20th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BLAND and Mr. TIMSON pre sented petitions from certain employees of the Commonwealth Public Service, praying that the Parliamentwill provide increases in the marginal rates for skill of Commonwealth public servants.
Petitions severally received and read.
Mr.BRYSON presented a petition from certain officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, praying that the Parliament will take action to halt a proposal of the Postmaster-General’s Department to purchase a new telegraph system called Tress.
Petition received and read.
– by leave - Last night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a very important statement, and I greatly regret that I was not in the House when it was made. I had a very important engagement to fulfil in Sydney, but I did not leave Canberra until 5 o’clock and I would have cancelled the engagement had I had any inkling that such an announcement was to be made. I heard of. the statement just before 9 o’clock, and I made a statement to the press which was unanimously endorsed this morning at a meeting of the Parliamentary. Labour party. It was a short statement, which I shall read for the benefit of the House. It is as follows: -
The Federal Parliamentary Labour party will support the fullest inquiry into all the circumstances connected with the statement made by Mr. Menzies to-night and the matters contained in or relevantto the statement. If any person in Australia has been guilty of espionage or seditious activities a Labour governmentwill see that he’ is prosecuted according to law.
Governmentsupporters. - Ha ha!
– Order !
– How extraordinary it is, Mr. Speaker, that in a matter of supreme national importance we should hear a loud “ Ha ha ! “ from a few honorable members on the Government side of the House who are notorious for their activities in smear campaigns. My statement to the press last night continued -
That has not only been our established policy, but we have acted in strict accordance with it. In short, we shall see to it that no guilty person escapes, that no innocent person is condemned, and that the whole matter is dealt with free from all questions of party politics and on the basis of the established; principles of British justice.
I shall recall to the House very shortly the background of the operations of the Australian security service. The service was established by Mr. Chifley when he was Prime Minister, with my assistance and co-operation. We acted throughout on the advice of the British intelligence service because it was. notorious at that time that activities of certain countries, especiallyRussia, needed to be carefully watched. Mr. JusticeReed, a SupremeCourt justice of South Australia, was placed in charge of the security service, and later Colonel Spry was appointed to succeed him when he resigned. As the Prime Minister pointed out in the House recently, it has always been the practice in important matters affecting the activities of the security service that not only the Prime Minister but also the Leaderof the Opposition should be kept generally informed of its activities. That practice has always been honoured during; the history of the service.
I shall notanticipate discussion on the royal commission legislation, which the Opposition will support, but I want to point out to the House and the country that the procedures indicated by the Prime Minister may cause certain diffculties. A royal commission was appointed in Canada, but at that time all the documents in the possession of the persons suspected and, indeed, in many instances those persons themselves, were seized. People were arrested so that there could be an investigation there and then into the facts by two justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. When that royal commission presented its report - and up to that time there was no public inquiry - criminal prosecutions were commenced. That was the procedure adopted in Canada. It may not be possible to adopt that procedure here. I do not want to raise the general question now, but I want to mention that aspect. However, what I am about to suggest to the Prime Minister and the Government will be suggested in the interests of Australia. This Parliament is about to be dissolved. The Government will continue to act until the new Parliament assembles, and it will be, therefore, what is technically called a ‘ caretaker government “. It appears from the Prime Minister’s statement that it will be impossible to complete this inquiry in a few weeks. I suggest, therefore, that, in relation to the working of this royal commission, the terms of reference, and the selection of the judge - I assume one judge or more than one judge will be appointed - and in the general procedures and general processes, there should be consultation by the Government with the Opposition, to make certain that the work of the royal commission will be carried to the necessary conclusion, and that it will not be a mere royal commission, but will end in the prosecution and conviction of persons who are shown to be guilty.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I feel that that is the important way of approaching it. I, and all members of my party, want to approach this matter from the point of view of Australia’s interest and on a strictly non-party basis. What I am asking for is what I assume the Prime Minister will consider, and would probably do in any event.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, for having given me leave to make this statement. This matter must be cleared up quickly and it will not be cleared up finally by the mere appointment of a royal commission, important though that is, but by the action taken in regard to those who can be proved guilty of offences and, equally, in the vindication and clearing of those who may be suspected but who are proved to be innocent.
– What about Casey’s nest of traitors?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) reminds me that this is not the first occasion in which imputations of wrongdoings or treacherous actions by public servants have been made in this House. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made such imputations more than a year ago, but, in spite of questions directed to him about it from this side of the House, no action has been taken about that matter. That matter, of course, may conceivably be covered by the operations of the royal commission. It is the view of the Opposition that this matter must be treated from a non-party point of view, particularly as the Government is about to submit itself to the people and, in that sense, is carrying on as a caretaker government until the election.
– As the Australian Army has been equipped in recent years with the most up-to-date equipment, such as the “ Centurion “ tank, I ask the Minister for the Army whether, now that a new heavy tank called the “ Conqueror “ has been produced in the United Kingdom and will be supplied to the British Army, these new tanks, when in production, will be provided to the Australian Army? Has the Minister any information about whether the new type of recoilless anti-tank gun is yet being manufactured for provision to the Australian Army ?
– The “Conqueror” heavy-gun tank is being manufactured in Great Britain, and we have arranged for a limited number to be made available to Australia. We shall use them, in the first instance, for training purposes along with the other tanks that we now have. As far as the 120-mm. recoilless anti-tank weapon is concerned, our policy is to standardize all our equipment, where possible, with British equipment. We have ordered these weapons. They are on their way to Australia and they, too, will be used for training purposes. They are being manufactured in Great Britain for the British Army. Investigations are being made to ascertain whether they can also be made available to Australia.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture arises from the fact that some time ago it was reported that Australia had a 60,000,000-bushel surplus of wheat, and that certain other overseas countries also had large surpluses. Has the Government at any stage considered the use of what is known in the United States of America, as the over-normal granary as a means of storing and conserving surpluses to meet emergencies that might occur in the world, and also to feed them out to maintain a stable price?
– The Government has not considered such a proposition from the viewpoint of feeding surpluses out to the world. We have considered this matter as a practical problem, and it is under consideration by the Government at present. It is clearly evident that unless some sales occur, which at present cannot be regarded as firmly in prospect, there will be an unduly heavy carryover of wheat at the commencement of next season, and the Government, in consultation with the Australian Wheat Board and State governments, is considering what should be done and who should do it, and the extent of storage that must be provided to ensure that the carried-over wheat will not deteriorate. The House and the country may be assured that this essential foodstuff will not be permitted to deteriorate.
– Yesterday, the Minister for Defence, in reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Dawson, stated that when this Government came to office there was no defence preparedness at Manus Island and that the present Government had put projects in hand to re-establish naval and air bases at that island. Is the Minister able to inform the House of the circumstances which caused this state of affairs? Who was responsible for the base being allowed to become derelict? Are the measures which the present Government has taken, adequate to meet our present defence requirements?
– This matter was debated in the House in October last year, I think, when a full discussion took place about Manus Island.
– I rise to a point of order. Some time ago you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that during the first 35 minutes of broadcast questions you would not permit Ministers to read answers to questions. For the second time to-day a Minister is proceeding to read an answer, and I suggest that that practice should not be allowed, as evidently the question has previously been telegraphed to him, and by reading his answer he is preventing other honorable members from having an opportunity to ask questions.
– I am not sure that, the Minister is reading an answer.
– Until I was interrupted I had not even glanced at the paper in my hand. The fact is that during World War II. the Americans established a strong defence base, which cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, on Manus Island. At the end of the war they considered that the base would be useful to them in their planning for the defence of that area. Consequently, they submitted an application to the Australian Government for the joint use of the base during peace-time.
– To which government, did the Americans submit that request?
– To the Chifley Government, in which the present Leader of the Opposition was Minister for External Affairs. It has been alleged that the American request involved the handing over of the sovereignty of this area to the Americans. Nothing is further from the fact. The Americans asked for the joint use of the base. An important fact is that the base would have been .available to us, but it would have been maintained by the Americans. That request was refused by the Chifley Goernment, as a result of which the base was dismantled. The equipment was dispersed, the buildings were pulled down and sold, and when this Government assumed office that once strong base at Manus Island had reverted to tropical jungle. This Government realized the importance of a base for the defence of Australia and it took steps to re-establish at Manus Island both naval and air facilities which are adequate in times of peace but which could be expanded rapidly in the event of war.
Air. JAMES. - I am at a loss to know to whom I should direct my question because so many Ministers are responsible for the administration of the Greta military camp.
-Order ! The honorable member should direct his question to the Minister for the Army.
– I do not know whether [ should direct it to the Minister for the Army, or the Minister for the Interior, who is responsible for the leasing of those establishments, so I shall direct it to the Prime Minister. During “World War II. the Greta military camp housed more than 12,000 troops and it is now being used as a holding centre for immigrants. But four blocks of huts are not being used. If those huts were moved to where housing camps have been established on the coal-fields - at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri - and converted into homes in a manner similar to that in which some have been converted at the Greta camp, they would render a very good service to mine workers who are without homes and in particular to those who have been married recently.
– I shall be pleased to have the suggestion of the honorable member examined.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, arises from recent public statements that were attributed to two former chiefs of the air staff. Will the Minister inform the House whether either of the two retired chiefs of the air staff who held that appointment prior to the present appointee made any recommendations to the Government which involved the substantial alteration in the role, employment and equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force that was announced recently by the Minister for Defence? If either or both of those officers did make such recommendations, will the Minister indicate what action the Government took?
– I have been expecting this question for at least two weeks, and I had been hoping that some honorable member opposite would ask it. My attention has been drawn to the two statements to which the honorable member for Indi has just referred. Both Air Marshal Sir George Jones and Air Marshal Sir Donald Hardman are well known to, and are held in high esteem by, me. During the time that I was associated with Sir George Jones when he was Chief of the Air Staff, not one submission of substance that was made by him was rejected by the Government. He has assured me that there was no major matter in relation to the Royal Australian Air Force, on which he disagreed with this Government’s policy. In fact, he had a very good run when he was associated with me as Minister for Air. Substantial changes in- organization were carried out during Sir Donald Hardman’s term of office as Chief of the Air Staff. The organization of the Air Force was completely overhauled. Most of the recommendations for changes were made by me prior to Sir Donald’s arrival and were carried out under his direction with vigour and efficiency. Sir Donald made certain other recommendations to me prior to his departure. Those recommendations related to a limited expansion of existing activities and not to changes of a fundamental kind. As a result of policy decisions made by the Government some weeks ago in the light of the present strategic outlook, a new paper has been prepared on the role, employment and equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force. Whilst Sir Donald Hardman’s views were taken into consideration when the paper was being prepared, the submission and recommendations are the work of the present air staff under Air-Marshal McCauley’s direction. These recommendations are far-reaching and of a substantial nature and, in that respect, they differ from those that were made by his two predecessors. I have submitted those recommendations to the Minister for Defence who has approved of them in principle and,in due course, they will be submitted to the Government for final approval. As it is obvious from the statements that honorable members opposite have made that they know very little about this matter, I suggest that they should study the three policy statements on defence that have been made on behalf of the Government. The first of those statements was made by the Prime Minister; the second was made by the Minister for Defence in December last; and the third statement was made by the same Minister on Monday last.
– How does the Minister for Air reconcile what he has just said about Sir George J ones, withSir George’s own comments on the changes to the effect that at long last something may be done to improve the Air Force?
-I have spoken to Sir George Jones since he made those comments and he stated categorically that he is in agreement with the policies laid down and the actions taken by members of the Government. This must imply that his main attack was against the Chifley Government because it did not have the determination to make decisions on fundamental matters of policy in relation to the Air Force. It was left to this Government to make the necessary decisions to put the Air Force on a satisfactory footing. The main criticism is of the dilatoriness and inaction of the former Labour Government.
– I desire to reply to certain sugestions which are contained in the statement of the Minister for Air.
– Order ! Is the honorable member for Maribyrnong asking for leave to make a statement, or does he wish to make a personal explanation?
Mr.Drakeford. - I ask for leave to make a statement.
– There being no dissentient voice, leave is granted.
– Have I been granted leave to make a statement, or am I to make a personal explanation?
– The honorable member has been granted leave to make a statement.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong)- by leave - The allegation of dilatoriness on the part of the Labour Government, contained in the statement made by the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), when he was pushed into a corner by a member of the Liberal party, is completely without foundation. I inform the House that the preceding Labour Goverment, on my recommendation when I was the Minister for Air, gave approval for the construction of the latest jet aircraft more than four years ago, but the air staff has not given effect to it. Not one squadron of jet or Canberra aircraft is yet available. That is evidence of where the responsibility for the dilatoriness lies. It was my duty, as Minister for Air, to make certain recommendations to the Chifley Government. I know of no dilatoriness on our part. It was not until the Labour party assumed office towards the end of 1941 that progress was made with the development of the Air Force. So far as I know, the former Chief of the Air Staff, Sir George Jones, did not at any time suggest anything of an advanced nature that we did not endeavour to put into operation and he would nothave reflected on the previous Government.
-Sabre aircraft were not in existence when the honorable member was the Minister for Air.
– The construction of Canberra aircraft was recommended but not one squadron of such aircraft has been built during the four and a half years the Menzies Government has been in office.
– The Labour Government failed to make a decision on that matter.
– I tell the Minister quite frankly that it is disturbing that aircraft, the construction of which was approved by the Chifley Government about four years ago, have not yet been built. I approved the construction of such aircraft-
– The honorable member did not approve.
– Well, I did; and the Minister is now endeavouring to blame the Labour Government for dilatoriness for which this Government has been responsible. I regret that these recriminations have taken place, but the Minister must accept responsibility for them, because of the nature of the reply he gave to a question by an honorable member who has been connected with the Royal Australian Air Force.
– The old Bostock-Jones feud again.
– Yes. When I make that statement, I do not imply that the honorable gentlemen’s association with the Air Forcewas undistinguished. How- ever, his question appears to have been deliberately framed to cast a reflection upon the Labour party. If it were permissible I could cite other instances of dilatoriness on the part of this Government,but I have said sufficient to prove my point.
– No doubt the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will recall representations that my colleagues and I have made from time to time that special assistance be made available to the poultry industry. Has he any information at this juncture to give to the House on that matter ?
– The honorable member is one of a group of members of the two Government parties who, over a period of months, have been working assiduously in stating a case to the Government in the interests of their constituents and on behalf of the egg industry generally. My colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, when he was Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and the honorable member for Darling Downs in his capacity as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Commerce and Agriculture, have been cooperating with those members in an endeavour to evolve a fair proposition to place before the Government with a view to assisting this industry. I am glad to be able to inform the House that my colleague in the Senate will announce today, as I am now announcing, that arising out of the general circumstances to which the Government’s attention has been directed, it has allocated a sum of £250,000 as special assistance to theegg industry. That assistance is being made available very largely as a result of the manner in which the case for the industry has been presented to the Government by the honorable members to whom I have referred. It is the intention of the Government that those moneys shall be paid to individual producers in proportion to their contributions of eggs during the year.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian National University Act - Australian National University - Report for 1952 together with financial statement.
Honorable members will note that the statement of income and expenditure has not been signed by the Auditor-General. The House will recall that the AuditorGeneral has already drawn attention to this matter in his supplementary report for 1953. I should like to inform the House that immediately the views of the Auditor-General were brought to the attention of the council of that university, it engaged a firm of accountants, which audits the accounts of the Sydney University, and as a result, a specialist in systems control is advising the council on the form of the university’s staff and equipment control.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
This committee was appointed by me pursuant to a decision of a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in September, 1950. The chairman of the committee was Mr. Justice Wright, and the members comprised four persons drawn from State apprentice technical education authorities, two of whom represented employers’ associations and two the trade unions. Many honorable members have expressed considerable interest in the functions of the committee, and the House will find that the report is most comprehensive. It contains recommendations which are the concern principally of the States, and copies of the document have already been transmitted to the Premiers. Other matters which have been dealt with affect the Commonwealth solely, or the Commonwealth and the States jointly. The Commonwealth proposes to examine those sections of the report which relate solely to the Commonwealth’s interests, and has proposed to the Premiers the machinery to facilitate the discussion of matters which are of joint Commonwealth-State concern. I regret that copies of the report are not immediately available; but if those honorable members who desire to obtain copies will inform me, I shall arrange for copies to be sent to them.
– I have the honour to present a statement advising the House that the Foreign Affairs Committee has forwarded to the Minister for External Affairs a statement in relation to Indo-China.
.- 1 present the report of the Public Works Committee relating to the following proposed work: -
Proposed erection of Commonwealth Offices, Phillip-street, Sydney, New South Wales, and move -
That the report be printed.
.- 1. desire to refer briefly to this report. At the outset, I make it clear that anything I may say is not in criticism of the work of the Public Works Committee; nor do I believe that, on the evidence submitted, the committee is at fault in arriving at its decision. The report indicates that I am not satisfied with certain decisions which have been made, and I should like to express my views on that matter, particularly for the benefit of the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes).
The position regarding office accommodation in Sydney is extremely bad. During World War II. large numbers of offices in bank buildings and the like in the central part of Sydney - Pittstreet and Martin-place - were commandeered for war purposes, and are still occupied by Commonwealth public servants. The Customs building is the only structure that has been erected by the Commonwealth in the city of Sydney since federation. In 1927, the proposal was first mooted for the extension of Elizabeth-street, but the work has not yet been undertaken. The Public Works Committee has decided, on the recommendation of officers, to await the completion of the extension of Elizabethstreet before attempting to proceed with the use of any vacant land, which is capable of being used for building purposes at the present time. I consider that such a delay would be too long, in view of the acute shortage of office accommodation at the present time. An alternative should be sought, so that land which is now available may be used for the erection of suitable buildings. If that course were followed, the accommodation position in Sydney would be relieved to a considerable degree.
– The Commonwealth has found itself in a very awkward position in all capital cities, and especially in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, practically since the end of World War II., and certainly during the last three or four years. The Government has done what it can to try to alleviate the position, particularly in relation to office space that was taken over during the war but uot returned after the cessation of hostilities. Acting in accordance with that policy, I referred the situation in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to the Public Works Committee on three separate occasions so that it could sum up the various propositions put before it by experts. I am very grateful to the committee for the work that it has done, and personally I hope that we shall be able to carry out its recommendations. I cannot see how we can alleviate the position unless those recommendations are carried out. In Sydney, as the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has said, there may be many legal complications in relation to the Phillip-street site that could lead to long delays, and time is running short in Sydney. Commonwealth officers are not properly housed, and offices are located in the centre of the city where many of them need not be. It is unfair both to the Public Service and to industrial and commercial interests in Sydney that the Commonwealth should retain hired space in the city area. We must find a speedy solution of the problem. I have only glanced rapidly at the committee’s report, but I am grateful to it for the work that it has done.
.- in reply - I have no desire to be unduly critical, but, in defence of the Public Works Committee, I must correct a few of the impressions that may have been created by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). The honorable gentleman said that the committee had done a hurried job. That implied that members of the committee had made up their minds on very poor evidence. I assure the House that the committee had a week in Sydney in which to carry out its inquiry and was supplied with the best evidence it was possible to obtain. Its report is based on the weight of evidence of experts, such as architects, engineers and town planners, who do not take the dim view of the Palladium site that the honorable member for Bennelong takes. The use of the Palladium site offers an immediate prospect of relief. The other plan may take years to complete, as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has said. The committee has recommended a course of action that will lead quickly to the relief of pressure on privately owned buildings in which Commonwealth offices take up too much space. I should not like to say that the honorable member for Bennelong is alone in the opinions that he has expressed, but I do say that he is the only member of the Public Works Committee who holds those views. I repeat that the committee based its findings entirely on the evidence of the experts who appeared before it during the week it was in Sydney, not. on the laymen’s views of its members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the appointment of a certain royal commission, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is a short and simple measure. The royal commissions legislation of the Commonwealth, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) will recall, was dealt some stout blows by the Privy Council in the Colonial Sugar Refinery Company Limited case many years ago. The Privy Council on that occasion offered some opinions about the validity of such a law. Since then, the practice of passing a special royal commission bill in relation to a particular royal commission has arisen. The whole purpose of that practice is to make it clear that the power to compel the attendance of witnesses and the giving of evidence is related to a particular royal commission inquiry into some particular subject which falls within the general competence of the Commonwealth. On at least three occasions that I can recall, bills have been passed by the Parliament in order to give this necessary power to specific royal commissions. That was done in the cases of a royal commission on petrol, a royal commission on wheat and, more recently, a royal commission on timber. In each instance, appropriate authority was given to the commissioner so that he might be able to compel the attendance of witnesses and so forth.
In this case, we cannot quite follow that pattern because, at the moment, the material that is to be investigated has not been anything like fully investigated. It is going to be a long and difficult task. The job has been begun, and it is because the results of the examination so far have been significant that a decision has been taken to establish a royal commission, which, I may say, will have the responsibility and duty of examining these matters completely so that there shall be nothing hidden that shall not be made known. Nobody need have any doubts about that. However, we are not at the moment in as good a position to draft precise terms of reference as perhaps we shall be in a little later when the material has been examined. Consequently this bill includes the following expression : -
The Governor-General is . . . empowered to issue, by Letters Patent … a Commission, directed to such person as he thinks tit, requiring or authorizing that person to make inquiry into and report upon subjects specified in the Letters Patent, being -
the commission of acts of espionage in Australia;
the commission in Australia of other acts prejudicial to the security or defence of Australia; or
subjects related to any matter referred to in either of the last two preceding paragraphs.
Honorable members will realize that that language is, in a sense, particular, but is also, in a sense, very general. The reason for that is that, following the normal procedure with royal commissions, when the letters patent issue they must contain a precise statement of the terms of reference of the royal commissioner. I have no doubt that the terms of reference will be capable of much more precise expression by the time the royal commission issues.But in any event, the effect of this bill, which is the whole purpose of the bill, will be to prevent any doubts properly arising regarding the authority of the royal commissioner to exercise the normal powers of a commissioner in relation to witnesses. I am sure that that will be agreeable to the wishes of all honorable members, because these are grave matters and they require searching examination, and we cannot afford to have it discovered half-way through the examination that there is some limitation on the powers of the commissioner which prevents him from getting at the truth. I might say, before I conclude, that I rather regret that the Leader of the Opposition should have thought it necessary this morning to emphasize that there should be a nonparty approach to this matter. I took it for granted that this was not a party matter.
– Hear, hear!
– This kind of thing, indeed, presents embarrassments to a government in this sense, that, happening as it does through circumstances beyond our control - because it happened when the man concerned had finished his term of duty with the Soviet Embassy and had left - not long before a general election, some people might be disposed to think that it has some electoral significance. I want to tell the House that I should have been very happy if this matter had not arisen in this way for two or three months, and, so far from feeling that it involves any party consideration, I want to make it abundantly clear that this concerns something far superior to party. It concerns the security of our country and the integrity of the administration of our country. It is a matter which, I think, can brook no delay. That is why we promptly announced that we should appoint a royal commission to inquire into it.
I wish to warn honorable members, because it would be foolish not to do so, that the examination of material, which includes, as it does, much material in a somewhat difficult language, and sometimes expressed in a rather elusive way, will take some time. I am not expecting that this matter can be attended to in a week or two. A great deal of work will have to be done. All I can say is that, at the earliest possible moment, we shall appoint a royal commission. I shall be very happy indeed to convey to the Leader of’ the Opposition what we are suggesting as the terms of reference. This having been done, and the letters patent having been issued, the commission will no doubt be guided by the circumstances in taking its own course regarding such adjournment as it may grant for further examination of material, or in regard to such other procedural matters as may be necessary. I mention that because, otherwise, there might be a disposition in the minds of some people to think that this is a relatively simple matter and can be dealt with without delay. Honorable members will recall ‘that, in the case of Canada, a considerable time was occupied by the examination of material before the matter came to the light of day. I think that that is all I require to say when moving the second reading of the bill. It is presented, as I have said, largely for technical legal reasons, and to avoid what otherwise might have been doubts and difficulties about procedure.
– The Government was good enough to place an advance copy of the bill at the disposal of the Opposition. “We have studied it this morning, and we give it our full support. What the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) lias said about the history of the Royal Commissions Act may, I think, be summed up by saying that an act of Parliament to appoint a royal commission must indicate the precise matters of Commonwealth jurisdiction that are being examined by the royal commission. That is the only ground upon which the Privy Council decision was given and, as far as I can see this bill will be effective and will also be valid constitutionally. What will happen will be that the letters patent directed to such person as is chosen to be the royal commissioner will issue, and the subjects for inquiry will be specifically stated and will be clearly related to matters that come within Commonwealth jurisdiction. The second point, of course, is that the actual bill mentions no authority, no judicial officer, and I take it from the Prime Minister’s statement that the person to be appointed, such person as the Government thinks fit, will be such a person.
– Can the reference to that person be made plural, if desired ?
– It cannot be made plural. In my remarks earlier to-day I mentioned two judges, because that was the course taken in Canada, where two justices of the Supreme Court of Canada inquired into a similar matter there.
– This bill would not exclude the appointment of two people. The word “ singular “ includes “ plural “, according to the Acts Interpretation Act.
– If the Prime Minister thinks that is sufficient I am quite content, without expressing any opinion about whether that is necessarily the wiser course. I accept the Prime Minister’s statement about some form of consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. I am most anxious that we should co-operate with the Government to bring this matter to finality as soon as possible, appreciating also some of the points that the Prime Minister has made about the necessity to examine the material carefully before action can be taken. I do not apologize for saying that it is not party spirit that motivates the Opposition. I think the fact that the Opposition is unanimously supporting the bill shows that we regard this as a national matter. It is for that reason that I mentioned earlier to-day the close association of the Opposition, when it was in office, with the formation of the organization that was given special charge of security in this country. For these reasons, which I do not think require elaboration, the Opposition gives full support to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th April (vide page 265), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition accepts the bill and the proposed amendment, of which we have had prior notice, and gives the bill support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 4 which reads as follows : -
Section one hundred and seventy-seven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) and inserting in its stead the following paragraphs: - (aa) making provision for and in relation to appeals to the Appeal Tribunal from decisions of the Commissioner in relation to applications for amendment made under regulations made by virtue of the last preceding paragraph;
Section proposed to be amended - 177. The Governor-General may make regulations
I move -
That paragraph (aa) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs : - (aa) making provision for and in relation to the amendment of a patent for the purpose of correcting a clerical error or an obvious mistake; (ab) making provision for and in relation to appeals to the Appeal Tribunal from decisions of the Commissioner in relation to applications for amendment made under regulations made by virtue of either of the last two preceding paragraphs;”.
The purpose of the amendment is to provide authority for the correction of clerical errors and obvious mistakes in a patent. Section 159, which is repealed by clause 3, enabled such corrections to be made in a patent as well as in other documents. Paragraph (a) of clause 4 covers all the documents mentioned in section 159 with the exception of a patent. It had been considered that it would not be necessary to make any provision in regard to a patent, but, on further consideration, after representations from the Institute of Patent
Attorneys, it seemed prudent to confer at least the same power of correction as is now provided in section 159. Paragraph (aa) will give this power. The provision for appeals is now found in paragraph (ab). It will cover decisions on applications for correction of a patent, as well as decisions on applications for amendment of the documents mentioned in paragraph (a).
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 13th April (vide page 359), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I listened to the debate on this measure with much interest, and with humility, because unlike some other honorable members I do not profess to be an expert on wheat. However, I desire to advance some thoughts upon the matter because I have a vital interest in our second greatest export industry. Yesterday the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) directed the attention of honorable members to the absence of any genuine desire, and indeed ability, on the part of the Government to establish an enduring plan for the stabilization of wheat. This measure only gives point to his argument. There are two factors involved in the bill. First, the repayment of certain money from a pool that has been exhausted by effluxion of time, and, secondly, the evergreen problem whether the wheat industry can be stabilized with benefit both to the grower and the consumer. When introducing this measure the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said -
This bill provides for a return to the wheatgrower of the moneys collected from the proceeds of the export taxes paid to the wheat stabilization fund . . . the total amount collected amounts to the sum of £9,106,000. This amount, together with interest which has been carried by investment is the sum to be refunded to growers.
That statement, like so many statements by members of this Government, embodies a total surrender of formerly fiercely upheld principles. A relevant instance is the Commonwealth line of ships in which the farmers’ wheat is carried to overseas markets. The Government suggested that those ships should be disposed of, but later, in a ministerial statement the Government offered the viewpoint-
– I rise to order. The Commonwealth shipping line has nothing to do with the repayment of money to wheat-growers from a stabilization fund. The debate on this measure has ranged over a very wide field of subjects, but I consider that the honorable member is now straying altogether too far from the subject of the debate.
– The honorable member could confine himself to the provisions of the measure before the House.
– I was merely referring to the Government’s policy on wheat, and saying that it related to the carriage of wheat overseas. However, I shall now proceed to a consideration of the payment of moneys out of the fund to wheatgrowers.
– Hear, hear !
– During the byelection campaign for the seat of Gwydir the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) was distinguished by his absence. It is significant in that regard to remember that he and his Australian Country party colleagues had previously indicated that they did not consider that this money should be paid to wheat-growers. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) stated in a speech at Narrabri that the repayment of the money would be disastrous because it would destroy the financial structure of the country. Later, T believe he modified his beliefs. In any event, the attitude of the Government parties some time ago was that the money should not be returned to the wheatgrowers ; but, apparently the reasons that actuated that policy are no longer valid. It is now almost time for the general election, and the Minister’s further statement that’ he does not know when the money will be paid to wheat-farmers, but that it will not be paid for five or six weeks, is a further indication of the surrender of a principle upon which the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Allen) was elected to this House. I suggest that the Government has made a serious change of policy in this regard, which has not been fully investigated in the House. The honorable member for Lalor touched lightly on this matter because he spoke mainly about the wider issue of wheat stabilization and marketing. However, it is entirely , wrong that at Christmas the Government should find it impossible to give the farmers a Christmas box, but should discover it to be entirely logical to give them a present at Easter. I am entirely unable to follow that reasoning, and I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to deal with that matter in his reply.
Any person who takes more than a passing interest in the stabilization of wheat, and its position in our economy, should consider the future of stabilization. In my life as a journalist and as a member of this House, I have noticed that wheat has always been a contentious subject. There is a cry of “ socialism “ if a scheme of stabilization is mooted, and n. cry of “ victimization “ if it is not. I suggest that the contending forces should’ make a fresh attempt to work out a solution, and attempt to prove that the subject has not become so completely hogged down in politics that no decision worth a tuppenny damn can be evolved. We know to-day that the wheat industry is passing through a period of crisis. There is a heavy carry over of this season’s crop, and although the Minister is not able to tell us the amount of wheat that will remain unsold, it must be a considerable quantity. Ls it of any use to us to rely on cycles of drought to remove abundance? Is there any way in which wheat stabilization can be put into its proper perspective? If so, what is the value of the contending issues? If the marketing of wheat is stabilized, it must be done in such a way that it will preserve in the mind of the farmer the thought that he has not been taken over by the Government. I say with great humility, as an observer, that the wheat-growers are too expert, that they are over-organized and that they quickly become embroiled in the old fights in relation to who ran a bad pool, who ran out on a certain scheme and who did something in relation to one thing or another. The restoration of stable markets for all time is still the problem that has to be solved. On my return from the Gwydir electorate, I read with interest the remarks of Sir John Teasdale relative to a reduction of acreage, and I read with equal interest the swift and vigorous rebuttal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who said that that was not the Government’s policy. Immediately I aligned in my mind the two factors and the opposing strengths, and I concluded that the Government at this stage was not considering a reduction of the acreage as a solution of the problem. When an authority like Sir John Teasdale, who was appointed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and who was afterwards knighted for his services to rural industries, makes a statement, it is worthy of some consideration. His statement was dismissed summarily and considered to be a little out of order, amounting almost to a faux pas.
The Prime Minister, who spoke on behalf of the Government, said that the restriction of acreage was not in the Government’s plan. What are the plans for stabilization? They have been set out in the vaguest form by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture himself, but an analysis of the written word reveals that it is not very powerful. I think the statements of the honorable member for Lalor should have been more widely approved and not contested purely and simply on party lines. If one examines the whole question, he arrives at the conclusion that stabilization is all right if the government of the day introduces it, but that, if it is suggested by the Opposition, it is all wrong. That does not seem to be a logical or sensible or even a safe approach to the problem. If one examines the matter further, he discovers that here is a Doomsday-book in relation to the wheat problem. Experts of all kinds have contradicted themselves with alacrity and at great length. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) who is opposed to any scheme of rehabilitation and stabilization that is proposed by the Opposition, had different views some time ago. He said in 1948, when the original Pollard plan was introduced by the Chifley Government, that it was a good scheme, but that it had been stolen from him and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The honorable gentleman said that, although the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) claimed that the Commonwealth wheat stabilization plan was his plan, actually he had delved into the files that were left by the right honorable member for Cowper, and himself and that the plan presented by the honorable member for Lalor was their plan. If it waa their plan, why does the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture denounce it ? Why should the very serried ranks of the Australian Country party denounce it?
The payment of a subsidy of ls. 5d. a bushel on wheat has been hotly contested in this House. At one stage, every supporter of the Government who spoke on the subject agreed that it was a good plan. One has only to go back to 1950 to see that the Minister agreed with the Opposition in relation to the sale of wheat, and those facts are of concern to me as the representative of the consumer. We have the extraordinary situation where the wheat-growers, through their representatives on the Government benches, are quarrelling with their best customer, the Australian consumer. They seem to think that he is a blight upon their progress. Has any honorable member ever heard a worker denounce the price of bread? He may speak about manipulations along the line, but I think that, because he is a consumer, he has the proper approach to the question of primary production. Sooner or later the question of a subsidy must be considered. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who is an expert in these matters, has thought about it, and he has thought it over so often that he has changed his mind on many occasions. He has changed his mind since 1950. In 1950 the press contained the following report : -
Mr. McEwen said the first two decisions made by the new Cabinet demonstrated this attitude. It had agreed that rises in wheat and butter prices should not be passed on, but be borne by the Government.
In those days the Minister advocated the subsidy. The subsidies were discontinued in November, 1953, and the boot has been put into the consumer. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who made “Roberton’s last ride” last night, because he may not sit in this House much longer, read a list of completely misleading figures. A third series of figures which would balance out the two propositions were not referred to in this House.
Supporters of the Government have not referred to the subject of inflation. Inflation is one of the problems that confront the wheat industry. Inflation, plus a plenitude of wheat, has forced the price of wheat to an almost prohibitive figure. The Government has not displayed a very progressive attitude towards negotiations relative to the international marketing of wheat. I should have thought that the best price to obtain would have been the best available price, because there were certain things looming on the horizon which made the marketing of wheat abroad very precarious. The Government should have directed its attention to that problem. The fact that the trader-to-trader basis was about to be implemented posed certain serious problems of which the Minister is well aware. The attitude of the Government was one of laisser-faire - let it slip, let it rip. The result is that there has not been a completely protective agreement for the international marketing of wheat. The present arrangement does not provide the coverage that’ was provided by the Chifley-Pollard plan. It is full of holes, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will be the first to concede.
I again refer to the attitude that stabilization has to be argued to the limit and that there is always the danger that the Government’s planning might affect the position. As far back as 1948, when the plan that the honorable member for Lalor has refurbished, was introduced, the Sydney Morning Herald stated that there had been a battle for many years for stabilization. The article further stated -
But in these days of phenomena] prices some of their leaders are urging them to take fill they can get while tlie going is good and to postpone committing themselves to a stabilization scheme for at least another year.
Such a policy would be suicidal, but it has been encouraged to a degree by some comments that have been made by members of the Australian Country party in this House.
Reverting to the simple question that I posed in my opening remarks, and to which I hope to receive an intelligent answer, I again ask “ Is it not a fact that the stabilization plan that was implemented by the Chifley Government really worked and made the problems associated with all sections of primary production capable of adjustment and cure? At the same time, is it not a fact that with no plan in existence at present this Government is merely nattering and merely trying to find something that will help? Is it not a fact also that the industry is in great danger not only in respect of imponderables, such as the overseas market, which the Government cannot control, but also as a result of the lack of an effective stabilization plan?
– Blame Mr. Cain.
– Of course, it is usual for this Government to blame the State governments for its difficulties. There was a great deal of merit in the efforts that the Premier of Victoria made in order to infuse some sanity into the scheme that was originally proposed by this Government. The criticism of what has become known as the Pollard plan would appear to have its source in attempts by honorable members opposite to deride that proposition as being of no importance to the wheat-growers. Some honorable members opposite referred to a meeting of growers that was held at Warracknabeal. I direct attention to an editorial that was published at that time in the Warracknabeal Herald. Dealing with the Pollard plan, that journal stated -
Wheatgrowers’ organizations will examine the plan very carefully and will be on the look-out for traps in it which may be against the interests of the growers.
On the surface they are hard to find. The plan was drawn up by the Minister for Agriculture in the Chifley Government.
That plan met with the general approval of most growers’ organizations and individual growers and the fact that the same man worked out the plan may be some guarantee of its integrity.
These things are a matter for individual growers to decide and the plan should be carefully studied.
It is safe to say that the plan will be one of the main issues of the forthcoming election - particularly in wheat growing seats.
It will be interesting to hear Country Party and Liberal- Country Party views on it.
– “Will the honorable member read from the same issue of that newspaper the report of the meeting of wheat-growers that was held at that time ?
– I am referring to its balanced editorial comment on the Pollard plan. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is capable of concentrating only on propaganda that favours the party to which he belongs. He is incapable of looking at a problem on a national basis. The Government, of course, must also be held responsible for the fact that many of the difficulties besetting the wheat industry have resulted from the inflationary trend that has occurred since honorable members opposite assumed office and about which the Government has done nothing. The .fact that value has not been put back into the £1 is directly related to the price of wheat because that factor has increased the cost of production and, therefore, must be taken into consideration in respect of the marketing of wheat overseas. The found cost of production of wheat which, in 1946, was 6s. 8d. a bushel had risen by November last to 12s. lOd. a bushel. “Whereas that cost had increased by 5d. to 7s. Id. a bushel when Labour went out of office it has since risen by 5s. 6d. a bushel.
I conclude upon the note which I raised in my opening remarks. Honorable members opposite have a habit of treating the wheat industry as a specialist job. That attitude should be discouraged. All honorable members, in their humble way, should help to find a solution of the industry’s problems by a study of the mass of material that is available on the subject. The industry is the subject of contention in the party political sphere because, unlike wool, it requires to be assisted by the provision of subsidies and by government interference in a beneficial way. I rose simply to say that from the consumer’s point of view, I see great value in having a balanced, long-range scheme for a period of, say, ten years, so that the sweep of events can be controlled over a reasonable period. Droughts and seasons of plenitude can be balanced and, as the honorable member for Lalor has said, that fact has been exemplified in the history of the industry. An effective stabilization scheme must be based on far-reaching thought and will involve the taking of calculated risks. Those points are features of the Pollard plan which, while it is not over-generous, is balanced, economically sound and feasible so far as the growers are concerned. However, the Government is in a flap in this matter. Forces are contesting whether acreage should be reduced, and, in this respect, the views of experts cannot be ignored. Silos and bulkheads are crammed with wheat and the gospel of despair is now being preached by members of the Australian Country party in this chamber, who are praying for a drought which, they believe, would automatically adjust conditions in the industry. A drought of ideas is apparent on the Government side in contrast with a fertility of thought that is evident in the speeches of Opposition members. An effective plan must be evolved to stabilize the industry. If there is to be only half a plan, such as the Government has advanced, it will be of little use to the growers. The Pollard plan is a forwardlooking plan. It should be seriously considered, as I am sure it will be considered by the people of Australia, particularly the wheat-growers, when they are called upon in the near future to make a momentous decision on this matter.
– The wheat industry plays an important part in Australia’s economy. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said, it is the second largest exporter among our primary industries. This Government has always fully appreciated the industry’s importance; and its record of assistance to and co-operation with the industry since it assumed office in 1950 has been unparalleled in the history of the industry. In a debate on so important a subject as the wheat industry* one would expect members of the Opposition to advance a series of constructive and considered proposals. I regret to say that those honorable members, who have no expert knowledge on the subject, have so far advanced only disinterested and disjointed statements. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who opened the debate for the Opposition, made a number of allegations against the Government. I propose to reply to some of them. Before doing so, I should like to mention a significant point that has emerged so far from this debate. It is that although the honorable member for Lalor spoke for nearly an hour and several of his colleagues each spoke for about half an hour, not one of them denied the fact that the frustration of the wheat stabilization plan was carried out by the Australian Labour party in collusion with the Victorian Government. No Labour member has denied the charge of collusion between the federal Labour party and the Victorian Labour Government, so we are entitled to conclude that the collusion which has been alleged, did, in fact, take place.
The honorable member for Lalor has charged this Government with having failed to continue the stabilization scheme or an orderly marketing scheme. The honorable gentleman must have spoken without thinking when he made that reference to an orderly marketing scheme, because he knows perfectly well that an orderly marketing scheme is in operation at the present time. It was introduced solely by the efforts of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. That scheme, incidentally, was agreed to by all the State governments, although certain delaying tactics were practised by the Victorian Labour Government and the Queensland Labour Government. Of course, it was obvious then that stabilization could not be continued, because of those delaying tactics, and it was only at the last moment, before the International “Wheat Agreement was signed, that the Australian Agricultural Council was able to reach an agreement on an orderly marketing scheme.
The Government has been accused by the honorable member for Lalor of having created a situation in which there is no guarantee to growers in respect of wheat for export. The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that such a condition of affairs is due entirely to the attitude -of the Victorian Labour Government and the Queensland Labour Government, which refused to agree to the plan considered by the Australian Agricultural Council for the continuation of stabilization. Those two Labour administrations only capitulated at the last moment under pressure, and agreed to a short term orderly marketing scheme. So, the responsibility for the absence of a guarantee in respect of wheat for export must be borne by the Victorian Labour Government and the Queensland Labour Government.
The honorable member for Lalor also referred to what he termed the failure of the Government to provide satisfactory arrangements under the International Wheat Agreement. Evidently, he has in mind the fact that the United Kingdom is not subscribing to the agreement at the present time. He also mentioned the reduced Australian quota which is now 48,000,000 bushels under the International Wheat Agreement, and somehow or other, he implied that such a reduction was the responsibility of this Government. Of course, he knows perfectly well that the industry was represented, the Government was represented and the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board was present at the conferences held prior to the signing of the agreement. In fact, Australia had strong representation, and Australia’s case was put forward prominently and effectively at those conferences. Australia has no power to make the United Kingdom a party to the International Wheat Agreement. The signing of that agreement is purely a matter for the United Kingdom Government, in accordance with its own ideas. No responsibility for the decision of the United Kingdom not to be party to the agreement can be attributed to the Australian representatives at the conferences in Washington. But it is interesting to recall that the wheat-growing industry had no representative at the conferences that preceded the signing of the original International Wheat Agreement. The honorable member for Lalor, who was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at that time, did not consider that the growers should have their own representative in attendance on that occasion.
I atn sure that wheat-growers appreciate the action of this Government, in permitting them to have some interest in the disposal of their own property. When all is said and done, the wheat belongs, not to the Government, but to the growers.
I am bound to point out that the honorable member for Lalor devoted most ofhis speech, not to an exposition of the socalled Pollard plan, but to personal criticism of the Minister. We know that any one who engages in personalities of that kind has nothing constructive to say, and we can forgive the honorable gentleman for having nothing constructive to say in this debate, and for having omitted to refer to the terms of his plan. I believe that the honorable member for Lalor, after he had read in cold print the principal points of the plan, was too ashamed to introduce them in their stark nakedness to honorable members here. I assure him that it is futile for him to criticize the Minister, and try to persuade wheat-growers that he has not been “ onside “ with them. Almost all the wheatgrowers realize, and appreciate, the tremendous amount of time and energy that this able Minister has devoted to their cause over many years. I am sure that wheat-growers have made a complete assessment of the position, and know that it was only by the direct result of the efforts of the Minister that some sort of stability has been achieved in the industry. Had the Victorian Labour Government and the Queensland Labour Government had their own way, the marketing situation would now be completely chaotic.
The honorable member for Lalor has made a statement to the effect that State governments and the industry have no faith in this Government’s proposals. That assertion is completely absurd. It is so fantastic that I cannot understand why the honorable member for Lalor has made it. He knows that the proposals which have been submitted to the Australian Agricultural Council by the Commonwealth have the approval of five of the six State governments and the complete approval of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation which represents the industry. Some criticism was voiced by the Opposition because the subsidy had been reduced over a period of years and, finally, had been abolished. The fact was made abundantly clear during 1949 that the Government did not believe in the principle of a subsidy, and that view has been supported by the industry itself, which prefers to stand on its own feet. The Government has made it abundantly clear that its policy is based on that principle, and it has acted in accordance with the wishes of the industry. Once again, on this matter of stabilization as on other important matters, a sharp division of opinion is evident among members of the Labour party. We have, on the one hand, the majority plan of the Australian Agricultural Council, to which the Labour Governments of New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania subscribe. They have publicly supported the plan.
– The Queensland Labour Government has also subscribed to it.
– That is true. We should not forget that fact. On the other hand, the federal Labour party has allied itself to, or managed to bring “ on-side “ the Victorian Labour Government, and has produced a plan which is quite different from that to which the other sections of the Labour party subscribe. I ask the honorable member for Lalor to assist us in our predicament. To which voice of Labour should we listen? Is it the voice of Labour which has subscribed to the majority plan of the Australian Agricultural Council, or is it the voice of Labour which supports the so-called Pollard plan? I leave the answer to those questions to him, and to other Opposition members. Let them reach an understanding about which voice of Labour the wheat-growers should listen to on this occasion.
I fear that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in his simplicity on this particular subject, has been led astray by the honorable member for Lalor, who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Labour Government, and, therefore, I suppose, is considered a specialist on the subject of wheat marketing. A few weeks ago the
Labour party decided, under certain pressures, that it must produce a plan, as a matter of urgency, in order to have some kind of proposal to submit to wheat-growers in the forthcoming general election campaign. Collusion occurred between the federal Labour party and the Victoria Labour Government, and stabilization was staved off temporarily. The honorable member for Lalor hurriedly visited Canberra, and produced a basis for a plan which could become known as the Evatt-Pollard plan. I met the honorable member in Canberra on that occasion, and I thought that he was looking extremely worried. I now know the reason for his anxiety, and I prophesy that he. will look a lot more worried in the future. The Leader of the Opposition, in leaving the matter to the honorable member for Lalor in such a hasty manner, has been let down badly, and the Labour party is involved in a situation from which it will have extreme difficulty in extricating itself.
This peculiar Pollard plan makes provision, in some way, for the payment to growers of a subsidy in excess of the cost of production. I ask the honorable member for Lalor to inform the House who will pay the subsidy. The inference to be drawn from the plan is that the consumer will not pay any more for his bread, and the wheat-grower will receive a higher price, by way of a subsidy, for his commodity. The honorable gentleman knows that the Australian consumers of wheat are also the Australian taxpayers. The consumers would pay that subsidy, although the honorable member for Lalor would like to conceal that fact. He has announced that the duration of his plan is ten years, and he has accused the Government of failure to adhere to its pre-election promise to introduce a plan of similar duration. The Minister has made it clear, in his secondreading speech, that this Government believes in the principle of stabilization, and will legislate for an extended wheat stabilization plan if it is first approved by the growers. He has said that the Government is prepared to introduce legislation to make provision for a stabilization plan for five years, and,_ at the expiration of that period, a continuing plan for another five years, if that is desired. The honorable member for Lalor said, that the subsidy would not be increased significantly over a period of ten years because the export total would be, on an average, about 100,000,000 bushels. I invite the honorable gentleman to explain to the House and the wheat-growers his plan for the control of the surplus year by year. Does he propose to fix a specific surplus which is to be exported every year? If his plan envisages such action, acreage restrictions would need to be imposed. Therefore, I assume that his plan means that if a Labour government is to control the export surplus each year, some form of acreage restriction would be introduced. If the honorable member for Lalor has evolved such a plan, I suggest that he does not mention it in Queensland, which has a tremendous potential for grain-growing. Approximately 14,000,000 acres in that State can be used for wheatgrowing, and of that area, only 600,000 acres are in use at the present time. Therefore, I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he remains silent on that point.
The honorable member for Lalor also discussed the payment of freight on wheat transported to Tasmania. He challenges the surcharge of 1½d. a bushel which is now imposed with the approval of all State governments and the Australian Agricultural Council. I remind the honorable gentleman that the proposal for that surcharge was submitted by the Labour Government of Tasmania, and was supported by other State Labour governments. So, if he has any complaint about that measure, I suggest that he take it up with his own party.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), another Opposition spokesman, discussed the history of the wheat industry at great length in a prepared speech which, I have no doubt, had been handed to him by the honorable member for Lalor, but which had very little application to the bill. One point that emerged from the welter of his remarks was the assertion that the Government was having some difficulty at present with the sale of export wheat. The honorable gentleman did not appear to be clearly aware of the identity of the authority that handles export sales. I remind him that there is such an organization as the Australian Wheat Board, which is responsible for wheat pooling arrangements and the marketing of wheat overseas. The honorable member also referred to a public statement attributed to Sir John Teasdale, the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, on the subject of wheat acreage. Sir John Teasdale is free to express his views on any subject at any time. The Government does not attempt to prevent the chairman of the board from speaking freely on any issues in which he is interested. Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Darling did not mention the fact that, a few days after Sir John Teasdale had made his statement, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made another statement in which he re-affirmed the Government’s policy in relation to the wheat industry. The honorable member for Parkes, who also spoke at great length, asserted that certain Government representatives had said that, they did not wish to return the £9,000,000 in the stabilization fund to the wheat-growers because the money would be needed for stabilization purposes. That, of course, was a half-truth. What the honorable member did not say, although I am sure he was aware of the fact, was that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had made it clear on many occasions that the Government would return the £9,000,000 if a ballot of growers had not been taken by the 31st March this year. Thus, this bill will merely honour the promise that was given by the Government to the wheat industry. The honorable member also made an extraordinary complaint in the course of his rambling speech to the effect that the wheat industry was becoming the subject of party politics. He tried to imply that the Government was either directly or indirectly responsible for this situation. Such a suggestion is absurd because, as the honorable member must know very well, the only political pressure that has been exerted during the protracted negotiations that have extended over the last two years has been applied by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Lalor, acting in collusion with the Labour Premier of Victoria.
The bill provides for the repayment to the growers of £9,166,000 in the stabilization fund, which represents wheat tax paid on the No. 15 pool for 1951-52, the last year during which growers contributed to the fund. The Government had declared clearly that the amount would be returned to the growers. The bill will be the Parliament’s authority to the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Wheat Board to refund the money as soon as the necessary machinery can be set in motion. The Minister also made it abundantly clear in his second-reading speech that the Commonwealth would stand by its previous offer to legislate for an extended wheat stabilization plan, if such a plan were first approved by the growers and if all details were agreed upon by the State governments.
– The Minister referred to a “ reasonable time “ for the taking of a growers’ ballot. What is meant by that expression?
– The plan involves taxation of last year’s harvest. Therefore, a reasonable time must be such a period as will permit the taxation of the exported proportion of that crop. The plan would not be capable of operation otherwise.
– I thank the Minister for his interjection. I am sure that the explanation will clarify the point for the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). The honorable member for Parkes also complained that the Minister and his supporters had not clarified during this debate the Government’s intentions in regard to future stabilization of the wheat industry. That, of course, was not a statement of fact, because the Minister made the basis of the Government’s proposals very clear in the course of his second-reading speech. There should have been no need for him to do so, however, because growers throughout Australia, and the public generally, are well aware of the terms of the majority plan of the Australian Agricultural Council. The honorable member for Parkes should not be ignorant of that plan but, in order to refresh his memory, I point out that it provides that the Commonwealth shall give a guarantee in respect of 1,000,000 bushels of export wheat for each year of the five-year plan. A stabilization fund will be established with a maximum of £20,000,000, and, when export values exceed the cost of production, wheat tax will be levied at a rate not to exceed ls. 6d. a bushel. That is the Commonwealth part of the plan. The fixing of home con sumption prices and other administrative matters come under the control of the State governments, and all States must he in full agreement on those issues.
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation, the Australian Primary Producers Union and wheat-growers generally have asked both this Government and the State governments to extend wheat stabilization and have submitted various proposals during the last few years. Those proposals have been considered, and what is known as the majority plan of the Australian Agricultural Council has been formulated from them. As honorable members know, the principles of the plan are that the State parliaments must legislate to fix the home consumption price of wheat for the duration of the plan, that the Commonwealth shall give a guarantee in respect of export wheat, that the Australian Wheat Board shall continue to be the pooling authority for the handling of export wheat, and, of course, that the entire plan must have the approval of the growers, expressed by ballot, and of all State governments. While the Victorian Government held out against the scheme before it was finally approved by a majority of the Australian Agricultural Council there were unavoidable delays, not the least of which arose from the fact that negotiations for the framing of the International Wheat Agreement were in progress for a considerable part of last year. In those circumstances, there wa3 no certainty about the final conditions of the agreement, which meant that there had to be some delay in arriving at the details of a plan for the Australian industry. It is interesting to note that the Victorian Labour Government finally gave in and agreed to a short-term orderly marketing plan for the three years of the duration of the agreement after the document had been signed by representatives of the countries affected and only within 24 hours of the time by which it had to be ratified. The Commonwealth has continued to be hopeful that the Victorian Government will agree to a stabilization plan that can be superimposed upon the orderly marketing scheme, and it remains hopeful that the Labour party will see the light and agree to the majority plan to which a number of Labour State governments have subscribed.
Various extremely interesting features distinguish the so-called Pollard plan. One point, which I have already mentioned, is that it reveals the existence within the Labour party of two definite factions in relation to the future of the wheat industry. The financial irresponsibility of the plan was pointed out clearly by the Minister. It is obvious that members of the Opposition well know that they will not have an opportunity to implement the plan and that, therefore, they can afford to be completely irresponsible in their statements. One special feature of the plan deserves clarification. The copy that I have in my possession refers to home-consumption prices and specifies a price that the Labour party, if elected to power at the forthcoming general election, promises to pay to growers for wheat used for home consumption over a period of ten years. This is a definite deception, because the honorable member for Lalor, who hastily prepared the plan, and the Leader of the Opposition, . who accepted it, both know that the Australian Government has no authority to fix a homeconsumption price and, therefore, that a Labour government in the Commonwealth sphere could not include such & guarantee in its stabilization plan. The honorable member for Lalor has been reminded of that fact, and it is up to him to rise in this House, withdraw that part of his plan, and apologize to the wheatgrowers and the people for the deception that he has attempted to practice. However, if the honorable gentleman is not prepared to do so, I believe that the wheat-growers and the people will judge his plan on its lack of merit in any case.
I ask honorable members to make a quick study of Labour’s record in relation to the wheat industry. Several Government supporters have already described what happened in 1930 when the Scullin Labour Government promised to guarantee a price of 4s. 6d. a bushel for wheat. We all know that the growers received only about ls. 6d. instead of 4s. 6d. a bushel. We also know that, during the life of the late Labour Government, the present honorable member for Lalor, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, sold Australian wheat to New Zealand at less than one-half the overseas parity price, which cost Australian wheat-growers many millions of pounds. That indicates the value of the lip service paid by members of the Labour party to the wheat-growers. The reactions of the wheat-growers generally to the plan that has been so hastily proposed by the honorable member for Lalor deserve our attention. I could quote many comments on the plan, but I shall not have the time to do so. However, I refer for example to an article published in a recent issue of Muster, which gives expression to the immediate general reaction throughout the wheat industry. It stated -
Strong opposition of the recently-announced Evatt-Pollard Wheat Plan was expressed last week by the chairman of the Agricultural Committee of the Graziers’ Association of X.S.W., Air. Gordon Blackman.
Commenting to Muster, Mr. Blackman said that the attitude of the Agricultural Committee was based, among others, on these main objections :
The plan gives no indication that growers will have the right to say by ballot whether it not they ure in favour of .the 12-point EvattPollard programme.
The article continued with some criticisms of the proposal for a subsidy, and added -
Wheat-growers . . . want u .just price which will include a margin of profit as provided for in the stabilization plan agreed to by the Commonwealth Government and five of the six State*, hut sabotaged by the Victorian Labour Government.
Obviously, the wheat-growers of Australia are opposed to the Pollard plan. In conclusion. I repeat emphatically that this bill will honour the promise given by the Government to return the amount .of over £9,000,000 in the stabilization fund to the wheat-growers. At the same time, the Government has re-affirmed its offer to legislate for a future stabilization plan in accordance with the majority decision of the Australian Agricultural Council.
No man in Australia to-day has done more for the wheat industry than has the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I have much pleasure in commending the bill to the House.
.- This is really a very simple bill, which will give legislative authority for the repayment to wheat-growers of certain moneys in the wheat industry stabilization fund. The total amount to be refunded is £9,166,000, plus interest, and it will be paid to the growers, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has said, as soon as the Australian Wheat Board and the Commonwealth Bank can make the necessary arrangements. That has been made very clear. Perhaps, as the debate has gone beyond the simple provisions of the bill, I may be permitted to discuss events of the last twelve months that have led up to the introduction of the measure. When time was running out about last September, the Minister, who wanted to have the wheat industry stabilized, extended the time set for the State governments to reach agreement on the homeconsumption price until the end of March. That extended period having expired, the right honorable gentleman has now presented to the Parliament this bill to authorize the repayment of the money to the growers. The Government told the State governments that, if they could agree on a homeconsumption price, it would guarantee the cost of production to growers for up to 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat a year for five years. The Commonwealth could do nothing during the period when the States were trying to reach agreement. It had given its assurance that it would subsidize a quantity of 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat up to the level of cost of production. The Commonwealth had to wait until the States had agreed on a home-consumption price before it could implement any stabilization scheme. As has been mentioned before, numerous meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council and of State representatives were held in order to reach agreement among the States on n, homeconsumption price. Finally, all the States except Victoria agreed on a home-consumption price. The Victorian Premier, Mr. Cain, is still holding out in respect of that matter. There is no doubt that there was some arrangement between the Federal Opposition and the Victorian Premier. The honorable member for Lalor did not deny statements made from this side of the chamber that there was a conspiracy between the Victorian Premier and the Opposition.
– I have always said that that allegation is false. Even if it were true it would not matter.
– All that the honorable member for Lalor did was to attempt to point out that there had been conspiracies in the past. He attempted, more or less, to set one conspiracy against another. That was not much of an argument. There is no doubt that the conspiracy between the Opposition in this Parliament and the Premier of Victoria, to which other honorable members have referred, has occurred. The general secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation wrote, in a letter to the Donald Times -
All the other State Ministers are sick and tired of attending conference after conference to find that Victoria is the only one out of step. Unless Mr. Cain will reconsider his stand, it means the end of wheat stabilization.
That is the position. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture made a very definite promise that if a ballot was taken, and the growers rejected the proposal, or if a ballot was not taken, then, by the end of March he would return to the growers the £9,166,000 in the stabilization fund. This bill will honour that promise. The Minister is so anxious to have a stabilization scheme that he has even now said that, provided the States reach agreement within a reasonable time, he is prepared to continue the guarantee for 100,000.000 bushels of wheat for export. That “ reasonable rime “ is required in order to permit the passage of legislation to authorize the collection of wheat tax in respect of the last harvest, the proceeds of which would be used to finance the stabilization scheme. Nothing could be fairer than that.
– The Government is prepared to do it.
– The Minister, as the spokesman for the Government, is prepared to do it. That fact shows clearly the keenness of the Minister that the will of the wheat-growers should be put into legislative form. He said, however, that after the States had agreed on a home-consumption price, the question must be put to the growers in a ballot, and a majority of growers in each State must agree to the scheme. If that were done, and the growers agreed, the resultant scheme would be one that was truly approved by the industry. That is where the matter stands now. All sorts of arguments have been adduced about what will happen to the wheat industry if the Labour party scheme is adopted. There is one thing that people must remember. Any one who keeps poultry knows that to catch a rooster a noose is set, generally with some wheat in it.
– Who ever caught a rooster with a noose? A piece of wire with a hook on it is used.
– When the rooster comes to take the wheat, the string is pulled and the bird is caught. The Opposition’s plan is a noose held out to the growers before a general election. If the growers accept the bait and, by some miscarriage of justice, the Opposition gains office as a result of it, the growers will soon find out where the money paid to them as a subsidy will come from. I agree with the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) that there is not the slightest doubt that the money would be obtained by means which- would include the reimposition of the land tax. The statements made on the subject of land tax in this House, when the Land Tax Abolition Bill was debated, show the Opposition attitude to that tax. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, said on that occasion -
The Labour party believes in the land tax, and is opposed to its abolition.
Another honorable member opposite said -
The only fault that the Opposition finds with the land tax is that it is not heavy enough.
Speaker after speaker on the Opposition side of the chamber said that when Labour regained office it would not only re-impose, but would also increase, the land tax. A rough calculation will show that if it were possible to implement the so-called “ Pollard plan “ the grower would gain very little from a Labour government, which would re-impose the land tax and put the grower at a great financial disadvantage compared with his present position. I recently asked a leading grower in Victoria, who is also a prominent executive in a growers’ organization, what he thought of the Pollard plan. He said -
It depends entirely upon politics and as to what party you are prepared to have controlling the destinies of the man on the land.
The Melbourne Herald makes available a column to Labour and non-Labour parties alike for the expression of their views. The heading on an article by the honorable member for Lalor that appeared in that column was - “Yes, wheat is political “.
– Of course it is.
– Of course it is political, and the Labour party, realizing that fact, has brought forward this scheme just before a general election in order to endeavour to persuade the wheatgrowers to support Labour party candidates. I can assure the House that in my electorate there are very few wheatgrowers who support this plan.
– This bill has been introduced because an election is imminent.
– That is untrue, as a statement made by the general secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation will prove. He has pointed out that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture promised to pay this money back at this very time. Naturally, the Minister would keep his promise. It is not as if the Minister had come into the House recently and said for the first time, “ I am going to pay this money back by the end of March”. He made that announcement six months ago. Yet honorable members opposite now have the audacity to say that the bill is only election bait. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reference in this chamber to the Labour party’s main objective of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange always produce interjections from members of the Labour party. Members of that party are in small numbers here to-day.
– We have more members in the House than any other party at the moment.
– Order !
– There is not the slightest doubt about what would happen to the wheat-growers if the Labour party were returned to office. The honorable member for Parkes quoted an editorial from the Warracknabeal Herald. I ask him. to read a report from the same newspaper of a meeting held by the Australian Primary Producers Union, at Warracknabeal, which carried a motion urging the Victorian Premier to accept the stabilization scheme. I was not at that meeting, but I think I am entitled to say that every wheat-grower present at it favoured the Government’s plan. The Australian Primary Producers Union is n fairly strong wheat-growers organization, as is also the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association. The honorable member for Lalor has on many occasions quoted statements made by the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, but he did not do so in the speech that he made on this bill yesterday, because it did not suit him to do so. The reason is that the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association has, at every one of its recent meetings, urged the Victorian Premier to accept the Government’s’ scheme.
The unanimity of the growers in relation to the Government’s scheme can be realized when the number of member.* of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association is added to the number, of members of the Australian Primary Producers Union and the number of spokesmen for wheat-growers from all parts of the country. If stabilization is lost to the wheat industry, the blame can be laid only at the door of the Victorian Premier. I marvel at the patience of the Minister who, in spite of all the hold-ups, and of having to pay back, in order to keep his promise, this huge sum of money which he had hoped would become the nucleus of the fund to finance a stabilization scheme, has, on behalf of the Government, announced that he will give a further period to the States to achieve agreement on a home consumption price.
At the Warracknabeal meeting, Mr. J. Hines, of Marnoo, said that he had already made several correct forecasts in that hall and would make another. He said - “ I will give a substantial sum to the Warracknabeal Hospital if it proves to be incorrect, t say now that the Premier of Victoria is holding up the implementation of the suggested scheme, which has been approved by the five other States, so as to allow the Opposition at Canberra to bring forward some kind of scheme which it hopes will give it some political advantage.”
Mr. Hines made that statement long before the Pollard plan was announced. His forecast has proved to be correct, and he will not have to pay the money to the hospital. I believe that, when he made that prophecy, a good number of people in that hall agreed with him. The fact that the prophecy has proved to be correct seems to point more and more clearly to the existence of a definite arrangement between the Victorian Premier and the so-called “wheat negotiators “ of the Federal Opposition. The honorable member for Lalor has denied, on various occasions, that there has been any arrangement. I have not used the word conspiracy, because some people do not like it. I have used the word “ arrangement “, which is another’ thing. I warn the honorable member for Lalor that if he says there was no arrangement made about this wheat scheme with the Victorian Premier, he is apt to lose any respect that the Victorian Premier might have for him. The general secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation has stated - The Premier of Victoria believes there is plenty of time to negotiate on a new basis, but this is a completely erroneous view. There is no legislation in force to collect tha growers’ contribution to his own reserve stabilization fund.
And of course there is not. But the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has extended the time so that the money can be collected. The general secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation continued -
As prices fall, the longer we wait the chance nf collecting any contribution at all could easily disappear entirely. No Government,
Liberal or Labour, would negotiate then on a fresh wheat stabilization plan where all the contributions would be from the Treasury and none from the growers.
Perhaps the honorable member for Lalor will say that a Labour government would make the whole of the contribution from the Treasury, because he published an article in the Melbourne Herald to the effect that the Labour party’s wheat marketing scheme is designed to give the wheat-growers a fairly good price, hut also to allow consumers to buy wheat at a reasonably cheap rate. In any plan of that description there must be a difference in price received by the growers and that paid by the consumers which must be bridged in one way or another. I ask the honorable member for Lalor how Labour would bridge such a gap ?
– If the honorable member reads my article he will find out.
– I have read the article, otherwise I should not have been able to discuss the shortcomings of Labour’s scheme. Of course, the difference in the two prices that I have already mentioned, is supposed to come from the Treasury - according to the honorable member for Lalor - but honorable members should bear in mind that any government, no matter what its political colour may be, has to obtain from somewhere the money that it expends. No Australian government has any money of its own. lt has to raise the money by taxing the people. Perhaps the honorable member for Lalor would attempt to overcome that difficulty by saying that the money to bridge the gap between the price paid to wheat-growers and the price paid by consumers is to come out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. But here again the money has first to be collected and put into the fund, before it can be taken out. All governments must tax the people to get money, and the Labour party apparently intends to impose heavier taxes on the people to get money into the Consolidated Revenue Fund so that it can pay it out to the wheat-growers. I believe that the honorable member for Lalor does not know where the money would come from to bridge the gap, and. I am convinced that he does not care either, because he knows that there is no chance of Labour’s scheme ever being implemented. In other words, the wheat marketing scheme of the Labour party with no chance of it being implented. I point out to the honorable member for Lalor that all the States have to agree to any scheme involving wheat before it can be put into effect. Does the Labour party intend to give the wheat-growers an opportunity to vote on any scheme that it might devise?
– Of course it does.
– In that event, how does the honorable member for Lalor know that the wheat-growers will support his scheme? I venture to say that there are some State governments that have a sense of responsibility towards Australia, and towards the men on the land, and they will not be favorably disposed towards Labour party huge land taxes, which will have to be imposed on wheatgrowers in order to finance any such payment on wheat-growers. An attitude like that would prevent Labour party’s scheme from being introduced. Even if five of the six States agree to the scheme, the honorable member for Lalor would have no chance of bringing it into force. Therefore, the whole plan is revealed as just another election trick by the Labour party.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) directed attention to the two voices with which the Labour party speaks. All the Labour governed States of the Commonwealth, except one, accepted the Government’s wheat plan, and thus spoke with one voice. Victoria was the exception. Does the honorable member for Lalor expect them to support his plan and speak with still another voice? While the honorable member for Darling Downs was speaking I interjected to the- effect that the two voices of the Labour party are no novelty, and I repeat that statement now. I say that there are honorable members on the Labour side of this House who hate all wheat-growers and primary producers, and are continually working against them. In fact, I can prove my assertion from the pages of Hansard, and I shall proceed to do so because I am not in the habit of making serious statements unless I can prove their truth.
Let us consider the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The honorable member for Lawson spoke about certain honorable members of the Opposition who were opposed to primary producers. He did not mention the honorable member for East Sydney, but I said by way of interjection, “ What about the honorable member for East Sydney”. We must all realize that the honorable member for East Sydney is a most prominent member of the Labour party, and that a lot of his colleagues are very pleased to be able to get a smile from him, including the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). He directs the thinking of many members of the Opposition in this Parliament. Indeed, some of his supporters try to model their speeches on his. Therefore, knowing his importance in the Labour party and the Opposition, any matter that he puts forward must be considered to be authoritative from the point of view of the Labour movement. Indeed, on some occasions he has taken control of this House when the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne have been present. The honorable member for East Sydney has said -
Wheat-growers, when their industry was in a precarious position when prices were below the cost of production, and when serious difficulties were encountered as the result of drought, asked the Australian people to assist them with bounties in various forms. Therefore, I believe that when the wheat industry is in a most prosperous position it is only right that farmers should return some of the good that the general community extended to them in the past.
The honorable member made that statement on the 29th November, 1951, in spite of the fact that during many years of Labour rule in this country, when wheat was bringing tremendous prices overseas, the wheat-growers sold wheat to the Australian people, and so helped to stabilize our economy, at a price 10s. a bushel less than they could have got on the world markets. Many honorable members of the Opposition support every thing said by the honorable member for East Sydney, and no doubt they believe in his expressed sentiments that I have just read. Let us remember that just two years ago the honorable member for East Sydney said that wheat-growers should pay back bounties that they had been paid in order to tide them over droughts and other grave difficulties. Does the honorable member for Lalor agree with the sentiments of the honorable member for East Sydney?
– The honorable member for East Sydney was a member of the Labour Government which gave the first free drought relief.
– That is not so.
– Does the honorable member for Lalor agree with the honorable member for East Sydney that the wheat-growers should pay back to the Treasury the money that they have received as drought relief? Let the honorable member for Lalor say whether he agrees with that or not. He remains silent about it. He will continue to interject while I am speaking, but when the question is put fairly to him he slinks away from answering it. Of course, I am sure that the honorable member for East Sydney would not now say anything like the statement that I have just read, because a general election is not far off.
Mr. Pollard interjecting.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must cease his interjecting.
– But I am under crossexamination.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Lalor does not cease interjecting I shall take action, even though this is the last sitting day of the Parliament.
– The attitude of the honorable member for Lalor is only one further illustration of the two voices of the Labour party. The question now is which voice will be’the stronger. That is, which group of leaders in the Opposition will have the greater following. During the last few years new honorable members have been elected to this House who are followers of the honorable member for
East Sydney. No doubt, the honorable member is continually trying, in caucus, to gain adherents and if he becomes the leader of the Opposition he will be stronger than the honorable member for Lalor. At any rate, the Opposition has clearly shown this morning the nature of its policy on wheat if ever it achieves power in this country. The wheat-growers must carefully watch the Labour party’s wheat plan, although no doubt they will be quite safe because there is little hope of the plan ever being implemented. If it should be implemented consider what would happen in the event of bad times like we had in 1931 when the then Labour Government repudiated it3 promises to the wheat-growers. Could a Labour government, or, indeed, any government, continue to devote a large sum of money to any single industry at the expense of the economy of the whole country? Everybody knows that the Labour party would not do it, and that its plan is just an election stunt to try to combat the excellent scheme put forward by the Australian Agricultural Council and the Government - a scheme that can be carried out and one that will be carried out if this Government is returned to office on the 29th May. There is not the slightest doubt that when the Government is returned, the offer of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will be accepted by Mr. Cain who will come into line with the Premiers of the other States, and the wheat-growers will obtain a fiveyear stabilization scheme on fair and reasonable terms. But they have everything to fear from a socialist policy which will reimpose the land tax and, in many other ways, extract as much as possible from the man on the land.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.-I think after listening to the remarks of non-farming members of the Australian Country party, that even with my elementary knowledge of primary production, I should make a contribution on this important subject.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask you to rule, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member is not entitled to refer in committee to debates in the House.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).The point of order is upheld. The honorable member must relate his remarks to the clauses of the bill. He may not refer to the debate on this subject in the House.
– I shall refer to the bill as a whole. I refer to the refund to the growers of the sum of £9,000,000. If a bribe has ever been offered to the Australian wheat-growers, it is this refund of that sum of £9,000,000 on the eve of the next election. Under duress, and following attacks made upon the Australian Country party and the Government in general by the Australian Labour party, the Government proposes to refund this amount. In the recent Gwydir by-election-
– When the electors of the wheat-growing constituency of Gwydir recently elected to the Parliament a radio announcer to represent the Australian Country party, the Australian Labour party pointed out to them that they would be held to ransom by this Government in the withholding of that £9,000,000.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! If the committee becomes unruly, the Chair will take action.
– This Government is capitulating at the last minute in an effort to safeguard itself against the acceptance of the wheat plan that was announced by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and which has the unanimous endorsement of wheatgrowers from one end of this country to the other. Supporters of the Government may criticize the honorable member for Lalor, but he has been the only Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the history of Australia who has submitted a wheat scheme that has been endorsed at a referendum by every State in the Commonwealth. The criticisms that were levelled by members of the Australian Country party against Labour’s wheat plan were levelled also against the legislation that was introduced by the Chifley Government. The question was asked, “ Where will you find the money? You cannot find it. You will go bankrupt.”
– Order ! The remarks of the honorable member are not related to the measure under discussion.
– The point I make is that, in addition to the refund of that £9,000,000, other bribes are offered to the wheat-growers on the eve of the election.
– Order ! The remarks of the honorable member are not related to the subject under discussion.
– I could not say these things at an earlier stage, because I was gagged. The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen),. who introduced this measure, dismissed from office Mr. Cullen, of the Australian Wheat Board.
– Order! The only question before the committee is whether the £9,000,000 should be paid.
– I am referring to the maintenance of the Australian Wheat Board, which comes within the scope of this hill.
– Order ! That subject bears no relation to the bill.
– By whom is the scheme to be administered if it is not to be administered by the Australian Wheat Board ?
– There is not a scheme in operation.
– All I can say is that, if the scheme is not a scheme, it must be a conspiracy to deceive the wheat-growers.
– I understood the honorable member to suggest that the bill now before the committee is a conspiracy. If he did say that, he must withdraw the word.
– I withdraw it, but I should like to know what the proposal is if it is not a scheme.
– May the honorable member be furnished with a copy of the bill?
– I do not mind being interrupted by members of the Australian Country party, who at least come from country electorates, but when members of the Liberal party, who refused to speak in support of the measure, interrupt when I am making an intelligent contribution to the debate, I have every right to object.
Apparently the Australian Country party does not approve this scheme, and in particular the provision in relation to the £9,000,000. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) walked out of the chamber as a protest against the measure when the vote on the gag was taken. It is significant that members of the Liberal party have not been willing to support the proposals that have come before the Parliament, because they are at daggers drawn Avith members of the Australian Country party. I can summarize the matter by saying that the Government’s only plan - I shall not use the word “ scheme “ - after the appointment of Sir John Teasdale-
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss plans. The question raised by the bill is whether or not the £9,000,000 should be refunded.
– I am in complete agreement with the decision to refund the £9,000,000. The point I take is that the Government held the farmers to ransom and refused to refund the money until, because there was an election pending, it thought that it would receive some benefit from doing so. The Minister must, answer that charge. He sees nothing but annihilation for the Australian Country party in the wheat-growing areas when the Pollard wheat scheme is submitted. The Government will not win any votes from the wheat-farmers as a result of this bribe of £9,000,000, because the growers realize that the Government is putting it over them. I say quite sincerely that on this side of the chamber there are more men with a rural background and a knowledge of primary production and a faithful record of service to their party who are capable of safeguarding the rights of primary producers, and in particular those of the wheatgrowers, than there are on the Government benches. I am pleased that at long last the Government has endorsed the just principle of returning this sum of £9,000,000 to the wheat-growers. In the next Parliament the new Labour government will not be making apologies continually for its failure to safeguard the interests of the wheat-growers, because it will give effect to the Pollard plan, which not only will stabilize the industry but will also guarantee security to the wheat-growers.
– I have seen some somersaults in this chamber, but I have never seen one quite so fast or as so complete as that which has just been performed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). The honorable member rose to condemn the return of the £9,000,000 and alleged that it was a bribe, but when he sensed he had put his foot in it and had dismayed his colleagues, he concluded by complimenting the Government upon its decision to refund the money. That is one more classic example of the attitude of the Australian Labour party, which has not within its ranks any one who understands the primary industries.
– I rise to a point of order. The right honorable gentleman is not discussing the return of the £9,000,000. Ho is referring very definitely to the alleged attitude of the Australian Labour party.
– Order ! So far the remarks of the Minister have been relevant to the subject under discussion. He has been replying to the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
– As Chairman of Committees, you should be impartial when one honorable member is replying to the speech of another honorable member.
– Order ! I have ruled that the remarks of the right honorable gentleman are relevant.
– I shall confine my remarks to the measure, which is related to a refund from the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund of £9,000,000, which the honorable member for Grayndler describes as a bribe. That sum of £9,000,000 originated from taxes that were imposed upon export wheat under legislation that was passed by the Aus- tralian Labour party when it was in office, not from taxes on the general taxpayers and not from Consolidated Revenue. It was a levy imposed upon the wheat- growers under Labour legislation, but the return of it to the people from whom it was withheld is described by the Opposition as a bribe. That attitude shows quite clearly that the Australian Labour party learns nothing and, that it never changes. Over the years, when a Labour government found itself in possession of the property of other people, it retained that property or sought to retain it. When I was sitting in opposition, for many years I fought for the return by the Labour Government of funds that were withheld from primary producers and pointed out that the legislation that was introduced by that Government contained provision for taxing the property of the primary producers but it contained no provision to ensure that that money would be returned to them. After the Labour Government was defeated, I pointed out that millions of pounds which it had withheld from the wool-growers and dairy-farmers had never been returned. The attitude of the Australian Labour party to-day is in line with its attitude when it held office.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Silting suspended from 12.51 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 9th April (vide page 266), on motion by SirArthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.Clarey. - That is satisfactory.
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). - Very well ! It is agreed that the second-reading debate on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1954 shall also cover the Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1954.
– I regret that the introduction of these two bills has been delayed by the Government until the last hours of the Twentieth Parliament. On several occasions during the last twelve or fifteen months, questions have been addressed to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the need for the introduction of legislation to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, but, unfortunately, no satisfactory information could be obtained from the right honorable gentleman about the intentions of the Government on that matter. It is important for the House to remember that the Seamen’s Compensation Act was amended last year in order to bring the scale of benefits into line with those provided in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1951. The Opposition considers that it would have been an appropriate time to introduce legislation to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act when legislation to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act was before the House last year.
The rates of compensation payments for Commonwealth employees and seamen are lagging considerably behind the rates contained in amending legislation introduced in New South Wales and Victoria recently. The Treasurer has claimed, in his second-reading speech, that the new scales in the two bills will make the conditions of Commonwealth employees and seamen rather better than those provided in other workmen’s compensation acts. I do not agree that the right honorable gentleman has any cause for satisfaction on that score. I consider that the Commonwealth should give a lead to the States in such a matter. Commonwealth legislation in respect of workmen’s compensation should provide the highest possible benefits. A slight recognition of the fact that these bills are overdue is contained in the provision in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1954 to the effect that the legislation shall operate from the 1st January last. Unfortunately, a similar provision is not contained in the Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1954, which is to come into operation on a date to be proclaimed. That date may be before, or after, the bill becomes law. But the Government certainly does not propose to give to seamen by statute the benefit of retrospectivity, which is given to Commonwealth employees. I ask the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who is in charge of the bill, to explain why a distinction is drawn in that respect between Commonwealth employees and seamen. “When all is said and done, seamen are probably exposed to greater hazards than are the majority of Commonwealth employees. No information has been given to the House about the date on which the Seamen’s Compensation Bill will become operative.
An examination of both bills reveals that the Commonwealth compensation legislation is lagging substantially, in certain essential respects, behind that of the States. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill provides that compensation shall be paid to a worker who is temporarily incapacitated for work as a result of injury or disease. The rate of compensation is to be raised from £6 to £8 15s. a week. I inform the House that amending leglislation which was passed by the Victorian Parliament and came into operation on the 1st July, 1.053, fixed the rate of compensation at £8 16s. a week. That is to say, Victoria fixed a higher rate of weekly compensation nine months ago than is proposed in this bill. I also point out that provision is made in this legislation for the wife of an injured worker to receive a payment of 45s. a week. The existing payment is “5s. a week. The Victorian act provides that the allowance for a wife shall be £2 8s. a week. The rate for a dependent child under this bill is to be increased from 15s. to 20s. a week. The rate payable under the Victorian act is 16s. a week. Under the Victorian act, an injured worker, his wife and one child receive a payment of £12 a week, which is comparable with the benefit to be provided under this bill.
An examination of the Third Schedule to each bill discloses a substantial difference between the new amounts and the benefits provided in the Victorian legislation. Unfortunately, that substantial difference is not in favour of Commonwealth employees or seamen. The maximum rate of compensation for the loss of both eyes, or the loss of an only useful eye, the other being blind or absent, or the loss of limbs, is to be increased from £1,750 to £2,350. The maximum compensation payable under the Victorian legislation for similar injuries is £2,800. A similar difference exists between the two sets of compensation rates payable in respect of other injuries. The two bills provide compensation of £1,S80 for the loss of a right arm, or the greater part of a right arm, but the Victorian legislation provides a payment of £2,240. I do not need to analyse the whole of the Third Schedule to each of the bills. It is sufficient for me to say that with the exception of two small classifications, the rates provided in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1954 and the Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1954 are substantially below those in the Victorian legislation. The Treasurer has admitted, in his second-reading speeches on these bills, that, in some instances, the New South Wales workmen’s compensation legislation grants bigger benefits than are provided by these measures.
– The benefits are lower in some States.
– That may be so; but 1 believe that the Commonwealth should not lag behind the States in compensation matters. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act years ago gave a lead to all the States. Rates of compensation were fixed that were ultimately followed by the States.
The Opposition will not oppose these bills. W e believe that they are necessary. Our objection to them is that the rates are not so generous as they should be. The Treasurer has not taken into consideration the changed conditions of the times, and the reduced purchasing power of money. The goal that we should strive to attain is a uniform workmen’s compensation act for the whole of Australia.
– The Commonwealth has no constitutional power to do so.
– I am aware of that, but I believe it to be wrong in principle that an attempt is not made to achieve uniformity in this field of legislation. As the Minister has stated, the powers of the Commonwealth are limited in this matter, but I consider that the Commonwealth could confer with the States on the subject with a view to obtaining uniformity. An anomalous position frequently arises because different rates of compensation are provided by the Commonwealth and the States. For example, a man who resides at Wodonga, in Victoria, may be employed in Albury, which is in New South Wales. If he is injured at his place of employment in Albury, he is entitled to the benefits prescribed under the New South Wales Workmen’s Compensation Act. If, however, the man lives at Albury and works at Wodonga, and is injured at Wodonga, the rate of compensation is different, although the two places are separated only by the river Murray.
The Commonwealth should be the initiating agent in a move to establish uniform compensation laws throughout Australia. It is a matter of great importance to workers that compensation for injuries or diseases that occur as a result of the service they give to industry should bc on a basis that is both just and fair. To me it seems to be unjust and unfair that the amount of compensation payable should depend upon the area in which the worker happens to live. Therefore, I submit that it would be in the best interests of employers and industry if the Commonwealth established national standards of compensation, as it has endeavoured to do in relation to the basic wage, social services and many other matters. Those who give their services to industry and run the risk of being injured or of contracting disease while doing so are entitled to receive compensation on the highest scale that industry can pay. It is their lives that are lost, or their bodies that are maimed. I remind the House that, when they are carrying on the essential work of industry, they make a contribution to the economy that benefits the whole nation. The value of this contribution should be recognized, and workers should not be placed in an inferior position as a result of any misfortune they may suffer in the course of their employment. Men who are employed on ships experience greater hazards than other workers because of the nature of their occupation. Ships may be wrecked, and seamen may be killed or permanently injured. Yet these risks are not acknowledged, in the legislation that we are now considering, to the degree to which they might be acknowledged. The Opposition, of course, will support, the bills, but I have made these constructive suggestions in the hope that the Commonwealth once again will secure the lead in the field of workers’ compensation and give guidance to the States with the object of establishing uniform standards of workers’ compensation throughout the country.
– I support the two bills on the general principle that half a loaf is better than no bread. We are accustomed to this habit of the present Government of producing too little too late. I remind honorable members that, on various occasions during the last twelve months. I have urged upon the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the necessity for granting increased payments under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Other members of the Opposition also have raised this issue with the object of having some approximate measure of justice meted out to public servants who are unfortunate enough to suffer injury in the course of their employment. The Treasurer, of course, assured us repeatedly that the matter was under consideration and that a statement would be made on the subject at the appropriate time. The appropriate time, as far as the right honorable gentleman is concerned, is always very late. He promised on one occasion that an amending bill would be introduced during the final sittings of the Parliament last year. That amending bill is finally before us on what is probably the last sitting day of the Twentieth Parliament. The matter was delayed by the Government as long as was humanly possible, and I believe that the bill has been introduced even now only as a sort of act of death-bed repentance by the Government in the hope that Public Service employees will think that it is their friend and vote for its candidates on the 29th May.
– Shame !
– It is shameful. There is no doubt about it.
– Order ! The honorable member should direct his remarks to the two bills before the House.
– I am doing so, Mr. Speaker. I maintain that it is really shameful that this Parliament should have to wait so long for amending legislation of this nature to be introduced by the Government. Because of the delay, Commonwealth employees who have been injured in the course of their work during the last two or three years have suffered grave injustice.
When the last bill to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was before the House, I pointed out that the weekly rates of payment had fallen far below the cost of living. The Treasurer replied that the rates were the amounts for which the Commonwealth Public Service unions had asked. That was a fact, but the right honorable gentleman was careful not to state that the legislation had been introduced about nine months after the unions had asked for increases and that, in the intervening period, the cost of living had increased considerably. This increase, for which the Government must accept a large degree of responsibility, was not taken into consideration when the bill was framed, or. if it was taken into consideration, the Government must have decided that Commonwealth employees were not entitled to compensation on the scale that had been adopted when the act had been amended previously during the regime of a Labour government. In fact, when the new rates came into force, the cost of living was so high that another amendment of the act would have been necessary in order to provide justice. The new scale provided £6 a week for a single man and about £7 10s. a week for a married man. Formerly it was a proud boast of this Parliament that the Australian Government was the model employer of labour and set the standard which industry was expected to observe. However, under the administration of the Liberal-Australian Country party Government, that boast cannot be made honestly any longer. In fact, the Commonwealth fell from its proud position four years ago.
The Government has been extremely dilatory in introducing legislation of this kind, and its proposals, when they have been belatedly translated into legislative form, have invariably been parsimonious. It has not changed its habits. I admit that it has decided that the provisions of one of these bills shall apply retrospectively to the 1st January last. Perhaps the Treasurer can explain why there should be a differentiation between the treatment of seamen and the treatment of postmen, linemen or labourers employed by the Commonwealth. Perhaps there is a reason. If so, I should be very pleased to have it explained to me, because 1 admit frankly that, at the moment, I am completely unable to understand why such a distinction should be made. The Government’s attitude to workers’ compensation rates is indicative of its inertia and lack of interest in the welfare of men and women who work in the service of the Commonwealth. The Government must stand condemned in the eyes of all rightthinking people, first, because of the inordinate delay in introducing these measures, and, secondly, because it has failed to set a good example to State governments and private employers. I shall not discuss the figures that were cited by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) because I do not want to be repetitive.
– Of course you do!
– There is no need for repetition. Everybody who heard the figures submitted by the honorable member for Bendigo must realize that, in comparison with the legislation enacted in Victoria nine months ago, many of the provisions of these bills are extremely niggardly. Honorable members should realize that the value of the £1 in June last year was considerably higher than it is at present.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is sofull of nonsense that he is unable to understand common sense.
– Order ! Such reflections are disorderly.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I was provoked. The truth is that the value of the £1 to-day is not so high as it was when the Victorian legislation was passed. If this Government were genuinely willing to grant to-
Commonwealth public servants conditions equivalent to those provided for employees in industry in Victoria since June, 1953, it would have made the rates of compensation in these bills at least as high as those that prevail in Victoria. Even if it fixed higher rates, it would not be handing out largesse to the employees concerned.
– Bates of compensation should not be lower than the basic wage at any time.
– I agree with the honorable member. In many instances, the rates should be above the basic wage. An injured worker must still live and keep his family, and the fact that he is off work as a result of injury does not mean that there is any decrease of his domestic expenditure. Such a man is entitled to receive considerably more than the basic wage if he is a skilled worker.
Under these bills, the rate of compensation will be slightly less than the basic wage for a man without a family and as much as the basic wage, or slightly more, for a family man. It is not the fault of a man injured at work that he is thrown out of employment while he recovers from his injuries. The fault usually is that of the employer, and that fact is generally accepted. Therefore, it is unfair that the employee should be required to bear a part of the burden of responsibility and to manage to exist as well as he can on an income below his normal wage. I remind honorable members that, when an amending bill similar to the measures now before the House was under consideration in 1951,I suggested the insertion of an additional provision that was designed to provide something approximating justice for injured workers and also to obviate the necessity for the enactment of amending legislation at regular intervals. I remark, in passing, that our compensation laws have not been amended as regularly as should have been the case. The provisions of the present bills should have been brought into force eighteen months or two years ago. The Government had the opportunity ten months ago to insert a section in the act, which would have avoided the necessity to introduce an amending bill now. That section should have provided for the quarterly adjustment of compensation in a similar manner to that in which the basic wage was formerly adjusted every quarter. That particular argument may not have much cogency at the moment, because the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has decided to freeze the basic wage for the time being. However, if the section had been inserted, Commonwealth public servants injured since 1951 would have received a greater measure of justice in relation to the payment of compensation than they have received. It is too late now to ask the Government to consider any proposal of that nature, because this is probably the last day for a long time on which the present Government, or a government of its political colour, will meet this House. It will be left to a Labour government to make the amendments to the compensation legislation that are necessary in order to give justice to Commonwealth public servants.
I could give the House many instances of Commonwealth employees who work side by side with the employees of State and other authorities on the same job. A lineman employed by the Postal Department may work on the same pole as a lineman employed by the Victorian State Electricity Commission or some similar authority. In the event of the pole collapsing those two men might be similarly injured, but the employee of the State Electricity Commission would receive higher weekly compensation payments than the Commonwealth employee would receive. He could also receive a lump sum for compensation in respect of the same injuries that the Commonwealth employee had sustained that would be £200 or £300 higher than the lump sum that the Commonwealth employee could receive. I think it would be true to say that both men would have the same skill, would be taking the same risks, and would probably be receiving the same rate of wage. I do not know whether the Government considered matters of that kind when it was drafting the legislation, but I do not think so, because I am of the firm belief that the introduction of this bill on the last day of the sitting of the Parliament is a belated attempt on the part of the Government to restore a little of its lost popularity. I suggest that the Government has acted too late. Its deathbed repentance should have been made during the last session. If this legislation had been introduced during the budget 3esssion last year, when it was promised by the Treasurer, in an answer that he gave to a question I asked him, 1 think in November, in which he said that legislation was being prepared and would be introduced during that session, I would not have made the comments on the bill that I have made to-day. The Government has delayed the introduction of this measure for at least six months longer than it should have delayed it, in view of the promise made by the Treasurer. There is no doubt that, with the state of the economy as it has been since 1951, with inflation running wild and the cost of living having almost doubled itself in that period, the Government has been remiss in not having introduced amending legislation at least eighteen months ago. As I have said, I accept the bill and will vote for it, but I must at the same time express my great disappointment that even though it has brought in an amending bill, the Liberal-Australian Country party Government has not seen fit to give justice to Commonwealth employees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 9th April (vide page 267), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) to clause 2, which provides that the act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal assent. Can the Minister inform me why this legislation is to come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal assent while a previous measure, which deals with a similar matter, in relation to Commonwealth employees, is to operate from the 1st January, 1954? Is there any reason why seamen should be deprived of the retrospective provisions that are to apply to Commonwealth employees?
– I regret that I cannot give the honorable member that information, but I am sure that there is a perfectly valid explanation for the difference between the two bills. I shall give the honorable member the information later on, if that will meet his convenience.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th April (vide page 269), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to the measure. After all, it is designed only to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act, in order to cope with the new situation that has arisen as a result of the expiration, or near expiration, of the contract with the United Kingdom Government for the purchase of practically the whole of our exportable dairy products. The Australian Dairy Produce Board itself, the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation and, I understand, everybody associated with the industry, are in accord with the proposed amendments to the principal act which are proposed in this bill. The Opposition supports the measure enthusiastically. After all, the dairying industry is a tightly and efficiently organized industry, particularly on the manufacturing side, and is deserving of the government protection it enjoys for its export products. For these reasons there is nothing in the bill to which we can take exception.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 9th April (vide page 271), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure might be called a horse of another colour to that of the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill, which has just been passed or, perhaps more appropriately, an egg of another colour. The measure is designed to alter the method of selection of the personnel of the Australian Egg Board. Under the Egg Export Control Act, which was enacted by this Parliament in 1947, the board comprised a chairman appointed by the government, a representative of producers in each of the States, elected by the producers of States in which it was possible to hold elections, a representative of the employees um two representatives with commercial experience. Under that act the board was charged with the responsibility of fulfilling the Government’s obligations in the export market, incurred as a result of contracts arrived at between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government. Recently we reached a stage in the history of the board, and in the history of the Commonwealth and the community, for that matter, at which, as a result of the decision of the United Kingdom to resort to open trading methods for the purchase of eggs from Australia, under which United Kingdom traders were to be allowed to purchase the United Kingdom’s egg requirements, it was necessary for a decision to be made by the Australian Egg Board, as constituted under the act, about whether, practically at the termination of rationing in Great Britain, the hoard would continue to hold its rights under a contract that still had a period to run, or whether the United Kingdom would allow traders to purchase eggs from the board. That was a difficult decision to make. It appears that an opportunity was given to the Australian Egg Board and, incidentally, to the Government, which has the final responsibility, to abrogate the contract.
– The contract had expired.
– I do not think that it had. There was a period during which there was an option as to whether the Australian Egg Board should accept the prices allowed by the United Kingdom Government, or whether it should commence trading with the private tradinginterests of the United Kingdom.
– The contract having run out, the Ministry of Food in Great Britain said that it would be the sole importer of eggs for one further year, and so we had to have a contract with the Ministry of Food for that year.
– That, in rather different language, is really what I said. That gave the Government an opportunity to have a contract with the Ministry of Food for another year at a specific price. The responsibility for accepting that particular opportunity rested with the Australian Egg Board, whose decision was subject to affirmation by the Minister. Unfortunately, the board thought that it could obtain better terms by resorting to the open market in the United Kingdom, and it did so. As a result of its action substantial losses have been incurred. Therefore, we must say that those losses were incurred either because the Minister’s judgment was bad. or he was apathetic about any decision that might be made. In the light of his statements in this House, it seems to me that he was not going to depart from a decision of this authority under any circumstances notwithstanding that, under the old legislation, he had the right, as is also contemplated by this bill, to have the last word about transactions of this type. Unfortunately, the board, with the consent of the Minister if he was interested and not apathetic, incurred very substantial losses. Those losses brought, the existing dissatisfaction in the industry to a climax. From that last error of judgment, or perhaps bad luck, there arose a clamour among the State egg export boards for a new control of their products. The New South Wales board, for instance, demanded to be allowed to break away from the control of the Australian Egg Board, and become the sole exporting authority in regard to prices for the State. Of course, the States do not want to interfere with the establishment of standards and minimum prices and so on, but, I repeat, that they do want the right to conduct their own egg export negotiations and arrange their own prices free from the control of any Commonwealth egg authority. I do not believe that States other than New South Wales are particularly clamorous in that regard, but in order to overcome dissatisfaction the Australian Agricultural Council agreed upon a new method of appointing the Australian Egg Board. The new suggestion provided in this legislation is that the representation of producer interests should come from the State egg boards. I, personally, have no enthusiasm for that suggestion; in fact I think that it is unfortunate.
It is quite true that the State egg authorities have a majority representation of producers who control the receiving and disposal of eggs, but there are also representatives of commercial interests on thoseboards. Under this measure it could happen that the State egg boards could recommend, with the endorsement of the Minister, that the commercial representatives should represent the producers on an all-Australian egg board. Machinery of that type could destroy the whole concept that the export control authorities should have a majority of producer representatives on them. I am not enthusiastic about that provision, but as the State Ministers for Agriculture have agreed to it, and as the producers have not opposed it, I merely place on record my opinion that it is a backward step.
The egg-producing industry is probably now in greater difficulty than any other primary-producing industry in Australia. The reason for that is that whereas, in 1950, it could buy its feed wheat for 7s. Id. a bushel, which was only 5d. more than it had to pay under the Chifley regime in 1949, at present, after four years of the Menzies- Fadden coalition, poultry farmers have to pay 14s. l½d. a bushel for their feed wheat. That price is made up of the 12s. 7d. cost of production and the ls.6½d. which the States, with the encouragement of the Commonwealth, have imposed on local consumers of stock-feed wheat. Now, because overseas market prices for eggs have fallen, the producers are in difficulties. Those difficulties have arisen indirectly because of inflation, and the failure of this Government to honour its promise to put value back into the £1. When the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) speaks on this measure, he will make certain revelations about the great losses that have been suffered by the industry in the last two months because of the negligence, apathy and bad judgment of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Australian Egg Board.
The Minister endeavoured to solve the problems of the industry by arranging to appoint an Australian egg board made up of nominees of the various State egg boards, with additional representation for New South Wales and no representation at all for Tasmania. We do not oppose that action, but I express grave doubts whether that change of policy is desirable. If the State boards should break away from the federal authority, the conception of Commonwealth export marketing would be destroyed. However, the State Ministers for Agriculture have agreed about that matter also, although I believe the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has grave doubts about it. I think that way because he made some reference to a trial run of a couple of years. The Minister also pointed out that the States which drift from the Commonwealth authority will have no say in the decisions of that authority.
– Merely on the sale of the eggs.
-Yes, that is correct, and that is a regrettable change. I express my grave doubts about the whole matter, and leave other aspects of the measure to be dealt with by my colleague, the honorable member for Werriwa.
.- I approach this measure with some concern,, mainly about the constitution of the Australian Egg Board. I am rather disturbed by that provision, because I notice that a majority of the board could be persons who are not producing the eggs that are. dealt with by the board. They could be. employees’ representatives from a State board, or consumers? representatives. In Western Australia, although the State marketing board will have the right to elect representatives, that board comprises three producer representatives and three nominated by the State Government. Therefore, it is quite possible that there may be no producer members elected to the Australian Egg Board at all. I understand, from the members of the Egg Producers Council, that they recently had discussions with the Department of Commerce andAgriculure in Canberra. They then returned to Western Australia ami told me that everything was satisfactory to them, because they had arranged for producer representatives to be elected to the board. Yet only a few moments ago I received the followingtelegram from Western Australia: -
Poultry farmers in this State insist representation on Australian Egg Board Be by producer representation from State board. Requesting your support.
I am very concerned about that matter, although I do not intend to vote against the measure. However, a majority of the Western Australian egg-producers are in my electorate and I am sure that they will say to me when I return to Western Australia, “ You stand for producer representation on these boards, and’ under the socialists we got that representation; why haven’t we got it from you ? “. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). to indicate how this Government intends to get over the difficulty inherent in that question that Ijust mentioned? It appears to me that instead of this Government having some real say in matters, such as the one before the House, it is subject to the dictates of the various State Ministers who make up the Australian Agricultural Council. If that is so, then, after the 29th May, this Government will have to face up to that difficulty if it wants totreatthe primary, producers in the way that they should be treated.. I think: it is wrong that the Australian Agricultural Council should be permitted to determine these matters, The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) tried to defend some of his statements about an increase in. wheat prices. Those prices, certainly were increased. There was a fall in. egg. prices overseas, but that is only half of the story.. Whilst I do not say that the prices fixed for home consumption in the various States covered the full increase in the cost of those commodities, the State Egg, Board had, the power to fix a price for home consumption which took into account an increase in the cost of commodities thatthefarmers had to buy. Although there may be some discussion between the Australian Egg Board and the Government as to who is responsible for the overseas position, I am willing to be sufficiently magnanimous, as are the majority of people, to say that it was a legitimate error of judgment. When those interested in the industry learned of the two, alternatives submitted by the Ministry of Food, the majority thought that the alternative which was selected might be the better one. Unfortunately it was not. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stated this, morning that the Government realized that, as a result of that error of judgment, grave hardship had been inflicted upon some producers and that it was prepared to meet them, in respect of that particular contract.
– The honorable member should finish on that note.
– Probably I could speak a little longer in view of my experience in egg production. The only eggs about which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has any knowledge are those which are thrown at him at election time. I produce eggs and I know the way to handle them.. I should like the Minister to clarify the position that might arise if New South Wales should withdraw from this arrangement. It is well known that New South Wales produces more than 50 per cent. of the surplus that is available for export to. the United Kingdom and therefore it should have some say. I raise no objection to the inclusion of two representatives from
New South Wales, but I am concerned about shipping arrangements. Although the Australian Egg Board has been in operation, there have been times when Western Australia has been in a very awkward position in relation to shipping. Incidentally, Western Australia has a greater number of sundry markets than any other State. Section 15 of the parent act deals with the question of shipping, but I am doubtful whether the new board will bring that section into operation. New South Wales is in such a geographical position that it is the Alpha and Omega in relation to shipping and can make arrangements with the shipping agents, whereas Western Australia is left with what remains of cargo space. Western Australia wanted to send eggs to the Persian Gulf and surrounding areas, but it found that when the overseas ships reached Fremantle there was no space available. Inquiries have been received from Mauritius, but when ships that are travelling in that direction reach the ports of Western Australia they are filled to capacity. Western Australia hopes that that position will be rectified. Will the Minister indicate what the position will be in relation to shipping if New South Wales should withdraw from the arrangements? Why is it not possible to include in the proposed legislation provision that two representatives shall be two elected producer members so that the producers themselves, who should be the masters of their own property until it is sold, would hare some say in the matter?
.- New South Wales produces approximately 50 per cent, of the eggs that are exported from Australia. As is probably well known, for a considerable time the producers in that State have made representations to the effect that the New South Wales Egg Board should be responsible for the export of eggs from that State. A3 the general policy of the Government is that the wishes of the producers should be implemented as far as possible, it has considered that matter. The other egg-producing States - Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland - desire to pool their export eggs and allow the Australian Egg Board to retain control of their export. As a result, provision is made in the bill to meet the wishes of both parties. It is proposed that the States that wish to do so may still export their egg3 through the Australian Egg Board, but that any State which desires to export its own eggs will be permitted to do so. The constitution of the Australian Egg Board has been changed. Up to the present time the board has consisted of a Commonwealth representative, who has been chairman, two members with commercial experience, au employees’ representative, and a member from each State representing the producers. That has been the composition of the Australian Egg Board since January, 1948. It is proposed that the board shall consist of a government representative, who’ shall act as chairman, one member with commercial experience but not with commercial interests, and one member from each State representing the producers, with the exception of New South Wales, which shall have two members. It is proposed that, if any State does not wish to export its eggs through the Australian Egg Board, the representative of that particular State will not be permitted to take part in any discussion, attend any meeting, or vote on any matter related to the export pool unless he is invited to do so by the other State representatives. New South Wales has pressed for independence in this matter, but, because that State recognizes the necessity of having the Australian Egg Board, and although it has taken to itself export powers, it will work with the Australian Egg Board in relation to such problems as minimum price, policy, freight, insurance arrangements and publicity.
I draw the attention of the Minister to the question of the election of the producer representatives on the board. The New South Wales Egg Board, as it is constituted at present, comprises seven members, five of whom are producer representatives. The poultry-farmers have asked members to do everything in their power to ensure that the nominees of the State Egg Board on the Australian Egg Board shall be selected on the vote of the producers. I ask the Minister, as that indeed i3 the policy of the Government, to use his influence with the Australian Agricultural Council to ensure that that objective shall be attained. The first duty of the new board will be to give effect to the recent decision of the Government to make a special grant of £250,000 to the egg-producing industry. The Government has stated that its intention is that that money should be paid direct to the producer. Therefore, it would be wise for the producers to have representatives not only on the State egg boards but also on the Australian Egg Board. The decision to make this grant is a result of representations made to the Government by the Government Members Poultry Committee. The Government recognizes the need for this special assistance to the industry at this time, which will assist in meeting the losses that have been suffered in the sale of Australian eggs on the United Kingdom market. The members of the committee to which I have referred, feel that the making of that grant is one of the results of the co-operation, during the life of this Parliament, between members of the committee, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Government. It is considered that this special grant will make a large contribution towards the well-being of the industry and that it will assist many of the producers who suffered greatly from last year’s trading losses. I think it is recognized that the Government is in no way obliged to give this assistance, but it has generously responded to the representations of its supporters and of the poultry industry as a whole. I ask the Minister to consider our request that the election of State members to the board should be on the vote of the producers.
.- I believe that the proposed legislation is a definite step by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the Government towards a solution of some of the problems that are associated with the egg-producing industry. The egg export trade is of some consequence as it is worth between £8,500,000 and £10,000,000 a year. There is need for an organization such as that which is envisaged in <the bill to deal with the special problems associated with the industry. The industry is of some consequence to Australia, because the production of the poultry farming industry is worth approximately £30,000,000 a year. Eggs and poultry meats produced in New South Wales are worth approximately £14,000,000 a year, or approximately 50 per cent, of the figure I have just cited. I believe that the Minister, when he formulated his scheme, had a difficult task in securing agreement between the different States. I congratulate him on his presentation of this bill, which gives to the producers much that they desired. As other honorable members have stated, it is proposed to give each State the right, within certain limits, to engage in its own export business. As one who represents a large egg-producing division in New South Wales, I believe that that provision will be an advantage to the State, which produces at least 50 per cent, of Australia’s export of eggs. In the past, New South Wales has had only one vote on the Australian Egg Board, as a result of which it was frequently stated that the New South Wales producers were dissatisfied with some of the actions of the board. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber apparently are in agreement on the point that the Australian Egg Board is not, in fact, a producer-elected board, but that the procedure of election is so arranged that government nominees as well as producers have a say in choosing its personnel. At present, five members are elected by the producers and two are nominated by the State government, and those nominees may participate in the discussions that precede the selection of new members. However, I foresee that if we oppose the bill at this juncture - this is the crux of the matter so far as I am concerned - the State government may well seize upon that fact as a pretext for repudiating its undertakings and sabotaging the present scheme. Honorable members should give heed to such a possibility when they recall the action of the Victorian Government in recent months in making a political play-thing of the wheat industry. It would be deplorable if State governments were to treat the egg-producing industry in a similar manner. I support the measure, but, at the same time, I reserve the right to raise again the objections that I have indicated in respect of the present method of selecting members of the Australian Egg Board. I believe in the principle of producer representation on boards ofthis kind, and such representation can be achieved only by giving the right solely to producers to elect the members of the board.
The bill provides for the retirement of the older members on the board. However, no provision has been made in respect of compensation to members whose term of office would not normally expire until six months hence. Some of those members incurred considerable expenditure in standing for election to the board, and it has been suggested that they should be compensated in respect of the unexpired portion of their term of office. Strangely, members of the Opposition have failed to commend the Government for making this grant of £250,000 to assist the poultry industry. The provision of that assistance is evidence of the constructive policy that the Government adopts towards primary industries when they fall into difficulties. I support the bill but repeat that it is regrettable that the States did not ensure the adoption of a democratic process of electing the members of the board in order to make it, in fact, a producer-controlled board. I have no doubt that interested organizations will take every opportunity to make representations to their respective State governments on that very vital principle.
Mr.WHITLAM (Werriwa) [3.33].- The second-reading speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) was more remarkable for what it omitted than for what it contained. He was amazingly innocent and coy in stating the reasons why the Government had introduced this measure. The Government was not really motivated by the proposed changes in marketing arrangements with the United Kingdom. It has been obliged to take this action as a result of the disastrous decision that was made some time ago by the Australian Egg Board, which, of course, is subject to direction by the Minister. The offer that the Government has so belatedly made of the sum of £250,000 for the purpose of compensating poultry-farmers for losses which they suffered as a result of that decision is mere chicken feed compared with the losses that they actually suffered That sum would not be sufficient to meet the losses suffered by poultry-farmers in New South Wales alone. That State produces half the total Australian production of eggs. During the season just concluded, the value of eggs exported from New South Wales was £734,368. That sum was £211,451 less than the amount that poultry-farmers in that State would have received for their eggs if the Government had accepted the offer that was made by the British Ministry of Food in March last year, the first and only year in which it would act merely as the importer of eggs in the United Kingdom. The offer to the Australian Egg Board was that Australian exporters should be paid either the amount that the eggs fetched on the United Kingdommarket or the amount that they actually fetched during the preceding year plus 50 per cent. of any increase above the price obtained in the preceding year. As it happened, no such increase occurred. Instead, the prices of eggs from Australia and other countries fell disastrouslyon the United Kingdom market. If, however, the Australian Egg Board, regardless of the direction of the Minister, had accepted the minimum offer instead of indulging in speculation on the United Kingdom market, New South Wales eggs would have fetched an amount of £945,819 compared with the amount of £734,368, or £211,451 less, which they actually fetched. It may be said that one is being wise after the event, but, at least, the Minister has only himself to blame for that position.
The Australian Egg Board acts through an executive committee and is subject to the direction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The negotiations with the United Kingdom Government continued for a period of five weeks from the end of March to May last year. Copies of all cablegrams and correspondence exchanged during the negotiations between the department in Australia and our Trade Commissioner in London were made available to the Australian EggBoard. The board was kept fully informed of the negotiations. Moreover, at that time two of its members were in the UnitedKingdom. That was not an occasion on which the Minister was abroad or unable to perform his duties owing to illness. He was, in fact, in full command ofhis portfolio and, in accordance with the principle that has operated since this legislation was initiated under the benign administration of the honorable member for Lalor when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister must, therefore, accept full responsibility for the result of those negotiations. Paragraph (e) of section 13 of the principal act provides that the power of the board to purchase eggs intended for export and to sell eggs so purchased shall be subject to the direction of the Minister. Since this Government assumed office, the principal act has been amended on three occasions, namely, in 1950, 1951 and 1953; and on each of those occasions the Government made no effort whatever to amend that provision. Now, the principal act is again being amended and the Government is again leaving that provision unaltered. I remind honorable members that the Minister himself, when he was in Opposition, criticized the insertion of that provision in the act, but he did not press his opposition to a vote. It seems strange that he should be prepared to allow that provision to remain in spite of the fact that this is the fourth occasion on which a measure has been introduced to amend the principal act since the present Government assumed office. In those circumstances, the Minister must take the odium or praise for any decision that is made by the Australian Egg Board. In this instance, he must take the odium arising from the board’s decision to speculate on the United Kingdom market at the expense, as events have proved, of the poultry-farmers of this country. It is true that to-day, the last day the Twentieth Parliament will be in session, the Government is providing the sum of £250,000 to compensate the poultry-farmers for losses they have suffered as a result of the decision to which I have referred. The taxpayers, including the poultry-farmers themselves, will be obliged to find that money. If the board and the Minister had made a correct decision in May last-
Mr. Wheeler interjecting,
– The honorable member would be well advised to stick to making speeches instead of making inter.jections, because he can at least read the former whereas the latter are his own production. As I have said, the grant of £250,000 will hardly be sufficient to meet the loss that has been sustained by poultryfarmers in New South Wales alone. However, the loss that they and all poultryfarmers in Australia as a whole have suffered would have been much greater if the Australian Egg Board had not, towards the end of October, ceased exporting eggs and had not instead pulped the eggs and sent them in that form to the United Kingdom, because a contract price still operates in respect of eggs in pulp. To avoid heavy export losses the price of eggs on the local market had to be reduced. As a consumer I do not say that that was not a good thing, but that action resulted in a loss of thousands of pounds to the egg producers. The amount of assistance now proposed to be made available to poultryfarmers will barely be sufficient to recoup them for half the losses that they have suffered as the result of disastrous management on the part of the Australian Egg Board acting under the direction of the Minister.
The poultry industry is a very important industry, and it is carried on in practically every electorate represented in the House. Incidentally, in my electorate more eggs are produced for the internal and export market than are produced in any other electorate. Eggs are a basic food. Furthermore, these producers rely on their own labour and that of members of their families. In this industry, there are no absentee landlords or tycoons. Poultry-farmers operate in a small way. The marketing of eggs should not be treated as a matter for speculation. It is vital to the industry to have available sufficient eggs for the home market during the autumn months. Inevitably, there is a surplus of production in the spring months. In fact, the average production in the autumn months is only one-quarter of the production in the spring months. We should ensure an adequate supply of eggs not only for the local market but also for export to the United Kingdom, where, climatically, the lean period coincides with our fat period. It is traditional that we cater for the United Kingdom market. I repeat that the Government should have accepted the reasonable offer that the British Ministry of Food made about a year ago.
This bill commends itself to the Opposition insofar as its provisions have been endorsed by the six State Ministers for Agriculture, five of whom are members of Labour governments, as well as by the egg producers. Any board of this kind that is constituted on a federal basis must in practice be farcical. That fact was made clear after the conclusion of World War II. At that time, New South Wales had only one representative on the board, that is, the same representation as was enjoyed by Tasmania which does not produce eggs for export at all. It is essential that producers be given representation on boards of this kind in proportion to the volume of production in the various States. This board, as re-constituted, will go some way towards securing that objective. It is a fact that the poultry-farmers of New South Wales, exacerbated by their treatment, have agitated very bitterly in the last few months for a reconstitution of the board. As a matter of fact, they asked the Minister last June to re-constitute the board somewhat in this fashion. They asked to be allowed to market their eggs independently overseas. Last July, the Minister admitted the possibility of that, but doubted the wisdom of such a course. Now, nine months later, he gives the producers what they want. Mass meetings of poultryfarmers were held in many parts of New South Wales, including the Tamworth and Newcastle areas, in my own electorate, and in the electorates of honorable members opposite who have spoken in this debate. Without dissent, so far as I know, the poultry-farmers reiterated their demand for the independent marketing of New South Wales eggs. Whether or not that is a wise policy in the national interest is another matter, but this bill does thoroughly secure the minimum price, packing requirements, and so on, so that eggs, no matter from what part of Australia they come, will be satisfactorily marketed under the amended act.
This is an intricate piece of legislation. It is quite a triumph, in federal matters, to obtain agreement, as has been achieved in this instance, between the Commonwealth and six States. The bill effectuates the desires of the producers regarding the disposal of their product, and for that reason, we support it.
– The marketing of Australian primary products abroad is about to undergo a change. Great Britain is easily the best market for Australian eggs, butter and other primary products, and I assume that the British Ministry of Food was formed for the purpose of securing food when it was scarce during World War II. Eight years have elapsed since the end of that war, and competition among exporting countries for the available markets has become sterner. The British Ministry of Food is gradually relinquishing the marketing of primary products. The Ministry withdrew from the marketing of eggs in March, 1953, and from the 1st January this year, imports of shell eggs from the sterling area have been unrestricted. The British consumer is now eager to import food from many countries as cheaply as he can. The British Government has decided gradually to release the importation of primary products from controls, and that decision will mean a great difference to Australia.
The Government, under this bill, empowers the Australian Egg Board to take over the distribution of eggs in the same way as the Australian Dairy Produce Board is authorized to take over the distribution of dairy produce. The important factor about the regulatory duties of the Australian Egg Board is that minimum selling prices will be controlled by that body. I am a protagonist of freedom in all its forms, but I know that it is dangerous to have many sellers of eggs in Great Britain. One of them might become short of money, and sell eggs at a reduced price. Such an action would break the market, and cause the ruling price to decline. Australian egg producers would lose from competition of that sort. Under this legislation, Australia will be able to hold minimum selling prices, and agents who are short of money will be able to receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth Bank, but the bill does not overcome the problem of competition from other countries. Our difficulties will arise from that source if the British market is flooded with eggs. One of our greatest advantages is that our flush season occurs at a time when eggs are scarce in Europe. The seasons in the northern hemisphere are completely different i from our seasons, and we are able to export eggs when they are in short supply in the United Kingdom. We can hold the minimum selling price, but it is of the utmost importance to our producers that they should be able to meet competition from other countries. This bill empowers the egg board to take certain measures in that respect, and I support the provision, with some reluctance, although I know that it is important. Poultry producers, loaded as they are with the high cost of grain and offals, and transport charges, must be in a position to compete with other countries that may flood the British market with eggs. Acute competition will occur during the period of peace which, we all hope, will not be broken. We must watch our costs, because the export market will be the one on which we may sustain losses in the future.
The only other matter which I desire to mention is that the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board and the producers of that State are eager to conduct their own selling operations. New South Wales is the largest State concerned with the export of eggs, and if it has a disagreement with the Australian Egg Board on certain matters, the producers desire to attend to their own selling operations. I am glad that the bill makes provision for New South Wales to market its own eggs in its own way, always provided the minimum selling price advised by the Australian Egg Board will be respected in order to prevent a decline of the price of eggs from other States. Representatives of the egg boards of the States will become members of the Australian Egg Board. I point out that the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture will nominate the representative of that State to the Australian Egg Board. New South Wales producers have five representatives on the State board, and two other members are nominees of the Government; and it is possible for the New South Wales Minister to nominate for membership of the Australian Egg Board his two nominees on the State board. In that way, he could defeat the objective of having producer representation on the Australian Egg Board.
I am delighted that the Government has introduced this bill in time for the legislation to become law before the new situation that I described earlier in my speech arises. The Australian Egg Board, with its regulatory powers, will be able to deal with minimum selling prices, freight arrangements and the selection of overseas agents. However, I hope that the board will respect the freedom of those persons who are endeavouring to find new markets with a view to disposing of their eggs in them to the best advantage.
– in reply - I shall try to reply to some of the points that have been raised in this debate in order that honorable members may see this legislation in the proper perspective. About 30 years have passed since it was recognized that if the Australian economy was to receive what it was entitled to and primary producers were to have justice, there was a need for the regulation or control of exports, whether such control was merely in the matter of standards in order to protect our reputation. Accordingly, industry after industry during the last few years has asked governments to establish what used to be called export control boards. The view that such regulatory bodies should not be established disappeared long ago. Producers accept the fact that it is better that the regulation should be carried out by a board, of which representatives of the industry concerned are members, than by the Public Service. To that degree, a. prime function of the Australian Egg Board will be the regulation of exports, the prescription of standards, the avoidance of utter cutthroat competition, and the protection of the reputation of our egg and egg pulp on overseas markets. Those functions will be performed by the board. However, in addition to them, the board may perform the function of marketing. That is a permissive, not an obligatory, function.
This Government, in accordance with its general policy doctrines, believes that arbitrary control should not be exercised over the sale of the products unless the producers have been consulted about the matter. Consultations regarding eggs for export inevitably lead us to the egg boards of the States. For reasons which I need not explain now but which are perfectly sound, every State., with the support of every political party, has established an egg board, and poultry-farmers are obliged to deliver their eggsto that authority for realization. When a State has surplus eggs, export arrangements cannot be made by the poultry-farmers or merchants, because the eggs are owned by the local board. Therefore, the Australian Government, pursuant to its policy of consulting the owners of a product before it intervenes in the control of sale of it, consulted the egg boards of the States. But the State boards are instrumentalities of State governments. Provision for their expenses is madeby State legislation, and the bodies receive the financial backing of State governments. Therefore, it became necessary for the Commonwealth to consult not only the State egg boards but also the State governments.
Those matters explain why I have informed the House, in my second-reading speech, of the consultations that have taken place. We, on this side of the chamber, have always believed that, within the limits of general public interest, a product should be in the control of the persons who, at their own risk and with their own labour, produced it. We carry that doctrine to the point of saying that we believe that the boards should consist of persons who have been elected by the producers. When this Government assumed office, egg producers were protesting vigorously against the way in which their affairs had been managed by the preceding Labour Government. The first request that we encountered, and to which we acceded, was to terminate the condition of affairs established by the Labour Government, under which members of the Australian Egg Board were not elected by producers but were appointed by the Labour Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. We cut an end to that, and I introduced into this House legislation which provided that the members of the Australian Egg Board should be elected by the producers. From that day until the present, that arrangement has prevailed.
– Why does not the Minister answer a fair question?
– I must ask for your protection, Mr. Speaker, from this honorable gentleman who knows so much about questions but so little about the poultry industry.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) must not continue to interject. He may speak during the committee stage if he wishes to do so.
– As I have said, my first actionwas to do as the producers asked and give them the right to elect their own representatives. Why did they hold mass meetings and send deputations to me to ask that their chosen representatives be appointed to the Australian Egg Board? It was because they had been enduring the kind of policy that the honorable member for Werriwa, the honorable member for Lalor and other members of the Opposition havebeen advocating this afternoon. Under that policy, the Labour Minister had taken charge of their product and exercised his personal business judgment regardless of their wishes. And what a mess he made of it! He entered into a restrictive fiveyear contract for all exported eggs in a post-war world in which all the possibilities of inflation should have been obvious to him. It was a firm contract. The only real condition attached to it was that, forthe five years, the priceof eggs under the contract could not be increased by more than7½ per cent. in any one year. The honorable member for Lalor, who now wants to have another opportunity to exercise his business judgment, engaged in a contract that was calamitous to the egg-producers.
I did two things to help the producers as soon as I became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. First, I arranged for them to have elected representation on the Australian Egg Board. Secondly, in the course of a special mission to London, I went to the British Ministry of Food and pointed out that the .contract that it had secured from the Australian Labour Government was so onerous and unfair to our primary producers that I was compelled to ask it to agree to modify the agreement. And the British Government did modify it ! Thus, without exercising compulsion, but by using reasoned argument, I achieved the result that, during the last two years of the contract; instead pf price increases being restricted to 7i per cent, in any year, without even an assurance that an increase would be granted, the British Ministry of Food granted an increase of 59 per cent. That is the sort of benefit that Australian primary producers have obtained under the administration of this Government. Yet all the members of the Labour party want is an opportunity to return to office in May so that they can once again place the yoke of their incompetence upon, the primary producers ! What were the desperate circumstances in which the egg-producers were forced to sell their product for a miserable pittance under the business control of the honorable member for Lalor? They had to endure their losses notwithstanding the fact that their poultry feed was provided for them, in the words of the honorable member for Lalor, at 6s. 8d. a bushel when it was worth 16s. Id. a bushel for export under the International Wheat Agreement and 22s. 6d. a bushel for export outside the agreement.
-That is right, and the arrangement was accepted by the wheatgrowers at a ballot.
– That was a disastrous arrangement that the honorable gentleman made. Why, bless my soul, I should have thought that if a government took the product of one industry at less than half-price in order to supply another industry, it would, be a poor business organization indeed if it could not arrange to sell the product of the second industry at a profit ! But no! The honorable member for Lalor, as the responsible Minister, stole the wheat from the producers at less than half price and then sold the eggs produced with that cheap wheat at half price. Now he demands, “Why don’t you put me back into office so that I can make another contract like that?”.
He will find that the egg-producers are not such suckers as to give the Labour party another opportunity to exercise its business judgment along those lines.
At the termination of that disastrous five-year contract, I happened to be in London again on a mission. The British Minister of Food told me that his Ministry proposed to de-ration eggs and de-control their price but intended to retain for one more year its position as the monopoly importer of .eggs. I told him immediately that, if that meant that the Ministry expected the price of eggs to rise high on a de-controlled market, it would be completely unacceptable to the Australian Government for the Ministry to buy Australian eggs at a low price and re-sell them at a profit to itself . I must say in justice to Mr, Lloyd George that he did not question my stand for one moment.
– When was that?
– About eighteen months ago. Mr. Lloyd George asked me, “Well, what do you want? “, and I said, “ I want to send the chosen representatives of tho people who produce the eggs to London in order to negotiate with you. If it is to be a government-to-government sale, I am willing that the Australian Government should be used as an instrument for the transaction, but the terms of the sale are going to be negotiated by the people who produce the eggs. If they come across here and agree upon a firm price, it will be all right with me whether your Ministry makes a loss or whether it makes a profit “. Mr. Lloyd George replied, “ All right. Send them here. We will meet them and negotiate, and we shall be prepared to discuss the purchase of eggs at a fair price or on some basis of profit-sharing on realization”. I invited the Australian Egg Board to choose its own representatives to conduct the discussions in London, and it selected an elected representative of the producers, Mr. Slaughter, and its most experienced marketing man, Mr. Blake.
They negotiated with the British Ministry of Food, which told them, “We will buy your egg pulp at a firm price if you like “. They replied- immediately, “ Very well. That is satisfactory “. Thereupon the deal for egg pulp was closed at a firm price. We could have pulped every egg in Australia under the terms of that contract and shown a profit. The only authorities that decided how many eggs should he pulped and how many should ‘be sold in shell were the State egg boards. The negotiators in London had the option of selling shell eggs on the basis of a firm contract at the previous year’s price, with an arrangement for an equal division with the United Kingdom Ministry of Pood of any profit that might accrue from the sale of the eggs on the decontrolled British market, or of agreeing to allow the Ministry of Food to take Australian eggs and sell them under its supervision - which was a scheme for which I had made arrangements for the convenience of the Australian negotiators - and retain the full proceeds. Australia’s representatives decided to accept the second proposition. If there has been a mistake in business judgment, God knows it is not the first one in history and it will not be the last one. The point is that representatives of the people who produced the eggs were on the spot and had complete freedom, after reporting to the Australian Egg Board, to recommend to me what they wanted to be done. Honorable members may recall that the Australian Egg Board, composed as it was of elected representatives of the producers, unanimously recommended to me that I agree to the conclusion of a one-year contract on the basis of the firm price for egg pulp that I have mentioned, which proved to be satisfactory, and on the basis of net realization for shell eggs. It transpired that, for a combination of reasons, the arrangement in relation to shell eggs was unsatisfactory. I understand that the autumn and early winter season in the northern hemisphere that year was extremely mild, with the result that an unprecedented volume of eggs for that time of the year was produced there. That is not an argument. It is a statistical fact. For that reason, the price obtainable for shell eggs was unsatisfactory. The net result undoubtedly is that the producers have suffered losses, but they have not been calamitous losses, because an overwhelming majority of our eggs was sold locally at highly satisfactory prices. Another big proportion was exported at a profit as pulp. Only a minute percentage of the total production was sold to the United Kingdom in shell at a loss. This Government came to the aid of the industry - and it is not the first time that it has come to the aid of industries in distress - and provided £250,000 to help to tide the growers over their difficulties. It made the money available to them but said, “Please understand that you just cannot come back time and time again whenever things go badly with you “. That is the full story.
For the future, the State egg boards have agreed upon the structure of the Australian Egg Board for which the bill provides. They have asked that the members of the new Australian Egg Board shall not be elected by the producers, as in the past, but that they shall be representatives of the State boards. I consider that to be a justifiable stand in existing circumstances because, for the future, the State boards are to have an option to sell on their own account or to use all the machinery and experience of the Australian Egg Board. In the latter contingency, they will also have at their disposal the benefit of the financial backing of the Commonwealth. No industry has had a better crack than that. Both the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who has acted as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on various occasions, and I would have been happy to provide in the bill that the representatives of the State boards should be elected by the producers. However, those boards enjoy the financial backing of the State governments, some of which have urged very strongly that representation on the Australian Egg Board should be subject finally to the approval of State Ministers for Agriculture. If the honorable member for Werriwa wants to complain about the arrangement proposed in the bill, I recommend him to talk it over with Mr. Graham, the Labour Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, because Mr. Graham was the architect of the idea. Had it not been for the pressure brought to bear by Mr. Graham, who represents the State where one-half of Australia’s eggs are produced, this bill would provide that the State egg board.* should be represented on the Australian Egg Board by members chosen by the producers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Australian Egg Board).
.- I have been amazed from time to time by statements on the personnel of the Australian Egg Board made by a good young socialist so full of his own importance and so full of his own overwhelming desire to embrace socialism that, verily, he believes that the socialist sun will not rise each morning until he gets off his own perch and crows. He has done so much crowing lately that he does not know where he stands politically.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Mitchell in order in discussing a debate that has taken place in the House?
– The Chair can be relied on to see that the honorable gentleman keeps within the Standing Orders.
– I am not discussing :a debate. I am discussing statements that have been made.
– Sit down when the Chairman is speaking !
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has displayed such a lamentable ignorance of the industry that he should get a tutor to coach him on its general conditions. T believe that the bill provides for fair and reasonable treatment for the New South Wales egg producers as far as representation on the board is concerned, in view of the volume of production in that State.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Powers of Board).
.- This clause will enable the Australian Egg Board to purchase eggs and control the sale and disposal of eggs. I shill take this opportunity to make some reply to the statements made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen).
– Order! The honorable member may not reply to statements made in the House.
– Then I shall take the opportunity to comment on what has happened in relation to the exercise of this power, which is similar to that included in the 1947 legislation in relation to the export of eggs and to egg prices. Something has been said about the making of contracts under the terms of the principal act. It is true that when I took over from my predecessor as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in 1946, I found that there was an existing arrangement with the United Kingdom Government. Soon after the enactment of the 1947 legislation I found that there was a necessity to make a contract with the United Kingdom Government for the sale of eggs for a specific period. The best possible contract which could be obtained at that time was obtained from the United Kingdom. Government. Subsequently, a representative of the United Kingdom Government visited Australia and conferred with the Australian Government on the possibility of obtaining more eggs from Australia. I met that representative in conference, and discussed with him Great Britain’s likely requirements. He indicated that they were almost without limit. I told him that it was essential that the Australian egg producers be provided with an incentive to produce a greater volume of eggs. I had before me a recommendation of the then board that I should ask the United Kingdom Government for a specific price. I refused to accept that recommendation of the board which was then in control of the export of eggs, subject to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and, by a bargaining process, I was successful in obtaining from the United Kingdom Ministry of Food an increase in the contract rate to which Australia had already been committed for a number of years. At that time it was entirely acceptable to the poultry industry and all the people concerned.
Since that time, and particularly since the Chifley Government left office, the whole economy of this country has suffered a vital and rather dreadful change, because, notwithstanding the fact that the parties now in office promised to stabilize the economy at the then existing level of costs and prices, since 1950 the price of wheat has risen from 6s. Sd, a bushel to 12s. 7d. a bushel. At the period when the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture boasts that he went to England and obtained a 59 per cent, increase in the price of eggs, the price of wheat had risen to 10s. a bushel, an increase of 3s. a bushel over the price that existed at the time the contract was made by the Chifley Government with the United Kingdom. In addition, the the Government had coerced all the State governments into a position in which they were all faced with one of two alternatives. Either they had to increase the price of stock feed wheat supplied to poultrymen by 2s. a bushel, or the wheatgrowers would not receive the 4s. a bushel bounty for the 1951-52 crop, and the 2s. a bushel bounty for the 1952-53 crop. So we had an increase in the price of wheat to the poultry producers, of 5s. a bushel. Is it any wonder that only recently the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has been confronted with an eggproducing industry that finds itself in a parlous position, not because of any contract entered into with the United Kingdom by the Chifley Government, or myself as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in that Government, but solely because this Government fell down on its specific promise to the people to put value back into the £1? What did that failure mean to the poultry and wheat industries? [f the promise had been honoured, the cost of production of wheat would not have moved one penny from that price of 7s. Id., which was the price when this Government gained office in 1949. It could not have risen to the point it reached eighteen months ago, when it had risen to 10s. a bushel, an increase of 3s. a bushel, solely due to increased costs of production. At least 3s. of the increase was caused by that means. In addition, there was a 2s. a bushel increase, which the State governments were coerced into making. That meant an increase of 5s. a bushel for wheat used by the unfortunate poultry industry, which had no protection.
At the time the contract was made by the Chifley Government it was a pretty good contract. It was the best that could be obtained from the then hard-pressed British Government. Is it any wonder that the present Minister had to go to the United Kingdom and try to extricatehimself from the position in which he found himself as a result of his Government’s failure to honour its promises, a failure that had placed poultrymen in a. disadvantageous position? He talks about my selling of wheat at half its value. It is quite true that, to ensure a period of security of five years for the growers, the Government of which I was a member enacted a wheat stabilization scheme which guaranteed the wheatgrower a return of not less than cost of production, and required him to sell his wheat at cost of production to bread consumers and poultry and pig producers. The wheat industry to-day finds itself in a situation that might well make it regret that it allowed itself to be influenced by some of the more reactionary wheatgrowers who deprecated the value of the stock feed market to the industry.
We are now confronted with a situation in which the wheat-growers may not be able to sell export wheat at payable prices in the volume in which they could previously sell it. They may well wish that they had concentrated more on fostering the sale of wheat for home consumption. However, that is only a side issue. I think that I have clearly demonstrated that the contract negotiated by the Chifley Government, which was profitable at thetime it was negotiated, became unprofitable solely because of this Government’s failure to honour its electoral promise to put value back into the £1. Had the Government honoured that promise, the poultry industry would have been able to continue to purchase wheat at reasonable prices, and thereby produce eggs, in terms of the contract, profitably, and reap an ample reward for their industry. It was to help the poultry industry that the Labour party’s proposed new wheat stabilization scheme includes a provision that the Commonwealth should pay a subsidy of ls. 6d. a bushel to help the producers of eggs, pig meats and dairy products, and also to help the consumers to obtain the products of those industriesat prices within their means. I am referring now to the less fortunate section of the community with modest incomes..
I think I have answered completely the case submitted by the Minister, in which he hoped to smother up the fact that he had dodged his responsibilities. He evaded the responsibility imposed upon him in the 1947 legislation, and retained by him in amending bills, including the present measure, to exercise the sole control of policy. After all, a Minister of the Crown is supposed to be an intelligent individual. He is supposed to have a knowledge of the interests of all sections of the community. He is not supposed to be a partisan representative of the growers or of a trade union. He is supposed to protect the welfare of the entire community. There is provision in this measure for the Minister to exercise fina] judgment. Let me say to the Minister- -
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I suggest that the honorable member take his second period now.
– I shall do so. At one juncture the Board recommended me to approve of a proposal, no doubt with the best of good intentions, whereby we would export, On consignment to Singapore, vast quantities of eggs. I vetoed that proposal. I said that in no circumstances, at least while I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, would the board, or any other authority, be permitted to export a perishable commodity on consignment. The eggs could have gone rotten in the cool stores. The market could have collapsed, and the unfortunate producers would have got nothing out of the deal but a bill for freight. I exercised my authority to veto that proposition. On other occasions the Chifley Government said the last word in regard to contracts for the sale of wheat to the United Kingdom, and demonstrated conclusively, in the 1947-48 wheat deal, that its judgment was sound. Perhaps there was a modicum of good luck in that.
– “Was that the New Zealand contract?
– No. The Minister is now in the same fix as we were alleged to be in in respect of that wheat deal. The Chifley Government’s judgment earned £7,000,000 more for the Australian wheat-growers than would have been earned for them if the recommendation of the Australian Wheat Board had been followed. I admit frankly that Ministers and boards ave, like all human beings, subject to error. But it is another thing when honorable gentlemen opposite take up this “ holy Joe” sort of attitude, and say that they will not exercise their judgment and take a risk, but will leave it to the other fellow, although they are vested by the people and this Parliament with the responsibility of being the watchdogs of the interests of the whole community, and not to any particular section of it.
.- Clause 9 of the measure which will reframe section 13 of the principal act, will ensure that the grievance which has oppressed the poultry-farmers during the last year or more will not recur; or, if it does, the producers will only have themselves to blame for the recurrence. The gravamen of their complaint has been that when the offer was made by the Ministry of Pood in March last year the State egg boards were not consulted.
– They were consulted as soon as the Ministry of Pood signified that it intended to remain the sole importer for a further twelve months. No State egg board would dare to say that they were not consulted on that. The Australian Egg Producers Council was definitely consulted, and that council is composed of representatives of the State egg boards.
– I said that the State egg boards were not consulted, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) was so informed in a letter from the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. He did not contradict that statement. I have a letter from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture which points out that negotiations on this matter went on for five weeks, beginning at the end of March, 1953, and not one word of those negotiations was mentioned at any time to the State boards. The State boards were meeting in Canberra on the 9th June, 1953, and still they were not told anything about it. The first they knew about the matter was when a question was asked in this House on the 22nd October, 1953, which was four and a half months after the State egg board representatives had met in Canberra. Then they learned for the first time, from the record of the proceedings of this House, that the offer had been made and rejected. If the news had been given to the State boards, and they had concurred in the rejection of the offer by the Australian Egg Board, they would only have had themselves to blame. As they were not consulted, the Minister cannot involve them in the rejection of this offer. Therefore, the Minister and the Australian Egg Board must shoulder the blame for this particular rejection, wherever the responsibility may have been in the past. In the future the Australian Egg Board will consist of representatives of State boards, and they will know from the beginning of any similar negotiations. This bill will improve all those public relations, because the State egg boards will have responsibility from the beginning.
– Where does the Australian Country party stand on this matter ?
– Equivocally, as the honorable member should expect. In the future there will be nobody to blame but the State egg boards. They are the producer bodies, and their members are elected by a greater number of producers than are the representatives on the Australian Egg Board, under the rules laid down by the Minister. Under the legislation introduced by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) “ producers “ meant persons so defined by State acts. Under the legislation as amended in 1951 under the administration of the present Minister, the representatives were selected by egg-producers who possessed 500 adult female domestic fowls. In New South Wales the representatives on the State board are selected from those who have 350 adult female domestic fowls. Therefore, there is a much more extensive and representative selection on the New South Wales State board at least. The clause meets with the approval of the Opposition because it will provide for better liaison between the Australian Egg Board and the producers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Control of Export of Eggs).
.- I have already mentioned the increase of 5s. a bushel on wheat. That 5s. increase caused an increase of 5£d. a dozen in the cost of production of eggs. I believe that that matter should be placed on record.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– As chairman, 1 present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Superannuation Bill 1054.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1954.
Royal Commission Bill 1954.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday, the 27th April, at 3 p.m.
I have submitted this motion because I understand that it has been the constitutional practice for a motion to be moved, just before the dissolution of the Parliament, stating a date for a meeting of the Parliament which is subsequent to the date at which it is intended that the dissolution shall take effect. I understand that it is proposed to dissolve the Parliament about the 22nd April, and so honorable members will perceive that this is a purely formal motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- There appears to be no limit to the effrontery of some supporters of the Government. I recently noticed that the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has again intruded himself into a discussion in New South Wales regarding the decisions of the State government about housing. In a letter that he contributed to a newspaper he said -
Mr. Cahill is reported in the “ Herald “ of April 12 assaying: “The Government is seriously considering making an extra effort to let people own their own homes “.
I shall not read the letter in full, because honorable members have heard the opinions of the honorable member for Bennelong too often already. However, he also said in his letter -
Is Mr. Cahill aware that the Labour party in Australia and New South Wales is responsible for denying tens of thousands of peoples from owning their own homes. … I am glad to hear that Mr. Cahill and his party are changing their ideas (if they are genuine) . . we will see how genuine the Socialists are in encouraging people to own their homes.
I suggest that the honorable member must have changed his own opinion in regard to home ownership, because, judging by the letter that he contributed to the press one would believe that he sincerely desired that the workers in this country should own their own homes.I wonder whether he has not some particular motive for continually criticizing the New South Wales Labour Government. A letter from which I shall presently read, is on the letterhead of Cramer Brothers, Real Estate Agents, Auctioneers and Valuators, of 312 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest. It bears the date the 22nd April, 1939. If the honorable member now wants to admit his wrongdoings so far back, we are prepared to hear his explanation. However, I suggest that just laughing about it will prove to be no reply to the implications of the letter. The letter itself is signed by J.O. Cramer, and appears to be quite genuine.
Mr.Turnbull. - I rise to order. I suggest that it is merely tedious repetition for the honorable member for East Sydney to read a letter more than once in this House. I know that the letter that he intends to read was read before, because I recognize it by the hole in the centre of it.
– I do not consider that I am entitled to rule the honorable member for East Sydney out of order.
– The letter reads as follows : -
We are about running out of shares in the Mosman and District Building Society, and the Society has just opened a new issue of 100,000. The new regulations issued however, prevents us from making direct application, or any one in our office doing so, as the government wishes to issue shares as much as possible to those who will require the finance for their own individual purposes.
I shall be therefore personally grateful if you would call in at the Mosman and District Building Society’s office at 27 Hunter -street, City, 7th Floor, see the secretarythere, and tell him that you intend building a home in the near future, that will probably cost you about £2,000 or more. You are not sure yet, and you want to cover yourself for finance by getting some shares in the society. I suggest you make an application for 40 shares.
You will be required to sign the application form and pay1s.6d. per share application money. We will give you the necessary undertaking to take a transfer of the shares from you after they have been allotted to you and pay the whole of the liability in connexion with such shares. The application money you can get at the office before going in to see the society. Be careful however NOT to mention our name and be clear on the matter of wishing to use the shares to build the property for yourself. I know that you will not mind doing this forme and I shall be glad if you can make it an urgent matter as the society is filling up quickly.
If my memory serves me correctly, an Anti-Labour government was in office in New South Wales at the time. It had promulgated regulations which provided that capital and finance which were to be made available to home-purchasers and homebuilders through co-operative societies should be restricted to genuine homebuilders and purchasers and that real estate agents were to be excluded. But the honorable member then elicited the support of his friends who were to go to the co-operative society, act as dummies and represent themselves as people who were genuinely desirous, of constructing homes under the co-operative scheme. It was intended that Cramer Brothers should supply the application money and that they would, after the shares were allotted, buy them back. These shares, when allotted by the co-operative society, became the property of the person to whom they were allotted. Honorable members may use their own judgment, but it does seem to be rather a peculiar action on the part of a gentleman who has been parading in this House ever since he came here and displaying a seemingly burning desire to see that Australian people are provided with their own homes. It seems that the recipient of this letter was not the only gentleman who was approached, because those who care to examine the letter will find that the number of shares for which application was to be made is written in ink. Apparently a number of these letters were prepared and used.
– To whom is the letter supposed to have been sent?
– The honorable member asks, “ To whom is the letter supposed to have been sent ? “ The honorable gentleman has not denied that the letter is genuine, but he is probably very anxious to know how it came into my possession and to whom he directed it. It may be difficult for him to guess to whom this particular letter was directed, because I assume from his interjection and the fact that the figures “ 40 “ are written in ink that he forwarded quite a. number of such letters. I should like to hear an explanation from the honorable gentleman. He ought to have the decency in future to refrain from criticism of the Australian Labour party when it is genuinely making an effort to provide homes for the Australian people. If the basis of the honorable member’s criticism is that he objects to the activities of Labour governments when they restrict the opportunities that are available to various estate agents to exploit the Australian people by questionable means, all I can say is that the Australian Labour party is not ashamed of its record.
The honorable member will be under no illusion in relation to this letter. I shall tell the House the circumstances under which I obtained it, because I know that supporters of the Government are inclined to sneer and to suggest all sorts of things against Labour men. This letter was brought to me by the gentleman to whom it was addressed. He told me there was a time when he was a particularly close friend of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) but he said, “ My opinion of him has changed. At one time I did think he was a decent fellow, but I have lived long enough to learn otherwise “. He further said, “ I have become sick and tired of listening on the radio to the honorable member for Bennelong, who is the chairman of a committee which has invited any member of the public to bring forward for investigation anything that he considered in the public interest should be investigated “. That gentleman went on to say, “ Take this letter to him and ask him if he and his committee will make a start on the contents of this particular letter which he sent to me some years ago “. He also said, “ Whilst I don’t want my name mentioned if it can be avoided, if the honorable member for Bennelong denies having sent out these letters, you may do so “.
– Order ! The honorable members time has expired.
.- It is not necessary to spend much time on this subject. All honorable members know the type of smear campaign for which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is famous in this House. Por him to bring before the House a letter which is alleged to have been written in 1939, which is fifteen years ago, at the time when the building society movement was commenced in New South Wales, is, to my way of thinking, and to say the least, a very dirty thing to do. It should be understood that the building society movement, which was commenced about 1937 by the Stevens Government, had not got into its stride by 1939. At first the public was not sure whether the scheme would operate successfully. There was not then the public confidence in the building society movement that there is to-day. After the first flush when everybody who was in the business applied for shares, the New South Wales Government decided that it would limit one parcel of 40 shares to each applicant. It was not concerned about the identity of the applicants, because all the members of the building trade ensured that they had at least 40 shares. The shares were not of any benefit to the particular individual except that they could be passed to a purchaser of the property. The home owner, about whom the honorable member for East Sydney seems to be so concerned, ultimately received the benefit of the shares. One aspect of the building society scheme which was encouraged by the government at that time was that, although a person may not have wished to use the shares for a home at that particular time, it was a source of investment for him, because five per cent, interest was allowed on the money that was paid in prior to the borrowing against the shares. I do not know whether the honorable member for East Sydney knows that. There were literally thousands of shares in the hands of people who never borrowed on them., and those shares remain as a form of investment. After a period of 21 years those people will have refunded to them the money that they paid for the shares less borrowings, plus 5 per cent, interest.
I do not know whether the letter that has been produced by the honorable member for East Sydney is genuine. Even on the showing of the honorable member, there is nothing illegal or unethical about the matter. Any one can apply for shares to-day and can transfer the shares if he applies for permission to do so. That is being done every day. Every building society can tell about a transfer of shares from one party to another. When the shares are used ultimately, they are used for home ownership. It would be interesting to ascertain the name of the person who is alleged to have received the letter and how it got into the hands of the honorable member for East Sydney. We know that the honorable gentleman associates with certain people in his electorate. We know that he knows certain people to whom he would not like me to refer in the House, and I do not intend to do so.
Apparently the letter came into the hands of the honorable member in a way that he would not like to be disclosed.
– I told the honorable member how it came into my hands. It was handed to me by the person to whom it was sent.
– If a letter like that is produced, the least that can be done is to produce it completely, without the address of the person to whom it was alleged to have been sent having been cut out.
– Is it the honorable member’s letter?
– The House does not know who supplied this information. I do not know whether it is a genuine letter. It is fifteen years old.
– Is that the signature of the honorable member?
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must not interrupt.
– What bearing it has oil the present position I do not know. I do know that the matter about which the honorable member has been com- « plaining is not illegal. It is something that was done at that time by thousands of people.
– Amongst Liberals.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must not interject.
– At that time a Liberal government was in office and there was no great shortage of money. People could make application for shares, and the building society movement was growing very rapidly. The same conditions apply to-day. Anybody may apply for shares. If they discover later that they do not wish to use them, they may transfer them to somebody else. But there is nothing illegal or immoral about it. It is a perfectly legal transaction. I deplore the fact that this matter should have been made the basis of an attack upon me. I do not know why the honorable member for East Sydney has singled me out. I see no particular reason for it other than his craving to use smear tactics in this House. If the honorable member will let me look at that letter later and will disclose to me to whom it was sent, I may be able to inform him about the particular circumstances of it, if it is a genuine letter. If the honorable member is trying to suggest that I have a bad reputation or that I have been culpable, I challenge him to make all the investigations that he likes amongst his friends. If he is able to discover one thing against my character in my business or private life, I invite him to bring it before the House at any time.
.- Last Thursday night I spoke about the timber position in northern Tasmania. According to the information that was given to me by the secretary of the Tasmanian Timber Association, 8,000,000 super, feet of timber was lying at five northern Tasmanian ports awaiting shipment to Melbourne and Adelaide. The figure that was given to me, on the statement of the secretary of that association, has been found to be incorrect. He said that the quantity was not 8,000,000 super, feet but that it was in the vicinity of 5,000,000 super, feet. However, I do not wish to refer now to the quantity of 0 the timber. On that occasion I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to make available two Commonwealth-owned ships to move this timber to Victoria and South Australia, where it is badly needed. On the morning of Friday. the 9th April, I asked the Prime Minister in this House whether he would approach the Minister for Shipping and Transport to ascertain whether those two ships could be made available. I was informed last Monday that the Minister had made available two D class Commonwealth-owned vessels to move the timber. I express my gratitude to him for his prompt action. I hope that those ships will continue to ply between Tasmania and Melbourne and Adelaide until all the timber has been moved and that from then on regularity of shipping will be provided for the export of this vital commodity. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) has stated that I made deliberately exaggerated statements. In other words, he called me a liar.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not refer to debates of the present session.
– I referred to that incident just in passing. In any event, I have answered the honorable member on that issue. I direct attention to the expansion of monopolies that is proceeding in various spheres in this country at an alarming rate. In this respect, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred on a previous occasion to the activities of breweries.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now referring to another debate that took place during the current session.
– I pass to monopolistic activities in respect of the purchase of land. At a time when we should be endeavouring to settle as many people as possible on the land, we find that 90 per cent, of farms that come on the market are being bought by big men. Tasmania is no exception in that respect. I do not know whether the Parliament has power to curtail this practice, but a dagger is being poised at the heart of thousands of ex-servicemen who are seeking land. The process of monopolization in this sphere is proceeding at an alarming rate. It is all very well for members of the Liberal party to smile at that statement. They, of course, live in the cities and know nothing about this problem. I have no doubt, however, that it will be frequently raised during the forthcoming general election campaign.
Monopolies are also becoming more pronounced in the acquisition of motor service stations. In this sphere, the oil companies are gradually getting a stranglehold on the business. Service stations are being constructed all along our highways, whilst in the cities old service stations are being crowded out. From what source is the money being obtained for the construction of these new stations ? The answer, which is well known, is that the oil companies are endeavouring to gain monopoly control of this business. Of course, as this Government has sold its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, it has lost the opportunity by competition to curtail such activities on the part of the private oil companies.
To-day, I received a letter from a proprietor of a service station in which he stated -
As you know we have built an up-to-date service station and have done our utmost to give a good service which has been appreciated by many folk. Mr. Flowers and I have worked thirteen hours per day seven days a week. The position is now, an “ oil company “ has bought a site very close to us, and intends opening in opposition. It is fair to private enterprise?
That is a most interesting question. Monopoly is not concerned about the rights of genuine private enterprise, but is an octopus that operates through cartels and combines. Monopolists are ruthless in their operations. They know no country. The letter continued - ft is very disheartening. If it were a private company, they have as much right to live as we, but I think it very unfair for oil companies to set up in opposition to privately owned service stations.
A service station has been built within half a mile on either side of the station of which the writer of this letter is the proprietor. He continued -
We have mortgaged heavily to put up one station, and could easily lose heavily. Is there no way of protecting private enterprise? One oil company manager told me it would only be a matter of a few years and there would he no privately owned station
Could not some system of licensing be introduced, to control erecting of service stations within a reasonable distance?
That letter reveals the cut-throat competition that is occurring between genuine private enterprise on the one hand and ruthless monopoly on the other. One would think that members of the Liberal party would be concerned about such a development because their gospel, in effect, is, “ Give private enterprise a go “. Probably, the licensing of service stations is a matter solely for the States. However, I have mentioned this matter in order to direct the attention of the Parliament to the kind of monopolization that has been allowed to expand unimpeded in this country since the present Government came into office.
– In accordance with a decision that I made in January last, I am about to retire from parliamentary life after having served in the parliamentary sphere without interruption for the last 42 years. It is not easy for one to walk out of the environment of the Parliament without recalling the pleasant experiences that have fallen to one’s lot during so long a period. Before making my decision to retire, I considered all aspects of the matter most carefully. A Labour rival, upon hearing of my decision, said that I would have had a much more impressive funeral if I had faded out while I was still a member of the Parliament. I have had the unique experience of having sat with my father in the State Parliament in Queensland and of having succeeded him in this Parliament as the honorable member for Wide Bay. If that be considered to be a record I do not wish to achieve another by dying as my father did while he was a member of this Parliament. I trust that I shall be able to make a useful contribution in other spheres of activities. On one occasion recently, I was amused to hear certain reports that were circulated about the state of my health. I was lucky in that, at that time, all the publicity was concentrated on Jimmy Carruthers’s tapeworm, because his was a more interesting medical case.
I take this opportunity to express thanks for the assistance that I have received from the Chair. I have had the experience of being thrown out of the Parliament, but, of course, I was in the right. I also thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and members of his party for the courtesies that they have shown to me ; and, similarly, I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt and all members of his party for the friendship that they have extended to me at all times. I may have had a bit of a scrap with them on various occasions, but such episodes always finished satisfactorily. I wished my opponents no harm, but always hoped that in the next scrap they would fare as they did in the preceding scrap. I express my appreciation for the cooperation and assistance that I have received from members of the staffs attached to the Parliament, and also to members of the press. I mention, particularly, the debt that I owe to attendants in this House. The assistance that all of them have rendered has enabled me to represent my electorate more effectively than I could have hoped to do without such assistance. Finally, I thank the electors of Wide Bay for the confidence that they have reposed in me over so long a period. That, of course, is evidence of their sound common sense. I thank them for giving to me the opportunity to represent them. I trust that my successor will represent them even more successfully than I have done, though it will not be -possible for him to be more eager than I have been to work in the interests of the people.
– I should like first to say a word about our friend, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser). He has always been a remarkable character and, among many other things, he has added to the gaiety of nations. I can remember many occasions when the weight of affairs would have made all of us very dull if it had not been for his superb faculty of reminding us that we are human beings. He is a remarkable person because it is not unknown, indeed there is a strong rumour, that there is to be a general election. I must secure a picture of my friend and write under it, “ The only man who ever voluntarily retired from the Parliament “. I say to him, on behalf of his political friends and foes, that he goes out of this place enjoying the warm regard and, indeed, the deep affection of every honorable member.
Having said those few inadequate words about the honorable member for Wide Bay, I offer, on behalf of the Government, at the end of this session and at the end of this Parliament, our thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Chairman of Committees for the way in which you have presided over our deliberations. I, myself, have an almost respectable record in the Parliament. I have been suspended from the House only once, and one of my happy recollections will be that I have not had that experience during the life of this Parliament.
– The right honorable gentleman had the numbers.
– I know that when I was suspended I did not have the numbers. It is a great pleasure for all honorable members to be in attendance at the sittings of the House to take part in debates. You, yourself, Mr. Speaker, have always provided a vigorous management of the affairs of the House and, occasionally, we thought that you were hitting us a little too hard. Like Ithuriel, the Chairman of Committees, with his spear, touched lightly when he sat in the chair in the committee. We thank both of you sincerely. I offer my thanks to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), because the longer one is in Parliament, particularly at the Table, the more one realizes that without a great degree of co-operation from both sides the business of the Parliament would be quite unmanageable. For that reason, every Prime Minister has expressed his indebtedness to the Leader of the Opposition of his day, and I do so, similarly, on this occasion. I am sorry that my colleague, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) i3 not here.
– Where is he 1
– He has been returning at leisure. It is quite true that if our debates had turned out to be quite vigorous, in which respect we have been disappointed, he would have come at once in order to cross a sword with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), to whom, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition and to the Vice-president, we are greatly indebted for the fact that the management of this House from day to day has been made much easier. All of us are indebted to the whips. About eighteen year? ago, a former member, Mr. Gander, used to make reference to a whips’ union. Whether the whips have a union or not, or whether membership of it is compulsory, I do not know, but every honorable member has reason to be indebted to the whips for the work they do day by day and session by session.
I should also like to extend my compliments, at the end of this Parliament, to all the honorable members who have sat in it. We are going to take part in a general election campaign, and whatever the merits of our case or whatever the force of our argument may be, we shall not be the judges. Other people will sit in judgment, and it may be that changes will be made. I think that we all are prepared to say, very willingly, that despite our conflicts in public about opinions which are sincerely and strongly held and vigorously maintained, there is an enormous fund of personal friendship in this chamber between people who are opposites politically.
I express our debt to the officers of the House, not only the officers at the Table, but also the Hansard staff, the Library staff and the staff of the refreshment rooms. We have great matters of substance to deal with from time to time, but the work of the Parliament involves an incredible amount of detail, a great knowledge of parliamentary procedure, and a great willingness to help. We have had the benefit of that knowledge and willingness in abundant measure from our officers. On behalf of honorable members, 1 express our compliments to members of the press gallery, for whom we have what I may describe as a fluctuating affection. But however that affection may fluctuate from time to time, all honorable members will agree that we have been able to enjoy very fine and warm personal relations with those who represent the organs of the press, and, though we see them as through a glass darkly, with those who operate the broadcasting facilities of this Parliament.
I should not like to conclude my remarks without expressing my. own indebtedness, and that of my colleagues, to the Parliamentary draftsmen. The work of a draftsman is far more difficult than appears on the surface. Frequently the Parliamentary Draftsman and his assistants must marvel at the way in which we go to them, and say, “ We want you to draft a bill on this or that matter by to-morrow morning. Something has cropped up suddenly “. Drafting is a matter of immense difficulty, and involves long, patient and faithful labour on the part of the draftsman. We are deeply indebted to the Parliamentary Draftsman and his assistants.
Finally, though we are the Parliament, and represent the legislative arm of government there are the great departments of State, and particularly those officers with whom we all come into constant contact, who do work without which I honestly believe no government and opposition could function successfully. I am a great admirer of the men in our public service with whom I have had so much to do over a period of years in office or out of office. I wish to say, on behalf of all honorable members, that their work is greatly appreciated by us, and that we all are entirely in their debt.
– I should like to add a few words in support of the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), on the occasion of a most unusual ending to the life of a Parliament. I agree with the spirit of most of his statements, and I make special reference to the Clerk of the House and his assistants, and to other officers who assist honorable members in this chamber during times of calm and times of storm. We could not carry on our work without them, and I express our thanks to them. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), who has announced his intention not to seek re-election, made a remarkable farewell speech. He exhibited the qualities of manliness and frankness, humour and humanity, which have characterized his whole career in this Parliament. I assure him, on behalf of the Opposition, that we look back with pleasure upon his long and distinguished career as a member of this House. We recollect how much he has done in the service of the House as well as in the service of the electorate that he has represented so long. During the difficult days of World War II., he was the official Whip of the Australian Country party, and his duties brought him into «lose contact with members of the Labour Government. I really felt, when he was speaking, that we rose above the turmoil of politics and that we were being told, in plain terms which every one on both sides of the House appreciated, that the work of the Parliament was greater than all the individuals who comprised it. We are the servants of, and trustees for, the people. The honorable member for Wide Bay will carry with him the warmest affection of honorable members. I sincerely hope that his career of public service will not end with his retirement from the Parliament. I was deeply touched by his speech, and I assure him that the spirit of his remarks is the spirit of my remarks. The Prime Minister has dealt with this matter in a broader sense. I endorse bis statements, and thank the honorable member for Wide Bay for his references to me.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). - Personally, I am sorry that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) is to retire from the Parliament. I have known him for only a few weeks short of twenty years. I met him when I became a member of this House, and to say the least, he has always been one of the personalities of any parliament in which he has sat. He is a man of ready wit, some humour, and much humanity, and he has a great understanding of his fellow men. I feel that there will be a distinct gap in the next parliament, due to his departure.
I wish to thank the Clerk of the House and his assistants for the work they do here. They are the pillars on which parliamentary procedure and tradition rest. The attendants do their duty in a quiet, unobtrusive way, and every honorable member will be thankful to them for that. Our thanks are given to the members of the other parliamentary staffs and those who operate the broadcasting facilities. I marked well the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about the press, and I mention that just as our opinions of them vary, so do their opinions of us, individually and collectively, vary. It is not one-way traffic at all.
The Prime Minister was good enough to speak of my methods of presiding over this House. When I look back sometimes, though it is seldom that I do so, I am rather astonished at my own moderation. I am quite frank with honorable members when I say that the only member of this House I have ever tried to please is myself, and sometimes I have not even succeeded in doing that. But I assure the House, just before the end of the life of the Twentieth Parliament, that there are many things I had hoped to do during the time I was in the chair which have not yet been accomplished. Certain necessary and serious changes in the procedure and customs of this House are long overdue, and as soon as they are adopted by a future parliament we shall have a better and more businesslike way of conducting the affairs of Australia. We have so many responsibilities of a Commonwealth character that I believe we have no need to trespass upon the preserves of the States and certain personal things which are intruded from time to time into the proceedings of the Parliament. However, they are matters for the future.
I do not express any views at the moment about the appearance of the Twenty-first Parliament, and I shall not give a hint about the part of the chamber from which I shall first view the Parliament, but I assure some of my friends that they are in for the disappointment of their lives. I also assure every honorable member that whatever my misdeeds may be, they are shared among 122 other honorable members; but whatever the misdeeds of honorable members may be, they are carried upon my own shoulders.
I thank honorable gentlemen for the consideration that they have shown me at times. I have had it from all parts of the House and from many honorable members. Perhaps at times I have been able to be of some use to honorable gentlemen, and at other times I may have been regarded as the greatest obstruction and the biggest nuisance that there has been since the Garden of Eden. Por those things I have no regrets whatsoever.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.20 p.m. to Tuesday, the 27th April, at 3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable* member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Is the Minister for Immigration aware that it has been suggested in the administration oi our migration laws that there has been discrimination against persons of a particular religious faith?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
I am aware that suggestions have been made and wish to say categorically that this Government and the Immigration Department would not tolerate any such discrimination in any form, whether it be directed against Protestant, Catholic, Jew or Gentile.
This may be regarded as a standing principle of this Government, and honorable members may rest assured that if any officer of any Commonwealth department is guilty of any such discrimination he will be appropriately dealt with. tn fairness to the officers concerned, there is no evidence that any discrimination has taken place, but that officers have dealt with nil cases on their merits in accordance with the policy in force at the time.
d asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– It is assumed the honorable member refers to parents of deceased ex-servicemen, who were in receipt of age or invalid pensions under the Social Services Consolidation Act, but whose war pensions have been increased to such rates as prevent the continuation of age or invalid pensions under that act. In such cases the answer is -
i asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Postmaster General, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
ser asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 April 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540414_reps_20_hor3/>.