20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that Mr. J. McGovern, the member for Shettleston Division of Glasgow in the United Kingdom House of Commons, is within the precincts of the chamber. “With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Mr.McGovern thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in view of reports that a request was recently made by the Queensland Government for Commonwealth assistance in the processing of Blair Athol coal for the production of fuel oil and that the request was refused, whether he can give full information on the matter to the House.
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me yesterday. Since then, I have seen a report of a statement by the Premier of Queensland, which seems to me to be a little odd, to say the least of it. The position is that there has been no request to this Government for assistance in the production of oil from coal at Blair Athol. The Queensland Government recently had a very preliminary report prepared on the possibility of such a project; and it referred a copy of the report to this Government with a request for examination and consideration whether the project warranted further investigation from the defence point of view. The proposals were examined, but were not considered to be of sufficient defence significance to justify Commonwealth action. The matter is one for the State Government, and, so far as I am aware, the Queensland Government has taken no action to follow up the proposals. Indeed, from the comments of the Premier on the report, it appears that the State Government is not completely satisfied with the suitability of this project for the development of the Blair Athol field. Nevertheless, as I said recently, the Australian Government is working in close association with the Queensland Government on certain proposals for the development of the Blair Athol field generally.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether the Joint Coal Board has yet submitted a report to the ‘ Government on the present position in the coal-mining industry?
If the Government has received that report, does it propose to act upon it? Will the report be made available to honorable members? Furthermore, has any action been taken on the question that I asked some time ago regarding the New South Wales Government’s request that a levy be struck for the purpose of subsidizing the exportation of coal in order to maintain full employment in the industry? I point out that this week an additional 31 nien have been put off.
– I shall direct the attention of the Minister for National Development to the matter that the honorable member has raised and obtain a reply as soon as possible.
– The question that I wish to ask the Minister for Health refers to a matter that I raised in this House about eight months ago. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the committee that he appointed to inquire into and report on the sirex wasp has yet reported to him. I point out that there has been evidence in all parts of Australia of the depredations of this insect, and that the question may arise whether the Government can claim compensation from companies that have supplied prefabricated houses that are infested with this pest. Has that report yet been received? If it has not been received, will he ask the committee to hasten the submission of its report so that the Government may make important decisions with respect to both the further importation of these houses and the matter of seeking compensation from the suppliers ?
– First, may I say that how glad I am to see the honorable member for Dalley back again in the chamber following his absence owing to illness. In reply to his question, the committee to which he has referred, after making an extensive investigation which included, not only the whole of Australia, but also New Zealand, has made a comprehensive and voluminous report, which is being considered by the department with a view to determining appropriate action to be taken on a permanent basis.
In the meantime, a very strict quarantine is being observed with respect to the importation of all these timbers. . A very much better method of decontaminating them has also been introduced which, will lessen the cost of handling.
– Having regard to the’ f frequently expressed desire on the part of the State Premiers to have their taxing powers restored and to the writ that has been issued on behalf of the Victorian Government challenging the validity of uniform taxation, can the Prime Minister inform the House of the present position with regard to this matter?
– The position is that one- conference on the official level has been held between the Commonwealth and the States on the proposals involved in the restoration of this power and another conference is to take place before the end of this month. When the second conference has ended the matter will then be dealt with by discussion) between the Commonwealth and theStates on the political level. The issue of the writ to which the honorable member has referred does not touch this matter because what will be determined by proceedings under the writ will be the question of power in relation to taxation, whereas what will be determined by the discussions between ourselves and State Premiers will be policy in relation to the taxing power. The two things are quite distinct. The issue of the writ will not affect our discussions of this problem. ‘
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air that relates to the training of members of the Citizen Air Force. I am informed that a squadron of the Citizen Air Force which has been training country volunteers by sending a flight each week-end to country towns, such as Dubbo, has discontinued this practice. Is that report correct? If so, has the Government any alternative scheme under consideration to achieve the desirable objective of training recruits who would otherwise be denied that opportunity?
– Because of the very heavy commitments of the Royal Australian Air Force in the Middle East, Korea and Malaya we have found it necessary to reduce the operations of two country flights. One is in the electorate of the honorable member at Dubbo. We have cut out elementary flying training for ten personnel in all, so not a large number is involved. When the scheme was first put into operation, we thought there would be enough Citizen Air Force men to carry out not -only flying but also the basic work that ~is involved in keeping crews in the air. -However, we have not been able to recruit enough personnel to do the work of the ground staffs. For that reason the project became uneconomic. Only a few men were taking part in flying training and we were compelled to end it. We are considering a new scheme by which personnel from Dubbo and Wagga can be taken to Richmond and, if necessary, do their reserve training in that area.
” Mr. MINOGUE.- Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that men and women are attending Commonwealth employment offices in New South Wales daily without any hope of obtaining jobs? Is the Minister also aware that men who have gone from factory to factory seeking work have been advised by employers that they are not engaging any labour until after the Christmas holidays ? In view of these facts, will the Minister inform the House whether there are any vacant jobs in industry in New South Wales and if so how many and where they are located? Furthermore, in view of the fact that half the unemployed in Australia are to be found in New South Wales, will the Minister use his influence with the Treasurer to have loan money made available for public works and business undertakings-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman has put enough into his question.
– It is true that more than half of the persons who are receiving the unemployment benefit in Australia at present are to be found in the metro politan area of Sydney. I do not know whether my influence should be directed so much towards the Treasurer as towards the Premier of New South Wales to ascertain why a situation exists in Sydney that is not repeated in other parts of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether any progress has been made with a survey that is being carried out by his departmental officers on the proposal to establish an office of the Commonwealth Employment Service in the Watson electorate? Is it a fact that these officers are opposed to the establishment of such an office, and if so, why? Does the Minister know that while the Government is delaying a decision in this matter unemployed men and women in my electorate have to travel up to 8 miles in some cases to register for unemployment benefit ?
– I shall ascertain the stage the inquiries have reached in relation to this matter. I am not aware of any opposition as indicated by the honorable member, but I shall obtain the facts of the matter and place them before him.
– The question that I direct to the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General refers to unemployment at the works of the Austral Standard Cable Company, at Port Kembla, from which the Postal Department purchases copper wire cable. Is the Minister aware that yesterday a further batch of men was put off by the company because the Government has not yet placed its usual order for wire for the Postal Department? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of placing an order for further supplies so that the dismissed men may be reinstated?
– The Postal Department has placed its usual order for copper wire cable for the current year. I received yesterday a telegram from Port Kembla that informed me of the circumstances that the honorable member has mentioned. I have referred the matter to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs in order to ascertain whether it will be possible to increase the order this year.
– In view of the development that is now taking place in the Northern Territory and the possibility of further extensive development of resources in that area, has the Minister for Territories taken any action, or does he coiltemplate any action, to overcome the lack of harbour facilities in the port of Darwin ?
– The Government has decided to commence immediately the construction of permanent harbour works at Darwin. The works will be a modified form of the construction that was recommended by the Public Works Committee of this Parliament. The Minister for Works will put in hand immediately the construction of the approaches. The financing of that work will be effected by an adjustment of the existing works programme of the Australian Government. It will not involve any additional allocation of money for Commonwealth works this year but will call for an adjustment within the existing programme. While work on the approaches is proceeding, tenders will be called for the completion of the first stage of the permanent works. That first stage is intended to give within twelve months a deep water berth capable of taking the largest ships that are likely to visit Darwin. The wharf will be capable of handling the largest and heaviest cargo that is likely to be landed there.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture initiate a campaign to further the progress of closer land settlement in Australia? Is he aware that we are a land-hungry people, and that ex-servicemen, immigrants and farmers’ sons are all eager to contribute their quota to an expansion of food production? Does he know that throughout Australia to-day there is a widespread demand for the land to be unlocked? If the Minister has no practical ideas on this subject, should he not realize that the clays of immense pastoral holdings are finished-
-Order! What is the question?
– Will the Minister take practical steps to increase food production? If he does not do so, the Government’s food production scheme, in view of the closed land situation, will be so much poppycock.
– The honorable member has not taken the trouble to acquaint”, himself with the facts of the situation.At the present time, the Australian Government is paying the cost of clearing1.” 800,000 acres of land in Western Australia for war service land settlement. It is paying the cost on immense law* settlement schemes in South Austraia, and Tasmania. It has informed the State governments that it is willing to enter into discussions with them upon this matter, the administration of which, throughout the history of this country, has been jealously guarded and reserved by the State governments for themselves. A proposal - the only one that I can recall - has been advanced by the New South Wales Government, which has solicited some financial assistance from the Commonwealth in connexion with one particular project. That proposal *is receiving the consideration of this Government. Land settlement might be easier to manage if the honorable gentleman and other members of his party exerted their influence upon the New South Wales Government, which has acquired land on outrageously unjust terms from land-owners and has complicated the whole business of closer settlement in that State.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether there is any relationship between the present lowoctane petro] supplied to Australian motorists and the dollar shortage? If there be such a relationship, will the right honorable gentleman inquire whether it is possible to increase the octane content of petrol from the present figure of 72 to approximately 78, which is the figure at which most motor car engines have been designed to give their maximum efficiency.
– I have been informed that there is a. relationship between the two factors mentioned by the honorable member. It is very difficult to assess precisely the degree of the relationship. The matter that the honorable member has raised in the second part of his question comes within the jurisdiction of the- Minister for Trade and Customs. I shall go into it with him, and I shall give the honorable member a reply later.
– Is the Minister for “Supply in a position to make a statement <t0 the House about the uranium resources of the Northern Territory and to inform honorable members of the arrangements that have been made with the Zinc Corporation Limited for the mining of uranium ore and the negotiations that have been conducted with the American Atomic Energy Commission for the sale of uranium ?
– I am not in a position at the moment to add anything to what I have told the House on a number of occasions recently. It may be possible for me to give the House more information later, but I cannot do so now.
-Mr.- FALKINDER.- I direct to the Minister for Social Services a question that arises from an answer that he gave to- a previous question that I asked him on the 2’7th August regarding reciprocity of. social service benefits between the United Kingdom and Australia.- On that occasion the Minister indicated that two senior officers of his department were visiting England in connexion with the matter. Can the Minister now state whether the- officers concerned have yet made a report to him on the subject and whether any agreement on it has been reached with the British Government? Further, can he give the House any information of interest on this topic generally ?
– The two officers to whom the honorable member has referred have returned from Great Britain. I am pleased to be able to say that their discussions in that country were fruitful. Many of the problems that have been associated with reciprocity between the United Kingdom and Australia in respect of social services benefits have been ironed out. Obviously, one of the major factors and elements in any agreement for reciprocity will be the question of who is to bear the cost. One important item in that connexion is engaging our attention at present. I refer to the survey we are making of the numbers of British pensioners now resident in Australia. As soon as that examination has been completed we shall have a better idea of the probable final cost of the proposal. I have every hope that we shall be able to bring the matter to a successful conclusion in the near future.
-.- Several blind pensioners have asked me whether it is necessary for a blind person, who is receiving a partial pension, to make representations to the Department of Social Services in order to become entitled to draw the full amount of £3 a week for which such pensioners are now eligible. Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether special applications must be made, or whether the department will pay the increased rate automatically? If the answer to my last question is in the affirmative, will he see that this procedure is carried out by the officers of his department?
– It is the practice of the department to pay these increases of pensions automatically. Where a person who has been in receipt of a partial pension in respect of blindness will be affected by the removal of the means test, the adjustment of the pension will be made automatically by the department. But it will be necessary for persons who in recent months applied for a partial pension in respect of blindness but whose applications were rejected on income or property grounds to re-apply because the department has no record of such applications. If the honorable member has in mind specific cases, I shall be glad to look into them.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether it is true that to-morrow he will be in - Victoria, where he will take a prominent part in a passing-out parade at Flinders? Is there any connexion between the nature of this ceremony and the declaration of the poll in the Flinders by-election which is to be made in the Flinders electorate to-morrow?
– It is true that I shall be the honoured guest of the Royal Australian Navy at the Flinders Naval Depot to-morrow, when graduates of the Royal Australian Naval College will receive the awards they so richly deserve. I must confess that I fail to understand the meaning of the honorable gentleman’s second question, but if he is endeavouring to crow over a victory, which I believe to be a Pyrrhic victory, that was achieved in Victoria a few days ago, I .can only say that it is always a good thing to be a good winner, if possible, and it is a wonderful thing to be a good loser. We on this side of the House feel the greatest, optimism about the future.
– Can the the Minister for Territories say whether any move has been made by the Government, in co-operation with the Queensland Government, for the construction of the first link in the proposed railway from Dajarra or Mount Isa to Camooweal and thence across the Barkly Tableland to Newcastle Waters? If so, what progress has been made in relation thereto?
– The whole subject of rail transport for the Northern Territory, which is, of course, the administrative concern of the Commonwealth, is at present under close consideration. No decision can yet be announced about which of the many possible railways to be constructed in order to serve the Northern Territory is the one to be most favoured.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in the light of the view recently expressed by the Prime Minister of Great Britain that the possibility of war in the future has substantially decreased, he will have a review made by Cabinet of the proposed defence expenditure for this financial year in order to see whether a sufficient proportion of the moneys allocated for defence can be diverted in order to finance the completion of all power stations now being constructed by State authorities, as an important step in major planning for increased Australian production and as an important addition to the nation’s defence potential.
– If I heard the honorable member correctly - and it is not. always easy to hear across the chamber - -his suggestion is that there ought to be some scaling down of the defence programme.
– No, that was not it.
– Then I have misunderstood the question. I thought that the honorable gentleman was proposing that expenditure on the defence programme should be reduced so that some money could be released for other purposes. If I am wrong, I should like, to hear the question again, but this time, if possible, without interruption from the other side of the table.
– Does the Prime Minister desire the honorable member for Blaxland to repeat his question?
– Yes, sir.
Mr. E. James Harrison having repeated his question.
– It transpires that T was right in thinking that the honorable member is proposing that the defence vote on the projects on which it is now being expended should be reduced.
– That is just a. polite way of saying, reduced. In other words, the proposal is that the money is to be transferred from direct defence objects to others. I do not think that the honorable member for Blaxland realizes that we do not conduct a defence programme like the present one just for fun, nor does this Government, any more than the government of any other free country, maintain a defence programme which is completely adequate for its purposes, because the democratic countries could hardly afford to do so. Any real reduction in our defence vote this year would mean the partial abandoning of forces that are now being raised and trained. The Government does not think of these things occasionally; it has them under constant review. It limited its defence allocation this year for a variety of reasons. The total sum s £200,000,000, compared with an allocation of £40,000,000’ before Korea. That fact is worth bearing in mind. The provision of such a large amount of money imposes a very big burden on the Australian taxpayer. “We do not propose to reduce it. “We regard it as a minimum to deal with the state of affairs which we see around us in the world.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I point out, by way of explanation, that it is understood that the contract for the supply of eggs to the United Kingdom is due for renewal shortly. Can the Minister inform me whether any steps have been taken for the renewal of the contract? If no steps have been taken will he ascertain from representatives of the egg industry whether or not a contract is required for the future? If negotiations are to be held on the matter, will he consider the need to bring representatives of the industry into the discussions? If a contract is to be negotiated, will he ensure that it will not be signed until the views of the industry are fully considered?
– The five-year contract for the sale of eggs and egg pulp to the United Kingdom has this season to run. Before that season expires, I shall consult representatives of the Australian egg producing industry in order to ascertain whether it is desired that we enter into negotiations for a further contract, and, on the basis of the attitude of the industry, I shall convey my advice to Cabinet. However, the honorable member may rest assured that the Government will not decide to enter into a contract for the supply of eggs or any other commodity without the fullest consultation with the owners of the property concerned. The egg industry is not organized on a federal basis, and whilst it is organized to a substantial degree, there are literally a multiplicity of conflicting organizations in it. Consequently, it is not a simple matter to obtain the view3 of the. egg-producing industry. The pro cedure I shall follow will be to consult the Egg Producers Council, an Australiawide body which represents every one of the State egg boards which, in turn, are composed mostly of people elected by poultry producers. In addition, I shall solicit, and take into account, the representations of the individual poultry organizations before I reach a decision and offer advice to the Government on the matter.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether it is a fact that in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, in return for a reduction of the United States customs tariff on wool from 34 cents to 25^ cents per lb., certain advantages which this country enjoys under the original Ottawa Agreement were given away? In view of the fact that there is now a strong movement in the United States of America to raise the tariff on wool to 42 cents per lb., will the Minister state whether the Government will consider rigid adherence to the agreement on empire preference reached at Ottawa in 1931?
– In the bargaining regarding preference which took place at the Geneva conference on the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, part of the bargain was that in return for an agreement by Australia that we should forego certain empire preferences that we were entitled to under the Ottawa treaty, particularly in Canada, and to a degree which would facilitate United States trade with Canada in competition with our own, the United States of America would reduce the duty on Australian wool and permit entry of Australian butter, cheese and meat. The United States Administration has not been able to give effect to its own promise by permitting the entry of Australian butter to America. There is a complete embargo upon its entry. A quota has been invoked against Australian cheese, which permits us to export less than half a ton a year to the United States. We are encountering some difficulties about meat but I said yesterday that if the United States should reverse the decision which gave us an advantage in the entry of Australian wool, this Government would promptly and seriously reconsider the whole situation.
– As the basic wage for Hobart is now higher than the basic wage for any other Australian capital city, will the Minister for Labour and National Service agree that a major factor in that high basic wage is the high shipping freight rates between Tasmania and the mainland ? Does the Minister anticipate, any decrease in these freights in the near future because of the improved turnround of ships?
– If the increase that has taken place is as large as my recollection suggests, it could scarcely be attributed to the factor that the honorable member has mentioned, which has been operating for a considerable time. However, I believe’, on information that has been supplied to me, that there has been a substantial improvement of the turn-round of coastal shipping in recent months and that there are indications of a declining tendency in freight rates. This decline, if it takes effect according to my anticipations, should be of considerable benefit to Tasmania, and, no doubt, will have an effect eventually upon living costs in that State.
Mr.- EDMONDS. - I made representations to the Treasurer recently in support of a request from the district secretary of the Australian Workers Union at Townsville for the exemption from sales tax of brandy that is supplied by the union to sufferers from miners’ phthisis throughout Queensland. The union provides the numerous sufferers from this dread and incurable disease with the medicines that they need at cost price. Brandy is one of those medicines. The union buys brandy at wholesale rates, and thus is able to supply it to the patients a little cheaper than would be possible otherwise. The Commissioner of Taxation has said that he cannot treat brandy as a medicine. Is the Treasurer not aware, from his own association with victims of miners’ phthisis, that the only use that the Australian Workers Union could have for brandy is to relieve suffering humanity? Will he give this matter urgent consideration with the object of reversing the decision that has been made ?
– I am aware of the circumstances that the honorable member has mentioned, but I cannot agree that the only use that the Australian Workers Union could have for brandy would be to relieve the sufferings of victims of miners’ phthisis. However, I shall look into the matter again. There are difficulties associated with it. The honorable gentleman will appreciate the fact that it would not be easy to police the use of a commodity such as brandy so as to ensure that the proposed concession would take effect in the right quarter. I know that the Australian Workers Union supplies brandy to victims of miners’ phthisis in order to relieve their suffering as much as possible, and, therefore, I shall consider the matter again.
– The question that I wish to ask the Minister for Supply relates to the availability of tinplate, upon which depends the continued employment of a large labour force in the pineapple canning industry in Queensland. What are the prospects for the supply of tinplate during the coming year, and, in particular, will adequate supplies be available for the forthcoming packing season in Queensland?
– The honorable member has raised this matter in the House from time to time previously. Sufficient supplies of tinplate are available to meet current needs and also to meet the demands of the Queensland canning season, which will commence soon. This is due partly to decreased demand in Australia, but largely, I think, to greatly increased production at the Port Talbot mills in Wales. We do not have to go on our hands and knees now to ask for tinplate from abroad, but, instead, we have to go virtually on our hands and knees to consumers in order to ask them to take their maximum quotas. The Government laboured, not without dust and heat, a couple of years ago in order to obtain additional supplies of tinplate for Australia. Its efforts then were crowned with success. Our present problem is that of preventing a repetition of the circumstances that arose in 1949, when we were offered adequate supplies from abroad but local consumers, in some instances, would not take their quotas. A little later, when supplies of tinplate again became very short and we asked for an additional allocation, we were answered with the argument, which was very difficult to refute, that we had not taken all our supplies when tinplate was plentiful. I ask the honorable member to inform his electors, and any others who may be concerned, that the Australian canning industry would be well advised to take the maximum quotas of tinplate while supplies are available.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether consideration has been given to the fact that, although age and invalid pensioners receive free medical and pharmaceutical ‘benefits, many other pensioners, such as superannuated persons and police pensioners, whose income does not exceed the age and invalid pension rate, cannot obtain those benefits. Will the Minister ascertain whether it would be possible to place the pensioners whom I have mentioned on an equal footing with age and invalid pensioners?
– This matter has received a great deal of consideration, but there are two difficulties in the way of achieving the result that the honorable member desires. In the first place, it is easy to establish the identity of persons who receive pensions from the Department’ of Social Services, and, therefore, we are able to issue entitlement cards to them. In the second place, the arrangements that have been made are based on the fact that a means test is applied to age pensioners and other pensioners of the same class.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Does the Department of Defence assume any responsibility for the maintenance of highways within Australia so that heavy traffic, including vehicles that belong to the armed services, can proceed without hindrance? If so, is theMinister aware of the state of the bridge on the main northern highway at Singleton, New South “Wales? I had an opportunity to see the condition of that bridge last week-end, and, in my opinion and the opinion of other responsiblepersons, it will not be able to withstand the ravages of further floods such as were experienced during the past winter.
– The Department of Defence does not assume responsibility for any roads other than those that are used for the purposes of defence installations. It sponsors the construction of certain roads under certain conditions for defence purposes, but I am sure that the bridge that the honorable member has mentioned does not come within the specified category.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th October (vide page 3285), on motion by Mr. McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this measure is to bring pensions payable under it into line with increases that were recently effected in repatriation and service pensions. In passing, I may say that it was my pleasure, when I was Minister for the Army in 194S, to play a part in the introduction of the original legislation that made provision for the payment of these pensions. The Opposition does not oppose the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message :
Motion (by Mr. McBride) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation nf revenue be made for the purposes of a bill lor an act to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1951, and for other I hirposes
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 16th October (vide page 3285), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this measure is simple, lt makes provision for the imposition of an export levy on canned fruits of certain types and thus brings those types into the same category as fruits to which this levy already applies. The Opposition supports the bill.
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.
In Commitl.ee of Ways and. Means: Consideration resumed from the 16th October (vide page 34.23), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That, on and after a date to be fixed by proclamation . . . (vide page 3280).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. McEwen and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. McEwen, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 16th October (vide page 327S), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure seeks to amend the Wool Use Promotion Act 1945-52. I think that it is necessary that the House should have at least a brief history of that legislation. It was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government and included a provision whereby wool was taxed at the rate of 2s. a bale and the Government made an equivalent contribution. In other words, there was a £l-for-£l contribution by the Australian Government and the wool-growing industry. Under the Wool Use Promotion Act 1945, the money that was raised by that process was allocated for two specific purposes. Half of the total contributions were allocated for expenditure by the Australian Wool Board for the purpose of financing action to encourage the use of wool. The administration of the fund was almost entirely in the hands of the Australian Wool Board except for some overriding ministerial authority. Under the jurisdiction of that authority, the money was spent wisely and, I believe, to the satisfaction of the industry and all concerned. That authority was able to enter into an agreement with other countries that were also interested in the promotion of the use of wool, and an International Wool Secretariat was formed which gave a degree of co-ordination in the activities of the respective authorities administering wool publicity in the countries concerned. The other half of the fund raised was paid to a wool research trust account. The money in that account was applied to the advancement of research under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Treasurer of the day. In other words, the expenditure of the moneys was subject to the ultimate consent of the government of the day, but the funds were to be applied on the advice of a Wool Consultative Council. That council was composed of representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, wool manufacturers, textile manufacturers, representatives of the Textile “Worker? Union and other interested authorities.
During the war period and immediately after the war, it was comparatively easy for a wool publicity authority like the Australian “Wool Board to indulge effectively in publicity work largely because the work did not necessitate the expenditure of large sums of money upon labour, which was scarce, or materials. But the expenditure of the money that was devoted to research work was exceedingly difficult because research requires suitable buildings, plant and equipment and large numbers of efficient technicians and research workers. Until that time, and even up to the present to a lesser degree, it was almost impossible to expend the amount of money that was available for research in the wool industry. As a result, there is an amount to the credit of the research trust fund of approximately £900,000. It must be obvious that from now on, with greater availability of materials, it should be feasible to construct buildings that are essential for this work. It should be possible also to obtain the necessary plant and the skilled workers that are required. That briefly is the background of the wool tax and contribution fund from 1945.
In June of last year, the Minister introduced a measure which provided that, from the 1st July of this year, or from the opening of this year’s wool season, wool-growers would be required to pay a tax of 4s. a bale, instead of, as previously, a tax of 2s. a bale. The honorable gentleman indicated that woolgrowers’ organizations and the Australian Wool Board itself had expressed their readiness to double their contributions to the portion of the fund from which money is expended to publicise wool and to sponsor an increased use of wool in Australia and throughout the world.
– They took the initiative, and asked that the contribution be doubled.
– The Minister has pointed out that the wool-growers’ organizations took the initiative, and re quested that the levy be increased. It was obvious then that, if the work were to proceed with its former effectiveness, the contribution would have to be at least double that which was paid in 1945, because since 1945 the cost of printing, photography, equipment, labour and transport had been at least doubled. But, in the measure which the Minister introduced in June of last year, no provision was made for a continuation of a contribution by the Government on a £l-for-£l basis. The honorable gentleman indicated that the Government proposed at a later stage to introduce a measure to provide for a governmental contribution, but he did not specify the method by which that contribution would be assessed. Then, for the first time since 1945, a situation arose in which the only contributors to the fund for wool publicity and wool research were the wool-growers themselves. They paid a levy of 4s. a bale. It is true, of course, that the proceeds of the levy are to ‘be expended entirely upon wool publicity.
It has been disclosed in this measure that the contribution of the Government will be exactly a half of the woolgrowers’ contribution of 4s. a bale. That is a departure from the former practice of a 50 per cent, contribution by the Government and a 50 per cent, contribution by the wool industry. On the new basis of raising money for the benefit of the wool industry and, incidentally, of the economy of Australia, the wool-growers will provide 66§ per cent, of the funds and the Government will provide 33^ per cent. Under a Labour Administration, the Government and the industry contributed 50 per cent. each. It is true that during the last few years the wool industry has enjoyed great prosperity and, therefore, can afford to make a contribution greater than that made by the Government, but I think it will shock many wool-growers to learn that this Government is less generous in its support of wool research and publicity than was the Chifley Government. I am being semi-critical, in contrast with my usual critical attitude. As the Government has decided that, in this connexion, it will not be as generous to the wool industry as was its predecessor in office, I am somewhat astonished that it has not had recourse to the Wool Research Trust Account. That fund was established by a Labour Administration, and a sum of £7,000,000 was paid into it. That sum was set aside, under an act of Parliament, for expenditure upon a number of specific purposes.
– Is that the money which we said should have been given to r.he wool-growers?
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is somewhat of a humourist. When that £7,000,000 was placed in a trust fund, he said that the money should have been distributed to the wool-growers, but, during the last two and a half years, while he has been supporting an antiLabour administration, he has never suggested in this House that the Government should distribute to the wool-growers the £7,000,000 which he said should have been distributed to them when the Labour party was in office.
– The money is not there. It is like the war gratuity fund.
– The honorable gentleman is by no means a fool. He knows full well that if the money is not there in the physical sense, it is invested and is earning interest for the industry. He knows that the investment is a gilt-edged security. He knows also that it would be the easiest matter in the world for the Government to raise an equivalent sum from a bank, or by means of other financial jiggery-pokery, and to distribute it forthwith to the woolgrowers of this country. He knows, further, that the Government which he supports is fearful of a further failure of its efforts to stabilize the economy of this country and to halt inflation.
– ‘Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting well outside the scope of the bill.
– The honorable gentleman knows that if he suggested to the Minister that the money in that trust fund should be used for the purposes of wool research and wool use promotion, the Minister would say, “ Hush ! Do not mention it. If we distributed that £7,000,000 to the wool-growers, it would make a further contribution to inflation in this country”. I have illustrated the inconsistency of the attitude of the honorable member for Mallee.
I make the constructive suggestion that the time is fast approaching when there should be a cessation, at least for a limited period, of the taxation of the wool-growers of this country for the purpose of raising money for wool publicity, and perhaps even a cessation of contributions by the Government itself. The sum of £7,000,000 in the trust fund could be utilized for that purpose for a period of years. It was set aside for the benefit of the wool industry.
– It is just a book entry.
– If the honorable member for Mallee believes it to be only a book entry, he believes also that this Government is the custodian of something that should be thrown into the wastepaper basket. That is arrant nonsense. I think the House adopts a more intelligent approach to the problem than that. The honorable member mentioned the war gratuity fund, and suggested that that was only a book entry. This Government found the money with which to pay the war gratuity, and it i-ould find this money. Let us dismiss that kind of nonsense. Perhaps the time is approaching when the money required for wool publicity and research should be drawn from the Wool Research Trust Account. It was set apart for purposes that included capital expenditure on wool research and the application of the results of such research, wool use promotion, regulation of and assistance in the marketing of wool, the stabilizing of wool prices, and the provision of temporary assistance to the wool industry in meeting any ultimate loss in connexion with the wool disposal plan. No losses have occurred in relation to that plan, and there is no necessity at the moment, nor is there likely to be in the future, to stabilize wool prices. There is, however, a continuing need for wool publicity and wool research, and in those circumstances the question of whether the tax, and the Government’s contribution to the fund, should be abolished, and the fund be drawn upon for the purposes for which it was established, is probably worthy of consideration.
The Opposition supports the hill, but expresses astonishment that, if contributions to the fund are to continue, the Government should propose to decrease its contribution and increase the contributions from the woolgrowers. I believe that the work of the Australian Wool Board will be continued in the future as effectively as it has been carried on in the past. The time has arrived when all the essential buildings, plant and equipment necessary for a thorough concentration on wool research are available and such research can be commenced. The work will be expensive, but there is a total of £900,000 in the fund available to finance it. I believe that the contribution that the Government proposes to make, or a contribution from some equivalent or similar source, will be required. I hope that in the course of research our scientists will concentrate on work that will prove conclusively to the whole world that there is no really effective substitute for wool. I hope also that the Government will abandon its present negative attitude in connexion with the labelling of imported textiles. I understand that at the moment the Government is adopting a purely negative attitude and taking no action to provide that all imported textiles shall be effectively labelled so as to give protection to the Australian wool industry. The Labour party, on behalf of which I speak, supports the measure.
.- This measure pertains to the greatest source of our economic strength and, naturally, I support it because I support anything that will assist the wool industry. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has outlined the history of the W ool Use Promotion Fund and the Wool Research Trust Fund, which were established to undertake wool promotion and research. Under previous legislation the wool-growers contributed 4s. a bale to the cost of maintaining this fund, and under this measure the Government will contribute 2s. a bale. The existence and effective operation of the fund is particularly important at present, when other nations, particularly America, are spending a great deal of money on research into, and promotion of, artificial fibres to replace wool. Many authorities regard such artificial fibres as being a great danger to the Australian wool industry. It has long been said that Australia rides on the sheep’s back. That saying is still true. I know that the scientists who carry out the research on which this fund is partly expended are doing great work, because I have seen examples of it. 1 believe, however, that much more work in connexion with wool research remains to be done. Previous arguments that wool could not be used for the production of fine sheer materials that are like silk in appearance, have been disposed of, because our scientists are now able to manufacture from wool any material that can be manufactured from rayon or any of the other artificial fibres. In fact, such fine materials woven from wool are far superior to those woven from artificial fibres, because wool has a natural clinging characteristic that makes it more attractive for women’s garments. We can compete, therefore, with any of the artificial fibres in the production of fine materials. I should like the Minister to take particular note of the need to protect the wool industry against the concerted attack on it by artificial or imitation wool. I know that shoddy, which is old wool that has been rewoven, is being sold as virgin wool. In a written reply to a question that 1 asked him, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture informed me that scientists could not detect whether a garment was made of reprocessed fibre mixed with pure wool or entirely of pure wool. The sale of such shoddy garments is a great danger not only to the wool industry but also to the consumers. There is considerable evidence that garments made of such wool are being sold under the guise of virgin wool. I do not agree with the Minister that scientists are unable to tell the difference between garments made of reprocessed wool mixed with virgin wool and those made entirely of pure wool, because scientists in other parts of the world can detect the difference.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– I have seen pictures of wool fibres as seen through the microscope. A reprocessed fibre shows fractures that are easily discernible. 1 should like some of the money in this fund to be devoted to the purpose of protecting the wool industry from both artificial fibres and reprocessed wool. Millions of pounds weight of wool which is just rags are sold each year. Japan bought up millions of pounds of old wool, and some of it comes back into this country in re-processed form and is sold as pure wool. I cannot accept the Minister’s written reply, which reads, in part -
The organization is of the opinion that any specific recognition, either qualitatively or quantitively, of the various types of wool in a textile product is virtually impracticable.
I do not accept that, and, therefore, I urge him to ask the scientists to continue with their experiments in this matter. Otherwise, all kinds of rackets will develop, and consumers will be exploited. This matter is of grave concern to all sections of the wool industry. I observe that the Minister, in his reply, has sidestepped the issue. I hope that he does not suggest that the scientists who are engaged in this kind of work cannot distinguish between nylon and other fabrics, and original wool. With the use of a little sulphuric acid, I myself am able to distinguish between them. Any person who has spilt acid from the battery of a motor car on his trousers knows what happens. If the material contains cotton or other vegetable fibre, it will be immediately affected by the acid ; but if it consists of wool it will not be affected. Wool-growers will not begrudge the expenditure of this money, because interests in other countries are providing enormous sums in order to promote the use of their own manufactured materials which, they pretend, contain wool. However, I shall not pursue that subject because I should not be in order in” doing so, although the matter is related indirectly to the provision of moneys for wool use promotion. Our scientists should be encouraged to conduct experiments with the object of devising a process for enabling the detection of reprocessed wool and shoddy old fibres.
– Why does not the honorable member show the scientists how to proceed?
– I do not think that the scientists will be deterred by the problem. If they are given this’ specific job, they will find a way to do it.
– Has not the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization been engaged in that kind of work?
– I think that some authorities have stated that original wool can be distinguished from reprocessed wool and shoddy old fibres. I have read in the Parliamentary Library some articles about this matter, and I understand that the scientists use microscopes in these researches. I am sure that they can detect whether old woollen material, which has been dyed, has been reprocessed and used in other materials. One of the best ways in which to give protection to the wool industry is to prevent artificial and shoddy fibres from masquerading as original wool. As this money is provided for research purposes, the most valuable way in which it can be expended is on the exposure, or the detection, of shoddy fibres. Scientists have already done magnificent work in making fine wool fibres, which were not thought to be possible some years ago. Wool can now be spun so thinly that it can be used to make sheer stockings and other fabrics which previously were manufactured from artificial fibres. The scientists have solved that problem, and I believe that it will be comparatively easy for them to discover a method for the detection of reprocessed wool. If the scientists are encouraged to conduct experiments in that direction, this money will be used to the best possible purpose.
.- The intention of the Government to make a contribution to wool research has been used by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) as an excuse to embark upon a dissertation about why the scientists should be able to distinguish original wool fibres from reprocessed fibres. He has set himself up as a scientist, and has disputed the opinions of real scientists who have been endeavouring to discover a method to determine whether the properties of the two articles can be distinguished from each other. For many years, I have followed this practice: If I keep a dog, [ do not do the barking. We employ scientists to study this problem in a proper, scientific manner. They have said that they have not found any method by which they can determine whether original wool or reprocessed wool has been used in an article.
I realize that the labelling of textiles is not a matter which comes specifically within the ambit of this bill, but it has been mentioned briefly in this debate, and’ [ should like to direct the attention of the House to one or two matters in that connexion. The Australian Government has effective control only over the labelling of imported textiles. The honorable member for Wannon spoke at some length about the labelling of textiles for sale to the public. I inform him that such a matter comes specifically under the control of the States. Consequently, the system of labelling textiles for sale to the public, if it is to be effective, requires State legislation. It is a fact that, at the present time, this matter is dealt with by a customs regulation, but it is not easy to apply, because of the difficulty of actually policing it. However, that regulation has been adopted as the basis of State legislation, which requires that textiles shall be labelled according to their constituent parts. The State legislation has not been proclaimed, probably because it would be difficult to police its provisions.
There should not be so much confusion about this matter as appears to be the case at the present time. The first question that Ave should ask ourselves is whether such legislation is required to deal only with woollen goods, or whether it should deal with all textiles. The second question is whether the legislation should deal only with imported materials, or with the sale of all these materials in Australia. But only a small proportion of the total Australian wool clip could be affected by legislation of that kind.
The purpose of this bill is simply to provide that the Commonwealth’s contribution to wool research shall be on the same basis as previously, which is at the rate of 2s. a bale, with proportionately smaller amounts for smaller quantities of wool. Wool-growers, on their own initiative, invited the Government to submit the Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1952 to the Parliament during the last sessional period. The purpose of that legislation was to impose on wool-growers a levy on every bale of wool. The growers said to the Government,, in effect, “ If you pass this legislation, we shall expect you to make a contribution “. The Minister has explained that the Commonwealth could provide the assistance in the form of a lump sum, or at the rate of a certain amount on each bale. The Government has agreed that a subsidy of 2s. a bale is a reasonable contribution, and is preferable to the granting of a lump sum. The fund will be used to finance researches into various aspects of the use of wool and artificial fibres, and I understand, into the feeding of sheep. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), was on treacherous ground when he mentioned the fund of £7,000,000. Unless I have misunderstood his remarks, I gather that his idea is that the Government should not pay a contribution of 2s. a bale, as is proposed in this bill, but should provide money from the amount of £7,000,000 which was filched from the wool-growers some years ago, and placed in a separate fund. In other words, the basis of his proposition was that the wool-growers should contribute at the rate of 4s. a bale from their current wool clip, and that a further sum should be taken from the profits from earlier sales of wool which had been placed in a fund by a previous government. The growers would not accept that suggestion. It would not have met with their approval had it been suggested to them when the fund was formed as a result of the earlier discussions that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) had with them. Therefore, in compliance with the Government’s promise, this bill has now been brought before honorable members to provide for the paying out, in conformity with the previous promise given by the Government, of 2s. a bale for the promotion of wool and wool use and for research purposes.
.- The Government is providing for the payment of 2s. a bale into a fund for wool use promotion.
– The money is not to be used for wool use promotion.
– That the money shall be so used is implicit in the title of the bill.
– The honorable member should have listened to the Minister’s second-reading speech.
– I have the second-reading speech before me, and I shall deal with it later. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) apparently desires to quibble about this matter, but I say that anything that promotes the development and the sale of wool and its wider and more general usage may be called the promotion of the interests of the wool industry. It is in that sense that I used the term. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out, the Opposition does not oppose the bill, but it believes that it is necessary to point out that the previous Labour Government considered that as the wool industry was of such vital importance to Australia it should jointly provide, with wool-growers, certain money to be used for the promotion of the usage of wool and the stabilization of the wool-growing industry. The previous Labour Government, in times that were equally as difficult as the present times, put aside an amount of money equal to that contributed by the wool-growers to provide for further research into the wool industry to stabilize it as one of Australia’s vital industries, and to enable it to compete with other fibres that are brought forward from time to time to challenge the pre-eminent place that the wool fibre holds throughout the world. This Government, pleading financial stringency, intends , to reduce the amount pf money that the Government shall pay into this wool use promotion fund. The Government made provision by a recent measure that the wool-growers should provide 4s. a bale and the Government 2s. a bale to be paid initially into the fund. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture also provided, by way of regula tion, that the amount to be paid by woolgrowers could be increased to a maximum of 5s. a bale.
– That was in accordance with a proposal made by the woolgrowers themselves.
– Yes, the growers put that proposition to the Government. It would be hard for any government to resist such a proposition that the growers should pay in the major part of the money themselves, but we must recognize that the wool industry is of vital importance to the whole of Australia, and even if the growers believe that they should make the major contribution to the fund, the Government should acknowledge its responsibility to the community, reject that proposition and pay in half the money required. The wool industry has been highly prosperous during recent years, but the cost of producing wool has greatly increased. When wool prices recently fell, the cost of producing wool remained high. As a consequence of that, the cost of growing wool is as high as it was last year when wool fetched the highest price on record. I suggest that the cost of producing wool will remain steady at a fairly high level so that as wool prices fall wool-growers will not continue to enjoy the unprecedented prosperity that they are enjoying at the present time. Moreover, there are. all types of wool-growers. There is the person who has a highly developed and long-established property and who is grazing highly developed flocks. Even with the present cost of production such a man can manage quite comfortably. But there are many other farmers with obligations to banks and financial institutions and whose properties are less well developed, to whom the added cost of 4s. a bale is quite a substantial amount. Although 4s. a bale is not very much, when it is added to the other costs that many persons producing wool have to face, the 4s. .a bale may represent quite a large sum of money.
– A bale of wool is worth about £100.
– That may be so, but the cost of superphosphate and other materials used by wool-growers is increasing.
– Wool-growers do not top-dress in order to raise fine wool.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) might know the industry from which he came, but his knowledge is not nearly so wide as the interest that he exhibits in the variety of subjects on which he speaks. To improve the carrying capacity of land’ it is necessary to top-dress, and many wool-growers resort to this method of increasing production. One of the important costs of production to a woolgrower is the cost of superphosphate, but that is only one of the many charges that he has to face. The cost of growing wool has increased substantially during the last few years. In fact, I was recently told by a farmer that it cost 7s. 6d. per lb. to grow wool in his particular district. That is the experience of only one farmer, but it certainly indicates that costs must be taken seriously into consideration by all fanners. Four shillings a bale is not a tremendous charge, but all farmers are not enjoying unprecedented prosperity and some persons may find this added charge a heavy burden. There is a large fund available from which some money could be diverted to the wool industry at the present time. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) seems to think that the fund was accumulated by money filched from the woolgrowers. The fact is that that money was involved in some legal proceedings, and its ownership could not be clearly established. It appeared to the government of the day that the money could best be used to promote the use of wool. Except for the honorable member for Mallee and a few others, that suggestion was generally accepted by the farming community. The honorable member for Mallee extracted a good deal of publicity from the fact that the previous Labour Government had put £7,000,000 aside for the benefit of the wool industry instead of giving it to individuals. This Government also extracted a good deal of publicity from that situation, but it made no attempt to do what it suggested the Labour Government should have done - that is repay the money to the woolgrowers. If used wisely, it. can be of real and lasting benefit to the wool-growers and to the nation as a whole. I think that most Australians will agree that the Government should make the major contribution, if not the entire contribution in some circumstances, to the cost of research and publicity.
Wool is unrivalled as a fibre. Nevertheless, synthetic products have made tremendous advances in recent years and, although they may never seriously challenge the supremacy of wool, it is probable that they will encroach upon its position in the textile field. Tremendous amounts are devoted to research into the production of synthetic fibres in the United States of America, and perhaps in other countries. At some time, the investors may consider that their capital holdings in these enterprises are threatened by wool, and this may result in moves to exclude Australian and other wools from the United States of America and other countries in order to protect synthetic fibres. We should not disguise from ourselves the fact that synthetic materials may yet rival wool. I have read of one experiment in which a substitute fibre was produced synthetically under conditions that were said to simulate as closely as possible the actual conditions under which wool grows on a sheep’s back. This was not a small project. It was financed by a large capital investment and was conducted on careful scientific lines. We should not discard the possibility that such experiments may lead to the development of fibres that will challenge the status of wool. The whole economic structure of Australia would be severely threatened, and perhaps undermined, if that happened. Although synthetic products may rival wool as a result of a vast expenditure of money on extensive scientific research, it is clear that proper research into wool production and use must greatly improve the qualities of wool for general and particular purposes.
If the Government will expend the money that is needed in order to build efficient research laboratories and acquire the services of competent scientists, wool can be produced according to standards that will enable it to withstand the challenges of synthetic products. However, if it intends to be niggardly and to rely on the hope that wool will remain unrivalled, it is possible that a synthetic fibre, either alone or mixed with wool, will oust wool from the world’s markets. In that event, it would be too late to undertake a vast research programme. Wool might lose its place in the public estimation before such a programme could produce results. Because of such possibilities, the Opposition regrets that the Government has decided to reduce assistance to the wool industry for the purposes of research and publicity. The original Wool Use Promotion Bill introduced by the Labour Government in 1945 was a relatively small measure, but it was debated at length in this House. All honorable members then expressed their approval of the measure. They considered, as the Opposition still considers, that the Australian Government ought to take a close interest in the production of wool and the promotion of its use. The Australian Wool Board was established under that legislation, and the Government agreed to contribute equally with the growers, at a rate of 2s. a bale, to the Wool Use Promotion Fund and the Wool Research Trust Account. The Labour Government arranged for the use of all suitable instrumentalities for research and publicity. The Wool Consultative Council, which was established under that measure, consists of the Commonwealth Wool Advisor, two members of the Australian Wool Board selected by the Minister, and one representative each of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, wool manufacturers, textile distributors, authorities concerned with technical education, the Australian Workers Union, and the Australian Textile Workers Union.
The Labour Government recognized the importance of the wool industry to the Australian economy and it realized, also, that, apart from the challenges of synthetic fibres, there was a vast unexplored field which offered prospects for the development of the use of Australia’s major staple product. This Government appears to be retreating from the -stand that was taken by the Labour Government. The Opposition deplores the fact that it is not paying sufficient attention to the wool industry and appears to be ignoring the danger of competition by synthetic materials. The Opposition believes that the Government should subsidize the industry. Every country subsidizes the industry that is of greatest importance to its economy. Wool is the greatest asset that Australia has, and we should take advantage of it in order to accumulate overseas balances, pay for our imports and service our debts. Therefore, the Government should willingly help to develop the wool industry and encourage the use of wool as widely as possible. Our wool should be publicized in parts of the world where perhaps it is little used to-day, and new uses should be found for it. The Australian Wool Board and the Wool Consultative Council have done a great deal of good for the industry and for Australia.
Wool products that startled the world because of the fineness of their quality and their superior appearance were demonstrated in London recently. The development of such wool products has occurred in recent years as a result of a relatively small expenditure of money. The Opposition considers that the Government is remiss in failing to play its full part to promote the use of wool throughout the world. Therefore, although it does not oppose the bill, it urges the Government to accept a greater share of responsibility for the welfare of the wool industry than it proposes to take under this measure. The Government may plead financial stringency. I shall not discuss this excuse at length. I merely point out that the Government must, accept responsibility for the financial situation that has resulted from its acts. It must not allow wool research and publicity to languish on the ground of a shortage of money because, if it allows the industry to fall behind in the race for supremacy, some future government will be called upon to go to great trouble and expense in order to rehabilitate the industry.
Finally, I refer to the problem of textile labelling, which the honorable member for Wannon discussed. The honorable gentleman dealt with this matter so fully that I need refer to it only briefly. However, I insist that a proper system for the labelling of textile products must, be established. It is essential to the wool industry, and it is necessary for the protection of the buyers of textile products. Obviously, if anybody buys a product, believing it to be virgin wool, and it proves to be shoddy or to consist of reworked wool, a blow is immediately struck against the general use of wool. Therefore, it is important that buyers should be informed of the constituents of every alleged wool product that they buy. Every intelligent buyer will pay more for an article if he believes it to consist of pure virgin wool than he would pay otherwise. I realize that a system of textile labelling involves difficulties, but difficulties are made to be overcome. The Government should accept its responsibility in this matter. Even if the State governments will not come into line, this Government could invoke a special power in order to provide for the proper labelling of textiles. For the reasons that I have stated, the Opposition will support the bill, but it draws attention to the failure of the Government to accept fully its responsibility to the great wool industry.
.- This measure arises from an anomalous situation that occurred recently, and of which we were advised by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in relation to two aspects of the development of the wool industry through the use of special funds. The propaganda activities of the Government and the industry were able to proceed throughout “World War II. practically without inhibition, whereas research activities, of necessity, had to be delayed until equipment and other essential requirements could be obtained. As a result of those circumstances, the Wool Use Promotion Fund is short of money, but the Wool Research Trust Account has not been drawn upon heavily. The bill can best be explained in the words of the Minister, who said during his second-reading speech -
The Government has now decided that, in view of the current financial situation and the fact that there is a large unexpended balance in the Wool Research Trust Account, the Commonwealth’s contribution to wool research should be on the same basis as previously. That is, at a rate of 2s. a hale of wool sold, with proportionately smaller amounts for smaller quantities of wool. Therefore, depending on the size of the clip, some £340,000 or £350,000 per annum will be provided for wool research out of Consolidated Revenue.
When we think of the assaults that have been made upon the wool industry throughout the world by the manufacturers of synthetic fibres, the sum of £340,000 a year mentioned by the Minister appears to be a pitifully small amount to devote to wool research. I understand that about £900,000 remains at present in the Wool Research Trust account. In those circumstances, when this bill becomes law, we shall have a balance of about £1,000,000 with which to push on with research. I suggest that all available resources be marshalled as soo a as possible in order to proceed with such research activities. The aspect that we should examine is that while wool to-day is fetching highly lucrative prices nobody who is associated with the industry or who represents the consumers, as we on this side of the House do, would in his wildest imaginings assume that the present prices will remain for all time. There are dangers associated with excessively high prices in the forays that are now being made against wool by synthetics. It is reasonable to assume that after the conclusion of the conflict in Korea, which we hope will not be long delayed, and provided that no other outbreak occurs, the demand for wool will lessen and that, subsequently, prices will decrease. It is also obvious that during the whole of the period during which wool is fighting synthetics, and the battle is being joined day by day and almost hour by hour, with chemists and physicists arrayed on one side and those who support the wool industry, which is this country’s greatest asset, arrayed on the other side, we in this Parliament must be fully aware of our responsibility in the clash of those interests. Therefore, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who opened this debate on behalf of the Opposition, has said, this is a sensible and useful payment in order to enable the industry to engage in further research in its fight against synthetics. We do not know, until we go into the matter thoroughly after world peace has been restored, what amount we shall be obliged to expend for this purpose. This amount may be adequate.
The economics of the industry do not really come into the matter if we realize that the real issue is whether it is to survive. When one reads reports from overseas that not less than £20,000,000 worth of dollars has been allocated by the nylon and acrylic groups in New Jersey for the purpose of finding a. light-weight substitute for wool, and assuming that the demand for wool will decrease proportionately in the future, even those who are not associated with the industry as growers realize that there is a substantial and continuing threat to this industry upon which this country has depended, and which has contributed so much to the wealth of this nation. Despite the barriers that have been erected by other countries against our wool, it is still our best-selling export. Therefore, the greatest protection should be given to the industry and sufficient fluids should be assured to it for research and propaganda purposes. The fact that the Americans realize the threat to wool from synthetics is indicated by the drive that has been made for some years in the highly organized lobbies in Congress. The two most highly organized lobbies in Congress are the silver lobby and the wool lobby. The former has a highly expensive and extensive set-up with offices and officers to ensure that the story of silver shall be sold to every member of the American Senate and House of Representatives.
– Order ! At this juncture, I am prepared to listen to a discussion of the golden fleece, but not the silver ingot.
– J was about to point out that the second of the two strongest lobbies in the United States of America is the wool lobby, and that the money that we are making available for research and propaganda would look like an item on a petty cash account if measured against the expenditure that is being incurred in that country for the same purposes.
The point I make is that research is important so long as we do not become too involved on the technical side, apart from defence, and keep foremost in our minds the belief that is held by the graziers and consumers that the very best wool must be made available to the Australian people. That is particularly important at a time like the present when cloth containing only 50 per cent, of wool is masquerading as wool and other so-called woollen materials are loaded with wool of inferior quality. In these circumstances the industry must redouble its activities in the research field. Whilst officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and associated physicists and chemists who are attacking this problem have the know-how, we must recognize the importance of providing adequate finance for their activities. Under this measure we are merely refilling the coffers for that purpose, by supplying the proportion of the funds that the Government has promised to provide. The amount proposed to be provided may appear to be adequate, but I urge the Government to watch the position very closely, particularly the march of progress of synthetics, and to give to the consumer a fair go by ensuring that woollen material shall be properly labelled, so that persons who pay for wool will get wool instead of a conglomeration of inferior textiles, which may be injurious to health and are, undoubtedly, inferior to wool. The amount proposed to be made available under this measure does not appear to be extremely high. As the Minister has said, the amount that now stands to the credit of the research section of the Wool Use Promotion Fund should form the nucleus of a fund which will help us to meet the attack that is being waged daily, and almost hourly, by chemists and physicists in their attempts to find a substitute for wool. In the long run, they may succeed, but, in the meantime, it is our duty as Australians to support any action that the Government may take to ensure that until the real fight has been joined we shall use all fair means to maintain for wool the pre-eminence that it enjoys to-day.
.- The object of this bill is to implement an assurance that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) gave to the House last session that the Government would make a contribution to the wool industry for research purposes. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that the Chifley Government had put aside an amount equal to that which the wool-growers themselves had provided for research purposes. That statement is completely incorrect. During the regime of the Chifley Government the growers put aside an amount of £7,000,000 for this purpose. Does any honorable member opposite claim that that Government did likewise? Everyone knows the answer to that question. Of course, that Government did no such thing. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, said that the wool-growers, themselves, proposed that they should contribute at the rate of 4s. a bale to finance research; and that request was complied with under a previous measure. In this bill the Government is making a contribution at the rate of 2s. a bale. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) - I do not agree with the honorable member for Bourke that that honorable member has an extensive knowledge of the wool industry - in his speech was inclined to give advice to the experts even officers of the ‘Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Every honorable member admits the existence of the threat to wool from synthetics, but those who are handling this fund are doing a reasonable job because this year and last year have been two of the best years that the industry had ever experienced. That fact refutes the claim by the honorable member for Wannon that the industry is flagging because of a decreased demand for wool. Only yesterday, at the Newcastle wool sales five bales of greasy wool sold at 24Sd. per lb. and the market continued upwards with strong competition from all sections and improved support from the American buyers the average price being SOd. per lb. Current prices indicate that world demand is strong and that these men are doing a good job in research. Ever since the opening of the wool sales this season prices have continued upwards. This is a simple bill. 1 whole-heartedly support it because it is in the interests of the industry.
– in reply - The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) claimed that now for the first time since 1945 the wool industry was making a contribution for research and propaganda purposes, whilst the Government was not making any contribution at all. That statement is not correct because the Government’s contribution at the rate cf 2s. a bale will be made in respect of the current financial year and will not be made merely as from to-day. It is really continuing a contribution at that rate. As I have already said, the contribution by the growers is the outcome of a proposal which they themselves made through the Australian Wool Board, the personnel of which consists almost entirely of growers. They requested the Government to amend the existing legislation to enable a levy to be imposed on wool not at the rate of 2s. a bale, as has operated hitherto, but up to a maximum rate of 5s. a bale on the understanding that the levy actually imposed each year would be at a rate that the growers themselves recommended. In respect of the current year, they have recommended a levy at the rate of 4s. a bale. When that suggestion was advanced the representatives of the growers stated in explicit terms that they did not expect the Government to increase its contribution to match that made by the growers. The two contributions are used for different purposes. That made by the wool-growers is used for wool use promotion and, probably, the greater proportion of it is expended outside Australia to encourage the use of wool and to establish the claims of wool in other countries. The contribution by the Government at the rate of 2s. a bale is used for research purposes-.
Whilst it is the function of an Opposition to criticize any proposal that the Government may submit, and whilst I do not complain about criticism of that kind, in this instance the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) have made constructive suggestions. The honorable member for Lalor suggested that the contribution that is now being made by the industry might be suspended. As I am sure that he did not intend that there should be a cessation of wool use promotion activities, I can only conclude that he believes that the Government rather than the industry should provide the finance required for that purpose.
– I suggested that such :i contribution should be made from the Wool Use Promotion Fund which is now approaching the sum of £8,000,000.
– The honorable member, hy interjection, has clarified his view. It is that as an alternative to a contribution by the wool industry, the wool industry fund, which stands at £7,000,000, should be drawn upon. I put it to the House that that is not a good proposal. Wool is averaging at least £80 a bale. On that value, a wool-grower who sells £15,000 worth of wool in a year will contribute less than £20 to wool use promotion at the rate of 2s. a bale. Now it is proposed to double that amount. When the wool-growers themselves have shown their willingness to pay 4s. a bale towards the interests of their own industry, there is no reason why the Government should agree to the honorable member’s proposal. His proposition implies that the Government should draw upon a capital fund and exhaust it in due course. The capita] fund now totals about £7,000,000. The wool-growers’ contribution this year will be about £700,000. Therefore, if the Government accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for Lalor, the fund would be exhausted in ten years. I think that the Government has acted correctly in accepting the proposal of the wool-growers that, during their period of great prosperity, they should make this modest contribution to the stability of their own industry through wool use promotion. The Government, in continuing to contribute to the cost of research at the rate of approximately £350,000 a year, is obviously making adequate contribution. That is emphasized by the fact that earlier Government contributions to the fund have not been used. There has been no prohibition upon their use, but the accumulated unspent amount totalled £900,000 last June. The proposition that the Government should contribute at a higher rate is not a good one when such a large unused balance stands to the credit of the Wool Research Trust Account. It is easy to urge that the Government should pay more money into the fund. In fact, the Government does not pay the money. The people pay it through ordinary taxation. While the honorable member’s proposition may sound attractive across th. table in this chamber, in fact it is a proposal to increase taxation for the purpose of making a higher contribution to the Wool Research Trust Account in which there is already a surplus. T reject it and I am sure that every ODe would want the Government to do so. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I may refer now to the wool textile labelling proposals that have been mentioned previously.
– Order ! The Minister may refer to the matter, but I ask him to be brief.
– The controversy on the labelling of woollen textiles does not turn upon the willingness of the Government to implement it, but upon the technical possibility .of analysing woollen fabrics which contain virgin wool, re-used and reprocessed wools. Honorable members and, indeed, the Australian Wool Board itself, have complained that the Government should legislate to provide that the quantities of wool of different categories in textiles should be indicated. The. cold truth is that the Government will not legislate to insist upon a requirement that cannot be policed, and no government should do so. Whether it can be policed or not is a matter for scientists to determine. I have a letter from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization dated the 5th March, 1952, and addressed to the permanent head of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which contains some useful information on the labelling of textiles. It states -
In reply to your memorandum of the 13th ult., we have now consulted our Wool Textile Research Laboratory at Geelong. The OfficerinCharge there has commented to us as follows : - “ In reply to your enquiry concerning a method of estimating the content of re-used and re-processed wool in a given textile, we are aware of the American technique which depends on a visual microscopic estimation of the percentage of mechanically damaged fibres in a sample of the material. However, this method is by no moans quantitative and requires extreme skill on the part of the person carrying out the test in order to give results of any significance. A reason for this is that wool can be mechanically damaged in normal processing and need not necessarily be re-processed to give similar surface damage. “ As the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has requested a test to determine the content of virgin re-used and re-processed wool, this technique would not be suitable for their purposes. It could, however, be used to determine whether a fabric consisted of 100% virgin wool provided there was no unusual damage ‘ in processing. It should be possible also to apply it in ascertaining whether a material contains, say, 50% or more re-processed or re-used wool. However, quite a lot is left to the personal judgment and experience of the observer carrying out such estimations and a test would only be reliable when large amounts of damaged fibres are present, or else when there are none at all.”
I hope the above will be of some assistance in replying to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. (Signed) G. A. Cook, Secretary.
– The Government is clearly willing to introduce legislation requiring manufacturers to state the content of wool in fabrics and to require also a statement of the other fibres that are contained in the fabrics in the order of their dominance. That is the only practical proposal that can be policed according to our technical and scientific advisers.
– When will it be done?
– It has not been done because it is not acceptable to the Australian Wool Board and is inconsistent with the legislation that has been passed by the State governments.
– That is the old story.
– It is true that it is an old story. It is also a story that I should like to see brought to finality, but whether the story is old or new, we cannot bring it to finality by asking this Parliament to pass legislation that cannot be policed. Our scientific advisers have assured us that that is the position.
– Your proposed new method could be policed so far as imports are concerned irrespective of what the States may do ultimately.
– Order ! The debate is getting beyond the scope of the bill.
– That is all that I wish to say upon the subject. Last week I tabled the annual report of the Australian Wool Board which offered some observations on the matter. The Melbourne Argus and the Sydney Daily Telegraph published a report under prominent headings stating that the Australian Wool Board had attacked me. The board did not attack rae personally or as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but such baseless charges by newspapers are not a new experience for most honorable members. Members of Parliament can make mistakes and correct them. When newspapers make mistakes, it is not their habit to correct them and we have long since ceased to expect them to do so. This legislation is framed simply to give 2s. a bale to the Wool Research Fund and for one other purpose only. That is to remove the provision from the earlier legislation which authorizes the appropriate Minister to direct that a certain proportion of the money for wool use promotion should be used for research. As the money for wool use promotion will now be provided entirely by the growers upon their own suggestion, the provision is in accordance with their wishes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should not have intruded in this debate except for the fact that I appear to have annoyed the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes).
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has not spoken in the debate in committee, and I shall not permit the honorable member to traverse the second-reading debate again at this stage.
– I was criticized because I was supposed apparently to know nothing of what I was talking about-
– I rise to a point of order! In spite of your ruling, Mr.
Deputy Chairman, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is continuing to refer to statements that I made during the second-reading debate.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! [ was just beginning to reach that conclusion myself. The honorable member for Wannon will deal with the clauses in the bill.
– The clauses in the bill refer to research into wool and its uses. In spite of what other honorable members have said, I repeat that the money is provided for research. The labelling of fabrics is proposed for the protection of the wool industry. I know that the honorable members opposite do not believe in such protection although some of them pose as members of the Australian Country party. Labelling is practicable although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) is trying to evade it. He read a letter to the effect that the wool industry cannot be protected in that way. The money that is to be provided under the provisions of the bill could be used for that purpose.
– The honorable member should not be discussing that letter.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN”. - Order ! I call the honorable member for Wannon to order.
– I do not wish to defy your ruling, Mr. Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member is succeeding in doing so, nevertheless. He cannot reply to the honorable member for Mallee because he has not spoken in this debate.
– Then I shall forget all about it. All I intended to do was reply to the Minister. We of the Labour party believe that labelling is important, as also do the wool-growers. We import large quantities of fabrics into this country. Those fabrics contain, not only fibres of reprocessed wool but also artificial fibres, which constitute a great threat to our wool industry. The Commonwealth Parliament could pass legislation under which it would be compulsory for importers of woollen textiles to state the percentages of various fibres contained in such materials. Surely the Minister does not suggest that our scientists could not detect the presence of artificial fibres in fabrics. I want to know why the Government has not introduced legislation that requires textiles to be labelled in the way that I have suggested. It would not be difficult to discover whether labels were inaccurate, or to detect the presence of artificial fibres in material that was described as consisting entirely, for instance, of pure wool. The presence of artificial fibres could be detected more easily than the presence of reprocessed wool. The Government can offer no valid excuse for its failure to. protect our wool industry by requiring textiles to be labelled, because we could detect the presence of artificial fibres such as rayon that were masquerading under the name of wool.
.- I intervene in this debate mainly because from time to time my ability to speak upon matters of this kind has been criticized. I believe that, having regard to my background, my capacity to speak upon this measure is greater than that of many members of the Australian Country party in this chamber. I come from a pioneering grazing family in the northern part of New South Wales.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable gentleman’s family is not mentioned in this bill.
– I apologize for having digressed. Before I offered a few comments upon this measure, I wanted to inform the House of my background in this connexion and, in so doing, to reply to, for instance, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar), who is a shopkeeper; the -right honorable member for McPherson (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is an accountant; the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is a doctor; the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who is a journalist; the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), who .is a businessman; the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who is an author; and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who is a motor mechanic, and not a very good one. They are the people who criticize honorable members on this side of the chamber when they defend the interests of consumers, or speak upon matters that affect all sections of the community. Not one of the honorable members I have mentioned has any real farming interests. I believe that the background and the knowledge of country interests possessed by myself and other honorable members on this side of the chamber gives us as much right to speak upon issues of this kind as members of the Australian Country party. I hope that we shall hear no further illfounded criticism of the ability of members of the Labour party to speak upon measures that affect both primary producers and consumers.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st October (vide page 3422), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this measure is to give legislative backing to a plan, already in operation, for the stabilization of the dairying industry. The bill has several interesting features. It makes provision for the payment of a bounty, for the fixation of the price of butter, and for the distribution of a stabilization fund. The secondreading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) covered 29 pages of short foolscap. When the honorable gentleman had finished his speech, the debate was adjourned for only about 24 hour3. Therefore, it is impossible for me to deal with every angle of the problems to which the Minister referred. To sum up, he outlined the existing situation, made a reference to past history, dealt with the existing contract with the United Kingdom Government, indicated that, in his opinion, this Government was much more generous to the dairying industry than was the Labour Government which preceded it-
– The Minister dealt with solid facts.
– I shall deal with solid facts, and when I have done so honorable gentlemen opposite will not be as confident as they are now. The Minister stated that this scheme, compared with the scheme introduced and implemented by the Chifley Government, was generous, and he made some reference to the need to increase the efficiency of the dairying industry. Before the Minister took credit to himself for doing the right thing, he should have informed the House of the pledges that this Government made to the electors in 1949 in connexion with the dairying industry. I propose to refresh the memories of honorable members about those pledges, because, more than anything else, they have discredited this Government during its term of office. In 1949, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech, said -
In particular, we support a long-term stabilization of the dairying industry for ten years (by subsidy where price is not raised).
I suggest that the honorable member who interjected just now should note that statement by the Prime Minister. The words “ by subsidy where price is not raised “ are important, because they imply that, in the event of difficulties occurring with the State governments, which are the price-fixing authorities, a subsidy will be paid to cover any deficiency caused by the refusal of a State government to increase the prices of dairy products. The present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in a policy speech delivered in 1949, stated the policy of the Australian Country party in this connexion in the following words : -
To stabilize the dairying industry and other primary industries, we favour the payment to producers of incentive guaranteed minimum prices for at least ten years.
I emphasize that, although both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer made a promise to stabilize the dairying industry for a period of ten years, the present plan is for only a five-year period. Neither of the right honorable gentlemen said that the stabilization of the dairying industry by the payment of guaranteed prices would be other than a total stabilization, covering the whole of the products of the industry.
The five-year stabilization plan of the Chifley Government expired at the end of July of this year. The period between 1949 and the expiration of the plan has been one of obscurity and uncertainty. It is true that this Government found that it was confronted with grave difficulties when it attacked the (problem of the formulation of a policy for the continuation of the stabilization of the dairying industry. But the problem with which the Government was confronted was intensified, and had in fact been created, by the advice that the present Government parties, when they were in Opposition, gave to the electors of this country. That advice did more than anything else to destroy any possible chance of the Commonwealth becoming the final authority for the fixation of the ea-factory price of butter or of the price of any other commodity. Before the Government had been in office for long, it found that the cost of producing butter and cheese in Australia was soaring, and that some State governments, quite rightly, were unwilling to increase the cost of butter and cheese to consumers, despite rising costs of production. The State governments had no commitment to the dairymen, but the Commonwealth was committed, under the Chifley Government plan, and by their own election promises, to pay the ascertained costs of production. ‘In the absence of the power that the Chifley Government had sought at a referendum in which it was opposed by the Minister and his supporters, the Commonwealth could not, without the consent of the States, determine the prices of butter and cheese to the consumers. That was a problem with which the Chifley Government was confronted in 1949, because the State governments hesitated to pass increased costs of production on to the consumers. Inflation was on the move, and the Commonwealth had no power to fix prices, although it had sought such power from the people. It is necessary to emphasize that point in dealing with the plan envisaged by this measure.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, traversed the history of this problem. I can ‘pass over most of what he said in that connexion, because it is not relevant to the difficulties with which the Government and the dairying industry are confronted. When the honorable gentleman spoke about the stabilization plan of the Chifley Government and about the general treatment of the dairying industry by that Government, he was, in my opinion, exceedingly mean and exceedingly inaccurate. Under the administration of the Chifley Government, even before a stabilization plan came into operation, the dairying industry of this country had been placed upon, a reasonably sound basis for the first time. What did the Minister say to the Parliament, in his second-reading speech-, and doubtless, to the people of this country through the press ? He said -
Reverting to the proposition of a stabilisation plan on orthodox lines 1 think it not unfair to say that by contrast with this Government’s approach the political policy or philosophy of a Labour Government is such that where an industry seeks the protection of the Commonwealth Treasury it is felt by Labour to be a legitimate quid pro quo that in return for Treasury guarantee the product of the industry shall be sold to consumers at a figure no higher than is calculated to sustain the existence of the industry on a low standard basis.
– That is nice.
– The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr.- Treloar) says, “ That is nice “. I thought he would come into the debate, and I shall prove to him in a moment or two, not by offering my opinion but by placing before the House the opinions of people engaged in the industry, that the Minister’s view is wrong. The Minister proceeded to say -
Indeed it was the mean exactitude with which this protection of consumer interest was provided for in the Chifley Government’s live-year guaranteed price plan, which caused–
Note these words - great dissatisfaction within the dairying industry over the details of that plan and I believe caused’ a contraction of the industry which it was supposed to expand. That plan, as is this plan, was related to costs of production.
I do not ask the House to accept my affirmation that it was not a mean plan. I concede that the formulation and operation of such a plan as the Curtin and Chifley Governments established during the war must always he conditioned by a regard, not only for the interest of con.sumers, but also for .the national interests. In such matters there should be no question of giving an advantage to one set of people in preference to another. The only proper regard that a good government should have is a regard for justice for all the people who participate in performing the national work of the country. I turn now to the facts that will refute effectively the interjection of the honorable member for Gwydir. In 1946 a delegation representing dairy-farmers waited on the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley. In making its submissions to Mr. Chifley, and asking for a costing instrumentality for the industry, its representatives said -
In submitting the principle of this resolution for your endorsement, the dairying industry desires to frankly record its appreciation of the sympathetic treatment received since 1041 from the Commonwealth Government.
Note that they said “ from 1941 “, which was the year in which the ‘Curtin Labour Government was returned to office. The statement continued -
More particularly, the Government’s policy for assistance to the industry since 1st April, 1P4JJ, lias created a new outlook for those engaged in dairying.
Those are not my words, but are the words of representatives of the industry. The statement continued -
This pleasing result over the last two seasons had’ been due to the fact that, after many years of inadequate prices-
And I remind the honorable member for Gwydir that a government of the same political outlook as the present Government, which he supports, was in office at that time - - financial returns to dairy farmers have been based upon figures presented by the industry itself as representing reasonable costs of production. Also it is beyond doubt that the level of financial returns established by the Government for ‘these years has been an outstanding factor in maintaining dairy production at a reasonable level, despite the disabilities and handicaps imposed by war.
Mr. E. E. Davies, of Bass, in the Gippsland electorate, which is a great dairying centre, who was general secretary of the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association, had this to say, according to the
Melbourne Argus’, of the 12th July, 1944-
The dairying industry bega.ni the war with a bad reputation, for low and unstable prices had made it the agricultural Cinderella and had been the direct cause of bad wages and long hours. Those who could go to more attractive jobs did so. Then the services recruited all our sons and daughters-
Let me interpolate here that the people who recruited the sons and daughters of dairy-farmers were not members of the Curtin Government, but members of the first Menzies Government.
– That is not so.
– It was the Curtin Government which put an end to the recruitment of the sons and daughters of men on the land, because it realized that under the circumstances they were better employed in agricultural work. Mr. Davis’s statement continued - and the farms, denuded of man-power, began to decline ki productivity and efficiency.
Mr. G. C. Howey, of Colac, in tho Corangamite electorate, who was president of the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association, said, according to the Gippsland and Northern Go-operator -
Firstly, as far as price is concerned, thanks to the subsidy provided by the Commonwealth Government, the industry is now, I believe, on the soundest basis which, to my knowledge, it has ever been, taking all factors into consideration, but dairy-farmers are disturbed at the thought that the assistance given (which only counter the protection given to secondary industries) may be taken away at the whim of any government.
Mr. Christie, of Rochester, in the Bendigo electorate, president of the Herd Testing Association said, according to the Melbourne Argus of the 9 th September, 1944 -
If men cannot make dairying a sound economical proposition to-day, they never will.
Mr. Shier, of Bamawn, in the same electorate, said, according to the same newspaper -
You will find production firm despite the season, confidence high, and more cows being milked than ever before.
Mr. Bruce Smith, of Shepparton, which is in the electorate of Indi, which was then held by the Minister, said, according to the same newspaper in its issue of the 9th August, 1944 - .
Mr. Smith said he had maintained his herd at about 40 cows after losing his permanent labour early in the war - hoped to. increase to 50 cows this season -with the help of a young son, said the subsidy had tended to stabilize the industry.
Mr. Watson, of Shepparton North, said, according to the Argus of 26th August, 1944 -
The price was too low before the war. It was only the man -with his family working in partnership with him regardless- of hours, who was making dairying pay.
Mr. McEwen interjecting,
– This is the sort of thing you have invited. You have got it, and you must accept it quietly.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should not deny himself the pleasure of addressing me.
– I prefer to address you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. P. Glennen according to the Argus of the 30th August, 1944, said -
The subsidy was badly needed and has been a real boon. You now feel that you are getting something for your labour.
The following statement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 15th October, 1947 :-
The higher price for commercial butter announced by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, on Monday is confidently expected to result in a dairying boom, with substantially increased production.
Dairy farmers will receive, retrospective to April 1st, 2s. a lb. against the previous payment of ls. 7 id. This represents an increase of about 23 per cent, in their income. Further, prices are guaranteed for five years.
At the North Coast Show at Lismore yesterday hundreds of dairy farmers discussed the new price and toasted what they referred to as their “ new era “.
Immediate reaction at the South Grafton cattle sales was that heifers, which last week would have brought £13, sold to £17 5s.
Mr. R. 0. Gibson, president of the Australian Primary Producers Union, said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald of the same day - “ A little light still, but the nearest approach yet made to production costs realities,” was how the general .president of the Primary Producers Union, Mr. K,. C. Gibson, described the new price at Lismore yesterday. “ It will now be possible for any farmer to see exactly how he can adapt himself, knowing with certainty that the price will last for five years.” he said. “ The Prime Minister’s announcement marks the culmination of many years’ effort to secure a price based on cost of production and guaranteed for years. “ In addition to a new price, a valuable feature is that £250,000 is to be allotted annually to help promote production. Another valuable feature is that reviews will be made each year to determine upward or downward movements in dairy costs. This will add to the sense of security of those in the dairy industry.”
The report continued -
Other comments were: - “The Chairman of the Grafton Dairy Company, Mr. W. M. L. Hughes: The new price undoubtedly will give heart to producers. There will be a big influx of new supplies “.
The Ballarat Courier of the 14th September, 1948, contained the following report : -
– The honorable member must be running out of original matter, when he has to read all those extracts.
– I asked honorable members opposite to accept, not my opinion, but the opinions of the accredited representatives of the industry. I can understand how disconcerted the honorable member is to have those opinions provided. The Brisbane Courier-Mail referred, on the 25th September, 1948, to the position on the Darling Downs in the following words : -
Practically the whole of the financial year was generally favourable on the Darling Downs for dairying.
This was stated to-day at the annual meeting of the Downs Co-operative Dairy Association by the Chairman of directors, Mr. W. F. Kajewski. There had been a very pronounced increase in both butter and cheese production, he continued, which, combined with the increase in the guaranteed price, had assisted to create a record turnover and payment to suppliers.
Notwithstanding increased wages and costs of materials, the cost per lb. of butter manufactured showed a gratifying reduction. After payment of income tax for the years 194.4-45 amounting to £2,208 the credit balance of the profit and loss account was £2,006, from which a dividend of 3 per cent, on paid-up capital was recommended. The recommendation was adopted.
In 1948, Mr. Gibson said, after the Chifley Government’s five-year plan had been in operation for five years -
The dairying industry in New South Wales has just been through its first experience of the change in price structure which is part of the machinery set up just over a year ago to ensure stability to the industry. It would be true to say that dairy farmers generally waited somewhat anxiously to see how things could work out during this first change.
It can now be said that those engaged in the industry have viewed with great satisfaction the implementation of the recommendation of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee by which the return to the producer is 2s. 2d. per lb. commercial butter delivered at the factory platform, and the cost of manufacture within the factory has been fixed at 2.55d. per lb. commercial butter.
Dairy farmers can now look ahead and plan for the future, .secure in the knowledge that their returns will be related to their production costs.
I have many more similar extracts that I have not time to read, hut I point out that, following those tributes in respect of the Chifley Government’s five-year plan, a referendum on prices control was held. As a result of the defeat of that referendum, the subsequent advent of the present Government in 1949, and its failure to put value into the fi, there was a disastrous increase of the costs of production of dairy-farmers and other primary producers. The formula for assessing costs as laid down by the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, which was established by the Chifley Government at the industry’s request, then became inadequate, and this Government found it necessary to make some considerable changes in the formula. That is not astonishing because any new plan must inevitably, with the passage of time, and more particularly in an inflationary period, reveal weaknesses and the need for improvement. It is true, as the Minister has said, that some improvements have been made by the Government, but overall, and in view of the problems of increased prices that confront dairy-farmers and the rest of the community, the improvements made by the Minister mean no additional reward to the dairy-farmer. The Minister pointed out that the Labour Government had accepted a recommendation of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, which was contained in a minority report of the committee, that the Government should allow, in assessing costs of production, an amount of 25s. a week to the owner-manager of a farm iri respect of his additional skill as .compared with an employee. I have not had time to take out the actual figures, but we may take it that the basic wage has doubled since that time, and that the award rates of pay in the industry, wherever they exist, would be approximately £12 a week, or £600 per annum. If we double the amount of 25s. a week set down by the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, and add the result to the £600, we are not far short of the boasted figure of £800, which is now allowed in the assessment of the cost of production under the Minister’s new arrangement.
-The figure of £800 was reached about eighteen months ago. It now exceeds £900.
– At that time, the Minister was fully aware of the dreadful rate at which prices were galloping. I consider that the increase is amply justified. All these plans reveal some weaknesses, and room for improvement exists. I do not believe that the Minister has occasion to preen his feathers, and take credit for what has been done.
Some criticism has been levelled at the acceptance by the Chifley Labour Government of the basis of a 56-hour week for the assessment of costs of production on a dairy farm. The Minister has informed the House that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was the Minister for Labour and National Service in 1943 when a national security regulation was promulgated covering award rates for persons in the dairying industry. That is quite true. The award was sought by the representatives of the employees, and the dairy farmers pressed strongly for the adoption of the basis of a 56-hbur week for the purposes of .computation. The Labour Govern-ment took the view that if the dairy farmer advocated a 56-Jiour working week for ‘his employees the value of his labour should be assessed on the same basis. Since that time, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has declared a 40-hour working week, and employees in most industries work on that basis! Consequently, it is only just that, in the changed circumstances, the assessment of the costs of the dairying industry should be based on a 40-hour week. However, the Minister has attempted to lead us to believe that the 40-hour week prevailed from the inception of the inquiries of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee.
– That is the impression I gained from the Minister’s second-reading speech. He went even further when he criticized the original costing formula, and said in reference to the interest allowable -
At the same time, the rate of interest on the farmers’ own invested capital in the Labour Government’s costing worked out at 34 per cent., that being the then bond rate of interest for Commonwealth Securities.
I shall examine the facts. The minority report of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee was accepted by this Government.
– I shall explain the reason to the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who has asked a most intelligent question, but in order to do so, I must mention the composition of the J oint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee. I point out, in passing, that the Minister promised in 1949 that an independent tribunal would be appointed. He has not honoured that promise, and, consequently, I conclude that he is willing to accept the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee as a suitable body. The personnel of that committee at the time this report was made, was as follows: - Mr. Crawford, the Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics; Mr. Spencer, an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Nette, an officer of the Treasury, Mr. Kelly, an officer of the Prices Branch, Mr. Sheehy, the controller of Dairy Products. Mr, Gibson, Mr. Howey, and. Mr. Thompson, representing the dairy farmers and. Mr. Norton. The representatives of the dairy farmers, naturally, were in favour of the amount of 2s. 2-£d. per lb. The representatives of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Treasury, and the Prices Branch, who had no direct interest in the matter, recommended an amount of 2s. per lb. and stated their reasons. No Government that appoints a tribunal to inquire into the cost of an industry can afford to accept as absolute and final the recommendations of persons who are directly concerned in it. One could understand that the dairy farmers would strongly advocate the adoption of the price of 2s. 2½d. per lb., but the government of the day had the responsibility of deciding a price that was fair and just in all the circumstances. It decided to accept the figure of 2s. per lb.
A few minutes ago, I referred to interest rates. Mr. Gibson, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Nette and Mr. Howey made the following report on that matter: -
The allowance in the survey of 4* per cent, interest on farmers’ own capital, equivalent to 4-Jd. per lb. in the return, is liberal in terms of returns on alternative first-class investment which is about 3 per cent.
The Labour Government did not depart from the recommendations in the majority and minority reports and fix the interest rates at 3 -J per cent. How the Minister has estimated that the interest rate allowable is 3J per cent, when, in fact, it is a fraction less than &i per cent. I do not know. Perhaps he will be able to explain that matter.
– Yes, I can explain it.
– The majority report contains the following statement: -
Borrowed Capital: Interest on borrowed money was charged at the rates actually paid by farmers individually.
Farmers’ Equity: An interest rate of 4* per cent., on values of farmers’ equity was agreed upon by the committee.
The minority report considered that an interest rate of 3 per cent, would be reasonable. The Government neither accepted nor rejected that opinion. It accepted the price of 2s. per lb. The Minister may be able to explain the reason for that decision.
– The costing authorities in the department at that time could adjust the reduction of 2/d. per lb. only by treating the interest rate as 3^ per. cent.
– The costing authorities could take any arbitrary factor, and use it as the reason for the reduction. Why was the interest rate chosen when other factors, such as labour costs, could have been selected to explain away the 2d?
– The absolute factors could not be chosen.
– Therefore the interest rate of 3& per cent, could not be fixed.
– The other factors were absolute costa.
– I shall, now deal with other matters raised by the Minister in his second-reading speech. He has been all too revealing. He has astonished me. Over a long period, he has told this House, and, in fact, he has almost contradicted himself on this issue, in his second-reading speech that the contract entered into by the Chifley Labour Government with the United Kingdom Government in 1948 for the supply of butter and cheese to Great Britain for seven years was a bad one, and was one of the factors that added to the present Government’s difficulties. The Minister has never hesitated to emphasize his opinion that the Chifley Labour Government adopted the wrong policy when it entered into the contract at the prices determined at that time. The contract included a proviso that the prices should be reviewed annually, and should not be increased or decreased by more than 7£ per cent. The Minister seemed to consider that the Chifley Labour Government was prepared to give away Australian butter and cheese at prices that did not secure for the dairy-farmers an adequate return. He was reported in the Australian press as uttering a veiled threat that if the United Kingdom did not come to heel in respect of prices, our butter and cheese would be sold in other markets. The Minister is now a wiser and a more experienced man. He has revealed, in his second-reading speech, that practically no overseas market other than the United Kingdom is available for Australia’s butter and cheese. When the Minister engaged in the negotiations, he undoubtedly had the greatest difficulty in extracting from the United Kingdom Government even the increase of 1 per cent, for which provision was made in the contract. I am glad that he has confessed that the contract entered into by the Chifley Government was not bad after all.
– I did not at any time threaten to break the contract.
– Oh, no! But the Minister was near to doing so.
– The Minister was reported in the press as saying some tough things about the people of the United Kingdom. The Chifley Labour Government did a great deal to assist them in their hour of trial and need, and continued butter rationing in Australia. Apparently the Minister needs to be reminded of the fact that when he was in opposition he constantly claimed that the Chifley Labour Government was not treating the people of the United Kingdom as generously as they deserved to be treated. I am glad that the Minister has openly confessed in his second-reading speech -
If the Ministry of Pood were willing to tear up this contract to-day, we would not he better off unless the Ministry of Food was then prepared to pay us a higher price than New Zealand and other principal suppliers.
In those words, the Minister practically confesses that the contract obtained by the Labour Government in 1947 was the best that could be secured ; and that if the contract were torn up to-morrow we should not be any better off unless the Ministry of Food agreed to pay us a higher price. Perhaps the people of the United Kingdom cannot afford to pay more for Australian butter and cheese, although they need those foods so urgently. The Minister has confessed that he obtained the consent of the British Ministry of Food to sell 15,000 tons of Australian butter and cheese in markets other than the United Kingdom. In other words, a substantial quantity of our dairy produce, so urgently required by our kinsfolk in Great Britain, was to be sold to the great Americas, which had plenty of food. However, the Minister confessed that he failed to dispose of hardly a pound of our butter and cheese in foreign markets.
– No, we sold a great deal of our butter and cheese.
– We sold a few thousand tons in the islands and to a few sources in the dollar area. But the point which I emphasize is that the Minister sought to deprive the United Kingdom of some thousands of tons of Australian butter and cheese, and failed completely to do so. For my part, I am damned pleased that he did fail, because the people of the United Kingdom need Australian butter and cheese, and should get those commodities, even if the prices they can afford to pay are not so attractive as he thinks they should be. After all, the British drive a hard bargain. I know, because I have bargained with them, and have found it. difficult, on the ground of common humanity, to beat them for a hard price. We were not always’ easy to deal with, but we took a reasonable view of the problems of the United Kingdom. When I make that statement, I do not imply that the Minister has not tried hard to get the best possible bargain he can for Australia. Indeed, he has done so. He even went to the point of making a veiled threat that Australian butter and cheese would be sold in markets other than the United Kingdom.
The Minister has pointed out that the costing basis to-day is more generous than was previously the case. I am doubtful about that claim, because of another factor in the stabilization plan. The Labour Government offered a guaranteed price for every 1 lb. of butter and cheese both for local consumption and export. Admittedly, the costing basis at that time was not as good as the present basis, but nevertheless, the Labour Government guaranteed the price for every 1 lb. of butter exported or consumed in Australia. The present Government’s new stabilization plan covers all locally-consumed butter and cheese, but only 20 per cent, of the export quantity. I believe the dairying industry is on the upward path, and it could conceivably happen that, in a year when large quantities of butter and cheese were exported, the producer would be paid on a substantial percentage of those commodities an amount less than the ascertained guaranteed cost of production.
– - In those circumstances his costs would be lower.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) indicates that if a farmer has a good yield the guaranteed price could be reduced and if he has a bad year the guaranteed price could be increased. I point out to the honorable member that the- guaranteed price is designed to cover the whole period for which the plan will operate. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture approached the Treasury about the matter, but the Treasury refused to assist him because it considered that there were too many reasons against the granting of such assistance. Probably the Treasury considered that soon Australia would be able to export 60,000 or 70,000 tons of butter and because of the loss sustained on the lower export prices the Treasury would sustain vast losses under the guaranteed price scheme. The Opposition accepts no responsibility for the losses suffered through exporting our produce, because such losses are due to this Government allowing costs to increase to such a great degree in this country that it has been necessary to increase the guaranteed prices. During the period of the last Labour Government’s guaranteed price plan the costs of production in Australia were substantially less than the prices being received under the contract with the United Kingdom. During a long period of time, therefore, the stabilization fund was built up to nearly £4,000,000. Under this bill that stabilization fund will be used to recoup the Government for any losses that it may sustain.
– No, it will be used to make good the losses that would occur in respect of butter sold but not covered by the guaranteed price-
– The fund is to be utilized to make good losses on that portion of our product which may not be covered by the 20 per cent, allowance.
– At the discretion of the Australian Dairy Produce Board.
– The Minister’s statement indicated that under the Chifley plan a surplus was available in the stabilization fund, but that this Government has allowed costs to bolt and there is not now enough money for the rehabilitation of the industry. I congratulate the Minister for emphasizing the need to increase efficiency in the dairying industry. In some parts of the Commonwealth the industry is deplorably inefficient, and the cost structure is carrying the burden of a great number of inefficient dairy farmers. During the term of office of the Chifley Government that fact was appreciated, and as part of our stabilization plan we provided £250,000 per annum for five years to each of the six States to enable the State departments of agriculture to assist dairy farmers, on conditions approved by the Australian Government, to increase the efficiency of the industry. There was a great need for increased efficiency, and the upward trend now apparent in the dairying industry is due to that action of the Chifley Government and many other factors. Among those factors is the fact that wool prices are not as high as they were last year. The dairying industry is more stable than any other farming industry because of the Chifley Government’s actions. In no small measure is its stability due to the expenditure of the £250,000 a year by each State government during the last five years in an attempt to increase its efficiency.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and myself visited America in 1945. I was tremendously impressed, not with the research work of the Americans, but with the efficiency with which the American authorities disseminated their research discoveries to the people concerned. [Extension of time granted.’) That situation compared more than favorably with the Australian state of affairs. In Australia our research and allied organizations hold a wealth of material that is of great value to farmers, but which is just not distributed to them and used by them. We decided that, out of the £250,000 a year that the Chifley Government provided to the States, approximately £20,000 should be spent in disseminating material of vital use to the farmers. Frequently a farmer comes home at night and is too tired to read his agricultural newspapers or magazines. When a problem arises that he knows has been dealt with in one of those publications he may go to look for it and find that Mum has burnt it under the copper. In many farms there is no record of information that is most valuable in increasing the efficiency of farming operations. I believe that those engaged in the dairying industry should have text-books at their disposal just as medical men, engineers and lawyers have their reference libraries. Therefore, in co-operation with the State governments, I arranged that each dairy-farmer should be issued with a very valuable text-book. That book contains the solution of most of the problems that arise in connexion with the industry. The Victorian Government distributed this book throughout its State during the time I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, and Queensland and other States distributed the book during the regime of this Government. I suggest that more work of this nature should be done so that more farmers can utilize the results of research. The Labour party will support this measure. I have criticized the bill in some respects, and I resent the Government decrying what was done for the dairying industry by the previous Labour Government. I suggest that the Minister is taking some of the credit that rightly belongs to - the Chifley Government.
– Honorable members have just listened to a speech by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government and who, more than any one else in Australia, must accept responsibility for the damage that has been done to the dairying industry during recent years. For some years now there has been a steady move from the dairying industry to other industries which have appeared to be more profitable. The main reasons for that drift can be attributed to the plan that was sponsored during the regime of the previous Labour Government by the honorable member for Lalor. That plan envisaged low-living conditions in the dairying industry and was based on a 56-hour week for both employers and employees. The low cost structure for costing on invested capital, adversely affected public opinion as far the dairying industry is concerned, and all valuations under the plan were on a 1942 basis.
The honorable member for Lalor complained about the short time allowed for the preparation of his speech. I suggest that a period of 24 hours is certainly not unreasonable. Moreover, this plan has been in operation for some months, and during all that time the honorable member has had an opportunity to study its full implications. Therefore, he cannot claim that he has not had time to examine completely the details of the measure now before the chamber. The honorable member mentioned the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies) policy speech, and referred to subsidies being granted to industries whose product prices were not allowed to increase. I point out to the honorable member that this Government has continued those subsidies and has increased them to a higher total amount than that paid during the time of the Chifley - Government.
The honorable member said that it was promised that a long-term stabilization plan would be acceptable to the Government when it assumed office, and a period of ten years was mentioned. It was pointed out that any plan to be successful must be acceptable to the Commonwealth, the States, and the industries concerned. All the interested parties were prepared to accept this five-year plan, and there is no reason why, upon the expiration of the present five-year plan, a new five-year plan should not be introduced. The honorable member for lalor spoke disparagingly of the result of the prices referendum in May, 1948. 1 draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that that referendum was rejected by the people and that any reflection upon that rejection is a reflection upon the people’s attitude at that time. Moreover, the Chifley Government, under the defence powers available to it at that time, could have continued its system of prices fixation until December, 1948. But it threw overboard immediately its whole system of prices control and the States suffered a great deal of disability in taking over from the Commonwealth the administration of that system. That action of the Chifley Government had an adverse effect on industry at that time. The honorable member for Lalor read a number of letters from the fan mail that he claimed to have received while he was a Minister. In particular, he referred to a report that appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail in 1948, and which referred to conditions on the Darling Downs. The Darling Downs, of course, is one of the most fertile areas of country in the world, and it can stand up to the most distress ing conditions - even the burden of a Pollard administration. The honorable member referred to the establishment of an independent tribunal which had been promised by this Government. That matter is covered by the bill now before the chamber because it is laid down in the preamble to the measure -
And whereas the minimum return referred to is a return based upon the cost of efficient production of the butterfat as estimated by an authority to be established by the Commonwealth for the purpose and, pending the establishment of that authority, by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of the Commonwealth.
The matter of the establishment of an independent tribunal is being considered by the Minister at the present time, and when a final decision has been made it will be announced. The honorable member for Lalor put up a very heated defence of the contract that has been signed with the United Kingdom in 1948 under which that country agreed to take . our surplus of butter and cheese for seven years. That contract is current until 1955. I agree with the honorable member that the United Kingdom is our principal market, and I approve his desire that we should try to support the people of the United Kingdom in every way possible. However, we must temper our feelings towards the people of the United Kingdom with the reflection that the dairying industry must get a fair return for its products, because if it does not we may not have any surplus products to export to the United Kingdom. We must examine this matter from the viewpoint of production as well as from the viewpoint of assistance to the United Kingdom. The honorable member referred to his action in having certain text-books issued to dairy-farmers. I agree that the supply of this very relevant material to the dairying industry is of great assistance to it, and I congratulate him upon his initiative. The dairy grant that he instituted has been continued by the present Government and this Government has made also a substantial grant for an expansion of extension services to the dairying industry.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Having dealt effectively with the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor, I now turn to the bill. It provides for the stabilization of the dairying industry over a period of five years, from the 1st July, 1952. In 1947, at the request of the industry, the Labour Government introduced a stabilization plan for a period of five years, which expired on the 30th June last. That Government extracted its pound of flesh from the farmers under the terms of its plan. Prior to the general election of 1949, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party gave an assurance that, if returned to power, they would introduce a long-term stabilization plan if the industry wished them to do so and if the State governments would agree to cooperate. Most of the butter and cheese produced in Australia is consumed locally, and, as prices control is now a prerogative of the States, agreement between the States on the fixing of ex factory prices for butter and cheese is essential to any plan of stabilization. I congratulate the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture upon his fine record of service to the dairying industry since the present Government has been in power. His first action after assuming office was to extend the period of the butter subsidy, which was then due to expire within a few weeks. He conducted lengthy and sometimes difficult negotiations with representatives of the industry and the State governments. His efforts were entirely successf ul. This plan is the result of his work. The contract for the sale of Australia’s surplus butter and cheese to the United Kingdom for a period of seven years from 1948, which was concluded by the Labour Government, has a definite association with the present plan on the basis of prices, but otherwise is not connected with it.
Before the plan for which the bill provides was agreed upon, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture submitted to representatives of the industry an alternative proposal for a system of free marketing within Australia, under which the Australian Dairy Produce Board would determine local prices and the Australian Government would agree to cover any losses on export sales. The representatives of the farmers considered that proposal, but the advantages to be gained under the stabilization plan were more attractive to them and they indicated clearly that they favoured stabilization. Prior to World War II., the dairying industry operated under an equalization system which provided for free marketing both within Australia and overseas. All returns were averaged, and fixed returns were paid to the farmers. This system operated without government control. The dairy-farmers decided against such a system on the ground that organized marketing, with prices guaranteed by the Government, was more attractive than free marketing.
The main features of the stabilization plan can be explained very briefly. First, prices for butter and cheese will be guaranteed over a period of five years from the 1st July, 1952. This guarantee is contingent upon the States taking appropriate legislative action to enable this Government to determine the ex factory prices of butter and cheese for the duration of the plan. The States have agreed to make appropriate alterations of the prices of the processed milk products in accordance with the ex factory prices for butter and cheese fixed by this Government. That is the starting point of the plan. The agreement with the States provides that, should the States discontinue prices control, a suitable arrangement will be made between the industry and the Australian Government in order to enable it to determine ex factory prices for butter and cheese. Furthermore, should any State or States subsequently reimpose prices control, the plan will continue to operate on the condition that the State or States concerned place the Australian Government in a position to fix those prices of butter and cheese. The guaranteed return to dairy-farmers is to be determined each year after careful inquiry into the costs of efficient production by an independent authority. The price will apply from the 1st July each year. The bill provides that, pending the establishment of an independent cost-finding tribunal, the price will be determined by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The price adjustment from the 1st July, 1952, was determined according to the existing base price and the cost movements that had taken place during 1951-52, which were recorded by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The total amount of subsidy to be paid for dairy products during 1952-53, in respect of both domestic and export sales, will be f 16,800,000. The honorable member for Lalor spoke critically of the Government when he discussed this subject. Obviously, in view of the fast-changing economic circumstances, the Government cannot commit itself to a definite policy on subsidies for more than one year in advance. Surely all honorable members will agree that it would be unwise to do so. However, the Government has announced definitely that the consumer subsidy will not be terminated suddenly. That is an assurance to the industry.
The guarantee under the plan will cover all butter and cheese consumed locally, plus an additional amount not to exceed 20 per cent, of that quantity in order to ensure the production of adequate supplies for domestic requirements in adverse seasons. The honorable member for Lalor referred to the Dairying Industry Stabilization Fund and the use to which it would be put in future. The bill provides clearly that the residue of the fund, which was approximately £2,500,000 at the 1st July, 1952, shall not be drawn upon by the Government to meet any export losses covered by the guarantee, but shall be used by the industry, in such manner as the industry wishes, in order to make good any losses on exports not covered by the guarantee. Any realizations in excess of the guaranteed prices for exports are to be paid into the fund in order to offset any prior or subsequent contributions from Consolidated Revenue to meet the export losses covered by the guarantee. The subsidy on processed milk was discontinued as from the 30th June last, and the State prices authorities made certain price adjustments in order to compensate for the withdrawal of the subsidy. That is a summary of the five-year stabilization plan for which the bill provides.
For the benefit of any honorable members who may be doubtful that the industry as a whole has willingly accepted the plan, I refer to a press statement that was issued on the 4th June by the president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federa tion, Mr. J. P. Norton, on behalf of the federation, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee. The representatives of those organizations had previously discussed the terms of the plan with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Mr. Norton said -
After the Minister had clarified the matters raised in earlier discussion he was informed that the proposals outlined by him had the support of the dairying industry of Australia.
Soon afterwards, the State governments, through the Australian Agricultural Council, indicated their willingness to transfer control over the ex factory prices of butter and cheese to the Australian Government. Following the acceptance of the stabilization plan by the industry, the State governments gave their full approval to it. The principal object of the plan is to assure to dairy-farmers a standard of living equal to that enjoyed by other sections of the community, and, by this means, to encourage the expansion of the industry and an increase of production. There was considerable dissatisfaction with the Labour Government’s five-year stabilization plan, which resulted in a drift from the industry. That drift has been apparent in all States during the last few years. The new plan represents an effort to re-establish a definite basis for the payment of fair returns to dairy-farmers so that the industry may be rehabilitated and expanded. The proposed method of ascertaining costs of production is acceptable to the industry and to the State governments. Another object of the plan is to increase efficiency as a result of research and an expansion of extension services. We must attain a greater degree of efficiency in the industry if it is to compete on equal terms with the dairying industries of other countries. That remark is not intended to be critical of individual farmers, because the average output of Australian dairy-farmers is as high as that of any other country. However, costs in Australia are higher than in many other countries. Research into the problems of the dairying industry is carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State Departments of Agriculture. In recent years the extension services have been .accepted far more readily than they were accepted in the past when individual farmers were wary about accepting, technological and scientific advice from specialists. That objection has been overcome to a great degree, and confidence has been established largely as a result of the good work that has been done by officials of the State Departments of Agriculture in this sphere. The grant that the Chifley Government made to the dairying industry is being continued by this Government, and it should do much to help to keep up. production. I refer now to the additional grant of £200,000 which this Government has made this financial year for the expansion of extension services. Figures that I have obtained from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics provide a basis of comparison between such services in this country with those in the United States of America and the United Kingdom and indicate the trend that has taken place in this respect. In the United States of America, there is one extension service worker for every 1,070 farms and in. the United Kingdom, one worker for every 1,000 farms, whilst in Australia there is one worker to every 615 farms. At first glance, one might conclude that those figures favour Aus*tralia, but they can be accepted only with qualifications. For instance, whilst it is estimated that there are 5,500,000 farms in the United States of America, approximately 2,500,000 farms are responsible for the whole of the commercial farm production in that country.. The extension service is highly organized on the basis of the county system. Agricultural agents and assistant agents engage directly and solely in agricultural extension work and are supported by specialists and clerical assistants. Consequently, the estimate of one extension service worker to every 1,070 farms: could be doubled if one. confines the calculation to practical extension work in respect of the farms that produce practically the whole of the commercial farm production in the United States of America. Extension services in the United. Kingdom are organized on the basis of eight provinces, each of which is completely selfsupporting. Officers of that service in the United Kingdom are engaged solely on extension service work. Having regard to conditions that exist in Australia, the average in the United Kingdom could be put at one extension service worker to every 700 farms.. I should mention that the extension service is a system of conveying to individual farmers technological and scientific information that is, discovered as a result of research. With the exception of Tasmania, there is no separate extension service unit in any of the Australian States. In this country, the work is being carried out by officers of State Departments of Agriculture and, generally speaking,, such officers engage in specialized work rather than, general extension service work. In addition, they undertake experimental and administrative duties. Having regard to distances and areas in Australia, which are considerably more extensive than is the case in the United States of America or the United Kingdom, and adjusting the statistical figures on a real comparative basis, we .can say that in this country there is one extension service worker to every 1,200 farms. Thus, extension, services here are well behind the highly organized systems that exist in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. This is the first real step that has been taken by any government to expand this very vital service to individual farmers. The grant that is being made will contribute substantially to the expansion of this work. It is hoped that the State governments and the industry also will assist in expanding, this service which, having regard to world prices for dairy products, is vital to the future of the dairying industry. This measure is most acceptable to the industry. As I said earlier, the Minister is to be congratulated upon introducing it and upon having persuaded the States to accept these proposals. This new plan will do much to put the industry again on its feet and to help it to expand production.
– As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr: Pollard) has said, the Opposition supports, this bill, which embodies a plan to assure stabilization of the dairying industry for a period of five years as from the 1st July last;, and to provide for guaranteed prices for butter and cheese. It is a- source of satisfaction to me- to be able to congratulate the Government, in at least a modified way, for having introduced this bill. It becomes a little wearisome to have to continue condemning this Government for its misdeeds’ and exposing its wickedness. Comsequently, on this occasion,, when it proposes to do something worthy of modified praise, ifr is a pleasure- for members’ of the Opposition to pay tribute to it. In any event, I should not wish to discuss’ the problems of the dairying industry in any party or partisan, spirit, because most of those problems are extremely serious. In respect of butter production- they are grave; and there should be among all honorable members, who are aware of these difficulties, general agreement and a desire to make plain to the people of Australia the importance of this industry and the necessity to ensure its stability and prosperity if tie Australian people wish to survive. I was rather disappointed with the initial remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who, when he began his speech before the sitting was suspended, appeared to speak in a rather’ bitter spirit. As you know, Mr.. Speaker,, the honorable member can, at times, be most pugilistic and- bellicose. But I was glad to notice that after he had had a good dinner, his mood improved and he proceeded to make a constructive and useful contribution to the debate.
A fact that cannot have escaped the notice of those engaged* in tobe industry is that the community as a whole, while it accepts’ quite complacently increasesof prices of many other1 products, often greets with resentment and misunderstanding; increases’ of prices - of dairy products. Men and- women who insist on receiving’ a fair wage- and enjoying fair’ conditions for their’ own’ labour, appear to1 have n’o’ understanding of the conditions which must’ prevail in the dairying industry if butter is1 to be sold’ to them at a price at which, apparently, they believe that they are- entitled to’ receive it. There- seems to’ be a complete lack of understanding- on the part of the people as a whole that cheap butter’ can be provided! to> them, only at the expense of family labour,, including child labour, for long hour’s unless, of course, the industry is very heavily subsidized. I should be the first to recognize that subsidization’ of the- dairying industry beyond a certain point would be exceedingly dangerous to its- security. Butter despite the recent increase of the price, is by fax the cheapest and best foodthat is provided for the Australian’ people to-day. Measured- in terms of price per lb., it contains more nourishment and vitamins than any other product that the people are able to buy at anything’ like a comparable price. Although the buffer producer oil the whole’ is enjoying a better return. to-day than he enjoyed a few years ago, he’ must still regard with envy the returns that ave’ being obtained’ by many other producers in both primary and secondary industries- for work that is not so arduous. He must envy, for instance, the price that is obtained by his brother for whole milk.
The butter-producer is not yet receiving a comparable return. For that reason, it is important that we should not regard the dairy-farmer as a party political football or seek merely to make party political capital out of the conditions that obtain in the industry by engaging in a squabble to assert which of the two’ major parties- in the Parliament is his greater friend. We shall all be better friends of the dairyfarmerif we work together to improve his conditions- and- to educate- the Australian: people to asn understanding, of the problems that confront him. Generally speaking, we take the production of butter for granted. But in the areas on: the south coast of New South Wales, which I represent, and which region is’ a great producer of butter, there has- been abundant evidence during the last four or five years of a continuing’ decline in theindustry. Many farmers in’ that region’ have gone off- their farms and. the sons’ of dairy-farmers have gone into other walks of lif e;< whilst others have turned, to. other forms- of- primary production. Consequently,- production of butter in. the south’-coast : region of New South Wales, although current seasonal prospects have temporarily improved1 it, is continually declining and that decline is so serious that the existence of several large ‘butter factories, which have operated in that area for many years, is in jeopardy. In those circumstances, this bill is very welcome.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) referred to the contract which the Chifley Government entered into with the United Kingdom in 1948 to sell to that Government the whole of Australia’s exportable surplus of butter, for a period of seven, years ending the 30th June, 1955. He has pointed out correctly that that contract is now an entirely unprofitable one for Australia and that the actual loss ou supplying butter to the United Kingdom is approximately ls. per lb. That fact must be taken into consideration seriously when dealing with the improvement of conditions in the dairying industry. The Minister has been the first to admit - and perhaps this is the first time that he has so frankly admitted it - that Australia would probably be worse off if the contract did not exist. Ear from the contract holding down the price that the Australian producers would receive for their export surplus, that contract is probably giving them a higher price than the. return they would have received otherwise. The Minister has proved that point to his own satisfaction because when he obtained the permission of the British Government to withdraw 15,000 tons of butter from the contract and attempted to dispose of it on the markets of the world, he found that he was unable to sell the greater part of it. Consequently, he had to sell it to the United Kingdom finally at the contract price.
The position is that this great primary exporting industry is unable to export its product at a profit. The Minister has said that the remedy lies in improved efficiency in the butter-producing industry. No doubt there is some truth in that statement, but the position that is disclosed by these alarming figures is much more serious than the Minister has indicated for it does not apply only to butter. It indicates that because of the inflation of costs in the last few years and the continued failure for 50 years past, not only by this Government but by. all political parties in Australia, to safeguard the interests of rural industries and because the sustained emphasis on the protection of secondary industries in the cities, a situation has been created that menaces our whole economic future. The fact that we cannot produce butter in Australia at a cost within ls. per lb. of the price for which we can sell it abroad is a serious warning to us that we. must reverse the economic policies that have for so long regarded rural industries as being capable of carrying the secondary industries on their backs.
– That is the most intelligent statement that I have heard from the honorable member for Eden.Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser).
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) for his interjection, which was well meant although perhaps it was unfortunately phrased. The Minister has pointed with some pride to the improvements that have been effected in this new five-year stabilization arrangement, compared with the previous arrangement. He has pointed, for example, to the increased rate of interest that the farmer is to be allowed, on his invested capital, although I thought that his figures were not accurate. I think that he was unfair to the Chifley Government in not giving it the full meed of praise that is due to it and, in fact, is given to it to-day, at least in the areas that I represent, by many fair-minded dairy-farmers who are not and never have been supporters of the Labour party. They recognize that the Chifley and Curtin Governments were the first Australian Governments to take any effective steps to raise the conditions of the dairying industry from the really dreadful standards that prevailed up to the outbreak of World War II. The measures that were adopted by the Chifley and Curtin governments and the stabilization arrangements that were made by them did much to raise the standard of conditions in the dairying industry. All that the Minister has done since has been to build upon the fine and firm foundations that were prepared by the two previous governments.
The Minister is entitled to claim some credit for the improvements that he has made in the stabilization arrangements but he did not place much stress upon the fact that his new arrangements provide a guaranteed price for an export surplus of only 20 per cent, of the total guaranteed production in Australia compared with an unlimited guarantee in that respect that ‘was given by the Chifley Government. In certain circumstances that could undermine the whole value of the improvements that the Minister has given to the industry, because it could depreciate the average price that is paid to the farmer, at least after the surplus in the export fund is expended. That is an important consideration. Although I recognize the powerful reasons that have been given by the Minister why he is not prepared to guarantee a price for an unlimited export surplus, it is true that by that variation of the plan, he has made it possible to reduce the general average return to the producer and not to increase it.
Another interesting point in the Minister’s speech was his comparison of the attitude of this Government to a stabilization plan with that of the Labour Government. “While the Minister was producing to the House a new and improved stabilization plan, he said at the same time quite frankly that he himself was not a believer in that form of control. Obviously he would have preferred an equalization plan and, according to his speech, he did his best when in communication with the industry, to talk it out of the present plan.
– That is a misrepresentation of my statement. The honorable member should quote my words.
– It is the least of my intentions to misrepresent the Minister, and I shall quote his words. He said -
I reminded the industry leaders that no stabilization plan as yet devised for primary industry had satisfactorily stood the test of time.
When you remind people that something that they want has never been satisfactory it might be understood that you are trying to talk them out of it.
– I was drawing attention to a fact.
– If it is a fact, surely the interpretation is the same. The Minister also said -
I pointed out that the restrictions upon complete freedom of action which were inevitably associated with the assumption by a Government of a Treasury liability had, on past occasions, produced criticisms and resentment.
I do not know whether he was trying to talk the producers into a stabilization plan by those words, but it appeared to me that he was trying to talk them out of it. He continued -
On my own responsibility, I put it to the industry leaders that they might consider,”as an alternative to a rigid stabilization plan,’ an arrangement under which, maintaining equalization, they should be free to sell within Australia at prices decided by the board and that the Commonwealth’s part might be confined to making a simple subvention towards loss on export.
Again that appeared to me to bear the interpretation that the Minister was trying to talk them out of a rigid stabilization plan and was endeavouring to present what he thought was an alternative.
– Asking them to weigh the value of the two alternatives.
– The Minister also said -
Such an arrangement would, have all the merits of simplicity and the maximum freedom’ from government control.
Those are the things for which the Minister stands, and I believe that he was endeavouring to talk the industry into accepting them. If he was not trying to talk them into something in which he believed, he would not be true to his beliefs.
– I was asking them te weigh the relative merits of the propositions.
– And they decided, against the Minister’s advice, that they would prefer the protection of a stabilization plan, notwithstanding that it involved an important measure of government control in respect of matters of great importance to the industry. As the Minister has said,- the general philosophy of the present Government is opposed to the exercise of such controls. If the Minister’s philosophy is opposed to the exercise of such controls also, am I misinterpreting him in saying thathe opposes such controls and endeavoured to present to the industry the picture of a better alternative?
– I have nothing further to say. I drew their attention to the two alternatives. They made their judgment and the Government accepted it.
– I accept that statement. At the same time, the Government accepted a judgment to which it was politically opposed and for which the Minister has no enthusiasm. Further, it was accepted only after the Minister himself had strongly emphasized to the leaders of the industry the alternative proposition in which hehas political faith. He has no political faith in the proposal that is contained in the bill.
– That is not fair.
– The general philosophy of the present Government is opposed to such controls. Is that a fair statement?
– I shall leave it at that. I make this point to the dairying industry, which is so strongly in favour of a stabilization plan. The present Government is opposed to such stabilization plans and operates them with reluctance, but the Labour party strongly favours them. The dairying industry can be sure of receiving from a Labour administration, not reluctant acceptance and reluctant administration of such plans, but enthusiastic acceptance and administration of them. The Minister was unfair to the Labour party itself in his reference to the attitude of the Labour party towards stabilization proposals when he said that he thought it not unfair to suggest that the attitude of the Labour party to a stabilization plan was to sustain the existence of the industry on a low standard basis. The fact is that the Labour Government raised the standard of the dairying industry very considerably. Compared with the conditions that operated in 1938-39, the. Labour Government gave the dairying industry a very much higher standard. It is not the policy of the Labour party to impose a low standard upon any section of the workers or producers. On the contrary, the Labour party seeks the highest possible living standard for the whole of the Australian people and has shown by its interest in the dairying industry that it has particular enthusiasm for raising the standard of living and work in that industry.
.- As the representative of one of the important dairying districts of New SouthWales, I have pleasure in supporting this bill. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) spoke about workers from the dairying industry who went into the armed forces during the war. One of the problems with which a country such as Australia is faced in a time of war is to decide how many men shall engage in the production of food and other things necessary for a war effort, and how many men shall go into the armed forces to fight for the defence of the country and for the thing that we call freedom. I point out that a number of men from the dairying industry went into munitions factories and secondary industries: Those men left the industry and sought other work, which they believed at the time would bring them greater rewards. I do not think that blame for that can be laid upon any government, because, as I have said, that is one of the problems that confronts any nation such as this in wartime. “We believe in the freedom of the individual. We believe that the individual should be allowed to choose the work that he believes will enable him to make the greatest contribution to the defence of his country.
No one will deny that the dairying industry has been one of the Cinderella industries of the Commonwealth and that, on occasions, it has been used by political parties as a plaything, in attempts to gain political advantage. But I believe that this measure and the factors which lead to its presentation give to the industry great hope for the future. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in his second-reading speech, said -
The parties which constitute the present Government, when in Opposition, declared that, subject to approval of the dairying industry, and to the extent necessary, subject to acquiescence of the State governments, they would, if returned to power, assure stabilization to the dairying industry.
The Government has fulfilled that promise. It will be as well to recount some of the achievements of the Government since it assumed office. In late December, 1949, there was in existence an arrangement made by the Chifley Government for the payment of a guaranteed price for dairy products for the period from the 1st July, 1947, to the 30th June, 1952, and for an annual review of price. Under that scheme, a price review was due on the 1st July, 1949. The Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee recommended an increase of the price of butter by 2£d. per lb. The Chifley Government asked the State governments, to which it had transferred price control powers, to give that increase to the dairyfarmers by increasing the selling price to the public. The State governments refused to do that, and insisted that the Commonwealth should effect the increase by increasing the subsidy. The Chifley Government refused to do so. For four months, the industry received no price increase. However, on the day on which the Federal Parliament was dissolved in 1949, prior to the general election of that year, the Chifley Government granted a rise of 2½d. per lb., but only for the six months from July to December, 1949. Those are facts of which we are all aware. “We have been told by the Minister that one of the first actions of this Government when it assumed office - it was taken on the night that Cabinet was sworn - was to make the increase applicable to the full period under review - the period from the 1st July, 1949, to the 30th June, 1950. The Government granted a further increase of $d. per lb. to cover increased factory costs. Until then, the factories had been deducting that sum from dairymen’s returns, thus preventing them from receiving the full increase. That increase was effected by increasing the subsidy. Since then, this Government has adopted and implemented in full every recommendation about prices made by the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee.
Let me give the House a summary of the increases that have been made since
December, 1949, when this Government came into power. The committee recommended an increase of 2d. per lb. for the period from the 1st July, 1950, to the 30th June, 1951. That increase was granted in full, by an increase of the subsidy. Late in 1950, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court increased the basic wage by £1 a week. In March,. 1951, the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee recommended a special price increase of 2Jd. per lb., due to increased costs. This Government immediately granted that increase by increasing the total subsidy. It made the increase retrospective to the 1st December, 1950, the date from which the increase of the basic wage became effective. Once again, the Government accepted its full share of responsibility in this matter. A further increase was made for the period from the 1st July, 1951, to the 30th June, 1952. Prior to the commencement of that period, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had altered the cost formula. The managerial allowance was fixed at £800 a year - it has been increased now to £900 a year - instead of the basic wage, plus 25s. a week, and the interest allowance was increased from 3-J per cent, on 1942 values to 4^ per cent, on existing values.
On that new basis, the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee recommended an increase of 9i)d. per lb. to the dairy-farmers, and a further increase of 3/4d. per lb. to offset increased factory costs, a total increase of 10£d. per lb. By that time, the annual subsidy paid in respect of dairy products had risen from about £9,000,000 to £16,800,000. Obviously, a halt had to be called to such spiralling of the subsidy. The dependence of primary industries upon government subsidies is entirely opposed to the policy of this Government, and I shall deal with that matter later in my speech. It is also against the best interests of the primary industries themselves and, I am certain, against the wishes of the majority of primary producers. The Commonwealth, having no price-fixing powers itself, asked the States to grant the full increase to the industry by making a straight-out increase of the selling price to the consumers. After some discussion, four of the six States agreed to do that. Queensland and New South Wales refused, and demanded that the subsidy be further increased. I think the governments of those States believed that, in view of the political implications and of the outcry against the Commonwealth that they could and did raise, this Government would not be game enough to stick to its guns. In the area that I now represent in this Parliament, there was a good deal of discussion about the matter at that time.
Pressure was brought to bear upon the Government in an endeavour to force it to increase the subsidy. If the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland had succeeded in that, they would have achieved their objective of providing cheap food in the cities at the expense of the primary producers and also at the expense of the taxpayers. Eventually, those two States fell into line with the other four States, and the producers received the full increase recommended, as the result of a straight-out increase of price. Then the Commonwealth, as an act of justice, paid to the dairying industry the money that it had lost through the State’s delay. I do not think it is generally known that that action caused the expenditure by the Commonwealth upon this subsidy for the three months involved to increase from ls. lid. to ls. 11½d. per lb. Those facts prove conclusively that this Government has endeavoured to do everything that will assist in the stabilization of the dairying industry.
Another point in favour of this bill is that, whilst the Government will retain a degree of control of the dairying industry, a great deal of the responsibility for the control will pass to the industry itself. No government could afford to guarantee an unlimited sum to an industry, unless it could exercise some control of it. Before a stabilization scheme can be successful, those engaged in the industry concerned must recognize that they have a share of the responsibility for making the scheme a success. That brings me to a point that was raised by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I am happy that he congratulated the Government upon the introduction of this bill, even though it was a modified congratula- tion. But in these days, it is good to receive even modified congratulations from honorable members opposite. I point out to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that, whilst a part of our philosophy is that stabilization schemes have a great degree of weakness, another part of our philosophy or faith is revealed by the fact that we gave to the dairying industry an opportunity to choose the scheme that it wished to adopt. We said, “ Here is one scheme and here is another. Which do you prefer ? “ Surely no one could quarrel with that. The Government then said, “ If this is the scheme that you choose, whilst we may not like it, it is the one in which we shall co-operate with you. If you are prepared to play your part, we shall play our part, as we have always done, and we feel that the scheme will be a success “. Surely it was better to do that than to say, “ Here is a scheme. We say that this is the only way the industry can be stabilized. You must accept this scheme “.
An unlimited guarantee, irrespective of the industry involved, gives rise to a great danger. To give an unlimited guarantee is literally to say, “ No matter how inefficient you may be and no matter how much it may cost you to produce an article, we guarantee that you will receive a certain price for it “. The weakness of any stabilization scheme is that the efficient man, the man who is trying to do his job properly, is on the same level as the man who does not give a hoot, and just plods through, saying, “It does not matter if I do not- put my back into my work, because the Government has guaranteed that I shall receive a certain price for my products “. If we say to an industry, “ The price that you will receive for your products will not fall below a certain level, but if you increase your production you will increase your profits “, we offer to that industry the greatest incentive to produce that could be given to it. I believe that the guarantee by the Government that dairymen will receive a price based on costs of production for exports of cheese and butter equal to 20 per cent, of our domestic consumption will act as an incentive to those men who desire to increase their production. If the total production of butter this year ‘were 160,000 toua and the total home consumption were 115,000 tons, 20 per cent, of the quantity consumed at home, which would be 23,000 tons, would make the total to be covered by the guarantee 138,000 tons, leaving 22,000 tons that would not be covered by it. Surely a total of 22,000 tons out of a grand total of 160,000 tons is not a relatively large quantity. The fact that 22,000 tons would not be covered by the guarantee would not mean that the people who had produced it would receive nothing in return. They would receive at least a percentage return. I contend, therefore, that the bill will provide an incentive to the dairying industry, as well as a sense of responsibility in relation to an increase of production. It will also give the industry hope and security for the future.
– On the honorable member’s figures, the scheme will mean, a reduction of 2d.. per lb. over the whole of the production.
– .1 did not attend night school, and I cannot work that out at the present stage. The honorable member may be correct. It would not be great and this would be offset by the greater production thus reducing the total cost. We have had already a sufficiently sad experience of the results of giving an unlimited guarantee to an industry. We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite about the necessity to reduce taxes. I consider that no government that faces up to its responsibilities as the caretaker of the taxpayer’s funds would give an unlimited guarantee to any industry.
I am glad to see that the bill includes a safeguard which provides that if a State changes its government and decides to deprive the Commonwealth of this authority, the scheme will be immediately terminated. We have had enough experience of cases where the Government has had the responsibility of providing finance but. no control over its expenditure in the various .States. I am glad to see that the bill will not only give the Government financial responsibility, but will also give it control over the allocation of the money.
I turn now to the allocation of funds for research in connexion with the dairying industry. Such a bill as this should be considered in conjunction with other steps taken by the Government as part of its plans for the future. Considered in that light this measure shows that the Government is facing up to its responsibility to place the” dairying industry on a stable basis so that it may once more fit into the framework of the economy in the fullest possible way. The allocation of £250,000 for research, and the provision of an additional amount of £200,000 for extension services, which include carrying scientific and technological knowledge from the laboratory to the farms, represent a great step forward. The Government has been considering such a step during the past few years, but in the years that lie ahead we shall have to give a great deal more thought to the scientific and technological advances made in other countries, which have proved that land can be made to produce much more than it has produced in the past. This vast country has an unlimited potential of production.
I have never been in favour of any one industry receiving, over a long period, preference over other industries, but I consider that the allocation of finance for dairying industry research will enable intense investigation of scientific developments that will not only be of advantage to the dairying industry this year, but will also provide a foundation on which it can build for the future.
– That will be a change.
– The trouble is that non-Labour governments always have to clear up the mess that Labour governments leave behind them, and by the time they have cleared it up the people have decided to elect to office another Labour government, which proceeds to undo the good work that the non-Labour government has done. It also proceeds to destroy the foundations laid by the non-Labour government, and the next non-Labour government that comes into office has to set about rebuilding them. Some day the public will wake up to the true position, and we shall he given an opportunity to build on the foundations we. have laid before a Labour government has a chance to wreck them.
I believe that the Government’s policy will lay foundations on which the dairying industry can build, that an increased production of food, which is so vital to us, will follow, and that the primary industries generally will be enabled to fit properly into the general economic framework. Any thinking person realizes that the economy of this country is definitely and vitally bound up with primary production, which increases our overseas balances and so improves our capacity to import the plant and materials- necessary to develop other industries. The whole cycle depends on the profitable export of our primary products. I congratulate the Minister and’ the Government on the bill and say, as a- member who represents an electorate in- which the dairying industry is strong, that I am sure that the bill will evoke the congratulations- of the people engaged in the industry.
.- The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) said that when the Government took office it had to clean up the mess left by the previous- Labour. Government. I have clear recollections of the desperate position of the dairying industry when, the Curtin Labour Government took, office in 1941. I have here a, return showing the amount of butter fat sent to a butter factory by a dairy-farmer in the Tumut district in 1932, when a government of the same- kidney as the present Government was in office. The return is from the Tumut Co-operative Dairy Company Limited,, and shows that a dairy-farmer- named Mr. . Fred Crempton supplied 5,16; lb. of the choicest butter fat to the Tumut factory for a net return of £17 19s.. Surely that provides a complete exposure of the position, of the. dairying industry when, the Labour Government came, to office. At that, time the industry was bankrupt, and nobody knows it better than honorable members on this side of the. House. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr., Pollard)., who was Minister for Commerce and Agri culture in the Labour Government, has dealt forcibly and effectively with the second-reading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) on the measure. It is my intention, therefore, to confine myself to tracing the history of the dairying industry in- order to show, what the positionactually is. I have clear recollections of the desperate position that faced the industry a decade or so ago under a nonLabour government. I can recall the dairymen’s appeal to the first Menzies Government early in the war for some relief for the industry.. That appeal’ went unheeded. The only action that the Government took was to order an investigation by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. Nothing tangible came of it and a further inquiry was postponed for six months. All that the Menzies Government dad’ was to hold inquiries and then postpone them. By taking no action the Government in fact rejected the claims of the industry for a price rise, and refused to- be moved by resolutions of protest from, meetings of dairymen in all parts of Australia. The inaction of the Menzies Government stands in direct contrast to- the prompt action that the Curtin Government took when it gained office in 1941, in the most critical period in the history of this country. It ordered an immediate review of the dairying, industry to be made by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, and later it granted an increase to farmers of Id. per lb. for butter and l$.d. per lb. for cheese. It then appointed a committee of inquiry composed of leaders of the industry to consider the economics of dairying, and on receipt of the committee’s interim report it introduced the Dairy- Industry Assistance Bill’ in October; 19’4’2, which provided a subsidy for butter and cheese:
– With a big war on.
– Yes, in. the middle- of the war., When- the committee’s findings1 were received the Labour Government, in. 1943- increased the subsidy ih orderto improve- the returns, of dairy-farmers.. For. six years prior to> Labour talking office, the average- return to the producers was ls. Id. per lb. for commercial, butter which waa equal: to approximately1 ls. 4d. per lb: for’ butter* fart. Under the Labour Government. the returns were raised, progressively until! in? 19441 the; average return was established’ at ls. 7d.. per lb for commercial, butter.;, equal- to approximately ls. 1’1-Jd.’.. per lb:. for. butter fat:. As. a result, of the satisfactory contract, with, the- United! Kingdom,, the overall, return; to the. dairying industry was raised’ in July, 19461, to’ lis:. 8d’. per lb. for commercial! butter., which was’ equal to approximately 2s. per lb., for’ butter, fat;. At the request- of: the industry; the Labour Government appointed’ in 1947 the Join* Dairying Industry Advisory Committee’, the functions of which were to report- on matters- affecting the industry, including the cost of production. Following the receipt of the committee’s report, the Labour Government in October, 1947’, increased the returns o£ dairyfarmers to’ 2s. per- lb. commercial butter, equal- to approximately 2s. 5-^d’. per lb. butter fat. In- July, 1948, following a recommendation of the advisory committee, which disclosed an increase of the cost of production, the returns were increased to 2s. 2d. per lb. commercial butter, equal to approximately 2s. 7M. per lb. butter fat. A survey completed during the first half of 1949 showed a further increase, of the cost of production by 2£d. per lb. commercial butter, and that increase was added to the returns.
In. September, 1948, the Labour Government negotiated a seven-years contract with the British Government. That contract was of great value to the dairyfarmer, as it provided against a price: variation of more tha® 7-J- per cent, in any one year. It was the. best deal for exported, butter and cheese that the Australian dairying industry had ever received. The price variation clause protected the industry against a return to the disastrously low prices that had prevailed before the outbreak of World War II. Everybody knows that dairy-farmers throughout Australia were. “ broke “ in those days. Many of them could not pay their local storekeepers, and well- I know that, is true, because. I. come, from a dairying district, and I have been informed by farmers of their desperate plight in those times.
The: contract price- for butter in the year- 194-8-49 was. 2.91s. 10-£d. per cwt. f.o.b.. Australian currency, and for cheese 164s. 4£d>., per cwt. f.o.b. Australian currency. Those prices, were respectively 30s. and. 15s. per- cwt. sterling higher than those under the- previous contract,, and more than- 100> per- cent., higher than thuexport prices that prevailed when, an anti-Labour government was in office. For the financial year commencing- the 1st July, 1949, a price- increase of 7^ per- sent. was. negotiated. The prices them were 3.13s. 9d. per cwt. for butter and 17.5s. per cwt. for cheese, expressed in Austraiian; currency, or 21s. 10½d. and 10 s:. 7-Jd. respectively higher than the previous figures. The Labour Govern- ment’s guarantee in .194.7 to maintain ret/urns to dairy-farmers, foi” five- years at average production; cost carried an understanding that returns, would be varied in accordance with: a rise- or fall in costs. Such a principle had never- previously been applied to a farm industry. In addition’, the Labour Government provided £250,000 a year for five years in order to promote greater efficiency in dairyfarming. To enable the dairying industry to secure increased prices the- LabourGovernment provided subsidies in lieu of increasing the retail prices payable by the public for dairy products: Those* subsidies amounted to £35,800-,000 to the 30th June, 1948. Yet; Government supporters have the temerity to declare that the preceding Labour Government did nothing to assist the dairying industry. The entire credit for placing that industry on its feet belongs to the Labour Government.
From the facts that I have given, k will, be seen that the Labour Government played a most active part in. ensuring that the dairying industry was put on a sound economic basis.
– What is the honorablemember’s opinion of the bill?
– I believe that it is rather a good one. What brought me to the attack were the speeches of the honorable member for Darling. Downs (Mr. Swartz) and the honorable member for Lyne, who is a newcomer to this House. The practical assistance given to the. dairying industry by a Labour government is in direct contrast to the failure of anti-Labour governments to assist it before the outbreak of the last war. They talked so much but gave little or no assistance to the industry. Speaking in this House on the 26th May, 1938, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) said -
Out of 12,275 dairy farmers in Queensland, only 99 Lad a taxable income last year in excess of £250 a year.
He referred, of course, to the year 1937, and he explained that he had obtained his information from the Queensland Commissioner of Taxation. That deplorable condition prevailed under antiLabour governments. It was a Labour government that placed the dairying industry on its feet. I recall that the late Mr. G. C. Howey, who was the president of the Victorian Dairymen’s Association and the chairman of the Australian Dairy Producers Board, paid a tribute to the assistance rendered by the Labour Government to the dairymen. . He said -
Thanks to the subsidy granted by the Commonwealth Labour Government the dairying industry is on the strongest foundation in its history
On another occasion, he said -
I have never seen the dairying industry with a brighter future.
Mr. R. C. Gibson, president of the New South Wales Primary Producers Union, said in 1948-
Dairy farmers can now look ahead and plan for the future, secure in the knowledge that their returns will be related to their production cost.
That statement was published in the Victorian Dairyfarmer in November, 1947. Therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that the dairying industry has to thank the Labour party for the benefits that it enjoys to-day. All other primary industries are in a similar position. The Labour party is the friend of the primary producers. That fact has been proved by the positive action taken by Labour on their behalf throughout the years. All the talk in which our political opponents indulge about what they have done for the primary industries may be completely discounted. I represent one of the most rural electorates in New
South Wales. The only industries in Hume are the primary industries. I realize that the primary industries are the backbone of the country, and I have always stood for their interests, realizing full well that if all is not well with them, stagnation, unemployment and business bankruptcy must follow. We have suffered those experiences under anti-Labour governments. Under a Labour Government, however, the farmers have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. Before the outbreak of World War II, the primary producers received such low returns that thousands of them could not meet their liabilities. Many of them were forced into insolvency and objectionable debt adjustment arrangements. Honorable members opposite cannot deny the truth of that statement. The late Mr. J. E. Maycock, who was the general secretary of the South Australian Wheat Growers Association and a member of the Australian Wheat Board, declared -
I remember that 3,000 farmers were bankrupt in ten years. ‘ They were in such a financial position that they had no hope of recovery.
The primary producers of Australia have nothing to thank anti-Labour governments for. It was Labour that wrested them from the grip of the “financial octopus, and placed them on their feet. Believe me, if I am any judge at all, the Australian electors throughout the length and breadth of the land will do precisely what the electors of Flinders did last Saturday, and reject supporters of this Government at the next general election. The people are only awaiting the opportunity to do so. This Parliament is the only place in which the Government can get a majority of the votes. I have a lot at stake. Some time will normally elapse before anything is coming to me. But I am prepared to throw down the gauntlet and go ‘.to the country to-morrow. I challenge the Government to test the feeling of the electors immediately.
.- I enjoyed the speech of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), possibly not so much because of what I heard, but because of what I saw. I am not sure that the honorable member managed to relate his remarks to the bill under consideration but he certainly gave the House & most graceful display of eurythmics. When the proceedings in this chamber are televised, the Australian public will be the richer for witnessing him in action. Perhaps the only sentence spoken by the honorable member that was relevant to the bill was his statement that he considered it to be a good bill. On that point, I am in complete agreement with him. His speech is open to the criticism that he dwelt in the past, except for the fleeting moment when he expressed his approval of the bill.
The dairying -industry will face some difficult problems in the future. It has long been the established view of all political parties in Australia that it is the exports of our primary industries that augment our overseas balances, and that they are to be encouraged on that account. The dairying industry is in a different position. The greater our exports of dairy products, the more we lose. What are we to conclude from that situation? Is the establishment of a substantial export trade in dairy produce to be discouraged? Is the industry so inefficient that it cannot cope with the competition of other countries? Or does the fault lie with the general cost structure? No Opposition member has attempted to deal with that problem in this debate. Before the outbreak of the last war, when primary producers were suffering the hardships mentioned by the honorable member for Hume, it was, in fact, the dairying industry which paid for the home consumption price by the high price obtained overseas. That position has not existed since the end of the war. If we are to persist with our plans to increase our export trade in dairy products we must evolve a system under which it will pay us to export as much as possible. This bill w’ill guarantee a price to the dairying industry for only 20 per cent, of the dairy’ products exported, but for all such products used in Australia. That decision of the Government is based on the assumption that it is vital to Australia that we should produce enough dairy products for our own needs and that the 20 per cent, above our internal needs represents the margin that we must have as a surplus at any time to carry us through a lean period. If this Government can arrange to have such a surplus then it will have discharged its responsibility to the dairying industry.
– What will happen’ when 50 per cent, of our dairy products become available for export?
– I shall deal with that later. It is necessary that the dairying industry should provide for all the needs of Australians within Australia. If the cost structure of the Commonwealth is such that the dairying industry cannot compete efficiently with overseas industries, it is not the responsibility of this Government to subsidize the export trade in dairy products apart from its responsibility in regard to the whole cost structure of the country. And I remind honorable members that the blame for the very heavy present costs of production cannot be placed entirely on the government of the day. The dairying industry must be made as efficient as possible. When there is an excess of production available for export, it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that the industry shall bc able to compete efficiently with overseas industries before it taxes the people to subsidize the industry. The Government should make sure that the dairying industry is efficient before it taxes the Australian people to subsidize the people overseas who buy our dairy products. I believe that honorable members opposite have lost sight of the fact that we have been irresponsible in demanding certain standards of living and conditions of work regardless of their effect on our export prices.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) can work that out for himself. We have now reached the stage where it does not pay us to increase our exports of dairy products. We must consider whether we want to increase our exports, regardless of what it may cost the taxpayer, or whether we shall ensure that the industry shall become as efficient as possible. Surely we should so organize our economy that we shall be able to compete with overseas countries in the markets of the world. This country must now decide which course it will take. The Government has stated, according to this measure, that it is concerned to maintain a sufficient surplus over our home requirements throughout seasonal periods, and throughout a period of increasing home demand. I suggest that that is as far as the industry can reasonably expect this Government to go, and that is as far as the Government can go with respect to the industry in its relation to our economy.
Let us now consider the industry itself. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) suggested, by increasing the efficiency of the dairying industry we can reduce the cost of producing dairy products. There are certain costs which are controlled by the industry itself, and I shall now speak especially of the condition of the industry in Western Australia. The average butter-producing farm in Western Australia is much smaller than the average Australian dairy farm, and its production of butter is much lower. The average Australian dairy farm runs 49 cows. In Western Australia the average dairy farm runs 18.5 cows. The average annual production of butter fat per cow throughout the Commonwealth is 215 lb., but in the herd-tested dairies of Western Australia the average is only about 190 lb. per cow. The average of all the dairy cows, including non herd-tested dairy cows, in Western Australia is about 170 lb. per cow. That indicates that the standard in Western Australia is low, but I suggest that that is not the fault of the dairy-farmer.
The dairy-farmer who has eighteen or twenty cows is in an unfortunate rut. He cannot get out of that rut because in the first instance he probably took up his farm having little or no capital. He has battled along for years trying to clear his place of the original trees, then regrowth, bracken fern and fallen timber. Throughout those years he has received a relatively small income which has been worked out under a stabilization scheme based on a farm running 50 cows. That type of farmer cannot find the capital to bring his farm up to the average, and the Minister rightly recognized that we must first tackle this problem if we are to increase our industry efficiency. That is the responsibility of organizations on a higher level than the dairy-farmer. This Government has not been able to do any- thing directly to assist the men on the below average farms to bring their properties up to the average. However, I sincerely hope that this Government, in co-operation with the Western Australian Government will evolve some financial arrangement to enable the dairyfarmers on the below average farms to bring their properties up to average standard. The will to improve its condition is in the industry, which has been very vocal and conscious of its needs during the last few years. The industry needs only some cheap capital and some mechanical assistance in the form of bulldozers - to be provided by the Government or private contractors - to enable it greatly to increase production and thus contribute to the present and future needs of the people.
– Apparently it needs some socialized assistance.
– It does not need socialist assistance. This country needs greatly increased food production within a limited number of years, partly because of the Government-sponsored immigration scheme. It is impossible for the average farmer to cope with the increased demand by developing his holding along the orthodox lines. Farming in Australia generally advances slowly over several generations, and in the timber areas of Western Australia the proper development of a farm is a matter of two or three generations. If this country should set a target for high primary production within a limited period, then the Government must provide capital and mechanical assistance to enable the farmers to increase production. I was interested to hear the defence of the previous Labour government by the honorable member for Lalor. He defended the Labour stabilization scheme for the dairying industry. I admit that the Labour party introduced stabilization because the necessity for it arose directly out of the last war. The need for stabilization has persisted since the war, because of a feeling of insecurity in regard to world markets throughout the dairyingindustry. That has been caused by the tremendous amount of government interference suffered by the industry during; the war. .
I do not believe that stabilization is a solution of the problems of primary producers. As the Minister said, stabilization has not provided a satisfactory solution of the problem of increasing our primary production, both of wheat and dairying products. .Stabilization implies a levelling out of the hills and valleys of prosperity and depression. When prosperity occurs in one industry it usually occurs in all others. The prosperity in industries that have not been stabilized immediately attracts people out of the stabilized industries where the same incentives are not offering. That most important point has been lost sight of by the advocates of stabilization. During the last few years the dairying industry has been affected by that factor, and I believe that now it will be greatly encouraged by this new legislation. However, as the Minister has acknowledged, this legislation will not provide the full incentive that is required in order to increase the output of dairy products, of which Australia will be in need not many years hence.
– The Labour Government’s stabilization plan covered the whole of the industry’s output. This plan will cover only a portion of it.
– Does the honorable member for Lalor argue that the Australian taxpayer should subsidize the consumers in Great Britain so that they may enjoy, at a low price, all the butter that we can export? Is that a fair proposition ? I have no doubt that it would be acceptable to the dairy-farmers, but this is a stabilization plan, and stabilization, as I have said, involves a levelling of prosperity and depression. The plan will protect the dairy-farmer from hardship and assure him of a fair return for his efforts. I do not think that any dairy-farmer would ask any government to do more than protect him against actual financial loss. He would not insist that the government guarantee him un- . precedented prosperity in good seasons. He merely wants to be safeguarded against loss in bad seasons. All honorable members opposite who have spoken during this debate have admitted that this bill represents a forward step in the process of encouraging production in the dairying industry. It offers more to the dairy-farmer than any previous stabilization scheme has provided. Honorable members opposite, notwithstanding their protestations, have admitted that this is a good bill and that it provides for a better stabilization plan than they imposed on the dairy-farmers.
– When the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) took office, our rural industries, and particularly the dairying industry, were in a very bad state. This was not entirely due to political interference. Many other influences that had affected the dairying industry had brought it to that condition. In the first place, exceedingly high prices for fat cattle induced many dairymen to sell their beasts for slaughtering. Many dairy farms were taken over and converted into grazing farms. As we travel nowadays through some of the old dairying districts, where cream sheds, butter factories and railway services were established many years ago, we see about one homestead in use where formerly there were three or four dairy farms. The cattle in the paddocks are grazing cattle. This is the result of the high prices that were paid for beef cattle and the low return to the dairy farmers. In other districts, sheep have taken the place of the dairy cow. Droughts and other adverse seasonal conditions drove from their farms many young men and women who were pleased to be released from the great difficulties that beset them in and out of season in the dairying industry. Others transferred to easier occupations when they lost their sons and daughters to the cities, where secondary industries were clamouring for workers. As a result of the rapid development of secondary industries, and the difficulties of dairy-farming and other primary pursuits, we now have great city populations and our rural areas are depleted of experienced man-power. The situation is grave.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture attacked this vast problem at once by engaging in consultations with representatives of dairy-farmers’ organizations and State governments. He drafted a plan, for the industry to cover its operations from the dairy to the final sale of its products, hoth in Australia and overseas. He was unfailingly diligent in his efforts to find the best possible method of encouraging the expansion of the industry and its return to prosperity. He visited Great Britain and endeavoured by all means’ at his disposal to undo some of the damage that had been done by the previous Government when it made an agreement for the sale of Australian dairy products in the United Kingdom over a period of seven year3 with a restrictive provision that the prices should not be varied, either upward or downward, by more than 7£ per cent, in any year. That agreement will not expire until 1955. Until then, the Minister will not be able to pursue one course of action to assist the dairy-farmers that normally would be open to him. He will be prevented . from negotiating a fair price with the United Kingdom Government because he will be bound by the terms of the Labour Government’s agreement, and the British Government will be entitled to insist that the British people shall enjoy the benefit of the conditions of that agreement. All the troubles that I have mentioned have caused a serious reduction of the production of butter, which should be one of our greatest assets in the United Kingdom market. The sale of increased quantities of Australian butter at fair prices in Great Britain would have a beneficial effect on our sterling balances. However, we are obliged to abide by the agreement.
That is why the Minister has framed the plan for which this bill provides. The dairy-farmers’ organizations have accepted the plan in its entirety, and State Ministers for Agriculture, through the Australian Agricultural Council, have approved of all its details. The system includes a method of ascertaining costs which has been acceptable to everybody concerned. Thus, the Minister lias prepared a complete system that will be a substitute for equalization. There appears to be no opposition to the plan. The former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), interjected during the speech of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and boasted that the Labour Government’s stabilization plan had covered the entire butter output of the dairying industry, whether it was sold in Australia or overseas. The guaranteed price under that scheme applied not only to butter sold in Australia, but also to the export surplus. But so low had the industry fallen during the currency of that plan that about £6,000,000 a year was sufficient to cover the cost of the subsidy. Since then the position of the industry has improved to such a degree that the Government to-day is obliged to find about £16,000,000 annually in order to subsidize consumers in Australia. It is not our duty to pay a subsidy at the expense of the. Australian taxpayers in order that the people of the United Kingdom may have cheap butter. The Minister has made that situation clear. How futile would be his attempts to negotiate a higher price for Australian butter in the United Kingdom if the British Government knew that we were subsidizing our exportable surplus so that the Australian producer might obtain a reasonable return for his labour! The proposition is ridiculous and cannot be supported.
The first problem that had to be solved by this Government was that of finding a means of increasing the local price of butter. In order to achieve its objective, it had to break down the determination of the State governments not to increase the price. So miserable was the return to the producers at that period that the industry continued to dwindle rapidly. A great fight took place between the Minister and the State Ministers on this issue. Eventually, four States agreed to increase the price of butter, but the remaining two States continued for weeks to refuse to agree to a price that was considered by the experts to be sufficient to provide the dairymen with a reasonable ‘return for their labour and a fair margin of profit. This bill will overcome many of the troubles of the dairying industry, and it provides also for the future, when we hope that production will be much greater than at present so that we shall have a large surplus for export. Honorable members must realize that only one country in the world is prepared to buy our surplus dairy products, eggs, beef, and other foodstuffs. That is Great Britain. It has always been willing to negotiate for the purchase of our surplus foodstuffs, and it is still willing to do so to-day.
Ve complain often because the former Labour Government agreed to a provision in the seven-year agreement that the price for our butter in Great Britain should not be varied by more than 7£d. in any year. The British Government at one stage agreed to relax the terms of the agreement so as to enable Australia to sell the small quantity of 15,000 tons of butter on the free world market, but we could not dispose of that amount. We were able to sell only a few dribs and drabs here and there, and in the end we bad to return to Great Britain and sell the butter to it under the terms of the agreement. Some honorable members have said that, even if the agreement were not enforced, our situation would remain unchanged. But the fact is that, when the Labour Government made the agreement with the British Government, the governments of other butter-producing countries were affected by it. The United Kingdom was able to obtain all the butter that it wanted from Australia under the restrictive terms of the agreement. How could New Zealand, Canada, or any other country hope to sell butter to Great Britain at a higher price when those conditions prevailed? That circumstance prevented Australia from negotiating effectively for the amendment of the agreement in order to provide a higher price. I make no complaints against Great Britain on this count because that country, above all others, deserves help to-day. However, I do not want that help to be given at the expense of the men and women who are engaged in what is probably the most tiresome of all our industries, the dairying industry.
The dairymen should not be called upon to contribute in this way to the assistance of Great Britain. If we want to help the British people, let us emulate our Canadian cousins and make straightout gifts to them. Only recently, Canada came to the aid of Great Britain again by making a gift of 200,000,000 dollars worth of cash and goods to that country. We should not require only the producers of the commodities to make good something that should be provided by the people as a whole. I commend the British Government for its gesture in permitting Australia to divert up to 15,000 tons of butter to other countries. In the past, we have repeatedly sought open markets in the United States of America and other countries but, invariably, we have been obliged to fall back on the British market. History is repeating itself in that respect to-day. Although France and other countries may be prepared to buy beef and other commodities on the open market, the fact remains that if our producers took advantage of such opportunities they would not be in as favorable a position as they are at present. I commend the Government for having introduced the measure. In arranging these contracts we deal directly with the British Ministry of Food. I sincerely trust that we shall always have the good fortune of dealing with a British Government that will be prepared to make one general agreement under which it will contract to buy all our surplus primary products. Such an arrangement is in the best interest? not only of the British consumers, but also of the Australian producers.
.- I do not propose to deal at length with this bill. Honorable members opposite have to some degree discussed its merits but, generally speaking, they have recapitulated the old worries and troubles of the dairying industry. We also witnessed some excitement on the part of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) when the recalled events that happened way back in 1932. However, the Opposition has not made any attempt to oppose the bill which, I have no doubt, will be passed unanimously. I commend the measure.
At a time when we are discussing the dairying industry, it is well for us to take the opportunity to deal with some of the problems that are involved in the expansion of the industry and to acquaint ourselves with some of the difficulties that lie ahead of it. I do not propose to recapitulate for political reasons any feature of the seven-year contract that has been made with the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), when he was Minister for Com.merce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, worked vigorously and well for the industry. I never suspected that he would do otherwise. I have no doubt that the arrangement that he made appeared at the time to be one that would suit us for the whole of the period of the contract. Nobody could foresee the tremendous rise of prices that has taken place in the meantime. At present, Great Britain is paying for our ‘butter 392s. .6d. per .cwt. and New Zealand is receiving the same price, while the price, for Danish butter on the British market is 421s. pei’ cwt., or approximately 30s. per .cwt. more.
Before dealing with the practical side of the production of butter, I desire to refer to the provision of a subsidy in respect of any quantity of ‘butter that may be shipped overseas. Obviously, no Australian Government would want to subsidize consumers in some other country nor could it call upon the Australian taxpayer to subsidize the consumer of butter in Great Britain. The subsidization of an unlimited quantity of butter for export, which would eventually find its way into the hands of the British Ministry of Food, which drives a very hard bargain, would completely undermine .any subsequent attempt on our part to bargain for a higher price. Consequently, I commend the Government for taking the middle comae and deciding to subsidize on the overseas market a quantity not in excess of 20 per cent, of homeconsumption butter. Under such an arrangement, the Government will guarantee, so far as it is possible to do so, a reasonable quantity for export to Great Britain and, at the same time, ensure adequate supplies for the home market. I support that proposal.
I propose to refer to two problems which this House must sooner or later examine if it is to assist in stabilizing the dairying industry. It is probable that the industry, itself, could do that job moro efficiently if it were enabled to charge the full cost of production directly to the consumer and not rely upon some failure >by .either of <the major political parties in this House in order to obtain a subsidy. However, at the present, it is impossible ‘for the industry to act on its own initiative in this respect. Consequently., .a committee has been set up ito examine costs of production with the object of determining a price that will return to the dairy-farmer a reasonable standard of living ,and a rate of interest on the money that he has invested in his farm which bears some relation to the risks that he is obliged to run in respect of fire, flood and disease. Such a problem must be examined in relation to the industry throughout Australia because it is impossible foi’ this Parliament to deal solely with a particular area in which the industry is being carried on most efficiently and say that it will provide only for a price that will be profitable to those engaged in the industry in that area and refuse to ‘concern itself with farmers who come within the category to which the honorable mem.ber for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) referred, such as newcomers to the industry in “Western Australia. Consequently, curious anomalies exist in respect of costs of production. The Government is bound to take into consideration costs that pertain in central Gippsland, an area that I represent, and in which the industry is old-established and is carried on most efficiently. In that district the farmers get as big a return per acre and per cow as do farmers in New Zealand who are held up as models to Australian farmers. A similar return is also obtained in a certain district in South Australia. If the price were based upon a return which gives a fair yield on a hard-working standard in such areas, we should make it difficult for people who are trying to establish themselves in the industry in less favoured districts to make a living at all. Dairying has been spread throughout Australia, because it is an industry that spreads with centres of population. Dairying will follow centres of population for the production of whole milk and as that phase of the industry becomes established, production is extended to the production of milk for butter and cheese. Consequently, the problem arises of determining a rate of return that will enable persons of the type to whom the honorable member for Forrest referred to establish themselves in new pastures, and who, probably, are confronted with difficulties of the kind that existed in the industry in Gippsland and in similar districts perhaps 60 years ago. I have been interested in certain areas in New South Wales and in Queensland, particularly the Darling Downs, where it appears to me- ^1 trust that I shall not get into trouble for saying this - the efficiency of dairyfarming can be enormously increased. If farmers in certain areas in Victoria can get a yield of 380 lb. of butter fat per cow, I find it difficult to understand why farmers in other favoured districts are content to struggle on with a yield of only 180 lb. of butter fat per cow. That attitude on the part of certain sections of the industry presents almost an insuperable difficulty in arriving at a more uniform standard of cost of production.
I desire to raise a second matter which I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), to examine. The honorable member for Lalor, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, issued a book which was distributed to all dairy-farmers in Victoria and, subsequently, to farmers in the other States. However, the issue of such books is not the answer to the problem of increasing efficiency in the industry. As one who has been farming for over 30 years, I know that what the farmer gets out of a book is not applicable by every farmer to every problem that may arise. If we desire extension services to be really effective, we must present the latest scientific information to the farmer in a way that will enable him to assimilate it more easily. I know very well that the imparting of scientific knowledge in agri-culture during the last fifteen years has helped to make individual farmers more efficient than they used to be. In the old day3 a farmer regarded a scientist as an enemy and would chase him off the farm. The change that has taken place in that respect on the part of both small and big farmers has been remarkable. I pay a special tribute to my friend, Professor Wadham, of the University of Melbourne who, more than any other man, at least in Victoria, has succeeded in making scientific information acceptable to individual farmers. In this matter we should follow the method that was adopted by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America of establishing a demonstration farm in every district. I am not suggesting that an expensive programme of model farms is necessary, or even desirable. The Tennessee Valley Authority selected a farm that was a little below the general average and said to its owner, “We shall set out for you programmes for stock culling, fencing and sub-division, pasture improvement and fodder conservation, and if you follow these programmes we shall guarantee to you a return that will be 50 per cent, better than that which you are getting for yourself “. Having made that agreement with .the farmer, the authority sent to that farm agrostologists and demonstrators. Other farmers in the locality would know that the farm that had been selected was a little below general average. Whilst it is easy to get the ear of the big farmer who has plenty of capital and -who is interested in the development of his farm, I believe that the best way to get the co-operation of the small farmer is to undertake demonstrations of the kind that I have indicated. In such circumstances neighbouring farmers look over the fence and are impressed when they see a crop of clover in a paddock that previously was regarded as being practically useless. Consequently, they would want to know how the improvement had been effected. We must devise means similar to those that were employed by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the valuable work that it achieved in the United States of America. We should examine such a method in conjunction with the States, with a view to teaching a farmer how to farm, not by giving him books, but by showing him in a practical way how he should operate. The bill will not be opposed and I do not want to deal with it further. I commend it and suggest that in considering the dairy industry in the future, we must devise methods of improving production. Sooner or later we must find means of stabilizing prices so that there will be greater efficiency in the low production areas. If we do not do so we shall not be able to keep the dairy-farmers operating . in those areas.
– I commend the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) for the speech that he made on this bill. So far as I can discover, he was entirely responsible for it. Often it is the custom for Ministers to read a speech that has been prepared by their departmental officers, but in this case the Minister has gone to considerable trouble to prepare a statement upon the industry. I think that the speech itself is a worthy contribution to a study of the dairying industry in Australia. It sets out very clearly the issues that surround a stabilization plan for the dairying industry and records some of the difficulties that face the implementation of such a plan. At present, two difficulties face dairy-farmers and those who decide upon the prices that are to be paid for dairy products. Those difficulties have grown from a complicated system of Government. On the one hand there is the Australian Government. On the other there are six States who have price control powers. Provision is made for the producers to have a controlling voice on the boards that control the dairying industry. The Australian Government has an interest in the industry because it pays a subsidy. The State governments have price fixing powers and also play an important role because of section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that trade between the States shall be absolutely free. As a result, all six States would have to agree upon any legislation affecting the sale of products of the dairying industry and at the same time each of the State parliaments would have to pass relevant legislation. Quite properly the industry also has a voice in any negotiations through its elected representatives.
In Australia we have reached the fantastic situation where we sell butter to our own people for 4s. Id. per lb., which we call the cost of production, and sell it overseas at 33. Id. per lb. So we are losing ls. per lb. on the cost of production of every pound of butter that we export. The Australian people are pay ing a high price for butter and a subsidy that helps to meet the loss on the butter that is sold overseas. [Quorum formed.’) This fantastic situation has been reached by the operation of stabilisation plans in association with internal costs that are fixed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and the costs that flow from its awards. .Some difficulty has arisen also because, having made the price of butter equal to the cost of production, we now see some buyer resistance to it. The normal consumption of butter in Australia was 9,500 tons a month. After the price was raised on the 1st July last, consumption of butter in Australia fell to 6,700 tons a month, a fall of nearly 2,000 tons.
– How many people can afford it now? You killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has been away from the Parliament for a few weeks, and his interjection shows how silly one can get after being away for a little while. He knows that the Arbitration Court provides for any increase of food prices in its quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. When the price of butter was increased in July, those who had anticipated it and had stored butter did not want so much in the first month. Therefore, the consumption fell in July to 6,700 tons. In August, consumption was 7,500 tons, and in September it rose to 8,500 tons.
Opposition members interjecting,
– The interjections are in line with Labour party policy, which seeks cheap butter for the trade unionists. The Labour party does not want to see any industrial workers suffer. It wants to keep the dairy-farmer and his family on low living standards. In September, the consumption of butter was within 1,000 tons of the normal figure. We do not know yet whether it will reach the previous level, but consumption is rising as prosperity gradually reasserts itself. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) say that the Labour party did not want to see bad conditions in the dairying industry. That is not in line with the interjections of the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) cited figures relating to hundredweights and pounds, but he did not say that the recommendation of the cost of production committee was not accepted by the Labour Government. For two years, between 1945 and 1947, the dairying industry was paid ls. 7£d. per lb. for butter after the committee had recommended ls. 11-Jd. For two years, therefore, the industry was deprived of 4d. per lb. Over the whole industry the sum of money involved was large. The effect was not evident at the time because it is a long-term industry, but over the year it has become more evident. The industry was deprived of capital at a critical time by the Labour Government. We are now reaping the crop that the Labour Government sowed then.
The contract with the British Government that was made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he was Minister or Commerce and Agriculture allowed for a rise and fall of 7-J per cent. The contract was for seven years, from 1948 to 1955. It is well known that the pronouncements of the Arbitration Court and the charges that flow from them allowed costs in Australia to rise by 30 per cent, a year, so that the contract price for butter sold overseas falls short of the cost by 22-£ per cent. Somebody has to bear the loss. The contract was made by the Labour Government with the British Ministry of Food which formed part of another socialist government. It also believes in cheap food for the manufacturers and their workers. It believes that the manufacturing community should be fed and nourished by the rural producers. The rise and fall provision of 7-1 per cent, in the contract fell behind rising costs by more than 22 per cent. We are now in a difficult situation because of that contract. The Government hopes that the dairy-farmers will not look so much for an increase of price but that they will seek a greater amount for themselves from the price that they receive. In other words, they will make a greater profit from the price. In two years the dairy-farmers have been able to get a good price for their product because of the activities of this Government. The price that they are receiving now for butter is a good price. There are several reasons for it and the Minister has touched upon them clearly. In the first place, the method of computing the price was changed and brought up to date. Secondly, the basis upon which the costs of the farmer were calculated were also reviewed. Instead of receiving 3j per cent, return on capital, the dairy-farmers will now receive up to bank overdraft rate, which is 4£ or 5 per cent. The status of the dairy-farmer has been brought to a managerial level and he is allowed £800 a year for himself It is proper that he should have managerial status- because a dairy-farmer must use great skill in carrying out his responsibilities. The question of a working week of 56 hours instead of 40 hours is not a vexed one, although costing at the rate of 56 hours is unfair compared with the basis of 40 hours. However, as there are not many employees in the dairying industry, the- matter affects mostly owner-farmers. The plan that is beginning to emerge is that the dairy-farmers, by reducing their costs of production, will make more profit from butter sold at the present price. They will not ask for a much greater price for their .product. They will try to reduce their costs of production, with the aid of extension services and various other forms of assistance that should have been given to them long ago. A man who is milking about 30 cows on a low-grade farm would be able to produce butter fat at a much lower cost if he could increase the size of his herd and the output of his cows, without employing more labour.
How can that be done? A very interesting article on the subject, written by Professor Wadden. was published in the Melbourne Age of the 20th September. In the article, he referred to the approach of agricultural officers to farmers. In the past, agricultural officers visited only a small number of farms, because the time at their disposal was limited. There were many farmers, and very few agricultural officers. Sometimes they gave demonstrations at field days, but they were not able to do enough. We must have more agricultural officers, so that they will be able to call at every farm, particularly lowgrade farms, which are the holdings that are most capable of adding to the aggregate agricultural production of Australia. It would not be of much use for agricultural officers to visit stud breeders or men with rich and efficient farms on which there were adequate fodder, water conservation facilities, improved pastures and good bulls. There are very few such farms, and they are already producing to full capacity. The men that we must assist are the hundreds of under-privileged farmers. Our agricultural officers must take to them the fruits of the best agricultural research work in the world. In Australia, agricultural research is far ahead of extension work. We have not make the right approach to the underprivileged farmers. If we send them a book written by the honorable member for Lalor, they will read that if they us superphosphate on their farms they will increase their production by three times.
I see that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is making signs to me. If the right honorable gentleman listens to what I am saying, he may learn something that will be of interest to him. We could write to a farmer and tell him that if he used superphosphate he could increase his production of fodder threefold. If the farmer accepted that advice, he would have to store three times as much fodder as previously. He would be required to do all kinds of things that would cost a great deal of money. He would have to subdivide his pastures, and to buy more fencing posts and fencing wire. He would have to employ more labour temporarily, tit is easy to tell a farmer how to increase his production, but the achievement of the result that we want is a most complicated matter. The extension officers should visit farmers, especially those who have insufficient finance, labour and materials, and help them by discussing their problems. I am pleased that the New South Wales Government has established a fund to assist such people. The extension services that have been so successful in America could be used in this country. They would enable us, not only to achieve the increased production that we require to strengthen our overseas funds, but also to reduce to a great degree the cost of producing butter fat. The Government, at the request of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, has begun to make funds available to the States for that purpose. In addition to the £250,000 dairy grant, a sum of £200,000 will be made available to the six States this year for expenditure upon extension services. An expansion of those services would make a great difference to our primary production.
I turn to the availability of materials required by farmers. I congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council upon his work on the superphosphate problem. This year, as a result of his efforts, we shall have about 10,000 tons more sulphur, and consequently we shall be able to produce 100,000 tons more superphosphate. More zinc and lead has been supplied to manufacturers of fencing wire, and greater quantities of wire will be available. Some farmers have said that if we provide them with enough superphosphate and fencing materials, they will be able to give us the production that we need. The lag in the production of fencing materials is being overtaken slowly but surely, and the increased supplies that will be available will make a great difference to primary production. Many things must be done. First, pastures must be subdivided. Tests have proved that if a farmer divides his farm into, say, four paddocks and saves the grass from two paddocks while his cattle graze on the other two, the production of his cows increases by 30 per cent, or 40 per cent.
– What about the bulls?
– Last Friday, the first artificial insemination station in Australia was opened at Berry. Now, it will be possible for farmers to breed cattle from proven sires. An underprivileged farmer who cannot buy a good bull will be able to utilize the services of the station and to breed from the best bulls in the country. The opening of the station should lead to a tremendous increase in the productivity of stock. I hope that the extension services will enable us to solve many of the problems with which we are confronted. At the present time, we are selling butter overseas, in competition with other countries, for ls. per lb. less than the cost of production. We cannot ask the British Government to increase its contract price, because we must compete with those other countries. We must bring down our costs of production, and co-operation between extension officers and farmers will help us to do so. The farmers know that this Government is on their side. Because they are confident of the future, they will do all that they can do to increase production.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Inspection of books and accounts).
– I do not believe that many honorable members have read this clause, which states - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, a person authorized in writing by the Minister to exercise powers under this section may, at all reasonable times -
enter the premises of an equalization body or factory, or the premises where any books or accounts relating to an equalization body or factory are kept; and
I direct the attention of the committee fo the fact that, under the clause, the Minister could authorize a person to enter certain premises at all reasonable times. T assume that the question of what was a reasonable time would be decided by the individual authorized by the Minister to exercise these powers. I take it that the authority in writing given by the Minister would hold good for an indefinite period, and that it need not necessarily be issued in respect of any particular premises. The clause will confer a very wide power upon certain persons. They will be authorized to enter the premises of any equalization body or factory in which any books or accounts relating to that body are kept. The premises might be an office, a butter factory, a cheese factory, or a creamery.
They might be the house of the manager or an official of a factory. Under the clause, a person so authorized in writing by the Minister would be empowered to enter such premises at all reasonable times. The person concerned would interpret the meaning of the words “ at all reasonable times “. I realize that the purpose of the clause is to protect moneys paid to equalization bodies, and to enable the Government to supervise the expenditure of those moneys, but I point out to the committee that it will authorize the Minister to delegate to an officer, or to a person whom honorable gentlemen opposite would call a bureaucrat, power to enter the house of the manager of a factory at midnight, because the books of the factory were there temporarily or permanently.
– He might be shot.
– The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has had some narrow escapes when he has entered premises without authority. I do not know whether he was shot or not, or whether he was in danger of being shot, but I know that he entered certain premises without authority. That is bad enough in all conscience, but, under this proposal, introduced by a Government that has talked over a long period of years about the powers exercised by bureaucrats, it would be possible for a most frightful situation to arise, in which some officers, with written authority from the Minister, perhaps given a considerable time before and without any particular prior consultation with the Minister, could raid a butter factory or the home of its manager, disturb his domestic tranquility, frighten his wife and family, and demand the immediate production of certain documents. I realize that action must be taken to ensure that public moneys are expended along the lines that the Parliament intended. I suggest, however, that this difficulty could be overcome if the Minister would indicate that he is willing to substitute a more reasonable clause that would provide that 24 hours’ notice must be given to any factory, equalization committee or other authority involved in the administration or distribution of these public funds that it will be required to deliver to an officer of the department, at an appointed place, all relevant documents that may be required for the purposes of an investigation to ascertain whether the moneys are being lawfully and correctly expended, and that no fraud is taking place. I think that in this matter the provision of a wide authority could easily lead to an infringement of the civil rights of the people concerned. I hope the Minister will indicate that he is willing to make an alteration along the lines that I have suggested, or provide for a more reasonable method of carrying out the investigations, or, alternatively, that he will have such an amendment inserted in the bill when it is before the Senate. Unless the Minister is prepared to accept one of these alternatives I must call for a division on the clause. I can understand, and I agree with, the motive of the clause, and I can also understand its purpose, but I object to the method that is provided to carry it out.
– As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) -has said, this is a serious provision, but he has drawn upon his imagination somewhat and has suggested that it provides for an authority that might be delegated by the Minister to an officer, or a number of officers, and that such delegated authority might last for an indefinite time and cover an indefinite number of factories. All that is a nice flight of imagination.
– Nevertheless, it is a fact.
– I can assure the honorable member that this is an authority that is exclusively reserved to the Minister, and is not capable of delegation. I can assure him also that it would be exercised by the Minister only in respect of particular instances.
– That is not provided for in the bill itself. The Minister’s assurances are not an adequate protection.
– I think that the legal interpretation of the clause will show that the position is as I have said.
– Even so, it is wrong.
– The provision is regarded . as necessary because, for example, this year a total amount of £16,800,000 of treasury funds will be distributed to dairy farmers on the certification of private companies. The Commonwealth Dairy Industry Equalization Committee is not a government body but is a private body, and will be the distributing authority. It will distribute the moneys according to the records of dairy factories, and it is obvious that the Government should take every precaution to ensure that so enormous an amount of public money cannot be wrongfully distributed. It is clear that the point at issue with the honorable member for Lalor is not the necessity to have adequate protection of the public funds, but is the method to be provided to ensure such protection. He has stated that unless I agree to alter the clause he will call for a division on it. That is interesting, because this provision was lifted from a bill that the Government in which he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture introduced into the Parliament, in 1943. That bill was passed.
– That does not make it right.
– It is lifted from the regulations made under the Dairying Industry Assistance Act.
– That does not make it right.
– The honorable member, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government, administered the provision for years, but he now threatens that if I do not agree to alter the clause he will call for a division on it.
– That is correct.
– It is a free world, and anybody is entitled to make himself look silly. If the honorable member wishes to make himself look silly I shall leave him to it.
.- The Minister’s explanation is inadequate, and the fact that this provision existed in legislation passed in 1943, and was operated while I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, does not alter the fact that it is capable of abuse. An inspection of books was made in one particular case, and revealed some discrepancies. The people concerned were brought to book. The officer in that case acted correctly. He went to the people concerned and asked to see the books, which were produced. However, under the provision as it then existed, and as it now stands in this bill, an officer could go at any time to any place where the hooks might be kept, and demand that they be produced in any circumstances and, in many cases, in unreasonable circumstances. The fact of the existence of this provision in the 1943 legislation does not justify its continuation under this measure, because it seems to me that it could be abused. The fact that it escaped the attention of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in 1943, when he was in Opposition, merely shows negligence on his part, and the fact that it is not now escaping my attention, when I am in Opposition, proves my alertness. I. was not the Minister who introduced the previous measure that contained the provision.
Experience has shown that such provision can be abused. I consider that it would be sufficient to provide authority to the Minister, or an officer appointed by him, to call for the production of relevant books or papers for inspection at 24 hours notice, at a place to be nominated or, by agreement with the persons con.cerned, at the registered office of the company. That would be reasonable. The spurious case advanced by the Minister does not meet the situation. It is thoroughly unreasonable particularly, when we hear so much talk about bureaucratic invasions of the privacy and the rights of the people. The equalization committee handles vast sums of public money, and I assume its books and records are available for inspection by the Auditor-General.
– A special dairying industry audit staff is continuously available to make such inspections.
– I suggest that another approach to this matter could be adopted tha.t would protect the rights and liberties of the people concerned. The same result that the provision seeks to achieve could be achieved in a much less arbitrary manner than the clause provides.
– The fact that a similar provision existed in regulations made under the 1943 legislation, or any other legislation, surely does not affect the need for the committee to examine this provision once its attention has been directed to it. It is a fact that many grave excesses and abuses of power occurred, and always do occur, in war-time, and that many thoroughly bad regulations ware made during the war years. It is to the credit of the previous Labour Government that it established a regulations advisory committee of distinguished members to keep a continual watch and chock on abuses of power under the regulations, and amended many obnoxious regulations. This provision is easily capable of amendment. It is a kind of clause that increasingly finds its way into legislation when governments exercise controls. It is the kind of clause which is designed solely in the interests of administrative convenience by administrative officers who have no particular concern, as this committee should have, with the rights of individual citizens. No fault is to be found with the administrative officers who frame this kind of clause solely from the viewpoint of administrative convenience, but great fault should be found with this Parliament if, once its attention has been directed to such abuses of power, it allows them to continue.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has suggested a simple way in which the clause could be amended to protect the civil interests of people which might otherwise be endangered. There is no reason why the clause should not be amended so as to limit to ordinary business hours the time in which such inspections may be made. There is also no reason why it should not limit inspections to the registered premises of the bodies concerned. The clause, as it stands, gives no such protection. It will allow inspections to be made by day or by night, in an office or in a home, at a time when an officer of the equalization body concerned may be present, or when he may be absent. Under it the privacy of a home may be disturbed by day or by night, in the absence of the home-owner, whose wife and children may be gravely disturbed, unnecessarily. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has given an assurance that the power will not be abused. That is the kind of assurance that is always given in these cases, but the trouble is that eventually abuses occur when the power exists-
– Only when a Labour government is in office.
– That is a foolish statement, because these powers will not be exercised by Ministers in a Labour or a non-Labour government, but will be exercised by administrative officers.
– This power is specifically reserved to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, so what is the honorable member talking about? He has not read the clause properly.
-The power is not reserved to the Minister,, because he may delegate it to any person. If he delegated it he would not be delegating it to a Liberal or Labour politician, but to an administrative officer. It is absurd for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to suggest that the Parliament need have no concern so long as a Liberal government is in office and a Labour government is not in office. Even if his contention were correct, it would be all the more reason why he should have the clause amended, because no man lives forever, and no government remains in office forever, and once this clause is on the statute-book it will remain there whatever government may be in office. The clause is easy to amend in the interests of the people that the legislation is designed to assist, so as to protect their ordinary civil rights. The Minister should give some assurance to the committee that he will re-examine it with the possibility of introducing an amendment to it, either here or in the Senate.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has receded considerably from the logical and capable position that he took up during the second-reading stage. I do not suppose there is any one who has inveighed more vigorously than I have against certain clauses of this kind which, I must say, without attempting to inject too much of a political atmosphere into the discussion, were introduced by Labour Ministers in a parliament of which I was a member, and which specifically permit officials to enter private homes. I could cite a few of those acts, but I shall not occupy the time of the committee needlessly in doing so. I shall address myself to the suggested amendment.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro suggests that we can limit the entry of an authorized person to the specific factory premises and offices. The Parliamentary Draftsman has some appreciation of where such a provision would undoubtedly land those persons who tried to administer this legislation. If we limited the operation of the legislation in that way, any one who wished to evade the purposes and intentions of it could remove the books from the proper jurisdiction, and the authorities would not be able to examine them. Surely a more Gilbertian situation could not arise. I suggest that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who is not lacking in intelligence, will see, on reflection, the weakness of his own argument.
Why should a person remove books that belong to a factory from its normal registered office, and take them to a private place? The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) suggests that a person might take those books to his residence for homework and that under a perfectly tyrannical regime, which would be presumably a government of which the honorable gentleman was a member, an officer would proceed to that home and disturb the calm and peace of the family life. The honorable gentleman has engaged in the entertaining business of putting up Aunt Sallies in order to knock them down. His suggestion is not worthy of serious consideration. The plain fact is that this clause deals with the proper inspection of books. The proper place for the books to be- kept is in the registered office of a factory. A person who takes such books away from the office at a time when they should normally be kept there for the purposes of inspection, or who refuses to produce them when they are required, should be subject to the full forces of the law.
The only other remark I shall make is for the benefit of members of the Opposition. It was said in Great Britain a few days ago that *a thing cannot be right under a Labour ministry, and necessarily wrong under a non-Labour ministry.
– This matter was wrong under a Labour ministry.
– This provision was introduced by a Labour ministry.
– But it was wrong.
– If it was wrong, the honorable member makes a belated repentance. After having sat in the cold shades of Opposition for two and a half years, he has discovered this evening that the provision is wrong. I suggest that he is merely straining his capacity for argument when he makes such a submission.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has stated the position, with which I generally agree, but he has misunderstood the amendment that I have suggested. I consider that the proposal put forward by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) might be adopted as an appropriate amendment to this clause. I refer to the right of an official to require the production of documents. If that right is given, the suggestion I have made is supplementary to it, and the ordinary power to inspect the documents in business hours at the registered office of a factory should be sufficient. In addition to that, power should be given, as suggested by the honorable member for Lalor, to require the production of documents at that office. If the documents are not then produced at the office, the Government has sufficient power to obtain them wherever they may be. I suggest that it is completely unnecessary to require, without any notice, the production of documents for inspection by a government official, and to provide that an official shall have the right to invade private homes at any hour of the day or night in order to examine the books. Legislation of that kind is bad, irrespective of the Government that inserts it in legislation, and regardless of whether it has been inserted in legislation in the past.
, - Members of the Opposition seem to forget that it is not advisable to warn a person that his books are to be audited.
– You do not say so !
– I know that the honorable member for East. Sydney (Mr. Ward) would evade any audit, and that he will not gain any benefit from the information that I shall give on this matter. If we call upon a person to produce his books and documents at some future time, we warn him in advance that we propose to investigate his affairs. That is obvious. This clause is not designed for that purpose. It is designed to give an officer the opportunity to investigate the books of a factory when we may desire to do so, and, without warning. I cannot understand, when a sum of more than £16,000,000 of public moneys is involved, why the Opposition asks that a warning be given of an intention to audit the relevant books and documents.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has stated the case which I would have stated, so clearly and so much better than I would have stated it, that there is nothing that I can add to his remarks. ‘ I am quite satisfied to rest upon my colleague’s explanation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) feels badly about the whole matter. He said that the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government appointed a committee to scrutinize all regulations made in war-time-
– I was the chairman of that committee.
– The regulation which is affected by the clause under consideration, was promulgated in 1943, and has remained in force until to-day. Presumably the honorable member, in his capacity as chairman of that committee, scrutinized the regulation carefully, and found no objection to it. Opposition members have got themselves into an incredible tangle over this matter. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard ) has said that he will vote against the clause unless the Government withdraws a provision which the Labour Government introduced nearly ten years ago, and of which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has presumably approved. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has seized the opportunity in this debate to say that such a provision is incredibly bad, and must be withdrawn. The whole situation is ridiculous.
The truth of the matter is that the government of the day has a responsibility to safeguard public funds. The dairying industry subsidy audit regulations provide that there shall be a continuous audit. Seven officers are continuously engaged in auditing those accounts. They go to the normal places of business and ask for the books to be produced for their inspection. It would only be in exceptional circumstances such as when an employee refused to produce the books, or the books were removed from the place where they should be kept, that the Minister would be approached.
– There should be a special authority in that case.
– This clause makes exactly that kind of provision. I am sure that a legal man would not say that it was competent for the Minister to give a blanket authority. I am also confident that the Minister has no power to delegate his authority to authorize an officer to act in accordance with this clause. The principle at stake in this matter is that of safeguarding public funds. A similar principle is recognized in the taxation laws of Australia and every other country with responsible government. The laws of Australia provide opportunity for taxation officials, upon the authorization of the person named in the appropriate statute, when reasonable grounds exist for believing that there is fraud, to enter without warning the place where the relevant records are kept. The Opposition has tried to explode a double hunger, which has proved to be a damp squib.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. McLeay.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have two match boxes before me. One has written on the front of it “ Three Aces, Impregnated Safety Matches. Made in Italy, Average under 50 matches “. The words “ under 50 matches “ can mean that there mightbe 49 matches in the box or there might be one match in it. Whatever be the number of matches in the box, it certainly is not over 50. This box of matches was sold by an official of Trans- Australia Airlines to a passenger for 21/2d. The second box has written on it “ Average contents 60 matches. Made in Australia “. That other box of matches of Australian manufacture is sold in Australia also at 21/2d. a box. A government instrumentality should not be a distributing agent for imported matches, even if those matches compare favorably in quantity and quality with Australian matches and are sold at the same price. But the imported box contains only 83 per cent. of the matches contained in the box made in Australia.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– Because the contents of the Australian box averages 60 matches, and that of the other box under 50 matches. I shall make my statement to the House so simple that even the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) will be able to understand it. I submit that a government instrumentality should not be a distributing agent for imported goods of any description, and the crime becomes more heinous when such an instrumentality is selling an article that is inferior to the Australian article. Not only these Italian matches are being sold in Australia in boxes that contain under 50 matches, but so, also, are Japanese matches and at 21/2d. a box, which, I repeat, is the price of the Australian article. However, the retailer or distributor of foreign matches makes an extra profit. I believe that the retailer or distributor makes 2s. more profit on a gross of Japanese matches than he makes on Australian matches. The lower cost of the foreign article is not passed on to the consumer, and therefore does not help in the fight against inflation. Government instrumentalities should be directed that they must distribute only Australian matches, and the Government should take action to ensure that a description of the contents of foreign match boxes shall be clearly printed on the outside of the boxes, so that purchasers will realize that they are purchasing only, for the same money, five-sixths of the quantity of the Australian article. This matter is particularly important because in Victoria the firm of C. F. Duncan and CompanyProprietary Limited, and I believe othermatchmaking firms in Victoria and other States, such as the concern that manufactures Swan matches in Western Australia, are working their employees short time. A director of a match manufacturing company informed me that his company was operating on short time only in the hope that the Government would do something to preserve the Australian market for the Australian industry. If the Government does not do this, then his firm may have to close down altogether. That, of course, would cause an increase of unemployment. The Government should take immediate action, first to instruct government instrumentalities which distribute or purchase goods such as matches, that they are to purchase or distribute only the Australian articles, and, secondly, it should investigate the position of the match industry and arrange such conditions for the Australian industry as will enable it to compete against unfair overseas competition. If the Government should take those actions, then the persons now employed in these industries will be able to carry on their full-time work, as they did prior to the flooding of this country with foreign goods.
.I desire to address my remarks througn you, Mr. Speaker, to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). I raise again the compensation claim on behalf of the ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese. I believe that it is desirable that the Government should declare, at the earliest opportunity, its opinion on the statements that have been made in this Parliament by honorable members on both sides of the Blouse. The bill that recently passed through thy
– Order! The honorable member cannot discuss the merits or demerits of a bill that was agreed to by the House yesterday.
– May I refer to the measure as distinct from its merits or demerits?
– No, that is definitely contrary to the Standing Orders.
– I crave your indulgence and beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. I merely say that soon there will be a first payment of certain money. The International Red Cross will pay to the Australian Government, as a result of the Japanese peace treaty, certain other moneys. Those moneys will be divided between the Australian, American and other governments.
– The American Government has relinquished its claim.
– We are led to believe that the American Government has relinquished its claim to a sum of money that it might otherwise have received. We are under the impression that the Australian Government will proceed with negotiations with the Japanese Government for a further sum of money to be divided among Australian ex-prisoners of war. I am aware that people will say that no sum of money can compensate an ex-prisoner of war for what he has undergone, but if the sum of money that we shall receive from the two sources that I have mentioned amounts to about £ 100 for each ex-prisoner of war, it seems quite proper for the Japanese Government to provide another £100. I am led to believe that the Premier of Japan has signified his willingness to negotiate about this matter, and, therefore, the Government should proceed forthwith to discuss with Japan the matter of a further payment, in the hope of getting another £100 for each ex-prisoner of war. In view of the confusion that exists at the present time about this matter, the Government should make a positive state ment on the whole position. Exservicemen’s organizations are under the impression that our Ambassador in America discussed this matter with the Premier of Japan at the San Francisco conference, and that that Premier indicated that he was prepared to talk to the Australian Government about this matter. My colleagues and I are aware of the fact that we cannot talk about compensation in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but if it is possible to get, in the most proper fashion, an additional £100 for each exprisoner of war, then a burden lies on the Australian Government to proceed with any negotiations that may lead to that result. In the most human and reasonable way that burden lies on this Parliament because the men to whom I am referring were commanded into captivity. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he will arrange for a clarification of Government policy on this matter as soon as possible so that we shall understand whether or not the Australian Government is prepared to go to the Japanese Government and say, “ Notwithstanding such moneys as we have received from the realization of J Japanese assets in Australia in the first place, and the realization of Japanese assets in axis and neutral countries in the second place, we expect, in the third place, to receive a further payment from the Japanese Government in order more properly to compensate Australian exprisoners of war against whom certain crimes were committed and on behalf of whom the Australian Government in March, 1950, said that it would ensure that compensation should be paid for those wrongs “.
– The time to put that to the Japanese would have been before the peace treaty was concluded, would it not?
– It was put to the Japanese Premier before the treaty was finalized. I am under the impression that the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America discussed the matter personally with him before the documents were signed at San Francisco.
– Order f The honorable member has dealt with that subject already. I have allowed him a great deal of latitude. He has dealt with a matter that was decided by the House last night, although he is not entitled to do so under the Standing Orders.
– I have made my point clear. I thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker.
– I bring to the attention of the House a matter that vitally affects sugar production. I have received the following letter from the Mossman Central Mill Company Limited, of north Queensland, concerning the removal of sugar from its mill : -
This Mill has 8,500 tons of sugar in stock to-day and has a storage capacity of 10,000 tons including all emergency storage between machinery in the Mill. This means that at the present crushing rate, if removals were stopped, the Mill would have to stop crushing in- six days from now and 34,000 tons of cane would remain in the field, which would represent a complete loss of £1.50,000 to growers and loss of wages to two hundred an:l twenty cane cutters and to two hundred and twenty mill workers.
Once the Mill ceases crushing at this stage, all seasonal labour would be immediately dispersed and skilled and unskilled could not be re-assembled to resume crushing for this season.
This season is a record crop for Mossman nml it will be worth more than £1,000,000.
This Company is committed to expenditure of over £250,000 to ensure that the expanded crop will be treated and that this extra sugar will be available for consumption both in Australia and in the United Kingdom.
The vast amount of planning and expenditure is being completely jeopardized by the hopelessly inadequate snipping position.
The immediate interest of this Mill is the clearance of sufficient sugar to allow us to crush all available cane, however, there is a. more distant but even more serious aspect, in that the output is expected to increase by 3,000 tons of sugar in 1053 and by a further 4,000 tons of sugar in 1054.
We hear a great deal of talk in this House about the need for increased production, but here is a case in which private enterprise has hopelessly collapsed and is hampering production. The sugar industry is expanding and the mills have installed more machinery but now the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has rendered all these efforts useless by its failure to remove sugar from the Mossman sugar mill. I emphasize the importance of the figures mentioned in the letter. A total of 34,000 tons of sugar is involved, and the result may be the complete loss of £150,000 and the dismissal of 440 workers. Unless the situation improves, conditions will become considerably worse within the next few years. Prompt remedial action should be taken. The Government recently increased the price of sugar and everything possible has been done to make the industry more prosperous. Sugar is the basis of the economy of northern Queensland,, and, of course, it is important to the whole of Australia. About twelve months ago I was obliged to refer in this House to a similar situation in other sugar mills. It is disgraceful that I should have to do so again. Sugar is removed from the Mossman mill by lighters. At present, maximum removals are being effected from the port of Cairns, to which sugar is shipped from various mills. At the same time, lighters should be provided to remove sugar from Port Douglas, to which the Mossman sugar mill sends its output. I recently referred in this House to the need for the removal of sugar from Mourilyan Harbour. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is not an unfortunate orphan of industry. It recently applied for £4,000,000 of additional capital, and the shares were taken up within 24 hours. By its failure to provvide shipping for the removal of sugar from the mills it is dealing a serious blow to Australia. Unless it remedies the position, the ultimate loss will amount to millions of pounds. The company makes considerable profits from the refining of sugar. It refused to disclose details of its activities in the High Court on one occasion on the ground that it was interested in many different activities. It is associated with banks and many other commercial organizations. When the sugar-growers applied for a higher price for their product, the company refused again to make available details of refining costs so that the growers could support their claim. The excuse was that, the company did not want to expose its affairs in public. However, when the Government granted a price increase, it demanded a share of the increase for itself, even though it had not assisted the claim in any way. No doubt it has demanded a share of the most recent increase. Apparently it refuses to take the trouble to arrange for the efficient removal of sugar from the mills, and this attitude aggravates the seriousness of its offence. Unless it changes its attitude, the sugar industry will be virtually crippled for two or three years, and large sums of money will be lost. I have raised the subject in this House so that the Government may be fully informed of the position. It should not be necessary for me to do so year after year. -Action should be taken at once to arrange for the shipping companies to remove sugar from Queensland ports, and the trouble should not be allowed to occur again. I point out, in case the argument may be used, that the delay is not due to any labour difficulties at the ports. It is entirely a matter of bad management. From my own knowledge of the sugar industry, I believe that a lighter could be sent from Cairns to Mossman without any trouble. If that cannot be done, additional lighters should be provided by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.
– Order! The honor.orble member’s time has expired.
– I refer to an important matter that affects the Royal Australian Air Force, and I am. pleased to see that, although the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) is not present, the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) is here. ‘ I hope that he will convey my complaint to the Minister for Air. Honorable members will recall that two months ago I referred to the dismissal of four men from the Royal Australian Air-Ground Radio School at Ballarat. In reply to my representations on behalf of the men, the Minister for Air said -
These men, in common with many others, were employed on a civilian basis against deficiencies in the strengths of Royal Australian Air Force personnel in certain musterings, and, as recruitment to these musterings is effected and the personnel concerned posted to the various units, &c, it is necessary that the services of the civilian staffs be terminated. It is regretted that the termination of the services of the four civilian employees referred to in your letter became necessary, but this action was unavoidable owing to civilian staffs are to be used more extensively the posting in of service personnel.
With reference, to the announcement that <»n - administrative duties throughout the
Royal Australian Air Force, this matter is still in the early planning stages, and it is not yet possible to indicate the extent to which the changes will be effected or the units at which additional civilians will be required.
Subsequently, the following item appeared in the Argus of the 9th October : -
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE CLERKS.
The Government had decided to employ civilian clerks in Royal Australian Air Force headquarters and establishments, Mr. McMahon, Air Minister, said today. Civilians would total about 60 per cent, of the staff.
About the same time, another newspaper published the following comment: -
Employment of civilians in the Royal Australian Air Force for administrative and clerical work is to be increased, so that more uniformed men may be transferred to operational musterings. If this means that the example of the Royal Air Force is at last to be followed here, the number of service personnel who are “ chair-borne “ at Royal Australian Air Force Headquarters should be reduced from the present proportion of more than half the staff to less than one-fifth.
But the extraordinary fact is that eighteen more men at the Ballarat AirGround Radio Station have been given notice of dismissal. Their services will be terminated at the end of this month. There seems to be a direct conflict of policies, and the Government ought to make a clear statement about the matter. There should be no more of this double talking, or single talking and double acting. This matter involves a number of men, probably a great many more than I actually know about. Members of the Opposition have refrained from criticizing the Government in respect of its proposed expenditure of £200,000,000 for defence. We have been content to recognize that responsibility for that expenditure rests entirely upon the Government. However, having regard to incidents of this kind, we may well have to examine whether that expenditure is being incurred in the interests of the community.
Whilst I admit that from time to time the necessity may arise to re-organize the services, the Government must provide definite answers in respect of this matter if it desires to allay misgivings in the community. The House should be assured that this administrative adjustment is not merely a cruel trick to serve a party political purpose. Is it designed to emphasize the present unemployment trend, with a view to influencing current proceedings in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? The Government should do all in its power to maintain full employment. Recently, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) stated that fewer persons registered for unemployment benefit last month than during the preceding month. Are we to take it that that was a signal to the Minister for Air that the present was an opportune time to dump some more men ? I should like an assurance from the Government that this is not evidence of a scheme as a result of which the Government hopes to be able to say later that it has drastically pruned the Public Service when, at the same time, the number of personnel actually employed by the Government has not been reduced at all. The men who were dismissed in this instance have been replaced by other persons. One of them informed me that his work has been assigned to two members of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force and one aircraftsman. No doubt those three persons are just as efficient as any other members of the services. Hitherto, the services were short of civilian staff and the men who have been dismissed should ‘ be given some credit for filling a want in that direction. The facts that I have disclosed show that whilst many temporary public servants are being retrenched, and whilst the Government may claim some credit on that score, a given amount of work is now being performed by an increased number of personnel.
I cannot understand why the Government repeatedly issues statements about the degree to which it is using civilian personnel when, at the same time, efficient civilian personnel are being dismissed. Each of the men involved in this instance is of a commendable type and is efficient. My main purpose in raising this matter is to urge the Government to find other employment for these men until such time as the re-organization of the Air Force is completed. As I raised, this matter two months ago, surely the Government must by now have evolved a definite plan of action. I should like to know whether men are being put off holus bolus in similar circumstances in order to give tha Air Force authorities an open go to recruit personnel of other types, perhaps, at a lower cost, or personnel who have been living in other areas. If that is the policy of the Government, it is not honouring its obligation to the community and the people will not be slow to express their resentment, as one section* of the community did at the be-election for the Flinders seat last Saturday. The Government should make a clear statement of policy on this matter in justice to senior administrators of the Royal Australian Air Force. Has the Government decided to dismiss more civilian staff with the object of gaining certain kudos while senior administrators of the Royal Australian Air Force will bear all the unpleasantness that is associated with such dismissals ? I desire to see the Royal Australian Air Force efficiently organized but, surely, that can be done without unjustly treating members of the civilian staff. Each of the four men involved in the earlier incident are exservicemen. One of them was out of work for a period of ten weeks prior to obtaining another position, and during that period he was obliged to expend £70 of his savings in order to subsist. Such treatment is not fair to men who undertook this work when there was a shortage of civilian staff. As they are ex-servicemen, the Government should either reinstate them in the positions that they previously occupied or find other positions for them.
– in reply - The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) raised a matter of great importance. I was interested in the suggestions that he made. I know that he is greatly concerned about the affairs of ex-prisoners of war, and I assure him that I shall bringhis representations to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I also assure other honorable members that the attention of the appropriate Ministers will be directed to the matters that they have raised in the course of this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Navigation Aci; - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1952, No. 87.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 89.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes - Ballan, Victoria.
Migration - Copies of Agreements between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Malta and The NetherHands, respectively. “Public Service Act- Appointments - Department of Defence Production - A. B. Farrar, G. G. Groves.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information:-
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
– On the 10th October, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) asked the following question : -
Can the Treasurer inform me of the amount of finance made available by the Commonwealth Bank to the Joint Coal Board in connexion with the costs associated with the stockpiling of coal in New South Wales? If he has not that information at hand, will he obtain it and let me have it as soon as possible ?
I now inform the honorable member that, as at the 15th October, 1952, the N.S.W. Mining Company Proprietary Limited, which is the Joint Coal Board’s operating company, had drawn £917,958 on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank for this purpose.
Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
SirArthur Fadden. - On the 10th October the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked the following question: -
I ask the Treasurer whether, subsequent to the Government’s disposal of its interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, contributors to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited provident fund were given an opportunity to redeem the balances standing to their credit in the A, B and C accounts of the fund, or whether they have been compelled to accept the new superannuation scheme that the company is now instituting, irrespective of whether or not they desire so to do. Will the right honorable gentleman examine this matter with a view to ascertaining the right of employees in this regard?
i asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Total Commonwealth payments to the States for roads works during the period the 1st July, 1942, to 30th June, 1952, amounted to £64,143,000, made up as follows: -
During the same period collections of customs and excise duties on petrol amounted to £154,306,000. These figures exclude collection in respect of aviation spirit from 1947-48 to 1951-52 and primage duty on petrol for the whole period.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521022_reps_20_220/>.