20th Parliament · 2nd Session
Ms. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Treasurer aware that residents of a country centre were badly and unnecessarily scared by a tame tiger that was released in their midst this week?
– Order 1 I disallow the question. It has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth.
– I submit that this Government bas full power over all imported animals.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
– But Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! I shall name the honorable member if he does not sit down. I am not going to have this place turned into a circus.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– How do you know until I have stated my point?
– I have said that the question is out of order, and there oan be no point of order on my decision.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable gentlemen want to be named, this is as good a day as any for me to do it.
– I point out, Mr. Speaker, that I asked the question, which you earlier ruled out of order, in all seriousness. You said that you would not allow the House to be turned into a circus. The Australian Government has full control over the importation of animals. Will you recall the ringmaster of the political circus who is now on a tour of the country and ask him- -
– Order! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat. If he repeats his offence, I shall name him.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether the Royal Australian Air Force has taken over any Australianbuilt Sabre jet fighter aircraft. Does it intend to station some of these aircraft in Queensland, and does it propose to standardize on this type of fighter aircraft?
– The Royal Australian Air Force has not yet taken over any Sabre jet aircraft. Only one of these machines has been flown in Australia, and it is a prototype. The Royal Australian Air Force intends to station at least one Sabre jet squadron in Queensland, but I am not sure whether it will be located in northern Queensland, or at Amberley or Archerfield. The honorable member may rest assured that most of the training exercises of the squadron will be carried out in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory and at Manus Island. Sabre jet machines will be our front-line operational fighter aircraft, but we do not intend to standardize on them. Meteors andVampires will be retained in our fighter squadrons as well.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that the New South Wales Minister for Social Services intends to make available additional financial assistance in order to give Christmas relief, through his department and various religious organizations, to needy persons in receipt of State pensions? Has the Australian Government any intention to make an additional benefit available to pensioners at the Christmas season? If so, what will be the amount of the benefit? If the Government does not intend to make available a direct benefit will the Minister co-operate with the New South “Wales Minister in-order to give much greater help than the State can provide to unfortunate persons who will be in needy circumstances over the Christmas period ?
– I am completely confined by the provisions of the Social Services Consolidation Act, which was passed during the regime of the former Labour Government. That Government made no provision in the legislation for extra assistance to pensioners at the Christmas season.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether any new clinical history is known about butazolodine and has the drug been found to be effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis? If so, will the Minister have it placed upon the list under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act?
– Several suggestions have been made to me regarding the use of butazolodine, and the matter has been submitted on several occasions to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. Each time that committee has rejected the drug from inclusion in the list of life-saving drugs.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for the Army has received numerous complaints regarding waste of Commonwealth money and the time of national trainees by the expenditure of much of the trainees’ time in camp upon such activities as building ornamental fish ponds, rehearsals for camp concerts, practising for participation in gymkhanas and ceremonial guards? If the Minister has received such complaints, has he had them investigated and, if so, with what result?Will he lay on the table of the House any report that he has received in connexion with the matter?
– I am delighted to inform the honorable member that I have never received any such complaints.
Mr.Ward.- That is not true. The Minister has received any number of them.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney is most disorderly.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any knowledge of a proposal to transfer numbers of Indian workers from Fiji to New Caledonia? If so, does the Minister regard that matter as one of interest or concern to the Australian Government?
– The Australian Government has received information about discussions between the Governments of Fiji and New Caledonia regarding the transfer of a limited number of Indian families from Fiji to New Caledonia. I believe that it is proposed to transfer them for a limited time. The Government is keeping closely in touch with developments.
– In view of the fact that since the Superannuation Act and the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act were last amended, living costs have increased considerably and payments under the acts referred to are well below the level of values when the acts were amended, will the Treasurer inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce amendments to those two acts during the present session of the Parliament?
– The matter obviously is one of policy. It is receiving consideration by the Government and legislation will be introduced as soon as practicable.
– Will the Minister for Health give favorable consideration to the extension of the tuberculosis benefit payments to persons suffering from tuber culosis of the bones and various organs and are in urgent need of additional relief ?
– The law relating to tuberculosis allowances was passed in 1948 and is still in force. It confines the payment of allowances to cases that are acutely infectious to other persons. The conditions that the honorable member has mentioned are not acutely infectious to other persons. Therefore, the persons who suffer from those conditions are eligible to receive invalid allowances and similar benefits only.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House when honorable members can expect the Government to redeem the promise that it made to the Australian people during the 1949 election campaign to make available to local government bodies a £250,000,000 interest-free loan for urgent road construction and other public works ? When can honorable members expect the fulfilment of that promise, or will it be another promise added to. the long list of pledges broken by the Government ?
– No such promise in the terms that the honorable member has indicated was ever made.
– Is it a fact that the Governor-General’s Speech in 1950 contained a statement that the Government intended to float a national development loan of £250,000,000 which was to be repaid from the proceeds of the petrol tax? Was one of the purposes of the proposed loan the provision of finance to implement a national roads policy? When will the Government honour that promise in order that roads throughout Australia may be placed in a reasonable condition ?
– That promise has been honoured. A much greater sum than £250,000,000 has been made available for the development of Australia. Evidence in support of that statement may be seen in the White Paper that was attached to the recent budget papers.
– About two months ago, in a question directed to the Minister for the Interior, I referred to the inadequacy of the buildings that housed Commonwealth departments in Mildura, and the Minister, in reply, indicated that he considered the existing arrangements to be unsatisfactory. I now ask the honorable gentleman to inform the House of the action that is contemplated to improve conditions in Mildura?
– One of the premises that was investigated by the Department of the Interior was suitable for use as public offices in every respect, except that, by the time it had been remodelled to the extent necessary, it would have cost £700 a square. .The site and the building were suitable, but it was considered that £’700 a square was a bit too much to pay for offices, even in the heart of Mildura. Other inquiries have been and are being made to find a suitable site on which a new building can be erected or an existing building remodelled at a much lower cost. As soon as I have any definite information on the matter, I shall inform the honorable member accordingly.
– In view of the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service has always supported the appropriation of Commonwealth funds for the Joint Coal Board, which provides amenities for trade unions engaged in the coal-mining industry, all of which insist that there shall he 100 per cent, unionism in the industry, is it reasonable to assume that he approves of compulsory unionism in that industry?
– There is, in effect, 100 per cent, unionism in the coal-mining industry, although there is no law to compel people to join, say, the miners’ federation. The fact that 100 per cent, of the coal-miners in the industry are members of the federation is the outcome of industrial pressure exerted by the coal-miners themselves. I do not approve of that kind of pressure being applied in the coalmining industry or in any other industry. This Government has never condoned compulsion in this connexion, whether it takes the form of intimidatory tactics employed by trade union officials or repressive tactics employed by totalitarianminded Labour governments.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service supplementary to’ a question that I asked him last week.
– Order! There is no necessity for an honorable member to designate a question as being supplementary.
– Is the Minister now in a position to give a detailed reply to the question that I addressed to him last week when he was then able to give me only a general answer concerning the proceedings at the Third World Congress of the International Federation of Free Trade Unions that was held at Stockholm a few months ago? By. whom was Australia represented at that congress? Did the Australian delegates support the resolution that the congress passed on the subject of human rights? Did that declaration contain the following passage: -
That tile congress reaffirms that a fundamental human right is the right of workers to organize freely in trade unions, national unions and federations of their choice without any interference from governments, employers or other non-trade union forces, and the right to bargain collectively.
– I have made inquiries into the matter since the honorable member raised it last week. Australia was . represented at that congress by authorized representatives of the official trade union movement in this country. Those representatives included Mr. Monk and Mr. Chamberlain. The declaration, the full text of which I have received, contains the passage that the honorable member has cited.
– Read the whole of the declaration.
Mir. HOLT. - I am prepared to do so if the House will give the requisite leave.
– That would curtail question time; read it later.
– I shall’ do so. I have the full text of the declaration and I think that it is desirable that I should read all of it. The resolution was supported by the Australian delegates who attended that congress.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Evans. The Minister and some of his supporters have now professed confidence in the Declaration of Human Eights, but a few years ago they treated it with contempt and disdain. Does he believe in the principles of the Declaration of Human Rights, and, if so, when does he contemplate taking steps to carry out the important principle that women should be paid the same as men when they perform work of equal value? So far he has failed to take such steps in matters under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction.Will the Minister say when he will carry out the Declaration of Human Rights as a whole, instead of tearing little bits out of their context and using them for party political purposes?
– I can understand the discomfiture of the right honorable gentleman about the question of human rights. As to the particular matter that he has referred to, it is remarkable to hear such a comment coming from a man who was not merely a subscriber to the declaration, but was for many years the deputy leader of a Labour government. If he had considered that our present wage structure did not give effect to the principle that he now so strongly supports, why did he not take some action to meet that position by giving equal pay to women when he was able to do so? Our wage structure is based on realistic recognition of family needs. The Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has abandoned the basis of needs, and has determined as the basic wage the highest wage that industry can afford to pay. Nevertheless, the court does have regard to the fact that the male wageearner has certain family responsibilities which do not apply in the case of a female. The matter has been viewed from that stand-point, but it has not been the practice of governments in this country until recent years, and then only in the State sphere, to legislate on industrial matters that affect hours and wages. The policy of all Common wealth Governments has been to leave these issues to the appropriate arbitration tribunal, and it is that tribunal that has prescribed rates of pay for males and females.
– During the course of my reply to a question that was asked by the honorable member for Evans, the honorable member for East Sydney suggested that I should read to the House the full text of a resolution to which I referred in the course of my reply. I now ask for leave to read the full text of that resolution.
– I suggest that the Minister should make the resolution available publicly by laying it on the table of the House.
– Is leave to make the statement granted?
– I heard a “No”. Leave is not granted.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that employees of his department in Townsville are being advised to secure employment elsewhere, if possible, on the ground that if they do not do so, they will be retrenched? Is he aware also that employees who have found other employment have been told that, because they were not retrenched by the department, they are not entitled to long service leave? As a general principle, and also as a matter of common sense, should not those people he entitled to the benefits of long service leave in the same way as if they had been retrenched?
– I am unaware of the details of this matter. If the honorable member will give me information about a particular case, I shall look into it.
– I address a question to the Treasurer with respect to the grant, totalling £53,655, which the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank announced a few days agothe bank would make available for the purpose of assisting primary production, particularly in respect of investigations into such problems as pasture improvement, veterinary science, fruit fly and cereal rust. Can the right honorable gentleman inform me of the proportion of the total grant that has been allocated to Queensland ?
– I understand that out of the total grant mentioned, by the honorable member the sum of £5,500 has been allocated to the University of Queensland for the purposes for which the grant is being made.
– In view of the concern that has been expressed in the Australian Capital Territory with respect to the possible effect of the general use of pasteurized milk, will the Minister for Health cite the medical evidence that is available in respect of the nutritive food value of pasteurized milk and the effect of the consumption of milk in that form upon the general health of the community and indicate how it compares in those respects with fresh raw milk? Will he make a statement along those lines in order to allay fears that are entertained in this matter, by many individuals, particularly mothers.
– Milk is pasteurized for the purpose of keeping it as sterile as possible and free from putrefaction and other germs in order to preserve its purity until it is consumed. For that reason, the method of pasteurization has been universally favoured throughout the world. Owing to the activity of germs in raw milk, it must be consumed when in that state as soon as possible. When delay occurs in its consumption injury may .be caused to health, and pasteurization obviates that danger.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer, and concerns a matter that was first raised in this House almost four years ago and which has been raised at various conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers. I refer to the linking of the Commonwealth railway from Darwin with the Queensland railway system at Dajarra^
As various members of this Government have said from time to time that the possibility of this linkage is being investigated, will the right honorable gentleman say whether investigations have been completed, and, if so, will he indicate what the Government intends to do about the matter? Is it the intention of the Government again to promise, at the forthcoming general election campaign, that this railway linkage will be made, or to leave the matter to the next Labour government?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable mem: ber has been the subject of repeated investigations and recommendations by the Government of Queensland for more than 30 years. His question should be directed to that Government.
– I ask the Treasurer whether there is any provision ‘in the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act under which a defeated or a retired member of the Parliament can be excluded from receiving retirement benefits and the use of parliamentary facilities if he has been found guilty of improper practices? If not, will the right honorable gentleman consider altering the act to exclude honorable members from its benefits if they have proved themselves unworthy ?
– If the honorable member will place that question on the notice-paper I shall consider the matter and confer with the statutory committee that has been set up by this House to consider such things.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question about the cutting out of air navigational aids. An Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited pilot has told me that he flew over Kalgoorlie with only one hour’s supply of petrol and with a cloud ceiling below the level at which he would have to land. He tried a run on Rawlinna, but the navigational beacon there had been Gut out in the interests of economy.. Has the Minister himself considered the elimination of these navigational aids? Has the Department of Civil Aviation sought the views of airline pilots on this matter? Is it a fact that international airlines have protested about the cutting out of navigational aids in the north?
– I am unaware of what has been done in any particular locality, but the policy of my department is to increase navigational aids substantially. Australia is a leading country in the provision of services for airline operators. Recently we installed instrument landing systems and distancemeasuring equipment. In fact, we supplied New Zealand with the necessary equipment to enable jet aircraft to get through safely in the London to Christchurch air race. I have received no representations from any airline or any pilots’ organization in connexion with the cutting out . of navigational aids. Funds have been made available to my department for the provision of more navigational aids, and my information is that that work is going ahead.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service been informed that a New South Wales Labour member of Parliament is in difficulties because of his opposition to live hare coursing in that State? As that gentleman has also helped to start two other hares in New South Wales, namely compulsory unionism and suppression of the press-
– Order ! What is the honorable member aiming at ? Is this something for which the Minister for Labour and National Service is responsible ?
– Yes. Can the Minister say what effect those two measures will have on the industrial laws generally under the jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament?
– My understanding is that compulsory unionism will not apply to unions that operate under the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In connexion with the suppression of the press, I have read a statement attributed to a representative of journalists that in the Australian Journalists’ Association award there is a provision that journalists cannot be compelled to divulge their sources of information. If that is so, my understanding of the position is that the award would be regarded as a law of the Commonwealth and, being so regarded, would supersede any State legislation that might be inconsistent with it. However, I am speaking without expert or authoritative knowledge on the matter. I will check up to see whether the interpretation that I have given is correct and supplement my answer to the honorable member’s question at a later date.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is true that his department has discontinued the erection of public telephones in the metropolitan area of Sydney, and that notification has been forwarded to interested bodies in that area that this work will he carried out when circumstances permit. As this position has now existed for eighteen months, can the PostmasterGeneral say when this important work will he resumed?
– Did the honorable member say that the department was not installing public telephones in the metropolitan area?
– The department is not installing any in the city area of Sydney.
– That is not correct. The department is still installing public telephones where they are considered necessary. The department may not bc able to install a public telephone in every place in respect of which a request is made, but it is proceeding with the installation of public telephones.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. By way of explanation, I remind the Minister that the Prime Minister, in answer to a question last week, pleaded ignorance of the activities of the security service and that the Postmaster-General, when he was asked whether the security service tapped telephones, gave an evasive reply to the ott ect that the telephone conversations of members were quite safe. I now ask the Postmaster-General for a simple and unqualified reply to this question. Can the Minister say whether the security service ever taps any telephones, whether they belong to members of Parliament, officials, or private citizens?
– That question was answered last week. I have nothing further to add.
– It was not answered. You are still evading it.
– Of course they are tapping them.
– Why do von not come clean ?
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, is prompted by the asking of another question in relation to compulsory unionism. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.-
– Order ! The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is not in this House.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. It is a matter of policy.
-Order! Questions touching on matters of policy are out of order.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that this Parliament recently passed legislation which compelled every wheat-grower in Australia to market his wheat through the Australian Wheat Board? Does not that legislation, in some cases at least, offend the conscience of the wheat-growers whose opinion, which has been expressed by the honorable member for Riverina frequently, is that the man on the land should he able to market his product in the manner he thinks fit?
– There is no parallel between compulsory unionism and the compulsory acquisition of a product. One is purely political and the other is non-political in every respect.
– by leave - I wish to refer to a report which was published in Washington a short while ago by -the United States Government. That report was intended to give a general picture of the atrocities perpetrated in Korea by the North Korean and Chinese Communist forces against soldiers of the United Nations and the Republic of Korea, and against Korean civilians. Among the tables in the appendices the report included a reference to twenty Australians, who were unnamed, as probable victims of atrocities. As soon as the report was released in Washington, the Australian Government immediately raised the in fi tter with the American authorities in Washington and Tokyo. The twenty Australians mentioned in the report represented one atrocity incident, and their inclusion was based on a confession by a Chinese prisoner, who admitted taking part in the massacre of twenty United Nations prisoners by his battalion. From other information at its disposal, the United Nations command concluded that the victims were probably Australian soldiers. I am glad to be able to say that further investigations by the Australian and United States military authorities has definitely established that the twenty victims of the atrocity were not Australians. The Australian and United States military authorities have together examined all information available in connexion with this atrocity, and in connexion with the whereabouts of Australian servicemen during the period of the alleged atrocity. The United States military authorities will issue a statement to-day in Washington, confirming that the twenty victims of the atrocity were not Australians, and that the investigation concerning this alleged atrocity will he continued.
I add that the report on Korean atrocities as a whole presents a terrible picture. The fact that the twenty victims hitherto described as “ probably Australians “ are now definitely known not to be Australians, does not affect the substance of the report. We can be very thankful, however, that there is no evidence that any Australian servicemen were victims of atrocities in Korea.
– by leave - The second regular meeting of the Anzus Council was held in Washington on the 9th and 10th September. The United States of America was represented by its Secretary of State, Mr. John Foster Dulles, New Zealand by its Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Clifton Webb, and Australia, by myself. t There were also present the Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors to the United States of America, the Secretary-Designate of the Australian Department of External Affairs, the Secretary of the New Zealand Department of External Affairs, and three United States Assistant Secretaries of State. Military representation also was at a high level. The Austraiian delegation included Lieutenant-General Sir Sydney Rowell, Chief of the General Staff. The New Zealand Chief of the General Staff also was present. Included in the United States delegation were Admiral Felix Stump, the United States Commander in Chief of the Pacific, and, in a consultative capacity, Admiral Radford, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Anzus Council meetings provide welcome opportunities for international consultations and discussion on high political and military levels. The recent meeting of the Anzus Council was the first to be held under the new Republican regime in Washington. I am glad to be able to tell the House that there was no difference whatsoever in the enthusiasm and frankness of the American authorities towards the other two partners in the Anzus pact, from the enthusiasm and frankness that was evident at the first meeting of the Anzus Council during the regime of the previous Democratic administration in the United States of America. The Anzus Council, on the first day of the meeting, surveyed the main areas throughout the world which are under threat from Communist imperialism. At this stage I should like to dispel any misunderstandings about the purposes of Anzus. Honorable members will recall that in the first place the Anzus treaty arose as a child of the Japanese peace treaty. In other words, the very text of the Japanese peace treaty did not, in numerous particulars, appeal to a wide range of Australians. It should not be believed that, for that reason, the main purpose, or even the subsidiary purpose of the Anzus treaty was solely to provide a safeguard against a recurrence of Japanese aggression. We know the situation in Japan and we also know that the only likely source-
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! There is too much audible conversation in almost every part of the chamber. It must cease.
– The only source from which aggression can come to the Australian geographical area is international communism. As had been said on previous occasions, the purpose of the Anzus treaty is to prepare the three signatory countries to combat aggression wherever it arises.
At the meeting of the council there were discussions, as honorable members would expect, on the situation in IndoChina, which is of very great importance to Australia. The members of the Foreign Affairs Committee who had the opportunity to be present at discussions with M. Letourneau, the French Minister to Indo-China, will recall that he outlined to us in private the problems that face France and the three associated states of Indo-China. A great deal of time was spent by the council in discussing the situation in Indo-China and Korea. Honorable members may recall that the discussions on Indo-China took place a few days after a major policy statement had been made by Mr. Foster Dulles, the United States Secretary of State, at St. Louis, in which he said -
The Chinese Communist regime should realize that a second aggression in Indo-China could not occur without consequences which might not be confined to Indo-China. I say this soberly in the interests of peace and in the hope of preventing another aggressive miscalculation.
That statement is. of very considerable interest to Australia. I think that it must inevitably have the effect of discouraging international Communist exercises in that part of the world. Inevitably, the situation in Korea and Japan was discussed, as also was the situation in Communist China. Honorable members may recall that in the communique which was issued at the conclusion of the meeting each of the representatives of the three countries subscribed to the statement that “ under present circumstances no question of the recognition of Communist China or of the admission of its representatives to the United Nations would be entertained “.
On the second day of the meeting we examined the report of the military representatives who had met twice during the preceding year. The House will not expect me to make reference to the military discussions other than to say thatAustral ia was represented in them by General Sir Sydney Rowell. As honorable members know, the treaty includes undertakings by the member countries f.n increase “ effective self-help and mutual aid” and to “maintain and develop our individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack”. Those undertakings formed the justification for the military discussions that took place. The council expressed its satisfaction with the work of its military representatives and ‘ their staffs and decided that the close co-operation already achieved between the military representatives should be continued.
Let me now say a few words about Article 8 of the treaty which deals with the relation of the treaty to other States, regional organizations, associations of States and the like. As honorable memhers know, the Anzus Treaty is only one of a number of treaties and arrangements that deal with security in the Pacific. The United States of America i I self lias signed pacts with Japan and r lie Philippines and has also recently signed a mutual defence treaty with the Republic of Korea. It has also defence understandings with the Chinese Nationalist Government on Formosa. Australia for its part, has intimate con.nections with the United Kingdom. It b»i3 never been claimed that Anzus exercises any exclusive responsibility for settling the affairs of the Pacific.
– It has no responsibility at all. There are no defence provisions in the treaty.
– There is every possible defence provision. Surely the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is taking a party political line! Surely he does not believe that what he said has any relationship to the truth!
– .The Anzus treaty was a sop from America.
– Order ! The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) will proceed with his statement.
– There is still a provision in the treaty for wider defence arrangements in the Pacific, but nobody knows yet how such a wider system of security will bc established. In a. communique issued at the end of the Anzus Council meeting the following statement was made : -
The Council affirmed its readiness to consider any measure which would strengthen the defence of the area. It unanimously concluded, however, that to attempt to enlarge its membership would not contribute directly and materially to this end.
An important statement was also ni-ade by Mr. John Foster Dulles soon after the Anzus Council meeting. He said - -
That does not mean that wc have abandoned the development of a more comprehensive system pf regional security in the Pacific area, a purpose affirmed in the Anzus and other treaties. It is, however,’ unlikely that any one of these existing treaties could itself be the framework for such development. Indeed, before there can be much useful development by way of multilateral treaties, there is need for the development, within the Pacific area, of a greater measure of International goodwill and a greater unity of purpose.
That is a statement of consequence. Honorable members know that the Anzus Council has not moved towards the establishment of formal relationships with other states or groups of states in the Pacific area. The important point, at the moment, is that these various arrangements in the Pacific have some common membership. The communique that was issued at the end of the second Anzus Council session stated -
All these arrangements and relationships constitute together a solemn warning to any potential aggressor and represent the growing foundation for lasting peace in the Pacific
It is now more than two years since the Anzus treaty was signed. Anzus is clearly a going concern. It has established effective machinery of consultation which c.aa be used at short notice if there is any threat of armed attack. The treaty has already proved of immense value as a means of regular consultation with the representatives of New Zealand and the United States of America. It is a fact of no small significance that the foreign ministers of Australia and New Zealand and the United States of America, together with their highest military advisers, were able to sit around the table for two days of intimate discussion and alSO to have many private talks. Anzus gives Australia access to the thinking ;end planning of the American administration at the highest political and military level. Together with our intimate link with the United Kingdom, the Anzus Council gives Australia a voice in Pacific strategy- There is great goodwill towards Australia in the American Government and, I believe, .among the people of the United States of America generally. But we cannot git back and expect that our interests and views will always be taken into full account without positive effort on our part. The House may rest assured that at the recent Anzus Council meeting, the position of Australia was fully maintained and our interests advanced, and l hut the treaty is fulfilling the high hopes that wc all felt when it was signed. land settlement of EX-SERVICEMEN.
Mr. speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have- received from the lion or able member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. r. Fraser) an intimation that he desires to submit a He fin ite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely : -
The need for a plan fur war service land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory. ls the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of Hie proposal.
Mr. J. R. FRASER (Australian Capital Territory) ‘10.50*. - No provision is made at the present time to enable ex- servicemen to secure land for farming or other agricultural purposes in the Australian Capital Territory, yet I suggest that a need undoubtedly exists for the introduction of a plan for war service land settlement here. Large areas within this Territory are crying out for subdivision for that purpose, and there are ex-servicemen who are crying out for land. Some areas in the Territory would lend themselves to intensive development, and men are eager and able to undertake that work. However, at the present time, they are prevented- from doing so. There are areas in this Territory which are suitable for grazing, wheat-farming, corngrowing, root crops, vegetable production, orcharding, poultry-farming and dairyfarming, but they are not being used for any of those purposes. I point out “to the House that the Australian Capital Territory has an area of some 900 square miles, and a population approaching 30,000 persons, yet there are only eleven dairy farms here. Large quantities of milk for consumption in this Territory are brought from dairying districts many hundreds of miles away. In short, land is available and men are available for war service land settlement. I know of many exservicemen in this Territory who hold qualification certificates for war service land settlement, and are desperately eager to go on the land and begin production, which tV.is country, and particularly tins Territory, needs.
I have consistently advocated in this House, and in consultation with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) and his officers, a plan for war service land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory. I can see no bar to the introduction of such a plan. Similar settlement was made in this Territory after World War I., when land was made available under leasehold to exservicemen. Many of those settlers are now prosperous graziers and farmers in this community, and are advocates to-day of war service land settlement for men who served in World War II. There is not the slightest question that the Government has the necessary power, under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act, to resume land for Commonwealth purposes. I do not think that it can be doubted that war service land settlement can be properly classed as a Commonwealth purpose.
I do not believe that any one would argue that proposition. Power. is provided in that act for the resumption of land, and power resides in the Minister, through the Leases Ordinance, and the regulations thereunder, to allocate that land on a leasehold basis. Indeed, specific power is given to the Minister under the ordinance and regulation 11, to invite applications for leases from returned soldiers only, so that the intention of the legislature previously was that this provision should exist, and, presumably, since it should exist, that it should be exercised.
It has been argued that qualified exservicemen from the State of New South Wales would be eligible for consideration in any plan for war service land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory. That argument is based on the fact that one or two qualified men from this Territory secured land in ballots in that State. However, my duty is to represent the Australian Capital Territory, and my primary responsibility in this matter is to the exservicemen of the Territory. Not all of those who have come to the Territory from the States of the .Commonwealth since the war have held qualification certificates tenable in New South Wales. The borders of some States have been closed against ex-servicemen who hold qualification certificates from other States. Under the system of land tenure in the Territory, it is not possible for the Government to grant freehold or perpetual leases. The normal duration of rural leases is 25 years, but, in certain circumstances, the Minister has power to grant leases for 99 years.
In my opinion, a plan for war service land settlement should be introduced in order to provide an opportunity for ex* servicemen who -reside within the hourdaries of the Territory to settle on the land. If the Minister says that that cannot be done without also making the scheme open to qualified exservicemen in New South Wales, I would have to accept that condition and agree that it would be fair. But I point to the limitations on land tenure in the Territory and to the fact that, at any time, land granted under leasehold in the Territory may be resumed for a purpose concerned with the expansion of the city, the development of its services, or the development of the Seat of Government generally. Land is available, and exservicemen are eager to settle on it. This Government has power to institute a war service laud settlement plan in the Territory, and I am certain that the ex-servicemen who reside here would seek nothing better than preference to secure land on the terms on which it is made available in the Territory to-day.
This afternoon a property situated between 20 and 25 miles from this city will go under the auctioneer’s hammer. I refer to Booroomba station, which is a portion of the estate of the late Sir Keith Murdoch. Shortly after the death of Sir Keith Murdoch, J asked the Minister for the Interior to consider the resumption of this property for war service land settlement purposes. I received the reply that no scheme for war service land settlement existed in the Australian Capital Territory and thai, it was not proposed to introduce one. The property to which I have referred is eminently suited to subdivision into areas of approximately 2,000 acres. Those who are offering it for sale expect that it will realize between £150,000 and £160,000. My own view is that the price will be something about £130,000. I think I am correct in saying that when the property was purchased by Sir Keith Murdoch not so many years ago. the purchase price was approximately £80,000. If some one is able and willing to pay such a vast sum as £160,000 foi this property, in my opinion he does not really need the property. He will noi be paying the productive value of the land, but will be paying a social value. The Minister should have acted in this matter when he was given the opportunity to do so approximately twelve months ago. If he had done so, the ex-servicemen of the Territory, and also those of New South Wales, if he had desired to extend the plan to include them, would have had an opportunity to go on to this property which is only one of several large estates still held under freehold in the Territory. However, the Minister did not act.
As I have said, the property i3 eminently suitable for subdivision. In 1925 the then owner, Mr. McKechnie, planned to subdivide it into eight farms and to offer it for sale, but the sale, which was to have been by tender, was not proceeded with, presumably because prospective buyers were not prepared to pay the inflated land prices which obtained at that time. The property has been lost, for the time being at least, to the ex-servicemen of the Territory, although the Government had power to resume it if it wished to do so. This Territory is dedicated to the leasehold system. This property should have been resumed and made available on lease to qualified exservicemen of the Territory so that they might be able to participate in primary production. Various arguments have been used in an endeavour to prove that this could not be done. It has been said that the homestead on the property is worth £30,000 and that, therefore, 4,000 acres would have to go with the homestead in order to make its purchase economically worthwhile.
My submission is that we are not dealing with the subdivision of a house. We are considering the possibilities of subdivision of land. It is land that the ex-servicemen want, and it is land that they should have. There is a proposal, in connexion with the sale to be held this afternoon, that the successful bidder for the 13,000 acres of freehold shall have given in to him about 13,000 acres of Commonwealth leasehold land. That proposition is completely wrong. As I have said, if somebody can afford to pay about £150,000 for the 13,000 acres of freehold property, he has no need of that land in the first place, and he has still less need of an additional 13,000 acres of Commonwealth leasehold land in the second place. I refer the Minister to the regulations under the Leases Ordinance. Regulation 9, in particular, sets out the conditions that the Minister may have regard to in granting approval to a transfer of leases of this kind. One condition is that he must have regard to the other lands, whether within or outside the territory, ‘ owned, leased or managed by the applicant or proposed assignee. Under the same regulation, he must have regard to whether the proposed assignee is a returned soldier. The leasehold lands that are to be given in to the successful bidder for the freehold of Booroomba have been held, but not used, by the station management. I have had conversations with men who know this territory and know it well. I have spoken with men who have acted as shepherds on that land, and they have assured me that it lias been used only five times in the last twenty years, that the fences which formerly were in perfectly good order have fallen completely into disrepair, and that the land itself, much of which consists of flats, and black sally country as it is known here, which once was comparatively open and suitable for grazing purposes, is now grossly overgrown and thoroughly neglected.
There are still men in the Australian Capital Territory, including exservicemen qualified to work such properties, who are prepared to take the land, and if the Minister even now would halt this wicked plan to give in the 13,000 acres of leasehold to the successful bidder for the freehold, there would be ten or a dozen applicants for each of the blocks into which the area could be subdivided. The original proposal for the sale of the land also provided for the sale of two blocks, No. 35 and No. 36, fronting Paddy’s River, owned by. Mr. Rupert Murdoch. One block is of 1,788 acres and the other is of 849 acres. Both are living areas. Both formerly supported families. They have now been withdrawn from the advertisement, presumably because they are being treated for privately. Ex-servicemen also should be given the opportunity to secure these leasehold properties if the present owner has no further interest in them. I point out that Mr. Rupert Murdoch has never lived on them. In other words he has never observed the conditions of leasehold in the Australian Capital Territory. Throughout the Australian Capital Territory there has been trafficking in leases which has completely nullified the spirit of the leasehold system in the Territory. Leasehold has been treated as freehold. Areas have been aggregated, and blocks have been transferred at vast profits.
There are many areas held under lease to-day on which the conditions laid down by the administration have been deliberately flouted, and this flouting of the regulations seems to have been completely ignored* There is a provision which requires that a man shall not hold on lease land of a greater- assessed value than £10,000 exclusive of buildings and improvements. Another requirement is that a lessee shall reside continuously on the and a as his usual home without any other habitual residence. That condition of leasehold is repeatedly broken in the Australian Capital Territory. I know of case after case of men holding leasehold property on which they do not reside,
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. KENT HUGHES (ChisholmMinister for the Interior and Minister for Works) [11.5 j.- I am astonished that this proposal should have been submitted to-day, because I understood that the Opposition had complained _ bitterly that it had not had sufficient time to deal with important legislation. The proposal refers to a war service land settlement plan in the Australian Capital Territory. This matter has been investigated very thoroughly. The pros and cons have been discussed backward and forward with the honorable member for .the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and with the representative of- ex-servicemen in the Territory. Furthermore, it was discussed in all its details by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who is a brother of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, and Mr. Dedman at the time when he was Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in the former Labour Government.
Mi-. A Lt an Fraser. - The Minister should make sure of his facts. He should not use my name unless he has the facts right.
– The letter on the departmental file bears the name of A. D. Fraser.
– Do not bring my name into this matter incorrectly.
– I shall relate the history of this matter for the benefit of the honorable member. However, before. I do so, I Submit that, in view of the facts I have stated, the proposal sub mitted by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory should not be treated as an urgent matter of public importance. The honorable gentleman has said that it is his duty to represent the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the ex-servicemen who live in it. It is the duty of a Minister to represent all States and all ex-servicemen in connexion with any plan that operates throughout Australia as the war service land settlement scheme does. However sympathetic any Minister in my position may be, he cannot simply take Commonwealth money and say, “ I am going to institute a scheme that will apply only to ex-servicemen in the Australian Capital Territory “.
The Labour Government made agreements with the States to cover war service land settlement throughout Australia, and this Government is endeavouring to carry out both the principle and the letter of those agreements, even though some States seem to be trying to side-step their provisions at the present time. We cannot deal with one small section of ex-servicemen in the Australian Capital Territory. We have to deal with the plan as a whole.
– The agreement does not prohibit the Government from dealing with ex-servicemen in the Australian Capital Territory.
– If the exMinister will stop interjecting, he will hear the whole argument. If we study the history of this matter in the Australian Capital Territory, we find that the proposition submitted by the honorable member for the Australian Capita! Territory is almost identical with the representations that a Mr. A. D. Fraser made to Mr. Dedman, when he was Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in 1949, in connexion with a property of 7,000 acre3 that was then owned by a Mr. Brayshaw.
– Was that early in 1949?
– Yes. On the 13th January, 1949, the Minister in charge of war service land settlement in the Chifley Government wrote to Mr. A. D. Fraser, who is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in the following terms -
As 1 pointed out in my previous letter, the present War Service Land Settlement scheme is the subject of agreements between the Commonwealth and the State, and the existing State organizations arc used for the initiation of proposals, the acquisition, sub-division, development and. improvement of properties, the allotment of holdings and the classification and selection of settlers. I am not aware of any power at present given to the Commonwealth to acquire properties for Soldier Settlement nor has it available the necessary facilities for carrying out the other functions of Soldier Settlement.
It appears to me that special legislation would bc necessary to permit the Commonwealth to acquire lands and establish an organization for these purposes, and as I mentioned previously, I do not consider that the very limited opportunities existing for settlement in the Australian Capital Territory would justify my making such a recommendation to the Government.
Following on that letter, the Minister of the day apparently had a further review made of the subject and communicated again with the brother of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory on the 2nd March, 1949. In that communication he stated -
As you are aware, land in the Australian Capital Territory was originally acquired by the Commonwealth for the purpose of establishing a Federal Capital; Only that land’ which is not required for immediate use for this purpose is leased for pastoral purposes.
Under the Rural Leases Ordinance, the maximum period for which such land in the Australian Capital Territory may be leased is 25 years. Land leased may be withdrawn, without compensation other than for tenant rights, if required by the Com mon wealth for the purposes of roads or railways or for any Defence, Commonwealth or Government purpose or any purpose incidental to the development, expansion or beautification of the City of Canberra or for any other public purpose whatsoever.
The land in the Australian Capital Territory which is considered from a preliminary survey may be suitable for the settlement of exservicemen, is situated north of the Mumimbidgee. The existing leases of this land will expire in 1058. Due to the Commonwealth having withdrawn parts of many leases for its purposes during the currency of these leases, I understand that it is proposed, at that date, to re-assess the sizes and eliminate many very small leases.
You will appreciate that under such conditions of tenure, it would not be possible to formulate a satisfactory scheme for the permanent settlement of ex-servicemen in the Austraiian Capital Territory.
I might mention also that there Was settlement in the Australian Capital Territory under the Soldier Settlement scheme after World War I. The majority of the leases are still held by returned soldiers, and it is Commonwealth policy to renew leases of land not required for immediate Commonwealth purposes in favour of existing lessees. Many of the non-returned soldiers now holding leases purchased them from the returned soldiers who were granted the original leases.
That statement was made by my pre*decessor in the Chifley Government to the brother of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory. That was followed by a survey of certain leases in the Australian Capital Territory by the Surveyor-General and the Chief Property “Officer at the time. I believe that that was done at the request of the Land Settlement Board of New South Wales which was co-operating with the Commonwealth authorities in settling exservicemen in the Australian Capital Territory by allowing them to register under the New South Wales war service land settlement scheme. The Land Settlement Board of New South Wales wrote On the 9th March, 1949 - lt will, therefore, he observed that the establishment of a permanent closer settlement scheme, embracing lands within the Australian Capital Territory cannot be entertained.
I understand that the Land Settlement Board of New South Wales made those inquiries because it had arranged for ex-servicemen in the Australian Capital Territory to register. If no properties were available, the applications were to he considered as a part of the combined scheme, Other inquiries of a similar nature continued into June, 1949, and on the 27th June, the Director of War Service Land Settlement stated -
In view of the provisions of the Leases Ordinance and the fact that freehold land within the boundaries of the Australian Capital Territory are subject to acquisition when required for Commonwealth purposes, it was decided that the establishment of a permanent closer settlement scheme embracing lands within the Australian Capital Territory could not be entertained. This was in accordance with the advice from a former Surveyor-General Mr. P. M. Johnston, of the 9th March, 1949, and was approved by ‘the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
Again the reference was to Mr. Dedman. The matter was threshed over by my predecessor, and he decided that in the Australian Capital Territory it was not satisfactory to act as had been suggested. On the 17th January, 1953, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory called upon me and we reviewed the matter from every angle. On the 17th October, he referred to it again on the question of the Booroomba sale, which seems to be the main point at issue, and not land settlement of exservicemen in the Australian Capital Territory. Somebody appears to be jealous of somebody else who may buy the property. I have no intention to interfere with the sale, and the ordinary terms of the Leases Ordinance will be observed. If a lease is obtained, the usual conditions will apply.
Apart from the fact that possibly the Lands Acquisition Act or the regulations as at present issued might be extended to acquire land for this purpose, and apart also from the difficulty of interfering with the existing leaseholds, there are three good reasons why war service land settlement cannot be established in the Australian Capital Territory. The first, and least important, is that the number of farms available for soldier settlement in this area would be very small. They would be very costly compared with areas that are being provided under the State schemes. Secondly, it is not possible to reserve any war service land settlement scheme in the Australian Capital Territory solely for persons who are residents of the Australian Capital Territory. New South “Wales has already allowed eligible men from the Australian Capital Territory to register under the five years’ time limit. Some of them have received farms in New South Wales under the ballot system. There are only two or three of them, but only twenty are registered in the Australian Capital Territory under the New South Wales war service land settlement scheme, and many persons who are registered in New South Wales have not been able to get properties. Therefore, on the grounds of equity alone, if nothing else, any applications from New South Wales could not be ignored if a scheme were introduced in the Australian Capital Territory.
New South Wales is the only State that will not allow registered returned exservicemen to come from other States if
Ifr. Kent Hughes. properties are available. An interchange proceeds between all the other States, but it is not allowed by New South Wales. The Australian Government deals with the whole of the war service land settlement scheme, and it has to accept the principles that are adopted by the majority of the States. It does not adhere only to anything that New South Wales does. Therefore, anything in the nature of war service land settlement that was planned in the Australian Capital Territory would have to be thrown open to any registered returned ex-servicemen in any State. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory may shake his’ head over that statement as the honorable member representing this Territory, but he could not do so as Minister responsible for the whole administration of the scheme.
Even if the problems involved in the first two reasons were capable of satisfactory solution, the vital question is one of finance. Every honorable member knows that the principal States are not satisfied with the amount of money that they have been able to make available for war service land settlement. We are not satisfied with the speed with which the scheme has been undertaken in the agent States and arc trying to accelerate it. The total cost will be approximately £25,000,000 a year, or £7,000,000 more than the total amount that is now being provided in both the Federal and State spheres, if we intend to try to complete the war service land settlement scheme within the next five years. Any money that is available and it all comes from the same source - has to be made available to the States which have co-operated and have carried out the agreements ever since they were started. If we said that we could provide £200,000 to buy Booroomba, that would equal nearly a quarter of the amount that has been allocated by Queensland to war service land settlement this year. If I were Minister for Lands in Queensland and an Australian government did that, I would complain and would have a good reason to do so. Therefore, any finance that is available has under the existing agreement to go to the States for carrying out or continuing to carry out the present war service land settlement scheme. The Leases Ordinance will be observed in connexion with the sale of Booroomba. The greater portion of it, over 12,000 acres, is held on two quarterly leases and one annual lease at rentals ranging from ltd. to 3id. per acre per annum. It is wholly in steep mountainous country suitable only for very limited and occasional cattle grazing. The land was held on lease by the owners of Booroomba before the Australian Capital Territory was established and is not suitable for use independently. Therefore, I do not propose to take any action to upset the sale.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). In this matter, as in most matters affecting war service land settlement, the actions of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) have been dilatory in the extreme and his rationalizations have been unconvincing in the extreme. The Minister professes to be surprised that such an unimportant matter should be raised after the Opposition has complained of insufficient time being allowed for the discussion of important, matters. Does the Minister regard as unimportant the settlement on land in this continent of any ex-servicemen to whom this Government and other governments have made pledges about closer settlement? The Minister is responsible for war service land settlement throughout the Commonwealth, but he appears to have wiped off the Australian Capital Territory because he is not accountable to residents of the Territory. It is shocking that Commonwealth territories on this continent and in the neighbouring islands are the only parts of Australia or its possessions where Australian ex-servicemen cannot be settled on the land. There was not after World War I., and there is not after World War II. or the Korean war, a plan for settling ex-servicemen on the land in the Northern Territory. There was a successful plan for settling exservicemen on the land in the Australian Capital Territory after World War I., but there is no such plan after World War II., or the Korean war. The Minis ter came closest to conviction when he read from a letter written by his predecessor, Mr. J. J. Dedman, although the letter did not sound very convincing from the way in which the Minister read it. That is the first occasion on which I have heard either the Minister or any honorable member who sits behind him endorse any views expressed by Mr. Dedman. It is a refreshing breath of modernity to hear such an endorsement. Under Mr. Dedman, for four years war service land settlement in this country, despite many difficulties, was gaining increasing momentum. During the four years this Government has been responsible for war service land settlement-
-Order! The honorable member must confine himself to the need for a scheme of war service land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory.
– The Minister’s alibi largely has been certain .features of war service land settlement in the States, but he cannot hide behind them in this instance. We know his predilection for hiding behind the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in industrial matters and -behind the Tariff Board in economic matters. In connexion with war service land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory, he cannot hide behind the agreement that a former Minister made with the three principal States and the three agent States, any more than the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) could hide behind that agreement in connexion with war service land settlement in other Australian territories.
In this matter, the power of the Commonwealth is unfettered and untrammelled. If the Leases Ordinance and other Australian Capital Territory ordinances that are in force at the moment do not suit the Minister’s book, he can alter them. He can gazette other ordinances at his own sweet will. He can be assured that the Opposition would not seek the disallowance of any ordinance that would effectuate war service land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory. It is true there are difficulties in the way of carrying out war service land settlement under the agreements with the three agent States and the three principal States, hut those difficulties do not apply to the Australian Capital Territory or any other Australian Territory. Under the agreement with the principal States, which the Commonwealth can end if it so wishes, the principal States perform all the functions of land settlement, consistent with the money provided by the Commonwealth. In the agent States, the Commonwealth provides the money and decides matters of policy, but I believe it encounters difficulties even in those States, where local government authorities, land boards and other bodies have to provide water and communications services and other services. But no such difficulties arise in the Australian Capital Territory. Every feature of the community life of this Territory is controlled by the very Minister who controls war service land settlement in Australia. If he cannot let his right hand know what his left hand is doing, he should get out of office and make way for some of the more competent people who preceded him and, undoubtedly, will succeed him. There can be no alibis in this matter. The Commonwealth has the power to do what is required, but for four years this Minister and his predecessor have refused to do anything about war service land settlement in the Australian Capital Territory. The only excuse he can offer is that a Minister in a. Labour government also did nothing about it. Since when has that been an excuse for any self-respecting Liberal?
I spent my teens in this Territory. I realize that young men here are faced with the same difficulties as are young men in other large country towns. There is no opportunity for them to go on the land, and there are very few opportunities foi- urban employment. In the Australian Capital Territory, practically the only opportunity for urban employment is in the Public Service. No part of Australia contributed a greater percentage of its population to the armed forces of this country during World War II. than did the Australian Capital Territory. No men from any district who enlisted in the armed forces suffered a greater percentage of casualties than did the men from this district, especially those who served in the Royal Australian Air Force. But they are the only people in Australia who cannot settle on the land in the district in which they were brought up and in which they seek to settle on theland.
In this case, no question of just terms, arises. In three hours, the property that has been under discussion will come under the auctioneer’s hammer. The Minister, by his fiat or signature, could resume the land at the price at which it is sold at that auction. Nobody could say that the price the property will bring at auction is unjust or, in view of the approaching Royal visit, ungenerous. This land is unsuitable land. It is available land. The Minister cannot hide behind the agreement. He does not have to deal with any State government, recalcitrant or co-operative. He does not have to deal with anybody but himself. I repeat that the land is suitable and available. Applicants are crying out for it. If the Minister is sincere, this is an unprecedented opportunity for him to act justly and promptly.
.- The big guns of the Opposition have been turned on the sale of the property known as Booroomba. Neither the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) nor the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has made a constructive suggestion for a plan for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land in the Australian Capital Territory. Honorable members know that a war service land settlement scheme for this Territory has been, as it were, surveyed and explored since the general war service land settlement scheme was inaugurated. With a view to overcoming the difficulty of settling ox-servicemen on land in the Australian Capital Territory, a Labour Minister- I give Labour full credit for this- induced the New South Wales Government to permit suitable men from the Territory to participate in the New South Wales scheme. The honorablemember for Werriwa has said that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has been dilatory in the extremein connexion with war service land settlement. I hurl that charge back in the teeth of the honorable member. The Minister for the Interior has endeavoured to have the system of war service land settlement put into ship-shape order. I have worked with him in this sphere. I worked in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction in Western Australia when the present scheme was inaugurated, and I know that the explanation that the Minister has offered on this occasion was similar to that given by his predecessor in the Labour Government. In those circumstances, it is disgraceful that the honorable member for Werriwa should allege that the Minister has adopted a dictatorial attitude in this matter. That honorable member also said that the Minister had stated that war service land settlement was not important. The Minister has never made a statement of that kind. When he criticized the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory for raising this matter at this juncture, he merely said that such action was really a waste of time because this matter has been under continual discussion. In order to justify his charge against the Minister, the honorable member said that the soldier settlement scheme that was inaugurated after World War I. was extended to the Australian Capital Territory and that it was eminently successful-
– So it was.
– If that is so, why did not the Labour Government, when it introduced the present scheme, extend it to the Australian Capital Territory? That Government, when it introduced the. present scheme with the co-operation of all the State governments, specifically set out to avoid the pit-falls that were encountered in the soldier settlement scheme that was inaugurated after World War I., and it was in order to obviate similar difficulties that it refused to extend the present scheme to the Australian Capital Territory which, for purposes of the scheme, it regarded as a part of New SouthWales.
The honorable member also referred to some scheme for ex-servicemen who reside in the Territory. We do not know what he had in mind in that respect. I inform him and his colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa, that if land were made available in the Australian Capital Territory for war service land settlement, ex-servicemen throughout the Commonwealth would be entitled to apply for blocks and would be admitted to ballot for such blocks. As the scheme would be financed with Commonweal th money, they would be entitled to claim equal treatment with ex-servicemen in the Territory. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory said that Booroomba would be auctioned within a matter of hours, and he estimated that it would fetch a price of at least £130,000. He added that persona who possessed so much money could not really require that property.
– They would have no need for the land.
– What is the difference? Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. When they call for increased production, they must recognize that that result can he achieved only when land is utilized to its fullest degree. Some one who can make the best use of certain land should not be prevented from obtaining it. I say to all farmers, whether they are in the Australian Capital Territory or elsewhere; that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory and the honorable member for Werriwa have merely indulged in the old socialist jargon. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory said that ex-servicemen were crying out to be allowed to settle on this particular land. I am an ex-serviceman, and I have assisted not only the present Minister for the Interior but also his predecessors in matters pertaining to war service land settlement. In that capacity, I have attended meetings of ex-servicemen in the Territory and I have also mixed with them during week-ends. I have not heard one of them crying out to be allowed to take up a block in the Territory under the war service land settlement scheme. The only qualification that I can make to that statement is that on one occasion, when the present Minister received a deputation from members of the executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia an ex-serviceman from the
Australian Capital Territory was included in the deputation and he requested the Minister to consider extending the war service land settlement scheme to the Territory. However, as I have already said, this matter has been thoroughly investigated not only by this Government but also by the Labour Government which preceded it. and such a proposal has been found to be impracticable.
Finally, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory claimed that Booroomba is eminently suitable for subdivision. I have some knowledge of the subdivision of land for rural purposes and I have studied the plan of that property. How many farms would it be possible to provide on the property, which consists of 13,000 acres of freehold and 13,000 acres of leasehold?
– Eight farms.
– I advise the honorable member to study the plan of the property. If he does so, he will find, as its previous owner, Sir Keith Murdoch, found, that having regard to the course of the creeks and roads that traverse the property, it would be somewhat difficult to divide it into more than five farms. In addition, classifications of the soil for dairying and the production of fat lambs render the area more difficult for subdivision. It would be a disgrace to divide that property into eight farms. Indeed, one honorable member said last night that it could be divided into twelve farms. If it were divided into more than five farms, assuming that it was considered advisable to do so, those who took up the blocks could not possibly make a living on them. The honorable member said that the hilly portions of the property were eminently suitable for subdivision. I have been informed by experienced persons who are familiar with the property, including the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), that those portions are completely useless for the purposes that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory indicated. Those portions were used by Sir Keith Murdoch for turning out stock. I inform the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory that that is a normal practice, because when sheep are left for long periods on lush pastures they absorb too much yolk in their wool and the animals must be turned out to country, hardly better than scrub, to let them fend for themselves in order to reduce the content of yolk in the wool. However, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, whenever he sees a few sheep or cattle grazing in isolated areas, immediately jumps to the conclusion that such land is 100 per cent. utilizable; and if it happens to be a part of a big property he claims that the property should be subdivided. I trust that this Government will never be guilty of putting ex-servicemen on land of that quality. I am sure that it will not take that course and thus repeat the mistakes that were made in the soldier settlement scheme that was inaugurated after World War I. This Government has set out to ensure that ex-servicemen shall be settled only on land on which they will have a reasonable prospect of making a living.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron. )
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is .designed to provide for the application of the share of the proceeds of prize captured during the 1939- 45 war for the benefit of members of the Royal Australia Air Force. The terms “ prize “ and “ prize money “ which are referred to in this hill have a history which links them closely with the many wars in which England had been engaged throughout the years. “ Prize “ is the term applied to a ship or goods captured’ at sea or seized in port by the maritime force of a belligerent. “ Prize money “ is the sum paid in respect of an enemy ship or goods captured by the maritime force of a belligerent at sea. For ‘centuries prize money has been a subject of considerable interest not only to seamen, who have always had an incontestable right to it as the actual captors, but also to monarchs. In the very earliest days the question was comparatively simple, since the sailors who made the actual capture then proceeded to loot and keep the proceeds. This led to abuse and common piracy, and eventually resulted in the establishment of a Prize Court, which had its origin in the authority vested in the High Court of Admiralty, to try cases of piracy and “ spoil “, that is, the capture of foreign vessels by English ships.
Until the 1914-18 war, it had been the custom for a grant to be made to the actual captors. By the British Naval Prize Act 1918, the proceeds of prize were paid into a naval prize fund which was divided between officers and men of the Royal Navy generally. Distribution, however, continued as previously to be made in , accordance with the Royal prerogative. In addition to prize money there was also a reward called prize bounty. This could he paid by the Crown to the officers and crew of ships of war actually present at the taking or destroying of an enemy armed ship: It was payable at the rate of £5 for each person on board the enemy ship at the beginning of the engagement. The amount of prize money decreed was payable by the British treasury out of moneys provided by the British Parliament for the purpose. The United Kingdom Government took the view that in the circumstances of the 1939-45 war, prize bounty had very little significance for the fleet, and was relatively small in amount. Moreover, it would have been exceedingly difficult in the conditions then obtaining to arrive at a fully correct assessment of prize bounty, since it was based on an exact knowledge of the complements of enemy ships. The United Kingdom considered therefore, that prize bounty should be declared obsolete.
In December, 1945, the United Kingdom Government, with the agreement of the dominion governments, announced that it had been decided that prize money in respect of proceeds derived from the sale of .captured enemy merchant ships and cargo, which had traditionally been granted to the navy, should again be granted; but that a proportion of the proceeds should be allocated for the benefit of air force personnel. Further, it was decided that a grant of prize bounty be not made, as such a grant was inappropriate under modern conditions of war.
The United Kingdom Government also announced that it was its intention that that should be the last occasion on which prize moneys would be paid. In June, 1947, the United Kingdom Government proposed that two-thirds of the proceeds of prize at the disposal of the United Kingdom Government should he treated as available for distribution as prize money, and one-third would accrue to the United Kingdom exchequer. The portion of the two-thirds attributable to the Royal Navy would be distributed in accordance with precedent to individual members of the fleet, but the portion attributable to the Royal Air Force would be paid to certain air force charities and not to individuals. Admiralty distribution was to persons qualified by six months’ sea service between the 3rd September, 1939, and 2nd September, 1945. Distribution was to be according to a rank scale.
The United Kingdom Government left to the Commonwealth governments the distribution of their share of prize money. Of the amount allocated to Australia, a previous government allotted £249,000 to the Royal Australian Navy and £229,000 to the Royal Australian. Air Force. It also approved individual distribution to members of the Royal Australian Navy on the basis of six months’ sea service in the war, distribution being made equally irrespective of rank or rating. Thirty thousand members of the Royal Australian Navy participated in that distribution.
Distribution to individual members of the Royal Australian Air Force was considered. The view was taken that the question of eligibility was so complex as te render equitable distribution virtually impossible. Distribution on the same basis as the Navy would have meant insignificant shares to each participant with all the attendant administrative difficulties and cost. Distribution to individuals would have had to be determined after examination of such questions as length of service, operational or semioperational service, whether the members were operational aircrew or ground staffs who contributed directly to the successful completion of air operations and whether personnel served in particular theatres of war. The claims of about 200,000 men who served in the Royal Australian Air Force would have had to be investigated.
In 1950, my predecessor approved the Air Board recommendation that the share of the prize money payable to the Royal
Australian Air Force’s be used to set up a residence or residences for Air Force veterans. In doing so, the board “pointed out that various funds already established by the Services Trust Fund Act 1947-1950- the Canteen Services Trust Fund and the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund - made reasonable provision for the education of children of present and former members of the Air Force as well as providing for those former members or their families temporarily in needy circumstances. The original conception was the provision of a residence to provide a retreat for those ex- Air Force personnel in necessitous circumstances who might require sanctuary in their old age, either permanently or temporarily, The .idea was to purchase a large country home, preferably in either New South Wales or Victoria for the purpose.
The purpose of this bill before the House is to place the £229,000 standing to the credit of the Prize Money Trust Account established under section 62a of the Audit Act’ 1901-1953 at the disposal of the trust for the purposes of the Air Force Veterans Residences Trust Fund. The purpose of the fund is to provide a residence or residences in which former male members of the Royal Australian Air Force in necessitous circumstances and, if the trust so approved, the wives of those members, may be accommodated or supported. It is proposed that the trust will consist of three persons to be appointed by the Governor-General and to hold office during his pleasure. One of the trustees will be a person who is or has been an officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. One will be a person who holds or who has held office in the Air Force Association, and the third member will be a person who has had substantial business and financial experience and is at the date of his appointment a member of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The trust isbeing given wide powers to apply the prize money and any other moneys or property which may be donated to the purposes of the fund. The trust is empowered to acquire and dispose of land and buildings, and to erect and improve buildings. The trust will determine the conditions under which former male members of the
Royal Australian Air Force and their wives will be accommodated and supported at the trust’s residences and any charges to be paid. To carry out its functions, it is obviously necessary for the trust to have authority to employ staffs and to have bank accounts. It is expressly provided that in the allotment of accommodation, preference is to be given to former memberswho served during World War I. and their wives. Widows of former members in residences may, at the discretion of the trustees, be permitted to remain in residence and to receive support. The trust is required to keep books and accounts as directed by the Treasurer and to have those books and accounts audited yearly by the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth. The latter is to report to the Treasurer who will cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of the Parliament. Express provision is made that the property and income of the trust is not subject to Commonwealth or State taxation and that members of the trust are not entitled to receive remuneration except reasonable expenses. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to certain wool stores.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make arrangements for the future control and operation of certain wool stores which, until recently, were managed by the Australian Wool Realization Commission on behalf of the Joint Wool Disposals Organization. Honorable members will recall that, during the last war, considerable quantities of wool were accumulated in Australia. Some 400 wool stores were constructed to house this wool and, when the wool was transferred to the Joint Organization in 1945, the Aus tralian Government, through its membership of the Joint Organization, acquired a half share in the stores as well as in the wool. As the wool was sold, some of the stores were demolished and the remainder gradually became available for letting to the wool industry, government departments and commercial enterprises for the storage of goods. Particularly between 1950 and 1952, these buildings greatly helped to overcome the acute shortage of storage space then prevailing in Australia. The Joint Organization went into liquidation on the 22nd January, 1952, and it was obvious that, unless some arrangements could be made for the continuance of stores under new management, they would have to be sold. At that time some 334 stores were left, about half of them being on freehold land and the remainder on land held under lease, licence or some other agreement. The Government considered that disposal of the stores would not be in the best interests of the . nation or of the wool industry. It considered that they should be retained for use in the event of another war so that, should wool accumulate again under conditions similar to those that prevailed during the last war, it would not thenbe necessary to construct new wool stores. The Government also considers that, in the meanwhile, income from the letting of the stores as a commercial enterprise could make a useful contribution to the wellbeing of the wool industry.
The Government, therefore, arranged to purchase the stores from the Joint Organization for £1,259,000. Upon payment of that amount to the Joint Organization, one-half became available for distribution to the United Kingdom Government as a shareholder in the Joint Organization and thus part-owner of the stores. The remaining half, £629,500, returned to the Australian Government by way of profits from the Joint Organization and is being distributed to war-time wool-growers in the form of Joint Organization profits. The £1,259,500 paid to the Joint Organization for the stores was drawn from the unspent balance then remaining in the Wool (Contributory Charge) Trust Account. This balance had been built up in the post-war period by annual contributions by wool-growers, principally for the purpose of providing operating expenses for the Joint Organization and was required by legislation to be used for the benefit of the wool industry. The Government subsequently decided that the Australian Wool Bureau, which is representative of the Australian wool-growing industry, should be invited to assume responsibility for operating the stores. The bureau has agreed to accept this responsibility and has set up a committee of growers for that purpose. The bill now before the House, therefore, vests the stores in the Australian Wool Bureau, but subject to the condition that, in the event of war or the danger of war, the stores shall be returned to the Commonwealth, without compensation, if they are required for defence purposes. In this way, provision may be made, if necessary, for the stores to be transferred to any authority which may be set up in war-time to handle the Australian wool clip. The bill seeks to give the bureau all the powers that are necessary in order to operate and control the stores. As it may well be desirable, in order to conduct the stores operations efficiently, for the bureau to erect additional buildings, the bill seeks to empower the bureau, with the consent of the Minister, to buy or erect buildings that are suitable for use as or in connexion with a wool store. The associated provision, which would enable the bureau to acquire the freehold of land that is now held under leasehold or other similar insecure tenure, may need to be exercised to the extent necessary in order to secure a firm title to the land on which some stores are built.
When the stores were the property of the Joint Organization, and since they have been acquired by the Commonwealth, they have been managed by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, which is the Australian subsidiary of the Joint Organization. It has been the letting policy of the commission to give the wool industry first priority, governmental and semi-governmental authorities second priority, and other forms of commercial enterprise third priority in tenancy. The Government hopes that the Australian Wool Bureau will follow that policy which has been so successful in the past and which makes due provision for the needs of the wool industry. Income that will be received from the rental of the stores will be paid into a wool stores rental fund, from which will be met all the costs of administering the stores as well as the share of the Australian Wool Bureau of the costs of operating the Wool Statistical Service, which has been set up under the bureau’s administration. Perhaps I should mention here, for the information of honorable members, that, with the co-operation of representatives of wool-growers and wool-selling brokers, it has been possible to devise a satisfactorymethod of continuing the Wool Statistical Service which was formerly conducted by the Australian Wool Realization Coinmission. The Australian Wool Bureau has accepted the Government’s invitation to carry on the Wool Statistical Service, which has already proved of great benefit, to the Australian wool industry and which, in future, will be financed partly from Consolidated Revenue and partly from the income received from wool stores. The balance of the income from wool stores will be paid into the Wool Use Promotion Fund and it will increase the annual amount that is available to the Australian Wool Bureau for wool use promotion. I am sure that honorable members will agree that, with the growing challenge of synthetics, the provision of maximum funds -to publicize wool is a sound policy.
Many of the stores are built on leasehold land and, in a number of cases, the tenure of such land is relatively short. In due course a number of the stores will have to be demolished in accordance with agreements with the owners of the land on which they are built. In certain other instances it will be possible, by the sale of some stores to the owners of leasehold land, to secure a better tenure of remaining leasehold land on which other stores are standing. The sale and demolition of stores by the bureau, however, will be subject to the approval of the Minister. Proceeds from the sale of stores will be paid to the Wool Use Promotion Fund unless the bureau decides, and the Minister authorizes, that nil or a part of those funds should be held for the time being for expenditure on capital amounts in relation to the stores. Ownership of the stores passed from the Joint Organization to the Commonwealth as from the 23rd January, 1952, and provision is made in the bill for payment to the Australian Wool Bureau of the net income received from the letting of the stores and proceeds received from the sale and demolition of the stores since that date. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time..
The bill now before the House seeks to make a number of minor amendments to the Nationality and Citizenship Act. The first amendment, which is set out in clause 2 (a) of the bill, contemplates that the definition of “ Australia “ should be made more accurate and comprehensive than it is at present. The definition at the moment takes in Norfolk Island and the Territory of Papua, but does not specifically provide for our other existing external territories as, for example, Macquarie, Heard, Ashmore and Cartier Islands. Clause 2 (a) will remedy this.
Clause 2 (Z>) of the bill, coupled with clauses 3, 4, 5 (c) and 8, deals with a technicality which is of mainly administrative concern. In six places in the existing act, applicants for various citizenship privileges are required to apply “in the prescribed form”. The words “ in the prescribed form “, strictly interpreted, would require regulations to be made prescribing in detail every word of the forms of application, and each time some improvement of a form is devised a new regulation should be made. This is, of course, much too ponderous a procedure, and it is desirable that the Minister should be able to authorize forms without the delay involved in submitting regulations to the Executive Council. This will be achieved by the proposed amendments
Clause 5 (a) concerns the acceptance of a certain kind of war service as a part of the qualifying period of residence for naturalization. The act requires candidates for naturalization, normally, to have lived in Australia for five years, but the Minister is empowered to accept a period of residence in another British country, or of service under the Government of such a country, as equivalent to a period of residence in Australia. Under these existing provisions, it has been possible to accept war service in Allied forces only in cases in which such forces came under the direction of an officer who received his command directly and solely from a British government. It has not been possible to accept service under commanders who, though British themselves, held their commands from a joint appointment by the Allied powers. Foi example, service under Lord Wavell and Lord Mountbatten while they were Supreme Commanders for the Allies in South-East Asia has not been acceptable. The amendment proposed by clause 5 (a) will give the Minister discretion to accept such service if he thinks the circumstances of a particular case warrant such action.
Clause 5 (6) relates to the naturalization pf aliens under 21 years of age. At the present time the act empowers the Minister to naturalize minors under such conditions as he thinks fit, and I have exercised this discretionary power by permitting young people to become naturalized after two years’ residence instead of the usual five years. However, the act does not at present cater for the case where a person applies while still under 21 years of age but reaches his majority while his application is being processed. At present the Minister can issue a certificate on the basis of the reduced residence qualification only if the applicant is still a minor at the date of issue of the certificate. To avoid compelling a minor to wait for as long as three more years for naturalization, through no fault or omission of his own, it is proposed, by clause 5 (b), that the Minister should be able to exercise his discretionary power in favour of any person who has applied for naturalization, or who has declared his intention to apply, before reaching the age of 21 years, whether or not he reaches that age before the certificate of naturalization is issued.
Clauses 6, 9, 10 and 11 of the bill are complementary to one another, and involve three aspects of the Oath of Allegiance which has to be taken by each candidate for naturalization before his certificate of naturalization becomes effective. The first aspect is the necessity to make provision for persons who, on grounds of conscience, object to swearing an oath and desire instead to make an affirmation. This is provided for in the first part of clause 6, and in clauses 10 and 11. The second aspect is really a drafting matter. Section 41 of the act at present provides that the Minister may make arrangements for the oath of allegiance to be taken before a justice, judge or magistrate, and to be accompanied by suitable proceedings, but it is nowhere provided that the oath must necessarily be taken before one of the officers prescribed by the act, although that was the intention. The Government’s legal advisers consider this deficiency should be remedied, and this will be achieved by the explicit provisions to be inserted in section 16 by the second part of clause 6. It then becomes unnecessary for any other section to say anything about the classes of persons before whom the oath may be taken, and the necessary deletion from section 41 is made by clause 9. The third aspect is that it has been found that others besides judges and magistrates will have to be authorized to administer the Oath of Allegiance at naturalization ceremonies. For example, there is the case of an alien serving in our forces in Korea. He is eligible in every way for naturalization but there is no Australian judge or magistrate in the area. It will be recognized by all that it is wrong that such a man, whose service demonstrates his fitness for citizenship, should be debarred from citizenship by that very service. It is considered that the applicant’s commanding officer could well be authorized to administer the oath of allegiance with appropriate ceremony. Furthermore, in our efforts to have naturalization ceremonies in Australia transferred from court rooms to town halls where they become civic proceedings of much greater warmth, impressiveness and interest to all, we have also found varying circum- stances which may require some one other than a judge or magistrate to preside. In New South Wales and South Australia, for example, the State governments have decided that magistrates cannot officiate in town halls, due to pressure of court business. The Premier of New South Wales has suggested that the mayor or shire president of the area concerned should officiate instead of the magistrate. In four other States we find that mayors are legally magistrates as well, and naturally want to preside over these ceremonies in their own town halls. It has therefore been decided to permit mayors to act in this way, but for the States of Queensland and New South Wales, where mayors are not already magistrates, this will require mayors to be specially authorized under the Nationality and Citizenship Act. For such reasons, it is considered that tit” Minister of the day should be able to authorize others besides judges and magistrates to preside at naturalization ceremonies.
Clause 7 of the bill will, in effect, clarify an obscurity in the existing act. Section 25 (4.) of the act confers Australian citizenship on any British woman whose husband became, or would but for his death have become, an Australian citizen upon the commencement of the act. The section does not, however, provide how it is to be decided whether the deceased husband would have retained or acquired the qualifications for citizenship if he had lived. It was the general intention that if a man might reasonably have been expected to become an Australian citizen if he had lived, then his death should not result in his widow being denied citizenship. To take the simplest case, if a man born in Australia died before the 26th January, 1949, when Australian citizenship was first created, and if he had not lost British nationality before his death, then it should be assumed that he would have remained a British subject if he had lived so that he would have become an Australian citizen by reason of his birth in Australia. The Government’s legal advisers consider that such assumptions should be explicitly stated in the act. That is the object of clause 7.
It will be obvious to honorable members that this bill proposes no very farreaching changes in the law relating to nationality and citizenship. The matters covered are principally of a machinery nature. Insofar as any principles are involved, that is, in connexion with war service under allied commanders who were British subjects, and the naturalization of minors, I point out that the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, which is representative of many important sections of the community, has expressed itself in favour of the amendments. I commend the bill to the House for approval.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 14 - (1.) A offence against this Act may be prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment, but an offender is not liable . . .
Senate’samendment. - Before sub-clause (1.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (1a.) A person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, a provision of this Act is guilty of an offence against this Act.”.
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment is only formal; it was moved by the Government in another place, and accepted unanimously. It is necessary owing to an unfortunate omission. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 14 provides that an offender may be prosecuted, but does not identify the persons who shall be subject to penalty. The National Health and Medical Research Council, which consists, amongst others, of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, and the State DirectorsGeneral of Health, will be meeting in Canberra soon. If the amendment be agreed to, the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health will raise this matter immediately with the State officials with the object of getting the States to agree to license local manufacture, in order to ensure that manufacturers in each State shall be required to comply with the standards that are set out in the bill.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance that the amendment is only formal. The Opposition raises no objection to it. I welcome the information that immediate steps will be taken with a view to the States licensing manufacturers. I hope that those steps will succeed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 25th November (vide page 478), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That a Joint Committee be appointed * . . (vide* page 476).
– The ghost of the foreign affairs committee still haunts its. There has been talk, of course, over the years in favour of a joint foreign affairs committee. It was mentioned in the days of theChifley Government. It was raised again when the Menzies Government came to office in 1949. There was a time when it seemed that we might have a joint committee on foreign affairs. The former Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Spender - who is now Sir Percy Spender, the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America - put forward a proposal in this Parliament and then, for some extraordinary reason, withdrew it and issued another proposal. That proposal was not acceptable to the Opposition. We could not understand why the Government had changed its mind so suddenly for no apparent reason.
– There was a good reason.
– There may have been a reason, based on suspicion, but there was no reason based on fact. However, the Opposition was never let into the secret of why the Government changed its mind on this very important matter. Then the present distinguished right honorable member for Latrobe (Mr. Casey) became Minister for External Affairs. He put forward a proposal, which was an attenuation of the second Spender proposal. The first proposal of the Government was whittled down, and the proposition that the Opposition was asked to accept was such that no selfrespecting Opposition could agree to it. In the course of time a joint foreign affairs committee was established, but it functioned as a governmental committee. The Opposition places on the committee were never filled. The members of the Government parties who constituted the committee carried out their work in their own way and to their own satisfaction. Of what they did, the House knows little or nothing. The present proposal of the Minister is a belated attempt to meet the Opposition’s point of view in respect of some of its original objections. It does not meet all our criticisms, but at least paragraph 4 (/) of the motion contains the concession that the Leader of the Opposition, if the Opposition is represented on the committee, shall receive for his confidential information copies of reports that are forwarded to the Minister for External Affairs. Had that proposal been advanced four years ago it might have helped to persuade the Opposition that this was not a governmental committee which was intended to help the Minister and, at times, to embarrass the Opposition. In our set-up the Leader of the Opposition is, of course, the alternative Prime Minister, but in Australia the Leader of the Opposition is not always treated with the respect that is accorded to his opposite number in Great Britain. It is proper that-the Leader of the Opposition should receive reports of this kind. In paragraph 4 (gr) of the motion the Minister has gone some way to meet the views of the Opposition. He* should give, our proposals further consideration, and see if he cannot meet them wholly. If he will do that, there will be a good chance, even in the dying hours of this Twentieth Parliament, of his being able to have in existence a joint committee on foreign affairs which will meet once or twice before we go before our masters, the people.
There are other matters in the motion which constitute an improvement of the original proposal, and for that reason the Opposition will not oppose its passage. But we do not give to the Government any assurance about our intentions in regard to the filling of vacancies reserved for Opposition members as provided for in the terms of the motion. That matter will be considered. The House may continue to meet until the eve of Christmas. In that event, the Opposition may be able to indicate to the Minister ite views on this latest proposition. If the House rises next week, as seems possible, and as most members and supporters of the Government want it to do, time may work against the right honorable gentleman. If he had advanced his proposal earlier this year, we might have gone a little distance along the line of participation in foreign affairs. The right honorable gentleman of course was peregrinating the world for a great part of the year. He had to attend a meeting of the United Nations. He has not been in Australia as much as he would like this year. Unfortunately, there is no one on the Government side to take his place. He is the one indispensable man in this Government as far as foreign affairs are concerned. There was no one to whom we could look to take his place and try to work out an arrangement that would be acceptable to all parties. The right honorable gentleman, having gone so far, should go a little farther, and then, in due course, we shall let him know what we think of this proposition. We shall not oppose the motion.
.-! support the motion. I listened with a great deal of interest, but, if I may say so, with a sense of disappointment, to the observations of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member began by sneering about the ghost of the foreign affairs committee still haunting us. All I can say is *that from his study of the occult he will realize that it is a ghost that has very strong materializations. There is nothing esoteric about the activities of this committee. Its establishment is one of the many fine achievements of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). Its success has been proved beyond doubt. From the moment of its creation, the Minister devoted much time to it and displayed considerable enthusiasm in regard to it. The Department of External Affairs has also been extraordinarily helpful.
Its value to those who are fortunate enough to be members of it, hut who,’ alas, are still drawn only from the Government side, is extraordinary. AH of us who have the honour to sit on the committee have been impressed by the high quality of the material placed before us. We have received a constant stream of communications and papers. Moreover, we have had the opportunity, from time to time, to interview and to interrogate distinguished visitors and other authorities who have come to Australia.
Every honorable member will be disappointed by the niggardly approach to the motion by the honorable member for Melbourne. There is no real indication that after all the prolonged discussions that have taken place, both inside and outside this House, the Opposition has decided to join this worthwhile body. The Opposition is perfectly entitled to advance objections to its so doing, but the Minister has gone a long way to meet them. When the honorable member for Melbourne now says, with tongue in cheek, that if the House sits until the eve of Christmas, his party will give further consideration to this matter, one can only dismiss his remarks as being insincere and puerile. Opposition members are only too eager to end the sittings of the Parliament and get into the electorate of Gwydir. No one knows that better than does the honorable member for Melbourne. I regret that the Labour party intends to persist in deliberately depriving its members of the valuable information that is placed before the committee, as a result of which the country and the whole cause and objects of the committee will suffer. The overriding consideration which should motivate the approach of the Labour party to this matter should not be party spleen, but national interest. As every sensible and thinking person will admit at this grave period in the world’s history, national interests demand that we have a foreign policy completely superior to party welfare. For the last eighteen months our distinguished Minister for External Affairs has been offering to provide for honorable members on both sides of the House a means for widening their knowledge, hut time and time again his overtures have been rejected by the Opposition. Opposition members have been shown the light, but apparently they prefer to remain in darkness. The only ray of hope in the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne, if, indeed, it can be treated seriously, is that the Labour party, now that some of its objections have been met, will reconsider the matter. If it persists in its obstructionism, I trust that, when the Twentyfirst Parliament meets in June or July next year, after an indignant electorate has removed from this place those who, like the honorable member for Melbourne, have prevented Labour members from joining this committee, the Opposition will agree to appoint representatives to the committee and so make it a real national, inter-party body.
.- On this most important subject the honorable member who has just concluded his speech spoke more in sorrow than in Angas. I pay a tribute to the sincerity of the honorable member. But after having honeyed the path by saying that the Opposition could . participate in the committee with comfort and security he said that when Opposition members have been removed from this sphere of activity by an angry electorate an efficient committee might then be established. His one statement contradicts the other.
I think that this committee is of importance. But it was also important that the Opposition should know what its position would be if it appointed representatives to the committee. If honorable members examine the Hansard report of the debate that took place when this committee was brought into existence, they will see that the Opposition was treated with a certain amount of cavalier sharpness by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). He has since mellowed under his responsibilities and, perhaps, sooner or later closer cooperation may be achieved. But the objections of the Opposition are not as footling as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) implied. The decision by the Opposition to refrain from participating in the deliberations of the committee was partly due to the way in which all committees have been dealt with by this Government. When I came into this Parliament there were eight progressive committees which used to make strong recommendations to their appropriate Ministers. Those recommendations were encouraged by the members. But during the term of office of the present Government a social security committee and a broadcasting committee have been discontinued although the broadcasting committee is required to meet under the provisions of the broadcasting legislation, and I am astonished that it is not functioning. Perhaps it could be brought into operation by a resolution of the House. The other allegations by. the honorable member for Angas of bad faith on the part of the Opposition cannot be sustained. Everybody who is prepared to work seriously when he joins a committee must ascertain the implications of his membership of that committee. The proceedings of many committees have been footling. The references to them have been meagre. The top-secret material has remained on the Minister’s table. A dexterous secretary with a rubber stamp can quickly transmute base metal into pure gold. Such committees can be fed pap. The Opposition made certain suggestions concerning this committee to the Minister and he agreed that the committee should be strengthened. Our suggestions were mainly to the effect that the committee should deal with actual problems of the Department of External Affairs.
The art of foreign affairs lies in keeping ourselves out of the war that is always alleged to be looming. I have served on committees that did nothing but read the commentary sheets and bulletins of the various countries and furnish a bad report on what had passed. For reasons of secrecy and State policy, the whole ramifications of a huge department which handles relationships with other countries cannot be entrusted to a committee. But if a committee is to function seriously it must be able to get its teeth into something. The Opposition’s first objection to the committee was that it would not do that. It was to be the kind of committee that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) would go to enthusiastically because he is a lover of research if he can make something out of it. We lesser mortals have to be fed on facts. The truth has been so debased in this country that we now have a new term, namely, “true’ facts”. People ask to be given the “true facts “. I suggest ‘ that the Minister for External Affairs should give the House the “ true facts “ in relation to foreign affairs. The Opposition gives him credit for having advanced his proposals in relation to the Foreign Affairs Committee to such a stage that, looking at them from the distance of this side of the House, they would appear to make the composition of the committee effective. However, certain considerations still make it difficult to come to an immediate decision. If a joint committee on foreign affairs were functioning tomorrow morning it would not have time to undertake serious study. The Twentieth Parliament is a dead-letter. The time factor has destroyed the immediate effectiveness of any parliamentary committee. Honorable members will leave this House next week and only a short session will be held upon the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen. Consequently, the composition of the Foreign Affairs Committee must await attention until the 21st April. Contrary to the desire of the honorable member for Angas, I hope that not only will the conflicting voices that he dislikes not be removed from this House, but that they will be watered by the generous tears of the public, which, realizing how they have suffered in Opposition, will send them forth as roses to bloom on the Government benches in 1954. From that position, honorable members who are at present on this side of the House will be better able to attend to the composition of a foreign affairs committee. We shall then handle the terms of appointment of the committee. We shall give consideration to the generosity that has finally been offered to us by the Minister, and the Minister for External Affairs in the Labour government may be able to make some overtures to the members and supporters of the present Government who will then be in Opposition.
.- The interest that was taken in the address that was delivered to honorable members by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) recently indicates that this House would greatly welcome further information on this very important subject. One of our problems in this Parliament is that, whilst we direct our attention to a great number of subjects, it is very difficult for us to obtain a considerable amount of information, on the subject of foreign affairs, which is of tremendous and vital importance. The proposal which has been put before the House by the Minister for External Affairs on this occasion provides an opportunity for more honorable members to be informed on the subject of foreign affairs. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) indicated that, at the very least, this proposal would give a great opportunity for research into foreign affairs. I believe that honorable members on both sides of the House would welcome the opportunity to participate ia the proceedings of this committee and gain additional knowledge on this subject. I believe that the spokesmen for honorable members opposite have been putting forward views for political purposes, which are not whole-heartedly entertained by a considerable number of members of the Labour party, who would prefer to have an opportunity to join this committee in order that they might learn, to some extent, the inside story of what is happening in the rest of the world. I ask the Labour party to give consideration to the views that I have put forward, and for once, forget political issues.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.^0 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 277), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this hill is to authorize a refund to wheat-growers of moneys collected from them by way of export tax on wheat sold and shipped overseas by the Australian Wheat Board from the 1950-51 crop, known as No. 14 pool,1 together with interest that such moneys have earned in the meantime. The amount of money involved in the refund is approximately £11,000,000. No. 14 pool was the third pool in connexion with the wheat stabilization plan formulated by the Chifley Labour Government. Unfortunately, that stabilization scheme is no longer in existence. The present Government has failed completely to reach an agreement with ‘ the States for submission to wheat-growers for their endorsement, in order to provide for the continuance of stabilization.
The 1952-53 crop was the last crop handled under the stabilization scheme, and I suppose that I would be making a fairly accurate estimate of the position if I said that not more than 10,000,000 bushels remain in the pool to be sold. That quantity is, in effect, the carry-over to supply the requirements of the people of Australia pending the receipt of wheatfrom the 1953-54 harvest. Therefore, we can say that, to all intents and purposes, the wheat stabilization scheme conducted under the legislation of 1948 is no more, and that, in those circumstances, the Government is acting properly in providing for the refund of the collections of tax on the 1950-51 crop.
However, it is significant that the Government is not refunding the collections of tax on wheat for the season 1951-52 in No. 15 pool. Those moneys would have been collected before the end of June 1952. Tax collections were suspended during the 1952-53 export year on wheat in No. 16 pool. The whole scheme has been virtually wound up, and. therefore, it is strange that the Government has decided to retain £9,000,000 of the growers’ money collected on the 1951-52 wheat. The financial position of the scheme is sound, and no calls will be made on the fund in order to make up the price to the growers. I know that the Government, in an attempt to justify this decision, will claim that, even at this late stage, it still has hopes that, after further negotiations, the Parliament will be able to legislate for the introduction of a wheat stabilization plan at some time in the future. The Government, apparently, is undaunted by its failure to date to reach an agreement with the States on the formulation of a plan. The negotiations with the States on this matter have been proceeding almost continuously for more than twelve months.
– I rise to order. I am sorry to interrupt the speech of the honorable member for Lalor, hut I should like you, Mr. Speaker, to make it clear whether you will allow stabilization to be discussed by subsequent speakers in this debate. The honorable member for Lalor is discussing that subject at some length, and I should like a similar opportunity to do so.
– Order ! I am afraid that the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor are outside the scope of the bill. The purpose of this legislation is to provide for the refund of certain moneys to wheat-growers. I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to that matter.
– I point out to you, Mr. .Speaker, that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), who, in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), moved the second reading of this bill, made fairly extensive reference to a new stabilization fund in the event of the formulation of a new stabilization plan. Reference is also made in the Minister’s secondreading speech to the holding of the amount of £9,000,000 as a possible nucleus of a fund under a continuing plan. In those circumstances, I submit that I could not do justice to this subject if I were not able to make some reference to, and comment on, the plan which the Government hopes to introduce in the sweet bye- and bye. I realize that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is seeking to establish his right to discuss the possibilities of a future plan. I shall have no objection if be makes reference to stabilization, subject to your approval, Mr. Speaker.
The .Government hopes to introduce a stabilization plan next year. Whether or not that hope is realized, the House must recognize that a break has occurred in the continuity of stabilization. The new season’s wheat is now being received. Under the existing system of orderly marketing, which, thank, goodness, is being continued, no guarantee is given to the grower in respect of that portion of his crop which will be exported. The only means by which he may be given a guarantee eventually for that portion of his crop from the incoming harvest which will be exported is by the adoption of a scheme which some people seem to be sufficiently optimistic to believe the Government will be able to implement with the co-operation of the State governments and with the approval of the wheatgrowers. No one desires more ardently than I to see the re-introduction of a wheat stabilization plan as satisfactory, or even more satisfactory, than the scheme which operated for five years from 1948.
– That scheme was never wanted.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who is a member of the Australian Country party, has interjected that the plan was never wanted.
– That is right.
– I am glad to have the confirmation from a member of the Australian Country party that the stabilization plan that was in existence from 1948 to 1953 was never wanted. There is only one reply to such a statement, and that reply is that every State government, regardless of its political views, and the majority of wheat-growers in each State, at ballots conducted by persons beyond reproach, affirmed that they wanted that wheat stabilization plan.
– I meant that the plan was not needed.
– The honorable gentleman, after some consultation with the honorable member for Mallee, admits that he opened his mouth too wide, and put his foot in it.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Lalor to address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Gippsland now claims that the former stabilization plan was not needed.
– Some people, who wish to destroy wheat ‘ stabilization, claim that the Pollard plan has involved the growers in the loss of £200,000,000 in the last five years. Those persons have been particularly active in Western Australia. I mention, in passing, that I did not describe the former stabilization plan as the Pollard plan. I was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when the plan was formulated, and I was a modest sort of fellow, and claimed no special credit for it. Let “us examine that stabilization plan.
– Order ! I am not going to allow a debate on the past history of wheat stabilization. This is a bill to pay to the wheat-growers certain accumulated funds from the Australian Wheat Board. I think we had better get clown to the scope of the bill.
– I submit, with due respect, that whilst it is a bill to deal with those matters, the Minister who is in charge of this bill in the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture deliberately drew attention in his secondreading speech to the fact that £9,000,000 of the wheat-growers’ money is to be held in the hope that another stabilization plan will be drawn up. He devoted a considerable part of his speech to that matter. In those circumstances, I think that I am justified not only in making a passing reference to it but also in discussing the references of the Minister to his future intentions. Since he referred to such intentions, surely it will be in order for me to make a passing reference to them, and also to refer to the prospects of the industry and to why I consider a new wheat stabilization scheme should be evolved. In my opinion I should also be allowed to explain why I consider it something of an outrage that a sura of money should be held as the nucleus of a fund which may or may not he established, having regard to the fact that the plan in connexion with which it is supposed to be held has ended.
The honorable member for Gippsland said, first, that a stabilization plan is not wanted. Then he quibbled a little and said that it is not needed. Surely, in those circumstances, I should not he restrained from making a general explanation-
-Order! I am afraid that the honorable gentleman will be restrained. If he wishes to deal with the £9,000,000 which, from memory, is the amount still left in the fund, and the possibility of another scheme coming into operation in the future, he may do so, but he must not attempt to conduct a post-mortem on a past scheme.
– Surely it will be in order for me to examine that plan in order to show how that £9,000,000 was earned ? 1 cannot see on what ground I - should be restrained if I wish to do that.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will very soon see.
– Certain people have said that the wheat-growers have received £200,000,000 less than they would have received had there been no stabilization plan. I point out that the growers made a choice. They had the choice of deciding whether they would accept the hazards of the fluctuating market price or the certainty of a government guarantee in the form of a specific price. It has so happened that what would have been normally a hazard has not turned out to be one. The price of wheat at present is very high. Since the growers chose a. certainty instead of a hazard, they cannot blame the Government if things have not turned out as they expected. That is all I have to say in reply to the remarks of honorable members of the Australian Country party who, apparently at the behest of private wheat-marketing authorities, want to return to the old open market system and are trying to destroy the co-operation of growers in a scheme which may be placed before them in the future. In their propaganda they fail to point out that the growers would not have been paid the millions of pounds which they have received had the market collapsed. Those are facts, and I think that the people should know of them.
Returning to this proposal to hold £9,000,000, it is perfectly true that prior to the introduction of the 1948-49 legislation, which resulted in the five-year plan, there had been in operation, under National. Security Regulations, a plan which was very similar to the 1948-49 and the 1952-53 plans. Under that plan the wheat of the preceding year and some other years was acquired and marketed by the Australian Government. When the 1948-49 plan was introduced-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is returning to discussion of a subject that is outside the scope of the bill. A third of his time has gone and he has not yet touched the hill.
– I am endeavouring to do so, but in order to do so I must “ refer to the reason for holding this £9,000,000 and why sums of money were also held in respect of wheat crops harvested in previous years. The 1948-49 marketing arrangement carried on the 1947-48 arrangement. At that time, the hazards in relation to world prices for wheat were very great. It is true that we had an international wheat agreement, but when that agreement was introduced in this Parliament, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was then in Opposition, asked what guarantee would be given that the people who were parties to the agreement would meet their obligations.
– Order ! The International Wheat Agreement was dealt with the other day, and I am not going to have a post-mortem on that subject.
– The way in which you are ruling, Mr. Speaker, is embarrassing me. I must place . my own interpretation on the reason for this fund, and in order to do so it is necessary for me to make some passing references to the International Wheat Agreement because of the fact that such an agreement was in existence at a certain period and lent stability to a previous stabilization plan.
– Order! We have a very clear bill before the House. We have already dealt with the International Wheat Agreement, and I do not intend that a post mortem shall he held on everything that has happened in the wheat industry since the conclusion of World War II. From my experience, the honorable member for Lalor knows the wheat industry possibly as well as any man in it, and is able to put up an excellent case if he wishes to do so. If he proposes to defy my ruling, I shall have no alternative but to ask him to resume his seat.
– I should be the last to defy you, Mr. Speaker, and I shall endeavour to make only passing reference to the subject. One reason why this sum of £9,000,000 should not be held is that experience has demonstrated, notwithstanding the doubts that have been expressed, that the parties to international wheat agreements honour their obligations. This season’s wheat and the wheat of two more seasons will have the protection of an international agreement based on the successful agreement that has expired. The minimum price under the new agreement will be 13s. 8d. a bushel. I suggest that there is no longer any need to hold money in the fund with which to back a new stabilization scheme.
For the purposes of the old international agreement, it was legitimate to hold the tax collected from wheat of the season that preceded the ratification of the agreement because we had no assurance then that the agreement would be honoured. But our doubts have been dispelled. The success of that agreement assures us that the new agreement will be successful. Therefore, we know that any future stabilization scheme will have the security of the amount represented by 48,000,000 bushels, which will be sold at a price of not less than 13s. Sd. a bushel. In these circumstances, the withholding of £9,000,000 to back a future stabilization scheme is not justified. The Government should refund the £9,000,000 as well as the £11,000,000 because, in any case, there will be a tax of ls. 6d. a bushel. Wheatgrowers throughout Australia, who voted in good faith for the former five-year stabilization plan, are justified in demanding that the Government refund the £9,000,000. No doubt the PostmasterGeneral will advance all sorts of reasons why the Government should- not do so. He will probably say that, without the backing of the £9,000,000, it would be necessary, for the protection of the Treasury, to impose a burdensome tax on the growers. He may even say that, if the market collapses and the price falls below the guaranteed price, there will be no revenue from export sales to tax so that, in such circumstances, the full burden will have to be borne by the Treasury. The Opposition supports the bill because it provides for the repayment to the growers of £11,000,000 from the No. 14 pool. We hope that a new stabilization plan will be introduced for the benefit of the growers, and also that the Government will see reason and will not insist on holding the amount of £9,000,000 to which I have referred in order to back that plan.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), in supporting on behalf of the Opposition this bill to refund £11,000,000 to the wheat-growers, began by expressing his approval of wheat stabilization schemes, then made a discursive survey of the history of the wheat industry for the last ten years or so, and ended by saying, in effect, that stabilization was no longer necessary and that money from earlier pools should not be retained for the purpose of providing financial backing for future stabilization schemes. He said that the Government had failed to persuade the States to agree to a new stabilization plan, but he knows perfectly well that this Government, through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), made every effort to bring the States into line in order that a new plan might be referred to the growers for their consideration. The Minister has maintained consistently, of course, that any stabilization plan must have the approval of the growers before it can be implemented. It ill becomes the honorable member for Lalor, as a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to criticize the present Minister for having retained the sum of £9,000,000, to which this bill refers, from the original stabilization scheme of which the honorable member for Lalor was the author. The nucleus of the fund for the old scheme was provided from the revenue of the year that preceded its introduction, although many of the wheat-growers who had contributed the money might not have been interested in a subsequent scheme. The blunt truth is that the money was taken without the full knowledge of the growers in order to finance a stabilization scheme for a later period. The act was made retrospective in effect for this purpose. That caused complaints by the growers.
Apparently the Opposition approves of the repayment of £11,000,000 to the wheat-growers. The only point at issue arises from the suggestion by the honorable member for Lalor that the full amount in the stabilization fund should be refunded. I know that many individual wheat-growers consider that the entire fund should be distributed now and that the nucleus of a fund for a future stabilization scheme should be established if and when such a scheme comes into operation. However, the Government has considered this matter from a national point of view instead of from an individual and personal point of view. It realizes that it has a duty to keep the wheat-farmers solvent, and it maintains that, if a stabilization scheme is to be established, farmers should be prepared to help the Government, which will guarantee the scheme, by contributing to its funds from year to year. The smallest” possible amount will be deducted from their incomes in order to maintain sufficient capital to cover the guarantee. That is a reasonable and logical proposition. The Government has not adopted undercover methods. It has told the farmers that they must decide the issue. It has said to them, in effect, “ This £9,000,000 belongs to you. If you want to have a stabilization scheme, the money can be used as a nucleus for its capital fund. You will have the opportunity to decide by ballot, knowing these facts, whether you want to have a stabilization scheme. If you want stabilization, the money will have to remain in the fund “. The issue is clear-cut and there should be no quibbling about it.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the last stabilization scheme was the most successful that this country had ever known. What an odd sort of statement to make ! Every honorable member knows that, when that scheme was introduced, there was every prospect that high prices would continue. More than 80,000,000 bushels were guaranteed under the Internationa] Wheat Agreement. There was no question of any slackening of prices and as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) stated but was misunderstood, the stabilization scheme was never required to function. In fact, it never did function. It was there in case it was required but it was never required. The honorable, member for Lalor has now suggested that a stabilization scheme may not be necessary at this time. That is contrary to the facts. With the prospect of depressed prices and increased production, the scheme may be necessary. Anybody who reads the Wheat Situation published by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will understand that from now on, the possibilities are that stabilization may be very necessary to keep the industry solvent.
– I endorse that statement.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member for Lalor state that he endorses that opinion. After listening to his speech, I did not understand that he was of that opinion. I do not believe that any honorable member did so. I point out that there is no unanimous approval for such a scheme although the honorable member for Lalor may endorse it. In fact, the cereal committee of the graziers’ association has already stated that it does not believe that a stabilization scheme is desirable. Apparently there may be quite a lot of opposition to it. In that case, the Minister has promised that if a scheme is approved by the growers and if satisfactory complementary legislation has been approved by the State governments, this Government will implement and put into operation a stabilization scheme for the ensuing five years. It will be put into operation by the end of March, 1954, and not in the far distant future as the honorable member for Lalor has suggested.
There is, of course, a sum of money to be refunded. It consists of the results of previous pools that are being concluded. The bill proposes simply to refund the bulk of that money totalling about £11,000,000. A sum of £9,000,000 is to be held temporarily until March, 1954. During the intervening period, in keeping with the promises that the Minister has made, the growers will have an opportunity to make a decision whether they are prepared to recommend a further period of stabilization. The Minister has made it quite plain that if they do so he will be prepared to negotiate along those lines. He has also indicated clearly that a necessary requisite is that it should be understood that any government guarantee is dependent upon the £9,000,000 being left in the fund.
I am not trying to make political capital of this issue. I am trying to put the facts plainly and fairly. Although quite a number of growers do not believe that the money should be retained, quite a number of other people believe that as the amount is there, it would be reasonable to hold it temporarily until a decision is made. The decision is entirely in the hands of the growers. The fact that there has been a delay in arriving at a conclusion on this matter does not lie at the feet of the Government. The Minister has made endless attempts to get the States to agree upon matters that are entirely within their own province. The principal matter is the price of wheat for home consumption. Honorable members know, and it is generally understood, that that was the reason why the existence of the Australian Wheat Board hung in the balance for so long. That matter is now resolved, and a wheat marketing scheme has now been introduced, so everything is set to go ahead with the coming harvest. It ill becomes the honorable member for Lalor to criticize the Government for holding the money when under the previous scheme, he introduced legislation of a retrospective nature to bring in money that was owing to the farmers to form the nucleus of a stabilization fund for a future date.
– What was wrong with that?
– What was wrong with taking money that was due to a farmer from some previous pool and which he required ? What was wrong with the Government taking it and informing the farmer that it wants the money to protect the public funds against any loss from a future pool when at the time there was no prospect that the guarantee would ever be required? When the growers voted on the stabilization proposals, they did not realize that the proposal would be retrospective for twelve months. I support the bill and see no reason for excursions into the far distant past to rake up matters that have been discussed so many times before in this House. I would not have discussed them now if the- subject had not been raised. Because it was raised, I believed that a reply should be given.
– It is interesting to hear the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) reprimanding the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He went back into the past to discuss the conditions under which the money was taken into a former pool. The question of a payable price for wheat goes back a long way.
-Order! I have already ruled that I will not allow a general debate on the history of the wheat industry.
– I do not want to indulge in such a debate. We are dealing with a stabilization fund-
– We are not.
-Order! We are dealing with the repayment of money. Let us be clear upon this matter. This bill is designed to pay from the stabilization fund to growers a certain sum of money. It is not a bill to establish or cancel any stabilization plan and it is not a bill which deals with the history of the wheat industry.
– I am sorry that 1 did not make myself clear. This bill deals with £20,000,000 in the stabilization fund.
– It does not.
– The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) has stated that the bill does not deal with that matter. Let him read the bill. It does not state whether the sum is £1,000,000 or £20,000,000, but states that-
– I rise to order. I did read the bill. The operative provision is in clause 4, which states that there shall be paid to the board out of the fund-
– I rise to order.
– Order ! I shall take one point of order at a time. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) will resume his seat. What is the point of order of the honorable member for Dawson?
– Clause 4 of the bill states that there shall be paid to the board out of a fund an amount equal to the moneys in the fund-
– Order ! What is the honorable member’s point of order? The honorable member is reading the bill.
– My point of order is that the operative clause of the bill does not refer to £20,000,000 in the stabilization fund at all. As the Minister pointed out, £11,000,000 is the only sum of money that is under discussion.
– Order ! I cannot discern any point of order there.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Dawson has been able to make a small contribution to the debate. I do not know whether he made any contribution to the fund. The Minister said that there was £20,000,000 in the fund, and £11,000,000 would be repaid, leaving £9,000,000. It has been suggested that the £20,000,000 now in the fund is not relevant to this bill, but I say it is very relevant, because we are discussing whether £11,000,000 of it should be repaid to the wheat-growers. I do not want to go into the history of the wheat industry, but I do want to discuss whether it would be wise to take £11,000,000, £1S,000,000, or any other sum from the fund.
The money now, standing to the credit of the fund was collected for the purpose of ensuring the security of the wheatgrowers. In the past, when funds of this kind were not in existence, State parliaments had to pass legislation for the relief of wheat-farmers, because the price of wheat fell to a very low level.
– How much does the honorable member suggest should be retained in the- fund ?
– I do not know whether £1 or £15,000,000 should be retained. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) may be able to see in a crystal globe the future price of wheat and calculate how many millions of pounds should be retained in the fund, but I do not know what the price of wheat will he in the future. It depends upon the quantities of wheat held in store overseas and also upon future wheat production. I read in the press recently that it is proposed to restrict plantings of wheat in the United States of America because the Americans do not know whether they will be able to sell all their wheat is they continue production at the present rate. There might be a glut of wheat in the world market, and the price might fall below the cost of production.
This Government is responsible for deciding whether £11,000,000 is the correct sum to take out of this fund. I do not propose to discuss whether it is the correct sum, but I want to say that, in my opinion, the Government has a responsibility to safeguard the security of the wheat industry in this country. The Minister referred to the fact that the money had been held in the fund for a long period. He said that the reason why the Government had decided to repay only a portion of it was that the Australian wheat-growers might be asked whether they wanted a wheat stabilization scheme. He said it would be necessary to retain some money in the fund in case the growers indicated that they wanted such a scheme. I think the Minister referred to the £9,000,000 that will be left in the fund as a nest egg for the wheatgrowers. The Government is quite correct in retaining a substantial sum in the fund to form the nucleus of a future stabilization fund if the growers accept a wheat stabilization scheme. The Minister has made it clear that if the growers decide at a ballot that they do not want a wheat stabilization scheme, all of the money in the fund will be repaid to them.
I have a vivid recollection of what occurred when the price of wheat fell to a very low level years ago. I remember what happened to the wheat-growers of this country then. Some honorable members may believe that because I represent an industrial electorate I do not know anything about wheat-growing. I know, to my sorrow, what happened when the price of wheat fell below the cost of production. Because I have had personal experience of the effects of very low wheat prices, I want to try to make sure that no legislation passed by this
Parliament will jeopardize the security of people engaged in the wheat-growing industry to-day. We learn most from experience that is bought dearly. The only real way in which to learn anything is to pay to learn it. I hope the Government will retain in this fund enough money to give a start to another wheat stabilization fund if it is required. I hope, too, that it will not be necessary to draw on such a fund, and that in future the price of wheat will be sufficient to cover the cost of production and also give the wheat-growers a reasonable return for their labour. The honorable member for Lalor had a lot to do with putting the last stabilization fund on a sound basis. It did not become necessary to draw on the fund, but if wheat prices had not risen to the degree to which they did’ rise, the fund would have been of great benefit to the wheat-growers. The previous Labour Government took* action to strengthen the fund when the wheatgrowers were in a position to contribute to it, so that it would not be more or less bankrupt when it was needed.
I support the bill. I urge the Minister to be very careful in making disbursements from a fund established to safeguard the security of the wheat-growers. I think it would be a mistake to disburse too much of this money now, because it may be needed in the future to assist those to whom it belongs.
– It was refreshing to hear the sane and reasonable approach made to this measure by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), especially after the irrational and irresponsible approach made to it by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), an ex-Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I want, however, to correct one or two misapprehensions of the honorable member for Port Adelaide. He referred to the £20,000,000 in the fund as going back over a period of years, but it consists only of £11,000,000 in respect of the No. 14 pool, which covered the 1950-51 wheat season, and £9,000,000 in respect of the No. 15 pool, which covered the 1951-52 wheat season. No wheat tax collections were made in respect of the 1952-53 wheat season. If the new stabilization fund is to bc a rotating fund, then, in accordance with established practice, withdrawals for the purpose of making refunds should be made, first, from the oldest pool, which is No. 14 pool, in which the balance at present is £11,000)000. The honorable member for Lalor said that this Government had been responsible for the failure of the negotiations with the States for a new stabilization plan. That is completely incorrect, because, as the honorable member knows, the proposal which the Australian Government submitted to the Australian Agricultural Council was rejected by the Labour governments of Victoria and Queensland. If those two States had not rejected that proposal at that time, a. stabilization plan would now be in existence for this season. Therefore, if the honorable member complains that there is no stabilization plan in existence at present, he should address his complaint to the Labour Premiers of those States. He also said that it was rather strange that the Government desired to retain the balance of £9,000,000 now in the No. 15 pool against the possibility of a new stabilization plan being accepted by the growers at the ballot that is to be taken early next year.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and a few other honorable members opposite may be opposed to that proposal, but his colleague, the honorable member for Port Adelaide, has just said that he believes that a sum should he retained in the existing fund to be used as a nucleus of a fund to finance any new stabilization plan that may he accepted by the growers. That difference, of course, is further . evidence of the divergence of opinion that exists among members of the Opposition not only on this matter but also on many other important matters. Those honorable members do not know where they are going. On a simple and obvious issue such as that which is now before the House,, they cannot agree among themselves.
If the honorable member for Lalor contends that, in the event of a new stabilization plan being accepted by the industry, the fund in. respect of it should be started from scratch, he is completely irresponsible, having regard to existing conditions in the industry. The growers realize that fact. They know that it would be necessary to have available a nucleus for any new fund that may be required to finance a new stabilization plan. The Australian Government has made that point clear to the States. Only this week, it announced to them that a ballot of. growers must be held on this matter before the end of March next year so that if the ballot favours the introduction of a new plan it will be possible to implement it before the life of the present Parliament expires. That provision is in accordance with the promise of the Government to the industry that it will introduce the requisite legislation in respect of a new stabilization plan if the result of the ballot is in favour of a new plan. The Government has made it clear that it will legislate to make provision for a guaranteed price in respect of 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat, during each of the following five years on the understanding that that sum of £9,000,000 in the No. 15 pool is retained as a nucleus of a fund for that purpose; and that that fund is to be supplemented by the payment of a tax at the rate of ls. 6d. a bushel on export wheat. That proposal has been agreed to by the representatives of the industry through the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. Only a fortnight ago, a deputation of representatives from the federation discussed that matter with, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and myself in Canberra. That deputation asked that the sum of £9,000,000 standing to the credit of the No. 15 pool be refunded to growers along with the sum of £11,000,000 at present in the No. 14 pool. In reply, the Minister clearly indicated the reasons why the Government insists upon the sum of £9,000,000 remaining as a nucleus of a fund in the event of a new stabilization plan coming into operation next year. Those reasons were: First, the existing International Wheat Agreement has only three years to run, although, if a new stabilization plan is accepted by the growers, it will continue for a period of five years; secondly, the guaranteed price will be for a period of five years ; and, thirdly, the quantity that Australia undertook to supply under the International Wheat Agreement has been reduced from 76,000,000 bushels to 4S,000,000 bushels. The reduction of the supply quota has resulted from the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the International Wheat Agreement. Consequently, the quantity of wheat to be sold under the agreement has been correspondingly reduced. Australia is under an obligation to sell that wheat on an export market which at present is somewhat uncertain. We have not even yet been informed of the marketing arrangements that the United Kingdom has in mind, or of the price which it will he prepared to pay for wheat in the future.
Those factors have produced a situation in which the Australian Government cannot accept responsibility for establishing from scratch a stabilization fund on the basis of a wheat tax at the rate of ls. 6d. a bushel. We must remember that funds that may be used to finance a guaranteed price must he provided by the taxpayers. As the honorable member for Port Adelaide has pointed out, wheat prices on the world’s markets have recently shown a tendency to decline. In addition, we must consider the present surplus stock position in Canada and the United States of America, and also bear in mind that whilst the industry has experienced seven successive good seasons it may experience adverse seasons in the near future which would decrease the crop. In the event of bad seasons occurring the revenue that would be derived from the proposed wheat tax would be correspondingly less. In those circumstances, particularly if world prices continue to fall, the Australian Government would find itself in the position of having to provide a guarantee amounting to several millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in any one season. As I have said, the Government has thoroughly explained all these factors to representatives of the industry. The Government has made its stand perfectly clear. It has indicated that, if a new stabilization fund is to he established next year, it will be assured of having a nucleus of at least £9,000,000 for the purpose of financing that plan. However, the growers themselves must decide whether they desire a new plan for a period of another five years, which would, of course, include the current year. Should they vote in favour of having a new stabilization plan, the sum of £9,000,000 will remain in the fund. The growers will decide, first, whether they desire a new stabilization plan, and, secondly, whether in conjunction with that plan, they desire that the sum of £9,000,000 now standing to the credit of No. 15 pool, which is their own money, should be used as part of the new fund. It rests entirely with the growers whether that sum will be retained temporarily in the fund. As it is a rotating fund, if prices overseas remain stable and collections of wheat tax reach the required minimum, amount of approximately £20,000,000, that sum of £9,000,000, now in the No. 15 pool, will be returned to the growers as balances in the other funds have already been returned to them. Therefore, it is apparent that the case made out by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is both specious and irresponsible. The terms of the measure now before the House are quite simple. As stated by the honorable member for Lalor, it is supported by the Opposition. It is also supported by the wheat industry and by all State governments. It provides for the payment, ‘of about £11,000,000 from the wheat price stabilization fund into the No. 14 pool, whence it can be distributed to growers by the Australian Wheat Board by the middle of December this year. The balance of approximately £700,000 which lies in the No. 14 pool at present, and which represents the proceeds of previous payments, but which was too small an amount to be distributed alone, will also be distributed with the £11,000,000. The fund is a trust fund, and the money in it is held by the Government on behalf of the wheatgrowers. But the fund is designed to meet liabilities that arise in connexion with the stabilization plan, which will continue in force until the balance of the last crop has been sold.
A Commonwealth guarantee that 100,000,000 bushels of wheat shall be sold on the export market at a price based on the cost of production is also involved in the previou’s plan and the plan that is now terminating. The Commonwealth has now put forward a similar proposal as a basis for a new stabilization plan, and the growers will vote on that proposal before March, 1954. In the past, high prices at home and overseas have made it unnecessary to pay money from the fund, and so the money lying in the fund has been refunded in respect of each wheat pool until there are only two amounts remaining at the present time. Our wheat acreage was declining, and as an incentive to wheatgrowers to plant more wheat, no tax was collected from No. 16 pool. As it turned out, the wheat acreage was low by comparison with the previous year’s acreage, but we had a record yield of wheat. Therefore, the incentive was not really necessary. Nevertheless, the fact was that the incentive was put forward in all good faith, and the wheat tax was not collected in respect of No. 16 pool. The result of all that is that the two previous pools date back to 1950-51 and 1951-52. This measure is a machinery measure designed to facilitate the refund of wheat tax money, plus a small balance, to wheat-growers throughout Australia, and I am sure that it has the approval, not only of honorable members, State governments and wheat-growers, but also of everybody in Australia who cares to think about it.
.- The distribution of moneys under this measure has brought some comment from the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who apparently believes that there is a difference in the viewpoint of certain members of the Opposition.
The Government has complained that the Labour party is bound by rigid rules, and that our decisions are inflexible and incapable of being deviated from. But the difference of opinion between honorable members on this side of the House is very small in essence, and to consider it as a divergence on a matter of policy is, of course, quite wrong. If the honorable member contends that the Labour party is facing two ways on an issue, and also contends that the Labour party is bound by cast-iron Caucus rules, he will find himself in logical difficulties. He cannot have it both ways. It is obvious that he has not been charitably minded enough to acknowledge the great interest of honorable members on this side of the House in the problems of the wheat-growers, and the way in which their money should be handled. During the ten years that I have been a member of the Parliament I have paid great attention to the wheat industry, and have attempted to learn something about its difficulties under the tutelage of an honorable member who knows as much about wheat as any honorable member of this House. That is the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and I believe that I have absorbed at least some knowledge from my association with him. I believe that there is a great deal of merit in what he said about this measure,-and his views are entitled to be listened to with respect, both because he has a great knowledge of wheat and because he successfully managed overseas stabilization schemes during the very difficult war years. Moreover, he managed an international wheat agreement that emerged from our association with other countries during the last war. I believe that because the honorable member for Lalor has said that we should pay out all the money held by the Commonwealth, the Government should take serious notice of his suggestion. It seems to me that after a wheat pool has expired, whether or not there is a residue of wheat crop upon which the arrangement was made, there is a moral obligation on the Government to discharge all its financial commitments under the agreement.
I understand that No. 16 pool concluded some months ago by effluxion of time. Therefore, there is no reason why the Government should not return the money to the growers, because it has made a solemn contract with them and is morally obliged to do so. The Government is not entitled to postulate this position or that. We all know that there are good and bad seasons in the wheat industry, and that there are usually difficult marketing conditions. Therefore, the growers should be given an opportunity to USE their own money to the best advantage and should not be dictated to by the Government. The farmers should not be subjected to the whimsical conclusions of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) or the honorable member for Darling Downs, on whether something should or should not be done about their money. The money belongs to them, and should be returned to them. Moreover, it should not be returned piecemeal. I suggest that the Government is not entitled to withhold any of this money at the present time, although if we were at war it perhaps would be entitled to say that some money should remain in the fund. The arrangements for No. 14 wheat pool contain certain provisions. They were not remarkably clear, and clarification was sought, but we still do not know how many farmers are prepared to accept the Government’s proposals. If the Government’s legal obligations are somewhat in doubt, there is a clear moral obligation that the money should be repaid to its owners. Where would Commonwealth affairs be if on every side we had baskets full of unfinished business ? Such a condition cannot be allowed to exist in an industry that is feeling its way forward.
Although there has been a recession of some magnitude, there is now a stabilizing influence throughout the world and we hope that things will get better. If wheat pools are to be conducted successfully there must be no dragback and no Kathleen Mavourneen promise that the wheat-farmers may, when a pool has been finalized, get this back or get that back according to the whims of the government of the day. I doubt whether such conditions are legal and certainly they are not logical, ethical, or moral. Because of the firm covenant that was made with the wheatfarmers when the No. 15 pool was inaugurated, they are now entitled to a distribution of the money that remains in it. It is no excuse to say that the money will not be good for the wheatfarmers. Difficulties that arise here or there, like the flowers that bloom in the soring, have nothing to do with the case. Let us keep this matter on the hard basis of legality and on the ethical standards on which the agreement was established. If we do that, we must give back to the wheat-farmers all the money that is owing to them. The honorable mem- ber for Darling Downs has not made a very strong case. We all know that the organization now in process of establishment is not perfect. We know that one of the major elements of stabilization is missing from it and that once again the wheat industry may be haunted by the uncertainty that haunted it in its earlier days. But let us do what we can for this important primary industry which, apart from being a valuable source of national income, has also contributed much to the development of Australia. Let us convince the wheatfarmers that our obligation to them shall be discharged cleanly and strictly according to the contract. The honorable member for Darling Downs apparently thinks that there is something queasy about the present situation; but that does not justify withholding from the wheatfarmers the residual money that is due to them.
We have heard many discussions in this chamber, sometimes temperate, sometimes extravagant, but always extremely interesting, about the wheat industry. Undoubtedly there is an urge for complete stabilization of it. The principle of orderly marketing was, of course, rejected for many years by the parties that now hold office, but it has always been a part of the gospel of the Labour party. It occurs to me that, apart from the money involved, there is another aspect of this matter. Even though it is considered that the wheat-farmer is doing fairly well to-day, there is the element of good faith to be considered. Is there still in the Government’s ranks a feeling that it would be better if wheat stabilization were shot to pieces ? The £9,000,000 that is to be withheld from the wheatfarmers could be an irritant in their minds. It might easily turn them against the stabilization proposals and be the means of tearing the industry to tatters again. I do not say that the Government is guilty of provocative action by withholding this money, hut any one who reads the letter columns of our newspapers, which in my opinion are the real essence of thought in this country, knows that all is not well in .the minds of the farmers. They suspect that something has not been revealed to them.
In view of .the Government’s contractual obligations to the wheat-farmers, and in view of the legal, moral and ethical considerations that are involved, the only clean and honest course to follow is to pay to the wheat-farmers all the money that is owing to them. I am not imputing dishonest motives to the Government; I think it should not endeavour to reach into the -conscience of the wheat-farmer and tell him that he should do this or he should do that. The Government’s only obligation is to interpret what is in black and white. The farmers wanted a pool and they wanted it to be cleaned up quickly. This is no time for Kathleen Mavourneen promises that it may he for years and it may be forever. On this side of the House there is complete unity on the view that all moneys owing to the wheat-farmers should be paid to them.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) did not say that.
– Nevertheless, I have expressed the policy of the party. Whatever opinion may be held by the honorable member for Port Adelaide is his own concern, and we shall not pillory him for it. I have tried to convince the House that the view I have expressed is a reasonable view. It represents the bulk of opinion on this side of the House. We say, “ Pay the lot back “. If schemes such as this are to he valid all obligations entered into under them, must be discharged fully. The Government is making an unwarranted intrusion into the affairs of the wheat industry when it leaves important matters to be decided at the whim of the Minister’s advisers. Already this week the House has been rabble-roused about standards of ethics and threats to freedom. We say that the Government is perpetrating a serious breach of ethics. We say, “ Give the farmer back the whole of the money you owe to him “. This incomplete proposal is neither fish nor fowl. It is more like red herring. To plant in the minds of the wheat-growers the thought that their industry is less stable than it was is extremely dangerous, and is likely to bring psychological factors to bear. Rural people in this country have had lots of unfortunate experiences and some of them may be pardoned for being suspicions of governments. Some wheatgrowers may even believe that there is sabotage behind the proposal to withhold money from ‘ them and that the intention is to get them so frustrated that they will turn against stabilization. That would be most regrettable indeed, because the assured success of the industry depends wholly upon stabilization. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has a rural outlook which I am sure irritates many honorable members apart from myself. Over the years he has been the greatest sneerer at the United Nations.
Mi-. SPEAKER -Order ! We are not discussing the United Nations now..
– I point out, Mr. Speaker, that the International Wheat Agreement grew out of the agencies of the United Nations. The thing to do now is to clean up this pool, and give the farmer back what belongs to him.
– Order ! The honorable member is repeating himself.
– It would not be the first time that you or I had done that, Mr. Speaker. If I have repeated myself I apologize, but I believe that what I have been saying bears reiteration. I say again that these moneys should be paid back in full.
.- I agree that this is a very simple bill which gives legislative authority for the repayment to wheat-growers of £11,000,000 collected from the No. 14 wheat pool. It is expected that the payment will be made on the 15th December. The amount will be approximately ls. 3£d. a bushel for all wheat delivered to the No. 14 pool. In addition, there will be -accrued interest and also a very small payment to finalize the pool, which means that wheatgrowers will receive just under ls. 5d. a bushel for all wheat delivered to the No. 14 pool. During this debate honorable members have imparted very little of the information that wheatgrowers require. Nearly everything that has been said is known to all those people who have taken an interest in the wheat industry for a number of years. Some time ago, under similar circumstances, a payment was made to wheat-growers about Christmas-time. The metropolitan press publicized the fact that many millions of pounds had been paid and called it a Christmas present to the wheat-growers. Let me emphasize the fact that this payment is not a Christmas present. It is a payment to the wheatgrowers of their own money. I do not wish to discuss the whole history of this matter, but I think that I am entitled to reply to one or two statements that have been made. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that the Government had fallen down in its negotiations with the States in an effort to evolve a future stabilization scheme and that a certain amount of time had been wasted or lost. The honorable member said, “ There has been a break. Wheat is now coming in”. Everybody in the wheat industry knows, if honorable members do not know, that the cause of the delay was the inability or the refusal of the Victorian State Government to make up its mind about the homeconsumption price.
– That is not right.
– It is a well-known fact. Not only did the Victorian Government fail to make up its mind until the last minute, with the result that it was too late to take a vote of the growers, but when it did make up its mind it decided to take from the wheat-growers ls. a bushel for all wheat grown this year.
– What rot!
– That is the position. In spite of the delay that was caused by the Victorian State Government, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) was so keen to have a stabilization scheme that he extended the time for the taking of the vote until the end of March, 1954. I understand that arrangements are now being made for the taking of that vote and that all that remains to be decided is the wording of the proposition that should be submitted to the growers. The honorable member for Lalor is quite wrong in trying to’ blame the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture or anybody other than the Victorian State Government for delay in implementing the scheme, and I think he should not have pursued that line of argument. We know that the amount that will be paid is £11,000,000.
In spite of the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the Opposition is not agreed in relation to the payment of that money because a prominent member of his party said that he hoped that the Government would continue to hold enough money in the fund to ensure the success of a future stabilization scheme.
– He is entitled to a minority opinion.
– Of course he is entitled to that opinion. I am merely pointing out that opinions have been expressed other than that which has been expressed by the honorable member for Lalor.
– I expressed the official opinion, the majority opinion.
– “Official”, is the better word.
– I am entitled to my opinion. When the Australian Labour party was in office, I always advocated that, if any one left the wheat industry permanently, he should be paid the amount of money that stood to his credit in the fund. I still think that those who have left the industry should be paid all the money that stands to their credit in the fund. It is the wheatgrowers’ own money that is paid back to them. Therefore, it is their money that stabilizes the scheme. If those who have left the industry are paid in full, only those who remain will vote when the poll is taken in March, and they alone will receive the benefit of the £9,000,000 that remains in the fund. If the remaining wheat-growers vote in favour of a stabilization fund, their money will be used as the basis of that fund. . It must be remembered that in many parts of the country-and, I am pleased to say, particularly in my own electorate - this year has been a good wheat year. If the Government paid the growers the full £20,000,000, it would add to their burden of taxation. If the wheat-growers vote against the proposed scheme, and if after the vote is taken the remaining £9,000,000 has to be repaid, I hope that it will . be repaid in the next financial year.
My colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), has been criticized for stating by way of interjection that the stabilization fund was not needed, but he was not referring to the proposed fund. He was referring to the past fund. Of course, everybody knows that the fund was not needed. I have had nay motor car insured for the past five years, but that insurance was not needed. I am very pleased that it was not needed, and the honorable member for Gippsland is pleased that the fund was not needed. If the fund had been needed, the wheat industry would be in a much worse position than it is. If the insurance on my car bad been needed, it would have indicated that I had had an accident or a fire. We are pleased that it was not needed, but the wheat-growers were pleased to have had the opportunity of having the fund in order to insure themselves against any fall in the price of wheat below the cost of production. The payment is made only when the overseas price drops below the Australian cost of production. I support the bill, and I hope that the wheat-growers will expend their refunds to good advantage.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) never faces up to the facts in relation to wheat stabilization. I think it is just as well tl at the people of Australia, particularly the wheat-growers, should understand the attitude of hypocrisy that has been adopted by the Australian Country party in connexion with wheat stabilization. There is a great gap in the constitutional power of this Parliament to deal with the problems.
-Order! The bill does not deal with stabilization.
– With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I point out that the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund is specifically mentioned in its title. I submit that it is clearly in order for me to refer to stabilization because, as the honorable member for Mallee has mentioned, moneys will he retained in connexion with the proposed stabilization scheme. The trouble has arisen because there is uncertainty whether a new stabilization scheme will be developed. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) stated in his second-reading speech that it was only a possibility. The Parliament has not the power to establish a stabilization scheme, largely by reason of the fact that the Australian Country party opposed the granting of such power to it.
-Order! Unless the House overrules me, I shall not allow discussion on Commonwealth powers during this debate.
– If I am not to be permitted to refer to that subject, I shall move dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– The right honorable gentleman would need to do that now.
– Then I move- ;
That the ruling be dissented from.
Dr. Evatt having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling,
– Is the motion seconded ?
-*-I second the motion.
– I shall now state why I consider that the riding is wrong. It prevents me from dealing with the root of the problem in this matter. I think that it is a pretty good working rule that if a Minister’s second-reading speech deals with a certain topic it is relevant for any honorable member to refer to that topic. In order to prove the relevance of my remarks I shall quote from the Minister’s second-reading speech. He stated -
As I mentioned earlier, the term of the first five-year plan has now virtually expired and there is no possibility of this money being required in connexion with that plan.
That means, of course, that the stabilization plan has come to an end, and that the money has to be dealt with in an orderly and coherent way. The Minister continued -
The withdrawal of this amount will still leave in the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund an amount of about £9,000,000, being moneys retained from No. 15 pool. This is being held as the nucleus of a new stabilization fund, in the possible event of a further wheat stabilization plan developing.
– I rise to order. Is not the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) getting round Mr. Speaker’s ruling?
– Order! TheLeader of the Opposition must confine’ his remarks to dissent from my ruling. He may not read portions of the Minister’s second-reading speech.
– The question is whether I can deal with matter that is relevant to the bill.
– Order ! The question is whether or not my ruling is in order.
– You have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that I may not refer to a subjectmatter because it is irrelevant to thebill. I am demonstrating its relevance by reading to the House what the Minister said in relation to wheat stabilization, andI shall link my reasons with that argument. The Minister further stated-
-I have ruled that the right honorable gentleman cannot quote the second-reading speech of the Minister. He is disregarding my ruling.
– But you ruled that my remarks were not relevant.
– I ruled that the right honorable gentleman was out of order in referring to a lack of constitutional power.
– My argument on that-
– I rise to order. Would I be in order in discussing the reason why the Labour party refused to support the 1937 referendum?
– I submit that my remarks are relevant. It is due to the lack of constitutional power that the amount of £9,000,000 is in the fund; it cannot be appropriated.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is proceeding on his previous line of argument.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendmentor debate; report adopted.
Bill- by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- For several days, now, I have endeavoured to place the matter of parliamentary telephones-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : -
z asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - ].. The requisition for the purchase of this residence was lodged with the Chief Property Officer of my department in New South Wales on the 23rd July, 1953.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
S asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that in 1949 the Commonwealth Government paid 10s. a week in respect of every child in an orphan asylum or a similar institution throughout Australia?
Will the Government increase this payment so that children in institutions will not suffer from the inflation that has taken place ?
– The .answers to “the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531127_reps_20_hor2/>.