21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– WM the Minister for Labour and National Service, if and. when any alteration of the powers and/or functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board is thought to be necessary, arrange to consult the Australian Council of Trades Unions before any firm policy is decided upon, in order .to obtain the views of the unions concerned, as well as - those of the Australian -Council of Trades Unions, on the matter!
– I have already had discussions with officers of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and. with representatives of other interests which may he directly affected or concerned ian the matter referred to by the honorable gentleman. It can be safely assumed that those officers will be kept informed of developments as they occur, as will the representatives of the other interests I have mentioned.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister in relation to an approaching important event - the celebration of the 80th birthday of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Would it be possible to use the forms of this House to recognize this occasion, as Sir Winston Churchill was the great war-time leader of the British Commonwealth ? If so, would it be possible to send him a congratulatory message on behalf of this Parliament ?
– I am perfectly certain that it would be consonant with the wish of the House, and of every member, if, on the birthday of Sir Winston Churchill, I sent him birthday greetings in the name of all of us.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that there are many partially disabled men in the community who would be eligible to receive the invalid pension and thus qualify for rehabilitation treatment and training but for the fact that their wives have taken employment and become bread-winners, thus disqualifying them from social services benefits? Will the Minister consider widening the field of rehabilitation to include such persons?
– I was not aware of the restriction upon rehabilitation benefits mentioned by the honorable member. I shall have a look at the matter and see what can be done about it.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the House of the manner in .which the allowance of 35s. a week that is paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner is assessed? Is the Minister aware that the allowance that is paid to the wife is equal to only 50 per cent, of the rate that is paid to her invalid husband, and that it is equal to less than half of the rate that is paid to an A class widow? Furthermore, is he aware that, in most cases, the wife of an invalid pensioner, because ‘ of the need for her to remain at nome to nurse her invalid husband, is prevented from going out to work to augment the allowance? Will the honorable gentleman examine the allowance with a view to increasing it to a full rate pension? I think that the present rate is a. shocking injustice.
– As honorable members will remember, wives’ allowances were introduced in 1943 by the CurtinGovernment. They were then fixed at a certain percentage of the invalid pension, and that rate was. confirmed by the Chifley Government some year3 later. The principle of fixing the wives’’ allowances at a ‘proportion of the invalid pension has not been substantially varied by this Government. I remind the honorable member that the invalid pension is £3 10s. a week but that, in addition, a family unit may receive a wife’s allowance of £1 15s. a week, a child’s allowance of lis. 6d. a week, and an additional allowance of 5s. a week for child endowment for the first child. In other words, a family consisting of an invalid husband, a wife and one child may receive a total of £6 ls. 6d. In addition, a permissible income of £7 may be earned. There are a number of cases in which women are able to earn other sums of money, although they may not earn asmuch as £7. This matter has received sympathetic consideration from this Government, as it has from other governments, but I shall further investigate it as soon as it is possible for me to do so.
– Does the Prime Minister regard an income of £3 10s. a week as being adequate, having regard to prevailing high prices, to meet the essential needs of an Australian citizen in respect of shelter, clothing, food, &c. ? Is the Prime Minister aware that, because of high rents and excessive food and clothing prices, persons who are entirely dependent upon Commonwealth pensions, such as age, invalid, widows and. war service pensions, are actually slowly starving to death? Will he say whether theGovernment has any plan to deal with’ this situation either immediately, in the near future, or at any other time? If so, when does he expect to be in a position to announce its details?
– I do not propose to re-debate the budget which recently passed through this Parliament. I venture to say that all pensioners in Australia are at this moment much better off than when they had the dubious pleasure of having the member for East Sydney as one of their Ministers.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: Is it a fact that pensioners who have become entitled to pensions and benefits under the recent amendments of the Social Services Act have not been. issued with medical benefits entitlement cards? If this is a fact, what are the reasons? Is some difficulty being experienced? Is it intended that these cards shall be issued and that the newly accepted pensioners will receive the benefits?
– There is an enormous amount of work to be done by the Department of Social Services in con>pleting the work relating to the payment of pensions, and that work will not be completed until about the .28th of this month. That is the first matter. As you probably know, Mr. Speaker, there ‘has been an increase in payments of pensions to 90,000 pensioners, and 71,000 extra people have come into the scheme. The second point is that the administration of the national health scheme is not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services, but I have been in the very closest consultation with the Minister for Health in an attempt to speed up the work on this problem. We are doing the very best we can with it.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services about the definition of personal effects for means test purposes. Following the legal ruling that a motor car owned and used by a pensioner for his exclusive use is not to be counted against the pensioner as property, will other means of transport similarly be excluded? For example, the men from the Snowy River ride horses, and at present pensioners who possess horses have to state the value of them as property, and they are counted against the pensioner when the pension rate is computed. Similarly, will motor bicycles, sulkies, jinkers and other vehicles, which at present are counted against a pensioner as property, be exempted? Also on this interesting question of personal effects, following the ruling given by the Crown Law officers, will consideration be given to the position of a pensioner who owns a cow, the milk of which is for the exclusive use of the pensioner and his wife? At present he is required to count that as property, and the department reduces his pension accordingly if the total value of his assets, including the cow, exceeds the stipulated amount.
– I am not aware whether the honorable member for EdenMonaro is attempting to make a farce-
– No. These are very important matters.
– It seemed that, the honorable member was attempting to make a farce of the answer I gave to a very sensible question asked yesterday. As I then explained, I do not know the exact legal basis on which the interpretation was placed upon the words. I can assure him that the term has certainly not been interpreted in such a way as to include, a milking cow. It certainly has not been interpreted in such a way as. to include a. horse which takes a man to his place of business, because the very definition of a personal effect is, not that it is used for business purposes, but that it is used exclusively for personal reasons - that is, for reasons associated with the owner’s personal happiness and contentment.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misrepresented by the Minister for Social Services in his suggestion that I am making. a farce of this matter. I want, to make it quite clear that I am (not intending to do that at all. If a motor car used by a pensioner for his exclusive use for transport is to be-
-Order ! The honorable member must not argue this issue.
– I am only making clear what I was intending. There are other forms of vehicles, and horses and 30 on, which might be similarly included. Bt is a very serious matter to pensioners, and I hope it will be taken seriously.
– The question that [ wish to ask the Minister for Health Hoa Is with the method of distribution of free milk to school children. Do all the States give bottled pasteurized milk to school children under the Commonwealth scheme? If not, which States have alternative supplies, what is the nature of the alternative supplies, and what proportion of schools in those States receives milk from such sources? How many pupils attend schools supplied from alternative sources, and what reason is giver »y the States for using alternative methods of supply?
– Only Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland restrict free milk for school children to bottled pasteurized milk. New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia, all provide alternative supplies. These supplies may be in the form of a bulk delivery of milk that has been pasteurized but not bottled, powdered milk, which is made into liquid form at the schools, or evaporated milk. Those States have had considerable success with those substitutes for pure fresh milk, especially in areas where supplies of fresh milk are not readily available. In New South Wales, which is the most populous State, perhaps 20 per cent, of the schools are supplied by one of these three alternative means, in South Australia about 10 per cent., and in Western Australia approximately 40 per cent. Victoria and Tasmania have advanced as a reason for not providing supplies alternative to fresh milk the fact that they are relatively small in area and that schools are so close to supplies of fresh milk that it is available for the great bulk of the children. I have had no reason given to me by Queensland.
– My question to the Minister for Health concerns the scheme for the free distribution of milk to school children. Does the Commonwealth bear the whole cost of the supply of evaporated milk to school children, or are the States called upon to bear some part of the cost? Hi view of continued agitation from some quarters for the use of fruit juices, as a substitute for milk in some areas where fresh milk is not obtainable, will the right honorable gentleman draw the attention of the authorities, and those who have been making representations about the matter, to the success which has attended the use of evaporated milk?
– It has been my experience that the cost of liquid milk made from evaporated milk is approximately the same as the cost of ordinary fluid milk, and there is no question of any one other than trie Australian Government bearing the cost of it. I congratulate Western Australia upon the manner in which it has dealt with the problem of supplying milk to schoolchildren, because out of a total number of 3S0 schools supplied in Western Australia about 120- are being supplied with evaporated milk. Schools are supplied in places such as Carnavon, Broome and Coolgardie, and that shows the wide area covered by the scheme. I shall draw the attention of the other large States to the valuable part Western Australia if playing in connexion with child health.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman received a request from the Western Australian Premier that land at Point Peron be made available to the Crippled Children’s Society Incorporated for a children’s home? Is it a fact that the Western Australian Government has offered £500 for the piece of land in question, and that the Commonwealth proposes to charge £1,500 for it, or about £500 an acre? Is it a fact, also, that the land in question was purchased by the Commonwealth from Western Australia in 1916 for about 25s. an acre? In view of the philanthropic purpose for which the land is intended, will the Prime Minister agree to forgo some of the unearned increment and allow Western Australia to purchase the property at the price offered by the State Government?
– Order ! The honorable member may not ask the Prime Minister for an expression of opinion.
– Perhaps I may be able to answer some parts of the question. The Western Australian Government asked the Australian Government to make most of the land that was intended to be used for the old naval base at Point Peron available to the State at the price originally paid for it in order to enable the new oil refinery to be constructed and other development to take place in that area. After some discussion, this action was’ eventually agreed to. The exchange was approved, and it was made. As I understand the present position, the Western Australian Government had made available for the charitable purpose of a children’s home an area of land fairly close to the area that was being developed.. When the development on the adjacent land occurred, the State Government informed the Crippled Children’s Society Incorporated that the land offered to it was too valuable for use as a children’s home, that it would be taken back and that the Western Australian Government would ask the Commonwealth to make available an additional area of land at the price originally paid for it. The Commonwealth did not think that was a fair thing, and there the matter stands, as far as I am aware.
– Quite recently the Minister for the Interior promised a deputation from the Crippled Children’s Society Incorporated, in Perth, that he would further consider -the matter of making a grant of land to the society for the purpose of a crippled children’s home, in place of land transferred to the Western Australian Government. ‘Has the Minister further considered the deputation’s request, and, if so, what is his final decision about the matter?
– I have further considered the matter, and, at the moment, I cannot see any reason to alter the Government’s previous decision. If the land .involved was so valuable that the Western Australian Government took it back from the Crippled Children’s Society Incorporated to whom it had been granted, I do not see any reason why the Commonwealth should make more land available at the 1905 valuation.
– The block of land taken by the State Government, and the area that the society now requires, are miles apart.
– That may be so, but the value of the land increased largely because of the development of the area through arrangements by the Western Australian and the Australian governments. The crippled children’s home is a matter for the State Government, and, therefore, there is no reason why the Australian Govern-* ment should be in any different position from the State Government. If the State Government wanted an exchange of land it would have been a different matter, but the State Government said to the crippled children’s home, “ This land is too valuable, we shall take it back “ ; and there seems to be no reason why the State Government took that action.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the select committee on Hansard, whether the report of the committee will be available to the House shortly.
-I shall present the report after questions are concluded.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I remind the Minister that last week he stated that he would examine the text of a question that I addressed to him seeking the reason why the Government intervened in the margins case only to present argument on the principle of wage disparity between skilled workers ‘and other workers, and why it failed to present to the court, for its information, factual details of the nation’s economy. I now ask the Minister whether he has examined the text of my question, and, if so, whether he is prepared to furnish the House with reasons why this allimportant information on a government level was not furnished to the court.
– The information upon which the case for the Government could be presented to the court by counsel was prepared with considerable care and after consultation by a number of Ministers. It was made clear to the court, and to counsel, that any information that the court desired to assist it in its consideration of this important matter, and which it was within the capacity of the Government to furnish, would be furnished. To the best of my knowledge, any information that the court sought on any of the matters that were addressed to it either was made available by the Government or would have been made available by counsel on its behalf.
– I preface my question to the Minister for the Army by stating that, at the present time, the Australian Army is carrying out parachute training to a limited degree. In view of the growing importance of this phase of military operations, will the Minister give consideration to the expansion of this plan with the object of having some trained parachute personnel placed with all combatant Australian Regular Army and Citizen Military Forces units?
– For a considerable time, parachute training has been conducted at the School of Land-Air Warfare at Williamtown. Almost all of the Australian Regular Army units, and, to a lesser degree, the Citizen Military Forces units, have trained paratroops. I shall consider the suggestion contained in the question of the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs consider the value likely to accrue to Australia by establishing diplomatic relations with Spain? The right honorable gentleman will, of course, be aware that other British Commonwealth countries, notably the United Kingdom, Canada,. South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, have recognized the Spanish Government. The same is true of the United States of America. In view of the fact that the present regime has ruled in Madrid for nearly twenty years, and appears likely to remain, and because of the need for new export markets for Australian products, does not the Minister agree that beneficial consequences are likely to flow from an exchange of ambassadors between the Spaniards and ourselves?
– Australia recognizes the Government of Spain, but recognition does not necessarily imply the need to exchange diplomatic representatives. Whilst I agree with a good deal of what the honorable member for Angas has said, I am afraid that I cannot hold out any hope, on behalf of the Government, that we shall set about the business of exchanging diplomatic representatives. Our diplomatic service in the Department of External Affairs is relatively small and relatively young. We have some little difficulty now in enlisting and training to an adequate degree the personnel to serve the existing diplomatic posts that we have overseas. I think, understandably, that we have to give, first attention to the adequate filling of the posts that are geographically more in our Australian area. I am afraid that until that purpose is. more adequately served than it is at present, we cannot contemplate the opening up of further diplomatic posts overseas.
– I address my question to the Minister acting for the Treasurer. Is he aware that the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia raised its dividend this year from 40 per cent, to 47^ per cent, and that the profit is equal to 73 per cent, on capital; that Moran and Cato Limited, grocers, paid a dividend of 10 per cent., which accounts for less than half the year’s profits; that J. Connolly, engineers, paid a dividend of 10 per cent., which required less than one-third of the years’s profits, and that these exorbitant profits-
– Order ! What have those matters to do with the administration of the Minister acting for the Treasurer ?
– He will find out when I complete my question. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that these exorbitant profits are ‘representative of those made by a large and varied range of Australian industries? As profits are the greatest single factor in promoting inflation, and as the basic wage has been pegged-
– Order ! The question is out of order.
– Will the right honorable gentleman take immediate action to limit profits?
– I think that the assumption in the honorable member’s question is sheer nonsense.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services relates to the War Service Homes Division, which will be given power, if legislation at present before the House is passed to increase the maximum loan that may be granted for the purchase of existing houses from £2,000 to £2,750, and reintroduce a six months’ waiting period on the 1st November next for purchasers of such houses. I accordingly ask the Minister whether a great number of eligible ex-servicemen have applied for loans of amounts between £2,000 and £2,750, and whether they have asked for their applications to be held over until the amending legislation is passed. Since the bill cannot now be passed before the 1st November, will those applicants have to wait for a further six months from, the date of the passing of the legislation? To re-assure the applicants concerned, will the Minister defer the imposition of the waiting period until the 1st December next?
– A bill to amend the War Service Homes Act is now before the House. The matter to which the honorable member for Werriwa has referred can be raised at the appropriate time, and an answer will be given either at the committee stage or whenever it is appropriate.
– Does the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General consider that it is fair for the department to send an account for £73 to the lessee of a telephone when the previous lessee has defaulted in his payment? The account is in respect of a period when the pre vious lessee was responsible for the payment, but he has defaulted and has gone bush, and nobody can find him. In fact, lie owes the present lessee £150 for rent for the property.
– I shall ascertain the facts of the matter that the honorable member has raised.
– Having regard to long and irritating delays that frequently occur in the trunk-line telephone service between Tasmania and the mainland, is the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral aware of any proposal to provide additional trunk lines across Bass Strait? If such proposals are in hand, when is it expected that the new channels will be put into operation?
– I have made some inquiries into the matter that the honorable member has raised and I have ascertained that the Postal Department is installing seven additional telephone channels between the mainland and Tasmania and that, subject to the satisfactory testing of the equipment, it is proposed to provide within the next few weeks three new circuits between Melbourne and Hobart, three between Melbourne and Launceston, and one between Melbourne and Burnie. The installation of a radio telephone system between Tanybyrn, Victoria and Stanley is proceeding. Two new circuits between Melbourne and Hobart and one new circuit between Melbourne and Launceston will be made available within the next two months. In addition, the preliminary work has been completed for the provision of six radio telephone channels by way of Wilson’s Promontory, Flinder’s Island and Launceston, and it is expected that these additional facilities will be installed by June, 1955.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister that is related to the announcement that General MotorsHolden’s Limited has decided to export Holden cars to New Zealand. Can the right honorable gentleman say whether an arrangement, or agreement, was entered into with that company by the
Chifley Government the terms of which provided that Holden cars would not be manufactured under licence outside Australia? If this is a fact, will he advise me whether he has any knowledge of the arrangement under which the Holden cars are to be exported to New Zealand? Will they be manufactured in Australia, or produced in New Zealand under licence?
– The prohibitions which attach, or attached, to vehicles made in the United States of America or Canada have no relevance to this matter. The proposal, as I understand it from the Holden people, is that they will export cars made in Australia. There is no legal bar on that, of course, and, indeed, all honorable members will be glad to think that in a manufacturing industry of this kind we have been able to go into the export market. I am told by the manufacturer that the number of cars to lie exported will not be excessive because of the large demand in Australia that has to be catered for. Their present intention is that in 1954 and 1955 they will export 1. per cent, of their total production in Australia. Consequently, the apprehension which, I imagine, the honorable member had at the back of his mind is dispelled. This will be a straight export of Australian-produced cars.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether there is any agreement, tacit or otherwise, between the Government and General Motors-Holden’s Limited to provide for the export of Holden cars at a price lower than that charged for the same cars to Australian consumers ?
– I am entirely unaware of any agreement on this matter, either in the form that the honorable member has indicated or in any other form, between the Government and General Motors-Holden’s Limited. Indeed, my only knowledge of this matter arose in Adelaide when a representative of the company informed me on the occasion of a manufacturer’s dinner that the company intended to engage in export. 1 think that is a very good thing. But we have no bargain with the company one way or the other.
– When details of the conditions of the national service call-up are being considered in conformity with the announced policy of giving indefinite deferment to young men who are employed in rural industries or who live beyond a radius of five miles from a recognized training centre, will the Minister for Defence give consideration to the inclusion in the call-up of those who would normally be deferred but who wish to serve in the national service training scheme ?
– Some consideration has been given to the situation of men whose call-ups would normally be deferred but who wish to serve. The application of each person who would normally be exempt but who wishes to serve will be considered in the light of his place of residence and his capacity to undertake and complete the training.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister acting for the Treasurer. I remind him that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, just before he went overseas recently, said in answer to a question asked in this House that the Government would consider making advance payments to dried fruit-growers to protect them against late harvests and slow markets. Has Cabinet given consideration to this suggestion? If so. what was the result of it3 consideration? If it intends to make such payments, will the passage of authorizing legislation be necessary during the present sittings of the Parliament?
– It is quite true, as the honorable member has pointed out, that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicated that the Government was willing to examine such a proposal. In fact, the proposal is now in the course of examination. The Minister, of course, is not able to take part in the discussions at present because he is out of the country. However, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has been in consultation with the law authorities. because certain problems of a legal kind arise in relation to this matter. When these discussions are concluded, it will then be necessary to have discussions with the Treasury and with the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board, which, I understand, will meet next in November. Until then, of course, it will not be possible for definite proposals to emerge for consideration by. Cabinet. Therefore, unless the current sittings of the Parliament are very protracted, I should not be optimistic about the legislation being introduced during these sittings, if, in fact, the Government decides to introduce legislation.
– Has the Minister for Defence constituted an advisory committee to advise the Government on all aspects of defence vehicle production? If so, is it a fact that all the members of this committee are employers or representatives of employers? If so, I .ask the Minister why no representatives of the workers in the industry have been appointed to the committee. Will he consider the appointment immediately of such representatives?
– The committee to which the honorable member has referred is under the control of my colleague the Minister for Defence Production.
– Does the Minister for Defence Production ~wish to answer the question?
– Yes. The committee to which the honorable member referred and a number of similar committees are not industrial committees. They were expert committees, and the members have been appointed as experts.
– Will the Minister for Immigration consider amending the Immigration Act to enable him to exercise discretionary power in relation to the payment of the naturalization fee of £5 at present required of all foreignborn immigrants who seek Australian citizenship ?
– That matter was considered by the recent Australian Citizenship Convention and the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. Certain recommendations relating to that and other matters have come to me and, as I intimated yesterday, those recommendations are now receiving my consideration with a view to their presentation to Cabinet.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the fact that service personnel are required to undergo a most thorough medical examination prior to enlistment and in order to remove the continual disputation over the question whether subsequent disabilities are war caused, will the Prime Minister consider introducing an amendment to the law to provide for the automatic acceptance of disabilities as being war-caused in respect of all personnel who have seen active service?
-The Prime Minister, on a matter of policy.
– This is obviously a matter of policy. I understand that it was discussed yesterday in another place.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Will the Minister consider - extending the Trans-Australia Airlines assembly lounge at Kingsford-Smith airport? Will he visit all the terminals and compare the comfortable lounge at overseas terminal and at the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited terminal, with the substandard lounge at the TransAustralia Airlines terminal? Will he give attention to the lack of amenities available to the very loyal and efficient staff of Trans- Australia Airlines?
– As far as visiting the Trans-Australia Airlines lounge at Kingsford-Smith airport in Sydney is concerned, I was there on Monday. Arrangements are being made for reconstruction work to be done there. Ansett
Airways Proprietary Limited is being moved to another part of the aerodrome, and when that move is completed TransAustralia Airlines will be much better served.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to give the House some information about the political events which are now taking place in Pakistan?
– I was asked a question on the same matter yesterday by the honorable member for Darling Downs. I intend to seek leave of the House, after questions have concluded, to make a short statement on the important situation that exists in Pakistan.
– by leave - The actions taken during the last week by the Governor-General of Pakistan, His Excellency Mr. Ghulam Mohamed, had two significant aspects. In the first place, the Governor-General declared that a state of emergency existed in Pakistan and that as the Constituent Assembly had lost the confidence of the people it could no longer function. The Constituent Assembly is a nominated and not an elected body, which was constituted at the time the countries that are now Pakistan and India were partitioned and given their independence. Its primary purpose was to draft a constitution and., in the meantime, to perform the functions of a legislature pending the election of a parliament.
However, the constitution that was drafted has aroused considerable opposition. In particular, the provinces of West Pakistan, of which there are four, objected to it, because it was felt that East Pakistan, which is a single province, would be given a permanent majority in the proposed legislature. The population of East Pakistan is approximately 46,000,000 people. The population of West Pakistan is about 34,000,000 persons. Representation in the Constituent Assembly is roughly proportional to population ; so that it is clear that a considerable constitutional and political problem exists in relation to regulating the relationship between the representatives of East Pakistan and West Pakistan in the Assembly. This problem ha3 led to a great deal of trouble and friction. It wa8 claimed by the representatives of the provinces of West Pakistan that the Constituent Assembly should adopt the proposed constitution, not by a majority vote, but only if it was agreed to by the representatives in the Constituent Assembly of all the provinces in both East Pakistan and West Pakistan. It proved impossible to resolve this disagreement within the old Constituent Assembly, and it appears that the Governor-General decided that the best solution would be the holding of elections to elect a new Constituent Assembly: I understand that it is proposed that a general election shall be held on the basis of a universal franchise with representation for the provinces on roughly the same proportional basis as at present.
The second important aspect of the Governor-General’s recent move was the decision to invite the Prime Minister, Mr. Mohamed Ali, to reconstitute the Cabinet in order, in his own words, “ to give stable and vigorous government “. The Prime Minister later announced that he had accepted the Governor-General’s invitation, and a new and smaller ministry was formed. The new Ministers holding the more important posts in the Cabinet include General Iskander Mirza formerly Governor of East Pakistan and, prior to that, secretary of the Pakistan Ministry of Defence, who holds office as Minister for the Interior ; General Ayub, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, who retains that post and has become Minister for Defence; and Mr. M. A. H. Ispahani, who, until recently, was Pakistan High Commissioner in London, and has now become Minister for Industries. The Prime Minister has declared that Pakistan should have an election to elect new representatives to a Constituent Assembly as soon as possible. He has emphasized that, meanwhile, no basic change in the Government has been involved. The task of the new Cabinet, which he has described as much stronger than the previous Ministry, will be orderly administration of the Government pending the drafting and implementing of the new constitution.
From reports that I have received from Karachi, it appears that those changes have not been accompanied by any disorder or violence. I am informed that some degree of censorship exists, particularly in Karachi, but only in relation to the proclamation of the state of emergency. I have seen some press reports regarding the crisis in Pakistan that do not appear to be wholly accurate. For instance, it has been suggested that Sir Mohamed Zafrulla Khan, who was Minister for External Affairs in the former Ministry was dismissed from the Cabinet. That is not so. In fact, Sir Mohamed Zafrulla Khan resigned from the Cabinet of his own accord in consequence of his candidature for a position as a judge on the International Court of Justice.I might say that, to my knowledge, he announced his candidature at least six months ago. He has been elected to the International Court of Justice, and he will take up his appointment on the 1st November, next.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Continuous filament acetate rayon yarn. Tin.
Report oF Select Committee.
– As Chairman, I pre sent the report from the select committee appointed to inquire into the preparation, production and distribution of the Hansard of this House, together with minutes of proceedings, and statements submitted for the information of the committee. Copies of the report are being made available in the party rooms.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Customs Act 1901-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to effect certain amendments to the Customs Act 1901- 1953 relating to the making of customs entries, to the provision of suitable office accommodation for customs officers at licensed warehouses, and to the period of operation of customs warrants.
Section 37 provides that entries shall be made by the delivery of the entry by the owner to the collector of customs, and on delivery of the entry the goods specified therein shall be deemed to be entered. It may happen that, after the making of an entry for home consumption in terms of section 37, but before payment of duty, there is an alteration in the customs tariff which has the effect of reducing the amount of duty payable on the goods covered by that entry. In such cases, it has been the practice for some importers to prepare a new entry and to pay duty on the goods at the lower rate in force when the second entry is made. No action is taken by the owner in respect of the first entry. The Crown Law authorities have advised that the making of a second entry is contrary to the intention of the Customs Act as, under the terms of section 132, duty becomes payable at the rate in force when the goods are entered for home consumption, that is, at the time when the first entry is lodged with the collector. As goods have already been entered for home consumption in terms of the Customs Act, the second entry is a nullity. The proposed amendment of section 37 will provide that, where an entry for home consumption has been made in respect of goods, a person shall not purport to make a further entry for those goods unless the approval of the collector of customs for the withdrawal of the first entry has first been obtained. A penalty of up to £100 is provided for any contravention of the proposed provision.
Although section 92 of the Customs Act specifies certain requirements to be complied with by a licensee of a customs warehouse, it does not place any obligation upon him to provide suitable office accommodation for the use of the customs officer who is employed at the warehouse. Consequently, the conditions under which officers are compelled to carry out their duties are often most unsatisfactory. A departmental committee dealing with amenities has laid down a standard for office accommodation in customs warehouses, but the Department of Trade and Customs at present has no legal authority for enforcing compliance with such standard. The terms of the proposed new sub-section will require the licensee of a customs warehouse to provide reasonable office accommodation for the use of the customs officer employed therein. The new provision will be similar to that contained in section 19, under which responsibility is placed on a wharf owner to provide suitable office accommodation for the customs officer employed at the wharf.
The period of operation of a customs warrant, Schedude IV., relating to the searching of premises, is limited under the terms of section 199 to three months. The duties of a number of customs officers require them to be in continuous possession of these warrants for periods far in excess of three months, and it is necessary under the present limitation for fresh warrants to be issued to the officers after each period of three months. The proposed amendments will facilitate administration by extending the period of operation of customs warrants from three months to six months. The necessity of the proposed amendments will, I am sure, be appreciated by honorable members, and I therefore commend the bill to them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Eric Harrison and Mr.McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Eric Harrison, and read a first time.
Sir ERIC HARRISON (Wentworth-
Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production) [3.27].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to authorize the payment of a bounty of 6d. per lb. on continuous filament acetate rayon yarn produced in Australia. This yarn is used in the weaving and knitting of piece goods, ribbons and apparel, either alone or in admixture with other fibres. Continuous filament acetate rayon yarn is produced in Australia by Courtaulds (Australia) Ltd. at Tomago, New South Wales by a very modern and efficient process.
The decision to assist the industry by bounty follows a recommendation of the Tariff Board, in a report recently published. The Tariff Board found that material costs are of greater significance than labour costs, and that the cost of cellulose acetate flake is the most important. The industry is at a total disadvantage in respect of raw materials amounting to about 5½d. per lb. of finished yarn. Cellulose acetate flake is produced in Australia by C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited. This material forms the subject of a separate report in which the Tariff Board recommended that, on economic grounds, no assistance should be given to its production in Australia. The Government has adopted this recommendation also. The local industry is also at considerable disadvantage against its United Kingdom competitors in respect of labour costs. The question of assistance in the production of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn has been considered on the basis of Courtaulds being able to obtain supplies of cellulose acetate at the cost at which it could be imported duty free from the United Kingdom. Taking all factors into account, the Tariff Board found that assistance of 6d. per lb. would be required to enable the industry to continue production on a reasonably profitable level.
It would be normal to assist the industry by means of protective import tariff duties. In this case, the imposition of a protective rate of duty on imports of acetate yarns would tend to swing demand from acetate to viscose yarns, with which they are competitive in many applications. Such a result would be detrimental rather than helpful to the industry. In turn, the duty on the yarns would need to be compensated by duties on fabrics and made-up articles,’ including such fabrics and articles of mixed fibres, to maintain the existing competitive position of Australian weavers and processors. There is no justification for imposing duties on the whole range of these goods to protect the manufacture of part of Australia’s requirements of rayon yarn. It has been estimated that the maximum local production of continuous filament acetate rayon. yarn represents less than 10 per cent, of requirements of rayon in all forms.
Bounty assistance can be rendered to the industry without disturbing the market relationship between the different yarns, and would not have the undesirable effect of increasing the costs of the basic product entering into the manufacture of other goods. Those costs are additional, costs which would grow as the yarn passed along the chain of manufacture and distribution until the final product reached consumers in the form of clothing and other goods. In those circumstances, the Government has decided that assistance should be given the industry by the provision of a bounty of 6d. per lb. on production of continuous filament acetate yarn for a period of three years commencing on the 1st November, 1954. Before that period expires, arrangements will be made to have the industry examined again by the Tariff Board.
The bill provides for bounty payments to be reduced when profits exceed 10 per cent, on capital used in the production and sale of the rayon yarn. The maximum amount of bounty payable in any bounty year is fixed at £100,000. The Government considers that the provision of the assistance envisaged by this bill will enable the industry to pass through its formative stages with least disturbance to other sections of industry, and the economy generally. I commend the bill for favorable consideration by honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. Jambs Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 2346), on motion by Sir Eric Harrison) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- During my lifetime I have had some very interesting experiences in the sugar industry of Australia, and for many years I have been associated with both the production and manufacturing sides of that industry. I have also had a fair experience of the political import of the industry. I was very happy to hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) move the second reading of this measure, and indicate in his speech at that time that the Government was well aware of the importance of the sugar industry to Australia ; and also, that it proposes, under this bill, to ratify an agreement, between two sovereign governments, which has been an experience of our political life for more than 40 years. The Vice-President of the Executive Council gave honorable members very good reasons why this measure should have been introduced, and I am pleased that his experience in this House has shown that public men in Australia can build up a great industry if given the opportunities to apply sympathy and understanding to development and the many factors that enter into development.
I was also gratified to find that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who spoke for the Opposition in this House, gave full support to the sentiments expressed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and that it appears that all honorable members favour the sugar agreement because they believe that it is important to them. They all wish to stand behind a great Australian industry, and one that will bring about the successful settlement of the north-eastern seaboard of this continent I am sure that the honorable member for Lalor was sincere when he offered his own personal assistance to the industry. He said that it had been recognized in past years that members of this House with Victorian constituencies were generally opposed to the sugar agreement, but he gave it the support, not only of himself but also of the Labour party, which indicated that honorable members with Victorian and Tasmanian constituencies who had held adverse opinions on the sugar industry of Queensland have now changed their opinions and propose to support the industry that has proved its value to the people. I -was surprised that there should he in the minds of the people of Queensland and elsewhere the belief that Victorians -were somewhat opposed to the industry, for no one can be a more ardent advocate of the development of the sugar industry, particularly in Queensland, than the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who represents an electorate in Victoria. Indeed, Prime Ministers of the past “who have come to this House from Victoria, have indicated clearly that they have supported the development of the Queensland sugar industry because that industry means so much to the industrial life of this continent.
For 40 years our sugar industry has been developed by the peculiar method known as the sugar agreement method. Our method of development is different from the methods adopted in other countries of the world where sugar is produced. Most other countries are content to rely on the fiscal system of assistance through protective tariff laws, but in Australia wo have .recognized a special system of supporting and developing the industry, hecause of the experience that we had during World War I. At that time Australia paid very dearly indeed for the sugar that it needed. It is interesting to recall that for seventeen years after World War I. sugar remained at a low price on the world markets, but notwithstanding that fact, an agreement in Australia from 1923-24 to 1940-41 disclosed that the sugarproducers in Australia were receiving an advantage by adhering to the sugar agreement system which was evolved over those years. Since 1940-41, and during World War II., we have found that it has been to the advantage of the consumer to have the sugar agreement operating in this country. From 1923-24 to 1951-52 the people have gained an advantage because the saving to them through the operation of the sugar industry in Australia under the sugar agreement has been about £62,751,000. Our capacity to supply our own requirements of sugar at a low price to the consumers has been of almost inestimable benefit to this country. In the last ten years, the public ha3 derived au advantage of £112,000,000 from the industry. That is big money. Any person who wishes to criticize the sugar agreement should first take care to recognize the advantages that accrue from the existence of such an agreement. In point of fact, marked progress has been shown in the industry since the control of it was transferred from the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government in 1923. The Commonwealth has recognized that the industry is entitled to adequate protection, and has maintained an embargo on the importation of sugar. That policy has been most important in the stabilization of the industry. Over the last 30 years, the industry has provided Australia with all its requirements of sugar, and has exported sugar which has returned £156,928,000. The figures I have given afford ample evidence of the efficiency of this industry, and provide justification of the support that has been accorded to it by this Parliament.
The sugar industry in Australia has been controlled by parliaments throughsugar agreements over the last 40 years.The honorable member for Lalor referred to that fact in his speech yesterday, and said that some honorable members might object to the granting of support to the’ sugar industry, because it meant according support to a State Labour government. I should like to remind the House that I have supported the politicalopinions held by the parties on this side- of the House all my life. There has never been a better political philosophy than that advocated by the political parties I support. They stand for the four freedoms.. The honorable member for Lalor should not forget that governments which held the same political opinions as the present one always recognized the advantages of the sugar agreement. We shall pass this bill, which will bring into operation an agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland to protect the sugar industry and ensure the payment of a price of 9d. per lb. for sugar, in accordance with the recommendation of an important committee of inquiry.
The sugar industry in Australia has been developed under white labour conditions, and, in that respect, is different from the sugar industry in any other country. The honorable member for Lalor made reference to that fact last night. Our conditions have meant the adoption of a high standard of living, with perhaps a higher cost structure than prevails in countries where sugar is produced by coloured labour. It is one of the wonders of this industrial age that we have been able to establish in the tropics an efficient, economic sugar industry. That industry has been established in north Queensland to the advantage of all the people who work in it, and it provides Australia with some of the cheapest sugar on sale in the world to-day.
– The best sugar, too!
– Ye3, we supply the best sugar in the world. One of our difficulties at the present time is to break down our export sugar to an inferior sugar so that we may catch the world’? market. It is one of our greatest disabilities that we have to bring the polarization of our sugar below 99 degrees. Critics of the industry claim that any industry which uses white labour in the tropics can be established at a price, but 1 emphasize that we have been able to establish this industry, and sell sugar more cheaply than any cane sugar-growing country which employs coloured labour. Cuba is the largest producer of cane sugar, with Brazil second, India third and Australia fourth. The price of cane sugar grown in eight countries, expressed in Australian currency, is as follows : -
I mention those prices because I consider that they are germane to the consideration of a sugar agreement. The sugar industry ha? shown that it is able to develop in’ the manner that this Parliament requires, and, at the same time, is able to sell its product at a price which is to the advantage of the consuming public in Australia. Naturally, the Parliament is most concerned with those matters.
The sugar industry has been built on the peculiar basis of an agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland, and the imposition of an embargo on the importation of sugar. Australia is looked to by cane sugar-growing countries and beet sugar-growing countries alike when policies are being formulated in respect of sugar production in other lands. Our position in that respect is most important. Not long ago, the United Kingdom Government decided to ask the Dominions and colonies to supply large quantities of sugar, to be purchased with sterling, so that the people of Great Britain would be able to have more sugar than had been available to them in the post-war years. The United Kingdom Government decided to fix a price for sugar on the cost of production, and took into its calculations for that purpose costs in the British West Indies, South Africa, Australia, Fiji and Mauritius. That formula applies to-day as it did three years ago. Sugar was one of the first commodities to offer a means of convertibility with the dollar. In any event, the Empire sugar agreement follows the pattern of the Australian sugar agreement. The British Government, from time to time, has commended the Australian industry for maintaining its export quota. Each year in which the price has been increased, the agreement itself has been extended for a further year, and, since 1950, the agreement has maintained a currency of eight years. Having regard to the effectiveness of the Empire sugar agreement and the Australian sugar agreement, we were able to play a leading part in evolving the International Sugar Agreement under which the price has now been stabilized at a mean low of 3.25 cent3 per lb. and a mean high of 4.35 cents per lb. That fact reflects the desire of all sugar producing and consuming countries that the price for sugar should be stabilized. The price within Australia has been stabilized for the last 40 years.
The white population in tropical Queensland has not only established this industry but has also convinced other countries that, in the long run, it is wisest from the point of view of both the producer and the consumer of sugar that the industry should be guaranteed stability. Consequently, a continuance of the support that has been evoked for these agreements is assumed. The policy of the Government is to stabilize the price for sugar, and for this purpose a special committee of inquiry determines the price structure of the industry every five years. It is worthy of note that members of he Parliament have played a leading part in stabilizing the industry. Indeed, it can be said that the first architects of the agreement were the late “William Morris Hughes and the late Edward Granville Theodore when the former was Prime Minister and the latter was Premier of Queensland. They evolved the first sugar agreement in 1923 and since that time every ministry, both in this Parliament and in the Queensland Parliament has built upon the foundations that they laid in the interests of the industry. Under this agreement, a just price of sugar is assured to both producer and consumer. I believe that when the agreement next falls due for review members of this Parliament and of the Queensland Parliament should be consulted to the fullest degree on the matter, because, I repeat, parliamentarians and not public servants can claim most credit for the favorable position in which the industry has been placed. It is natural, therefore, that the architects of this agreement should be given every opportunity to review the results of their handiwork. After all, in matters of this kind, public men have a knack of looking further ahead than public servants.
Since 1931, the sugar industry has made concessions to the value of £7,500,000 to the fruit-growing industries in this country and it is now committed by an annual payment of £216,000 to the policy of assisting those industries by making sugar available to them at concessional prices. As a result of that policy, the fruit-growing industries were enabled during World War II. to ‘considerably expand their export markets because their competitors overseas were obliged to pay higher prices for sugar. It is true that the price received by the Australian producer for export sugar lias fallen in recent years. At present, that price is £32 a ton. However, the parties to the International Sugar Agreement have recognized that for the first twelve months of its operation the price would be reduced and that it could not be permanently stabilized for at least a period of two years after the agreement wa3 implemented as from the 1st January last. Consequently, the industry can confidently expect the price on the world markets to improve, and, indeed, that price has been rising during the last three months. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is charged with the task of determining the concessions that the sugar industry makes to the fruit-growing industries. Undoubtedly, fruit-growers in the Goulburn Valley, in Victoria, fully appreciate the value of those concessions. When giving evidence before the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, the general manager of H. Jones and Company Proprietary Limited, who is one of the leading figures in the industries concerned, complimented the sugar industry on the concessions that it had made. I am aware that the berry fruit-growers in Tasmania are, at present, experiencing considerable difficulties. However, over the years, they have had the support of the sugar industry in Queensland, and I am certain that the assistance which the 1,300 berry fruitgrowers in Tasmania receive from the sugar industry will extricate them from those difficulties. They will recognize the advantages of remaining within the
Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee’s pool, which has helped the whole fruit industry .of Australia. The sugar industry appreciates the benefits that it has gained from the determination of its affairs by public men, and I hope that, towards the middle of next year, it will, through the Queensland Government, invite a party of 20 or 30 members of this Parliament to visit Queensland and see what goes on in the industry. Members of the Australian Parliament, who ‘realize that the sugar agreement must continue in force to support the industry, should pass through the sugar-growing areas of Queensland so that they may see for themselves the effect of the assistance that they have been instrumental in giving to the industry.
.- Like the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand), I have been deeply interested in the sugar industry for many years. I have not been quite so fortunate as the honorable member, of course, because I have seen the industry from the other side. Most of the time that I spent in it was spent, not as a successful farmer, but as a cane cutter, a mill worker and a farm worker. Nevertheless our interests are mutual, and I concede that the honorable member is sincere. Before I proceed with a discussion of the bill, I remark that I am indebted to the honorable gentleman for having corrected an erroneous statement made by way of interjection during the debate last night by the honorable member . for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). The honorable member for Petrie knows, of course, that sugar is used to sweeten tea, but apart from that I do not think he knows the first thing about the sugar industry. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) had said that a Labour government had been responsible for the conclusion of the first sugar agreement in 1915. The honorable member for Petrie would not have that. He said that an anti-Labour government had been responsible for initiating that agreement. I intended to correct that misstatement, but the honorable member for Wide Bay has saved me the trouble by pointing out that the first agreement of 1915 was concluded by a Queensland Labour government and a Commonwealth Labour government.
This bill appears to be a futile measure because, whether the House passes it or rejects it, the fact remains that the increases of the price of sugar which it is designed to ratify have been in force for two years and seven months and for two years respectively. The consumers of sugar in Australia began to pay the extra 1½d. per lb. in March, 1952, and the extra Id. per lb. seven months later. Therefore,- there seems to be little purpose in any honorable member trying to justify the increases at this stage, and I propose to discuss the events that preceded the increases. We have often heard statements by Government supporters on the subject of happenings in the Labour caucus room. To-day, I am going to reverse the situation and discuss happenings in the Government caucus rooms. I realize, of course, that honorable members on the Government side of the House do not like to use the word “ caucus “ because they think it is undignified.
Increases of the price of sugar do not originate with proposals made to the Government by a member of parliament. They are initiated by the cane growers’ organizations, which make submissions to the Central .Sugar Cane Prices Board. They must, have a fool-proof case to put to the board which, if it is convinced, presents the case in turn to the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government then, if the case is considered to be sound, submits the proposal to the Australian Government. Thus, although the movement is initiated by the canegrowers and is endorsed by the prices board, it is the Queensland Labour Government which makes the first move as far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Before this Government can agree to a price increase, it must consult the rank and file members of the two Government parties. That is democracy, and we do not want to have the system altered. However, it will do us no harm to consider the manoeuvres that preceded the granting of the two price increases I have mentioned. The honorable member for Wide Bay would not know anything about them, because he was not a member of this Parliament at the time. Therefore, he will have to rely on his colleagues to interject when I become a little provocative.
The two parties which comprise the Government met to consider the proposed increase. The Australian Country party, working On the basis that selfpreservation is the first law of human nature, decided that it could not resist the proposal, and so its members agreed that an increase should be granted. To the best of my recollection, they agreed to an increase of Id. per lb., but I am subject to correction on that point. The Liberals, of course, holding their meeting in another part of this building, decided that no increase was warranted. Already, during the course of this debate we have gained some idea of the way in which the minds of certain Liberal members work in connexion with the sugar industry. At that stage, there was a kind of deadlock. The Liberals said “ Nothing and the members of the Country party said “ An extra Idi”-. In order to overcome the deadlock, the two parties had a joint meeting, at which they decided to ask for the advice of the Treasury. The Treasury said that the Liberal party was wrong and that a price increase was justified. But the increase recommended was id. per lb. of sugar! There was a jam!
The Liberal boys said they could not go back to Victoria and Tasmania and say that they had been parties to increasing the price of sugar further. The Queensland Country party boys said that they were in a somewhat similar difficulty in that, if they returned to Queensland and said that they had not done their utmost to get the proposed increase, their heads would fall. Therefore, they all decided to let the matter stand over until the next parliamentary sittings.
– I think the honorable member is substituting the story of events in the Labour party caucus for the real story.
– The honorable member for “Wide Bay would not know. At this time he had said that he was too old and too sick, and that he was forced to retire from the Queensland Parliament on that account. He would be well advised to leave this subject to honorable members who were here at the time, because any interjections that he might make would be based on hearsay anyhow.
What happened next? The Liberals and the Australian Country party members left Parliament House and went back to their electorates. Cabinet met then, and the maestros got to work and said, “ Politically this is suicide. We do not care what our rank and file members think, but we cannot possibly refuse to grant an increase of the price of sugar “. Overnight an announcement was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that an interim increase of 1½d. per lb. would be granted. That was the decision of Cabinet after all the rank and file supporters of the Government had gone home. It is of no use for honorable members on the Government side of the House to say that that is not so, because they know my story is completely true. That increase of lid. per lb. was granted long after the original application had been made. ‘ It was a matter of no consequence to the members of the Government that costs were increasing daily and that the sugarfarmer was the only primary producer whose product was subject to a pegged price. That did not matter a tinker’s curse to them. They said, “ We cannot do anything more about the price of sugar until we have set up a committee of inquiry and received its report”, and so they appointed a committee. Many moons later, the committee returned to the Government with a recommendation that an additional increase of Id. per lb. should be granted.
That is the basis of this bill, which provides for an increase of 2-Jd. per lb. The first 1-Jd. per lb. was Operative from the 24th March, 1952, and the additional Id. per lb. was operative from the 13th October, 1952. Thus, the consumers have been paying the first 1½d. for two years and seven months and the remaining Id. for two years. We are now called upon to justify the increases.
The honorable member for Wide Bay referred to the canned fruits industry. He may have some authority to speak on behalf of sugar cane-growers. I have ho such authority, and I want to make it quite clear that anything I may say is my own opinion, for which I have no authority from the sugar organizations.
Having said that, I say that the sugargrowers have no apologies to offer to anybody for the increases. They owe no apologies to the canned fruits industry, the berry industry or any other group. There has been a lot of acting and shillyshallying in connexion with this matter, and so I shall point out to the House briefly the sort of assistance that has been given to the fruit industries. For example, the special export assistance for the sale of berry fruits, pulps and jams in 1951-52 cost £100,000. In 1952-53, it amounted to £50,000, and in 1953-54, £75,000. The publicity campaign for jam, approved in 1953, cost £50,000. Special export assistance for the sale of apricot jam in the United Kingdom, to cost £60,000, was approved earlier this year. Assistance for the sale of apricot, peach, plum and quince jam on markets other than the United Kingdom, New Zealand and the United States of America will cost £13,500. The campaign for the eradication of diseases in berry plants cost £9,015. I could go on with a list of other amounts that have been made available for the benefit of the fruit industries. Nevertheless, whenever there has been any proposal to increase the price of sugar since I became a member of this House in 1946, there has been an outcry from the representatives of those industries.
The sugar-growers may not thank me for what I am saying, but I believe that they are under no obligation to the fruitgrowers. Anything that the sugargrowers have received, which Victorian and Tasmanian fruit-growers think they should not have received, they have more than repaid. I am sure other honorable members will support my view on this matter. No doubt the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) will speak later. He was an executive member of the cane-growers’ organization, and he can say whether my view is right or wrong. The price of sugar was increased because costs in the industry had risen. Costs in the sugar industry increased as did costs in every other industry in Australia, but whereas people engaged in other industries were able to pass on their increased costs, cane-growers were unable to do so, and unfortunately the price increase needed to give cane-farmers justice was too long delayed. The increase of costs in the sugar industry has been far greater than appears on the surface.
I suppose that no industry in Australia has more labour difficulties than has the sugar industry. Cane-farmers must rely on labour imported into the district for the harvesting of cane. This Government and the previous Government played a magnificent part in obtaining labour for the sugar industry by bringing immigrants to Australia and sending them to the cane-fields. Almost all the nations of the world are now represented among those who work in the sugar industry. I trust that I shall be pardoned for departing to a degree from the scope of the bill. Labour costs in the sugar industry are so closely related to the cost of production of sugar, and to an increase of the price that ought to be made, that my remarks are relevant to the bill, as I think honorable member will agree. Three or four weeks ago I made inquiries in the Herbert River district of Queensland to ascertain the position in relation to labour for cane-cutting. I was told that men of seven different nationalities had been sent to the area -to harvest cane, hut that Germans, Greeks and others refused to stay, and only a group of Italians and some Spaniards remained. Many aspects of the labour difficulties must be considered. The right types of men must be chosen for the job of cane-cutting. Not every one can be a successful cane-cutter. Indeed, not every one can be a cane-cutter of any degree. Cane-cutting is probably the hardest work that I have ever tried, and I am sure many other people have had a similar experience. The right physical types are necessary, and one must choose persons who are willing to go away from the towns.
I make these observations as a Labour member and as a former union official. For many years cane-farmers have not received fair treatment in relation to labour for cane-cutting. The Government, of course, has some responsibility for that treatment, but not the entire responsibility. For years I have been trying to get the Government to agree to send cane-growers oversea j at the Government’s expense to help select immigrants of the right type for the industry. That is now to be done, and I sincerely hope that before the arrangements are completed the Government will agree also to send abroad representatives of the Australian Workers’ Union, which covers all the farm labour in the industry, and to allow them to have a voice in selecting the right type of labour. If that were done, cane-farmers next year would know that their cane-cutters would work for eight hours a day and not work merely for an hour and then depart for the nearest town to spend the remainder of the day at an hotel.
The honorable member for Wide Bay referred to the sugar industry as a white industry. Australia is probably the only country in the world in which sugar is produced entirely by white labour. The honorable member seemed to derive great satisfaction from that fact, though he had nothing to do with it. One of the greatest fights ever made by a trade union was waged to eliminate kanakas from the sugar industry. The fight was not won easily, but it was won, with the result that the sugar industry to-day, as the honorable member for Wide Ba.y and any one who knows anything about the industry will agree, is a model industry. It is ironic that the industry is completely socialized. I have mentioned in this House previously the visit of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) to Cairns during the last general election campaign. He tried to put fear into the hearts of the cane-farmers by telling them not to vote for Labour, because it was a socialist party and intended to socialize the sugar industry if it were returned to office. The Minister would have frightened the farmers only if he had suggested that Labour would de-socialize the sugar industry, which is completely socialized and is the most successful industry in Australia. One has only to examine its history to learn that it is socialized. A cane-farmer may grow cane, but he cannot sell it unless he obtains an assignment to enable him to send a specified amount of cane to a given sugar mill. The mill will take his cane under the assignment. The Government acquires the crop and, under the sugar agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland, determines the price to be paid for sugar. The Government sends representatives overseas to examine the international sugar situation. The consequence of those arrangements is that the sugar industry not only is socialized, but also is under a socialist form of government control. To say the best of it, any discussion on this matter in this House is futile. Whatever happens in this House to-day, sugar consumers will be unable to get back the 2½d. per lb. that they have been paying for the last two years and seven months.
I have not discussed the technical details of the sugar industry for two reasons. First, it is not necessary for me to do so. Secondly, I am probably not qualified to do so. But there are men in this House who have been actively associated with various organizations in the sugar industry. They are well able to discuss the more technical phases of the industry and the views of the sugar organizations. I have put to the House certain matters that concern the farmers. I was somewhat disappointed and surprised to learn of the activities of certain people when this measure was introduced in another place. Those persons seemed to think that they should begin sharpshooting at the suggestion that canefarmers should be entitled to a reasonable price for their sugar so that they might enjoy a decent standard of living. I repeat that, so far as I personally am concerned, the sugar-farmers have no need to apologize to any one for anything. If I am wrong the farmers are at liberty to tell me so. When we talk of the sugar industry as being an organized industry, we must not forget that the Australian Workers Union played a very important part in its organization. I do not suggest that that union is the only one of any importance in the industry. The Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association and the Amalgamated Engineering Union also are intimately associated with the industry and play an important part in it. I refer particularly to the Australian Workers Union, because it numbers among its members most of the men employed in the industry. The long-sighted and sound policy of that union has contributed largely to the success of the industry by eliminating industrial strife and disputes
Two very important events take place next Tuesday, and both of them might have an important effect on the lives of many people. The first is the Melbourne Cup. I am aware that I shall not be allowed to make further reference to that event, but I should like to say that many people might be richer or poorer after that race has been run. The other event is the Empire conference on the price of sugar, which will begin in London on Tuesday. The outcome of the conference is awaited with great interest. The Queensland Cane Growers Council and the Australian Sugar Producers Association are not willing to forecast the outcome. We know that the formula in relation to the price structure, and costs in the industry in Australia and in all the other sugar-producing countries determines the fate of the sugar industry and of cane-farmer3 in Australia. Farmers at present are in a precarious position, because they do not know where they stand. Several years ago, we were told that some 650,000 tons of sugar were to be exported by Australia. As a consequence, farm peaks were increased, new assignments were granted, and sugar mills ex- ‘panded, in some instances duplicating their establishments. Subsequently, it was learned overnight that the picture was not so rosy as it had been painted. The result could be turmoil in the sugar industry brought about by the increased production of cane, and if the guarantee and stable prices do not continue, Australia might be forced on to the open market with an infinitely greater proportion of its sugar production than was expected several years ago. We all sincerely hope, in the interests, not only of sugar-growers and the industry, but also of Australia’s economy, that our fears will not be well-founded and that the outcome of the conference in London will be a guaranteed sugar price that will enable farmers to continue producing without undue worry about their future security.
.- I do not intend to follow the flights of fancy of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who alleged that certain things occurred outside this House in relation to the sugar industry. The matters to which he referred are novel to me. He stated, as his personal opinion, that the sugar industry, as such, had no special responsibility for making payments to the fruit industry.
– I did not say that. I said that, as the sugar industry is making the payments, it has no apology to offer.
– I desire to address my remarks to the bill as one who represents the fruit industry, which forms part of the partnership, because the sugar agreement covers what is more or less an inter-related partnership between the sugar industry and the fruit industry. I have a special interest in that aspect of the agreement which relates to the fruit industry, because a very substantial proportion of Australia’s berry fruits is grown in -the division of Franklin. The bill has been introduced for the purpose of ratifying a sugar agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland, which is supplementary to an agreement that was entered into in 1951 and which is due to expire in 1956. The 1951-56 agreement provides for a review of the agreed price if extraordinary circumstances should occur. Those extraordinary circumstances exist at the present time. As the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) pointed out, the original sugar agreement was entered into in 1915. It was made, I understand, as a result of the passing by the Queensland Parliament of the Sugar Acquisition Act. As most honorable members know, the present agreement was entered into as the ‘result of action that was taken in 1923. In that year, the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. William Morris Hughes, in an effort to expand the sugar industry, raised the price of sugar to £30 a ton which, at that time, was considered to be a very high price. At the same time he provided for rebates to the fruit industry. That provision was amended on several occasions between 1923. and 1930. As the result of the furnishing of a report on .the sugar industry in 1931, the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was formed. After the formation of the committee, it was decided that the first annual contribution for 1931 would be £315,000. In 1933. after two years’ experience, the annual payment to the industry was reduced to £216,000, and it remained at that figure until 1951.
Ali. Davidson. - There are other ex gratia payments.
– There are other ex gratia payments as well, certainly. As every honorable member knows, in the meantime the price of sugar has risen from 4d. per lb. to 9d. per lb. I am not suggesting, nor would I argue, that the increase was not justified. I believe there was every justification for it, but if, by a process of simple arithmetic, we were to take the original allocation of £315,000, and take into account the increase of the price of sugar from 4d. to 9d. a lb., the allocation for this year should be £945,000. Therefore, I do not approve of the suspension of the payment of £216,000 since 1951. If the fund could give bigger rebates, fruit products could be sold more cheaply overseas and could compete on world markets. The very problem with which the fruit industry is confronted is that it is being priced out of world markets. Australia cannot compete on overseas markets, particularly iri relation to berry fruits, when it is obliged to compete against the much lower prices that are accepted by Scotland, Belgium, other continental countries, and also, to a small degree, by South Africa. I think the fund should be increased for the purpose of tiding the industry over what I believe quite sincerely is a temporary state of affairs. The decision to suspend the payments to the fund should 1>e reconsidered.
– Does the honorable member mean that the sugar industry should carry the fruit industry?
– I do not mean that at all. I tried to point out earlier that the agreement covers an interrelated partnership. It must be realized that the fruit industry needs sugar for the processing of its product.
– Does the honorable member know that recently the payments were recommenced?
– I know that recently the payments were recommenced. I refer now to the pure fruit juice market. The production of pure fruit juices is a relatively new industry in Australia. The industry has made representations for a temporary export subsidy to enable it to lay a foundation upon which it may subsequently build without having recourse to. additional subsidies. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture has stated that, in its view, the pure fruit juice industry i3 equally as entitled to a subsidy as the jam and fruit pulp’ industries.
– From whom?
– From the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. If the honorable member reads the relevant section of the agreement, he will note that it provides that, in certain circumstances, money may be paid by way of subsidy. Only a few days ago, honorable members who come from Tasmania met the chairman of. the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, Mr. Wolfensberger, and pointed out to him, from a broad point of view, the position of the fruit producers. ‘ There is a demand for this kind of product on the continent and in America. We must attempt to capture that market, because it is true that, at present, we cannot foresee the time when we shall be able to compete even on those markets on which the ordinary processed berry fruit products were sold, and which were of considerable importance to the industry. I understand that, in Tasmania, between 1,300 and 1,500 growers are affected. As I stated earlier, a large number of them are in my electorate. I am seriously concerned about ensuring that the growers shall benefit from any advantage that is derived by way of subsidy or ex gratia payment.
I am aware that, under the terms of the agreement, the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is empowered to pay a subsidy, or to make an ex gratia payment, only to the processors. It is perfectly obvious that the processors benefit directly, and that the small trickle that comes from them to the grower is insignificant. Without doubt, the vast majority of berry fruit-growers are existing on prices that do not cover their costs of production. That is a state of affairs which, if it were allowed to continue, would mean that these people would be forced out of their occupation. At least 90 per cent, of the berry fruitgrowers have no other use to which they may put their properties. Those properties are small hillside allotments which are not capable of producing any other kind of fruit product. If those growers were forced out of the fruit industry, their plots of land would be placed out of commission, because they would not be capable of being cultivated by mechanized equipment for other purposes. I believe that anything that can be done should be done to tide the growers over what I have described as a temporary state of affairs.
The honorable member for Herbert described the sugar industry a3 being a model industry, and as having achieved a very fine record in relation to both production and price. However, I am bound to point out that the sugar industry, as every honorable member knows, enjoys the protection of an embargo. I agree that the industry should enjoy that protection, but that fact must be kept in mind when we are comparing the standard of Australia’s sugar industry with that of the sugar industry in overseas countries. As the honorable member also quite rightly pointed out, the sugar industry is a white industry. Australia is the only country in the world in which the sugar industry produces its completed product with the entire use of white brains and white hands. When I was conducting a little research in relation to production of sugar in Australia as compared with its production in other countries, I made an extremely interesting discovery. The production of sugar per acre per month in Cuba, which is a leading sugar-producing country, is 320 lb.; in Puerto Rico, it is 480 lb.; and in Queensland, it is 560 lb. The Australian production is a very commendable performance indeed, and one of which we may very well be proud. I do not wish my remarks to be accepted as being in any sense a criticism of the Queensland sugar industry. Contrariwise, I have the greatest admiration for the job that was done by the industry during World War II., and there is no doubt whatever that the sugar industry lias played a very important part in the development of northern Queensland. I understand that the length of railway tracks laid down by the sugar industry is approximately half of that of the whole railway system of Victoria.
– And the gauge is half as wide, too!
– That is so. The point 1 wish to make quite clear is that the fruit industry and the sugar industry together form a partnership. It is nonsensical for the one to adopt an antagonistic attitude towards the other. Both industries must get along harmoniously, and I believe that they can do so. I do not wish to prolong the debate to any degree, because I think this bill is one that should be passed speedily. I wish to make a final suggestion in relation to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Although the committee has made an offer to the berry fruits industry in relation to advertising, that offer is restricted to a certain section of the industry. I should like to see the committee engage in a campaign of advertising, not only in relation to stone fruits, but also in relation to berry fruits. It should advertise on a scale that would cover every kind of product that is processed from berry fruits. The committee should devote some attention to the fact that we have not yet completely tapped the Australian market for berry fruits. I am firmly of the opinion that we could market, if not the whole of our production, certainly a very large proportion of our production of berry fruits if a decent marketing plan were adopted. I am bound to say, in fairness, that I do not think that the processors and their agents go to the length to which they might go in marketing their products. I make the suggestion in the hope that some action will be taken. I support the bill, but I do so in the hope that some of the suggestions that I have made will be implemented.
.- I rise only because I feel that, during thi? debate, certain statements have been made which require explanation or which, in some cases, require correction. Having spoken in this chamber very many times about the sugar industry, I do not intend to devote a lot of time to matters which have not been raised already. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) applied himself very fairly and properly to the matter before the House. He pointed out that we are discussing a bill which sets out to regularize a practice that has been in existence for more than two years. It is quite apparent that a practice which has worked well for so long cannot be criticized very strongly, and consequently not much can be said against the provisions of this measure. The honorable member also said that he did not know whether his right to speak on behalf of the growers in the sugar industry would be challenged. I do not know any person who would so challenge him, any more than any one would challenge my right to speak on the measure ; because both the honorable member and I have had experience in different sections of the industry. One of the strengths of the industry has been that there have always been some honorable members in this House who have been capable of speaking with authority for the various sections of the industry. It is with much gratification that I can turn round now and again and see just behind me the new honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) who, like the previous honorable member for Wide Bay, is an authority on the sugar industry.
It is to the advantage of the sugar industry of Queensland, and therefore to the Australian economy, that there should be some representatives in this House who can speak with authority about the industry’s problems. For that reason I am always glad to hear the honorable member for Herbert speak about the industry, because although he sometimes makes mistakes I know that he has the benefit of the industry at heart. The honorable member probably was under the impression that as he is a member of the Opposition it was his duty to find some way of criticizing the measure, although in reality he fully agreed with it. If he had not criticized it at all he would have been in a strange position. Therefore, he indulged in an extraordinary flight of imagination in his description of what he believed had taken place when the requests were submitted by the sugar organizations and the Queensland Government which gave rise to the increase of the price of sugar that we are now discussing. He said that the Queensland Government and the sugar organizations had put forward their original applica tion for an increase of 2£d. per lb. in the price of sugar on the existing price of 6½d. per lb. He then said that the Australian Country party and the Liberal party discussed this proposal separately, and that the Australian Country party had agreed, with some reluctance, to recommend an increase of Id. per lb., whereas the Liberal party had decided that there should be no increase at all of the price of sugar.
Every honorable member on this side of the House knows that that picture of events is complete and utter rubbish. No such discussions ever took place, and no such decisions were ever arrived at. Therefore, while generally complimenting the honorable member on his speech, I must indicate to the House how wrong he was in that particular statement. It is the desire of the Australian sugar industry that everything that takes place with regard to its representations should be quite clear, straightforward and above board so that everybody can understand its motives and actions. Therefore, I intend to outline just what did take place in regard to the price increase requested by the sugar industry, because I played a fairly prominent part in the early negotiations and believe that, therefore, 1 am entitled to give honorable members the true picture of events.
When the industry representatives made their original submissions, those submissions were referred to experts in the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Treasury. That reference was made in accordance with the practice of past years, during which there had been a sugar agreement. No caucus meetings of the Government parties were held at all. The Commonwealth departments were requested to dissect the proposals and present a summary of them to Cabinet. The departments reported unfavorably on the proposals; the report was cOn- sidered by Cabinet, and Cabinet, realizing from its experience of the industry that there must be great merit in the industry’s proposal, decided that a minimum increase of 1-Jd. per- lb. was justified. The criticisms offered by the departmental experts were that the departments were being asked to make a recommendation on a submission of the industry although there had been no proper cost survey conducted in the industry for many years, and that in the past when dealing with similar submissions they had been forced to go from
One submission to another, working by rule Of thumb. Therefore, they said, it Was high time that a detailed cost survey of the industry be made. They also stated that until such a survey had been made they were not prepared to commit themselves to a recommendation for a price increase. ‘The Cabinet had to face the position as outlined by the Commonwealth departments, and it decided that it would grant an immediate increase of 14d. per lb* for refined sugar, and would appoint a committee of inquiry to carry out a cost survey and to recommend whether any further increase was justified.
That is the real story of what happened about the negotiations for an. increase of price. The rest of the matter is history, and the results of the inquiry and recommendations of the committee are now before the House in this measure. Two members of the committee recommended an increase of 3/4d. per lb. in the price of refined sugar, two recommended an increase of Id. per lb. and one recommended an increase of ½d per lb. After a very exhaustive study of the report, Cabinet decided that it would provide an extra Id. per lb* to the industry. I now say, even at this late stage, that Cabinet is to be commended for its action. It has the satisfaction of knowing that it has now established the industry on a very sound, although not unduly sound, foundation. That, of course, is to the benefit of the industry, of Queensland and of Australia. The fixation of a reasonable price and the resultant solidity of the industry will mean about £50,000,000 to the Australian economy;
The honorable member for Herbert and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) brought forward the unreasonable charge that the industry is completely socialized only because they had no real cause for criticism. Again, that charge is complete rubbish. The sugar industry is certainly highly organized, and it is a splendid example of co-operative commodity marketing. This industry, and all our other primary in- dustries, are designed to operate to the advantage of the individual. That system is directly opposed to the tenets of socialism, because under socialism all individuals Work solely for the benefit of the state. In the sugar industry the state and the industry itself are working for individuals, and they are doing so at the specific request and desire of the individuals themselves. The workers, the farmers, the millers, State governments, refineries and the Australian Government, have all taken part in the co-operative effort which has placed the industry in such a sound position. The method of working the sugar industry is one that could be followed by other industries, without them being able to be sensibly charged with being socialistic.
The sugar industry in Australia is almost completely financed by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The company finances the Queensland Government in the acquisition of the sugar crop, and it also finances the home-consumption production and the export production. I suggest that if, in any other context, I Were to try to tell honorable members opposite that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is engaged in a socialistic enterprise, they would laugh me to scorn. Yet the Opposition has made that suggestion in the debate on this measure. The honorable member for Lalor stated that an indication of socialism in the industry can be found in the fact that production is controlled. He said that the assignment of land to mills, and the assignment of peak tonnages to farms and mills are also controlled! That is merely another example of the cooperative control of the sugar industry by the elements of the industry for the good df the industry; it is certainly not socialism.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) has offered some criticism of the bill because of the fruit industry’s relation to the sugar industry. The honorable member said that the sugar industry has materially assisted the fruit industry and he pleaded for even greater assistance. While we in the sugar industry realize the desirability of helping the berry fruits industry as much as possible, because there is a certain reciprocity between the fruit industry and sugar, we do not know just how far that assistance can be expected to go. I submit that the sugar industry has gone as far as can reasonably be expected from it in providing assistance to the fruit industry. The departmental committee that exhaustively investigated the sugar industry also considered assistance to the fruit industry. The committee stated that there had been certain misunderstandings about the matter, and said that the price of sugar should not be used as a medium to assist certain Australian industries that used sugar, in order to overcome difficulties that had nothing to do with the price of sugar. Commenting on that misunderstanding, the committee reported -
As to the misunderstanding, it is true, in theory at any rate, that disabilities suffered by sugar-using industries could partly be offset by sugar rebates; but the committee sees no reason for extending rebates for this purpose. Some of the disabilities in the fruitprocessing industry arise from the cost of fruit, labour and tinplate, whilst the processed milk industry has recently been faced with a steep increase in raw materials arising from increased costs and prices in the dairying industry. If it be a reasonable claim that exporters of products containing sugar should have access to sugar at the price that they would pay for duty-free sugar, a similar claim would exist for concessional prices for other Australian materials such as fruit, cases, paper for labels and so on; the claim might even logically extend to labour also.
I think that is completely realistic. Why should the sugar industry alone, which has indicated its desire to assist the fruit industry, be required to give further
Assistance, if such further assistance is necessary? Why should another industry be requested to do something to reduce costs? The honorable member for Franklin was fair enough to give an outline of the assistance that has been given by the sugar industry to the fruit, industry. I remind the House that the fruit industry began to receive assistance in 1923, and since the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was appointed in 1931, the sugar industry has contributed more than £4,750,000 in assistance to the fruit industry. It is the desire of the sugar industry to ensure, as far as it can, that the major portion of that assistance shall be given to the fruit-growers themselves. The honorable member for
Franklin has said that the fruit-growers have not always received the major part of the assistance. If, unfortunately, that is so, the blame cannot be laid at the door of the sugar industry, because the matter is out of our hands.
We have provided assistance totalling nearly £5,000,000, which, I submit, is a material contribution to the fruit industry. That assistance was given mainly by annual payments of £216,000, but the fruit industry was developing and its exports were expanding and the payment of that amount was not enough. I ask honorable members to pay particular attention to this point. Accordingly, wc agreed to an ex gratia payment which, for some years, was almost equal to the statutory amount. The interesting point is that by the provision of £216,000 per annum, the sugar industry succeeded in developing the fruit industry and making it prosperous. As the result of that increased development, the sugar industry was required to make an additional payment to the fruit industry. I think that the honorable member for Franklin will concede that to be so. How far must that assistance’ go? We make a payment to assist an industry, and as a result of thai assistance, the industry develops, and requires more assistance. Must we go on and on ? I submit that the contention that we should go on and on cannot be subtained
As the result of our policies, the fund held by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee steadily increased. In 1951, the fund exceeded £1,000,000, and at that stage, we asked, in effect, “ Why should we continue to pay more money to the fruit industry ? “ So it was agreed that the payment of £216,000 per annum should be suspended until the fund had been reduced to £500,000. An indication of the sincerity of the sugar industry in this matter lies in the fact that the fund was reduced to £500,000, and the payment of £216,000 per annum was recommenced in May last. The record shows that the sugar industry is prepared to go to the limit that can be justified in assisting the fruit industry, and will continue to do so in future. We are now making a payment of £216,000 per annum, and if it can be shown that more is needed, I suppose that further ex gratia payments will be considered.
I shall now point out another matte:1, and I think that I can do so with fairness. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, in its report for the year ended the 31st August, 1953,’ has dealt with the position of the berry fruits industry. Possibly some honorable members may not like me to refer to this matter, but I think it is fair to read a passage from the report of the committee on the distribution of this fund. The report deals with special export assistance for the berry fruits industry, and reads as follows : -
It will be impossible for the committee to continue indefinitely to assist financially the export of berry fruit products. The price being, realized for such products on the overseas market indicates that the Tasmanian berry fruit industry, to the extent- that it is dependent on overseas sales, has become quite uneconomic. To illustrate this point, it is mentioned that the return to the industry from overseas sales, after payment of manufacturers’ costs (excluding profit and fruit) averages a little over 3d. per lb. of fruit, as against growers’ estimates of cost of production of at least 9d. per lb. of fruit.
I do not feel any gratification whatsoever when I refer to that condition of affairs. Tt is a sad position, and is to be deplored. The point I wish to make is that the blame for the plight of the berry fruits industry cannot be laid at the door of the sugar industry, nor should it be asked to remedy the position. I understand that no sugar is involved in this particular type of export. Why, then, should the sugar industry be asked to make up any part of the difference between the export price of 3d per lb., and the cost of production of 9d. per lb.? I think that possibly the honorable member for Franklin realizes that.
– What is the point that the honorable member is making?
– I am referring to the special export assistance for berry fruits in the 1952-53 season, to which reference is made in the Twenty-second Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. I think that the honorable member for Franklin realizes the point I am making because he referred to the need for the berry fruits industry to develop the whole of its market in Australia on a reasonable basis. In that way, the industry would rely on the home market to absorb the whole of its production, and I consider, on the basis of all the evidence that we have before us, that such an opinion is completely sound. If the sugar industry can provide assistance, I am sure that it will be pleased to do so.
Those are the matters that I wished to discuss in this debate. I shall conclude by repeating some remarks that I made in an earlier debate on the sugar industry, because this is not the first time that the sugar industry has been discussed while I have been a member of this House. I consider that this Government is to be commended for its decision, in spite of initial adverse reports from departmental experts and in spite of some adverse recommendations by members of the Sugar Inquiry Committee, to grant the full amount asked for by the sugar industry in its last application. By its decision, the Government has contributed materially to the well-being of the industry. Some persons have said lately that the sugar industry is enjoying greater prosperity than it is entitled to. That statement is entirely erroneous, and I desire to correct it. In the last two or three years, the industry has enjoyed exceptionally good seasonal conditions. Probably the industry will never again experience such a favorable year as last year. We are also experiencing a good year with our present crushing. The Sugar Inquiry Committee, in its determination of costs, took variations of seasons into account, and suggested that it had based its recommendations on normal costs, normal conditions and normal average returns. The committee realized that the industry would gain in good years, and suffer in poor years, and rightly said, in effect, “ We shall try to strike a happy medium, so that the good will balance the bad, and the industry will be able to remain stable “.
The Sugar Inquiry Committee also acknowledged the fact, in its determination of costs, that it did not take into account the cost of production in 1952-53 in respect of cultivation. Actually, the committee based its recommendations, which the Government accepted, on costs which applied more to the year 1951-52 than to the year 1952-53. The committee said that in any future review of prices in the industry, consideration must he given to the fact that these costs were determined, not on current costs as they then were, hut on the costs of the previous year. The committee decided that, had the ruling costs been taken into account, the recommended amount would have been increased by £2 10s. a ton.
Therefore, the House will see that the determination of the committee was not based by any means on generous estimates of costs in the industry. As a matter of fact, the committee erred on the other side. Furthermore, the costs were based on normal conditions, in the industry. The industry has profited considerably as the result of good seasons, but will have to accept the position when an unfavorable season occurs, and rely on the basis of cost adopted by the Sugar Inquiry Committee. I commend the Government for its action in this matter, and I endorse the bill.
.- I rise to support this measure, which is to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government to control the production of sugar in Australia. The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) has referred to criticism by persons who regard the sugar industry as a socialist industry. The honorable gentleman has suggested that it is not a socialist industry, but a cooperative industry. It was most noticeable during World War II. that criticisms which had been voiced in the southern parts of Australia against the sugar industry ceased. The people in other States began to appreciate the fact that the sugar industry was highly organized. The wages paid to employees in the industry were fixed by an industrial tribunal; the price that the cane-growers received for their cane was fixed ; the prices of raw and manufactured sugar were fixed ; and the price which the retailer could get for the sugar was fixed. In other words, the price that the consumer had to pay for the product was fixed. The sugar industry was the most highly organized industry in the Commonwealth. However, the opinion was held in some quarters that the same principles, if they were applied to other industries, would be detrimental to those industries.
The sugar industry has been so highly organized and efficient that it is responsible for the settlement on the eastern seaboard of this continent, extending for a distance of about 1,500 miles, of a virile population which has built towns and ports and provided all the amenities of modern civilization. When troops were sent to northern Queensland, which was threatened during World War II., the ports and all the necessary facilities were already available. If the sugar industry had not been so highly organized, the north of Queensland would not have the population that is settled there at the present time. This industry has made important contributions to the defence of Australia, and to the economic advancement of this country. Every year, the sugar industry makes a substantial contribution to our overseas balances. The Labour party supports this bill, because it is the embodiment of the party’s policy regarding primary production. The agreement between this Government and the Queensland Government, which, this bill seeks to ratify, originated in 19.15, and it has been amended periodically during the last 40 years. As a party to it, this Government play3 a part in -tin1 fixation of the retail price of sugar.
The Opposition supports the bill. 1 rose principally to refer to the request for increased assistance that has been made by the ‘ berry fruits industry in Tasmania. It is interesting to note that in 1923. when the price of sugar was fixed for the first time, the sugar industry made a voluntary contribution of £216,000 to the berry fruits industry. At that time the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was established, and that body suggested that assistance to the amount of £315,000 be ma df. available to the fruit industry. It was the first occasion, and so far aI am aware the only occasion, in the history of this country that one primary industry voluntarily assisted another primary industry. In 1931, the provision of assistance to the berry fruits industry was accepted by the sugar industry as an obligation, and in that year assistance to the amount of £216,000 was made available to the berry fruits industry, the reduction in the amount of assistance being due to a fall in the price of sugar from 4½d. to 4d. per lb. Under the 1951 agreement, payment of assistance to the berry fruits industry was suspended because the fund to which the contributions were made had accumulated a balance of over £1,000,000, following a period during which no strain was placed on it. That fund was established in order to finance, rebate payments at the rate of £2 4s. a ton to manufacturers who used Australian sugar. I understand that the rebate in respect of export sugar is £15 12s. a ton. Those figures give a good indication of the assistance that the sugar industry has made available to the berry fruits industry. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, in its 1952 report, stated -
When considering the determination of minimum prices for the 1953 processing season, the Committee had before it reports concerning overseas marketing prospects for berry fruit products. These reports forecast only limited demand for berry fruit products, other than strawberries, even at prices which were appreciably below cost of production. The outlook was worsened by manufacturers still carrying substantial stocks of 1952 season’s pack.
Growers estimated their costs of production at approximately 12½ per cent. above those of the previous year, and requested increased prices. Manufacturers, however, indicated that they would be unable to process either for local consumption or export unless berry fruit prices were reduced. The Committee felt that it would be against growers’ interests to prescribe minimum prices which would result in manufacturers refusing to accept the fruit.
Two difficulties confront the berry fruits industry in Tasmania. The first of them is the disappearance of overseas markets, and the second is a substantial reduction in the prices that can be obtained in countries in which a market still exists. The industry is dependent upon the export market. In these circumstances, the suggestion has been made that the sugar industry should give increased assistance to it. Since 1951, grants amounting to £100,000, £50,000 and £75,000 have been made to the berry fruits industry in respect of exports, whilst, during the same period, a total sum of £234,000 has been paid to the industry through the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Thus, the assistance that the sugar industry has made available to berry fruit-growers in Tasmania has been substantial despite the fact that the sugar industry itself has experienced difficulties on the overseas market. I am confident that, if it were possible to do so, the parties to this agreement would be only too willing to meet the request that hasbeen made by the berry fruits industry.
A Labour government was responsible for the first sugar agreement which was initiated in 1915. Under that agreement, the industry undertook to provide Australia’s sugar requirements and it has fulfilled that obligation. To-day, this industry is flourishing along Australia’s eastern seaboard and is making a valuable contribution to development of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Under the proposed new agreement the price of sugar will be fixed at £73 16s.11d. a ton. For the information of honorable members, I point out that the components of the current retail price of sugar of £74 13s. 4d. a ton are as follows: -
Those figures show that all sections of the industry itself and all interests that are associated with the distribution of the sugar receive a fair deal. It will be noted also that the wholesale and retail margins combined exceed the amount that is paid to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited for managing, selling and financing. Furthermore, the growers do not receive half of the price that is guaranteed to the industry under the agreement.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 2147), on motion by Sir Philip McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Although this is a short measure, it is of far greater importance than it would appear to be at first glance. It is certainly of greater importance than the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) indicated in his second-reading speech. He did not tell the House that this bill was introduced without prior consultation with the State governments. The object of the measure is to suspend the operation of certain provisions of the Hide and Leather Industries Act 1948. Such action will have a severe impact upon many sections of the community. Controls in respect of prices and acquisition were introduced in 1939 under national security regulations. In 1948, I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, and, following the defeat of the prices referendum in that year and the relinquishing of prices control by the Australian Government, I conferred with the State governments and asked them whether they desired, in co-operation with the Australian Government, to retain a measure of control over hide and leather products. If my recollection serves me aright, every State government agreed that it was desirable to continue control over the marketing of hides and leather and th* fixation of prices.
Such control was essential, of course, because, during the war and subsequently, overseas prices for hides and leather remained at substantially higher levels than were necessary in Australia to maintain the prosperity of producers. In those circumstances, the 1940 legislation provided for a form of control under which the Commonwealth acquired hides at a price fixed by the respective State governments. That act established an authority to carry out all the operations of acquisition, allocation to the tanners, and so forth. It was representative, in the main, of the cattle-raisers, the meatworks, employees in the industry, and other sections of the trade. There was only one representative of the employees. Therefore, the board may be said to have been heavily weighted in favour of the primary producers and thoswho handle the hides from the time they leave the beast until they reach the hands of the public in the form of boots, shoes and other manufactured articles. For that reason, it may not appear to be strange that the Minister for Defence should tell us that this measure to suspend the operation of the act was introduced at the request of the industries concerned.
Naturally, it was introduced at the request of the primary producers, who expect to receive higher prices as a result of the removal of controls, at the request, of the meatworks, which welcome complete freedom from prices control and .=(.> forth, at the request of the brokers, who are the medium by which raw hides and tanned leathers are passed to manufacturers, and at the request of the tanners, who no doubt occasionally suffered inconvenience, as well as convenience, under the system of control maintained under the act. However, the Minister said nothing in his introductory speech to indicate that there were any representations’ for the abolition of control by member.* of the general public, who may be most adversely affected by the suspension of the act and who, in fact, have suffered from the relaxation of control already, even though the bill has not yet passed into law. The fact is that control ceased almost entirely last August. The Australian Hide and Leather Industrie* Board is still in existence because it has certain cleaning-up functions to perform, but the activities of acquiring hides and fixing prices have almost ceased. The result has been that the prices of boots and shoes have increased substantially.
The Minister said in his secondreading speech that local prices had almost reached the level of export prices, but there is still a substantial difference between Australian prices and overseas prices for certain leather products, notably calf skin. Let us examine some of the figures. The old price for sole leather, under the price-fixing system for which the act provides, was 4s. 3d. per lb. The cost of sole leather has gone up since the discontinuance of control to 4s. lid. per lb. Best hide upper leather formerly cost 2s. per lb., but now costs 2s. 9d. Calf leather, which cost 4s. Id. per lb. previously, now costs 5s. lOd. These are only interim prices, which apply pending the clearance of the board’s stocks. Boot prices have gone up. Although local prices for hides generally are not substantially different from export prices, there is a very marked difference between local prices and export prices for calf skin and other special types of leather. As 30 per cent, of the calf skin sold in Australia is used in the boot trade, honorable members will readily understand why footwear prices have increased considerably. Although I know that, primary producers and others connected with the leather trade have made strong representations over a long period for the elimination of controls, I have yet to learn that the people who, after all, pay the piper, have asked for the repeal of the- act.
The Minister said, in support of the Government’s proposal, that the board, which formerly financed its activities by means of a levy and returns from its trading activities, might not be able to obtain sufficient funds while local and overseas prices remained at almost identical levels. He added that it would be unthinkable for the Australian Government to finance its activities.. I submit that it would not be unreasonable to charge a small levy which would bring in sufficient revenue to enable the board to continue with its functions. The tanners, according to the Minister’s second-reading speech, submitted that the continuance of controls over hides and leather would be detrimental to the production of good quality hides. There has been nothing detrimental to the production of good quality hides under the system of controls that has applied during the last ten years. In fact, the only factors that could have a detrimental effect on the production of good quality hides are severe weather conditions and carelessness in the removal of hides from the beasts and subsequent handling.
Any member of this Parliament who tries to tell me that the removal of control will be necessary in the interests of Australia’s great beef industry does not know what he is saying. The simple truth is that the best bullocks now bring anything from £50 to £60 a head in the wholesale markets. I know, because I sell best-grade bullocks. Anything that tends to push the price of cattle higher is detrimental to the Australian economy as a whole.
– Other cattle than high-priced bullocks produce hides.
– I know that the honorable member for Mallee has a thick hide.
– The honorable member is just being personal.
– The honorable member can have his say when I have finished my speech. Prevailing prices for cattle in Australia are adequate. They provide a satisfactory return to cattleraisers. The controls could well be continued, particularly when we take into consideration the fact that the most stable market is provided by the Australian people, who purchase the boots and shoes that are eventually manufactured from hides.
Most Australian workers are on the basic wage, and they will suffer severely as a result of the discontinuance of controls. A man on the basic wage with five, six or more children is one of our best citizens. The complete abolition of controls on hides and leather may result in increasing the price of every pair of shoes that he buys for his wife, himself, or any of his teenage children by £1. In those circumstances, the Government’s proposal is outrageous. There has been no call from the consumers for the abolition of control. No doubt the Minister will tell me that Tasmania has relinquished price control over footwear. That may be true, but it proves nothing. No doubt the honorable gentleman will remind me also that “Western Australia abolished prices control at the end of 1953. But the State Government merely suspended the legislation instead of repealing it, and the mere fact that it is still on the statute-book is a deterrent to people who deal in hides and leather against inflicting any undue price increase on the citizens of that State. So the Minister can forget about that excuse. Another excuse that be has raised is that there has been trafficking in hides and leather. What has the board been doing if it has not been policing its activities and exercising the powers vested in it by this Parliament in order to prevent such activities? If it has failed in the discharge of its duties, the Government ought to appoint a new board. There is the reply to that excuse.
The Minister has said that action was taken against the control system, with some success, in the High Court of Australia. The success was only minor, of course. During the period of that legal process, the avaricious hide merchants, not the producers, stored hides in their barns and sheds in vast quantities in the hope that the action in the High Court would succeed to the degree that they would be able to unload their accumulated stocks on the Australian people at considerably higher prices. This, of course, would have had the effect of forcing boot manufacturers to charge much higher prices for their products. The Minister has also said that he believes that another action is pending in the High Court. Legal action in the High Court is always pending when people think they can win some advantage for themselves. For a government to run out just because somebody has initiated a High Court action is arrant cowardice. How the Government can advance that as a reason why control over hides and leather, an essentia] requirement of the Australian people, should be suspended passes my comprehension. Legal action was repeatedly taken against the former Labour Government in the High Court, but we did not run out. We did not discontinue the acquisition of wheat because of the notorious Nelungaloo case. We fought that action through the High Court and the Privy Council, and we won. Had we taken the same line of action as this Government, we would have got out from under instead.
The plain fact is that powerful vested interests headed by some of the rich cattle kings, who have dragged lesser cattle barons in their train, have forced the Government to discontinue control over hides and leather. Cattle kings like the Minister for Defence himself, and other wealthy interests have stampeded it into relinquishing this desirable form of control. They have been ably supported by the proprietors of the meatworks, who, in turn, have been supported by the brokers and the tanners. The Government has not bothered, to ascertain the wishes of any of the State governments. It has merely acted on representations from tainted sources, and has thrown to the wolves of higher prices basic-wage workers and other sections of the community who will be forced to pay more for boots and shoes. It has abandoned them entirely. That is the whole meaning of this proposal. The Government has talked a lot of twaddle in denying thatheavy pressure has been brought to bear on it. Every government is subject to heavy pressure from one quarter or another. Why does this Administration not withstand the pressure that has been brought to bear on it? Does it encourage pressure tactics ? Only recently it allowed the Director of the War Service Homes Division to state, in his annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1954, that the division was being embarrassed by the most undesirable pressure tactics.
During the war, prices in the world market were very high. In some instances, prices for hides were 35 per cent, higher in the free market than in the Australian market. The world price for yearling calf skins was 100 per cent, higher than the Australian price. The controlled price of calf skins in the Australian market was 18d. to 19d. per lb., and it is now 40d. to 46d. per lb. The price of yearling skins was fixed at 14d., and it is now more than 30d. No one would begrudge the cattle industry a price increase that had some relevancy to changed economic conditions in Australia, but the controls are being cast aside without thought for the protection of the people as a whole. This Government has completely ignored its partners in the hides control scheme, the State governments. The Australian Labour party will not accept its action, and will oppose this measure with all the power at its command. It is true that its power does not amount to much because it does not command enough votes in this House to prevent the Government from taking the action that it intends to take. However, Labour will raise its voice so that at least the Australian people will know that the Australian Labour party will not allow itself to be stampeded by the pressure tactics of any group or by the recommendations of the very competent Australian- Hide and Leather Industries Board, which controlled hides and leather. I had a voice in the selection of the members of the board. It is a biased body. The members were appointed for their competency and not for their suitability to determine the welfare of various sections of the community. The members of the board had a great knowledge of the industry, but their recommendations in relation to the industry are biased, because they are partisan. They are directly concerned in the industry, and people who are directly concerned in a particular industry generally make recommendations favorable to themselves and to that industry. It appears that the Minister and the Government have given no consideration to the rest of the community and have not made specific inquiries about events since August or events likely to occur after the passage of this bill. Labour opposes the measure and I trust that Government supporters also will oppose it, because it undoubtedly favours one section of the community at the expense of the rest of the people, who also are deserving of consideration.
The bill does not repeal entirely the sections of the principal act in relation to the board’s work. I take it that the board has some hides still on hand and that it has some business functions- to conclude. In those circumstances, the principal act should not be entirely repealed. But it is unfortunate that the acquisition and allocation of hides is to be discontinued and that the price-fixing functions of the States in relation to hides and leather are to be ended, because the result will be to sacrifice the majority of the Australian people to sectional interests. If the cattle industry were in a parlous position the matter would be different, but it is not. It is comparatively prosperous and that is a good thing for Australia. But it certainly does not need the little additional financial help that this measure will give to the individual cattle-raiser.
– I wish to answer several of the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He said, first, that the Australian Government had not advised the States of its intention to terminate controls on hides and leather. I should like to make it clear that this” Government’s intention was notified to the State governments on many occasions. The matter was discussed at several meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council, and it was made plain that the Commonwealth considered that the controls should be terminated. In fact, I understand that on several occasions the State Ministers for Agriculture made recommendations to that effect to their respective governments, and that those recommendations were submitted to the State prices Ministers, who would not at the time agree to relinquish prices controls. It is possible that similar action was taken unofficially on several other occasions. I am afraid that the honorable member for Lalor is trying to mislead the House in this matter. I am sure that he was aware of those facts. The honorable member said, also, that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) pointed out in his secondreading speech that the controls had been removed at the request of the industry. The honorable member elaborated that point by saying that, although he agreed that meatworks, cattle producers, brokers, merchants, tanners, and the like had asked that the controls be removed, the general public had not asked the Government to remove controls. He said that the consumers, who are interested parties, had no direct representation on the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board. It is true, of course, that the consumers were not directly represented in any of the discussions that took place. The interested parties were those that have been mentioned, and they requested the removal of controls from time to time. lt was quite obvious, after the lapse of a certain time following the first request, which was made about two years ago, that a time would be reached when the controls would have to go owing to pressure of circumstances, if the State prices Ministers would not agree to their removal.
The honorable member for Lalor referred, also, to the fact that immediately the controls were removed prices would move upwards. In fact, a slight upward movement in the price of leather, which has been reflected in the price of boots and shoes, has occurred. This, in turn, has an effect upon the general public who buy those goods. I think that was clearly understood beforehand, and it is a natural result of prudent readjustment. But I should like to remind the honorable member for Lalor that, as he himself stated, the higher prices were interim prices only. When controls on meat prices in the United Kingdom were removed recently, prices rose, but within a matter of several weeks they returned to a level approximating that at which they stood before the controls were removed. In the hide and leather industry something similar will happen. The law of supply and demand will take effect and in the end the consumers, for various reasons, will benefit from the removal of controls. First, a greater number of hides will come onto the market. As the supply of hides to the market increases, competition will cause prices automatically to find a reasonable level.
The honorable member for Lalor stated that the controls did not affect the quality of the hides reaching the market. That statement was incorrect, as I am certain the honorable member knew in his own heart. The application of controls had a definite effect on the quality of hides on the Australian market, as I think every other honorable member will agree, despite the assurance of the honorable member for Lalor to the contrary. It is only natural that the controls should have a definite effect on the quality of hides, because when the producers were receiving lower returns they did not show the same interest in producing hides of high quality, except in several isolated instances that might be cited to support any argument.
Another factor also must be taken into consideration in relation to this problem. That is the wastage of hides that occurs at present while the producers receive poor returns for them. As prices adjust themselves at new levels when controls are removed, and the tanners are able to exercise a choice and obtain better quality hides instead of being forced to take whatever is given to them, as happened under the system of control, fewer hides will be wasted. I could cite dozens of instances in the past in which producers threw hides aside because they considered it was not worthwhile marketing them through the board in return for the low prices that they would receive. The situation will not alter, and the ultimate effect will be to increase the number and the quality of hides flowing onto the market, and this will be to the ultimate advantage of the consumers. The honorable member for Lalor stated that the controls should be retained and that he, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and a number of their colleagues would vote against the measure. Why do they suggest that the controls should be retained? It is solely because of their policy of socialization, which favours controls. . The Government, on the other hand, does not believe in controls and in interference with normal competition and marketing methods. In order to promote efficient productive methods and to reduce prices on the Australian market, the best thing to do is to remove controls and allow prices and supplies to find their own levels. During the transition period we must keep an eye on the export position. The honorable member for Lalor did not directly suggest, but he implied, that it has been said that some hides that at present could be exported from Australia should be retained for local manufacture, and that some form of control should be applied to ensure that the required number of hides shall be retained in Australia for local use. That matter is being given careful attention. Under the present export licensing system, it is a simple matter to supervise exports. The honorable member and the House may rest assured that the position of supplies of hides for local manufacture is being carefully watched. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an net to approve the ratification by Australia of the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I think, it is unnecessary to remind honorable members that the time has gone by when Australia could rest securely within its own borders. Instead of living in a tranquil corner of the globe, we are now on the verge of the most unsettled region of the world. It used to be said that all wars originate in Europe. The history of the last few years has shown this to. be no longer true. In fact, the succession of military conflicts that have occurred since the end of World War II. have been largely in the Far East. It is no longer possible for any country to rely entirely for its security on its own strength and resources. There can be no safety in isolationism: it has to be sought through a sound system of collective defence. This was one of the inescapable lessons of World War II. After the war, it was hoped that the United Nations could provide a basis for collective security, but the organization is paralysed because the right of veto is held by the major source of danger to the world’s peace - the Soviet Union. To meet this situation, and in pursuance of the purposes and principles of the United Nations, other mutual defence organizations have been formed - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the system of collective security established in North and South America under the Rio Pact and Anzus, and other bilateral arrangements with Ihe United States of America. Attention has also been given to the defence of the Middle East. However, a gap remained in South-East Asia, and it was to meet this gap that the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty was drawn up. at Manila.
When we look for the causes of the dangerous state of affairs which exists in the East to-day, we find that they stem mainly, if not entirely, from one sourcethe aggressive policies of international communism. The history of Communist aggression in recent years in the Far East is well known to honorable members, and I shall not recapitulate it in detail. In 1950, the Communist regime of North Korea launched an unprovoked attack on South Korea. When the United Nations came in to protect South Korea and the North Koreans were facing defeat, the Chinese Communist Government sent help, to the North Korean Communists in” the form of large armies with modern equipment and supported by aircraft, all with -the obvious connivance and encouragement of the Soviet Union. Thi0 led to a long and bitter struggle which resulted in many hundreds of thousands of casualties. Owing to the efforts of the sixteen members of the United Nations which contributed forces, and of the South Korean Government itself, this clear act of Communist aggression w-as finally checked and South Korea was saved from Communist domination. Apart from this act of open aggression in Korea, the Communists have been engaged since World War II. in armed subversive activities throughout Son;bEast Asia. These activities have been directed, not only against the so-caller colonial powers, but against the young independent countries of this area. This Communist activity has made the other problems of these countries infinitely greater than they need have been. Even to-day, communism remains a threat to their stability and independence. Although in most cases the Communists have now seen the futility of armed action at the present time, they are energetically engaged in an attempt to undermine the independent government-; of the area by external political means - in other words, by subversion. The Communist policy of armed insurrection had its greatest success in Indo-China. Aided and encouraged by Communist China, the Communist Viet Minh was able to get military control over a large part of Northern Viet Nam. Their political control - or rather, de facto political control - has now been recognized by the
Geneva settlement. I gave a detailed account of this settlement in my statement to Parliament on the 10th August, and it is not necessary to repeat it.
I must remind honorable members that, however thankful we might be that the war in Indo-China was brought to an end and did not spread into a wider conflagration, we must realize that the settlement greatly strengthened the position of the Communists in South-East Asia and exposed the whole area to increased danger from Communist domination. This is especially true of Southern Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia, and men of Thailand. The Communist Viet Mini] will have greatly increased opportunities of subverting these countries from within, with the additional threat of armed aggression always in the background. For the moment, the Communists are speaking soft, words and making peaceful gestures, but we know from, bitter experience how little reliance can be placed on these Recent reports from Indo-China have underlined the urgency of this task. There is evidence that the present unfortunate disagreements between South Vietnamese leaders are giving great encouragement to the Communists to extend and intensify their undercover activities in that State. The large-scale movement of refugees from the north seeking freedom in South’ Viet Nam, expeditiously and efficiently handled as it has been with generous French and United States assistance, presents a particular problem. The Communists are undoubtedly attempting to capitalize on the fears and miseries of these people before they can be effectively re-settled. We have reports that, in Laos, the Viet Minh are refusing to withdraw their forces and are obstructing the International Supervisory Commission in its basic task of investigating such breaches of the Geneva agreements. Throughout Indo-China, the risk remains that the Communists, even where they ostensibly withdrew their armed formations, will be able to consolidate their influence in areas which they controlled for long periods during hostilities with the French.
I would emphasize, however, that the fight is by no means lost. I am speaking of Southern Viet Nam in particular.
Provided that counter measures are taken with sufficient speed and energy, it might still be won.
It might be asked why Australia need concern itself with what happens in South-East Asia. Apart from the interest that the whole free world has in checking the growth of Communist tyranny wherever it may seek to make itself felt, the answer to this question can easily be seen from a study of the map. If the whole of Indo-China fell to the Communists, Thailand would be gravely exposed. If Thailand were to fall, the road would be open to Malaya and Singapore. From the Malay Peninsula, the Communists could dominate the northern approaches to Australia and even cut our lifelines with Europe. These grave eventualities may seem longrange, but it is not at all impossible that they could happen within a reasonably short period of time, lt is because of the Government’s awareness of the reality of this danger that it took the historic step in August last when the Prime Minister announced that the Government was prepared to undertake in peace-time commitments extending beyond Australia’s own borders. It is for this reason also that the Australian Government encouraged the idea that a system, of collective defence should be established in South-East Asia and has taken an energetic part in drawing up the treaty which we are now considering, and which it is hoped will bring such a system into being. When the proposal for a collective defence system for SouthEast Asia was being considered, it was hoped that it would include all the independent countries of South and SouthEast Asia, in addition to ourselves and others. In the upshot, three Asian countries decided to attend the conference held at Manila in September - Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines. The other countries represented at Manila were the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, New Zealand, and Australia. In spite of the diversity of the countries represented, a remarkable degree of unity was achieved and a treaty was drawn up and signed which should provide a good basis for building up the security of the area.
Although, a number of countries that we would have liked to see there were not represented at Manila, the present parties to the treaty constitute a strong and effective nucleus. One of the countries most directly threatened by Communist expansion in South-East Asia is a member - Thailand - which has already shown a determination to build up her capacity to resist both open Communist aggression and internal subversion. To the west of the area, the treaty is supported by Pakistan, and, to the east, by the Philippines. The British territories in the area are also included within. the treaty area, and this means that the considerable military strength which the United Kingdom has in the treaty area would be available to back its security. Perhaps the greatest advantage of the treaty, however, is the fact that the United States of America has committed itself to assist in the defence of the area against Communist aggression. There is no need to emphasize that the main buttress of the free world in the Pacific is the military strength of the United States of America. I have heard it stated that, by reason of the existence of the Anzus Treaty with the United States of America and New Zealand, there was no need for Australia to participate in the Manila treaty. But the Manila pact provides something that Anzus cannot provide - a wider association of countries. Eight countries, instead of only three, are co-operating in the new arrangement. I add, however, that Australia regards the continuance of Anzus as vital, and this view is shared by New Zealand and the United States of America. In fact, on the 11th October - only just over a fortnight ago - I attended a meeting of the Anzus Council in “Washington to discuss matters of concern to the three member governments.
The security of South and South-East Asia would, of course, have been still more assured if all the free countries in the area had been signatories of the Manila treaty. The United Kingdom, over a period of several months prior to the Manila conference, took great pains to explain to all the free countries of the area the reasons why a mutual defensive arrangement was necessary. Australian representatives in those countries were also in contact, with the same purpose,
Ifr. Casey. with the governments to which they were accredited. Moreover, on behalf of the Australian Government, I visited the capitals of nearly all the countries of South and South-East Asia, both before and after the Manila conference, to explain to the governments of those countries the need for such a treaty as the one we now have before us. I pointed out that the treaty has no aggressive intention, that it is designed to serve the principles and purposes of the,United Nations Charter, and that it can, in no conceivable way, be regarded, as a cover for the return of what is sometimes called western colonialism. I stated that Communist imperialism is an even greater and more immediate threat to the security of the nations of Asia than it is to ourselves, and that the only sure deterrent is by cooperative effort. I urged the danger of relying on Communist promises of nonaggression, and drew attention to the instances in which these promises had been broken in the past. We have to realize, however, that the point of view of some of the independent countries of Asia is different from our own. They see their recent history as a struggle to gain their independence from western rule, with the result that the old issue of colonialism is more present to their minds than the more modern menace of communism. The Communists have skilfully exploited this attitude, and their propaganda harps constantly on the theme of western domination or intervention. Fortunately, many Asian leaders have seen through the hypocrisy of this and are well aware of the real aims of the Communists.
Nevertheless, several countries of Asia continue to be critical of the Manila pact and have expressed the view that Asia should remain neutral and not get involved in power “blocs. Many Asian leaders believe that Asia needs a long period of peace in which to build up their newly independent countries and strengthen their economies. The Australian Government appreciates this desire for peace, but it considers that peace can be assured only if it is made clear to a potential aggressor that an act of violence on his part will be met with effective resistance. To the north of South-East Asia, the Communist states have formed a closely knit alliance, and we may be sure that they will attempt to advance the frontiers of communism if there is no effective obstacle to their expansion. No country in the region is strong enough to stand by itself, and, consequently, an arrangement for mutual defence is essential.
I remind the House that in my speech to it on the 10th August, I said that the settlement in Indo-China gave a basis on which to try to build a wider settlement in the Far East, but only if a collective defence is built up in South-East Asia to balance the very considerable Communist military potential to the north of Indo-China. The Australian Government sees the Manila pact, not simply as a support to Australia and its friends if war comes in the Far East, but as part of a positive policy to deter aggression and to stop war breaking out.
I would now propose to give an account of the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty drawn up at the Manila conference. But before I do so, I would like to pay a cri bute to the very effective way in which the conference was organized and conducted by the Philippines Government. The arrangements made for the conference worked extremely well, and the sessions held under the chairmanship of the Philippines Foreign Minister, VicePresident Carlos P. Garcia, were conducted in the most business-like way, and with the .greatest courtesy and efficiency. All the parties to the treaty are under a debt of gratitude to President Magsaysay and his administration for the cooperation and hospitality extended to delegations. The purposes of the treaty are set out in its preamble, which makes it clear that it is entirely non-aggressive in character and that it is intended to be in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the United Nations. The treaty is concerned, not only with the military security of the area, but with the promotion of the economic well-being and advancement of all the peoples of the area. Under Article I. of the treaty the parties undertake to settle any international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful means and in accordance with the principles of the United Nations. This Article is in the same terms as corresponding provisions of thu
Anzus pact and the North Atlantic Treaty.
Article II. provides that the parties should develop their own individual capacities to resist armed aggression, and also to counter subversive activities directed from outside their borders. It also provides that they should render assistance to one another towards those ends. The scope and degree of the mutual aid which will be provided under this article, can be decided only in the light of experience and of the needs of the individual countries in the area. It is envisaged, for example, that this aid might take such forms as the provision of training facilities for military and police forces, as well as the provision of equipment. The business of coping with subversive activities in the countries of SouthEast Asia, is not an easy one. The Communist technique of enlisting local support is well known - by playing on and encouraging local grievances, by the assumption of sympathy and promises of the redress of grievances and of improved economic and social conditions. This technique, tailor-made to suit local conditions, is too well known to attract significant support in most countries, where the people realize that the real aim is power, and that when this is achieved, the baits used to achieve it are never given another thought. However, the techniques of subversion have a much greater chance of success amongst many of the peoples of Asia, whose degree of literacy and standards of living unfortunately provide fertile ground for the Communist agitator. For these reasons the vulnerability of South-East Asia to communism is probably greater than in other parts of the world.
The challenge of how best to cope with subversion - which is one of the major Communist weapons in the cold war - has not, up to the present, received the attention that it deserves by the democracies. I hope and believe that adequate attention will be given to this important, subject in the light of the situation with which we are faced in South-East Asia. T’ie Communists have brought this aspect of the cold war to a high degree of art. We have not learnt equally quickly, or successfully,’ how to counter subversion. We cannot afford any longer to be without constructive thinking in this regard.
I had discussions on this subject overseas. Article III. of the treaty makes a reference to co-operation in the economic field. It is generally recognized that economic stability and improved living standards in South-East Asia are not only desirable in themselves, but also represent an essential contribution, to the battle against communism. The Australian Government’s acceptance of this is demonstrated by the substantial part that we have played in the initiation ot the Colombo plan, and by our contributions to it since its inception. As far as economic assistance to the area is concerned, it is the Australian Government’s policy to continue to channel its own contributions through the Colombo plan machinery, although there is, of course, no organic connexion between the Manila treaty and the Colombo plan. However, it is clear that economic and technical assistance cannot alone solve the area’s economic problems. It is of fundamental importance that the world prices foi the major commodities produced in the area should not be allowed to fall below levels which allow a reasonable income, and a reasonably stable income, for their producers. This is a complicated and difficult problem, and much study and investigation will have to be carried out before workable solutions are likely to be found.
We come now to Article IV. of the treaty, which is the principal operative article. Under the first paragraph of this article the parties undertake that, in the event of armed aggression in the treaty area against any of the parties or against any state or -territories which the parties unanimously designate, they would act to meet the common danger “ in accordance with their constitutional processes “. This formula has been the subject of much discussion, and at Manila we were careful to make certain that the wording adopted was just as effective as that used in the North Atlantic Treaty. I know of no form of words, suitable for incorporation in an international treaty, which more precisely describes the resolution of the parties and their willingness to act in the event of aggression. There was, naturally, considerable discussion at Manila on the form of words to be used in this article, and there was study of the different forms used in Nato and in Anzus. Particular attention had to be given to the American position, because their form of government is different from ours, owing to the separation of powers of the executive and the legislature. Mr. Dulles made it clear to us that, as far as the American constitutional position was concerned, the formula adopted at Manila, deriving from the Monroe Doctrine wording, gives all the freedom of action and power to act that is contained in Nato. It is not just the formula that counts; it is the attitude of mind and the declared policies, of the governments concerned. The fact that all the governments which signed the treaty are determined to oppose further Communist expansion, is the surest guarantee that they will fulfil their commitments under the treaty.
I would like to discuss for a moment the precise meaning of the word “ act “ which appears in paragraph 1, of Article TV. of the treaty. It has been assumed in some quarters that this is an automatic commitment to military action in all circumstances. I point out, however, that in some circumstances military action might not be required. For example, joint diplomatic action might be taken by all the parties, or it might even be decided to apply economic sanctions. Military action would, however, remain as the most severe sanction, and the treaty makes it clear that all parties would be prepared to resort to it in defence of their common interests in the event of aggression. It is upon the willingness of all parties to take military action if necessary, that the deterrent effect of the treaty rests. The knowledge that any direct armed attack on one of the parties would result in counteraction by all, should cause the Communists to consider very carefully the situation that would arise before launching such an attack. I emphasize this because, as I have already said, our aim is to try to prevent the tragedy of war by leaving any potential aggressor in no doubt as to the consequences of his action.
I do not attempt to disguise the fact the Australian Government considers that, in the world as it is to-day and with the situation that confronts us in this region, the primary purpose of the treaty is to combat- communism. That “is the view also of the United States Government, and at the time of the signing of the treaty Mr. John Foster Dulles made a reservation on behalf of his government to the effect that its commitment under paragraph 1 of Article IV. applied only to Communist aggression. His reason for doing that was that the United States of America had no territorial interests in the area and that it was only Communist aggression - aggression by one. arm of international communism - which could be regarded as endangering the peace and safety of the United States of America. The United States Government had originally put forward the view that the text of the treaty itself should refer specifically to Communist aggression. This limitation was opposed by other delegations at Manila on the grounds that it might be regarded, particularly by Asian opinion, as unnecessarily provocative. Moreover, it was felt that from, a long-range point of view it was desirable that the treaty should be designed to combat all forms of aggression; the objective to which we are already committed under the United Nations Charter. However, while it was recognized that communism is the only present danger in Asia, we cannot be sure that threats from other sources might not arise in the future.
It was therefore agreed by all the parties that the treaty itself should, like the United Nations Charter, be directed against aggression generally, but that the United States reservation should be accepted. It was acknowledged that the acceptance by the United States of America of a specific commitment to assist in the struggle against communism met the most direct and immediate objective that confronted us all, and that it in fact met the present danger. As I have said, resistance to communism is the immediate objective of the treaty, and it is for this principal purpose that the Australian Government is prepared to commit itself to this treaty. In fact we cannot at present see any other circum stances in which we would be obliged to intervene. In considering all the implications that this treaty has for Australia, we must consider what our position would be in relation to fellow members of the Commonwealth. I have in mind particularly the question of whether under the treaty Australia might be committed to taking armed action in the event of a dispute between India and Pakistan. I wish to state categorically that the Australian Government would never regard itself as being committed, contractually or morally, to military action against any other member of the Commonwealth. I find it impossible to believe that either India or Pakistan would resort to force to settle any problem that may exist between them. The Pakistan Foreign Minister was informed of our position on this point before the treaty was signed.
Paragraph 2 of Article IV. of the treaty makes provision for consultation in all matters affecting the security of the area. Honorable members might note the comprehensive drafting of this Article TV. (2) - which means that any party to the treaty can invoke .consultation on any matter, wherever arising (inside or outside the treaty area), which might affect the situation in the treaty area or endanger the peace of the area. This means, amongst other things, that consultations will be held on means to combat subversive activities - which constitute a threat or a potential threat to the area - carried on by Communist agents controlled or inspired from outside the area. The paragraph provides that the parties shall -
Consult immediately in order to agree on the measures which should be taken for the common defence.
I would point out that the United States reservation applies only to paragraph 1 of Article IV., and not to this paragraph 2, and that the United States of America has undertaken that, in the event of aggression or armed attack other than Communist in origin, the United States of America will consult under the provisions of paragraph 2 of Article IV. These consultations would, under that article, have as their objective agreement on the measures which should be taken for the common defence. Paragraph 3 of this Article IV. is intended to ensure that there will be no arbitrary interference in any State designated under paragraphI of this article. It demonstrates to other States the good faith of all the parties to this treaty. The provision for the “ designation “ of other territories was included in the treaty to enable the scope of the treaty to be extended to cover -
Laos, Cambodia and South Viet Nam have already been “ designated “ under this article in a protocol which was signed at Manila, and which was tabled in this Parliament. This means, in effect, a warning to the Communists not to use force to try to upset the Geneva settlement. This protocol also extends the application of economic provisions of Article III. to the States of Indo-China. In connexion with this question of economic aid to Indo-China, I might mention that the Australian Government has already undertaken a programme of assistance for Laos, Cambodia and Southern Viet Nam. We have offered economic and technical aid up to the value of £250,000 to each of them for the current Australian financial year. The Government has also engaged in consultations with the United States, United Kingdom, Canadian and New Zealand governments as to how economic and technical assistance can best be provided for those countries. The aid will be given direct to the governments of these three States.
Article V. of the treaty provides for the setting up of a council, and for machinery for military and other planning. As far as military planning is concerned, the Australian Government feels strongly that if a Communist-armed attack is to be successfully met, prior consultation and planning between the parties to the treaty is essential. We hope therefore that at an early stage machinery will be established to enable regular consultations to be held between the military advisers of all the governments. In Washington recently, I took the opportunity of raising the question of military planning under the Manila treaty. I put forward Australia’s views as to the necessity for an early start to be made in setting up further suitable machinery. There are good grounds for believing that a meeting of the proposed Manila Treaty Council will take place before long. The Australian Government would think it proper for the first meeting to be held in one of the countries of the region, for example, in Bangkok. I need hardly add that no one will find in the treaty any detailed reference to military machinery or military planning. The Manila pact, like Nato and Anzus, is a constitutional document which cannot in itself provide for concrete military plans.
We hope also that some arrangements can be developed to co-ordinate measures to combat subversion. The Australian Government regards the danger from Communist subversive activities as a greater immediate problem than the danger of open Communist aggression. The Communists have developed a technique of subversion which has proved most successful over a considerable period of time in a number of countries. It can only be countered by planning and forward thinking. Success in this field depends as much on good police and security services as on regular armed forces. It is, therefore, one of the aims of the treaty to provide those countries who need it with assistance in building up their capacity for maintaining law and order and for dealing with Communistinspired treason. As I have said earlier the Government also envisages that where appropriate, the generally agreed programme to this end would include steps to promote the economic stability of the countries of the treaty area.
Article VII. of the treaty allows for the accession to the treaty of new members. Any other state in a position to further the objectives of the treaty may be invited, by unanimous agreementor the existing parties, to join the organization. Article VIII. of the treaty defines the treaty area. As honorable members will see, the definition is in wide terms, except that a limit is drawn on the north in the Pacific Ocean area. . This has the effect of excluding both Formosa and Hong Kong from the scope of the treaty. The Australian Government considers that this limitation of the treaty area is wise and prudent. However, this does not mean that we are unconcerned about the fate of Formosa, or that we would not consider it a matter of the greatest concern if the Chinese Communists launched an attempted invasion of Formosa. I may say that it was clearly understood at the Manila conference that the whole of Australia and its territories were included in the treaty area, as was New Zealand. Both east and west Pakistan are also included in the area.
Articles IX., X. and XI. of the treaty are of a machinery nature and need little comment. I draw attention, however, to the fact that the treaty is of indefinite duration. This is the same as the Anzus pact. The treaty should, therefore,be regarded, not as a temporary expedient, but as a permanent contribution to the security of the area. The bill provides that the Australian ratification will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. The treaty itself will enter into force as soon as the instruments of ratification of a majority of signatories have been deposited. Deposit by Australia will be concerted with ratification and deposit by other countries.
In addition to the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty the Manila conference drew up a document that was called the Pacific Charter. This, too, was tabled earlier in this Parliament. It declares that the parties uphold the principle of the self-determination of peoples and will strive to promote the independence and self-government of all those peoples which desire it and which are able to undertake its responsibilities. The charter also declares that the parties will co-operate to promote economic, social and cultural progress and also that they are determined to counter any attempts to subvert their freedom or destroy their sovereignty or territorial integrity. The
Australian Government was glad of the opportunity which this Pacific charter provided to make a public re-affirmation of its adherence to these high principles. There is no need for me to assure honorable members that it is the Government’s earnest wish that the liberty and progress of all peoples in the area should be promoted by every possible means which will, in turn, contribute to the security of Australia.
In conclusion, I should like to recapitulate briefly the advantages which Australia derives from the treaty. They are as follows: -
I commend to honorable members this bill for the ratification of the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 2381).
– Before the debate was interrupted, I had dealt at some length with the matters raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I am sure that the House was surprised by his declaration that the Opposition would vote against the bill. I have pointed out, and I think that it is clear to the majority of the people, that the purpose of this bill is to suspend those provisions of the Hide and Leather Industries Act 1948-1953 which empowered the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board to operate a Commonwealth-State hide and leather marketing scheme. The suspension of those provisions of the act is in the interests of the various branches of the industry concerned and will ultimately be in the interests of the consumers. I mention that matter because the honorable member based his case largely on the interests of the consumers. I have now dealt with all the points that he has raised, and I shall proceed to refer to some of the provisions of the bill.
The Hide and Leather Industries Act at the present time empowers the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board to operate a joint Commonwealth and States scheme for the control of hide and leather marketing within and without Australia. The scheme was designed for the compulsory appraisement, acquisition and disposal of Australian-grown hides under Commonwealth and State complementary legislation. The original control was a war-time measure, and was continued in the post-war period by joint Commonwealth and State legislative action. The decision of the Commonwealth to terminate those controls was not taken lightly. It was taken after a good deal of consideration had been given to the representations of various branches of the industry, and by outside organizations. The controls, in fact, terminated as from the 14th August last, and this bill has been introduced to suspend the operation of those sections of the act which have empowered the board to operate the control scheme. However, it is quite understandable that the board cannot cease operations immediately. There are quite a number of administrative acts to be carried out, and while the board must remain in existence for a certain time to terminate those administrative duties and do other organizational work, it is necessary for the original act to remain in force. Consequently, the purpose of this bill is to suspend only certain sections of the act. The other provisions will remain in force temporarily, and will be repealed as soon as the work of the board is completed. That stage may be reached in three or four months, or perhaps a little longer.
The hides and leather control arrangements were introduced as a war-time measure by the promulgation of national security regulations. The controls remained in force during the transitional period after World War II., and it was found necessary, when the national security regulations were repealed, to maintain the controls for a further period. A new board was established by complementary Commonwealth and State legislation, and commenced its operations on the 1st January, 1949. The board has functioned since that date, and its operations have included the acquisition of hides in Australia at a fixed domestic price, and the allocation of the hides to the tanning industry. A certain proportion of the hides which were acquired was set aside for export, and until last year, there was a considerable variation between the prices obtained for export hides and the fixed domestic prices. The board financed its operations, with the moneys represented by the difference, between the export and the domestic prices, and was able to pay a premium to producers out of the balance.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! There is too much conversation throughout the House. If honorable gentlemen wish to conduct loud conversations, I wish they would leave the chamber.
– The variation of price reached its peak in 1951, and then began to move downwards. Early this year, there was practically no difference between the export price and the domestic price, and it became obvious that the maintenance of controls under those conditions was undesirable and could become a liability to the Commonwealth. On several occasions, the Commonwealth submitted ‘to the States that it would be desirable to terminate the controls. However, the State Ministers in charge of prices control rejected those representations. The Commonwealth then discovered that there was a strong possibility that, within a few months, it would incur a fairly substantial liability to sustain the board. It indicated clearly to the States that it could not support such a set of conditions, and announced that it would have to terminate the controls and eventually repeal the legislation. In the meantime, it sustained the operation of the board.
There is nothing unusual about this bill. It is virtually a machinery measure to implement a decision which has the approval of the industry. I think that the people generally, when they understand the results which will be obtained from this legislation, will be in favour of it. The honorable member for Lalor has stated that the Opposition will vote against the bill. He may be interested to learn that his colleagues in Tasmania suspended the operation of the State act at the end of 1952. Presumably, the honorable member for Lalor and Labour Ministers in Tasmania are members of the same Labour party. In 1953, the Labour Government in Western Australia removed control on prices of hides in that State. Thus, in opposing this measure honorable members opposite are out of step with their colleagues in the Governments of Tasmania and Western Australia. I have not the slightest doubt that the passage of this bill will be appreciated by the industry and by the people as a whole.
– I oppose the bill. I do so in the interests not of the cattle-raisers, tanners, manufacturers and brokers, but of the consumers of goods that are manufactured from hides and leather. The theme that runs through this measure runs through many other measures that the Govern ment has introduced, because it believes that the producers of an article and the merchants and brokers associated with its distribution should be protected even at the expense of consumers. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), in his second-reading speech, said that the existing controls were not serving a useful purpose. However, we know that since they were introduced in 1949, the prices of hides and leather in Australia have been sufficient to return a reasonable profit to the cattle-raisers and manufacturers. At the same time, the operation of those controls safeguarded the consumers from being exploited. If the Government desires to ensure that producers and manufacturers of leather goods, or any goods, shall receive reasonable profits it should realize also that it has a duty to ensure that consumers be treated fairly.
After the controls are removed following the passage of this measure, the producers and manufacturers will be enabled to increase their profits considerably and the consumers will have no protection whatsoever against exploitation. As soon as the Government announced its intention to discontinue these controls, reports appeared in the press that the public could expect prices of leather goods to rise immediately. Already, the prices of boots and shoes have increased and the removal of these controls will mean that the prices of footwear will rise still higher. Naturally, the producers and manufacturers will endeavour to make as high a profit as possible. Honorable members opposite have said that overseas prices of hides and leather are falling and now approximate Australian prices. That fall in prices may be only temporary. If prices should rise again in the near future the Australian people .will be held to ransom because they will be obliged to pay exorbitant prices for footwear and other essential leather goods. Undoubtedly, the producers and manufacturers will rake in considerably greater profits. Those interests have been endeavouring for some time to have these controls removed. Similar propaganda has been disseminated in favour of the removal of all forms of prices control. Advocates of such action, although they are receiving reasonable profits, are anxious to cash in on high prices that prevail overseas.
On behalf of over 47,000 electors I strenuously protest against this measure. If the Minister could show that under the existing system the producers, manufacturers and tanners are not making a reasonable profit, the introduction of this measure would be justified, but no supporter of the Government has produced evidence to that effect. The Government should give greater consideration to the needs of the people to whom footwear is indispensable. Honorable members opposite claim that the removal of these controls will help to restore economic stability and prevent inflation. For that reason, they strongly advocate the pegging of wages and the retention of existing wage margins. Apparently, the Government believes that the whole burden of restoring economic stability should be shouldered by the workers. In this instance the Government is simply giving the “ O.K. “ to the producers of hides and leather and the manufacturers of leather goods to go ahead and make bigger profits, whilst, at the same time, it declares that wages must not be increased and that employees must work harder for a smaller return. The Government cannot have it both ways. If the worker is to be called upon to make greater sacrifices-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting away from the bill.
– If these controls are removed, the workers will be called upon to make greater sacrifices because the prices of all the leather goods, including footwear, will be considerably increased.
– What about the cattleraiser?
– He has been doing exceptionally well under the , existing system. In spite of the operation of these controls, he has been able to make a reasonable profit. No cattle-raiser has been sent bankrupt because the prices of hides and leather are too low. If the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) can instance one cattle-raiser who has lost money for that reason, I shall be prepared to change my opinion.
– I certainly can do so.
– I admit that while these controls have been in operation the cattle-raisers have not been making profits as high as those they would have made if the controls had not been imposed, because in- that case they would have been able to exploit the people to the greatest possible degree, and the price of leather goods would have been three, four and even five times higher than they are at present. Those interests would have acted as ruthlessly as any Shylock. When these controls are removed, the worker will be called upon to pay prices as much as 25 per cent, higher than existing prices for footwear which are a necessary family requirement and, consequently, his standard of living will be reduced. It is time that the Government gave greater consideration to the needs of that section of the community which is being ground down as a result of being exploited by producers and manufacturers of essential commodities. I strenuously oppose the bill. It is urgently necessary that the present control of prices of hides and leather should be continued and the control of prices of many other necessary commodities should be re-introduced. The Government should wake up to the fact that, in order to restore economic stability, it must ask more than one section of the community to make sacrifices. However, the exploiting section in the community has already got its rake-off from the Government. If ‘ the Ministry ls prepared to permit producers and manufacturers to make bigger profits, it should, at the same time, enable the worker to obtain increased remuneration for his labour so that he will be able to afford to pay the higher prices for necessary commodities. I must point out these facts because I have a duty, as the representative of 47,000 consumers, to do my best in this House to protect their interests. That is why I oppose the bill as strenuously as I am able.
.- The speech we have just heard from the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) is typical-
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 8
Questionso resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . .. .7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is : “ That the bill be agreed to “. Those of that opinion say “ Aye “ ; of the contrary, “ No “. I think the ayes have it.
– No. The noes have it.
– It has been decided by the committee that the question be put, and the question now is: “ That the bill be agreed to “.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor will apologize to the Chair.
– I do.
– I call upon the honorable member to apologize properly.
– I have apologized.
– Order! The honorable member will apologize to the Chair.
– I said I have apologized.
– Order! The honorable member has not apologized, and if he refuses to apologize I shall name him.
– I have apologized, and I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to apologize for the wrong that you did to me.
– Order ! I name the honorable member for Lalor.
– The Opposition called for a division.
– The question on which a division was called for has been decided.
– The question was put while I was on my feet endeavouring to speak.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor knew quite well that the committee had decided that the question be put. That being so, it was not competent for me to call him or any other honorable member.
In the House:
- Mr. Speaker, I have to report that I have named the honorable member for Lalor for disobedience to the Chair.
Question put -
That the honorable member for Lalor(Mr. Pollard) be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority.. . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Lalor thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Question put -
That the bill be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Question put -
That the bill be reported without amendment.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Aderm ann.)
Majority. . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put-
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - HON. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Is leave granted ?
Opposition Members. - No.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority.. . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- Mr. Speaker,I move the following amendment : -
That all words after “That-
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 5
– Order ! The amendment was not seconded.
– I second the motion of the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Order ! The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has already moved “ That the questionbe put “.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 2143), on motion by Sir Philip McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill deals with the disposal of wheat. A little earlier, we dealt with the disposal of Pollard. The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Sir Philip McBride) has made it clear in his second-reading speech that this bill is the conclusion to negotiationsbetween the Commonwealth and the States on the new wheat stabilization plan. The bill will tie up all the loose ends of a scheme which was not capable of fulfilment for some time because of the inability to obtain agreement on it among all the States. There is nothing particularly new about the stabilization scheme, but because of the difficulties of time, place and action in this House and the wheat-growing areas, it may be, unfortunately, another matter of too little too late. We on this side of the House will support the stabilization scheme and the bill to give effect to it, the wheat tax and the other commitments, because we believe that this measure will attempt to apply, and, I hope, will succeed in applying, some form of stabilization to an industry which at the present time is in the doldrums. [Quorum formed.] The Minister has pointed out in his second-reading speech that the stabilization scheme has the support of an overwhelming majority of wheat-growers. In the prosperous days in the wheat areas, when the International Wheat Agreement was in operation, the world parity for wheat was high, and consumption within the borders of Australia was considerable, wheatgrowers did not reveal such a degree of unanimity in respect of stabilization as has been shown in the recent ballot of farmers. Most honorable members are familiar with the main points of the plan to which the Australian Government and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation have agreed. The period of the plan is to be five years, and is to apply to the wheat crops of the seasons 1953-54 to 1957-5S, both inclusive. . The Australian Wheat Board is to be the sole authority for the marketing of wheat in Australia, and for the marketing of wheat and flour for export for the duration of the plan.
I am particularly interested in the Commonwealth guarantee. The Government will guarantee a return to growers of the ascertained cost of production in respect of up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported from Australia from each of the five wheat crops covered by the plan. This matter should cause the representatives of wheat-growing areas considerable thought. Indeed, everyone who is interested in wheat production and the future of the wheat-growing industry should be keenly interested in this matter. The operative words in the explanation of the Commonwealth’s guarantee, which I have just read, are “ 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported from Australia “. Wheat actually exported ! Sometimes the expression “ physically exported from Australia “ is used. Australia already holds an overflow of 100,000,000 bushels of wheat from the previous harvest. This stabilization scheme is behind schedule, if I may use that phrase. The large quantity of wheat which has not yet been sold poses a serious problem for us.
– I direct attention to the state of the House.
– I rise to order. I point out that a quorum was formed only a few minutes ago. There is an unwritten law that attention shall not be directed to the state of the House for at least fifteen minutes after a quorum has been formed.
– (Mr. Mcleay). - Order! It is necessary to form a quorum. The hells will be’ rung.
I Quorum formed.]
– I thought that Government members, who support the stabilization scheme, would at least show sufficient interest in my speech, which is made on behalf of the Opposition. This surplus poses a considerable problem, even an agonizing problem, for the future of our second greatest export industry. The honorable member for Henty (Mr.
Gullett), who has been interjecting, is something of a farmer, even if he is perhaps a gentleman farmer. I thought that he would at least give me his attention while I was struggling with the problems of the wheat-farmers.
– The honorable member for Henty is not a farmer, but a squire.
– The wheat surplus is the big problem that is keeping the lamps of the planners burning at night. Those men are attempting to produce some sort of order out of chaos in respect of the marketing of wheat. The problem should alarm the honorable member for Henty, and call for resolute action by the Government. The empty benches on the other side of the chamber, when a problem of this magnitude is under consideration, is a silent condemnation of Government supporters, and is indicative of their attitude towards the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) who has burned much midnight oil in obtaining agreement among the States on a stabilization plan.
– That statement about the empty benches on this side of the chamber is a reflection on Mr. Speaker. He himself ordered the bells to be rung last week when a quorum was not present in the House.
– Order! Interjections are disorderly.
– I do not take that kind of bait when I am making a speech. I prefer the solid meat of my own argument. I refer again to the considerable worry that is caused to farmers and the community generally by this surplus wheat. The Government is to blame for the dillydallying that occurred during the last three years in relation to the wheat industry. True enough, some obstruction was offered by one of the States to a wheat stabilization plan, orderly marketing, and all the things which went with it, but as against that, the Government must have been advised by its experts, and therefore must have known that all was not well with the wheat industry throughout the world. Apart from stabilization, therewas the very obvious run down in pricesand the equally obvious picking up in supply.
All the signs and portents were of a glut. What happened? The bottom dropped out of the International Wheat Agreement. The centals markets of . Chicago and Winnipeg, and reports from the agricultural organizations in the United States of America all indicated that one of the periodical gluts of wheat would strike the world. When the glut did strike the world, there were two opinions held on behalf of the Government. The chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, urged the restriction of wheat acreages as an effective, if drastic, way of meeting the problem. He probably still thinks that, allied with stabilization, it is the only way to tackle the problem of the existing surplus in Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) entered the field, and in a highly pontifical manner, like Canute defying the waves, said, Grow more wheat “. What a department of utter confusion, was then created for the people who had to grow wheat! Which of the two oracles were the farmers to heed? Were they to listen to the views of the expert, Sir John Teasdale, on the hazardous future of wheat? He considered that for some years to come, stability, high prices and organizational difficulties would appear to be more effectively met by a restriction of wheat acreages. Or were the farmers to listen to spokesmen for this Government, who were talking about resumptions of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen, who would grow more wheat? The Prime Minister and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that we must not restrict acreages. That chaos existed for weeks and weeks, and no decision was reached. After a long time, this stabilization plan was formulated, and we support it.
However, I point out that this plan is not the answer to the wheat problem, because it is a matter of too little too late. When a state of sanity and reasonable efficiency prevailed, something could have been done to dispose of the surplus wheat which, measured against the enormous’ surpluses in Canada and the United States of America, was not overwhelming. Why did the Government adopt a rigid, stiffnecked attitude towards the projected drop in the price of wheat on
Ifr. Haylen the international market? Why was it that, wherever the representatives of Australia turned, the top price was demanded ? At that stage, it seemed reasonable, and feasible, to assume that if a small reduction had been made, the weight of the bearish attitude could have been lifted off the market. Had the price been reconsidered, the farmers would now be considerably better off. However, that is past history, though lamentable history. The Government showed little awareness of the situation.
The departmental side, on the contrary, was aware of the situation for a long time, but its advice was not taken by the responsible Minister or the Government. As the result of that stiffnecked attitude, we are faced with a world wheat situation which is highly hazardous, and even dangerous to the future of the industry. 4 I, as a representative of the. consumers of wheat, and an Australian, am deeply concerned with the position which has developed in the industry, but I wa.« shocked to hear a prominent member of the Farmers and Settlers Association say that the only way in which the problem of the wheat surplus could be solved wa= by a nice, healthy drought. That is a nice thing! If that is typical of the imaginative planning of the Government in relation to the future of wheat, and if that if an acceptable proposition to the Australian Country party, I am amazed.
Government Supporters. - Who made that statement?
– That statement was made by Mr. H. ‘ K. Nock. There are cycles of change, cycles of production, and cycles of scarcity, and the only way out of the present cycle of plenty, according to Mr. Nock, is a nice, healthy drought. That statement was published. That is a scandalous way in which to deal with this matter. If wheat production in this country is to be handled in that haphazard manner, there will be disaster. The Opposition offers no criticism of the principle of stabilization. This measure follows the lines of legislation that wa? in force when Labour was in office. Tha1; legislation was so good that this Government now seeks not only to establish a similar plan but also to apply it to the present crop and to continue it for a period of five years.
Some honorable members from wheatgrowing areas may be able to explain how to bring these two imponderables together. That is what the Opposition considers should be discussed on this occasion. If this plan is to be more than a palliative, what does the Government propose to do with the surplus wheat? Every silo and bulkhead in wheatgrowing areas is swollen with wheat, which is not being disposed of fast enough. In addition, the Government has placed limiting factors upon the quantity of wheat that is to be subsidized as export wheat. The Minister said that under this plan the Government will guarantee a return to growers of the ascertained cost of production in respect of wheat up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported from Australia. It does not undertake to guarantee a return in respect of wheat that is grown for export.
Mr. Turnbull interjecting,
– The Government says it will guarantee a return not in respect of wheat that is grown for export but in respect of wheat that is shipped overseas. I believe that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) would agree that the 100,000,000 bushels which is now surplus would normally be the quantity available for export. The Government has included in its plan one ingredient that will not admit of stabilization. That is the industry’s overwhelming and frightening surplus. That is the limiting factor in this plan. The provisions in the bill in respect of the home-consumption price is similar to that which operated in previous schemes of this sort and the same observation applies to the provisions in respect of wheat for poultry and pig feed and stock wheat. Those provisions are acceptable to the Opposition.
Some aspects of wheat-growing in this country have become alarming. Reports have been made recently by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and other organizations about the low protein content of the wheat grown in the Riverina, although premium wheats grown in the north-west districts counter-balance that defect. We are confronted with the problem of a prolific yield of low quality wheat. Any farmer is aware that there are high and low grade wheats. Our low-grade wheats are beginning to search for buyers and we cannot afford to produce wheat of inferior grades although a certain quantity of such wheat may be used in biscuit making and for blending purposes. Surely, we should be able to produce wheat of the high grades that we produced in the past. Has our experimentation in this field gone wild? Have we, in our endeavour to achieve abundance, lost the balance between quality and quantity? We still produce premium wheats equal to the best but, at the same time, we produce far too much wheat that is of inferior grade. When we are talking about stabilizing the wheat industry and dealing with moneys that will be paid by the public and the wheat-growers to establish funds for that purpose we must consider the parlous position in which we are now placed in regard to the quality of wheat for bread-making. To-day, our bread, an ordinary household necessary, is inedible. It is like a rubber ball, or a lump of gutta percha. Protests have been made to the Government from all sides on this matter. Boards of inquiry have been appointed. Doctors, analysts and scientists have been called to give evidence of what we can do in our own land. That is another problem associated with the stabilization of the wheat industry. The wheat industry would rocket to an immense popularity if it could give us flour for a good loaf of bread.
Another thing that is lost sight of in this matter is the need to develop a strong local market. For too long the export market has gleamed too brightly for Government supporters. We must realize that our population of 10,000,000 offers a market that should be exploited to the greatest degree. The local consumer remains a money-spinner for the wheat industry. Having regard to the high potential of the home market, we should give more consideration to the production of wheat of the highest quality for bread-making. It has been said that we produce the worst bread in the world; but some years ago we produced wheat of a quality equal to the the world’s best. Those are things we should ponder over. Everyone has read about stabilization measures of this kind. The significant fact is that this Government is reintroducing a stabilization plan along the_ lines of the plan that operated when Labour was in office. Food stabilization schemes under the sponsorship of the United Nations are all, more or less, now in the discard. Consequently, we must search to see whether there is something valid in the statement of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board that wheat acreage should be reduced. He still stands by that statement. Perhaps, he may be considering quality before quantity. A considerable number of soldier settlers in the Narrabri district in the north-west are making a success of wheat-growing. Are they to be the last? Will wheat restrictions begin with soldier settlement? All of these things are being pondered over in relation to stabilization of the wheat industry which, in the final analysis, comes down to an analysis of our product. Wool, of course, is pre-eminent and helps to balance our economy, which is on a razor edge. But our wheat of inferior quality is a drug on the market and cannot stand up against the drives for sales that are made by other countries. It cannot be sold in periods of glut. That should be the concept of this Government and of the State governments which will be required to pass complementary legislation in order to initiate this stabilization plan. The Government should pay a great deal more attention to the signs and portents (that invariably precede slumps on the world’s markets. Those slumps are practically static. Indeed, one could almost cast a horoscope about them. They should be studied by the scientists, agricultural experts and economic planners in the industry.
Are we to continue to be caught short in meeting a position in which we are not sure which is the better alternative - whether we should restrict acreage or go on increasing acreage and wait and see what happens. There is too much “by guess and by God “ in wheat-production in this country. Labour fathered schemes for the orderly marketing of primary products, and not long ago honorable members opposite scoffed at them. To-day, however, such schemes are standard practice in the marketing of almost every primary product. Consequently, the Opposition supports this scheme with the reservations that I have indicated. First, we believe that the limitation of 100,000,000 bushels for export wheat is too restricted. That figure must be increased for the benefit of the industry. The sum of £9,000,000 that was recently repaid to growers from the pool that was last liquidated would have been a handy nest egg for financing this plan. Perhaps, we were all wrong in our approach to that matter. We can learn many sharp lessons from our experience in the past. One of those lessons is that stabilization is most important in times of apparent prosperity because gluts may occur quickly. Wheat is a commodity upon which our prosperity rests. The Opposition supports this measure, and trusts that it will restore stabilization in the industry.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. When I interjected a few moments ago the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) implied that I said something which I did not say at all. He said that the proposed guarantee will apply to export wheat only, and 1 interjected that a similar provision was contained in the measure that was passed when the Labour Government was in office. Then, the honorable member said, in effect, “ If the honorable member for Mallee looks at the bill, he will see that I am right “. No argument arises in respect of that point, because all honorable members know that the guarantee will apply only to export wheat up to a limit of 100,000,000 bushels.
– I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) say that the Opposition supports the measure. I believe that when both sides of the House are in agreement on a measure the debate should be kept as short as possible in order that the bill under consideration, in this instance, a bill for the purpose of stabilizing the wheat industry, may be implemented as soon as possible. The honorable member for Parkes appealed for the attention of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) while he was struggling with the problems of the wheatfarmers. If ever I have seen an exhibition of struggling it was the exhibition which the honorable member gave in talking of this subject about which, obviously, he knows little. However, I congratulate him upon his attempt in that respect. It is clever for a man who obviously knows so little of a subject tobe able to talk about it at such length and say nothing. [Quorum formed.] As honorable members do not appear to be anxious to proceed with this debate at this juncture, I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to raise two matters which I consider to be of considerable importance. The first concerns the peculiar sort of justice that applies in the Royal Australian Navy. I refer to the dismissal of a rating who had given thirteen years of satisfactory service I shall outline the circumstances for the benefit of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis). This rating was attached to H.M.A.S. Australia. He was given permission to bring some furniture aboard the vessel at Melbourne, and, when the ship arrived at Sydney, he was given permission to remove it.
– Mr. Speaker, I call your attention to the state of the House.
Mr. Speaker having counted the House,
– There being no quorum present, the House stands adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 104.
Commonwealth Telegraphs Agreement - Commonwealth Telecommunications Board - Third General Report, for 1953, and Statement of Accounts to 31st March, 1953.
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - G. C. Dorr.
Social Services - G.Unsworth.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 103.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
s asked the Minister repre senting the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s questions : - 1 to4. During the month of September no importations which were described as eucalyptus oil were made at the Port of Sydney.
d asked the Minister repre senting the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s questions : - 1 and 2. It is not the practice to disclose information relating to any importer’s ordinary business with the Department of Trade and Customs.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541027_reps_21_hor5/>.