to place the wheat industry upon a real basis of stability, instead of on that of annual dependence on political decisions.
Why is the wheat industry entitled to reasonable assistance? It is true that it received assistance from the taxpayers of Australia in its times of need. During the 1930’s, the Lyons-Page Government voted from Consolidated Revenue £18,000,000 for the purpose of assisting the wheat industry in those desperate days when the price was a little more than ls. a bushel at sidings. The net return to many Australian growers then was ls. 8d. a bushel. The Lyons-Page Government used the only constitutional device that was available to it in order to provide a return to the grower of 5s. 2d. a bushel. What was the attitude of the Labour party to that legislation? It fought the plan and voted against the bill in this Parliament. It is a notorious fact that the Labour Government during World War II. literally stole more than £70,000,000 from the wheat-growers. Furthermore, during the last three years under the terms of the Labour Government’s legislation, with which we are now dealing, the wheat-growers have received £22,000,000, £28,350,000 and £27,500,000 respectively less than the actual value of their wheat. Added to the amount of £70,000,000 that was stolen from the industry in war-time, that makes a total of £150,000,000, of which the wheat-growers have been deprived as a result of Labour enactments.
That is the balance to be set against the £18,000,000 of tax revenue that the Labour Government diverted- to the indus- try in its time of need. That explains why, in justice to the growers, they should not be required any longer to support other industries at their own expense. That is why a fair price is to be established for stockfeed. That is why the impact of the higher price upon the poultry industry, the pig industry and the dairy industry is to be softened. That is why this clause provides that £5,300,000 shall be provided from Consolidated Revenue this year, not to aid the wheat industry, but to enable the other three industries to obtain wheat for less than its market value. It is estimated that next year, which will be the last year of the plan, about one-half of that amount will be used for the same purpose. The truth is that the wheatgrowers are to receive a fair price for wheat that is sold for stockfeed. The Government is doing for the wheat industry what it has already done for the dairy industry. It is releasing the industry from a condition of political dependence. The wheat-growers have thrown the Labour party out of office, as I have already said, and I am sure that this legislation will receive their general approbation. Five State Ministers for Agriculture proposed that the Australian Wheat Board should pay the cost of transporting wheat to Tasmania and to Brisbane. They contended that, because the growers would benefit to the amount of approximately £8,000,000 as a result of the bounty on stockfeed wheat, it was reasonable that they should be required to pay the freight charges. In normal years, the cost of freight to Tasmania would be about £275,000. In this extraordinary year, the cost of freight to Queensland alone may be more than £500,000. I consider that no case can be made out in equity in favour of the proposal.
-I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the Minister is not in order in discussing freight costs.
– I have finished my remarks.
.The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), when confronted with his own perfidy, has a habit of working himself almost into a state of hysteria. All his .excitable explanations cannot disguise the facts that I recited in my second-reading speech. I cited a declaration by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the difference between the home-consumption price of wheat and the export parity price should be made up from Consolidated Revenue I quoted the famous letter in which the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) informed the Wheat Growers Federation that the difference between the concessional price and the export price would be made up from Consolidated Revenue. I can also cite identical promises that were made by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Two years after its election to office, the Government has belatedly made an attempt to half-honour its promise for the two remaining years of the stabilization plan. That promise should have been honoured in full for 1950-51, 1951-52 and 1952-53. If the Government believes everything it has said about the plan, it should provide for a retrospective payment of the bounty from its bloated surplus so that justice may be done to the wheat-growers. But it has no intention of doing so. The Minister said that, because of the dissatisfaction of the wheat-growers with Labour’s wheat stabilization plan, the present Government parties had been able to win eleven seats from the Labour party. The truth is that there was no justification for that change in the representation of wheat-growing electorates at the 1949 general election. The change occurred as a result of the lies and false promises that were uttered by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the present Government.
– Order ! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the clause.
– But you allowed the Minister to digress!
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw it. I repeat that the wheat-growers were misled during the 1949 general election campaign. They were beginning to realize their mistake when the 1951 general election took place and, as a result, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) were returned to this Parliament. The truth will dawn on the wheat-growers in the other electorates before the next general election takes place.
The Minister said that the wheat industry should not be the subject of annual patronage. He is the first Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to be guilty of political patronage of the wheat industry, first by making false promises and, secondly, by introducing a plan that will break an honorable agreement that was made between the former Labour Administration, six State governments of varying political complexions, and the wheatgrowers, who expressed their view by a majority vote at a plebiscite. Because the present Government does not believe in making annual reviews as the five-year plan provides, it has decided to interfere with this three-party arrangement and alter the entire plan.
The Minister has said that, because the Opposition opposes this measure, he is justified in believing that, had it been in office, it would have increased the cost of subsidizing the wheat industry from Consolidated Revenue by £30,000,000, which represents the estimated amount of the total difference between the home-consumption price and the export parity price. The Labour party has never entertained any such intention. The truth is that the Minister, backed by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, has dishonoured the promise that he made to the wheat-growers. He said that the wheat-growers had lost millions of pounds under the Labour Administration; that in the last twelve months under this scheme they had lost £27,000,000. He has been Minister for Commerce and Agriculture .in the last twelve months. He was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the previous twelve months, during which period, according to him, they lost £28,000,000. If he had been the man that his pose suggests that he is, he would have ensured that during those two years the wheat-growers should not lose £27,000,000 and £28,000,000. Of course, his excuse-
– That he is not in charge of the six State Premiers.
– That is his excuse. He claims that by virtue of the fact that he could not persuade the States to increase prices to the consumer he had no constitutional power to ensure that the wheat-growers should receive the difference between the home-consumption price and export parity. Yet under this legislation the Minister will have the power, by virtue of the consent of this Parliament, and this Parliament alone, to do so. So that fact completely refutes his case. The act will give to the Government the power to pay a bounty of 4s. a bushel on every bushel of wheat sold in Australia for stockfeed.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Had it not been for the maladministration of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and introduced concessional sales, there would be no necessity for this debate. Both in 1946, when he was supporting the former honorable member for Gwydir, Mr. Scully, who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and in 1948, when he himself was Minister, he refused to adopt the suggestion of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation that only a certain percentage of exportable wheat should be sold on the Australian market for stockfeed. He said, as Minister, that all wheat consumed in Australia, whether for dog biscuits, raising ducks or anything else, should be paid for at the home-consumption price. Ever since that time the wheat-growers have shown their objection to such a. proposal.
– They did not set their crops alight, as the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) did.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) would not know what a crop was, nor would the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). They would not know a grain of wheat from a pig. But that is by the way. I am not worrying about the honorable member for
Hindmarsh. Unless this measure is passed the wheat-growers of Australia will receive only 10s. a bushel for all wheat consumed in Australia. That is the main point of this matter. I am sorry to say that honorable members opposite, and one State, or perhaps two, are opposing this measure in an attempt to catch votes in the areas adjacent to the cities.
– The honorable member will not be back in this chamber after the next general election.
– I am not worrying one iota about the next general election.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) must cease interjecting. The committee is getting out of control and I shall have to remove some honorable members for the remainder of the session if they do not obey the Chair and maintain order.
– Had it not been for the rotten administration of the previous Government - if you will pardon the expression Mr. Chairman - this situation would not have arisen. I blame some of my own wheat-growing colleagues in Western Australia for having helped to bring it about, because they had an opportunity in 1948 to vote for either the State or the federal scheme. Had they voted for the State scheme, the federal authorities could not have allowed it to operate, because 70 per cent, of Western Australia’s wheat production is exported. Unfortunately they voted for the federal scheme, and the present honorable member for Lalor, as Minister, introduced the legislation that has produced the stalemate with which we are now faced. Only a few months ago the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Senator McLeay) stated on behalf of the Government that the Government would subsidize the difference between the home-consumption price of wheat and the International Wheat Agreement price to wheat-growers for wheat used by egg producers. The States did not see fit to agree to that proposal, so the Government has accepted thei proposition that it subsidize the difference between the price of stockfeed wheat at 12s. and the International Wheat Agreement price of 16s.1d. a bushel. Honorable members who offer opposition to this proposed wheat bounty are not doing a service to poultrymen and pig-raisers-
– Or to the pensioners.
– Or to the pensioners. But they are doing a disservice to the people whose production of foodstuffs they have claimed so often in this chamber they wish to increase. Their opposition to the measure consists of idle words. Fortunately, I am able to say that wheat acreages in Western Australia have increased. I have always been opposed to the idea that the decline of crop acreage in Australia has been caused by taxes. That is only one of the minor aspects of the matter. The arresting of the decline depends on providing the wherewithal for farmers to sow and produce crops. All the words of the honorable member for Lalor are simply idle. He is trying to wriggle out of a position that he himself caused. This is the first occasion on which it has been possible for the Government to pay to the wheatgrowers the International Wheat Agreement price for stockfeed wheat consumed in Australia.
.This bill, and in particular this clause, clearly demonstrates that the Government, at any time since its election to office, could have paid a bounty in exactly the same way as it now proposes to pay one. It could have paid such a bounty from the moment it took office and could even have made it operate retrospectively. The bounty so paid could have been for the full amount necessary to recoup to the wheat-growers the difference between the home-consumption price and export parity. All the pleadings of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that there were constitutional problems, that the States had control of prices, and that there were other obstacles that the Government could not surmount, must go by the board, because eventually he has been pushed right to the jump and has been forced to introduce this measure. The introduction of the bill proves quite conclusively that the Government, using the Australian Wheat Board as its agent, could have paid 4s.1d. a bushel, 10s.1d. a bushel, 16s.1d. a bushel, or any sum it cared to decide on, to the wheat-growers at any time that it chose. That fact destroys entirely all the special pleadings that the Minister has used over the last two years. He has used all these falsehoods to mislead the wheatgrowers, and I regard his actions as having been rather cruel in effect. One wheat-grower who is not a Labour supporter said to me, “ Pollard said he would not, and he won’t”. He went on, “ McEwen said he would, but he won’t “.
– What does the honorable member say ?
– I consider that to be a very good assessment of the situation. The bill quite clearly exposes the Minister and the Government for what they are - a gang of false promisers, who are prepared to mislead the electors and the wheat-growers in order to gain some electoral advantage. Having said that, I am now prepared to let the bill go through.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Amount of bounty).
– I consider that this clause requires some explanation. The committee has approved of the payment of the bounty, and this clause deals with the amount of the bounty and also limits the payment to 26,000,000 bushels of wheat. How will that provision be administered ? How will the Government limit the payment of this bounty to 26,000,000 bushels? When the 26,000,000 bushels has been provided by the board for the purposes of stockfeed, will the supply be completely exhausted and will those who need stockfeed have to pay the full price for the remaining period of the year? Or will the Government ration consumers and so limit production in certain essential industries, the products of which are in great demand ? I am afraid that the Government will affect the production of what has been call”’’ the “ backyard egg producer “. If it be found that the quantity of wheat required for feed purposes is likely to exceed the 26,000,000 bushels that has been stipulated, the Government may take action in cooperation with the States which would affect the small producer. I should like the Minister to explain whether any person who keeps fowls, no matter how few, will obtain the benefit of this legislation or whether the benefit is to be limited to people with large numbers of poultry. All these matters are important, not only to the people engaged in the industry, but also to the consumers, because they will be affected by the price that they will have to pay for eggs.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has asked some reasonable questions. Dealing with his latter point first’: The benefits that will flow from the provision of this bounty will be available to all persons engaged in the poultry, pig and dairying industries. Naturally, the Australian Wheat Board will not sell its wheat direct to wheat-users in these industries. The board deals in substantial parcels of not less than a truck-load and it customarily makes sales to resellers. When the wheat is sold to produce merchants at 12s. a bushel, the produce merchant will be required to sell to any person engaged in these industries at a price of 12s. a bushel plus such margin to cover profit and costs as a State government may approve. When the representatives of the State governments discussed with me an appropriate quantity on which to charge the lower price they ascertained the total use of wheat for stockfeed last year. That quantity was 26,0Q0,000 bushels, which was used, not only in these three industries, but also in the sheep industry.
– How much was used by the sheep industry?
– The Australian Wheat Board is not able to say exactly how much was used by the sheep industry.
– How will leakages be prevented ?
– That is anothe question. But it is obvious that if the total quantity of wheat used last year was 26,000,000 bushels, then these three industries did not use 26,000,000 bushels. It was considered by the State governments, which had been concerning themselves very largely with the interests of’ these three industries, that 26,000,000 bushels was an adequate quantity to provide at the price agreed upon. They themselves suggested that figure. The Australian Wheat Board will sell wheat at 12s. a bushel for use in these industries and at 16s.1d. a bushel for use as sheep feed. There is obviously a difficulty of administration in that connexion. There is an inducement to a person to apply to the board for wheat for pig raising or dairying and to use it for sheep feed. Because the Government was aware of that administrative difficulty its own proposal was different from this one. The Australian Government’s proposal could have been administered successfully because the subsidy would have been paid on eggs and not on wheat. But the State governments, recognizing the difficulties, offered the assistance of their administration in policing the final use of wheat, and they assured me that they believed that with the aid of their administrative structure this provision could be effectively policed. It is on that assurance of the State governments that this arrangement has been made.
– It does not seem to me that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has explained the position satisfactorily. He has stated 26,000,000 bushels to be the quantity in respect of which the concessional price will be charged. I assume that the Minister desires to have a greater production of eggs in order to meet contracts with Britain and to provide adequate supplies for local consumption. We also need more pig meat for home consumption and to meet our overseas commitments. But it appears that after the 26,000,000 bushels has been exhausted it will be possible for farmers to increase the production of eggs, pig meat and dairy products only by paying the full price of 16s.1d. a bushel for wheat.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the questionbe now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. E. Adermann.)
Majority . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Certain wheat not to be taken into account).
– This clause has been inserted in the bill because of a certain provision which is to be placed in the State legislation. The States stipulated that as a condition of increasing the feed wheat price for sheep feed to a certain level, and in consideration of the Commonwealth paying a bounty, they would require the wheat industry to pay freight on wheat to Tasmania and to the principal port in Queensland. The States have no authority to compel the Australian Wheat Board to pay freight, but only they can pass the legislation required to give effect to the agreement. Therefore, the drafting procedure followed by all the State governments was to provide that the Australian Wheat Board may charge higher prices.
– That is to enable the Minister to evade giving a ministerial direction to the Australian Wheat Board.
– No; this clause contains a provision required by the State governments.
– The Minister can direct the Australian Wheat Board.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was very fond of directing boards when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. That is not this Government’s line of country. The honorable member for Lalor is making it quite clear that if the Labour party ever assumes office again it will once more try to completely direct primary industry boards. That is certainly not the policy of this Government. The State governments have provided the Australian Wheat Board with an alternative. The board will be authorized to charge the higher prices, enjoy the bounty, and pay the necessary freight. If the board declines to pay the freight, and it can do so, the State legislation will provide that the relevant State Governor in Council may make a proclamation that the State government shall revert to the prices proclaimed according to the original legislation. Such an action would reduce the return to the wheatgrowers by 6s.1d. a bushel on stockfeed wheat and 2s. a bushel on wheat for other purposes. If the price should be so reduced, it would follow that the purpose of the Commonwealth legislation would no longer be achieved. That is why this clause provides that a State government may issue a proclamation which would destroy the whole plan so that a part of the Commonwealth wheal bounty would no longer be paid.
– This clause is the crux of the whole measure-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 - by leave - taken together.
– Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 20
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).The honorable gentleman knows how he wants to vote, and he is entitled to vote as he wishes.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 3094).
.This measure is designed to enable the Government to extend to veterans of Korea and Malaya the same reestablishment and employment privileges as are extended to ex-service personnel of World War II. Unfortunately, the men to whom the bill applies will not have returned to Australia by Christmas, but we hope that they will be here within a few months. There has been an intelligent approach to the problem. It is interesting to note that the Government has adopted a policy similar to that which was adopted by the Chifley Government in planning for the rehabilitation and re-establishment of veterans of World War II. The Opposition has no adverse comments to make upon the bill. It applauds the Government for having adopted a realistic attitude.
The Opposition is pleased that in connexion with vocational training the same privileges will be extended to the men who return from Korea and Malaya as areenjoyed by ex-servicemen of World War II. In this instance, the responsible authority will be the Repatriation Department, which, in my view, is the appropriate authority for that purpose. It has been said that no apprentices have been enlisted in the units that have been sent to Korea and Malaya, but I should appreciate an assurance from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) that if apprentices have enlisted they will, upon their return to this country, be entitled to the same privileges in connexion with vocational training as will the other servicemen.
– I give the assurance most readily.
– Re-employment allowances and business loans have been increased. There has been a general broadening of the system, which experience has proved to be necessary. The Government has taken advantage of past experience and has drafted the measure in a way that will prevent anomalies from arising. I note particularly, and with some gratification, that the widow of a serviceman may be provided with a business loan. In the case of a young woman with young children, the Repatriation Department has discretionary power to defer making such a loan available until the youngest child reaches the age of six years. That is a sensible provision.
The Opposition does not take exception to anything that is contained in the measure. I trust that the Government will be able to live up to the promises that are implicit in it. After all, the bill simply applies to personnel who serve in Korea and Malaya the provisions of the Re’establishment and Employment Act that was passed by the Chifley Government. The Opposition sincerely hopes that the Government will soon be able to bring those men back home. Honorable members on this side of the chamber will co-operate with it in making a genuine effort to rehabilitate the men in civilian life- I congratulate the Minister for the Army upon the introduction of this measure. I remind him that whilst the bill deals with only a battalion of servicemen, they deserve our special care and attention because they have been through most hazardous and dangerous campaigns. If the headlines in this evening’s newspapers are fully justified we may hope that the men will soon return from Malaya and Korea. In these circumstances the Government is acting wisely in making this provision for their rehabilitation.
After listening to the Minister’s second-reading speech and considering information that se have gained from officials of the Repatriation Department, I am confident that the Government will honour the obligations that are implicit in the measure. The bill provides for increases of business loans, reemployment allowances and re-establishment loans and the proposals as a whole are reasonable. I repeat that in this respect the Government is following in the footsteps of the Chifley Government. This matter should not be approached from a party political viewpoint. I trust that if anomalies arise, the Minister will immediately and courageously remedy them. Under this measure the Government is assuming a task which though not vast calls for unusual concentration. In passing, I might mention that I have been concerned about the rather rigid attitude of the Repatriation Department in determining whether many disabilities from which many ex-servicemen of World War II. are suffering are due to war service. For instance, many of these men are affected with dermatitis and, although they are not hospital or even repatriation cases their disability is due to war service. The Government should take the most liberal view possible in dealing with the claims of such ex-servicemen for repatriation benefits. The Opposition supports the measure in the hope that the Government will implement its provisions fully in order to give the best possible opportunities to the men who are now serving in Malaya and Korea to rehabilitate themselves upon their return to this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Extension of operation of certain provisions to members of the Forces (Korea and Malaya operations)).
Motion (by Mr. Francis) agreed to -
That, at the end of proposed section 138 the following sub-section be added: - “*(4.) For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section, a member of the Forces who, on the expiration of his original enlistment or subsequent re-engagement, re-engages to serve for a further period, shall, if the aggregate of the period of original enlistment and the period or periods of re-engagement exceeds three years, be deemed to have enlisted for a period exceeding three years.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr. Holt, and read a first time.
, - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The National Service Act 1951, was assented to on the 19th March last and since that date the Government has pushed on vigorously in giving effect to the scheme. Registrations took place in May and October and 58,000 young men have registered under the act for national service training. Of these young men, 10,700 have already commenced their service in the Navy, Army and Air Force Those called up for the Army have already completed their first period of 98 days training. A further 11,500 will commence their training in the second intakes for the three services which commence in December for the Air Force, in January for the Array and in February for the Navy. Most of the remainder, unless they are exempt under the act, or are medically unfit for service, will commence their training in 1952. Certain classes of students and apprentices may have to wait until the end of 1952 so that they can commence their service at a time that will fit in with their scholastic work or technical training. A limited number who have had their service deferred by a court on the grounds of exceptional hardship will be trained when their deferments expire.
Ever since the scheme came into operation, it has proved a great success and has reflected credit on all those responsible. The public reaction to, and support of, the scheme have been very encouraging and show clearly that the people appreciate the need for a scheme of national service training for the future defence of this country and recognize the benefits that a well-planned and well-administered system of training can offer to the young men who are called up for service. The service Ministers and the chiefs of the three services have all paid tribute to the keenness and efficiency displayed by the young men in their training and many honorable members and members of the public have had the opportunity of observing this at first hand. I should like to mention here particularly the cooperation given by the universities and State education authorities in the arrangements made to enable a large number of the students liable for service under the act to perform their service without delay and with due regard to the importance of their studies and careers. While the legislative framework provided in the act has stood up successfully to the test, this bill is necessary to provide the solution to a number of problems that have arisen. One of these problems, the constitution of medical boards, needs urgent attention so that the practical operation of the act can be extended over wider areas. 1 shall deal in turn with the major points provided for in the hill. Apart from a number of minor and technical amendments of detail which require no explanation, the bill provides for three principal matters. These are, first, the manner of constitution of medical boards; secondly, the circumstances in which trainees may be discharged from the Citizen Forces before they have completed 176 days training; and thirdly, the procedure in relation to persons who fail to fulfil the requirements of a call-up notice or to render the service required under the act. Section 20 of the act provides that a medical board shall consist of not less than two medical practitioners selected as the Minister directs. In accordance with this provision, my department has been arranging for medical examinations to be carried out by boards consisting of two, or more, civilian doctors. I should say here that many members of the medical profession are giving generous assistance in giving up their time in the evenings to serve on these boards. About 30,000 medical examinations have been arranged in this way and, so far, slightly more than 80 per cent, of the young men examined have been found fit for service. On the whole, this system has served very well.
One serious practical difficulty arises, however. In the more remote and sparsely populated areas, it is practically impossible to constitute medical boards to consist of two doctors, except at places that are a long distance from where many of the young men who are to be examined are living. In some parts, a whole week, or more would be spent in travelling to and from the nearest medical examination centre at which a board of two doctors could be established. It is impossible to say exactly what proportion of the young men registered for service are living in areas where it is not practicable to constitute medical boards of two doctors, but I should say that about 10 per cent are in this categor.y. Honorable members will agree that however important it is that medical boards should consist of two doctors - I, myself, think that this is important - it would be unreasonable to expect either the doctors or the registrants to undergo the inconvenience and loss of working time involved in having all medical examinations carried out by a board of two doctors. It is proposed, therefore, under clause 4 of the bill to permit a single medical practitioner to function as a board in the circumstances mentioned in that clause. There will be no change in the type or standard of medical examinations. I assure honorable members that lt is the Government’s intention that this provision shall be applied only when the inconvenience and the demands on the young men being examined would be unreasonable if the present system of medical boards of two medical practitioners were to operate. A small proportion of young men living in the most remote parts of the continent will still find it extremely difficult not only to attend for medical examination even by a single doctor, but also to undergo some portion of their subsequent training. The Government is examining the position of these young men in relation to their liability for service under the act.
Section 33 of the act imposes an obligation on a person called up for service to serve for 176 days in the citizen naval, military or air forces but does not regulate the circumstances in which he may be discharged before serving for 176 days. There will certainly be instances, especially when the 176 days is spread over several years, in which a trainee sustains an injury or develops a condition which makes him permanently unfit for service, and there is no other course open than to discharge him from the Citizen Forces. Similarly, the act makes no provision for the discharge of a man who commits a serious offence while he is serving and, who after having been punished in accordance with service law, is still liable under section 33 of the act to complete 176 days service. It is obviously desirable, in the interests of the services and the other trainees, that the Services should have power to discharge from the Citizen Forces and from association with normal national service trainees, young men who have shown by their conduct that they are unsuitable for service. Clause 7, therefore, provides for the amendment of section 35 of the act to confer on the Naval Board, the Military Board or the Air Board, as the case requires, power to discharge from the Citizen Forces, a person who is classed as permanently medically unfit for service or unsuitable for further service.
I turn now to the matter of those persons who do not obey the call-up notice. Experience of the first call-up of 11,000 youths was that only 21 failed without good reason to report for service. That response was very good, but we need to be equipped to deal with those youths who default. Honorable members will agree that a mere monetary penalty will not be a sufficient sanction for this type of conduct, as it will enable those who can afford it to buy their way out of their obligations. But it is not suggested that civil imprisonment will be appropriate. The Government has approached the matter from the stand-point that those who are called up must render their service. There is no reason why they should not do so. Conscientious objection and exceptional hardship have been properly provided for elsewhere in the act. It is, however, desirable that youths who disobey the call-up should be encouraged to undertake their training willingly and in a spirit of co-operation and that no greater degree of compulsion should be applied than is necessary. Moreover there is reason to believe that a considerable proportion of the small number of defaulters will, if it is brought home to them that they cannot escape their service, co-operate if given a second chance. In some cases, parental influence rather than defiance on the youth’s part has led to his failure to obey the call-up, and separate action can be taken against the parent under the section of the act which makes this kind of conduct by a parent an offence.
In this type of case, and generally where the circumstances indicate that the offender is not determined to escape his obligation, it is proposed that the court should have power to release him upon his entering into an undertaking supported by a bond to obey a second notice calling him up for the next camp. He will, of course, be fined to punish his disobedience, but provided he appears at the next call-up, that will be an end of the matter. If he does not so appear his bond will be forfeited and he will be arrested and brought before the court and committed into service custody as if he had not been given the bond.
I shall now deal with the alternative, method by which an offender who is not released upon a bond will be dealt with. The penalty fixed by the proposed new section in such a case will be a fine of £50 and, in addition, committal to the custody of a prescribed member of the service concerned. This means that the offender will be taken under escort to a Navy, Army or Air Force establishment, as the case may be. He will not, in the first instance, commence training as a national service trainee, but will be employed on, shall we say, some of the less congenial duties that from time to time fall to the lot of a member of the forces. Here again, however, the objectives of the Services will be to give the offender a chance to change his mind and if after some time in the service he evidences a desire to do national service training and convinces the service authorities that he will train willingly if permitted to do so, he may be transferred to a national service training unit.
– How long will he be given to. make up his mind?
– That will depend on the circumstances of each case. I impress upon the House that we propose a mitiga tion of the usual provision for fine and imprisonment. This bill does not aggravate that provision.
– But the youth will be placed under the control of military officers.
– This is an attempt to provide a method of dealing with these matters in the interest of the youth himself, lt does not attach the stigma of imprisonment.
– Will he have to pay the fine?
– Yes, in the first instance.
– Then he will have a conviction recorded against him.
– A monetary penalty is different from a term of imprisonment.
– Does the Minister consider that a youth, if he has been fined, will co-operate afterwards?
– A man who can escape 176 days training would, if he is prone to default, gladly arrange with his employer or his family to pay the fine.
– In that case, he would not escape a penalty. The Minister desires him to pay the penalty, but also to train.
– The penalty would be imposed because he had not met his obligations. Some penalty must be provided if a youth wilfully disobeys his call-up notice, commits a breach of the law and causes a certain amount of inconvenience and trouble to the authorities.
– He will not be given a second chance.
– He will be given a chance to undergo the next period of training. Under the normal practice he could be fined and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The whole of the time which he spends on service duty will count towards the 176 days for which he is liable under the act. If the offender does not evidence a willingness to join in the national service scheme, he will spend the whole of a continuous period of 176 days on one kind or another of service duties which are appropriate to his case. If, however he refuses duty or otherwise makes trouble, he may be sent to a place of detention without more ado, there to complete the whole or part of his 176 days. Thus the person committed to the custody of the forces will be, as it were, on probation. What will happen to him will be largely a matter for himself. There can be no objection in principle to this proposal. The alternative is normal civil imprisonment, with no opportunity for the individual to change his attitude to the national service scheme.
Clause. 9 also covers the individual who has entered upon his training in the normal course, and subsequently refuses to complete it. I am thinking, for example, of the man who does his 98 days initial training in the Army and refuses to attend a subsequent fourteen-day camp. While, as a member of the Citizen Forces, he is no doubt subject to the laws applicable to members of those forces, it is felt necessary to make special provision of the kind that I have just described. Clause 9 accordingly deals with this type of case as well but the liability to service is only for the balance of the period of national service training unfulfilled.
Honorable members will see that the Government’s aim is to ensure that all who are called up will do their service. Compulsion will be employed to the minimum degree which is necessary to bring this about, but in the last resort, the recalcitrant trainee may find himself in detention. If he does, he will have only himself to blame. To give effect to these principles, clause 9 proposes to recast section 51 of the act.
The 21 cases to which I have referred earlier, have been investigated and are at present under consideration. Where good and substantial reasons are advanced, it may be that court action will not be taken, but, obviously, any reasons will have to be most compelling before they can be accepted as justifying a failure to comply with the call-up. Action against offenders will be taken as soon as the proposed amendment becomes law. The remaining provisions of the bill are merely consequential or technical in character. They raise no substantial policy issues. I commend the bill to the House.
– The proposed amendments to the National Service Act are, as has been stated by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mt. Holt), substantially three in number. I shall refer to them only briefly, because I consider that they should be accepted. The first amendment deals with the constitution of medical boards. In remote and sparsely populated districts, it is practically impossible to constitute medical boards with two doctors, except at places which are situated long distances from the homes of the youths who are to be examined. The Minister has informed us that approximately 10 per cent, of the young men registered for service live in areas where it is not practicable to constitute boards of two doctors. If the Minister is of the opinion that a youth will be unduly inconvenienced, a medical board of one may be substituted instead of a medical board of two. The amendment is designed to meet the convenience of the individual, and not of the administering authority, and the Opposition supports it.
The second proposal modifies or mitigates section 33 of the act, which imposes upon national service trainees the obligation to serve for the whole period of 176 days. However, the act does not contain a provision to enable a trainee to be discharged before the expiration of that period. A trainee may be seriously injured, or be considered permanently unfit for service. The authorities may be of the opinion that he is no longer fit to serve. This provision, which should have been included in the principal act, will enable his obligation to serve to be terminated. That amendment is necessary.
The third amendment is important because it deals with the matter of obedience to the call-up notices. Every honorable member will agree that the administration of that provision is extremely important. It is extraordinary to find that only 21 out of 11,000 youths who were summoned under the act to serve, failed to report for service without any good cause. That response to the call-up is practically 100 per cent. Obviously, the Minister is not concerned with evasion of military service” on a large scale, and, consequently, it is important that the tiny minority who failed to report shall be so dealt with as not to have any permanent injury done to them. Under the amendment now proposed, a youth in that category will have an opportunity to serve in some of the positions which have been indicated by the Minister. That is the spirit in which this provision should be administered.
Another situation which the Minister should take into account is that parental influence may be exercised to prevent a youth from obeying the call-up. He is placed in the dilemma of taking adverse advice from the parent or of doing his duty under the law. That position needs a special kind of administration to try to give the boy an opportunity to obey the law without resort to court proceedings. I think that the most satisfactory response to the call-up should encourage the Minister to take that course, wherever possible. It is wise to give the court power, in those cases of disobedience, to release a youth if he gives an undertaking, supported by a bond, that he will obey the second call-up notice. Of course, much depends upon the parent. A fine may be imposed upon the youth for failure to obey the call-up notice, but in such a case, I cannot imagine that magistrates would impose anything but a nominal fine. It seems to me that, so long as these provisions are administered in the spirit which the Minister has indicated, it will be all to the good. As I have pointed out, very few cases of disobedience have been reported. A 100 per cent, response to the call-up notices would be most satisfactory. For the reasons that I have tried to give very briefly, the Opposition will accept the bill.
– This bill deals with a very human problem, and I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is the most appropriate Minister to handle this situation. I have always believed that, when the international situation may produce war, national service is the correct policy and should be enforced. Nearly 100 per cent, of the youths who received call-up notices for national service accepted their obligation. That fine record should not be marred by the prosecution of defaulters, who could be fined or imprisoned. Sanctions and disciplinary provisions are essential, but the most careful approach should be made to individuals who refuse to render service before such measures are invoked. I realize that such defaulters are not playing their part in the life of the community, but our national effort will not be assisted by the imposition of fines or gaol sentences on a few individuals at the expense of much sensational publicity. Domestic and personal circumstances may be involved in prosecutions, and the emotions of the people could easily be swayed. Padres attached to various units of the defence forces should be called upon to give help, and an approach should be made to relatives before more drastic action is taken. The few individuals who may refuse to serve after every reasonable approach has been made to them might well be considered, in any event, to be unfit to serve their country, and perhaps their cases might be disregarded. I urge the Minister to avoid punitive action whenever possible. It is unlikely that any young man who is forced to obey the law will render satisfactory service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Coal Industry Act 1946, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I regret that it has been necessary to give the House such short notice of this measure. I believe, however, that honorable members who are particularly interested in the coal industry will have followed the statements that I have made in this House from time to time during the year. The provisions of the bill are complicated and cannot be explained easily. The measure will not change substantially the form of the industrial machinery that now operates in relation to the coal industry. In substance, the situation will be very much the same after the enactment of this measure as it is now. The introduction of the bill became necessary because of certain doubts that developed concerning the validity of orders made by the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, and also because of the situation that developed as a result of the passage of time in relation to the National Security (Coal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations.
The bill deals with the machinery for the settlement of disputes in the black coal-mining industry. At the moment, there are two different sets of tribunals with jurisdiction in the field and the general pattern is most complex. At the risk of over-simplification, I should say to those who are not intimately acquainted with the subject-matter of the bill that it is designed to do two things. First, it selects one of the existing sets of tribunals to handle all disputes in the industry. Secondly, it removes doubts, strengthened by the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in a recent case before the Full Arbitration Court, about the effectiveness of existing awards of the existing tribunals.
Honorable members will recall my statements in the House in which I outlined briefly the need for the introduction of such a measure. I shall summarize the circumstances that have given rise to the bill.
First, the present industrial machinery for the settlement of disputes in the coalmining industry is, as I have said, rather complicated. The Coal Industry Acts 01 1946 of this Parliament and of the New South Wales Parliament give to the Coal Industry Tribunal jurisdiction over all the interstate disputes and the intra-state disputes in New South Wales that affect the miners’ federation. The National Security (Coal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations, which were originally promulgated in 1941, provide for a system of central and local reference boards with jurisdiction over all disputes in Australia affecting the craft unions. The regulations also apply outside New South Wales to intra-state disputes affecting the miners’ federation.
Secondly, for reasons that need not be discussed here, following the appointment of Mr. F. H. Gallagher as Coal Industry Tribunal, he was also appointed chairman of the Central Reference Board constituted under the regulations. Mr. Gallagher, on his side, appointed the chairmen of the Local Reference Boards in New South Wales to be local coal authorities under the Coal Industry Act. The reference boards provided under the regulations consist of a chairman and an equal number of members, representative of employers and employees, and, in the absence of unanimity, the view of the chairman prevails. These various appointments, therefore, enabled in fact, if not in law, some considerable simplification of the industrial machinery.
Thirdly, the relevant National Security Regulations naturally could have but a limited life. The character of the industrial machinery for the coal-mining industry has been under the review of successive governments, and there have been many discussions with the owners, the unions and the New South Wales Government. The recent challenge in the High Court to the regulations made a final decision a matter of urgency. The outcome was that the Government decided that the plan that appeared most practicable was for it to vest in the Coal Industry Tribunal jurisdiction in respect of industrial disputes of an interstate character affecting the craft unions, and for the State of New South Wales to vest in the tribunal jurisdiction in respect of disputes within New South Wales affecting those unions. This is what the present measure is intended to achieve and the result of its enactment, in short, will be to give to the Coal Industry Tribunal jurisdiction in relation to all interstate disputes and all intra-New South Wales disputes in the black coal-mining industry affecting all the mining unions, whether they be the miners’’ federation or any of the craft unions. The tribunal will also have, in relation to the shale-mining industry, the same jurisdiction as the regulations gave to the reference boards. The proposals contained in the bill do not, of course, satisfy every one but they represent the greatest common measure of agreement obtainable in the detailed discussion with the owners, the unions and the New South Wales Government.
I emphasize that fact because, although discussions were held with the owners, the unions and the State Government, it was obvious that no single scheme that would meet the wishes of all parties could be devised. The owners, for example, wanted the industry to return to the situation that existed before the establishment of arbitration machinery. The New .South Wales Government, in conjunction with the Chifley Government in 1949, had drafted a scheme somewhat similar to that for which this bill provides. There is no real difference in substance between that scheme and the plan that is embodied in the bill. The New South Wales Government objects to one aspect of this measure, and I shall deal with that objection later. The unions do not want to be forced to go back to the court. They do not agree with every aspect of the bill, particularly the enforcement provision. However, the legislation represents the greatest measure of common agreement that the Government has been able to obtain and it is submitted in good faith with that assurance. I assert most emphatically that the unions much prefer this legislation to the alternative that will apply if it is not enacted. That alternative is for the unions to revert to the system of dealing with the court. ‘
Fourthly, the presentation of the bill at this late stage of the parliamentary session has, as I have already stated, been due to delays in securing the concurrence of the New South Wales Government. Concurrence was necessary because amendments of the Coal Industry Acts were involved, and the agreement between the New South Wales Government and this Government, which is recited in the preamble to those acts, provides for the concurrence of the other government in any proposal by one government to amend the legislation. I shall not discuss all the incidents associated with the delay. I merely make the statement that, despite the agreement that was reached with the Chifley Government of 1949 and the presentation by this Government of a somewhat similar measure in March of this year, the New South Wales Government gave advice by telegram only to-day of its concurrence, under protest, in relation to one aspect, in the form of the bill that the House is now considering. I think that honorable members should be made aware of the text of the telegram that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, sent to the Prime Minister to-day. It is as follows: -
Cabinet to-day considered Coal Industry Bill. This Government is bitterly opposed to clause 10 and feels that you should delete this clause from the bill. Your failure to do so considered applying pressure on this Government to do something it does not desire to do but if you are not prepared to introduce the bill without the clause then it must accept under strongest protest.
The telegram then continues -
I am sending copy of this telegram to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Why can the Government not find a basis for agreement with New South Wales?
– The honorable member may well ask that question. We have been trying for many months to find a basis for agreement with, the New South Wales Government. I repeat my earlier statement that, in substance, the bill was agreed to by Mr. McGirr and the Chifley Government in 1949. The Chifley Government’s 1949 bill contained the same enforcement provision as is contained in clause 10, and Mr. McGirr accepted it. This time he says that he objects to the enforcement provision. Mr. McGirr agreed to the previous bill before the High Court had given the interpretation that it subsequently gave. Not only Mr. McGirr but also his Government and the State department concerned, accepted the 1949 bill, although that enforcement provision was contained in it.
I shall now proceed to a short explanation of the provisions of the bill. Its contents can be dealt with under four general headings. In the first instance, we are seeking to preserve the current determinations made under the National Security (Coal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations. This is dealt with in clause 4. Briefly that clause provides that all determinations of the existing coal reference boards will remain in force until varied by competent authority. This means, generally speaking, the Coal Industry Tribunal as to interstate matters, and matters affecting New South “Wales alone, and the State industrial tribunals as to purely State industrial disputes. Intra-state disputes in States other than New South Wales that affect the coalmining industry, will be subject to State legislation. I know that this bill will be of interest to my colleague who has the Collie mining area in his electorate and also to the Collie miners because of their past experiences of being dragged willynilly into disputes in which the miners’ federation has been involved. As a result of this legislation they will be able to remain aloof from such disputes if they so choose. Western Australia, in fact, has legislated, in anticipation of this happening. The cause also applies the enforcement provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to these existing detenuinations
The second series of provisions of the bill give effect to the Government’s plan which, as I have said, it has discussed in detail with the New South Wales Government, the owners and the trade unions concerned. The relevant clauses are 5, 7, S, 11 and 14. Briefly, these proposed provisions will extend the jurisdiction of the Coal Industry Tribunal in the manner that I have already described. They provide for the preservation of certain inter-union rights in accordance with agreements arrived at among all parties concerned. They provide that the local coal authorities in New South Wales, when dealing with local craft union disputes, shall be constituted on the pattern of the local reference boards established under the Coal-mining Industry Employment Regulations, and they provide for the review of decisions of local coal authorities in a somewhat wider range of circumstances than is the case at the moment.
Under the Coal Industry Act as it now stands, local coal authorities in New South Wales deal only with miners’ federation matters, and are constituted by single individuals. There are three such authorities in New South Wales; one for the northern district, one for the west and one for the south. The decision of these authorities is reviewable by the Coal Industry Tribunal only where the authority has exceeded its jurisdiction, or where the Joint Coal Board considers that something done by the authority is likely to lead to industrial unrest in localities other than that in respect of which its decision has been given. The result of the amendments proposed to be made by the bill will be that the single individual local coal authority will be retained for federation matters in New South Wales. When local craft union matters are being dealt with, there will be added to the individual holding the office of local coal authority, who will act as chairman, two or three other members representative of employers and employees - an equal number on both sides. Thus the structure of the existing local reference boards will be retained. The bill, of course, makes no provision for bodies subordinate to the Coal Industry Tribunal outside New South Wales. The reason is that the tribunal, in the exercise of its interstate jurisdiction, can appoint such reference boards or other subordinate bodies as it considers desirable for the purpose of handling local matters within the range of the tribunal’s competence. Section 34 of the Coal Industry Act and section 57 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act read together authorize this.
The bill . also provides that there shall be an appeal from decisions of local coal authorities to the tribunal by leave. Such leave may only be granted if the tribunal is of opinion that reasons exist why in the public interest the decision should be reviewed, including the likelihood of the decision leading to industrial unrest.
Clause 10 follows the lines of the bill to amend the Coal Industry Act which was prepared earlier this year, concerning which I made a statement in the House on the 8th March last. The need for this proposed provision flows from the legal doubts argued by the Leader of the Opposition earlier this year before the full court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on whether most, if not all, of the awards and orders made by the Coal
Industry Tribunal since 1947 are valid. Clause 10 will make fully effective awards made by the Coal Industry Tribunal; it will remove the deficiencies that sprang, no doubt unintentionally, from the amendments made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1947; and it will remove any feeling of uncertainty in the industry about whether the tribunal is equipped to give a binding decision. At the same time, the provisions place in the hands of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the same power of enforcement in respect of awards of the Coal Industry Tribunal as it possesses in relation to its own awards and those of the conciliation commissioners. The court has not these powers at the present time. In the view of the Government there is no reason why the awards of the tribunal should not be enforced in precisely the same way as this Parliament has directed should be the case with awards of conciliation commissioners and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The remainder of the provisions of the bill can be very broadly described as being either consequential or technical. With one exception, they really need no explanation. The only matter to which I need to refer particularly is that dealt with in clause 18. There is at present nothing in the legislation to protect the Coal Industry Tribunal from abusive attacks, or even the most barefaced and improper attempts to intimidate it or otherwise influence its decisions. The provisions of clause 18 accord with the provisions of section 111 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which protect conciliation commissioners against this sort of thing.
I commend this measure to the House. In it we have tried to give some stability to the coal industry so far as its industrial machinery is concerned. That industrial machinery cannot, of itself, provide industrial peace. This is the best and most practical measure, having regard to the divergent views that are held by sections of the industry, that we have been able to prepare. I regret that, although we have had in this year what will probably amount to a record production of coal, in respect of under ground coal -mining there has actually been a decrease of production, despite the most extensive mechanization, of underground mines and the development of new coal-mining areas. On the other hand, there has .been a substantial increase of open-cut activities. We consider that, having gone a long way, as we have in this legislation, to meet the viewpoint of the trade unions - because the Government itself, in accordance with the views that it expressed when it was in Opposition, would have preferred these matters to have gone to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in accordance with our general policy - the machinery should be given a fair trial. But we do recognize that conflicting views have developed in this industry, and we have sought therefore to reconcile that conflict of views. The Government having provided this machinery, the people of Australia are entitled to expect that all sections ‘ of the industry will give it a reasonable and fair trial. The production of coal is of’ such vital importance to Australia that we cannot afford, as a result of stupid and unnecessary stoppages, to have any -hold-up of production.
– Then why does not the Government try conciliation instead of compulsion!
– The honorable member should know that most of the men who have been appointed to operate this conciliation machinery were appointed either by the Government of which he was a supporter, or at the express request of the coal-mining unions themselves, and if they are not able to conciliate, then who could be appointed who would be able to do so? This is a question of the good faith of those who are engaged in the industry. If they try to make the conciliation and arbitration machinery work, it will work. If, on the other hand, they are determined to obstruct arbitration, then all the industrial machinery in the world will not achieve the results that we seek. I hope that the House will pass this measure and that those affected by it will give it a reasonable trial.
.- This bil! endeavours to deal with a very complex problem. The legal difficulties involved in it are considerable, and the practical difficulties are no less so. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) was correct when he stated that very lengthy negotiations had taken place on the matter with the New South Wales Government. The purpose of those nego<tiations was to achieve two things; first, to try to establish effective machinery for conciliation and arbitration in connexion with the production of coal in New South’ Wales and, secondly, to remove legal difficulties which were apparent from the result of the 1947 statute as applied to the Coal Industry Act. The Minister read a telegram that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had received from the Premier of New South Wales and I shall refer to it later. The New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth have been in touch, I presume, with trade unions engaged in the coal-mining industry, not only the miners’ federation, but also the numerous craft’ unions. The Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales have also been represented at the conferences. Subject to one important exception in relation to which I propose to move an amendment to the motion for the second-reading, there seems to be general agreement that the proposals are reasonable and satisfactory.
I turn now to the telegram that the Prime Minister received from the Premier of New South Wales, and which was read by the Minister. The telegram is of to-day’s date, and reads -
Cabinet to-day considered Coal Industry Bill. This Government is bitterly opposed to clause 10 and feels you should delete this from the bill. Your failure to do so considered applying pressure on this Government to do something it does not desire to do but if you are not prepared to introduce the bill without the clause then it must accept under the strongest protest.
The position is that, apart from clause 10, which is the important clause in relation to which I propose to ask the Minister and the House to accept an amendment, there is belief on the part of the Government of New South Wales that the proposed machinery side for conciliation and arbitration should be altered so that the Coal Industry Tribunal will cover not only disputes in relation to the miners’ federation, but also disputes in connexion with the craft unions in New South Wales. The Minister has summed the matter up fairly accurately by saying that the result of the measure will be to give the Coal Industry Tribunal jurisdiction in relation to all interstate disputes. The Commonwealth is the only authority that can give that jurisdiction. He continued that all New South Wales disputes in the black coal-mining industry affecting all the miners’ unions will come under the State industrial tribunals. That is to say. the legislation requires complementary legislation to be passed by New South Wales, and the agreement of New South Wales to this legislation imparts the obligation of agreement by New South Wales to pass any necessarily complementary legislation. That is a most extraordinary provision. A provision of the Coal Industry Act .1946 set up, in substance, a partnership between the two Governments in relation to the production and distribution of coal in New South Wales. Neither parliament was able to introduce legislation amending the act without the consent of the other. The Minister has pointed out that the consent of the New South Wales Government has been given to the whole of this bill except for a strong protest against the inclusion of clause 10.
The urgency of this matter is great so far as the craft unions are concerned. Those unions have their disputes settled by reference to National Security (Coal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations, which were originally promulgated in 1941. These regulations were not gazetted under the existing Coal Industry Act. They depend on the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act and are about to be challenged in the High Court. Apparently the view taken by the Government of New South Wales and the Commonwealth is that there is a strong possibility that the validity of the regulations will not be upheld because they depend for their constitutional efficacy on the defence power as exercised in 1941 and extended over the transitional period since 1945. If it is held that the awards affected are not valid, the legal basis of the industrial rights of the craft unions will collapse. Therefore those unions desire the provisions in the bill which continues the effectiveness of their awards and confirms the jurisdiction of the tribunal to make new awards. I do not know of any objection on the part of the craft unions to any part of the bill except clause 10. The bill, if passed, will remove legal doubts which affect the employees and the employers. The employees wish to avoid the necessity of approaching the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. They wish to have their rights and obligations fixed by a tribunal which has a knowledge of the coal industry. That has always been a demand of the employees in the coal industry and the Government has conceded to that demand in principle.
I propose to move an amendment to clause 10 of the bill which deals with the enforcement of awards and agreements of the tribunal. Until recent amendments of the law were introduced by the present Government, awards of the court or of the conciliation commissioners were normally enforced by proceedings in the stipendiary magistrate’s court. If the magistrate found that a breach of an award had been committed by an employee, he could impose a penalty of up to £10 in the case of a default, or of £20 in the case of a wilful default. The maximum penalty provided was £100 for an organization of employees or employers. That provision was agreed to by all parties in the Commonwealth Parliament in 1930. Prior to that year, the penalties provided were very heavy. The Scullin Government introduced amendments to the law in 1931 with the approval of the Opposition led by Sir John Latham. Parliament agreed unanimously that heavy penalties in the jurisdiction of conciliation and arbitration were completely inapt and had little or no efficacy.
I shall not repeat the long objections which the Opposition has to the procedure which is provided for in the recent amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is perfectly true that there have been legal doubts in connexion with that legislation. The provision to which special objection is raised by the Opposition is that if there is a failure to pay a penalty the matter can be brought to the Pull Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Conn by way of contempt proceedings upon which the court has power to inflict imprisonment for a period of up to twelve months. It is true that that law was passed during a period of considerable alarm and, perhaps, of panic. The power to order imprisonment for a breach of aD award for so long a period is a tremendous power. I recognize that a term of imprisonment would not be imposed in al! cases of a breach of an award. Cases in which contempt proceedings were taken might be exceptional, but who is to determine whether they will be taken or not? The proceedings in connexion with any case may reach the stage of a contempt suit and failure to comply with an order may result in imprisonment for twelve months. Is it wise or just to provide such a power? This is the point on which 1 propose to move an amendment ae follows : -
That all words after “ that “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - ‘‘the bill should be redrafted to ensure that the enforcement of all orders and awards shall take place in the ordinary course of proceedings before magistrates and thai the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration shall not be vested with jurisdiction to punish by way of imprisonment for contempt in respect of any breach or infringement of any award or order of the tribunal.”
This legislation is needed, in order to clear up legal difficulties and give the craft unions some security in their awards and a sound system of conciliation and arbitration. In order to attain that objective, the craft unions are prepared to give up claims which they might otherwise have made. I greatly regret that the Government has included the present proposals in relation to procedure for contempt. I admit that that procedure may be adopted in the case of a breach of any award of a conciliation commissioner or of the court under the act that was passed by Parliament recently. If we accepted that procedure as wise and just, which we do not do, we should be logically bound to accept clause 10 of the bill, which provides that the procedure applicable to the awards of a conciliation commissioner or court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. shall be applicable to orders and award? of the Coal Industry Tribunal.
Under the existing law, a contempt proceeding would put the court, which is essentially a court of conciliation and arbitration, in the position of being a court of punishment. I do not consider that that is a proper role for the court to play. The authority to imprison for a. period of up to twelve months is a tremendous power to give to any tribunal especially as there is no appeal from such a judgment. It is possible to appeal to the Full Court against a decision of a magistrate, but the power to punish for contempt has always been jealously guarded by legislatures in modern times. In a previous debate in this House,’ I referred honorable members to the opinions of experienced industrial leaders and judges in America who have said that it is wrong to use the contempt proceeding by attachment in connexion with industrial matters. Such a proceeding creates a resentment which is very deep and I ask the Government to comply with the request of the New South Wales Government in this connexion. The New South Wales Government absolutely opposes clause 10 of the bill for the reasons that I have given.
– What about clause 14?
– I am not dealing with clause 14. That involves a question of review. The New South Wales Government has accepted the whole of the bill with the exception of clause 10. It has stated that pressure has been applied to it in order to have it accept clause 10 as the price of receiving concessions that it wants. There are other provisions in the bill which are not very satisfactory but which the New South Wales Government has accepted under the circumstances. The crucial point is that of enforcement. I ask the Government to accept my amendment on this subject. The Opposition considers that it is a mistake to give the court the enforcement power provided in the bill. Although this power is applicable to the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners the Opposition considers that that fact should not be accepted as a precedent and it opposes this clause.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has put before the House an amendment. I bring to his notice that it is not necessary to amend the title of this bill in order to cover the matter that he has in mind. I think that everything that he desires to do under this amendment could be done in committee when clause 10 is being considered.
– I think that it could be so done, but the Opposition feels that the amendment as drafted go.es to the root of the matter. I am stating it not by reference to clause 10, but by reference to a principle. Therefore, I propose the amendment in its present form at this stage.
– Very well.
.I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The industrial machinery that has been built up under the Coal Industry Act for the settlement of industrial disputes affords the greatest possibility of such disputes being settled fairly quickly and satisfactorily. Under the Coal Industry Act the supreme authority is the Coal Industry Tribunal. That tribunal appoints local coal authorities, and under those bodies mine conciliation committees function. It is now possible to have any dispute quickly investigated and decided. The Coal Industry Act relates almost entirely to members of the miners’ federation. Regulations were promulgated under the act in order to bring other mine workers who are not members of that union within its ambit.
I suggest that the machinery that has been developed is very sound and has given good results. This bill, by proposing to bring all the parties under the Coal Industry Act, will work in the best interests of the coal industry by bringing in the craftsmen and others who are not members of the miners’ federation, but who need machinery for the speedy settlement of their industrial disputes. It is regrettable that quite often a very sound provision is inserted in legislation and then a further provision is inserted which to a large extent takes away the force of the first one. That happened in certain legislation that was before the House a short time ago, and it has happened in this measure. The good of bringing all mine workers under the one tribunal will be overbalanced by two proposals in the measure which will not tend to bring about the best conditions in the industry. Those two matters may be. found in sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 41, which reads -
A party to a decision given by a Local Coal Authority is to have the right, within seven days after the giving of the decision, or within such extended time as the Tribunal allows, to apply to the Tribunal for leave to apply to the Tribunal for review of the decision.
It is clear, therefore, that leave must be secured from the Coal Industry Tribunal, but there are difficulties in getting a review by a second authority of matters which are local and very often minor in nature. That proposed new section is calculated to do grave damage to industrial harmony. The local coal authorities have no power to deal with major matters such as long service leave, hours of work, or wages. If the local coal authorities could do that there might be a case for review. But they deal with matters that are not of sufficient importance to be considered by the Coal Industry Tribunal. The result of the operations of the local coal authorities has been that matters that might lead to a dispute have been investigated and decisions made that have prevented the disputes from getting out of hand. Those authorities have prevented hundreds of stoppages in the mines. At present the question of whether a review shall take place is not left to the aggrieved party, who may be aggrieved about some small matter. It is a matter for the Joint Coal Board, which has to be satisfied that certain principles that are of advantage to the coal-mining industry have been violated. Then the board makes representations to the tribunal.
The section which lays down this procedure is to be repealed by this bill, and it is proposed to give any party the right to apply to the Coal Industry Tribunal for leave to appeal against the decision. The danger inherent in that system is that it will bring a disturbing element into the industrial life of the coal-fields. When a party decides to apply for leave, the decision sought to be reviewed will stand in abeyance. It is at that stage that danger will occur. Frustration over minor matters has led to innumerable disputes, and when one party is aggrieved, very often merely because it has lost the decision, the determination of the tribunal remains inoperative pending the appeal. In Victoria and other States the right of appeal has caused considerable trouble in industry because of the long delays that have occurred before decisions have been enforceable. It should be stressed as strongly as possible that the last thing that if required in an industry where nerve*and tempers get on edge is for a minor matter not to be finally decided on the spot.
At present it is only on rare occasion: that the decisions made by industrial authorities are disturbed by higher authorities. Determinations made by the conciliation commissioners are not subject to appeal. In Victoria, where there are hundreds of wages boards, the right of appeal is very rarely used by either side because it has been found that the use of the right of appeal has made industrial troubles worse. The same thing has happened in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, and South Australia. The decisions made by industrial authorities in those States are usually final. I suggest that it is unwise to include such a provision in a measure designed to control a sensitive industry like the coal-mining industry.
I turn to a matter that was raised by the Leader of the Opposition - the application of section 29a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to decisions of the Coal Industry Tribunal. I believe that the Minister is eager that industrial peace and better industrial relations shall be achieved. I disagree with the honorable gentleman upon the methods that should be adopted to achieve that objective. Industrial relations have never been improved by coercion. This measure is being rushed through the House after midnight, and probably will be rushed through the Senate also.
– It has been discussed since 1949.
– That may be so. My point is that, in the last hours of this session we are dealing hurriedly with a subject to which we should give the closest consideration and upon which we should make decisions carefully and deliberately, because industrial relations are at stake. Men cannot be compelled, by legislation, to obey decisions that they regard as unjust. The coal-mining industry is the best illustration of that fact. In Australia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom there is more industrial unrest in the coal-mining industry than in any other industry. Harsh and repressive legislation has not prevented industrial trouble from occurring in coal-fields throughout the world. When repressive legislation affecting the coalmining industry has been put into operation, it has caused relations between mineowners and miners to become more embittered. It has not prevented industrial disputes from occurring, and has not led to an increase of coal production.
That principle was recognized in legislation that was passed by this Parliament in 1931. At that time, a Labour government was in power, and the Opposition parties were of the same school of political thought as are the present Government parties. Both the Government and the Opposition of that day, realizing that lock-outs and strikes had not been prevented by the repressive legislation of 1928 and 1929, agreed to the abolition of the penalty sections in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in connexion with strikes and lock-outs. I stress as strongly as I can the point that industrial peace cannot be secured by coercive legislation.
– The Labour party introduced the most coercive legislation in the history of this country in 1949.
– The strike that occurred then was in the nature of a political strike, and the legislation was repealed immediately the strike ended. In this instance, the Government proposes to place permanently upon the statutebook a measure containing a provision that the trade union movement will regard as being provocative. The effect of the provision will be, not to promote industrial peace, but to make industrial relations worse. The bill is being rushed through the Parliament and, therefore, adequate consideration cannot be given to it. The Government will discover that it will not improve relations between the miners and the mine-owners, and will not, result in an increase, of coal production.
Indeed, industrial struggles may occur on the coal-fields that will cause coal production to decline. The Opposition believes that the measure has been introduced by the Government in good faith, but urges the Government to recognize the dangers that are inherent in it and to agree to the amendment that has been moved.
.Having regard to my experience of coalminers, I regard this measure with » great deal of misgiving. Between 19291 and 1931, there was a lock-out in the coal industry that lasted for fifteen months. Because the miners endeavoured to obey an award of a court established by this Parliament, they were locked out. The coal-owners had over 6,000,000 tons of coal at grass and, therefore, were able to continue the lock-out for fifteen months, when the miners were forced to accept a reduction of their wages by 12£ per cent. The Government of that day would not intervene in the dispute. As a result of that experience, the miners are very bitter. That bitterness is being handed down from father to son to-day. I have, and always have had, faith in arbitration, but the miners have not a great deal of faith in it.
I believe that the Minister has introduced this bill in good faith. He is not hostile to the working class. I think that he is endeavouring to do what he considers should be done. I warn him that the miners will not accept penalty provisions in connexion with strikes and lockouts. They will view with great hostility any attempt to make them subject to such repression.
Clause 14 makes provision for appeals against decisions of local coal authorities. I know from my experience as a coal liaison officer that appeals against decisions of local coal authorities tend to delay considerably the settlement of disputes. In the past, the production of coal was adversely affected because a representative of the coal-owners named Gregory Forster constantly took advantage of a provision that permitted appeals to be made against decisions of local coal authorities. Despite the fact that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr.
Ward) was forced, when he was a Minister of the Crown, to withdraw that right because it was having an adverse effect upon, coal production, the Government proposes to restore it. Gregory Forster will again take advantage of the right of appeal.
– The proposal is that appeals to the tribunal may be made only by leave of the tribunal.
M r. JAMES. - He will obtain the leave of the tribunal. This is a bad provision. I suggest honestly and sincerely to the Minister that it be omitted from the bill. I do not think that there should be a right to appeal against decisions of local coal authorities. Gregory Forster constantly lodged appeals against such decisions, and consequently the settlement of disputes was delayed. He appealed against everything. I am glad that provision is made for local coal authorities i<> deal with disputes that affect members of unions other than the miners’ federation.
My experience of the coal-mining industry has been a bitter one. I do not propose to go into details of how my brother was killed and my father was crippled for life. But I have coal dust in my blood, and I cannot get away from the people from whom I come. I shall fight for them for as long as I have a drop of blood left in my veins. From time to time I have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) questions about the expert committee that was appointed to investigate methods of preserving the Greta seam of gas coal. You, Mr. Speaker, have prevented me from raising the matter other than in questions.
– Is it relevant to this bill?
– No. In this respect, the Minister is as strict as you are, Mr. Speaker. The institution of the stowage system would be far preferable to the Government’s policy of importing coal from India and South Africa at a cost of from £6 to £8 a ton. That system would not only conserve this great national asset but also ensure a greater degree of safety in the mines. In addition, it would enable pillar coal to be extracted by machine. Thus, this national asset would be conserved for future generations. But the Government sits idly by, while that asset is being destroyed. Under existing conditions, not more than from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent, of this very rich seam is being mined. I have seen the stowage system in operation in other countries, where it has enabled from 85 per cent, to 95 per cent, of the whole of the coal seam to be extracted. The Government’s indifference to this problem is a national tragedy when we remember that the seam in the northern coal-fields is the richest in the world in gas and oil content and calorific value. Future generations will curse those who control this industry to-day if this asset is not conserved.
During the current financial year, the Government proposes to pay a total subsidy of £5,210,000 in respect of the importation of 2,250,000 tons of coal from India and South Africa. Why does it refuse to expend that money in trying to make the mines a little safer than they are to-day and more attractive to those who are already engaged or could engage in the industry? If that were done, the industry would be enabled to absorb an additional 20,000 miners and other employees. However, owing to the hazards that arise under present conditions, young nien will not enter the industry. It is tragic to think that the Government’s only solution of this problem is to provide a subsidy for the importation of coal from which shipping companies will derive most benefit.
Spontaneous combustion causes the most serious loss in the industry. To-day, in my own electorate alone, approximately 2,500,000 tons of coal in pillars is practically on fire. In addition to the 291,523,000 tons of coal in pillars in mines in New South Wales, no attempt has been made to work virgin coal estimated at 368,482,000 tons in those mines. The coal-mine owners are adopting a getrichquick policy. They say, in effect, “ To hell with future generations “. The mine-owners are content to rip the “ guts ‘’ out of the mines and to allow the coal that is not mined to be destroyed by fire. Instead of subsidizing the importation of coal, the Government should make the industry more attractive by making the mines safer. In that way, we could conserve this national asset. As the Government does not permit private enterprise to control public utilities, such as railways and water supplies, why should it allow private enterprise to exploit our coal products to the detriment of the nation’s interests? It should emulate the example that Great Britain has set in this respect. After the Attlee Government had nationalized the coal industry in that country, production reached record levels. It is significant that the newly elected anti-Labour Government in Great Britain has not taken any steps to de-nationalize the coal industry. I was in Great Britain when the Attlee Government nationalized the coal mines and I had the opportunity to observe at first hand that the miners made greater efforts when they knew that they were working in the interests of the nation than they did when the mines were controlled by private enterprise.
A similar change can be effected in Australia. Nationalization would ensure a greater degree of safety for the coalminers, who desire not only monetary but also physical security in their occupation. Recently, the Utah American Company made overtures to the Government with a view to engaging in the coalmining industry in this country. Some coal-miners are hostile towards such a proposition. That company proposed to expend from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 in the development of mines on the northern coal-field of New South “Wales. I was assured that it had found a solution of the problem of spontaneous combustion in the coal mines. I am certain that a Labour government would have welcomed such a proposition if only on that ground alone. Half the mines from Greta to East Greta and right out to Millfield are now on fire.
I believe that the Minister was misled when he included in this measure the provisions of clause 10 and clause 14, which are repressive in character. I assure him that the Government will not get increased production of coal if it applies such provisions to men of the type of Gregory Forster, whose activities the Minister’s predecessor was obliged to curb in order to prevent him from making continuous appeals with the primary object of causing disputes and hold-ups almost weekly in the industry.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Enforcement of awards and agreements).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 11 to 18 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
States Grants (Universities) Bill 1951.
Defence Bill (No. 2) 1951.
War Service Homes Bill 1951.
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 3) 1951.
Hospital Benefits Bill 1951.
Public Accounts Committee Bill 1951.
Transferred Officers’ Allowances Bill 1951.
Superannuation Bill (No. 2) 1951.
National Debt Sinking Fund (Special Payment) Bill 1951.
Wheat Bounty Bill 1951.
National Service Bill (No. 2) 1951.
Without requests -
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1951.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
New clause1a -
Senate’s amendment. - After clause1, insert the following clause: - “1a. Section fifteen of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947 is amended by inserting after sub-section (b.) the following sub-section : - (6a.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, the Governor-General may, at any time when the Parliament is not in session or the House of Representatives is adjourned for a period exceeding one month or for an indefinite period, refer to the Committee, for inquiry and report to the House of Representatives, a proposed work’ the estimated cost of which exceeds Twenty-five thousand pounds, and, upon receipt of the report, the House of Representatives shall deal with the matter as provided in the last preceding sub-section.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
When the bill was before the committee originally, an amendment was foreshadowed by the Government. Time did not permit it to be considered at that stage, but an assurance was given that it would be proposed in the Senate. The amendment is the result of a suggestion made by the chairman of the Public Works Committee, who pointed out that, in recess, the Executive Council might with advantage be empowered to refer matters to the committee. At present, references must be made by the House, and that procedure involves delays during a recess. The amendment will rectify that situation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
– This procedure is customary, but I suggest to the Government that, in the event of any significant change in the international situation or the economic situation during the recess, the House be called together immediately. It is possible for honorable members to be summoned at short notice in these times.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to-
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I should like to say briefly but sincerely to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all others concerned, that it is the wish of the Government that all honorable members shall enjoy a well-earned vacation - if that be the right expression. In the circumstances, I think that I may even mention honorably the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who has laboured very hard in the vineyard during this sessional period.
– One might say too hard.
– Well, both the VicePresident of the Executive Council and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, have laboured freely. Apart from that, Mr. Speaker, I say to you, on behalf of the Government and, I am sure, on behalf of all honorable members, that we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year and express our appreciation of the work that you have done during a strenuous series of sittings. I thank the Chairman of Committees and the Temporary Chairmen of Committees. I offer our thanks to the Clerk and the Acting Clerk Assistant and to all other members of the parliamentary staffs. I offer our thanks especially to the gentlemen of Hansard, who have performed their usual work of virtue and of honesty. Our thanks are extended also to the members of the Library staff and the representatives of the press. All of us have our work to do.
This has been a strenuous sessional period and, therefore, I think that I should say a word or two about the party Whips - always whips and sometimes scorpions. Everybody who has had a long experience of the Parliament knows how much work the Whips have to do. We are living in difficult times, and have had to face great problems. We have not always agreed about the solutions of those problems, but I believe that we all can go away from this place with the knowledge that we have done our best to express our views on them, and in the hope that, between the hammer and the anvil of debate—
– -Or the sickle?
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) must not allow the ruling passion to become too strong. I do not want to start any internecine feuds. I repeat my hope that between the hammer and the anvil of debate we have forged something that will be for the lasting good of this country. [ wish my remarks to be accepted as a general expression, on behalf of the Government, of personal goodwill, even though it is accompanied by the most implacable political hostility.
– I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in thanking you, Mr. Speaker, and the officers of this House. I refer especially to the work that has been done during these strenuous sittings, not only by the Whips, but also by the honorable member foi Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who has led the Government in the absence of the Prime Minister. I include the Hansard staff in my expression of thanks.
On behalf of the Opposition, I extend to all honorable members best wishes for the Christmas season and the New Year. I support the Prime Minister’s comments on the functions of this House. To-night we attended a function that was arranged in honour of the visiting delegation from the United Kingdom House of Commons. At that gathering, we expressed our view of the importance of the parliamentary institution. That institution is more important than are all the members on both sides of the House and it will endure, we believe, for ever.
. I join in the expressions of good wishes that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) have extended to the parliamentary staffs for the forthcoming festive season. To you, Mr. Speaker, also I extend the compliments of the season. Although T have suffered a great deal under certain of your rulings and have been at times irate, the situation would be worse if the Chairman of Committees (Mr Adermann) or the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) were to succeed you.
It is best to talk frankly on such occasions as this; consequently, I express the hope that members of the Government will experience the sort of festive season that they deserve, because, as a result of their actions during this session, a great number of people will have a very difficult time during the festive season. There are people in this country on small -fixed incomes who, because of the Government’s failure to do anything to arrest inflation and put value back into the £1, will have a most unfestive Christmas. I say that, the position in Australia to-day being desperate, it is somewhat hypocritical for the people who are responsible for that situation to wish everybody a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I do not lite that sort of thing. The fact is that many of the people whom I represent here will not have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, because the Government has denied them the opportunity to have them. Further, it seems rather remarkable that the Parliament should be closed when we are facing a very difficult and desperate situation. Of course, I can understand why the Government is so eager to close the Parliament up for some months. It has been getting into greater and greater difficulty every day, and it knows it. I should have preferred that the Parliament remain in session while we are faced with the internal crisis that exists to-day.
I shall not have another opportunity for some months to raise matters in this chamber so while I have this opportunity I shall refer to some matters that I should like the Prime Minister to explain before the House goes into recess. A statement that appeared, in the daily press indicated that the Government had decided to seek a purchaser for the Commonwealth line of steamers. I wish the Prime Minister to tell the House whether or not it is a fact that negotiations have been proceeding for some time with certain interests regarding the sale of that line of steamers, and that the sale has already .been effected at an approximate price of £8,000,000. It seems to me that negotiations have actually been proceeding prior to any announcement of a decision of Cabinet to give consideration to the disposal of this public asset.
The other matter that I wish the Prime Minister to explain concerns the mysterious Paul Maguire. According to a reply that I received to a question that I asked some days ago, this mysterious gentleman, who is not a member of the Public Service, was taken by the Prime Minister to a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ overseas, as a personal adviser. I should like to know whether it is the normal practice of the Prime Minister, on trips abroad, on which he is accompanied by a number of senior public servants whose duty it is to advise him, to take along other persons who hold no official government position. I should also like to know what special advice the Prime Minister could obtain from Mr. Paul Maguire that he could not obtain from the senior public servants who accompanied him. Further, why should the people of this country, without having been informed of the special ability of Mr. Maguire or the nature of the advice that he was able to tender to the Prime Minister, have to bear the cost of his travels to the amount of just under £1,000? I consider that, even at this early hour of the morning, these matters should be satisfactorily cleared up before we adjourn. All I can say to honorable members opposite, in conclusion, is that my views with respect to them personally are the same as the views that I believe the majority of them hold with respect to me.
– I promised the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that before the House rose for the Christmas recess I should make a statement about the issue of passports. Some twelve months ago it was decided on the advice of the Commonwealth security authorities to introduce a procedure whereby no Australian passport would be made valid for a Communist country unless the applicant declared his reasons for journeying to such a country, and until his case had been checked by security authorities. Announcing the policy at the time, I stated that it would be reviewed after it had been in operation for twelve months.
The Government has now decided that this procedure shall be amended. In future, Australians who wish to secure passports valid for Communist countries will be asked, as at present, to declare the objects of their journey, but upon their making such a declaration they will immediately be given valid passports instead of having to wait while security checks are made. The change, which has the concurrence of the security authorities, is due to two factors. It has now been conclusively shown that the exclusion of iron curtain countries from the validity of Australian passports does not prevent those countries from admitting such Australians as they wish to admit. The main effect of the procedure was to cause delays and inconvenience to Australians who were of no security interest, but had legitimate reasons for visiting the countries in question. Causing inconvenience to, and placing restrictions on the movements of, nationals travelling abroad can be justified only if they are an unavoidable consequences of measures regarded as both essential and effective in the national interest. The Government has reached the conclusion, based on the advice of the security authorities, that the passport procedure followed during the last twelve months is no longer effective, and that it should therefore be amended in the direction indicated so as to eliminate the delays that it has entailed.
– I do not think that the House should go into recess without expressing to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) its very sincere sympathy, because his personal bitterness and distorted perspective cause him to lead a most unhappy life. I trust that the Christmas season will modify and mellow his outlook.
.- At a time like this, when we are about to go into recess for the Christmas period, we could not expect anything else from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) but an outburst such as we have had from him. I wish to endorse the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which contrasted so sharply with the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney. That honorable member made an impassioned speech about the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. All that occurred to me as I listened to him was that he had probably burst his boiler somewhere else.
The honorable member also spoke about a person by the name of Mr. Paul Maguire, who went on a trip to England. I do not know anything about that, but I do know that the honorable member, when he occupied a responsible position, or a supposedly responsible position, in the government of this country, sent a car from Canberra to Brisbane to bring his luggage back to Canberra.
– That is not true. The cai1 was sent to bring his wife.
– Let us be honest with one another. If the honorable member for East Sydney wishes to cast aspersions about something that has been done in relation to Paul Maguire, then all I can say is that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
– The honorable member is surely not classing Paul Maguire with the wife of the honorable member for East Sydney!
– I do not know Paul Maguire or the honorable member’s wife, but, unfortunately, I happen to know the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). I was determined that when the honorable member for East Sydney withdrew from the precincts of this House he should not leave behind such a nasty odour as his remarks were designed to generate.
I wish to join in the expressions of goodwill uttered by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. This is a time of goodwill towards all men, and I am sure that, no matter what, government was in power, the same goodwill as has been expressed by the Prime Minister would prevail toward? all the people of this country. I consider that it ill becomes the honorable member for East Sydney to cast aspersions at this time of the year.
– I should not have risen to speak except for the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry). Indeed, it was rather odd to hear the honorable gentleman say, immediately after he had attacked the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on a completely false charge, that he wished to join in the festive spirit that was shown by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He falsely accused the honorable member for East Sydney of having sent a car from Canberra to Brisbane to pick up his luggage whereas in fact the honorable member for East Sydney sent a car to Brisbane to pick up his sick wife and the collection of the luggage was merely incidental. It is shocking that this honorable gentleman should cast aspersions on an honorable member because, on doctor’s orders, he sent a car to Brisbane to pick up his sick wife.
– That is a lie.
– Order !
– It is well known that the wife of the honorable member for East Sydney was so sick that she could not travel by any other means than by car, and that it was on a doctor’s orders that the honorable member for East Sydney sent the car to Brisbane to have his wife brought from there. Any honorable member would not be fit to occupy his seat in this chamber if he did not have enough regard for the health of his wife to do exactly the same thing if he had the opportunity to do so.
Now I have something to say to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). Recently, under parliamentary privilege, he made a scandalous attack on the secretary of the South Australian Trades and Labour Council. He said that food that I had produced here as being typical of food that had been served up to immigrants in hostels in South Australia, had been carted all over the Trades Hall in Adelaide, that the saner elements in the Trades Hall would not associate themselves with the matter, and that I had obtained the food through the medium of some Communist element there. I told the House that it was the secretary of the South Australian Trades and Labour Council who gave me the food in question, and not a Communist. I have since made inquiries and have learned from the Trades Hall that the Minister was lying when he said that he had made inquiries in that quarter-
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker, but I say that the secretary of the South Australian Trades and Labour Council, which is the responsible body to which inquiries in relation to the Trades Hall would have to be directed, has assured me that no inquiries were made at the Trades Hall concerning the matter. Incidentally, since 1 brought the standard of the food-supplied to the immigrants to the notice of the House, and since the Minister made his attack on me, two letters have been published in South Australian newspaper? which completely support the protest that [ made about the standard of food. In addition, I have received letters from th, president of the citizens’ committee at Rosewater congratulating me on my efforts, and stating that there was every justification for the complaints that I had made. Yet the Minister, using the veneer of his suave, persuasive manner poses as a good fellow and tries to fool the representatives of the trade union movement that he is a person to be trusted, yet makes a vicious attack on an honorable member merely because, in his opinion, he had the audacity to raise in this House, which is the proper place in which to ventilate it, a matter that had been referred to him. I tell the Minister again that if he cares to read the newspapers concerned he will find complete justification for my charges in relation to the food. He will also find that the food is still not up to standard, although there has been a considerable improvement of the standard since I raised the matter in the House. It was not until that improvement had taken place that Dr. Hutchinson made his inspection of the places concerned. I have received a letter from one of the residents in which he offers to invite any South Australian member of the Liberal party to be his guest at Rosewater. If an honorable member, after visiting that establishment, is prepared to state that the food provided is worth the tariff that is charged, I shall willingly debate the matter with him publicly. I also have received information to the effect that the surprise visit to Rosewater which a doctor is supposed to have made was not a surprise because all the people there knew that he was coming. I have in my possession a letter from the president of the citizens’ committee which supports that statement. Within recent months the Minister, apparently, has been unable to accept any criticism. Anybody who levels criticism at him is met with a cynical and vitriolic reply. If he expects to become Prime Minister he should at least try fro reach the standard set by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who, with all his faults, is at least courteous.
.For some time I have waited very patiently for an answer to a question which I asked the Minister in this House concerning the entry of Asiatics into Australia. I am led to believe that a Chinese millionaire who has extensive interests in Singapore has come to Australia and is buying restaurants in the capital cities and their suburbs. He is also an owner of racehorses, and, if rumour is correct, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) is closely associated with him in connexion with racecourse activities. I desire to know whether it is a fact that this Chinese gentleman who forms various companies in order to buy restaurants has no trouble in having 60 Asiatics a month allowed entry into Australia for the purpose of working as cooks and waiters in his restaurants to the detriment of white Australians.
The Hotel Caterers and Restaurant Employees Union is very gravely concerned about this matter and there will be serious trouble in the very near future if the ramifications of this Chinese millionaire are not curtailed. No doubt the Minister will say, in reply, that permission may be granted to persons to come into Australia and remain here for six months on a permit which may be extended from time to time. I have tried to obtain permission for three Chinese to remain in Australia in order that they may gather in crops for a market gardener at Yarra Bay, but those men have been deprived of the opportunity to work for this market gardener because the Minister has insisted that they leave the country. Apparently, different treatment has been accorded to the Chinese millionaire whom I have mentioned. Before long this gentleman will have a grip on the restaurants in this country which it will be difficult to break. I ask the Minister, in the interests of the White Australia policy, to refuse the admission of further Asiatics into this country for the purpose of serving the interests of this Chinese millionaire, whose name can be supplied to the Minister at any time that he wishes.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Oppositon (Dr. Evatt) and honorable members for their kindly references to me. I feel sure that they are quite undeserved. My job has been made considerably easier for me by the hearty co-operation of the Clerks of the House, the Hansard staff with Mr. Campbell at their head, the Library staff under Mr. White, the Joint House Committee staff under Mr. Loof, and the dining-doom staff under Mr. Clarkson. I extend my thanks to every one of them for the way in which they have worked during the time I have been in office. I also extend my thanks to the gentleman of the press upstairs for the very kindly attention that they have paid to me, especially during the current sessional period. I also extend my thanks to honorable members for their consideration. The traffic is not exactly “two-way” with us because my misdeeds and utterances are shared by 122 honorable members. When anything goes wrong on the other side I carry the whole lot. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) seemed to consider that something worse could happen if a change took place. I do not know of any pending change at the moment. I informed some of my friends of the press when they thought that a change was imminent that I was resigning in company with another authority - the rock of Gibraltar.
I personally wish every honorable member and every member of the staff a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I have not been away from the Australian Capital Territory since the Parliament met in September except to go to Sydney last week. I have slept in Canberra every night. I shall go home to a somewhat different occupation and start early in the training of a grandson, as we hope that the little rascal will he brought up in the correct way. There is nothing like starting, early.
– You did not mention Phar Lap.
– Phar Lap was like one of those in the human species referred to by Gibbon who, on account of some accident, had been denied the pleasures of love and the hope of posterity. So these things come to a rather sudden end. This sessional period must also come to an end - and rather early in the morning. This is, perhaps, an appropriate day - St. Andrew’s Day - on which to go into recess. No doubt that fact will appeal to some of my highland and lowland friends on both sides of the House. I thank honorable gentlemen for their very many considerations to me. If at times they did not understand what I did, I cannot help it. It may have been my fault and not theirs. I do not blame them.
My last duty is to inform honorable members that an offer of two carved chairs of Italian walnut was recently made to the Commonwealth Parliament by a donor who desires to remain anonymous. The Australian emblem is carved on the chairs, which were made in Venice 30 years ago. In accepting the chairs, which were offered as a jubilee gift, Mr. President and I stated that we were sure that the donor’s kind action would be greatly appreciated by members of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. We have decided that the chairs shall remain in the President’s room, where they may be seen by any honorable members who are interested. I could not convey this information to honorable members earlier to-day as I did not have the full particulars.
I again wish all honorable members a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and trust that at some time which the Prime Minister will be good enough to indicate we shall all meet again in this place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Classification of Positions with Names and Salaries of Officers in the Service of the Bank as at 30th June, 1951.
Conciliation and Arbitration Act -
Annual Report by the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, for year ended 30th September, 1951.
Annual Report by Chief Conciliation Commissioner, for year ended 30th September, 1951.
International Monetary Agreements Act - Annual Report on operations of the Act, in so far as they relate to Australia, of the International Monetary Fund Agreement and the International Bank Agreement, for year 1950-51.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Immigration purposes - Kurri Kurri, New South Wales.
Nauru - Ordinances - 1951 -
No. 2 - Local Government Council.
No. 3 - Public Service.
No. 4 - Provident Fund.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence - W. H. King.
Repatriation - D. K. M. Toye, W. J. R. Wyness.
Shipping and Transport - P.E. G. Wood-Ingram.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1951 -
No.111 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Nos. 112, 113 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 114. - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.
No. 115 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
No. 116 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1951 - No. 11 - Liquor (No. 2).
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for year 1950-51, together with Summary of Recommendations.
House adjourned at 4.26 a.m. (Friday) to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - l and 2. No official information is available to support recent press reports stating that a border settlement has been signed between the Soviet Union and Iran, and that trade and diplomatic relations between the two countries have notably improved.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
McBride, the Honorable H. L. Anthony, the Right Honorable R. G. Casey (twice), and the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page.
t. - On the 27th November, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) asked me whether, in view of the fact that most Commonwealth awards make provision for annual leave and Christinas holidays extending until the second week in January next year, the call-up of national service trainees, which has been fixed for the 2nd January, could be postponed until 9th January, 1952.
I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
The January training period in the Army has been specially designed to suit the needs of the large number of students whose only opportunity for training without serious dislocation of their courses of study occurs at that time of the year. Throughout the Commonwealth all trainees for this intake will be called up about the same time and in the circumstances it is not practicable to delay the commencement of training any later than the 2nd January, 1952.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e. - On the 14th November, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) asked the following questions : -
I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has announced that, of the fall of £A.79,000,000 in the published figure for the week ending 14th November, £A.62,500,000 represents a switch of investment of London Funds from United Kingdom treasury-bills into the recentlyannounced United Kingdom one year funding loan.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s question I would refer him to my statement in the House on this subject on the 27th November, 1951.
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What were the percentages of applications for subscriptions in the recent £40,000,000 Commonwealth loan received from (a) conversions, (6) government banks and other government or semi-government bodies, and (c) the general public?
– Final .figures for the Fourteenth Security Loan, which closed on 21st November, 1951, are not yet available. I expect to have this information next week when I shall forward to the honorable member a reply to his question.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many officers of the Public Service have units of superannuation above eight in each of the categories ranging from nine to 26 and what is the total value of the units in each category fortnightly
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Owing to the arrears of work in the Superannuation Board’s office, caused by the frequent changes in salaries over recent years, information regarding existing contributors to the Superannuation Fund could not be ascertained for some considerable time. The following information regarding pensioners has been obtained: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
k asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Minister for’ the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Considerably more estates have been approved for inclusion in the scheme, but the Commonwealth has not yet received advice of their acquisition.
r asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the wholesale price of milled rice for Australian home consumption is fixed at £45 a ton at Melbourne or Sydney and that this is also the maximum permissible wholesale price in the other State capital cities of the Commonwealth, regardless of interstate transport costs?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
As the price of rice in Australia is determined by the respective prices authorities, and the ‘ Commonwealth Government has no control over the distribution of rice within Australia, I regret that I am not in a position to furnish the information desired by the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Has rice even been grown successfully in Queensland?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as. follows : -
n. - On the 14th November, the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) asked a question, regarding a decision of the Australian Wheat Board to prevent wheat-growers in southern New South Wales from sending their wheat to Melbourne, although in many cases that city is at least 200 miles closer to them than Sydney. The answer to the honorable member’s ‘ question is as follows : -
There appears to be some misunderstanding on this matter, possibly because increased freights in New South Wales have made more wheatgrowers want to send their wheat to Victoria. It has been the practice to calculate the freight for all wheat received in New South Wales on a Darling Harbour basis, and to calculate freight for wheat received in Victoria on a Williamstown basis. The Australian Wheat Board has now decided that the freight deduction should be based on the cheapest route to a port. No grower will lose by this decision, and a number will gain from it. Growers will continue to deliver to the most convenient siding, they will bear the cheapest freight charge to a port, and the Wheat Board will decide where the wheat is to go.
r asked- the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he arrange for an examination of the post office building in Toowoomba, Queensland, with a view to constructing permanent extensions so that the staff can be accommodated in the one building block under better conditions?
– It is recognized that additional accommodation for both postal and telecommunication purposes is necessary at Toowoomba and as a first step it is proposed to erect a telephone exchange building on a site at the rear of the post office to accommodate all local and trunk line telephone equipment and services. When the telephone plant is transferred to the new building the areas vacated in the post office will be available for an extension of postal facilities and im proved amenities for the staff. The outdoor construction services are to be moved shortly from the rear of the post office to a new site and this will make space available for postal activities. At a later stage it is intended to completely remodel and extend the post office building in order to provide modern and up-to-date postal facilities at this important centre.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What reimbursement is made to honorable members in respect of car travel within their electorates ?
– The position is that, with the exception of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), honorable members are not reimbursed in respect of car travel within their1 electorates. The honorable member for the Northern Territory is ‘ permitted a mileage allowance at the rate of ls. per mile for the use of his personal car to a sum not exceeding £150 per calendar year. The approvals given in the cases of Mr. Duthie. M.P., and Mr. A. D. Fraser, M.P., were withdrawn in August last.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511129_reps_20_215/>.