20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received information that no Public Service entrance examination will be held in South Australia this year, and that the responsible authorities cannot say when the next examination will be held. Will the Prime
Minister investigate this matter, and ensure that temporary public servants in South Australia will have an equal opportunity with public servants in other States to become permanent public servants ?
– I shall certainly have the matter investigated at once.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development say whether there is any truth in a current rumour that the coal owners intend to install machinery for the extraction of pillars in coal mines, without giving consideration to safety precautions or consulting the miners’ federation? Does the right honorable gentleman consider that in this connexion safety precautions are all important?
– ‘I am not aware of the details of the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I shall ascertain them from the Minister for National Development, and I shall advise him accordingly.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Australian trade commissioner service has furnished him with a report concerning the possibility of exporting Australian coal to the markets previously held by Australia and has it given him information regarding the obtaining of new markets? If such information has not been furnished to the Minister, will he arrange to obtain it from the service?
– The Australian trade commissioner service has devoted itself to an investigation of thu possibility of obtaining export markets for Australian coal. The Minister for National Development has also been exploring the possibility, as I think is well known, of selling Australian coal to Pakistan and other countries. I assure the honorable member that all the resources of the Australian trade commissioner service arc being used in various countries in this connexion and that its reports are made available to the Minister for National Development.
– My question, which is addressed to the Treasurer, arises from the action of the Government in circulating a printed statement of the excellent reasons for the introduction of the system of self-assessment of taxation. In view of the fact that the system is to be abandoned, will the Treasurer publish another pamphlet explaining the more excellent reasons why it is to be abandoned ?
– The question is based upon a false premise. The self-assessment system will not be withdrawn. The relevant legislation will be amended before the House goes into recess.
– In view of the importance of attracting the maximum flow of American capital to Australia, can the Treasurer assure the House that negotiations are still proceeding between the two countries for the completion of an agreement in relation to double taxation, and that the Government is making every effort to solve that problem?
– I assurethe House that the negotiations to which the honorable member has referred are still proceeding.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the decision given by the High Court on the 10th March in Watson’s case, which raised the question of the taxation of goodwill, going back, in that case, to the year ended on the 30th June, 1942. Will the right honorable gentleman indicate what action, if any, he intends to take in a large number of cases that involve the question of the taxation of goodwill on leasehold premises? Those cases have been pending for nearly .ten years, and the taxpayers concerned may be involved in direct and costly appeals to the High Court unless some action is taken by this Government.
– The subject raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is receiving the consideration of the Government as a matter of policy. It will be resolved in due course.
– Will the Treasurer inform honorable members whether it is a fact that self-assessment of provisional tax was introduced by this Government to overcome anomalies in the provisional tax system as introduced by a Labour government, and that now selfassessment is optional and absolutely voluntary ?
– The answer is in the affirmative. The provisional tax scheme introduced by the Chifley Government, had certain inherent weaknesses and anomalies. This Government has set out to adjust those anomalies, and, as the honorable member quite rightly suggested, the self-assessment system now gives the option to the taxpayer to adjust the anomaly when his tax is tending downward. It is a matter entirely for himself to do so if he wishes.
– With regard to the selfassessment provisions of the taxation legislation, I refer the Treasurer to th? recent elaborate booklet that was published jointly by him and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in which the advantages of the self-assessment system are lauded by both Ministers. Has the Treasurer’s opinion about the virtues of self-assessment changed since ten days ago when that booklet was published ?
– The booklet was issued much longer ago than ten days. It set out the law as it then stood, and I believe that what we put forward was in the best interests of those persons who were the victims of a weakness in the provisional tax system introduced by the Chifley Government.
– Will the Treasurer inform honorable members whether it is a fact that the Taxation Branch does not collect arrears of taxation from persons who are in receipt of age pensions? If that is a fact, will the Minister issue a regulation to that effect?
– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member and see if anything can be done in the direction he has indicated.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give the House some information concerning the political changes now occurring in Japan? Doe3 the right honorable gentleman consider that they have a deeper significance than appears on the surface? In particular, is the defeat of the Yoshida Government a first step in the re-emergence of an ambitious military party?
– I think that the Liberal Government led by Mr. Yoshida was elected last October with a small majority, and was defea’ted in the Diet last week by 229 votes to 218, a very narrow margin. Mr. Yoshida’s government has consistently taken a middle course in respect of the re-militarization of Japan. The members of the powerful Progressive party, which I am given to understand, is really a Conservative party, are pressing for rearmament on a scale, as they describe it, consistent with the economic position of Japan. I believe that a large section of the Socialist party in Japan holds strong views against any rearmament at all. Personally, I do not think that any particular significance can be placed on the defeat of Mr. Yoshida’s government from the standpoint of the remilitarization of Japan, although I have no doubt that the subject will be one of the important gambits at the forthcoming election. However, I think that the new Japanese constitution, the vigour of the members of the Diet in debate, and the fact that the. Government is responsible to the Diet are as good safeguards as we can look for against the possible resurgence of militarism in Japan, although I do not dismiss the possibility of that.
– “Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give an assurance to the wheat-growers of Australia that in any wheat stabilization plan submitted to the growers and the State governments, provision will be made for the honouring of promises made by the leaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party that the full amount of any difference in the price at which wheat is sold in Australia for stock feed, known as “ concessional wheat and export parity will be repaid to the Australian Wheat Board from Consolidated Revenue?
– I can give the wheatgrowers and the House the assurance that there will be no wheat stabilization scheme which is not worked out in consultation with growers and the six State governments, and does not subsequently receive the endorsement of the growers themselves by ballot. I have invited the Ministers for Agriculture in the six States to meet me this month in order to discuss the position as the outcome of the International Wheat Council’s discussions in Washington at the present time. Our meeting has been arranged to take place in Canberra on the 30th March next. I remind the honorable member for Hume that the price at which wheat is sold in Australia is a matter entirely within the constitutional authority of the State governments. The Commonwealth does not engage to pay to any one a subvention over and above the authorized legal price determined by State governments. 1 remind the honorable member, and the Labour party which may have forgotten the fact, that the only government in Australia that has ever paid a subvention to the wheatgrowers over and above the fixed legal “price determined hy the States, is ellis Government, which paid to stock-feeders last year 4s. Id. a bushel and is paying to them this year 2s. 2d. a bushel.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the delegation that has been in the United States of America endeavouring to negotiate a new wheat agreement, is now returning to Australia? Have the negotiations broken down, and if so what is the reason for their collapse ?
– The delegation is not returning to Australia, but I have been informed that two advisers with ‘the delegation, Sir John Teasdale, and Mr. Thomas Stott, the general secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, are on their way back to Australia. Protracted negotiations have failed to lead to complete agreement between the exporting and importing countries, but the negotiations have produced a situation in which there is still a gap between the offer of the importers and the demand of the exporters. That gap is too wide for any one to feel sure that it will be bridged, but on the other hand it is narrow enough to have enabled both advisers to say to the leader of the delegation, Mr. McCarthy, “ This is our view, we feel that having expressed our view on this remaining narrow gap, there is now no longer any need for us to remain. “, and, by approval, they are returning to Australia.
– Will the Treasurer say whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Railways have made a profit of more than £ 117,000 on their operations in the last financial year? Is it also a fact that in that same financial year the New South Wales Labour Government made a loss of about £5,000,000 on its transport services? Can the Treasurer say whether this obvious bad management on the part of the Labour Government in New South Wales- -
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is introducing comment.
– Can the Treasurer say whether that is the real reason why New South Wales is still short of money for its public works, and causing it unreasonably to press for more money from t h e Com mon weal th ?
– It is obvious, of course, that if the New South Wales Government has lost the amount of money it is stated to have lost on its transport system and other services, that loss must be a contributing factor to the shortage of money of which that State complains.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. As the new short-dated loan announced by the right honorable gentleman will be issued at £99 10s., will have a currency of 2$ years, will bear interest at the rate of 3 per cent, and will give a yield of £3 4s. per cent., which is 60 per cent, higher than the yield of the short-dated loans floated at 2 per cent, when the late Mr. Chifley was Treasurer, does the Government intend to increase also by 60 per cent, interest rates on loans for housing purposes granted to co-operative building societies and private builders, loans in respect of war service homes and semi- governmental loans? If so, how does he come to the conclusion that the people can bear the ever-increasing burden of higher interest rates?
– The rate of interest upon the loan was agreed unanimously by the Loan Council, which determines the rates of interest and conditions of loans. A preponderance of the members of the council are Labour Premiers.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question that follows another question asked recently in the House by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. In view of the facts that this session is drawing to a close, and that the Parliament will be in recess for a considerable time, will the Prime Minister present to the House, before the close of the session, a comprehensive statement on the London Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers? I ask this question because the outcome of the proceedings of that conference may have vital consequences to Australia. I stress that only the press, and not the Parliament, has been graced with some information on the matter.
– I cannot accept the proposition that the Parliament has n>> information on the matter. The communique issued at the end of the London conference is, I trust, in the hands of every member of this House.
– There was nothing in it.
– If it is not in the hands of every honorable member then I shall see that every honorable member receives a copy of it.
– There is nothing in it.
– It should be gratifying indeed to the eight countries that were represented at the conference to know that they have incurred the censure of the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for East Sydney, who, no doubt, could have produced a much better communique. All I can say is that the communique represented the carefully considered views of the different governments.
– One cannot object to platitudes.
– Does the right honorable gentleman consider that they were platitudes ?
– The Leader of the Opposition considers that the statements made in the communique were platitudes. I must send a copy of that remark to the Prime Minister of India, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that recent reports have indicated that the tin resources of Malaya are declining. If those resources are declining, what effect will the decline have on the world supply of tin, and will it have any effect on Australia’s supplies and production of tin-plate ?
– There are large resources of tin in Malaya, but I am not aware of the extent to which present production may be depleting them. I have seen a report to the effect that the resources were being depleted but I do not know whether it is true. Australia itself has very large resources of tin, and we are doing our best to exploit them. Australian production of tin, if my recollection is right, is rising. I shall obtain some details for the honorable member, who has frequently expressed an interest in the production of minerals in this country, and let him have a reply.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, concerns the shooting down of an unarmed British Lincoln aircraft in the Western Zone of Germany a few days ago. Has the Minister now, after the passage of several days, any information about whether there is any association between this incident and other recent attacks by Russian or satellite aircraft upon British or American, aircraft? Do these attacks indicate a new aggressive intention on the part of the Communists since the death of Stalin, or are they to be con sidered as merely coincidental? Has the right honorable gentleman- now, or does he anticipate that he will have later, any information upon this matter to put before the House ?
– I regret that we have not yet received any definitive information on the matter mentioned by the honorable member. Close inquiries have been conducted, and all elements of the evidence are being pieced together. I expect that within the next three to five days we shall get some information about the matter. If the information is of a kind that I can make available to the public or to the honorable member, I shall do so.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth railways were able to show a profit on last year’s operations because they are not involved in interest payments as the cost of construction was met out of the profits of the note issue between 1910 and 1922 plus some assistance from the Consolidated Revenue Fund? Is it not a fact that, but for the payment of huge overseas interest debts, the New South Wales railways in the last twelve years under Labour administrations, would have shown colossal surpluses over actual working expenses?
– The honorable member subscribes to the usual myth that the ‘Commonwealth railways were constructed without interest charge or redemption of capital cost. That belief is absolutely incorrect. The Commonwealth railways are subject to interest charges in exactly the same way as are other railways. Consequently, the question is based entirely on wrong premises.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that certain members of the Opposition, in particular the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for East Sydney, make surreptitious use of the microphones at the table during question-time and in general sittings of this House in an attempt to create an atmosphere that is of political advantage to the Labour party? In view of this blatant misuse of the parliamentary broadcasting system, will you, Mr. Speaker, investigate the possibility of having the table microphones controlled from the broadcasting control box?
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to compel the honorable member for Bass to withdraw a remark that is untrue and offensive.
– What is the remark to which the right honorable gentleman refers ?
– It is that certain members of the Opposition make surreptitious use of the microphones at the table.
– If I am required to withdraw the word “ surreptitious “, I withdraw it and substitute ‘ the word open “.
– By the Prime Minister.
– Order ! The only knowledge that I have of this practice, except on very odd occasions, comes to me through the post. The letters sent to me are rather dreadful. I received correspondence on the matter again to-day. Not a week passes in which I do not receive letters from listeners who complain particularly of the misuse of the microphones at the table. I brought an engineer down from Sydney-
Honorable members, interjecting,
– Order ! There is a rule in this House that every honorable member shall remain silent while the Speaker is on his feet. That is contained in the Standing Orders. I had the Divisional Engineer of the Wireless Section of the Postal Department down from Sydney during the last sessional period, and the matter has been thoroughly investigated. I am informed that any electrical engineer who can devise a microphone which is alive on one side and dead on the other side is in for a fortune. If such a microphone can be invented, it will be of great use on the table in this House.
– To which side of the table do you refer, sir?
– I think the complaints refer to remarks from both sides of the table. If honorable gentlemen wish me to produce letters, I can produce plenty of them. Some of the remarks that are made at the microphone on the table should not be made in this House in any circumstances.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council-
– Order ! I have called the attention of the House already to the fact that I am entitled to silence when I wish to speak.
– I beg your pardon, sir.
– I simply say, as I have said before, that the remedy is in the hands of honorable members. I hope they will apply it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. While you were on your feet the House was given an indication of the way in which the Standing Orders are violated. The Leader of the Opposition, again making use of the microphone on the table, said, “ The Vice-President of the Executive Council offends “. That is a fair indication of the way in which the microphones are misused.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether a decision has been made in relation to the representation in the Australian parliamentary delegation to the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea?
– I am not able to do so at the moment. I shall find out what the position is in relation to the matter.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that serious complaints have been made about the quality of certain Australian canned export goods? If so, has any investigation been made to ascertain whether there is any foundation for those complaints, and does the Department of Commerce and Agriculture intend to take any action, if it has not already done so, to protect the interests of primary producers who produce first quality goods and do not wish to have them spoiled by processors ?
– I am aware, through the press and indirectly through official circles, that complaints have been made recently about the allegedly inferior quality of Australian canned meat. I have heard no complaints about any other Australian canned goods, the reputation of which is unchallenged. I have also been informed that, concurrently with complaints about the quality of Australian canned meat, particularly in the United Kingdom, there has been a sharp slide in values of canned meat throughout the world. It has been alleged that some of those who have complained are commercially interested and are seeking a means of breaking contracts. I offer no opinion upon that allegation, but I think that it is a part of the picture. The Government is anxious that the quality of Australian canned meat shall he beyond challenge, and a thorough investigation has been made since the complaints have arisen by the appropriate officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which administers standards, and the Australian Meat Board, which has had consultations with Australian processors and canners of unquestioned reputation. I give an assurance to the House that, at all stages, the wholesomeness of any meat that has been canned for export has been the subject of inspection and approval. The system of inspection is beyond question. Whether the meat content of such canned products is lower than we ought to approve of, notwithstanding its wholesomeness, is an arguable question. If we were to prescribe a higher meat content than some overseas markets demand, the only result would be that we should lose those markets. That is the kind of thing that is under investigation at a conference in Sydney this afternoon. I assure the House that all aspects of the reputation of Australian canned meats will be protected by appropriate inspection and regulation.
– Some time ago, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in his reply to a question that I addressed to him, stated that an agreement had been reached between the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board and tobacco manufacturers. Will the honorable gentleman say whether both the board and the manufacturers have adhered to the terms of that agreement? If they have done so, can he explain why the last sale of tobacco in Queensland was not wholly successful?
– I can say without qualification that the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board and the Australian tobacco manufacturers have honored the understanding that they reached in connexion with certain unsold tobacco leaf in Queensland. The board, which had devised a standard of gradings unlike any that existed anywhere else in Australia, has, in conference with the tobacco manufacturers - the conference was sponsored by me - agreed to a common schedule of grades. Negotiations are proceeding for a schedule of prices approved by both parties. If such a schedule is approved, the Australian tobacco industry will be established upon a better basis than ever before. A problem exists in respect of tobacco leaf that was not sold last year. ‘The leaf was grown in a bad season, and much of it was not well graded. It has been offered for sale at auctions on several occasions, but has failed to attract a buyer. By agreement, buyers have been endeavouring, during the last few days, to effect a disposal of that leaf, not at an auction sale but by personal negotiation. I have been advised that satisfactory progress has been made in the disposal of the leaf. In the meantime, this Government has prompted the Commonwealth Bank to make an advance to the growers against the unsold leaf.
– In view of the fact that, of the 218 tons of South Queensland tobacco leaf offered for sale yesterday, only 61 tons was sold, that there were no bids for another 111 tons and that 46 tons was passed in, will the Treasurer issue instructions tha.t no more dollars can be made available for the importation of American tobacco until al’l Australiangrown tobacco kas been, purchased by big tobacco- combines: swell as the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited and W. D. and H. 0. Wills (Australia) Limited?
– I will not issue slick instructions.. I remind* the honorable member that,, a few minutes ago, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture conveyed to> tUe> House infernation about negotiations that are proceeding for- the disposal of this leaf.
– The summer crop of pineapples in Queensland is now being processed.. Will the Minister for- Commerce and Agriculture advise the House of the availability of markets overseas for canned- pineapples, and the prices that are being paid for them?.
Mr-. McEWEN. - I cannot supply offhand the information, for which the honorable member has asked, but I shall obtain- it for him.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any recent information about increased employment? Does he know whether the trade unions have issued recently any statement about the number of unemployed trade unionists ?
– The information that I have received indicates that, in recent weeks, there has been a marked increase of the demand for labour. To-morrow, my department will publish its normal monthly sta tennent upon this matter. The Statement will reveal that there has been a firm upward trend of the demand for labour. I am happy to say that that trend, has been confirmed by the employment figures for the early part of this month, which are already in my possession.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that a remarkable state of. affairs exists in
Queensland, with the- sanction awd authority of the Queensland Minister responsible1 for prices control in that the people of Queensland are charged four or five different prices for potatoes, dependent upon the- place from which they are procured I Has the honorable gentleman, any power to eliminate what I consider to be an outrageous- practice?
– I am not aware of the situation to. which the honorable gentleman has referred, but his statement does not astonish me. I am certain that the Commonwealth has uo power to rectify the anomaly. I know that, under Labour administrations, the prices of potatoes and onions, have been fixed in such a crazy manner that Queensland potatoes were sent to New South Wales at the same time as potatoes from New South Wales were- on their way to- Queensland!. I. know that New South Wales imported potatoes from New Zealand, and onions from Japan, Lebanon and anywhere it could get them, because the S’tate government, in fixing prices,, had no regard for the requirements necessary to encourage local production.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether consideration has been given to that portion of the twenty-eighth report of the Public Service Board, presented’ to the Parliament on the 18th February last, which reads as follows: -
The Board recommends that the Government should1 reaffirm its determination to make Canberra a centre for federal administration and call for a further revised programme against -which development can be planned and vigorously proceeded with.
If the Government has considered that portion of the report of the Public Service Board, can the Prime Minister inform me of the result of the deliberations ? If the matter has not yet been considered, will he state when- action will be taken to transfer all the central offices of departments to Canberra?.
– The problem of establishing Commonwealth departments in Canberra has been on the minds of governments for- a long time, and. a great deal of building has occurred. The honorable member for Banks doubtless realizes that two things are involved in this matter. One is the building of the necessary office accommodation for departments, and the other is the erection of houses for the transferred staffs. For years past, we have had a long waiting list of public servants in Canberra who have not been able to get houses. I do not offer any explanation about the erection of office accommodation, but I point out that there is something in the atmosphere of this great capital which induces a certain tardiness in the execution of work, if the honorable gentleman follows me. The first permanent administrative block is in the course of construction on a site slightly to the right of the lawns in front of Parliament House. The work was begun in 1947, some two years before I became Prime Minister. I can remember as far back as that time. The construction is still going on and going on, and getting dearer and dearer.
– The building will not be finished in the right honorable gentleman’s time.
– I should doubt it very much.
– On the 11th March last, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) asked whether selected parents could be given assistance to travel to England to attend the ceremony of the unveiling of the Runnymede Memorial. In view of the widespread interest in this matter and the many inquiries that I have received about it, I wish to give an explanation of the position. From time to time, representations have been received from exservicemen’s organizations and individuals for the inauguration of pilgrimages to the various war cemeteries where Australian personnel were buried, or to memorials commemorating Australian personnel. The Government has decided, principally on account of the physical difficulties and heavy cost involved, that it could not accede to the proposal. The Government considers that it would be most undesirable to afford assistance to any selected group without making the concession available to all concerned.
-Can the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that the Government to-day rejected a proposal for the use of Commonwealth buildings in Albert Park as an Olympic village to house athletes and other visitors to Melbourne on the occasion of the Olympic Games? If the Government has rejected this proposal, will the Prime Minister say whether it proposes to extend any financial assistance to the Victorian Government to enable it to proceed with the building of a village, which will be needed if the athletes and other visitors to the games are to be accommodated?
– The Olympic Games were secured for the City of Melbourne, as the honorable member for Yarra knows, by a delegation, backed by a handsome offer made by the then Premier of Victoria, to provide the necessary finance. The then Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, sent a communication which indicated that he attached some importance to the Olympic Games, but, so far as I know, he made no financial commitment in relation to them. Since then, a variety of discussions has occurred. I, myself, have taken a hand in the last two or three of them, because it seemed that arguments about the site for the games would go on interminably. I think I am right in saying that, as the result of our intervention with a practical financial offer, some finality, or what appeared to be finality, was produced. I myself went to Melbourne last year and, on behalf of this Government, I attended a conference called by the then Premier of Victoria. I said that we thought that some finality should be reached on the matter. An estimate of the cost of the Olympic Games was approximately £1,250,000, and I then said that the Commonwealth, in order to avoid the risk of losing the games and in order to maintain the prestige of the country, would voluntarily find one-half of that amount, that is, £625,000. The Victorian Government was to find onequarter of the amount and the Melbourne
City Council was to provide the remaining one-quarter. My friend, the honorable member for Melbourne, was present at that meeting, and will recall those events.
– I underwrote the Prime Minister’s offer.
– That did not add anything to the force of the offer, but, still, it exhibited a degree of goodwill, which I welcomed even at that late stage. Anyhow, that offer was accepted, and the Carlton Football Ground was chosen as the venue for the games. Subsequently, arguments arose about the Carlton ground. At the last conference of the interested parties, which I attended, the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, very spiritedly put forward the view that to build another stadium at Carlton, when there was an adequate, or the substance of an adequate Stadium in Melbourne, would be a mistake at a time when there was a shortage of housing and other things. Therefore, Mr. Cain used his influence, and it was a determining influence because he is the Premier of Victoria, in favour of the selection of the Melbourne Cricket Ground for thi Olympic Games. I entirely accepted that position. I said that the Commonwealth did not have the job of determining the place in Melbourne where the Olympic Games should be held, but that we were certainly prepared to provide £625,000 for them. The honorable member for Melbourne will recall that I went further than that, and said that we would join with the Victorian Government on certain terms, in guaranteeing the additional finance needed by the Melbourne Cricket Club in order to extend the accommodation for the public. In my innocence, I thought that the matter was then settled. Reference had been made at an earlier stage to the erection of an Olympic village to accommodate athletes and officials for a few weeks just before and during the games. The honorable member for Melbourne will again recall that, on the occasion of the first discussion, we were told that the Melbourne University had offered the necessary facilities for that purpose. It so happens that such is not the case. The Premier of Victoria made an informal communication to me in which he asked whether Victoria could have an additional housing allocation at the relevant time for the building of the Olympic village which will require, I understand, the equivalent of 600 houses, plus a training track and certain amenities. “We considered that position at the beginning of this month. On the 2nd March, I communicated with Mr. Cain and said that the houses to be built would not be erected until 1954-55 at the earliest, and probably most of them would be erected in 1955-56. Houses would not be built and held vacant for twelve months so that athletes and officials who were to attend the Olympic Games might go into them. Obviously, those houses would be in the last lot to be erected. I said that in view of the fact that the provision made for the Victorian Government under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was about 3,000 houses a year, it seemed to us that it should be possible to fit the 600 houses into that total since the whole of them, as soon as the Olympic visitors had departed, would be available for the citizens of the State on the ordinary terms. I sent that letter to my friend, Mr. Cain, on the 2nd March. I have received no objection from him in relation to that statement. Then, almost literally a few days ago, somebody had the bright idea that the defence establishments at Albert Park would be the answer to the problem of providing an Olympic village. I want to say quite frankly to the House that we have shown, as the facts that I have recounted prove, that wa are willing co-operators in relation to the Olympic Games. Nobody can deny that we have gone out of our way to help, and what has been done in relation to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, as some honorable members know, had my perfectly willing support on behalf n’ this Government. But when it is said that the Commonwealth should vacate *rdefence establishment that contains more than 2,400 people, who are concerned with carrying out a defence programme that involves the total expenditure of many hundreds of millions of pounds, and involves this year an expenditure of £200,000.000, then that is a very different proposition. I have no doubt that the buildings at Albert Park, in point of geography and otherwise, are admirably suited for an Olympic village; but they wre ewa more admirably suited for use in relation to the defence of this country. If we were to vacate them, as is ‘ proposed, we should have to vacate then’ months ahead so that they could be made residentially fit for visiting competitors in the games. Therefore, if we did that, unless we were prepared to suspend the defence programme of this country - and we do not intend to suspend it in the present state of the world - then we should have to find alternative temporary accommodation, or alternative accommodation of some kind, for the Services. The one thing that has been suggested is that we should take 2,400 or 2,500 people out of Albert Park, where they are reasonably adjacent to Victoria Barracks and. the head -quarters of the Service departments, and locate them 12 miles away at Broadmeadows, expending about £500,000 on re-organizing the accommodation at Broadmeadows in the process, and then endeavour to carry «>ut our defence organization with all our people, except for those 2,400 or 2,500 personnel, in Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, and the remainder 12 miles away. Every honorable member who has had administrative experience knows that that would simply ruin the administrative efficiency of the defence services.
We therefore ha.d a choice to make. We could either go through the motions of appearing to be awfully good fellows, who did not mind uprooting a great section of the Defence Department and looking around for some quarters for it to work in, even if those quarters were 12 miles away from the city ; or we could say, “ No, sorry. If you value having the Olympic Games there is no earthly reason why the competitors should not be accommodated in Melbourne in accommodation that can become part of the housing programme in due course “. We have had no serious protest from the Victorian Government. I want to make it clear that that Government has not put forward this proposal about Albert Park. In brief, we could either say ‘that we are determined to go on with the defence programme or we could say that the defence programme could play second fiddle. I want, to make it clear that, greatly as we would value having the Olympic Games iii Australia, and foolish as we should regard it if something prevented them from being held here, we are not prepared to give the Olympic Games ‘priority over the defence effort of this country in a time of international tension when the defence effort may need, for all we know, to be intensified in the course of the next few years.
The last thing I wish to say about the matter is this - -
– The Prime Minister has elaborated on it .a little.
– I am sorry to have te elaborate on it at all.
– The right honorable gentleman has already spent fourteen minutes on his answer.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) complains about the elaboration of my answer to the question, but I point out that the question was asked with the hope that I might give an inadequate answer to it. I am giving an adequate answer, and propose to continue to do so. I am not going to have this matter twisted and altered and used against the Government. We have, from first to last, done everything an Australian government could to help. The problem of providing accommodation for a few weeks ought, in good sense, to be dovetailed with the problem of arranging accommodation for years to come for Australian citizens. That is, the provision of an Olympic village could bc dovetailed into the provision of housing facilities for the people. Such homes would be out of general use for only a few weeks while the games were in progress. That was obviously the perfect, simple and natural solution to this problem. The money that is provided by the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement would, in each of the two years that I have mentioned, provide five times as many houses as are needed for an Olympic village. We think that would be a perfectly satisfactory state of affairs, and we do not propose to depart from -what we regard as sound practice just because, as usual, somebody has popped up in relation to this matter and has said that a decision must be made in a matter of a few days, or somebody else has rung up on the telephone and has made another statement. Our withers are quite unwrung in relation to this matter. We have gone far beyond any obligation we have, and we have done so with goodwill. We hope that what we have done will enable these games to be held in Australia.
Motion (by Mr.EricJ.Harrison) agreed to -
That the House,at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Standing Order 104 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of this month.
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) proposed -
That therebe granted to Her Majesty for or towards defraying the service of the year 1953-54 a sum not exceeding £151,654,000.
That there be granted to Her Majesty for or towards defraying the service of the year 1053-54, for the purposes of Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, a sum not exceeding £32,277,000.
– It is sought for four months, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr.Calwell) would have discovered if he had waited to hear the second-reading speeches.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [3.35]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain an appropriation of £151,654,000 required to carry on the necessary normal services of government other than capital services for the first four months of the financial year 1953-54. The provision sought may be summarized under the following heads : -
The bill provides for the carrying on of essential services approved by the Parliament in the Appropriation Acts 1952-53. The several amounts provided for ordinary services represent, with minor exceptions, approximately one-third of the 1952-53 appropriations after allowing for basic wage increases announced during the year. The amount of £65,095,000 for Defence Services provides for expenditure on the. defence programme and requirements in Korea and Malaya while the amount of £11,344,000 under War and Repatriation Services covers expenditure on repatriation and rehabilitation and other post-war charges. It also includes expenditure, on account of the operations in Korea, which will later be recovered from other countries.
The amount of £16,000.000 for “Advance to the Treasurer” is required to enable the payment of the special grants to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to be continued pending the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure and to provide for any unexpected defence requirements. Except in relation to defence, no amounts are included for new services. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £32,277,000 to enable Commonwealth works in progress at the 30th June, 1953, to be continued until the 1953-54 budget is passed by the Parliament. Programmes for capital works are in operation in the major Commonwealth departments, including departments such as Works, Postmaster-General and Civil Aviation. To enable these programmes to be continued without interruption funds must be available for the purchase of materials in advance, and also to ensure continuous employment on the many projects. The bill provides, therefore, for four months’ expenditure on works included in the expenditure programme of £100,003,000 provided for in the capital works estimates 1952-53. In accordance with the usual practice in submitting a Supply bill, no provision has been made for any new services.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1953, and Additional Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1953, and recommending appropria ti on s accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be, granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exeeding £32,933,000 to defray charges for the service of the year 1952-53, viz.:-
That there be granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exceeding £6,433,000 for the service of the year 1952-53, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
During the current financial year, as in other years, it is being found necessary to appropriate money for expenditures which could not be foreseen at the time of the budget and for which, therefore, no provision was made in the Estimates. Again, expenditure on certain other items appears likely to exceed budget estimates because of higher wages, salaries and other costs. The purpose of this bill and the associated Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is to seek parliamentary approval for these expenditures. The total of the additional appropriations covered by these two bills is £39,366,000. This, of course, does not necessarily imply that total expenditure for the year will exceed the budget estimate bythat amount, for it is the usual experience that while the Estimates are exceeded in some items, savings are made in others. In any case, at this time of the year it is not possible to say with any precision how total revenue and expenditure for the year are going to work out.
The items for which appropriations are sought will, as necessary, be explained in detail at the committee stage. I shall refer here only to the major items. One of these relates to provision for the maintenance of our army units in Korea. Under arrangements made with the other Commonwealth countries which have land forces engaged in that campaign, expenditure on supplies and services by each government is debited to the Korean operations pool account and an allocation of expenditure is made on an agreed basis. Some provision for this was made in the budget but Australia’s share of expenditure on the pool has proved to be considerably greater than was originally anticipated and it is necessary to provide an additional £6,000,000 to meet claims which are already on hand. Furthermore, claims against the pool are considerably in arrears and may well represent a substantial liability on our part. To cover this liability up to the 30th June this year, it is deemed advisable to provide a further £10,000,000 in the form ofa Korean operations pool reserve. Meanwhile, Australia will itself continue to make payments on behalf of other countries participating in Korea. These will include payments on account of sea and air operations which do not come within the pool arrangements, as well as land operations which do. Although this expenditure will later be recoverable, provision has to be made for it now, and an amount of £6,000,000 is therefore included in the bill for this purpose under the heading of “ Other Administrations “.
An amount of £2,000,000 is provided for the stockpiling of coal, and £1,000,000 for additional share capital for Qantas Empire Airways Limited. Appropriation of £7,000,000 is sought for repayment of war savings certificates which are expected to be presented for payment in the current financial year. Apart from these major items it has already been mentioned that most departments and authorities have experienced a rise in wage and salary costs above budget Estimates and it is necessary to make some provision on this account.
With greater stability in economic conditions it is to be expected that from now on rising costs and prices will no longer operate to swell public expenditures to anything like the same degree as in recent years. I commend the bill to honorable members.
– If the Treasurer is able to do so I should like him to state the total amount expended by Australia in Korea up to the present date. The information is not available to honorable members from other sources nor was it included in the right honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech.
– I shall ascertain whether the information is available. It will be difficult to obtain.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Cal well) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my second-reading speech on the Appropriation Bill for ordinary services, which I have just concluded, I indicated that it was necessary to seek an additional appropriation for capital works and services. This bill is designed for that purpose.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General re transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Capital Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending the 30th June, 1952, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a further sum not exceeding £5,915,668 to defray charges for the service of the year 1951-52, viz.: -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a further sum not exceeding £3,412,455 for the service of the year 1951-52, for the purposes of Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden.. and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [3.55]. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Supplementary Estimates of expenditure totalling £5,915,668 relate to the financial year 1951-52. The amounts set out were expended out of a general appropriation of £15,000,000 made available to the Treasurer to meet expenditure which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared. It. is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation to cover the several items of excess expenditure. Full details of the expenditure for 1951-52 which includes these items are set out in the Estimates and budget papers for 1952-53. The Estimates papers show the amount voted for 1952-53 together with the amount voted and the actual expenditure for the previous year, which is included for information purposes. Details are also included in the Treasurer’s finance statement for 1951-52, which was tabled during the last sessional period for the information of honorable members.
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended by the various departments. The chief items in round figures are -
Any further details of the various items of expenditure will be available at a later date. Honorable members will be aware that the first report of the Public Accounts Committee which deals with these Supplementary Estimates was recently presented to the Parliament. The matters raised by the committee are being examined and will receive appropriate attention.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The total sum appropriated by the Parliament for capital works and services during 1951-52 was £115,408,000. The actual expenditure was £109,179,000, or £6,229,000 less than the appropriation. However, due to requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, certain items show an increase over the individual amounts appropriated, and it is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval for these increases. The excess expenditure on these items totals £3,412,455, which is spread over the various works items of the departments as set out in the schedule to the bill. Any details which may be required will be furnished at a later stage.
– I hope that the Treasurer will supply that information.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision with respect to temporary deficits in the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That SirArthur Fadden and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [4.0]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide legislative cover for temporary deficits that occur from time to time in the Consolidated Revenue Fund during the course of a financial year. Honorable members will appreciate that, whilst expenditure is fairly constant throughout a financial year, the greater part of income tax collections, which constitute a substantial proportion of Commonwealth revenue, is received in the closing months of the financial year. Consequently, there are periods of the year when the Consolidated Revenue Fund is substantially in debit. The need to make special legislative provision for these temporary deficits is of recent origin. During the war and the immediate post-war periods, any excess of expenditure over receipts was met from a war loan appropriation. The moneys necessary to cover the excess expenditure are provided in the Loan Fund by the temporary investment of surplus trust funds moneys in Australian Government treasury-bills and, to the extent that these moneys fall short of requirements, by the discounting of treasurybills with the Commonwealth Bank. Both classes of treasury-bills are redeemed later in the year as revenue becomes available.
The bill will provide statutory authority for temporary expenditure from the Loan Fund for Consolidated Revenue Fund purposes, and also for the issue of such treasury-bills as may be required to provide the funds necessary to cover a temporary revenue deficit after first utilizing any cash balance that may be available in the Loan Fund. As I mentioned before, treasury-bills issued in accordance with the bill will be redeemed before the end of the financial year. The provisions of the National
Debt Sinking Fund Act will not, therefore, apply. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 17th March (vide page 1137), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.-In the brief period that has elapsed since the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) made his second-reading speech on the bill, I have not been able to study the recent history of the flax industry as thoroughly as I should like to have done, or to examine this measure in great detail. The Opposition is prepared to support the general principle of the bill, but in committee we shall propose amendments that we believe will improve it.
The flax industry in Australia has a long and varied history. It has achieved spasmodic successes, and at times has almost faded out of existence. The firs; flax mill in Victoria was established at Drouin. It continued to operate for many years in a. very small way. Some time before the outbreak of World War II., a. flax spinning organization established a flax processing factory at Colac. With the co-operation of farmers in the district, a fairly good start was given to the flax-growing industry, But, even then, Australian flax-growers were faced with competition from other countries. The flax industries in those countries had been established for so long and were so efficient that producers in Australia found that it was almost impossible for them to compete with flax imported from overseas. After the outbreak of World War II., it was obvious to the Australian Government that at any tick of the clock our supplies of raw or unprocessed flax could be cut off. As flax is essential to the conduct of a war, the Government realized that we might be in very sore straits if nothing were done to encourage the production of flax fibres in Australia. For that reason,
Production Committee. After a time, the flax factory at Colac, owned by Flax Fibres Proprietary Limited, was taken over by the Commonwealth. An arrangement was entered into with the company under which, at the cessation of hostilities, the Commonwealth agreed to give them certain rights in the factory. I am sorry to say that that was a very bad arrangement. It was cancelled subsequently, after the Rural Industries Committee of the Parliament had made an investigation of the position and had submitted a report upon it. From that time onwards, the Commonwealth operated the factory, with the assistance of the Flax Production Committee. In this connexion, I” wish to pay tribute to the work of Mr. Weigell, of the Flax Producers Association, and Mr. Stevenson, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. They did magnificent work in this field.
As the war progressed, numerous flax factories were established in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. Eventually, they were capable of handling a crop of 60,000 acres of flax. The intention of the Government was that, during the period of the war, we should supply, not only the flax requirements of Australia, but also a part of the requirements of the United Kingdom, which, at that time, had been deprived of at least 90 per cent, of the flax that previously it had imported from European countries. The United Kingdom Government entered into an arrangement with the Australian Government for the supply of flax fibres, and that agreement remained in force until after the cessation of hostilities. Then, following negotiations conducted on behalf of the Australian Government by Mr. Stevenson, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, a satisfactory arrangement was made for the termination of the agreement. Then, the flax mills and all rights in them became the absolute property of the Commonwealth. That arrangement was very satisfactory to Australia, and great credit is due to Mr. Stevenson, who negotiated it. Since that time, owing to the loss of our export trade in flax fibres, there has been a reduction of the area devoted to flax production. I believe the Minister will confirm my statement that his depart ment has encountered difficulty in securing a sufficient annual acreage of flax to supply the fibre that we need to meet our own requirements. The area under flax has decreased from 60,000 acres to about 20,000 acres.
The Government proposes to abandon all the war-time controls exercised by Mr. Stevenson, under the direction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture; to abolish the Flax Production Committee; to establish a commission to deal with the problems’ of producing and processing flax, conducting research in co-operation with research authorities, and to do all the things necessary to keep the industry afloat in Australia. I do not dispute that it is necessary to keep the industry afloat, but I doubt whether the Minister would be justified in divesting himself of direct responsibility for the production and processing of flax, and handing what is now a function of his department to an outside authority - the commission to which I have referred. I am at a loss to understand why he wants to divest himself of duties that have been imposed upon him by the Parliament. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture exists for a specific purpose. Perhaps the Minister finds himself so overloaded with work that he believes he could not devote enough time to the problems of flax production and processing or do the necessary work a3 efficiently as could an authority charged only with that duty. Probably there is something to be said in favour of that point of view, but I do not think that what is proposed will be a wise move. The operation of the bill will give rise to a very serious danger, not from my point of view, but from the Minister’s point of view. An authority is to be established and vested with, one might almost say, absolute socialistic powers. During the last few days, the Minister has referred to the danger that, under a Labour government, export control boards could become socialistic authorities. The commission that will be established under this measure and invested with extensive powers will be subject absolutely to the direction of the Minister. If the Minister were socialist, Heaven only knows where we should get to. When I say that I speak from the point of view of the present Minister. I know that a Labour Minister would administer the flax industry upon sound and sensible lines, and in the interests of the people as a whole. The Minister will be able to pick the five members of the commission. It is strange that no safeguard has been provided against a socialist government assuming office, because those members will be appointed, and retain office, at the Governor-General’s pleasure. If a Labour Minister in future were inclined to do the sort of thing that the present Minister did to the former chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, he could dismiss all the members of the Flax Commission. However, we can see that the Minister’s oft-repeated allegations about the socialist role of the Labour party are without substance. In reality, the fears he -has expressed, and the charges he has made in the last few days, have no foundation. He himself does not believe them. He cannot challenge one word that I have uttered in this debate.
– I think that I might.
– No one will believe the Minister, because he has convicted himself out of his own mouth. He stands revealed as a gentleman who does not believe what he says.
The powers that are to be granted to the Flax Commission are ample, adequate and necessary. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, informed the House that the flax industry was established during World War II. and no doubt he will explain apologetically that the power which he proposes to take almost to socialize this industry is necessary because of the importance of the flax industry to Australia’s defence requirements. His authority is based on the defence power in the Constitution. This matter requires us to stretch our imaginations considerably in an attempt to comprehend the position. The Minister may contend that the control of the production and processing of flax is an essential precaution against the dangers of war. However, the production and processing of many other things are also essential precautions against the dangers of war.
I do not desire to discuss the bill at great length, but I direct attention to clause 5, which provides for the con stitution of the Flax Commission. It reads as follows: - (1.) The Commission shall consist of live members, who shall be appointed by the C overnorGGeneral. . (2.) Subject to section nine of this Act, a member of the Commission holds office during the pleasure of the Governor-General.
That is a wide power. It vests absolutely in the Minister dictatorial power to appoint five persons to the Flax Commission. They may or may not be producers, processors or representatives of employees’ organizations. Indeed, the five members of the commission may be public servants. The chairman and the deputy chairman of the commission are to be appointed by the Governor-General, and will hold office during His Excellency’s pleasure. That provision is very wide. The Minister may appoint a public servant, or any member of the public, to the position of chairman or deputy chairman of the Flax Commission. He could select for one of those offices a director of a firm such as Bentleys, Kinnears or Millers. No one could say him nay. Mr. Weigall, who represented the flax-growers during the last Avar and has rendered splendid service to the flax industry, may be appointed chairman of the commission. Mr. Stevenson, a public servant, who has done splendid work associated with the flax industry, may receive the appointment. Not long ago, I was berated because I did not always appoint a representative of the producers as chairman of a government marketing board.
The Flax Commission will have considerable authority to contract for the supply of flax by growers, and arrange for the supply of fibre to manufacturers. In those circumstances, the bill should provide for the selection of some members of the commission to represent specific interests. I frankly admit thai, there is some difference between the Flax Commission and some of the other marketing boards that we discussed last week and again yesterday, but in the final analysis the work of the commission must have a vital impact on the welfare of flax fibre producers in Victoria and South Australia. The industry is almost defunct in Tasmania. It is only reasonable to suggest that the producers should be represented directly onthe commission., The Minister is to have absolute authority, in the last analysis, over the whole industry, and, therefore, the views of the growers should be expressed directly by their representatives on the commission. Personally, I have no doubt that the Minister will appoint a primary producer to the commission, but, nevertheless, this Parliament should have an absolute guarantee that he will do so. Why should we be left in the air regarding what the Minister might or might not do? The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) shakes his head. I can imagine what he would say if a Labour government had introduced this bill to control the flax industry in all its ramifications.
I shall now examine the position of the millers. During World War II., the millers or spinners played their port in the processing of flax to meet the requirements of Australia, and, in all probability, they supplied some processed commodities to the United Kingdom. The millers are curious people. The Minister never loses an opportunity to tell the people that the Labour party will socialize an industry whenever it has an opportunity to do so. Strangely enough, the preceding Labour Government tried to sell the flax mills. We disposed of one mill to the West Australian Government, which subsequently handed it over to a co-operative society. We tried to sell the remaining mills, some of which were redundant, but the big flax-spinners , who were in a sound position financially, were not interested in rescuing from the so-called dangers of socialism all those well-equipped and efficient mills scattered throughout Victoria and South Australia. Not on your life ! In fact, the Australian Rope Cordage and Twine Association addressed a rather revealing communication on this subject to the chairman of the Flax Production Committee in August, 1947. Briefly, the Australian flax-spinners did not want to purchase the mills, because they did not consider that the industry had advanced sufficiently to become a profitable proposition. The spinners wanted the Government to accept the responsibility of guaranteeing a price for the flax-growers, and subse quently selling the fibre to the millers at a price that would allow them, in due course, to make a profit out of themanufacturing process. Naturally, the profit motive is the prime concern of any private enterprise. But when a risk is involved, private enterprise wishes the Government to continue the industry. In any event, the flax-spinners were assured of supplies,but theydodged the issue, and would not accept the responsibility for the scutching, deseeding, and retting of the flax. The letter to which I refer reads, in part, as follows:-
The spinners are strongly opposed to the passing of the industry back to private enterprise. At the present time we would not consider taking partin such private enterprise should it be passed back. Our reasons for this are as follows.: -
Without the Australian spinners taking shares in a Company promoted for the purposeof acquiring the flax industry, there would be a grave difficulty that the industry would again fallinto disrepute in the hands of people without a background of knowledge of the industry, and that past history would repeat itself in the form of slogans such as “ One Share, One Acre”, &.c.
The reference was to half bogus companies which had dabbled in the industry before the war -
Unfortunately in the past in some cases, great damage was done to the industry by promotion stunts in the hands of unscrupulous company promoters.
The spinners were given the opportunity, by a Labour administration, to take over the whole concern but were not prepared to do so. The letter continues-
We feel that if they took over the industry at the present juncture, private enterprise would want to exploit the present world flax position -
What an advertisement for private enterprise - to build up its strength against a future slump in world flax prices which may result in very heavy loss. We feel also that private enterprise would not have the fortitude or the funds to sustain the industry, should the ensuing year or two become drought years in the country. We feelthat ultimately the Government may pass the industry back to private enterprise but that having done so, the. Government should see its establishment through to a point of undoubted economic success before doing so.
That is what governments have to do before private enterprise will accept any responsibility. A government has to take the losses, and if it is a Labour administration, be criticized for doing so, as was the Chifley Government during the war. But when a government has brought an industry to a profitable stage, private enterprise is prepared to “ play ball “. Private enterprise in the flax industry would not even take a sporting risk in order to rescue the industry from a socalled socialist government.
I return to the personnel of the Flax Commission. Perhaps the Government got its idea about the composition of the commission from such an organization as the Australian Rope Cordage and Twine Association. Perhaps representations were made to the Minister on this matter. Perhaps he sought information from such an organization, and rightly so. I would have done so, had I been in his place. As long ago as 1947 the Australian Rope Cordage and Twine Association made the following recommendation to the Flax Production Committee : -
We would strongly urge that the present Committee he replaced by a Managing Commission and that it is provided with personnel in much the same manner as is the case with the present Committee; (viz,, where the Federal Government, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Australian Spinners and the Flax Farmers each .provide representatives).
Now the industry wants this commission. The idea may be right, and I do not oppose it. It may be a good move, although I have some doubts about it, and make some reservations regarding it. It is said that the Australian spinners will eventually absorb the whole of the output of flax. The House will recognize that the spinners are placed in an excellent position from their stand-point. The Labour party is eager for Australian industries to succeed and operate on a profitable basis. In 1950 the House passed the Flax Canvas Bounty Bill with dur concurrence, and provision was made for the payment to the Australian flax processing industry of £30,000 per annum, to keep it on its feet and enable it to furnish Australia’s requirements, mostly by weaving fire brigade hose as well as canvas and thread, which are essential to industry. There are many facets of this measure that are worthy of discussion, but I do not wish to delay the House at this stage. I have dealt with the vital points of the bill. The Opposition will wait until the committee stage to make reference to the extensive powers that are to be vested in the commission. I emphasize that we shall support the second reading of the bill, in principle, but that we shall move an amendment at the committee stage regarding the commission itself. I should imagine that the honorable member for Gippsland, who is nodding his head, would find it very hard to stomach the provision under which the Minister is given carte blanche in regard to the personnel of the commission, and the provision that allows the Minister to sack the whole commission any minute he chooses. I hope that when the amendment is moved he will support it so as to help make the bill a measure of real value that will put heart into the flax-growers, the spinners, and, finally, the employees, whose cooperation and goodwill are always essential to an industry of this kind.
.- The problem of flax production in wartime has exercised the minds of governments for a very long time. At the time of the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth had to pay very large flax bounties because, . at that time, as in 193S and 1939, England was largely dependent on the Baltic countries for its supplies of flax. The development of the flax industry at the beginning of the last war was a credit to the Flax Production Committee, and I should like now to pay my tribute to Mr. Stevenson for the work that he did in that respect. Flax has been grown on a farm at Drouin in Victoria since 1907, but the position there is not as good as it once was. At one time the farm producing that flax was exporting it to Belfast to be processed.
– I think it was run by a man named Lockwood.
– The farm that I am speaking of is run by a man named, I think, Mitchell. The development of flaxgrowing on that farm was spectacular and interesting. I recall being asked early in the war, when a proposal was made to establish a mill on Mornington Peninsula, whether I would grow an experimental crop of flax. I did so with the aid of officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The factory at Drouin is the best equipped of the factories conducted by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture at present. The present position regarding flax-growing, however, is different from the position in war-time. During the war primary producers were prepared to grow flax, but they are apparently not prepared to grow it in peace-time when it is. more profitable to grow some other crop. The flax now being processed at the factory at Drouin is freighted from South Australia and the western parts of Victoria, instead of being grown in the area. I do not know what has happened to the factory at Colac, but I should imagine that the production of flax at Colac and Winchelsea has fallen in the same way as has production in the Drouin area. Probably most of the flax now produced in Victoria is produced in the Hamilton area, which has a slightly lower rainfall than the other areas have.
It was the interesting economic position in respect of flax-growing that finally led to the decision to appoint a commission. The fibre prepared at the Drouin factory is used almost entirely, I should imagine, by large spinning factories at Warragul where cordage and twine is made, and where only recently a small linen thread factory was closed down Apparently the millers who deal with these products are not prepared to face the problem of convincing primary producers in these areas that they would be wise, and would find it profitable, to grow flax, because, as I have said, production of flax in the rich, high rainfall area has practically ceased, although the flaxspinning mill and the fibre production factory are still in existence. Consequently, we must have some authority that will be able to devote the whole of its time to research in order to discover how we can best ensure that people will grow flax in suitable areas. If some of our factories were placed in unsuitable areas during the war then a commission which has time to examine the difficulties will be the national body to deal with any changes of factory sites that may be necessary.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has thoroughly enjoyed himself talking about the socialistic nature of this measure, in that a completely independent commission is to take over the industry. I shall be interested to discover the nature of the amendment which, he says, he will move at the committee stage in respect of the composition of the commission. The formation of a commission is essential if we are to deal properly with the industry as it is at present. There is far too much work to be done in discovering how and where flax can be properly grown for it to be left entirely in the hands of a busy Minister. Mr. Stevenson has done magnificent work up to the present with his Flax Production Committee, and I hope that the experience and knowledge gained by that committee will continue to be used. There may be a possibility - and I think there should be - of utilizing a modern method of treatment of pastures by rotating flax or another cereal every seven or ten years. Many of our pastures would be considerably invigorated if we were to adopt the modern practice now followed in the United Kingdom, Europe and, particularly, eastern Canada, of using the pastures for a shorter time for each crop than is the practice here. It i3 an old-fashioned belief that when a good pasture has been laid down after a great deal of trouble it should be used indefinitely without renewal. The modern practice is to break up the pasture after seven or ten years, take a crop off the land, and then sow it to pasture again. That practice would be of particular benefit in the richer, high rainfall areas, and I hope that we may pay some attention to that very important side of general farming in conjunction with the activities of the commission. The farm to which I referred in the Drouin area is a dairy farm of 400 acres which for years was turning over one-tenth of its area to flax. It might be said that the same results could be achieved by putting the area under oats, but it so happens that the farmer in this case is familiar with flax-growing, his family having come from Northern Ireland, where he probably had a great iea I. to do with flax. He ‘knows how to .grow flax well on the magnificent pasture land that he has produced as a result of wise rotation methods. I hope that the wE.mission will investigate that method of pasture rejuvenation for use in all our rich high rainfall areas, .and that it will be possible to develop varieties of flax that will grow well in this country, in addition to the varieties that we have already produced, which were originally Riga and Northern Ireland varieties, such as Liral Crown. I believe that we could produce in this country varieties that would be more suitable for us.
I support the proposed establishment of the commission, because I believe that it is essentia], in order . to enable us to maintain our flax industry, that we should have a competent body able to devote the whole of its time to the development of flax growing, which is an essential industry. I hope that the commission will include at least one man who is seised of the need for the use of modern methods in the control of pastures in the higher rainfall areas, and that the production of flax will be linked, as I think it could be linked immediately, with increased production of milk, fat lambs, etc. I congratulate the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the bill and I propose to pay close attention to the amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Lalor in committee, because I have a sneaking regard for the suggestion that (lie commission should include a representative of the flax industry.
Mr. KEON (Yarra) £4.42]. - I wonder what would have happened to this bill if the Government had -honoured its promise to introduce legislation making it, -obligatory for a referendum to be held before any industry could be nationalized, or the existing degree of nationalization in it be extended. We should then have had the interesting spectacle of Government supporters urging the people to vote for the extension and continuance of Government control of this particular section of the flax industry. Actually, this measure provides a classical example of socialization. It would be impossible to find a better example of it. I do not wonder that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McE-wen) chose to make his speeches on the other bills which deal with statutory authorities while the House was on the air, hut very conveniently arranged for this bill to be discussed while we Were no longer on the air.. This bill gives us an example of the Labour party’s policy of taking government action when government action is made necessary by the failure of private enterprise to deal with something that is essential to the welfare of the nation. It is a classic example of what -the Labour party refers to as the “ socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange “. This is something that is essential for the welfare of the community. As it happens, it also kas a defence importance. Private enterprise, however, will not engage in the flax-growing industry because there is no profit in it. In accordance with the Labour party’s policy, that is a clear case that calls for government action. lt is a case for socialization. We have now in office a government, the members of which in and out of season talk about the wicked socialists and the wicked socialization plots of the Labour party, and that Government is endorsing our views. Its supporters are admitting, quite frankly, that, no matter what they might say on the hustings at election times, they endorse the socialization objective in .relation to an undertaking that private enterprise, which operates for profit, will not touch, and regard it as a national duty for the Government to step in and take over such an industry. That is what this bill proposes. I do not wonder that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture preferred to introduce this measure while the proceedings of the House were not being broadcast, because the bill is one of those purely socialistic measures against Which the Minister has often inveighed.
– My introductory speech was broadcast.
Mi-. KEON. - That may be so, but the proceedings are not being broadcast while honorable members of the Opposition are criticizing the measure. No doubt the Minister prefers to have it that way.
Mr. Bowden interjecting.
– I suggest that the -honor-able member for -Gippsland (Mr.. Bowden) will have an opportunity to say what he wants to say .after I have completed my .criticism of the bill.
– If I >do say anything about it I will -say something that rnakes good sense; I will not drivel about it like the honorable member foi1 Y.ar-ra (Mr. Keon).
– If the honorable member for ‘Gippsland should speak good sense it would be the first time for many a day. If I remain a member of this Parliament long enough -and in, say, twenty years’ time, there is another Liberal government in office, no doubt I will then listen to a Liberal or Australian Country party Minister attacking this measure as an example of Labour’s socialistic legislation. Thai; statement is not as strange as it seems, because on previous occasions honorable members from the Government side have attacked, as socialistic, legislation that was initiated - by governments of the same political colour as the present Government. I remember when I was a member of the Victorian Parliament, a State Country party government assumed socialistic powers by which it could automatically acquire goods the moment they were produced. The Minister said, during his second-reading speech, that at an appropriate time a further attempt would be made to dispose of the flax industry to private enterprise. Therefore, the Government is asking honorable members to approve of the establishment of a Flax Commission, but is also proposing that after that commission has accomplished its task and has spent, perhaps, considerable sums of public money in bringing the flax industry into a flourishing condition, the Government will dispose of it in the same way as it has disposed of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Apparently the taxpayer is to be asked to bear all the expenses of bringing the industry to a flourishing condition, and then it is to be turned over to private enterprise.
– The Government proposes to take control of the flax industry because of its defence value.
– I am aware of that, but the Government proposes to dispose of it at -an appropriate time, -after having spent .the people’s money on it. If the industry is disposed of in the way contemplated by the Government, I suggest that the -taxpayers will not get .an .adequate return for their money. Recently the Minister spoke at length, in debates on other measures, against -the right of a Minister to veto the decisions <o’f .a government instrumentality. Yet .honorable members should note that this ‘bill will give the Minister .complete and .absolute power over the decisions of the Flax Commission. Clause 14 of the measure reads, inter alia - . .. The exercise -of -a power -by the Commission is subject to the directions, if any, of the Minister.
Therefore, it is apparent that the Minister can .direct the Flax Commission to enter into contracts and arrangements with persons for the growing -of flax plants, for the purchase -or acquisition of flax, foa- the milling of flax, and anything else that the Flax Commission will be empowered to do by the measure. Surely the Minister cannot reconcile his action in introducing a measure of this kind, which will give full power to the Minister, with his recent statements to the effect that a Minister should not have an overriding power over a Government board or commission. Surely we are entitled to expect consistency in a matter such as this. If it is necessary for a Minister to have the powers that the bill will give him, why was there all the fuss and bother recently about Minister’s powers over other boards? Where taxpayers’ money is being spent and legislative responsibility being accepted, the Minister must have and should have a power of veto and direction.
– Or where the people’s interest is concerned.
– Yes, the Minister must have a power of direction and veto, particularly in a matter connected with the defence of the country. Another matter that I wish to direct attention to was mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). That is the constitution of the Flax Commission.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the Australian Country party would have howled had a Labour government provided that the Governor-General could appoint any five persons he chose, and that he should have complete power to remove them. I am sure that the honorable member for Gippsland will agree that the persons who produce the goods should be represented on the Flax Commission. Honorable members on this side of the House can see no objection to Flax producers being represented, and surely honorable members of the Australian Country party can see no objection. If that is so, then the honorable members of the Australian Country party in this House should support the amendment that will be moved by the Opposition. If they can see any reason why representives of flax-growers should not be represented on the Flax Commission they should express their objections to the House, and not mumble about them in the back benches.
I ask honorable members of the Australian Country party and Liberal party to indicate where they stand on the matter of representation on boards and commissions. They have always been interested in that matter, and they should now make it quite plain whether they expect producers to be represented or not. I suggest that not one honorable member of the Australian Country party would deny that it is a plank of his party’splatform that there should be producer representation on all government boards and commissions that have been established to deal with primary produce. I have searched carefully through the Minister’s second-reading speech to try to find an explanation why producers are not represented on the Flax Commission. The Government has carefully glossed over that matter. I hope that before this debate concludes the Minister will tell honorable members why he has not adhered to his own party’s policy; that is, unless he is prepared to accept the amendment that will be moved by the Opposition.
Another important matter is that the Minister will be able arbitrarily to remove any member of the Flax Commission. I suggest that it is not fair to ask any responsible person to accept a position on such a commission, when he would be completely subject to the Minister’s whim.
The Minister will have power to veto any decision of the members. Therefore, why should he have the additional power contemplated in clause 5 ? I suggest that that power is unique in commissions of this nature. Most members of other commissions and boards are appointed for a statutory term, and at the end of that time their usefulness is assessed and their employment is continued or terminated in the light of that assessment. Unless there are to be five public servants on the board the commission will not function, because the Government will not get experienced men from the industry to accept positions under the conditions laid down in the bill. If the Government expects the commission to function properly it must appoint men experienced in the flax industry. A member may be persona grata with this Government, but non persona grata with the Government that will succeed it in a few months’ time. That consideration will, of course, enter into the minds of those who may be approached to hold office on the Flax Commission. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, emphasized only the defence aspect of the flax industry and glossed over all these other important matters. However, he bad a responsibility to the House to give us some information about the section of his department that has dealt with flax during the past few years.
In considering a measure of this nature, which could involve a substantial sum of public money, honorable members are entitled to have a financial statement about the operations of the Flax Production Committee within the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, whose activities will be taken over by the proposed Flax Commission. According to the budget papers, £605,000 has been expended by the Flax Committee, which sum has been recouped from receipts. Therefore, it seems that the activities of the committee have been successful, but whether they have been financially successful or not is a matter that should be considered by honorable members. I ask the Minister to supply honorable members with at least a summary of the financial operations of the Flax Production Committee, so that they will be informed of the exact position before they vote on this measure. I hope that the amendment foreshadowed by the Opposition will be accepted and that the Government will ensure that at least some section of the primary producers will be given representation on the Flax Commission. The Opposition supports this measure in part, as a real, effective and classic case of socialization in the interests of the country.
.- Until the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) injected a note of pure party politics into this debate, it had been proceeding on reasonably intelligent lines. With heavy humour he tried to suggest that the Government would have been in difficulty if it had already brought down legislation to make it necessary to have a referendum of the people before an industry could be nationalized. He is in error in that respect because the flax industry has already been nationalized to a great degree, insofar as it has been controlled in the past by the Flax Production Committee which operated within the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The question of the nationalization of an already profitable industry conducted by private enterprise does not arise. Quite conveniently the honorable member for Yarra overlooked the fact, as also did the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) until he had reached the concluding stages of his speech, that a private flax mill is in operation at Boyup Brook, in Western Australia.
– Is it conducted by a co-operative concern?
– Yes. It processes approximately 350 tons of flax per annum which is, I believe, approximately onethird of the total Australian production. It thus plays a not inconsiderable part in this important industry. It is from the point of view of the Western Australian industry that I want to address myself to the bill. The price paid to the producer of flax must be an economic price so that the producers may be encouraged to grow flax and not concentrate on other crops. The price for processed flax products paid to spinners and weavers must also be on a competitive basis with overseas flax products. At present there is a gap between Australian and overseas prices for flax and flax products which cannot be bridged without government intervention. The present prosperous state of other forms of primary production will make the growing of flax uneconomical unless the price of flax is fixed so high that the processed products cannot compete with overseas products. It is not a question of the Government taking over an industry that can be profitably carried on by private enterprise. Opposition members have howled about the profits made by the private banks and other so-called monopolies which they want the Government to nationalize. The flax industry is in quite the reverse position. It is very difficult to make a profit out of the growing of flax and the manufacture of flax products required for defence purposes, and consequently it is only right that the Government should take appropriate action to place the industry on a firm and profitable basis.
– The honorable member is a little socialist.
– Although the Boyup Brook mill produces a substantial part of the flax fibre produced in Australia it is likely to find itself at a disadvantage because prices paid by the spinners and weavers in the eastern States will be determined by the Flax Commission which is to be established by this bill. I urge the Minister to ensure that the Boyup Brook mill shall not be penalized by any arrangement made between the commission and the spinners and weavers in the eastern States. The mill is of great importance to growers in the Boyup Brook area and to the Commonwealth as a whole and every effort should be made to encourage it to extend its activities.
It has been suggested that the Flax Commission should include in its membership representation of certain interests associated with the industry. The Minister might well consider the appointment to the commission of a representative either of the Western Australian flaxgrowers or of the Boyup Brook mill so that in such marketing arrangements as are made the interests of Western Australia shall be preserved. The function of the commission is only to mill efficiently the flax grown by private enterprise and finally processed by private enterprise. So the commission is really to be an inbetween body whose sole objective in the long run will be to ensure that sufficient flax products shall be produced in Australia to meet defence requirements.
That brings me to the point that apart from the necessity for keeping the Australian flax industry alive for defence purposes it is not necessary to include in the representation on the commission the conglomeration of sectional and pressure interests which the honorable member for Lalor, by inference, suggested should be represented on it. The commission will not control the marketing of the product. Its function will be to undertake part of the manufacturing processes. A primary producer will not be bound to sell his flax to the commission nor will he be bound to grow flax; but unless flax is grown and a profitable price is paid for it, the commission will not obtain flax to process. For these reasons neither the producers nor the employees in the industry, or the spinners or weavers, need be directly represented on the commission. If representation were given to those interests we would tend to get a” commission composed of diverse interests, pulling six ways at once, and all trying to protect the pressure groups which they represent, and the outcome would not be in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
It is rather interesting to hear opposition members suggest that it is always the function of the Government to socialize an industry that cannot be made to pay, and when it has been made to pay and has been handed over to private enterprise to claim that the taxpayers’ money is dissipated in private profit. Without private enterprise no flax would be produced in Australia. The Flax Commission is to be appointed solely to ensure that these two important branches of private enterprise shall be carried on. If the commission can be profitably conducted, profits must also be made by the growers, spinners and weavers. I support the bill.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) raised an interesting point when he referred to the necessity for maintain ing parity in the returns from flaxgrowing with those received from other agricultural pursuits. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) would have to devote practically the whole of his time to the task of ensuring that returns from all branches of primary production were kept in proper relation. If he could solve that problem he would not encounter much difficulty in administering his department and great good would accrue to the community. Obviously, to relate returns from the land one to another so that the land gives its best when it is worked to the best advantage is one of the greatest objectives that any government can seek to attain. It is true that the Australian flax industry was greatly expanded during the war years, but flax was grown in this country in the years prior to the Avar. In Gippsland, good flax crops were grown and competed with other forms of agriculture in the pre-war years. In spite of the encouragement given to the industry during the war years it was unable to meet war-time requirements, as indeed were also many secondary industries. The industry should be continued in peace-time for a number of reasons, but principally because it supplies the basic product upon which a great many other industries depend.
– The Flax Commission will provide the necessary encouragement.
– I do not disagree with the proposal to appoint the commission. On the contrary, I believe that the commission should be assisted by the Government to the greatest possible extent, lt will need all the scientific assistance it can obtain from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It should be encouraged to conduct its own experiments and be given the greatest possible assistance by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. It should be a strong body backed by those who are greatly concerned in the industry. The growers and the workers, who, after all, are the real producers of flax products, should be represented on it. Provision should be made for the establishment of the commission on a permanent basis. It should always be borne’ in mind that the flax industry can become a great industry which will always be necessary to our economy.
The commission’s mills will carry out the most important part of the work in the industry for growers have never carried out the retting, scutching and deseeding of their product. The work lias always been left to the government mills. The flax industry is an example of the great versatility of the land and its people. Australia has the largest wool clip in the world and it has also established an important cotton industry. There is no reason why flax should not be added to the list of our primary products so that the growing of flax will become as important as any other branch of agriculture. It is important to remember that this industry is able to save us a great deal of overseas currency. Those who have studied, the need to conserve overseas currency for the welfare of the community and for the maintenance of full employment must realize the potentialities of this industry. “We may not be able to make large exports of flax products, but at least we should be able to meet our own requirements and so conserve overseas currency. The Government might, well turn its attention to other primary industries that would be vital to Australia in the event of war. Such industries should be encouraged and placed on a sound basis in peace-time. Not nearly enough attention is paid to the defence needs of the nation by the Tariff Board. I consider that the board should be vested with power to investigate industries of defence significance with the object of protecting them from foreign competition so that they might develop in peace-time and be ready to assist the nation in an emergency.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has said that the flax industry must be socialized if it is to thrive. That, of course, is due to the deficiencies of private enterprise. The Opposition hopes that the Flax Commission will become a strong and independent body that will have the capacity to endure. Private enterprise allowed the flax industry to languish in peace-time so that, when the demands of war became imperative, it WaS incapable of providing for our needs.
The same process would be repeated if the growing and processing of flax were to be left in the hands of private enterprise. A socialized industry can be kept under observation so that it Wl bc ready at any time to engage in war production. Expenditure on such projects should he regarded as a part of the cost of national defence. The Opposition believes in providing in peace for the needs that Will arise in Avar. I hope that the bill will be accepted by the House, together with such amendments as may be proposed by the Opposition for the purpose of strengthening the Flax Commission. It is a remarkable fact that the bill embodies provisions which, according to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, are not necessary in other measures that relate to agricultural production. Ministerial control over primary industry boards is essential. The welfare of the community must be borne in mind constantly. Any primary industry board that is free from ministerial supervision must fail, or succeed only partially. I repeat that the establishment of the Flax Commission should be of great benefit to Australia and that the development of the industry should have a good influence upon our overseas balances.
.-1 was intrigued by the lengthy speech that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made on this simple measure, which could be debated thoroughly within a few minutes, when he opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition. The honorable gentleman made heroic efforts. He spoke for about 35 minutes on a measure to which he said he had no objection. Throughout that protracted speech he tried to find some ground for criticizing the bill, and even suggested that he might propose amendments in the committee stage. All the time, of course, the honorable member hoped that the Government would stand fast and that his attack would be unsuccessful. His main complaint against the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) appeared to be that the Minister was becoming socialistic. I am sure that he would be horrified if his remarks led to the amendment of the bill in any way. No doubt he dreams that, on some occasion in the future, he may step into the shoes of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aud become responsible for the control of the Flax Commission. Par be it from him to say anything that would induce the Government to alter one word of the bill, if the measure is socialistic! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) shed copious tears on behalf of the poor producers, who will not be represented on the commission. The commission, of course, has not yet been established, and very few producers of flax exist in Australia. I re-assure the honorable gentleman, on behalf of the Government, that the flax-growers of Richmond will be adequately represented on the commission.
The bill is of the essence of simplicity. It will establish a commission for the purpose of promoting flax production in the interests of defence. That is an uncomplicated proposition. Flax is essential to the adequate defence of Australia. Therefore, the production of flax is a national responsibility. The honorable member for Ballarat was more realistic than either of his two colleagues who have spoken on the measure, because he did not attempt to make political capital on this issue. He appreciates the necessity for the establishment of the proposed commission. To complain thatprivate enterprise has let the country down, merely because farmers will not grow flax at a loss to themselves, is utter stupidity. Everybody who thinks about the subject must agree that the production of flax is essential to Australia’s defence and is necessary for that reason only. Why, therefore, should it not be treated in the same way as the production of any other vital defence commodity? The function of the commission will be to enter into contracts and arrangements with persons for the growing of flax and its sale to the commission. What happens when we need battleships and aircraft for the defence of Australia? The Government enters into contracts with the manufacturers of battleships and aircraft. Private enterprise supplies them to the nation at a price. The shipyards are not expected to produce battleships merely in the hope that they will be able to sell them to the Government. Why should the farmer be expected to grow flax in the hope that he will be able to sell it profitably? I have grown flax. 1 produced it on a property about 60 miles from the factory at Drouin, to which flax is sent from as far afield as South Australia. The factory offered farmers what it described as incentives to produce flax. A flax crop may average 2 tons to the acre. A farmer is lucky if it reaches that level. The factory offered us a price of £4 on rail. The freight charge at that time was about 10s. a ton from the railhead nearest to my property to the factory. On that basis, I could expect the magnificent return of about £6 an acre for a whole year’s hard work. Of course nobody was interested in growing flax on those terms. Consequently, the industry languished. When war broke out the government of the day had to step in and induce farmers to grow flax, because flax was vital to defence. It said to the growers, “We shall pay you a price that will return you a fair profit “. The same system must be adopted in peace-time if the industry is to remain in existence. The Minister has said that we must maintain the industry so that, in the event of a sudden threat to our security, we shall not be deprived of supplies of an essential defence material. Therefore, it is imperative for the Government to encourage flax production.
The Government stands for the representation of producers on boards and other instrumentalities that control the production and marketing of primary products. However, the producers of flax, in this instance, are in the same category as the manufacturers of battleships, aircraft and munitions, who are not supervised by commissions or boards. Flax producers, therefore, will not be controlled by the commission as other primary producers are controlled by various production and marketing authorities. The prime purpose of the Flax Commission will be to induce farmers to grow flax. The establishment of the commission will not win or lose a single vote for any political party. It is ridiculous to suggest, as the honorable member for Lalor has done, that farmers should be imbued with only the purest motives of altruism and should grow flax at a financial loss. Apparently the honorable gentleman expects them to produce it and say, “ Here it is. It has cost me my fortune and my family, but what does that matter if I have served the nation?”. I am astonished that the honorable member for Lalor, who, as a farmer, must appreciate the truth of what I have said, should think that he can gain political advantage by complaining that the Liberal party is becoming socialistic. He should have no reason for complaint because, according to him, this Government will save the Labour party trouble in the future by socializing the flax industry. The honorable gentleman has ignored the fact that the commission will not be like other bodies that Control primary production. It will have no similarity, for example, to the Australian Wheat Board. It will be simply a defence production authority.
I am sure that this debate will not become heated, because every honorable member must be in agreement with the provisions of the bill. I shall be extremely interested in any amendments that the honorable member for Lalor may propose for the purpose of improving the bill. Any amendment that would hamper the board would defeat the object of the measure, and I do not believe that it is possible to amend the bill in such a way as to improve the prospects of success of the board. I hope that a little realism will be introduced into the debate by other members of the Opposition. Defence is too important to be the plaything of party politics. The sole purpose of the bill is to induce farmers to use their land for the production of flax, which is an essential defence requirement. Farmers will grow flax only if flax production can be made profitable. Obviously, a farmer who can make a profit of £25 an acre from rich land by the production of foodstuffs will not grow flax if he can earn only £6 or £7 an acre by that means. He must be provided with an incentive to produce, not what he is producing now, but what the Government wants him to produce for the benefit of the nation. It must be obvious to anybody who considers the bill dispassionately that the measure has no political implications and has been designed solely for the benefit of Australia.
– in reply - Honorable members who have taken part in this debate have made useful and constructive suggestions, apart from those comments which have been made obviously, and not unreasonably, for political reasons. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) made a thoughtful speech, as did the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who showed their knowledge of the problems of this enterprise.
The principle upon which this simple measure is based is that this great production enterprise can be conducted more efficiently under a commission than is possible under a section of a government department. The only reason for the proposal to transfer the control of the enterprise from a committee within a government department to a commission that will have some degree of autonomy is that, under a commission, the enterprise can.be conducted more efficiently. If an independent commission wanted some painting, repair or construction work to be done, it could call in a contractor or arrange for the work to be done by day labour. It would be free to exercise its own judgment upon the matter. Within the ranks of the public services, however, it would be necessary to make a requisition upon the Department of Works. That department would prepare specifications, estimate costs and call for tenders. It would have to go through all the normal public service procedure. If a table were wanted, the commission might make do with one made from some boards, but if the governmental committee ordered one, it might, by the time the requisition had gone through the hoops, so to speak, of the public service, receive a mahogany table. We want the commission to be free to exercise its own judgment and to conduct its activities in the way it considers to be best.
The desire of this Government, as of its predecessor in office, is that some day this activity shall be conducted by private enterprise. Our predecessor endeavoured to sell the undertaking to private enterprise within and outside Australia, hut it was unsuccessful. “We also have tried unsuccessfully to do so. Now, because of the defence significance of the industry, we are not prepared to allow it to languish. We are determined to establish it on the basis of a stable minimum annual production. Some honorable members opposite, who made a comparison of the activities of this commission and the activities of various marketing boards, showed clearly that they did not understand the position of the industry. I do not want to engage in a controversy on that matter. All that I shall say is that the function of a marketing board is, broadly, a realizing function. Its duty is to sell, to the best advantage, the property of a group of producers who have produced something on their own initiative, and want to sell it in an organized manner. It is obvious that, in those circumstances, the people who own the product concerned should have a majority on the relevant board.
The position of the Flax Commission will not be comparable with that of a marketing board. The flax straw that comes into the possession of the commission will he grown by farmers who have entered into contracts with the commission. At the commencement of a flax growing season, the commission will announce that it is prepared to pay a certain price per ton for straw of a certain length and quality. Then it will enter into contracts with farmers. The farmers will grow the flax straw and will sell it to the commission. Then they will have no further interest in the straw. The commission will not be a marketing authority acting on behalf of producers who own the flax that is being processed. Only the Government will have a financial interest in the flax straw after it has been purchased from the farmers. The duty of the commission will be to ensure that the processing of the flax straw will be done in the most efficient manner. I have not heard any honorable member dispute the contention that the flax in- dustry will be conducted more effectively and efficiently by a body outside the Public Service which has a .considerable degree of autonomy. On the ground of day-to-day efficiency of operation, the Government has decided that the governmental committee shall be replaced by a commission, but financial responsibility will still re main with the Government, and the Minister will not be divested of responsibility. It would be improper to divest him of all responsibility for an enterprise that will expend government money.
We nope that, in due course, when the industry has been established upon a stable and obviously enduring basis, we shall be able to sell it to private enterprise. It is not the normal function of a government to engage in the production of a commodity that is necessary for normal civilian purposes, even though the commodity has also a defence significance. Butter has a defence significance. If butter were not produced by private enterprise, the Government would have to intervene, but butter, as well as wheat, wool and other primary products, is produced in volume by private enterprise. So the Government keeps out of the way. We believe that to be the proper attitude for a government to adopt. But the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has made it clear that his thinking, and doubtless the thinking of many of his colleagues, is concentrated upon the socialistic objective of the Labour party. From his lips came the classic definition of socialism in the platform of the Labour party. He said, “ This is an example of our policy of the socialization of industry and the means of production, distribution and exchange “.
– He did not say that.
– That is the political philosophy of Labour. If the Labour party can convince the Australian people that they will be better off if industry and the means of distribution, production and exchange are socialized, it will become the government of this country. To achieve office, Labour must persuade the Australian people to accept its policy of socialization - which it has never been able to do- or so mislead the people that they will fail to understand that socialization is its considered and deliberate objective. I am afraid that the Labour party is trying to attain office, not by explaining its policy as clearly as the honorable member for Yarra has done, but by avoiding an explanation of its policy in clear terms. It is the business of honorable members on this side of the House to ensure that Labour will not get away with its endeavours to mislead the people.
– May I have the leader of the Australian Country party on my platforms throughout the election campaign ?
– I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman would agree to that. I remember that in the 1930’s, when the Labour party wanted to establish the glass industry in this country on a broader basis, it did not seek the advice of the Tariff Board, but imposed a terrific protective tariff on glass. That action destroyed the import trade in glass from Belgium. Then, almost overnight, the Belgians, who hitherto had bought all of our export surplus of barley and all of the production of frozen beef at Wyndham, ceased to do so. When our export trade in barley and frozen beef had been destroyed, for the purpose, as the Labour party said, of establishing a glass industry in this country, we discovered that the principal glass manufacturer in Australia had imported £250,000 of glass before the tariff was imposed. That is an example of the reckless use of the tariff device to establish an industry. This Government believes in the establishment of industries in this country by private enterprise. If private enterprise is willing and able to establish an industry but requires tariff protection, our policy is to refer the request to the Tariff Board for report, and to refrain from action until we have had the benefit of the advice of the Tariff Board. We do not, as the Labour party has done, enter into negotiations with great manufacturing interests behind closed doors and, ignoring the public interest, impose quite indefensible tariffs.
– Did the Government consult the Tariff Board before it imposed the recent import restrictions?
– Those import restrictions were imposed to protect not in dustry but our currency. They are being relaxed as the need for them disappears.
– So were our 1931 tariffs.
– Order ! The House is discussing, not tariffs and currency, but the flax industry. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in his reply, should deal only with points raised by other honorable members in the debate.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has criticized the measure because it does not specify the periods for which the members of the proposed commission will be appointed. The Government does not consider that it is necessary to specify the periods of office of the members of a commission of this kind. The only other similar commission operating in Australia to-day i3 the Australian Whaling Commission, which was established under the provisions of a measure introduced by the honorable member for Lalor. The members of that commission, other than the chairman, are not appointed for a fixed period. The chairman is appointed for a fixed term, because he is employed full time. However, it is not intended that any of the members of the Flax Commission will be employed full time. That is the reason why they will not be appointed for a specified period. Of course, the executive officer will be employed full time. For the reasons that I have given, the members of the commission will not be appointed as the representatives of the growers and the millers, but will be selected for their high administrative experience, their knowledge of flax growing or their knowledge of flax spinning. They will jointly possess a fund of knowledge which will enable the commission to deal effectively with the problems of the industry.
The honorable member for Forrest referred to the interests of the flax mill at Boyup Brook, in Western Australia. I am able to assure the House that the Flax Commission will continue the policy that has been followed by the Flax Production Committee, and invite the representatives of this growers’ co-operative company to consult with it in determining the price to be offered to growers for the straw, and the price that spinners will be charged for the fibre. That company will be given every opportunity to inform itself of the plans and intentions of the commission so that its activities may be completely planned, and, in fact, its activities may be integrated into those of the commission. The growers’ cooperative company at Boyup Brook is a magnificently successful enterprise, and the Government and the commission will certainly aid and support it.
An honorable member has said thatI should present the financial records of the Flax Production Committee to the House. The documents are available, and show that the committee made a profit of £46,254 on a total capital investment of £738,835 in 1951-52. The profit has been diverted to offset losses incurred in the early part of World War II., as the result of haste and inexperience. As government money was involved, the modest profit which has been made has been used to recoup some of those losses. I hope that the House will give the bill a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) The Commission shall consist of five members, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General. (2.) Subject to section nine of this Act. a member of the Commission holds office during the pleasure of the Governor-General.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I suggest that this clause should be replaced with a clause to make provision for the representation on the Flax Commission of persons who are closely associated with this important industry. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has blandly asserted that there is no reason why specific provision should be made in the bill for the five members of the commission to represent any particular interests, or possess special skill in any particular phases of the flax industry. I listened attentively to his defence of that contention. He claims that the Opposition misunderstands the functions and the purposes of the commission. He has attempted to lead us to believe that the flax industry, as the result of its importance to our defence requirements, is in a different position from that of many other primary industries. He has endeavoured to lead us to believe that the functions of the Flax Commission will be entirely different from those of other marketing organizations. Such statements are not entirely correct. The Minister also claims that difficulty has been experienced in inducing persons to grow flax, and that they need to be assured of profitable prices. However, I remind him that, as an inducement to wheatgrowers to grow wheat and ensure the security of Australia in peace-time and war-time, the Chifley Labour Government introduced stabilization legislation that guaranteed to growers a price for 100,000,000 bushels.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member to develop that theme. The functions of the Flax Commission are set out in clause 13.
– I am endeavouring to point out that there is a close analogy between the growing of flax and the growing of wheat, and that the real requirement, in both instances, is the representation of the growers themselves on the organization that handles their products. I think that my passing reference to that matter has established my point. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture agreed with the granting of a guarantee for the first 100,000,000 bushels of wheat for export, and a guarantee of the cost of production for wheat for local consumption. That was an incentive-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the clause.
– The guarantee gave wheat-growers a sense of security. Now, some persons are hesitant regarding the prospects of flax production, and they are seeking some form of security. As the economic welfare of the flax-growers is involved, surely they are entitled to representations on the Flax Commission.
Yesterday, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) complained that, during World War II., the Labour Government did not provide for the representation of processors of hides and leather on the Australian Hides and Leather Industries Board. I contend that fl ax-growers should be represented on the Flax Commission. I assert that spinners, because of the necessity for them to continue their business in peace-time as in war-time, should be represented on the commission. I also ask, in conformity with the Government’s professed policy, that the employees in the processing factories, who are engaged on retting, deseeding and scutching, be represented on the commission, or, alternatively, that those engaged in the spinning industry be represented on it.
During the last general election campaign, Government supporters frequently referred to the necessity to provide incentives for employees to increase production. The suggested incentives included share partnership arrangements, and a direct voice for the employees in the operation of the industry. The former Minister for National Development, Mr. Casey, was a tremendous admirer of American industry. Recently, he gave a long dissertation on the marvellous achievements of industry in that country. He attributed that position partly to the fact that the employees were represented on the directorates and councils of the various industries. The right honorable gentleman said that such representation was a great inducement to employees to give of their best. Subsequently, I moved an amendment to a bill with the object of giving employees representation on a certain board, and the Minister and his colleagues voted against it. I hope that they will have a change of heart on this occasion. I move -
That clause 5 he left out with a. view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 5. - ( 1 . ) The Commission shall consist of:-
two members to represent producers of flax.
One member to represent flax processors.
One member to represent employees engaged in the industry.
Two members to represent the Com monwealth Government. “ (2.) Where it is not, in the opinion of the Minister, practicable to hold an election of producers, the member representing producers shall, wherever practicable, he a person selected after consultation by the Minister with representatives of producer organizations. “ (3.) The member representing flax processors shall, wherever practicable, be a person selected after consultation by the Minister with representatives of the appropriate processors’ organizations. “ (4.) The member representing employees engaged in the handling and processing of flax shall, wherever practicable, be a person selected after consultation by the Minister with representatives of the appropriate trade union or trade unions. “ (5.) Subject to section nine of this Act, a member of the Commission holds office during the pleasure of the Governor-General.”.
Despite all the apologies and excuses that the Minister has made, I cannot for the life of me see why the Government should not yield this point. The Minister has already intimated that some person with a knowledge of flax production will be appointed to the commission. I have a fairly good idea who that person will be, and, if I am right, I believe that he will be an excellent member of the commission. However, why should we not incorporate in the bill a provision requiring that the flax-growers shall be represented on it? Under the proposed new clause, if it is adopted, the Minister will have a wide field in which to select the members of the commission. He has intimated that a spinner, or a person who possesses a special knowledge of spinning, will be appointed to it. He has not indicated whether the employees in the industry will be represented on the commission. I cannot see any reason why he should object to the proposed new clause.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– No other honorable member having risen to speak, I shall take my second period now. There is not much more that I should say about the Opposition’s amendment, except to emphasize, for the benefit of those honorable members who have stated that the commission will only purchase products from the growers, that sub-clause (2.) (b) of clause 14 provides that the commission - may purchase or otherwise acquire flax, . . . whilst sub-clause (2.) (a) of the same clause provides that it may - enter into contracts and arrangements with persons for the growing of flax plants and for the sale of flax to the Commission.
I emphasize the words “ otherwise acquire flax “. If the commission does not purchase flax, then it will otherwise acquire it, and I can see quite clearly that it will acquire it under the defence power. The corn mission, therefore, will be an authority which will have power to acquire flax from primary producers in an altogether arbitrary fashion. There should be a statutory provision in the bill that will enable primary producers and every section of the community to be represented on the commission. That is an additional reason why I have moved the amendment.
– .1 understand clearly the proposition advanced by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the amendment that he has moved. The Government cannot accept the amendment, for an obvious reason. I have said before that the commission will be virtually a commercial enterprise engaged in one stage of the processing of flax. It lias been found necessary that this industry should be carried on by the Government alone. Only government money, therefore, will be involved. This bill is not related to a product of the growers that must be realized on in the interests of the growers. It is related to a product that will be purchased finally and outright by the Government, which will process it, and, in due course, resell it to the spinners.
– The commission will “ acquire “ it.
– The commission will purchase it.
– Who will decide the price?
– The commission will decide the price in the way that the Flax Production Committee now decides it, which is, after consultation with the growers. The present practice, which will be continued, is that before the beginning of the growing season, the growers, who are well organized, will be invited to meet the commission, which will also invite the representatives of the company at Boyup Brook to meet it, in order to discuss all the circumstances that bear upon the approximate price for flax straw in the coming year. The price will finally be agreed upon, after those discussions, according to the qualities and lengths of the flax straw. When the price has bee.-i arrived at by that process of consultation the commission will proceed, as the Flax Production Committee now does, .to enter into individual contracts with farmers who choose to enter into contracts with it The use of the term “ purchase or otherwise acquire” covers that kind of procedure. A grower without a contract could conceivably grow some flax and offer it to the commission, which might buy it. That would be purely a purchase. If the commission is acquiring under contract the words “otherwise acquire” are the words that should be used to describe that kind of arrangement. The commission will itself decide the appropriate selling price for fibre in the various classes. Here is the point which impels the Government to refuse to accept the amendment. I am picturing a. board of directors of six persons to manage for the Government a business in which £750,000 of government money is sunk, and perhaps a good deal more than that amount will be involved as working capital. The Labour party proposes that this business enterprise should be managed by a board to consist of two members to represent the flax producers, one member to represent the flax processors or spinners, one member to represent the employees, and two members to represent the Government. There is no novelty in providing that there shall be people to represent a particular industry on a. marketing board. The industry itself usually elects them, as is done in the case of the Australian Egg Board, or the appropriate producers’ organization nominates the people it wishes to represent it. The job of the producers’ representatives on such a board is to get as high a price as possible for the products of the industry they are representing. If they fail to carry out that job they will not be reelected or re-nominated. The Labour party wants a statutory body, which is to control an industry the establishment of which will involve the expenditure of nearly £1,000,000 of government money, to be composed of two men who will be there to get as high a price as they can; one man who will be there to represent the organization that buys the semi-processed product, and who will try to buy it at as low a price as possible; another man who will represent the trade unions, and whose function will be to get as high wages and as short hours as possible for the employees; and only two people out of the six to represent the interests of the Government and the community. The Government will not have a bar of that kind of proposal. We do not believe that a business arrangement can be properly carried out by people who have prejudged the situation before they ure ever called upon to make a decision. The people who represent the growers would be bound to exercise their influence upon the commission in an endeavour to get as high a price as possible for the product. When people represent special interests, whether it be in primary industry, a business organization, or politics, bargaining occurs between them. What is more likely than that the persons representing the employees will say to the persons representing the growers, “ You stick by me when I try to get higher wages for the employees, and I will stick by you when you try to get a higher price for the straw. It is only government money that is at stake anyhow That is an example of the inepitude of Labour when it enters the business arena. Business cannot be done in that way. The Government, therefore, has decided to retain the bill as it is.
.- I am staggered at the approach of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to this problem. My party has advanced a reasoned amendment that appears to meet all the needs of the situation, and appears to be in line with the Government’s past views. All we have got from the Minister is an argument that if people were appointed to the commission as suggested by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr.
Pollard), they would take a purely narrow and selfish view of their functions. That is an amazing opinion to be expressed by a responsible Minister in an allegedly responsible Government which has said that it believes in getting all the segments of industry, workers, employers and so on, to co-operate for the benefit of industry as a whole. If those appointed to represent particular sections of industry on a board refuse to take a broad national view, then there is no point in the Government’s statements that it believes in encouraging employees to take a share in running industry. The Minister has offered a gratuitous insult to all those important sections of the industry to which he has referred. He has suggested, seriously, dogmatically and brazenly, that employees in the industry will be concerned only with the contents of their wages packets. The Minister does not understand the workers. His attitude clearly indicates how completely out of touch members of the Government are with that great section of the community. The Government fails to understand the psychology of working people. It insults them at every turn, but still says, “We believe in co-operation in industry. We think employees should be given incentive “. Given the opportunity, however, the best the Minister can say, after long experience as a Minister in this Government and previous governments, is that employees are only narrowly and selfishly concerned with wages. The fact is, of course, that the workers at all times have been more disposed to take a broad and national view than the Minister seems capable of comprehending.
Given their share of the management of this industry the employees will undoubtedly show that their main interest is to see the industry firmly established. They will not look, as the Minister seems to think, at the day-to-day aspects of the work they are engaged in. They will look, astonishing though it may be to the Minister, at the effects on the national economy of the industry, at the longrange development of the industry, and at the contribution it will make to the national well-being. As the primary purpose of the bill is related to the defence aspect of the flax industry, the workers will also look very largely at the relationship of the undertaking to defence. I believe that that is true of all the other undertakings to Which the honorable member for Lalor has referred. The men would be asking how they could give better support to the industry that was being established. The flax industry is not a going concern. If it were, there would be no need to appoint this commission. The Minister believes, and the Parliament accepts the principle, that the industry must be established as a defence undertaking on a large and permanent basis. What better way of securing that end is there than to secure the active and continuing co-operation of all sections of the industry. A vast amount of Government money will be involved in the establishment of the industry, as in so many undertakings with which the Government is associated or over which it exercises a control. Even if the members who would be appointed to the commission, if the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor were accepted, were inclined to disregard their obligations and to act against the best interests of the country, the Minister would have complete power at every step to override their decisions. There is no limit to his power in that regard. He may remove the members from the commission without giving a reason for doing so. The Minister’s contention, therefore, cannot be sustained. There is no justification for the stand that he has taken. In every word he has uttered there is an insult, not implied, but open and brazen, to all sections of this great industry. We believe that the amendment is practicable and wise. An industry is to be established where no industry existed for a long time, and there is no assured market for its product. In those circumstances the Government should accept the amendment. Moreover, the co-operation of workers in other industries, which will be part of this great new undertaking, should also be sought. Everything suggested by the honorable member for Lalor, and supported by the Opposition, will tend to ensure that the industry shall succeed, and will guarantee that by concerted action it will be established on a firm footing and developed as it should be developed. No valid objections against the amendment have been advanced by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and honorable members who support him. Therefore, I suggest that the Opposition’s amendment should be accepted.
.- I found it difficult to follow the argument of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) or to understand why the committee should support the Opposition’s amendment. Apparently the honorable member did not realize that the industry that will be set up under the Flax Commission will be purely a flax milling industry. There is no suggestion that we need to keep people growing flax or to keep spinners and weavers applied to their part of the processes but because nobody else in the Commonwealth is prepared to undertake flax marketing the Commonwealth has found it necessary to set up the Flax Commission. I fail to see how the growers who are not undertaking the processing of the flax straw need to be represented on the Flax Commission or why the spinners and weavers, whose only concern is to obtain fibre cheap enough to compete with overseas interests, should also be represented. As for the employees, they know little of the business arrangements necessary for the conduct of a flax milling business. There are some new Australians in the flax-mill in Western Australia who can hardly speak English. How could they be expected to represent a point of view on a commission such as this? The Opposition has made out no case for a conglomerate sort of commission which would be pulling six ways at once, instead of a body of experts who could establish an efficient flax milling business until the time arrives when private enterprise could operate the industry successfully. The Opposition should wake up to the fact that this is not a marketing organization for the handling of a product; it is a new step in the industry and a completely separate process. The Flax Commission will acquire the raw product from the grower and prepare it for manufacture. There is a great distinction between the commission contemplated by this bill and ordinary marketing bodies with which we have been dealing in the past.
– I was astonished by the statements by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) when he was answering the arguments of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I was also astonished by the speech of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). This committee must find itself in a most difficult position in the light of the statements of those two honorable members. I understood from the Minister’s speeches that when the Government is appointing the Flax Commission consideration will be given to appointing a representative of the producers and a representative of the spinners. Now, after the Labour party has moved an amendment to the effect that producers’ representatives shall be placed on the Flax Commission, the Minister suggests that producers’ representatives would be solely concerned in forcing up the price of flax, millers’ representatives would be concerned only to keep the price down and if an employee were put on the commission there would be an unholy combination against the Government and the community. In the light of those statements it is pertinent to ask who is to be appointed to the Flax Commission? I believe that honorable members are entitled to have that question answered, and to be informed of the nature of the duties of the members of the commission.
I was rather shocked by the remarks of the Minister and the honorable member for Forrest to the effect that employee representation is not necessary. Surely everybody will agree that there are at least two essentials for industrial harmony and understanding in the community. First, we have to knock down the brick wall that separates management from labour and, secondly, we have to give an opportunity to labour to understand the problems, intricacies and difficulties of the production, financing and marketing of commodities. This Government, after it had assumed office, claimed that it had received the support of many trade unionists. For the Government to suggest now that representatives of the persons who, it claims, helped to put it into office, if placed on the Flax Commission, would use their positions for industrial black-mail, is certainly expressing a poor opinion of the voters. As a matter of policy, if the Government desires to bring about a better understanding between management and labour, capitalist and worker, there must be a more realistic approach to what is becoming one of the most serious problems of the age. Unfortunately, the worker has grown suspicious of the employer, and the employer has grown suspicious of theworker ; and in the continual war that isbeing waged between them the community is suffering. This Government has not approached the matter in a statesmanlike fashion, and has not attempted to find a solution to this difficult problem.
On a previous occasion, when thehonorable member for Lalor had moved an amendment designed to give employee* representation on a certain board, as soon as I rose to speak in the debate thequestion was put. If that sort of thingis to go on when we are dealing with a matter that affects the welfare and prosperity of Australia we shall not get very far. One hears people say that the workers are going too- slow–
– Order! Thehonorable member cannot discuss the whole field of industrial relationshipsunder this clause.
– I do not propose to doso. I am merely trying to point out that certain statements have been made, and that I believe that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lalor is the practical reply to those statements. I say that because it will give an opportunity to those engaged in the industry tounderstand the difficulties pointed out by the Minister himself. When all is said and done, without labour and machines, industry would not get very far,, no matter how much capital might be invested in it. If the Minister desiresto get the best results from the Flax Commission, and secure co-operation and harmony from all sections of the flax industry, he would be very wise to accept the amendment proposed by theOpposition.
– I desire to correct what appears to be a misapprehension, in the mind of the- honorable’ member for Bendigo (.Mr: Clarey) ,. whose good: faith: in, this- matter I do not doubt. The honorable member said that a serious situation: had developed in the community, because he understood: from my. remarks^ in my second-heading speech, that on the Has Commission, of five persons one would’ be appointed to represent the growers- and: one the spinners-, hut that it could be concluded- from my remarks on the amendment that there would not be a representative of the growers or the spinners on the commission. I desire- to refresh- his mind’ about the words that I used when I was speaking with a- clear knowledge of this matter. I said that on the Flax. Commission of five there would be a person chosen because of his knowledge and experience in public administration, a person chosen because of his- knowledge and experience in. the growing. ot flax, and: a person chosen because of his knowledge- and experience in the spinning of flax. I suggest that the phrase “chosen- for his knowledge “ is very different from the phrase- “ representative of “. I am sure that the- honorable members- for Bendigo and. Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will concede that this proposition represents the true and proper approach to a commission of this kind. I am sure that the honorable member for Bendigo has often appeared before a wages board or an arbitration court to represent a union-. When he is the representative of a union Be has to ask for something that will advantage the union. If I represent wheat-growers in my private capacity, I have to try to get some advantage for wheat-growers. There is a great difference between a person who represents an interest before a tribunal and a person who is there in the public interest because of his knowledge. The Government believes that it would destroy tha objective approach of the Flax Commission, which really is a board of directors, if the commission is to be constituted as the Opposition suggests. If the Flax Commission is to be composed of representatives of conflicting interests, the growers, foi1 instance, would want to get a higher- price or would want to get. lowgrade produce accepted, and it is in the interest of spinners to get processed flax as cheaply as- possible. I am- sure that no one wilL dispute that when a person isput forward to represent an interest hemust attempt to advance that interest,, and- that would- be wrong on a commission, such as this;
Mi-. Tom Burke. - The Minister is. confusing two different things.
– I am. speaking about a business body- and not a tribunal where conflicting interests fight it out. I suggest that the latter is just what the Opposition^ amendment would create.. It would establish a body in which conflicting interests would fight out their differences with the people’s money at stake. We do not have to speculate on. how the interests of the employees will be attended to. The history of government assistance to the flax industry extends over the years since 194<X Thus, we have thirteen years’ experience- toguide us.. I do not believe that any other industry has had a happier industrial record than has the flax industry. The Flax. Production Committee has. never had difficulty with its employees. The Flax Commission will be little mo-re than a transformation of the Flax Production Committee. For thirteen years, under the first Menzies Government,, the Curtin Government,, the Chifley Government,, the Fadden Government and the second Menzies Government, there, has not been a dispute in the industry and every award made in respect of it has been a consent award negotiated round a table and ratified by the appropriate court.
– I. admit that, industrial relations in the industry have been. good.
– Those good relations resulted from an understanding that existed between the Flax Production Committee and the workers in the industry: A similar understanding will exist between the Flax Commission and the workers. Appoint a person to the, commission as a representative of the workers and his principal job will be to try to obtain better conditions for them. There is a place in which- such interests, should be advocated and it is certainly not, on a board of business management.. That is the simple approach of the Government to this matter. I am sure that, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) will concede that he was under a misapprehension “ as to what I said in my second-reading speech and its relation to the amendment. I recant nothing. Members of the Flax Commission will be chosen because of their knowledge and experience of various branches of the industry but they will not represent the interests of any particular section of it.
.- I. am glad to have an admission from, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that he believes that when persons are appointed to commodity boards or commissions to represent certain interests they will consider it to be their duty to represent those interests to the detriment of the industry concerned and will selfishly pursue their own interests to the bitter end. That is a very fair and accurate summary of the Minister’s statement. Such an admission will be very valuable for future reference. I was particularly interested in it because only a few nights ago I and many other honorable members spent some time trying to understand precisely what the Minister meant when he referred to exclusive representation of producers on other bodies. I realize now that they would do what he now says they will do. The function of a producer representative will be to obtain the very highest price for a product irrespective of its effect on the industry concerned or on the nation. I am pleased to know that we have at last converted the Minister to that view. He now says that he believes that such a representative will pursue his point of view in order to extract the utmost from, any situation in which he finds himself. Briefly, he will blackmail the rest of the industry in order to get the biggest possible return for the interests he represents. I am glad to have that admission from the Minister, who is, I assume, now acting as the Leader of the Australian Country party in this chamber. It will be very handy in future when a Minister representing the Australian Country party introduces legislation, as he undoubtedly will do, which provides for either major or exclusive producer representation on a commodity board.
– Having made the statement, the Minister cannot get away from it.
– That is so. No provision has been made in the bill regarding the kind of person whom the Minister may appoint to the Flax Commission. The bill merely provides that five persons shall be appointed by the Minister. The amendment submitted by the Labour party provides that such persons shall be representative of various sections of the industry. In answer to our amendment the Minister has said that he intends to appoint to the commission persons who have been chosen to represent various sections of the industry.
– I did not use the words “ chosen to represent various sections of the industry”
– The Minister said he would appoint persons who have been chosen because of their particular knowledge of sections of the industry.
– That is so.
– If that is so, why was not such a provision inserted in the bill? A great deal of our objection to the bill would have been met had the Government provided that the commission shall consist of five members, one of whom shall bp chosen because of his knowledge of public administration, one because of his knowledge of flax milling and one because of his experience as a flax producer.
– And one experienced in industrial matters.
– That is so. The Minister asks the committee to reject our amendment because he intends to do certain things. Is this Parliament asked to give the Minister carte blanche to do as he likes in regard to appointments to the commission? I remind him that persons will be appointed to the commission long after his name is but a memory in the political affairs of the Commonwealth. No matter how sincere his present intentions may be, and no matter how determined he may be to make wise selections of the appointees, he cannot bind future administrations or governments. Indeed, he cannot even bind the other members of the Cabinet in relation to appointments to the commission. If he wants the committee to reject the amendment he should replace it by another which expresses his ideas in statutory form. He will make appointments only during the few short months that this Government has yet to live, but there will be other governments in the future and it well might be - and I say this in particular to supporters of the Australian Country Party - that honorable members opposite will rue the day they gave the Minister power to make appointments to the commission without reservation as to the qualifications of the appointees.
We can be excused for doubting whether this Government will appoint to the commission experts in the various branches of the industry. I remember that one of the apparent qualifications for a very important appointment that this Government recently made was that the person concerned should have retired from another position because of ill health. As honorable members will recall, the Government appointed as Australian Minister to Egypt a journalist who, according to the newspaper on which lie had been employed, was retired from his position because of poor health. According to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) he was appointed to the post of Australian Minister to Egypt because of his very good health. We can be excused for expressing some doubts in relation to the bona fides of the Minister when we recall certain appointments that this Government has made in the not distant past. I could also refer to a recent appointment in New Guinea-
– The honorable member might well do so.
– I could refer to the appointment as Administrator of New Guinea of Mr. Cleland, who, I understand, was a former director of the Liberal party of Australia. The political appointments that have been made by this Government cause the Opposition to doubt the bona fides of the Minister when he assures us that, although he has not made appropriate provision in the bill, he intends to appoint to the Flax Commission only persons who have had experience in the various branches of the industry. If he wants to convince us of his sincerity in this matter he should draft an amendment to give legislative form to his assurances that persons appointed to the board shall be experienced in public administration and flax milling. He should be prepared to compromise with the Opposition in this matter.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) made the remarkable statement that this bill has nothing to do with the price of flax. I do not know whether or not the honorable member has read the measure. Clause 14-
– Order! Clause 14 is not under discussion.
– The commission will be very much concerned with the price that the growers will receive for their flax and the conditions under which flax will be produced. Surely, in face of that, honorable members opposite will adhere to their policy of producer representation on commodity boards and commissions. As far as I know their policy - and I have read their party platform and propaganda - they do not draw the fine distinction that the honorable member for Forrest has drawn regarding producer representation on these bodies. All they say is that, if the Government establishes a board or commission to deal with a primary product, the producers of the product are entitled to representation on it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It must be evident to the committee that Opposition members have completely failed to understand the real purpose of the Government in providing for the appointment of the Flax Commission. It is the desire of the Government that the flax industry shall be firmly established in Australia. It is in the national interest to ensure that the industry shall continue. The Government proposes to appoint a commission to ensure the continuation of the industry. We are not dealing with growers who have a ready market on which to dispose of their products, and who have requested the Government to evolve an organized method of disposing of their crops. The position of the industry is quite different from that. If the Government fails to establish a commission of this kind to ensure the continuance of the flax industry, there is a danger that the industry will go out of existence.
– The growers will certainly go out of production.
– That is so.
– Order! The honorable member must discuss the clause.
– It is necessary for me to traverse other matters, Mr. Chairman, because of misunderstanding on the part of Opposition members in regard to the personnel of the Flax Commission. They contend that because the commission will be dealing with a primary product it should include in its membership representatives of the primary producers. Let me point out to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that when a government of which he was a member appointed the Australian Whaling Commission to control an industry which at that time was almost non-existent it appointed a chairman who was to hold office for a period of five years, subject to the approval of the Minister, and two members neither of whom were required to represent any section of the industry.
– They may have been whalers.
– They may have been anybody. In order to be consistent surely Opposition members should have provided in that legislation for the appointment of whalers, of persons engaged in the distribution of the products of the industry and of consumers, including poultry farmers. The purpose of this bill is to establish an industry. The argument of the Opposition in favour of the appointment to the Flax Commission of representatives of particular sections of the industry must fall to the ground because it is based on wrong premises. The honorable member for Yarra objected to the appointment of producers to boards which dispose of the property of primary producers on the ground that they demand high prices. That is only natural. What section of the community does not demand the highest possible reward for its labour ?
– The seamen’s union!
– What a glorious example ! Every section of the community, including even the National Parliament, demands the greatest possible return for its labours. Therefore, it is not unnatural for the primary producers to do likewise. However, the purpose of this bill is, not to establish an instrumentality for the marketing of a primary product, but to encourage the flax industry. One clause provides that the Flax Commission may make arrangements with the producers for the acquisition and marketing of their product. Those arrangements, of course, will have to be made in a way that will encourage farmers to grow flax.
There is no suggestion that the producers will adopt a stand and deliver attitude, because they know, as honorable members opposite know, that they would fail if they did so. Many other profitable avenues of production are open to them. That is why it is necessary for us to encourage them, in every possible way, to produce flax. The commission will pro- “ vide encouragement and will arrange for the processing and use of their product to the advantage of the nation. Its members will be required to study and acquire knowledge of markets and defence requirements. They must be experienced in all branches of the industry. Private enterprise may be able to take over again in the future when the industry is able to stand on its feet. I hope that will happen. Then, if the growers want to have a marketing board, the arguments that the honorable member for Lalor has used to-night will hold good. 1 hope that, in that event, the honorable gentleman will not retreat from the stand that he has taken. The amendment is based upon false premises and should be withdrawn.
.- The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) promised us that he would make the situation crystal clear, but I am as foggy now as I was when he rose to speak. He employed such a whale of an argument that he ought to be appointed to the
Australian Whaling Commission to represent the whales. The bill provides that the Flax Commission shall consist of five members, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General. That is as gloriously vague as the economic policy of the Liberal party. The attitude of the Ministei’ for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to the amendment is as narrow as a knife blade. The Minister has advocated grower representation on primary industry boards until it has become his gospel, but he has performed a complete somersault on this issue. He could easily agree to include in the bill a specific provision that growers shall be represented on the commission. The truth is that, although he has said that certain interests will be represented on the commission, there is no guarantee that they will be represented.
– I have not said that any interests will be represented.
– The honorable gentleman has made an interesting distinction. He has said that he will not have representatives of any particular section on the commission but that he will have, as members of the. commission, persons who will be chosen because of their knowledge of the various sections of the industry. That is the most remarkable distinction that I have heard in this chamber. It is about as fine as the distinction between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. His argument, against the amendment is flimsy in the extreme. The growers will not, bo happy with the Government’s plan. What will be the use of the Flax Commission if there is no crop for it. to handle? As the Minister is aware, Australians have gone to a lot of trouble to find the most suitable areas for flax production.
The growers must have absolute guarantees that the commission will assist them and treat them fairly. They will have to take all the risks associated with flax production, and those risks are numerous. Tasmania tried to produce flax during the war, but the farmers there could not grow a straw that was long enough for treatment. The result is that Tasmania has an excellent flax mill .which has been idle since 1942. Many difficulties beset the growers, who should be assured definitely that their interests will be safeguarded. The price factor is of the utmost importance. Farmers will not undertake the delicate and tricky task of growing flax unless they are assured of obtaining good prices for their product. The Minister made the fantastic suggestion that representatives of the growers would not be interested in the price factor. As the future Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor, has said, the growers have been in the game for years and they would be well equipped to conduct the affairs of the commission. The Minister’s argument about the appointment of persons with knowledge of the industry is specious. The amendment, if accepted, would provide for the representation of all interests concerned in the industry. The Minister engaged in an emotional attack on socialism. The honorable gentleman always falls back on that manoeuvre when he is having a rough time in this chamber. The amazing fact is that, although he has attacked socialism time after time in this chamber during the last two weeks, he is now sponsoring a bill which provides for the establishment of a socialist organization.
– Nonsense !
– -Trans- Australia Airlines is a socialist organization, the Australian Whaling Commission is a socialist organization, and the Flax Commission will be a socialist organization. The hypocrisy of the Minister is astounding. With one breath he attacks socialism, and with the next breath he claims to be an innovator in the field of socialism. The honorable gentleman is now acting according to principles that he professes to despise, as this Government has done ever since it has been in power. The Opposition wholeheartedly supports the amendment. Although the Government will reject it, the growers will be in sympathy with the case that we have submitted in support of it. The growers are the men of whom I am thinking. They must be encouraged and assured of profitable returns for their labours so that we may obtain sufficient flax for our defence requirements.
.- Any interest that I might have had in the proposed amendment disappeared completely when I heard the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) clearly state his case in opposition to it. Efforts have been made to confuse the issue since he made his speech, but the facts are obvious. He said that the men chosen for appointment to the Flax Commission would act in the best interests of the industry. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has said that the members of the commission will demand the highest possible price for flax regardless of the effect on the industry or the rest of the community. Everybody knows that it is not always in the best interests of an industry to demand an excessive price for its products. Such a. course of action, in certain circumstances, might strangle the market for those products. Enough has been said by the Minister to explain the full purpose of the bill, and I am prepared to vote on the issue now. However, I should like first to comment on the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who is regarded by the Opposition as the expert on industrial matters in this chamber. The honorable member more or less admitted that trade unionists had voted for this Government at the last general election.
Mr.Clarey. - No. I said that the claim had been made by Government supporters. The honorable member should not put words into my mouth.
– But the honorable member used the statement to support his argument that trade unionists should be accorded representation on certain primary industry boards. He more or less admitted that trade unionists had voted for this Government.
– No. That is very weak.
– If my argument is weak, the argument of the honorable member for Bendigo must have been as weak as water. Trade unionists who voted for this Government at the last general election did so because there had been too much industrial unrest during the regime of the Labour Government. The honorable member for Bendigo said that this Government had not made any move to establish peace in industry.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the industrial situation.
– I am merely trying to rebut the argument of the honorable member for Bendigo.
– Order ! I called the honorable member for Bendigo to order when he discussed the industrial situation, and the honorable member for Mallee must bow to that ruling.
– In the knowledge that this Government has brought about peace in industry-
– Order! The honorable member must not pursue that line.
– I refuse to be disconcerted by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), who is fiddling and throwing pencils about while he waits anxiously for me to conclude my remarks. Apparently my comments do not please him. Honorable members on this side of the chamber, who know that the Minister has acted with consistent fairness and in the interests of producers and Australians generally in appointing primary industry boards,’ will reject the amendment.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to he left out (Mr.
Pollard’s amendment) stand part of the bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . .4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Functions of commission).
.- The clause states -
The functions of the Commission are to maintain and develop the flax industry in Australia and the capacity of Australia to produce flax in order to ensure that sufficient supplies of flax are available for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth and that the capacity of the flax industry to produce flax for those purposes in the event of war will be adequate.
I do not think any honorable member will dispute that it would be necessary for adequate quantities of flax to be available in the event of war, but it is quite apparent that the clause has been incorporated in the bill as an indication that the authority that will be exercised under it is derived from the defence power.
In the second reading debate, the Minister foi Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said that the Chifley Government had endeavoured to sell our flax mills. If I recollect correctly, the Chifley Government endeavoured to sell those mills only because it was informed by its legal advisers that, if it continued to operate the mills in the parts of Australia in which they were being operated and its authority to do so were challenged at law, the act of the Commonwealth in operating the mills in peace-time would almost certainly be declared to be ultra vires the Constitution.
– That did not prevent the Chifley Government from attempting to nationalize the banks.
– The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) knows that people of his own political complexion, who had been appointed as Justices of the High Court, supported the constitutional validity of the bank nationalization legislation. If I were the Minister for Defence, I should not develop that line of argument any further. I repeat that the Chifley Government endeavoured to sell our flax mills only because it was advised that the act of continuing to operate them was ultra vires’ the Constitution. The Labour party is a constitutional party. It did not want to do anything that might ultimately be declared illegal.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 (Powers of commission).
.- This is an important clause. In unmistakeable terms, it invests the Commission with wide powers and authority. I do not know of any other measure that has stated so clearly and precisely the powers vested in any authority. Some honorable members opposite have stated that the commission will have no marketing powers in respect of the produce of flax-growers, and will be able only to enter into contracts for the purchase of flax that growers have produced. Let me read, for the benefit of those honorable members, the powers that will be vested in the Commission. Before I do so, I say to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that no comparison can properly be made between the powers of the Australian Whaling Commission and the powers of the Flax Commission. The Flax Commission will have power over the produce of men on the land - men in whom land has been vested by the Crown. The Australian Whaling Commission exercises power over the fruits of the sea, which have not been alienated by the Crown to any individual sea-farmer or anybody else. The only power that the Crown has exercised over the fruits of the sea in that connexion is in relation to the issuing of licences to people to engage in whaling. Clause 14 states - (1.) The Commission has such powers as are necessary or convenient for, or incidental to, the performance of its functions. (2.) Without limiting the generality of the powers of the Commission under the last preceding sub-section, the Commission may, in the performance of its functions -
That is a modest power. The commission will be authorized to enter into contracts and arrangements for the purchase of flax. If a flax-grower were not willing to enter into such a contract or arrangement, he need not do so. He would be free to exercise his judgment. That is not a dangerous power. But paragraph (b) of sub-clause (2.) states that the commission may -
That is all right, provided there is some protection in relation to the price at which the purchase may be made - or otherwise acquire flax, and engage in the processing and milling of flax.
Paragraph (c) authorizes the commission to purchase or otherwise acquire mills for the processing and milling of flax. It will have an absolute power of acquisition. To my knowledge, no other Commonwealth instrumentality dealing with a primary product has power as great as that.
– Only in relation to butter in Queensland.
– That is not a Commonwealth law. It is a State law, enacted by a Labour administration and allowed to remain on the statute-book of Queensland by a later non-Labour administration. It has received the consent of the dairy-farmers of Queensland. But the flax-growers have not been asked to give their consent to the vesting of this power of acquisition in the Flax Commission. Under paragraph (c), the commission will be authorized to purchase or otherwise acquire, establish, enlarge, maintain and operate mills for the processing and milling of flax. A representative of the commission could go to Drouin, where, I understand, there is a flax mill, and ask the proprietor of the mill whether he was willing to sell it to the commission. If the proprietor said that he was not so willing, he could be told that, under this measure, the commission was empowered to acquire the mill. Although this vast power is to be vested in the commission, flax processors and spinners are to be denied representation on the commission. Paragraph (d) authorizes the commission to purchase or otherwise acquire land. The commission will be able to take land willy-nilly.
Paragraph (e) provides that the commission may purchase or otherwise acquire, take on lease, construct or enlarge buildings. It will be able to acquire any building that it needs for the performance of its functions. If it decided that it required the house of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) for the purposes of processing flax, the honorable gentleman would have to vacate the house and enter into negotiations for compensation. Extreme powers will be vested in the commission. Paragraph (f) states that the commission may -
Purchase or otherwise acquire, take on hire or construct plant, equipment, machinery or other goods.
That is a tremendous power. Representatives of the commission may go into a factory which manufactures agricultural implements and see a number of machines suitable for the harvesting of flax. They may make an arrangement with the manufacturer for the purchase of the machines, or simply issue an order for the acquisition of them, although they may have been earmarked for a primary producer. The commission may-
Then comes the saving provision - (3.) The exercise of a power by the Commission is subject to the directions, if any, of the Minister.
The powers vested in the commission are enormous. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) must clearly see that an arbitrary power may be exercised over the properties of primary producers. I do not disapprove of those powers. I am particularly gratified that the exercise of a power by the commission is subject to the directions of the Minister. However, some powers may be exercised by the commission before the Minister is aware of what is happening. This position emphasizes my objection to clause 5. I have contended that members of the commission should be persons associated with the flax industry as growers, spinners, or employees. A board consisting of such persons would be a stabilizing factor in the welfare of the industry. It is all very well for the Minister to say that he will appoint to the commission persons who have a knowledge of flax growing and spinning. A person who is an expert in the production of flax must have grown flax at some time or other, and, naturally, has an unconscious bias towards the interests of the growers, even though he may not directly represent them on the commission. The Minister also says that a member of the commission will have an expert knowledge of the spinning industry. That individual may have been, a manager of a mill, a mechanic, a clerical officer or a director of a spinning concern at some time or other. He may even be a superannuated employee of a spinning factory. In any event, his natural bias has always been towards the particular section of the industry in which he has been engaged.
– Order ! That aspect has already been considered. I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the clause.
– I believe that you are right, Mr. Chairman. I ask the Minister to re-examine the whole position with a view to the incorporation of proposed new clause 5 when the bill is under consideration in the Senate.
– I now have the opportunity to congratulate the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) on possessing an incredible imagination. He is able to conjure up a terrifying spectacle of all the dreadful things that can happen to primary producers under this bill. It will contribute nothing to this defence measure to try to create in the minds of primary producers a fear of the Flax Commission. The honorable member has read the various functions of the commission, and I have explained them. What he did not make clear when he was conjuring up this terrifying spectacle was that it is not the function of the commission to produce flax and that the commission has no power to direct a farmer to produce flax. Flax will be produced only when the farmer himself has been persuaded that it is in his own interests to do so. He will be convinced on that score when lie and his organization have had discussions with the commission and reached an agreement on the price to be paid, and he has entered into contracts. No compulsion will be exerted at any stage.
When, through this process of negotiation, farmers have decided to grow flax, they will be the only primary producers in this country who will grow it under contract with the Government. But the honorable member for Lalor, instead of complimenting the Government upon establishing the position of the growers on such an advantageous basis, has the temerity to try to instil a fear in the minds of the flax-growers, or the potential flax producers. If his efforts are successful, they can have only a deterrent effect upon the production of flax, which is needed for our defence requirements. It does no credit to the Labour party to try to produce in the minds of farmers a fear that if they engage in growing flax for defence purposes they will not be treated fairly by the Government of their own country, and the instrumentality established by it. Fortunately, a happy relation has existed for thirteen years between the Flax Production Committee, its fanner suppliers, its employees and the spinners to whom the product has been sold. The record of thirteen years cannot be destroyed by the efforts of the honorable member for Lalor to conjure up a spectacle of what might be done under powers conferred in legislation related to our defence requirements.
.- That the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), after his performances in debates on the marketing legislation, should talk about any one conjuring up fears in the minds of primary producers is absolute])’ amazing. I sat here during the debates on various marketing bills during this sessional period, and heard him not once or twice but a dozen times warn primary producers about what the wicked socialist government would do to them, and how the marketing boards would be used to expropriate their property. Yet he has the impudence this evening to accuse us of trying to instil fear in the minds of the people that their government, and a government instrumentality, would not deal fairly with them. Last week, and again this week, he lias seized every opportunity to instil those fears in the minds of his listening audience. I do not think that he has succeeded in doing so. The people have had experience of Labour governments, and have enjoyed prosperity under their administration. The people know full well that they can trust Labour governments, and instrumentalities set up by them, to protect their interests.
Of course, the whole argument used by the Minister arises from the dilemma in which he finds himself after the argument that he has been advancing on the various marketing bills. lie has claimed that the marketing boards should be free of ministerial control, and that this Government is determined to end socialism and ensure that the producers shall have adequate representation on the boards that handle their products.
– This is simply ministerial dictatorship.
– That is so. When the House had completed the consideration of the various marketing bills, the Minister introduced this bill, which contains all the provisions that he had condemned in marketing legislation passed by the Labour Government. The answer made by members of the Australian Country party is that the Fl ax Industry Bill 1953 is not a marketing bill, and has nothing to do with the product of the flax-growers. Yet an examination of clause 14 of this measure reveals - (I.) The commission has such powers as are necessary or convenient for, or incidental to, the performance of its functions . . . (2.) The commission may in the performance of its functions . . .
If growers do not sell their flax to the commission, is there any other market for it? Growers can sell flax to only one organization other than the commission, and that is the cooperative factory at Boyup Brook, in Western Australia. Therefore, the commission will have, in fact, almost a complete monopoly in determining the price which flax-growers will receive for their product. Members of the Australian Country party disagree with that view, yet they do not suggest that the growers will have any other market for their product. The growers and every factory, with the exception of that at Boyup Brook, will be controlled by the commission, which will have much greater control over the product of the flax-growers than the Australian Meat Board has over a grazier’s cattle. The Minister must admit the force of that argument. He claimed that the vesting in the Minister of authority over the Australian Meat Board and other marketing boards was an evil thing, but it is an undeniable fact that the Flax Commission has much greater power ‘ than has any marketing board that has been under consideration during this sessional period. Representatives of the commission may enter into contracts and arrangements with persons for the growing of flax plants, and as I have shown the flax-growers will have to sell their products to it. Therefore, the commission will be able to do what it likes with the product of the flax-grower, If the Minister will be honest with himself and the Parliament, he will admit that his arguments in relation to the various marketing boards have been so much party political propaganda. Let him withdraw the allegations that he has made about the wicked socialist Labour party attempting to expropriate the property of the growers. If legislation introduced by a Labour government was designed to expropriate the property of primary producers and rob them of the fruits of their labour, the powers conferred by this bill are even more farreaching. The Minister should admit that his argument is not true. Boards of this kind, which were established by a Labour government, were sought by industries themselves, or were determined by circumstances. Not one of them lias been established as the result of a socialist measure introduced in the terms used by the Minister. Each of those boards have been established as the result of the demands of the industry concerned, or the producers themselves, or because of the defence requirements or other essential needs of the country. Let the Minister be honest about this matter and admit the fact, in view of the functions prescribed for the Flax Commission in clause 14 of this bill.
However, we have already disposed of the personnel of the commission, and I should not be in order in discussing that matter again, but I hope that, as the result of this debate, the Minister will think twice before he attempts to disseminate any more fear propaganda by speaking of socialization, nationalization, expropriation, sovietism and the rest. Let him admit ‘that legislation of this kind should be considered on its merits, having been introduced at the request of the industry itself, or in order to meet the requirements of the country. The sooner we get rid of the sham talk about sacialism and sovietism in the discussion of measures of this kind, the sooner the Parliament will be able to give adequate consideration to them on their merits.
.- We have had a demonstration from tha honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) that clearly shows that he misunderstands the measure. The whole of his remarks have been directed to the circumstances that apply to a marketing board rather than those that apply to this particular commission. He seemed to take great delight in arguing the toss on this particular matter, even although he had been assured by the Minister and other honorable members that the commission is in no way comparable with a marketing board that has the function of arranging the organized marketing of a primary product. The commission is to be established to encourage the growing of flax, and to act as a medium for its disposal, and thereby to serve the interests of the community. The honorable member for Yarra gave himself away completely when he asked, “ Where are those growers going to sell their flax after they have grown it ? “ He referred us to the legislation, as much as to imply that we have not read it. I throw that back at him now, and say that he has not read it thoroughly, because, before the grower grows the flax he will enter into a contract with the commission. A grower is not stupid enough, as the honorable member would have us believe, to engage in growing flax unless he is going to get a reasonable return for it. The commission will meet the growers and discuss the coming year’s crop with them. The farmers will naturally ask what financial returns they will get for the flax they might grow. If the arrangement that the commission wishes to make with t),lé grower is not satisfactory to him he will not grow flax, and, therefore, he will nor he worried about its disposal. If, on th<? other hand, he undertakes to grow flax on the commission’s conditions, he will dispose of it to the commission. The whole process will be under contract, as has been pointed out by the Minister.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been expended by governments in the past to encourage flax-growing to .meet our defence requirements. The purpose of the measure is to establish a body thai will encourage flax-growing. The honorable member for Yarra said that if the defence requirements of this country demanded something of this nature, then it’ was all right to establish the commission. The requirements of the country to-day do demand the establishment of the flax industry, and it cannot be established by any other means than those the Government is using. There is no obligation on the farmer to grow flax instead of some other crop. The honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) have tried to scare the people with their dreadful prognostications about the powers to be given to the commission to acquire flax. I remind the honorable member for Lalor that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth is not empowered to acquire anything except on just terms, so the growers have the fullest protection in that regard, in the event of war making it necessary to acquire properties or anything else. Every day in the week the Commonwealth is acquiring properties, most of them, fortunately, on a voluntarily basis, but there are occasions when property has to be compulsorily acquired.” Nobody knows that better than the honorable member for Lalor, and nobody should know it better than the honorable member for Yarra. For them to waste the time of the committee is just a political stunt that will fall flat. This Government is still straightening out some of the cases of acquisition that occurred during the Labour Government’s term of office. Thank goodness it has been affirmed by the Government that the terms of acquisition of property must be just, in accordance with the Constitution. Nobody need fear that the powers given by this clause will be abused. Those powers are necessary to the commission. There is no reason why the commission, and the flax industry, should not prosper as a result of this measure.
.- Not all the apologies of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) will overcome the fact that this is a commission which, under circumstances which it will itself decide, has power to acquire a flax crop, in spite of whether a contract may exist or not. The commission may, in its wisdom, nullify a contract if it sees fit to do so.
– That was the case under the Labour Government.
– I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to some of the other powers that are to be vested in the commission. The commission, not the Government, will have the power to acquire land. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Canning nas said, that land or any other property may be acquired by the Commonwealth only if just compensation is paid. The point is that many flax-growers and many property owners do not want their land or property acquired at any price. Much less do they want it to be acquired by a subsidiary of the Government. After all, land should be acquired in peace-time only by the Government itself. This bill provides for the delegation of the Government’s power to acquire land to an outside authority that may acquire land or any other type of property.
– Subject to the directions of the Minister.
– The honorable member says, “ Subject to directions of the Minister “, when, in fact, the Minister may not come into the picture until the land has been acquired. The unfortunate individual concerned may not know that he may appeal to the Minister, or may never have the opportunity to do so. I do not think that even during the war the military authorities or the Allied “Works Council, as Commonwealth subsidiaries, had the power to acquire land, but I am not certain of that fact. Yet here we have an authority, which, in peace-time, is to be given the power to acquire land, primary products, machinery and agricultural implements. Talk about the sovietization of the work of the community ! I do not know where we could find a better example of it outside of Russia than in this legislation. The Minister is to have overriding powers. The Labour Government conducted the flax industry for eight years during the war, harmoniously and with substantial benefit to the people engaged in it. The Minister referred to thirteen years of flax production, but he did not mention that eight years of that period was a happy period under Labour administration, during which the flax industry progressed in research and production and in respect of happiness of the people engaged in it. I reject absolutely the explanation of the honorable member for Canning in regard to this clause and the powers to be conferred by it. I do not think that more autocratic powers have ever been written into any clause of any bill that has been before this Parliament.
– It is possible to acquire voluntarily.
– Under the bill the acquisition could be compulsory.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has been having the benefit of the legal advice of the Leader of the
Opposition (Dr. Evatt). If the opinion of the honorable member is that this clause means that the commission itself can, of its own right, acquire compulsorily, and if that is the advice tendered to him by the Leader of the Opposition-
– I have had no advice on it.
– The honorable member is starting to get out from under already.
– I am not getting out from under.
– It looks very much like it. The honorable member has right beside him the best legal advice available to the Labour party. The advice given to me by the Government’s legal advisers is that the commission could not compulsorily acquire under the terms of this clause.
– Do not ask me. Thi right honorable gentleman should tell me because he is a lawyer, and I am not.
– But the bill is the Minister’s bill.
– I am giving the House and the right honorable gentleman the benefit of the advice that was conveyed to me by the Government’s legal advisers. I say - and the right honorable gentleman may challenge the statement if he likes - that this is not a power that would enable the commission to acquire compulsorily. Beyond that, the honorable member for Lalor has made it clear that there is embodied in this legislation over-riding authority for the Minister. Both of the honorable gentlemen on the opposite side of the table have had enough experience in public administration to know that even if the commission had the power to acquire compulsorily
– As it has.
– That, being circumscribed in its authority by the over-riding authority of the Minister, then, as the honorable gentlemen know very well, the acquisition of property of any substantial value would be subject to the policy approval of the Minister. Whilst this commission is to be established with certain powers and functions, these two honorable gentlemen know that it has no resources with which to acquire property until the Government and the Parliament give it such resources. If the honorable gentlemen do not know that, then they have learnt nothing in their long experience of public life. If they do know it, the words that they have uttered are intended to deceive the Parliament and the people. That is not good enough.
There is no possibility under this legislation of widespread compulsory acquisition of property by the commission. In the first place, my legal advice is that thu legislation does not authorize compulsory acquisition, and in the second place .1 point out to those to whom I should not have to point it out, that the commission is without resources to pay. It would have to obtain such resources by the approval of the Government and as a result of appropriation by the Parliament. It is a sheer waste of time, and is designed to mislead the flax-growers and an even wider audience, for the honorable member for Lalor, who had beside him, when lie was speaking, a distinguished legal gentleman, to carry on in the way he has done.
– I was interested in the Minister’s remarks. He contends that the power conferred by the clause does not include the power of compulsory acquisition. In that case, he must explain to the committee the meaning of the words “ otherwise acquire “, because they do not mean “purchase”, and I presume that they do not mean simply “ take “. I should have thought that they meant every form of acquisition, which would include compulsory acquisition. I am not for a moment interested in what the Minister intends to do. Under the Land Acquisition Bill power was to be given to a Minister, or to an officer delegated by him, to acquire land.
– Only up to a certain limited value, was it not?
– I am leaving out the question of value. If the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) will follow my argument be will agree with this point. The Opposition took the view that the power should not be exercisable except by the responsible Minister or by the Governor-General, if the land was of more than a certain value. The amendment provided that the Minister or some officer appointed by him should have that power. Objection was raised by the Opposition, supported by objection from the Government side, and the bill disappeared from view. I cannot understand this clause unless it is intended to confer a similar power. The powers involved are tremendous. The Flax Commission is to be set up for the purposes stated in clauses 13 and 14, clause 14 being the clause under consideration. Clause 14 contains the words “ without limiting the generality of the powers of the commission under the last preceding sub-section “. Those powers relate to certain functions. The functions are denned in an earlier clause, and the purpose of the Flax Commission is to ensure that enough flax will be available to meet the defence needs of the Commonwealth.
– That is something.
– Of course it is. That is the purpose which justifies and sanctifies this legislation - to ensure the capacity of the flax industry to produce flax for defence purposes in the event of war. There is also power to acquire flax compulsorily for the purpose of wai’, which is the only power to be found in this bill. This is purely a Commonwealth exercise of the defence power. In that context clause 14 means that the Government may enter into contracts with growers. It can agree to buy their crops in advance, or- to buy them for a term of years. Then the Flax Commission, vested with the duty and the power to- get supplies of flax useful for war purposes or war preparations, can purchase or otherwise acquire flax and engage in the milling of flax. How can the commission engage in that activity without flax? If it cannot get the flax voluntarily it is obviously the Government’s intention to get it compulsorily, paying, of course, the appropriate compensation. I do not object to that, but I do object to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) becoming angry at criticism - he always is angry at criti cism because lie is not able to accept criticism very well. In my view, subject to the correction of officers of the Government, I cannot understand in that context what the clause means, unless it confers the power compulsorily to acquire flax, compulsorily to acquire property for the purpose of producing flax, engage in the processing of flax and the milling of flax, operate mills, purchase land for the purpose of operating mills and purchase land on which to grow flax. If the bill does not mean what I suggest, then it is meaningless.
The real point taken by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and other honorable members, is that the clause confers a complete wholesale war power and is justified solely because it is incidental to defence. We lack this power at the moment, because the States has not given it to the Commonwealth. A power such as this should not be exercisable by a commission but only by a member of the Cabinet? Surely the Minister will do in this bill what the Minister in charge of the land acquisition legislation was compelled to do, that is put the responsibility clearly and squarely on the Governor-General - that is, on the Cabinet or the Minister - and not allow the Flax Commission to assume the responsibility. The Government should make sure that ministerial responsibility, and better still Cabinet responsibility, is accepted. It is perfectly absurd to say that the power that will be vested in the commission does not include the very thing without which in times of emergency the commission would break down and the’ flax industry would become useless. I submit that the Opposition’s view is the sounder one.
– It would be a one-sided debate for me to engage in a legal argument with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and I would not attempt to do so. However, I am sure that he will agree that there is nothing in this bill which would add to or detract from the Commonwealth’s power of compulsory acquisition for the purpose of defence. Therefore, insofar as an examination of the opportunities for compulsory acquisition for the purpose of defence is concerned, it is merely flogging a dead horse to argue-
– Why should the commisnOn have the power to acquire property?
– I shall answer that question later. The Government has the power, and the commission cannot exercise a power beyond its financial resources. Insofar as flax is concerned, the Government in all the eastern States will be the only buyer capable of purchasing flax. This type of linseed is not grown for oil or fodder. It has only one value, and that is as fibre. Moreover, it has no value as a fibre except to people who own a mill capable of processing flax straw. In any event the Government is to be the only party capable of growing it. Consequently in States other than Western Australia any farmer would be a fool to grow flax except by arrangement with the Flax Commission. To conjure up the spectacle of the commission compulsorily acquiring stocks of flax is sheer nonsense and vivid imagination, because the circumstances make it clear that no one in the States outside Western Australia, and the cost of transport between Western Australia and the East is prohibitive, would grow flax except by arrangement with the commission.
– Was I right when I said that the commission will have wide powers ?
– You were not right in much that you said. That is my point. The honorable member for Lalor and the Leader of the Opposition have said that the bill contemplates that the commission shall have a right of compulsory acquisition. That is not intended, and the advisers of the Government assure me that it is not possible. If the advisers of the Government, in the light of what the Leader of the Opposition has said, alter the specific advice that they have given to the Government I shall have an amendment proposed in another place to ensure that the Flax Commission will not be free to act on its own initiative in that respect.
– Under clause 12 the commission can delegate its power of acquisition to other bodies.
– I give an assurance that what I have said will also apply to that matter. I can act only on the legal advice tendered to me by the Government’s advisers.
.- We find in this matter-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J”. Harrison) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Clause agreed to.
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.
Debate resumed from the 12th March (vide page 955), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This amendment to the National Service Act is supported by the Opposition. The essence of the bill is that it will create a right of application to a judge of a county court or a supreme court for a review of a decision given by a magistrate in any application for exemption or .partial exemption from national service on the ground of conscientious belief. That seems a small matter, but it is ohe of principle, and the right is to be available to those who have applied to a magistrate without success and have not yet commenced’ their national service training. The number of men affected is small, but the Opposition, especially the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and others, have brought this matter before the responsible Minister on several occasions with the result that this measure has been introduced. It will merely guarantee a review of a magistrate’s decision by a judge. Some important cases have arisen under the National Service Act, and therefore the Opposition supports the bill.
.- I am gratified because the Opposition is supporting this measure, and I believe that the Government is to be congratulated for making more liberal provision for the treatment of conscientious objectors. The measure is an illustration of the Government’s earnest desire to do justice to all sections of the community in respect of the administration of the national service legislation.
– It is designed to win a few votes.
– I do not know whether or not the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is a conscientious objector. Another section of our young men is seriously inconvenienced by the provisions of this legislation. I hope that in due course the Government will consider their position and afford them some relief. I refer to rural workers. A very considerate interpretation of the provisions of the act relating to deferment of national training has made it possible for young men employed in industry to complete their training with a minimum of inconvenience, having regard to their indentures or other training arrangements. The Administration is favorably disposed to grant university students permission to undergo training during the long vacation period. But in the case of rural workers, because of different circumstances, the scheme does not work so well: For the man working a small farm there is no convenient time for training. The mere deferment of his period of training does not ease the burden on him. In my electorate there are many small farms on which a young member of the family is the mainstay. As a general rule, these are mixed farms and whatever period of the year is fixed for training it seriously interferes with the working of the farm.
It is generally accepted that the production of food will be one of Australia’s major roles in any future war. Indeed, the production of food may be the greatest service that Australia can render to the free world. Food production is vitally important, even at present when we are nominally at peace. During the last war special provision was made for the exemption from military service of rural workers who were employed on important jobs. If that was good enough in wartime, surely it would be wise for the Government to allow some exemption in peace-time, especially in those cases when a farm cannot be satisfactorily worked in the absence of a trainee. If the Government is not prepared to grant exemption from national service in such cases it should at least extend to rural workers the privilege that it grants to conscientious objectors, namely, a right to appeal from the decision of a magistrate regarding deferment of service. At present, there is no right of appeal, and if a magistrate acts harshly, or should there be some misunderstanding as the result of which a wrong decision is given, considerable hardship may be caused. I shall cite a case in my own electorate in order to illustrate what I mean. It concerns a young man named Kelly who works a small mixed farm at Girraween on behalf of his parents, both of whom are invalids. The lad is one of a family of six children. This is a genuine case which I myself sponsored. The lad was taken from a trade to run the small farm owing to the ill health of his father as the result of war service. He applied for deferment of his national training, but owing to a misunderstanding of advice given to him by a local police officer, he was not present when his case was heard by the magistrate. The case was struck out. Subsequently, [ approached the Registrar of National Service and applied for a rehearing. It was refused. The registrar replied to my representations by letter in the following terms : -
The National Service Acts and Regulations provide for applications for deferment of liability under the Acts to be heard by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction and for the applicant to be given not less than seven days notice in writing by the Clerk of the Court of the date, time and place fixed for the hearing.
As my inquiries show that the prescribed procedure was adhered to by the Court which heard Mp-. Kelly’s application, I am not competent to take any action to disturb the decision of the Court.
This, I submit, was a case of genuine misunderstanding. Provision should be made in the act to meet oases of this kind which arise as the result of misunderstanding or misadventure. Because the application was dismissed the lad proceeded to undergo training at -considerable inconvenience to himself and his family. I have sat in. the courts convened to hear cases affecting sons of my own constituents. I say without hesitation that the magistrates are invariably sympathetic and understanding, but they always get back to the suggestion that the applicant must make some arrangement to carry out his training.
Many of these small farms cannot stand t;lie financial drain of paying a high rate of wages to a person to work the farm during the absence of the trainee. A good number of these lads work from a sense of loyalty to their families. They ai’c not paid wages but sometimes they are rewarded by being permitted to plant n crop or two for themselves or to sell a head or two of stock. Their rewards arc not great and their only prospect is that the farm will become theirs on the death of their parents. From your own experience in these matters, Mr.” Acting Deputy Speaker, I know that you will agree with me that there is no convenient’ time at which the mainstay of a small farm can give up farming to undergo military training for a continuous period of six months. It is impracticable to dry off cows and turn them out and lose revenue for six months. It is equally impracticable to sell live-stock, such as cattle, pigs and fowls, and take the risk of replacing them six months later at a fair and reasonable price. To leave off cropping land and desert a farm for six months, and expect it to be in good order and ready to be worked immediately and be productive, is beyond the capacity of practical farming. To leave an orchard unattended for months is to court disaster/ I do not oppose the right of appeal granted to conscientious objectors. I merely request the Minister to extend the same clemency to the agricultural worker and the small mixed farmer as he extends to the conscientious objector. If food is of national importance, it is necessary to keep these young men on the farms and to keep them working.
I thank the House for the manner in which it has received the bill. As the Leader of the -Opposition (Dr. Evatt) indicated when he was expressing the views of those who sit with him, although the measure does not affect a great many people as a British community we pride ourselves on the fact that we respect the conscientious beliefs of others. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the holder of a genuine conscientious belief shall be given full opportunity to establish that fact to the satisfaction of a suitable tribunal. I would not have spoken in reply to the debate but for the fact that the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. “Wheeler), while supporting the measure, raised a problem which relates to the effect of the legislation on primary producers.
– -And on many others, too.
– I was about to add those words when I was interrupted by the honorable member. Quorum formed.’] The honorable member for Mitchell referred to the problem of primary producers or their sons who are called up for service under the national service scheme. The scheme, having so wide a sweep, inevitably must cause inconvenience to many people. We recognized that fact when the legislation was being drafted, but the Anew of the Government - I think that that view has now received the general support of the Parliament and of the community - was that national service, being an obligation of citizenship, should be accepted by all those within the appropriate age groups. The scheme involves not only training for national defence; citizenship, national discipline, national morale and other large considerations of that kind also enter into it. Consequently, the Government deliberately decided that no provision should be included in .the legislation for exemptions from national service on occupational grounds even if persons in certain occupations “were most unlikely to be required to serve in the forces in time of war because of the essentiality of their occupation. Because of these and other considerations, we provided for the scheme to embrace all young men of eligible age throughout the community. Where difficulties are met by persons such as those to whom the honorable member for Mitchell has referred, if “hardship can be established, provision has been made for application for deferment of training, but not for complete exemption from training. In as far as it is practicable to do so, we have tried to meet the special circumstances of persons such as primary producers who are subject to some seasonal pressure such as harvesting or processing, or some other activity which involves a peak effort at a particular period of the year. To the degree that we are able to do so. we try to help the person concerned to avoid being called up during such a period and usually arrange for his- call-up to be made at a period more convenient to him.
The honorable member for Mitchell dealt with a particular case in which, as the result of some delay, oversight or misadventure, a young man eligible for national service failed to lodge an application for deferment within the prescribed time.
– As a result of misunderstanding the advice given to him he did not attend the court to present his case for deferment.
– The honorable member has suggested that provision should be made for a right of appeal in such cases. I am advised that special provision has been made in the regulations issued under the act to extend the time for applications for deferment to be made in certain cases. Whether the regulations cover the particular case referred to by the honorable member I am unable to say. While I cannot undertake to amend the legislation now before the Parliament along the lines he desires, I assure him that the points that he has raised will be carefully examined by the Government. If subsequent amendments are made to the legislation the insertion of an amendment along the lines he has suggested will be considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment nr debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 4th March (vide page 510), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- This measure is similar in almost every respect to two bilk in relation to the egg industry and the meat industry that the House considered earlier this week. I do not propose to repeat my objections to those bills at length, but I point out that they apply with equal force to this measure. This bill provides for additional representation of the farmers on the Australian Dairy Produce Board. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), in an effort to justify this proposal, has said that the board has lost the valuable services of the late Mr. G. C. Howey and that the act at present provides for the representation of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation but not for the representation of any other organization of dairy-farmers. I remind the honorable gentleman that the act provides indirectly for substantial representation of dairy-farmers on the board. In addition to two representatives of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the membership of the board includes representatives of the cooperative butter factories of each of the six States. Those factories, of course, are owned co-operatively by dairy-farmers, who, therefore, are represented indirectly on the board. The members who represent those butter factories may include one or two factory managers, but I do not think that the Minister will quibble on that issue. The membership also includes two representatives of proprietary butter and cheese factories and one representative of employees in the industry. I am glad to note that the Minister has not decided to tamper with the provision for representation of the employees. There are twelve members of the board, including the representative of the Government. That number of experienced men is adequate to deal with the problems that confront the Australian Dairy Produce Board.
The Chifley Government had a rule that such bodies should not exceed a membership of twelve unless there was some remarkable need for a larger number. Twelve was considered to be a wellbalanced number for such an organization. The appointment of an additional representative of the farmers, who are already represented by eight of the twelve members, is not justifiable. No doubt some other organization than the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation has told the Minister that it is entitled to representation.
– Then I cannot understand why the honorable gentleman should make the change for which the bill provides. The extra appointment will involve the payment of additional fees, travelling allowances and general expenses. I recall that representatives of a dairy-farmers’ organization approached me when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and asked that it be granted representation on the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I refused the request because I considered that the farmers were already well represented. In the absence of any satisfactory explanation of the proposal, I consider that it is entirely unwarranted and will merely lead to unnecessary expense. I realize that the death of Mr. Howey was a great loss to the board. Mr. Howey had given his life to tho dairying industry, and he rendered almost invaluable service to it. He was appointed to the board by the former Labour Government, although, notwithstanding the statements of the critics of that Government, he was not a member of the Labour party. He was chosen solely on his ability. His untimely death was probably due to the arduous nature of his duties. There is no reason why the Minister should not select .a dairy-farmer to replace Mr. Howey as chairman of the board, if he can find one who is suitably qualified. The Opposition will vote against the bill, not on this ground, although it objects to the provision, but because the measure incorporates a provision similar to that which was included in the Egg Export Control Bill. It provides for the abolition of ministerial control over the Australian Dairy Produce Board. We consider full ministerial control to be desirable and, in fact, essential. Such control has not embarrassed the board in any way.
.- I support the bill because, as the representative of a dairying area, I consider that it will be to the advantage of the dairying industry. The appointment of an additional representative of the dairy-farmers to the Australian Dairy Produce Board will provide them with another link with the authority that controls their industry. Admittedly, the membership of the board includes six representatives of cooperative butter factories and two representatives of proprietary butter and cheese factories, but those members are only indirect representatives of the producers. We have appealed to dairy-farmers to increase the output of their herds, and, therefore, we should encourage them to do so by providing them with additional representation on the board. Clause 3 of the bill provides that there shall be three direct representatives of the farmers who shall be chosen by the Minister from persons whose names have been submitted to him by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation or by another organization of dairy-farmers. This does not mean that the federation will be overlooked. It will merely widen the scope of the existing provisions so that, if the necessity arises, the representatives may be chosen from other organizations of dairy-farmers. This variation of the act will strengthen the legislation.
The most valuable provision in the bill will abolish the power of the Minister to veto decisions of the board. This will not completely deprive the Minister of his authority over the board, but it will prevent him from taking the control of the industry entirely out of its hands. The provision that will be omitted from the act is as follows: -
If the Chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to ‘be the decision of the Board.
Under the terms of that provision, the Minister has had the power to exercise unreasonable control over the board.
– What rubbish !
– The Minister will still be able to control the board, because section 20 of the act provides that the activities of the board shall be subject to any direction of the Minister. I realize that the Opposition hopes to gain full control of every industry in this country. That is why the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) objects to the restriction of the power of the Minister. This Government believes in the freedom of the individual, and that is why it has taken the common-sense course of eliminating the veto. Clause 7 will empower the board to employ its staff and negotiate direct with the Public Service Board. This will be a considerable improvement upon the old system, and it should claim the support of the Opposition. There have been occasions in the past when delays of as long as two years have occurred in ratifying appointments to the staff of the board. Such delays affect superannuation adjustments, and, in the event of the death of an employee, his family may suffer considerable hardship.
I am convinced that this bill will help to bring stability to the primary industries of Australia. I believe that sometimes we have drugged ourselves with a dream of industrial development in a few of the coastal cities, pretending to ourselves that, if we produce manufactured goods in sufficient quantities regardless of cost, we shall make up for our sparse rainfall and recurring droughts by providing mechanical substitutes for the attributes that we lack. Whilst the Government does not minimize the progress that we have made in the field of secondary industry, it has always realized the importance of our primary industries and has appreciated the fact that they constitute the very foundation of a stable economy. The Government has never desisted from its efforts to place our primary industries upon a sound footing, both financially and otherwise. This bill represents another step towards the fulfilment of its policy, and I support it.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Meetings of the board).
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 14
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.
HEARD ISLAND AND McDONALD ISLANDS BILL 1953.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On several occasions recently I have endeavoured to bring before the House a matter that I regard as being of great importance, but I have been prevented from doing so by the action of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). I shall take advantage of this opportunity, if I am permitted to do so, to refer to a practice adopted by the government timbermill in the Australian Capital Territory, of which, I am certain, a majority of the members of this House will not approve. I understand that the government timber mill in the Australian Capital Territory sold 100,000 super feet of boards to Donoghoe and Hopkins Proprietary Limited, of Queanbeyan, and that the timber was re-sold immediately by that firm to the Snowy Mountains Authority at a much higher price. The timber was sold by the government timber mill for 74s. 6d. per 100 super feet, and was re-sold immediately to the Snowy Mountains Authority for 133s. per 100 super feet. Therefore, the merchant made a profit of £2,925 on the transaction.
It appears to be a peculiar arrangement for a government timber mill to sell through a middleman timber that is required by a government authority, under conditions which give to the middleman a rake-off of £2,925 upon one deal. I do not know how many of these deals have been transacted by the government timber mill, or who was responsible for the transaction to which I have referred. If the Snowy Mountains Authority requires timber that has been processed in a government timber mill in the Australian Capital Territory, the government timber mill should deal direct with the Snowy Mountains Authority and not through a middleman who gets a rake-off upon the transaction. Doubtless the Government will argue that this transaction is in conformity with its policy of encouraging private enterprise, but I wonder whether the Australian people, who are taxed to pay for the Snowy Mountains project, agree with this practice. I consider it to be a practice that should be discontinued. We should be told whether this was an isolated transaction, or whether the government timber mill has been engaged in a number of similar transactions. It is a transaction that could properly be referred to the Public Accounts Committee for examination. I invite the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior to follow this course.
The next matter to which I desire to refer is the exploitation of immigrant labour. I do not wish to quote from the official file which has been made available to me by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt). The Labour party has suspected for a long time that one of the aims of the Government in bringing immigrants to this country was to obtain cheap labour. This is a case which seems to lend some point to that suspicion. Th3 official -file was handed to me by the Minister for my perusal-
– If the honorable member desires to quote from the official file T have no objection to his so doing.
– Very well, I may quote the particular parts to which I need to refer to establish my case. I am not suggesting for one moment that this Government or the Minister is responsible for the British ex-serviceman concerned being in Australia. He was brought here as a nominated immigrant and a rural worker, under a scheme operated by the New South Wales Government, but I submit that the Australian Government has some responsibility in the matter, because the scheme is operated jointly by the two governments. The man was brought to Australia, under the nominated immigrant scheme, and some disagreement arose between him and his nominator. There is no evidence on the file to show the basis of the disagreement, but it would appear from a statement in the file that the disagreement arose over the failure of the nominator to pay the man the prevailing Australian wage. Later in the file it is suggested that everything would be done to assist the immigrant. The file indicates that on one occasion he refused employment that was offered to him at £8 per week plus an unfurnished cottage. The British immigrant, to his credit, refused the offer and said that he had not come to Australia to be made n slave, and that when he obtained employment in Australia he wanted to be paid the same wage as that paid to an Australian. However, the Government, according to the file, considered that the man had become a difficult person because he refused to work for a lower wage than would be paid to an Australian workman.
It seems to me that the attitude of the Government or the departmental officers - and I have no doubt that the Government would support them - is that the man was a difficult person because he turned down the employment offered to him. Another position was offered to him at £11 a week, plus an unfurnished cottage. The prospective employer eventually agreed to furnish the cottage on the understanding that the cost of the furniture should be deducted over a period from the man’s wages. As a result of the high, cost of living which now prevails - it has risen enormously since the anti-Labour Government has been in office - the man found that after the deduction for furniture had been made from his wage of £11 a week the balance would not be sufficient to maintain his family and himself at the standard which they had enjoyed in their own country and which they expected to enjoy in Australia. It is true that the man claims that he is not in the best of health. He was in the British Army for fifteen years and was a veteran of Dunkirk. But he passed the medical test to which he was subjected by the Australian Government and in my opinion the Commonwealth has some responsibility to do something for him. According to the file he is at present accommodated at the People’s Palace, in Sydney. Any one who has any knowledge of the way in which the People’s Palace is conducted knows that a person cannot get permanent accommodation there. The man has not secured permanent accommodation, but has merely been accommodated there for a few nights, and subsequently will have to go elsewhere. I interviewed the man, his wife and nineyear old son, and I was advised by the man that he and his family on many occasions had slept on railway stations.
Anywhere at all where they could rest without being disturbed by the police was good enough for them. Because they had no income of any consequence and were dependent on social services benefits, they could not pay the exorbitant rents demanded by the various hostels and establishments to which the file refers.
The Government no doubt will say that the New South Wales Government is responsible for these people, who came to Australia under the nominated immigrant scheme. But the matter that concerns me at this stage is that some one should accept the responsibility for this unfortunate family and do something for them. It is not of much use to point out that the file reveals that they have been assisted by a number of charitable organizations which do not feel disposed to carry them any longer. I do not know why the organizations are not prepared to give additional assistance to this family, but it is possible that with their limited funds and resources they simply cannot help to feed and house persons for an indefinite period. No doubt the charitable organizations after having given the family extensive support, consider that the two governments should do something about the matter. The Australian Government should accept its part of the .responsibility for bringing this family here. It should provide the trio with accommodation and with reasonable employment under Australian industrial conditions and at Australian rates of pay. The file indicates that that has not been done. I understand that this case is typical of a number of cases that have arisen recently since the employment position has become more acute-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope that our discussion of this case does not cause any embarrassment to the person concerned. I do not propose to mention him by name. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has not done so. However, in view of the statements which the honorable gentleman has made, I find it necessary to refer in rather more detail to the official, file on this matter than the honorable member has done. The honorable member has interested himself in this case no doubt at therequest of the man concerned, and in order to assist the honorable gentleman in his own consideration of how the matter should be dealt with and to indicate what we on our part were prepared to do, I have made available to him all the official information in my possession. My purpose was not to seek to excuse any action or inaction on the part of the Government or my own department. It was to make available the facts relating to this man and, if need be, to make the services of my own department available, that I placed this information in the hands of the honorable member.
I point out, at the outset, that it is very easy to convey an impression from one or two cases, whether or not the charges in relation to them be well founded, that over the broad field, things are not progressing as well as they might. I desire to make it clear that British immigrants who have come to this country have had, to the best of my knowledge, very good employment opportunities. Those persons who have gone into our hostels have been able to move out of them at a more rapid rate than we had planned. I find, on checking the position with my department only to-day, that the turnover in our hostels has been more than 2 per cent, a week. That is to say, a hostel has been cleared, on the average, at least every twelve months of the people who have come here and taken up temporary accommodation in them before they could go to their own accommodation. That fact certainly suggests that British immigrants are able to secure not only regular employment, but also suitable accommodation within a reasonable period.
I told the honorable member for East Sydney that, on the facts placed before me, this man appeared to be a difficult person. I believe that any honorable member who looks through this file will come to that conclusion. Incidentally, the file reveals the excellent manner in which the various welfare bodies in this country are working on a good neighbour policy to do everything they can to assist the immigrants. The precis given to me, of the story of this man and his family since they have been here, indicates that he was nominated with his wife and son by a farmer in New South Wales. That fact means that it became the responsibility of the State Government to check the nomination and ensure that the nominator and the accommodation available were suitable, before it passed the nomination on to the Australian Government and the British Government. Our part in the matter was to pay a contribution towards the fare of the immigrant. The United Kingdom Government also paid a contribution to the fare. This man and his wife and child were sponsored, in effect, by the New South Wales Government after they had been nominated by a farmer in that State. The man arrived here on the 8th October, 1951. On the 11th December of that year, tho solicitors of the person who had nominated the immigrant indicated that their client wanted to dismiss him, as differences had arisen between the nominator and the immigrant. The farmer was anxious to know his obligations, and an appropriate reply was sent to him, together with a copy of the nomination in which his undertaking had been set out.
The immigrant called with his family, at the State office on the 18th January, 1952, and was seen by one of the women officers, who, according to the file, has tried to assist him ever since. The immigrants insisted that they and the nominator had parted the best of friends, but the man claimed that his health had broken down, and that the local doctor had recommended a change of climate. He disclosed that his next position had been with a lady managing a dairy farm. The people had quarrelled with her, and were given a week’s notice, and, consequently, they sought another position., A Commonwealth employment officer, when he was approached, said that he knew the immigrants and had referred them to a job at Essex. The salary was £11 a week, and a cottage was to be provided free. The people were to be interviewed for the position. When they were asked about this matter, the immigrant stated that he did not know the person whom he had been asked to interview, but later he admitted that he did not want the job, because the cottage was unfurnished and although the. employer had offered to furnish it for him, he would be required to pay for the furniture. In addition, hh wife wanted to be employed. She would not cook or do domestic work, but wanted farm work. The State officer formed the opinion that the wife of this man was a very difficult woman.
The family then called on Mr. BennettWood, of the United Kingdom ExServicemen’s Association. On the 25th January, 1952, they called again at the Commonwealth employment office. They had been interviewed for the job at Essex, but were still worried about the matter of furniture. Mr. Bennett- Wood rang the employment office later to say that h« had arranged for them to get the furniture, and had been in touch with the employer, who was agreeable to deduct the cost from the man’s pay, should he get the job. So it will be seen that a fair amount of attention has been given to this man.
Meanwhile, the family were living in a. lady’s cottage at Blacktown, and had no money. Arrangements were made with, the Department of Labour and Industry and Social Welfare to provide them with sustenance over the long week-end in January. The family were next seen on the 15th August, 1952, when they were referred to the employment office by the New Settlers League, another voluntary organization which assists immigrants. The husband had not got the job at Essex, and had obtained temporary employment elsewhere. At the time he called at the Commonwealth Employment Office, he was without a job. The Salvation Army and the employment service were advising him about work. On the 22nd August, 1952, the State office issued rail warrants for the family to travel to employment at Weethalle. However, the husband returned the warrants on the 27th August, and said that he and his family were leaving for Ballarat on the following Friday to join their daughter. From the 25th to the 29th August they were fed and housed at the Immigration Reception Centre, Kensington. A debt of £8 6s. which the husband had undertaken to pay had not been discharged.
He turned up in Sydney again on the 19th November, 1952. The job which his daughter had arranged for him had fallen through, and the family had hitch-hiked back to Sydney. At Yass, the car in which they had been given a lift was involved in an accident, and they suffered minor injuries. He called again at the employment office on the 4th December, and asked for assistance to find work. At that time, no suitable position was available. The lady officer concerned said that they looked quite happy and .well kept, and did not give the impression of extreme hardship. The next document on the file is a letter from the secretary of the Yass sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, sent along for information by the head-quarters of that organization. The letter explains that an English ex-serviceman and his family had been involved in an accident at Yass, and details the discussion and the subsequent events that occurred. The letter from the sub-branch stated that it was apparent that the family concerned had grossly abused the generosity and hospitality extended to them at Yass, and that the secretary had been instructed by the sub-branch to advise his head-quarters of the happening in order to ensure that other sub-branches would not be placed in a similar position. The file shows that since the 23rd January last the immigrant concerned has been contacting the State immigration office for assistance. He States that he is suffering from a duodenal ulcer, that his wife had bad legs, and his son a broken arm, and that they are in receipt of social services benefits and invalid pension. The immigrant said that he was eager to work, but he turned down an offer of £8 a week with an unfurnished cottage, with the statement that he had not come here to be a slave. The file also discloses that he is seeking help from the Red Cross Society and the Methodist Social Service Department. There is a later note on the file that the State immigration office had informed us that he had been obtaining assistance from the Red Cross Society, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and other charitable organizations, but that these organizations were not prepared to assist further. On that evidence alone I ask the House to agree that this man is at least a difficult case, as we have indicated.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- As we are approaching the end of this sessional period, and as, in the months to come,- the Government will no doubt be directing most of its attention to the preparation of the budget, the time is appropriate for me to bring to the Government’s notice a grave injustice that is being done to the distant States in connexion with the imposition of sales tax. Sales tax is assessed on the cost of an article, including freight charges and distribution charges. That means that the sales tax on manufactured and other goods transported from the industrialized States of Victoria and New South Wales to Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland is greater than has been borne by purchasers of similar goods in New South Wales and Victoria. That is a grossly unfair impost on the people of the distant States. My purpose is to ask the Government to review the incidence of sales tax in order to ensure that it is spread fairly over the taxpayers in all States. If sales tax is to continue then let us ensure that those who are called upon to pay it will pay it equally. A case has come to my notice of a primary producer in Western Australia who ordered a set of tyres from a tyre firm in Western Australia. Unfortunately the tyres were not available in Western Australia at the time. As they were urgently required the order for them was sent to the eastern States. Shipping or rail transport was not available for several months, so the customer asked the tyre firm to have them brought over by air and agreed to pay the additional freight. The tyres duly arrived in Perth by air, but unfortunately the tyre firm, instead of sending them straight out to the man who had ordered them, took them into store in its warehouse and invoiced them out from the warehouse to the customer. Sales tax was shown on the invoice based on the cost of the tyres, plus air freight from Melbourne to Perth. That was a terrific charge on top of the price of the tyres. Representations on the matter were made to the Government, but the law provides that these charges must be included for assessment of sale1* tax. Had the tyres come over in the normal way by sea or rail the saving to the purchaser would have been tens of pounds in sales tax alone. This is a specific instance of the injustice that is done to Western Australia and other States because of their distance from manufacturing centres in the east. 1 point out also that honorable members who represent rural areas are also concerned in this matter, because where there is a wholesale or distributing agency in a country town from which retailers obtain their supplies, the price at which the goods are charged to the retailers ex those country stores is inclusive of the cost of freight from the seaboard or manufacturing centre, and sales tax is assessed on the price plus that additional charge. When an order is placed directly with a manufacturer at the seaboard th/s additional sales tax is not involved. Wo are told that we are one nation, and so we are, but there should be one level of sales tax for goods wherever they may be sold in the Commonwealth. The costs involved in distribution should not be subject to sales tax. That is reasonable and obvious, and I submit in all seriousness that in order to do justice to the outlying parts of the continent and to encourage their development this inequality should not be allowed to continue. I hope that the Government will give attention to this matter before the presentation of the budget.
– I assure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that I have noted his complaint regarding the transaction between the government saw-mills in Canberra, a Queanbeyan firm and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Knowing his intense interest in timber, I shall discover the facts and advise him of them. I shall have the proposals of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and I can assure him that clue consideration will be given to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Life Insurance Act - Seventh Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner, for 1952.
National Health Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 21.
Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1953, No. 20.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : - ].. Commonwealth treasury-bills outstanding on the undermentioned dates were as follows : -
Averages of the weekly holdings of Commonwealth treasury-hills during February, 1953, by sections of the banking system are -
y asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
Is any further information available regarding investigations being carried out jointly by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State Department of Agriculture in Queensland into the control or eradication of lantana?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has for some time been considering the possibility of investigating the biological control of lantana. Lantana occurs extensively in northern New South Wales and in Queensland and causes considerable reduction in the productivity of important areas of rich dairying country. In northern New South Wales there is some feeling that the disadvantages of lantana are to some extent offset by advantages because of hillsides which have been used for banana plantations it frequently serves as a means of holding the soil. On the other hand, the Queensland authorities are agreed that lantana is a serious pest. As I have informed the honorable member for Darling Downs previously, the Queensland Government is collaborating with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in looking into the possibility of joining in an expedition by the Hawaiian authorities who are hoping this year to send an expedition to Central America. That expedition would seek insects which might bc expected to attack lantana successfully in Australia and which would not interfere with any useful plant in this country. Much preparation is necessary for this expedition and serious thought is being given to the possibility of an Australian entomologist joining it so that Australian needs can be kept fully in mind. It would, of course, be some time before any insects could be liberated in Australia. After collection they would have to be taken to Hawaii for an initial quarantine period and subsequently careful feeding tests would have to be carried out to ensure that no useful plant would be jeopardized. As soon as the Queensland authorities are able to come to a decision on their participation in the proposed expedition, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will be in a position to take the matter further with the Hawaiian authorities.
y. - On the 12th March the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) asked whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization had discovered an insect to combat the Noogoora burr and if so where it is proposed to release the insect. Further to my promise to ascertain the facts I now advise that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has not yet undertaken any detailed research into the possibilities of biological control of Noogoora burr. However, there are two insects, Mecas saturnira and Nupserha antennata, which are known to attack this weed, one of these insects being found in India and the other in North America. Unfortunately, feeding tests have shown that these insects also attack economic crop plants, such as sunflower, although it is reported that in certain conditions they may attack only wild species of these plants and not cultivated species. Moreover, because of the somewhat sporadic nature of the occurrence of Noogoora burr in certain regions where rainfall is variable, biological control might be difficult because of the probability of heavy reductions in insect populations during periods of drought. The possibility of introducing these insects into Australia has from time to time been discussed by the Australian Agricultural Council. Feeling in the past among the States has been that, notwithstanding the importance of Noogoora burr as a weed, the risk of introducing the insects was too great to be justified. The Commonwealth .Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is now preparing a further report for consideration at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, when the risks involved and the investigations necessary will be considered in detail. The final decision on the introduction of the insects rests with the Australian Agricultural Council.
y. - On the 13th March the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) asked whether scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization would be employed in research on foot rot in sheep in view of the development of modern antibiotics and whether efforts had been made of recent years in research on this subject. As promised I have checked on the latest information available. It is true, as the honorable member said, that foot rot has become widespread in the southern States following recent wet seasons. This has led to a renewed interest in the disease and, in some quarters, to questions as to the validity of recommendations made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for the control and eradication of the disease. The salient facts are, however, not in doubt - namely, that foot rot is primarily a disease spread from affected to healthy sheep and not, as is sometimes maintained, a disease of the soil. The foot rot organism cannot survive, even in wet soil, for longer than a fortnight, and, under dry conditions, for longer than a day or two. The organism can survive, however, for long periods in the feet of sheep which have suffered from the disease and have, apparently, recovered from it. When wet conditions occur, these carrier sheep re-infect the soil and the disease may then be contracted by other animals in the flock. Not only control but complete eradication of the disease can be effected if all sheep showing deformaties of the foot as a result of earlier attacks of the disease are isolated during periods of dry weather, have their feet thoroughly pared, and are then treated in foot baths with formalin or copper sulphate solutions. Once such carrier sheep have been detected, treated, and thoroughly cured during a dry period, the disease will not recur unless the organism is re-introduced from outside. Admittedly, the measures required for detection and treatment of affected sheep are arduous and, unfortunately, are ones which should preferably be carried out, if success is to be assured, by the owner or manager of the property. There are, however, abundant examples of flocks containing tens of thousands of sheep which have been satisfactorily freed from the disease and have remained free for many years. In reply to the specific questions asked by the honorable member for Farrer, officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are undertaking further investigation of the possible use of the new antibiotics as a curative for foot rot. Though this work is still in progress, the results to date are not encouraging. It is only to be expected that organisms placed as are those causing foot rot, in the crevices of the hoof, are not likely to be readily susceptible to drugs circulating in the blood stream. Investigations are however, continuing and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization hopes shortly to call a conference of ;State authorities to review the general position and define such additional lines of investigation as appear to offer promise.
Ken a.f Fibre.
asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
k. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
United States Government. 1 understand that the trials have not been successful in South Africa, where the climate is cooler.
I). The figure of £200,000 quoted no doubt refers to a newspaper report that, it was expected that expenditure of that amount would be incurred on wharf, road and bridge construction in the Dobodura area of Papua. No official statement has mentioned this sum. This urea is one of the richest areas of Papua and is capable of growing cocoa, coffee, tes, rubber, manila hemp, &c., as well as kenaf and it is a centre for both administrative and missionary activity on behalf of a vigorous native population. A wharf and certain roads and bridges built by the Army are to he rehabilitated and improved and certain new construction undertaken to provide communications. These will serve the new Administration District Head-quarters at Popondetta, which replaces the head-quarters at Iligaturu destroyed by the Mount Lamington eruption, ns well as assisting general development. Th.proposed program nic of necessary work to cost between £270,000 and f300;000 over a period of more than five years will provide, therefore, for the general development and administrative needs of a region and is not by any means special expenditure for kenaf development only. The first stage, however, which will take two years to complete, will cost £81,000. The final stages will not be undertaken until warranted by development. The question of reconsideration as posed by the honorable member therefore does not arise.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530318_reps_20_221/>.