22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a return to the writ which I issued on 11th September last for the election of a member to’ serve for the electoral division of Barker in the State of South Australia to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the Honorable Archie Galbraith Cameron. By the endorsement on the writ it is certified that Alexander Tames Forbes has been elected.
Mr. Alexander James Forbes made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the division of Barker, South Australia.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question following upon an inquiry I made previously in relation to the unique, the unprecedented, action of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician in issuing two sets of figures in respect of the C series index and, indeed, in making a comment which would suggest that basic commodities such as potatoes and onions are not to be included in the C series index. Can the right honorable gentleman say how that came to be done? What is the result of his inquiry of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician? Did the action of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician have any support from responsible officers in the Treasury or from any Minister?
– I cannot see that any harm has been done by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician in presenting alternative figures showing the movement of the C series index, inclusive and exclusive of allowance for an extraordinary commodity sold at extraordinary prices under extraordinary conditions.
– Potatoes are not an extraordinary commodity.
– Who is answering this question?
– Order! Interjections are out of order.
– I shall not answer questions if I am subjected to interjections while endeavouring to do so. If Opposition members want their questions answered they should co-operate. To return to the question, I shall have the matter to which the Leader of the Opposition’s criticism is directed inquired into. My own view is that the Acting Commonwealth Statistician was quite within his rights and acted within his jurisdiction in announcing alternative figures, one including and the other excluding allowance for an extraordinary commodity sold at extraordinary prices under extraordinary conditions.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry, who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I should like to explain that it has been estimated that approximately 250,000 sacks of potatoes were lost in Tasmania this season through the ravages of Irish blight. This loss could be considered a major factor in the subsequent high prices. Is the Minister aware of any research work undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in an effort to control Irish blight or to breed suitable varieties which will resist this serious virus disease?
– I am indebted to my colleague the Minister for Defence, who for a few short hours administered the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for the information on which I shall base the answer to this question. I understand that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization undertook research into the development of new varieties that would resist diseases, particularly Irish blight. The job has now been handed over to the State agriculture departments, which are working in co-operation with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on the development of better disease-resistant varieties. There is a second aspect of the problem. I do not wish to be too technical about it, but I have been informed that pathological research is being undertaken in relation to potatoes with particular emphasis on ascertaining how they contract diseases, especially Irish blight. Tissue friction is being studied to ascertain what happens when tissues are broken and disease is likely to enter the potato. These investigations are being continued, and 1 shall obtain a full report on the matter and pass it on to the honorable member. I am glad he has raised this question, because it is obvious that as <i result of the increase of the price of potatoes owing to shortages everything possible must be done to prevent losses of the magnitude of 250.0C0 bugs such as occurred in Tasmania this year.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I preface it by saying that 1 hope he will recognize my continuing interest in the matter to which it relates as I recognize his ability to give detailed answers on technical questions. What research has been undertaken by the Commonwealth into the causes, incidence, and extent of a disease known variously as mycotic dermatosis or mycotic dermatitis in sheep? Will the results of any such research be disseminated as widely as possible among graziers in the areas in which this disease is prevalent?
– Only last week 1 made a quick inspection of the animal biology laboratory just outside Sydney. Unfortunately, the matter mentioned by the honorable gentleman was not referred to. Frankly, I had not heard of it before this morning. If it involves one of Australia’s greatest industries, it is naturally of great interest to the honorable member and to other honorable members. I shall find out what research has been done with respect to this disease and shall let the honorable member know as soon as I can.
– I address a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade. The Minister for Trade stated recently that a senior officer of the Department of Trade would visit Western Australia at regular intervals to discuss the local difficulties in connexion with import licensing. Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade tell me whether any such visit has yet been made, and, if not, when it is proposed that the first of these visits shall take place?
– The honorable gentleman has raised this matter on several occasions. The Minister for Trade has been endeavouring to arrange for such a visit by officers of his department. I am glad to inform the honorable member that a decision was made early this morning to send two officers to Western Australia about the middle of November. I am not quite sure of the date decided upon, but I think it is either 14th or 21st November. I shall ascertain the precise date and let the honorable gentleman know.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform me whether a widow without children is entitled to a widow’s pension at the age of 49? What means test provisions apply regarding the income or property of a widow without children?
– A widow without children does not qualify for a widow’s pension until she attains the age of SO years. A widow with children, on the other hand, who has been receiving an A class widow’s pension and whose youngest child has reached the age of sixteen years, becomes eligible, by a recent amendment of the act, to receive a B class widow’s pension upon reaching the age of 45 years. A widow may have a permissible income of £3 10s. a week, or property to the value of £200. without prejudice to her pension. If and when her income exceeds £6 17s. 6d. a week she ceases to be eligible for a pension, and if and when her property exceeds £1,750 in value she likewise ceases to be eligible.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me whether the Government has considered the situation that has arisen in Europe as a consequence of the revolt of the enslaved peoples against Soviet and Communist tyranny? Will the Government immediately send Australian observers to the areas involved, so that they may obtain first-hand information of the events that are occurring there? Is it not a fact that these peoples were subjugated by force of Russian arms, and have not their governments been put and kept in power by a series of blatant electoral frauds and acts of provocation perpetrated by the Communists in accordance with their normal practice? Was not this done under the direction of the late Marshal Stalin, whose career as a murderer and criminal has already been admitted by the Soviet authorities in connexion with the internal affairs of Russia, but whose even more monstrous international crimes have not yet been repudiated by his successors? In these circumstances, will the Australian Government direct the attention of the United Nations to the acts of constructive aggression that have been and are still being committed by the Soviet Government and its Communist agents against these satellite nations, and will it urge that the United Nations should conduct free elections in the nations concerned, as the only way of obtaining for them their freedom, other than by methods that involve bloodshed?
– 1 do not doubt that the description applied to recent events by the honorable member is substantially correct. There is no doubt, according to the information that we have received, that since the denigration of Stalin a very deep cleavage has developed in the Communist ranks, between Stalinists and non-Stalinists. No doubt this has given some encouragement to people who have for so long been enslaved, in effect, by the Soviet Union. From that point of view, 1 think that most of us will have deep sympathy with these movements. As to the particular proposals made by the honorable member, obviously they require thought - not a casual or quick answer.
– Can the Minister tor Defence Production say whether the dismissal of men employed on aircraft production at Finsbury, in South Australia, has ceased? What are the prospects of continued employment for the men who have been engaged on that work for so long?
– During the last day or two 1 have been engaged with officers of the Department of Defence Production with the object of making myself as well informed as I should be on the details of the department’s activities. I cannot give the honorable member an answer to his question at the moment, but 1 shall give him the best answer possible as soon as 1 can do so.
“SOUTHERN CROSS” AIRCRAFT.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Before the Minister relinquished the Civil Aviation portfolio, what arrangements did he make for the transfer to Brisbane of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith’s historic aircraft, “ Southern Cross “? Were arrangements made for the aircraft to be stored at Brisbane or Amberley until such time as a committee was ready to take it over? Will he confirm that the Department of Civil Aviation will maintain and care for the memorial when it has been completed? Finally, can he give an assurance that there will be no alteration of the arrangements that he made prior to relinquishing the Civil Aviation portfolio as a result of the appointment of a new Minister?
– When I was the Minister for Civil Aviation, arrangements were completed for the removal of “ Southern Cross “ to Brisbane. The honorable member for Lilley has been actively interested in the project. The citizens of Brisbane, headed by the Lord Mayor, established a committee and appealed for funds to house this historic aircraft at Eagle Farm aerodrome. Eagle Farm was chosen, first, because the late Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith was born very close to the entrance gates of the aerodrome, and secondly, because it was the terminal point for his famous trans-Pacific flight. Just before I handed over the Civil Aviation portfolio, I went to the department’s store and inspected “ Southern Cross “. Considering that it is a fairly old aircraft, it is in a very good state of preservation. It has been stored carefully and has been well looked after. I made arrangements with the Royal Australian Air Force, which has the facilities, for the transport of the wings and other parts on low-loaders. I have spoken to the new Minister about the matter, and he has the project in hand now. I think that the aircraft will be ready to go to Brisbane within the next few weeks. Arrangements have been made for it to be housed temporarily in a hangar at Amberley, so that it can be renovated and made ready to go to the place at Eagle Farm where it will be housed. The Department of Civil Aviation has made arrangements for a suitable area of land to be reserved at Eagle Farm for the purpose.
– What about the care and maintenance of the memorial?
– The care and maintenance of the memorial will be the responsibility of the Department of Civil ‘ Aviation.
– I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to the following statement by Mr. Warwick Fairfax, of “ Sydney Morning Herald “ fame, at the first annual meeting of John Fairfax Limited -
Unfortunately the financial policy of both the Federal and New South Wales Governments has been anything but helpful. In my view, the Federal Government’s diagnosis has been faulty and the treatment, in many cases, worse than the disease.
In view of Mr. Fairfax’s strong criticism of the Government and the apparent desertion of this stalwart from the cause, will the Treasurer heed his appeal and proceed, without further delay, to change the policy of the Government taking, even at this late stage, the necessary steps to restore financial and economic stability to Australia?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is No “.
– I realize that the Minister for Air has only recently taken up that portfolio, but will he, at the first available opportunity, familiarize himself with the existing set-up of the active reserve of the Royal Australian Air Force and give his earnest and speedy consideration to any projected changes?
– I assure the honorable member for Bowman that I will certainly do as he suggests and acquaint myself very fully with the position of the Air Force reserve and its problems. Indeed, already I can tell him that the reserve member of the Air Board has just been re-appointed, and that the reserve will continue to be represented in this way. I take this opportunity to assure the honorable member, and other honorable members on both sides of the chamber who served in the Royal Australian Air Force, that my appointment as Minister for Air is a source of very great pride to me and that every aspect of the Royal Australian Air Force and its personnel will receive all the attention that I can possibly give.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade whether any policies have yet been issued under the export credit guarantee legislation which was passed by this House many months ago? Secondly, what steps, if any, have been taken to set up the necessary organization in the terms of the act?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is “ No “. As to the second part, he will realize that before the work of issuing policies can commence, it is desirable to get people of the highest technical qualifications for the top administrative posts. Applications have been called and the matter is now being considered. As soon as we get the right staff and it has had sufficient time for training-
– Nothing has been done, after all these months!
– Perhaps the right honorable member will allow me to complete my answer. As soon as officers have been trained we will get on with the work of issuing licences.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the reported revolts in Poland and Hungary, against Soviet occupation - indicating an imperialistic and colonial control of these central European nations - he does not think that very grave doubts are thrown upon the sincerity of the protestations of the Soviet Government against the alleged colonial and imperial policies of other countries.
– I agree with the honorable member. It has, for a long time, struck me as an astonishing thing - and I have had occasion to refer to it in various places - that the country that ferments most of the agitation against colonialism is itself the greatest colonial power in the world at this moment. It has reached that position by a process of colonization imposed against the will of the colonized people and, indeed, not by raising their standards of freedom, but by consciously limiting them.
– In view of the sympathy that the Prime Minister has just expressed with the struggle for political and cultural freedom of the people of central Europe, will the right honorable gentleman consider restoring to the people of Melbourne their cultural freedom with respect to the Chinese Classical Theatre Company?
– That is a very clever question, but it comes too late, because that matter has now been closed
– Does the Prime Minister know that organizations of primary producers have accused the private banking institutions of restricting credit to primary producers with the object of making their resources more freely available to industries less essential than primary industry, and have demanded a full and open inquiry into the advances being made by banking institutions? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the New South Wales Minister for Housing has accused the Commonwealth Government and banking institutions of restricting credit for home building? Were these questions discussed at the recent conference the Prime Minister had with representatives of banking institutions and, if so, what were the comments of those representatives on them? If they were not discussed, will the Prime Minister have a full and open inquiry instituted into the granting of advances by private and government banking institutions, and the purpose for which these advances are granted?
– I was not aware of either of the matters upon which the honorable gentleman founds his question. It follows, therefore, that we did not discuss them at our conference the other day.
– I desire to know from the Minister for Social Services whether blind persons are eligible for all Commonwealth pension benefits without being subject to a means test. If not, what is the particular benefit to which the means test applies, when was it introduced, and for what purpose?
– I must confess that I get no satisfaction from answering the questions addressed to me by the honorable member for East Sydney, nor can I answer his question on this occasion with any degree of detail. So far as I know, at the moment there is no means test applied to the blind in their application for social services pensions.
– I preface a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade with the comment that Government supporters from Western Australia have not only spoken in the House recently, but have also made other strong representations, in support of the Western Australian Jarrah Export Association-
– Order! I must interrupt the honorable member to refer to the noise in the chamber, particularly from the Opposition front bench, and ask that it cease.
– Keep quiet!
– Order! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
– I spoke to my colleague.
– The honorable gentleman will withdraw the remark.
– I will certainly do so if you take objection to it, Mr. Speaker.
– I take objection to it.
– Then I withdraw it.
– I was saying that Government supporters have not only spoken in the House recently, but have also made other strong representations in respect of the Western Australian Jarrah Export Association and the whole of the important timber industry in Western Australia.
– Order! What is the question that the honorable gentleman is asking?
– Now that I have given that preliminary reference my question is: Is the Minister in a position to inform the House whether a review of the matter to which I have referred, and which was promised some weeks ago, has been completed, and whether some practical action on it is to be taken?
– I was well aware of certain suggestions made by Western Australian members relating to the Western Australian Jarrah Export Association, but I am not quite certain how far the inquiries have proceeded, or what decision has been made, if one has been made. Knowing the honorable member’s great interest in the matter, i shall obtain the information for him immediately after question time.
– In view of the growth of monopolies and combinations of financial, economic and retail groups in Australia which are destroying genuine competition, which is a principle ostensibly supported by the Government, will the Prime Minister consider setting up an Australian monopolies commission similar to that set up by the British Government?
– The honorable member has not really put a question. He has made an assertion about the existence of monopolies. When he presents me with some evidence to support the particular matter to which he has referred, I will be very glad to have a look at it.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it has been brought to his notice that postal notes purchased from post offices in the Australian Capital Territory bear the initial letters of the State of. New South Wales. Is there any valid reason why postal notes issued in the Australian Capital Territory should not bear the initials “A.C.T. “? In asking that question, I point out that in the Northern Territory- the white population of which is only, perhaps, a quarter of that of the Australian Capital Territory, there is an individual issue of postal notes.
– It has not been brought to my notice that the postal notes issued in the Australian Capital Territory have the initials “ N.S.W. “ on them. I shall have a look at the matter raised by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory and see whether it is possible to give effect to his suggestion.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator O’sullivan had been appointed to the vacancy on the joint committee appointed to examine problems of constitutional change in place of Senator Spicer, who had resigned his place in the Senate and that Senator Osullivan had been appointed chairman of the committee in place of Senator Spicer.
– On behalf oi the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, and myself, I lay on the table of the House the following papers: -
International Labour Organization - Thirtyninth Session, Geneva, June, 1956 - Report* of the Australian Government, Employers’ and Workers’ Delegates.
In the interests of economy, J do not propose to move that the reports be printed. Copies will be made available to honorable members from the Parliamentary officer. Following recent practice, at a later date I shall inform the House of the action taken or proposed to be taken in respect of recommendations adopted by the conference.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Committee of Privileges.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the law relating to Conciliation and Arbitration.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the law relating to Public Service Arbitration.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1952 in relation to the employment of persons by the Australian National Airlines Commission.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Aluminium Industry Act 1944-1954 in relation to the employment of persons by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that as the four bills which I have just introduced are of a cognate nature, it may suit the convenience of the House if they are debated together. It will, of course, be necessary for the motions in respect of each bill to be put separately.
– They could, of course, also be considered separately at the committee stage.
– ls it the wish of the House that the course suggested by the Minister be followed?
Honorable Members. - Yes.
-That is a very convenient course, and one which we have followed on previous occasions.
– I thank the House, and I trust that this arrangement will meet the convenience of honorable members. Let me start by referring to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Much of the content of this bill can be dealt with quite quickly, for there is nothing contentious about most of it. Clauses 7 to 13 simply make the intentions of the legislation passed last session more abundantly clear. They put beyond all doubt that the Presi dent of the Conciliation and Aribitration Commission can, by one instrument, assign to individual presidential members, the general responsibility for dealing with industrial disputes in the Maritime, Snowy Mountains and Stevedoring industries. Clauses 17 to 21 are designed to clear up a few drafting points revealed when the act passed last session was finally printed. There is nothing of any substance here, and I do not think that the House would wish to be wearied with a detailed recital of the reasons for each individual clause. Clauses 23 and 24 are designed to fill a few deficiencies in the transitional provisions of last session’s legislation. The drafting of transitional provisions always presents difficulties and, in the case of the conciliation and arbitration legislation, the difficulties were extremely complex.
Clauses 15 and 16 of the bill deal with the right of audience before the new Commonwealth Industrial Court and the old Conciliation and Arbitration Court which has been retained in existence for certain purposes. This matter of audience before these courts has already been raised in this House. Honorable members will recall the instance which brought it to our attention at the first sitting, or one of the early sittings, of the newly constituted Commonwealth Industrial Court. Section 63 of the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act makes provision for audience in proceedings before the Arbitration Commission. It allows, for example, officials to appear for their organizations. No special provision, however, is made in relation to proceedings before the new Industrial Court. Section 46 of the 1947 act contained provisions relating to proceedings before the old Arbitration Court, not dissimilar from those appearing in the present section 63. Section 46, however, was expressed not to apply to judicial proceedings and consequently, strictly speaking, the provisions of the Judiciary Act applied so as to limit representation to properly qualified barristers or solicitors. Nevertheless, even in relation to some judicial proceedings the Arbitration Court appears to have followed the practice of allowing officials to represent their organizations.
The Government has considered what special provision should be made in respect of proceedings before the Industrial Court, and has come to the conclusion that the arrangements to operate in future should, generally speaking, conform with the practice of the past. Accordingly, except in relation to proceedings which, put broadly, involve questions of law or involve offences against the act, clause 16 of the bill enables parties to elect whether to appear personally, to be represented by lawyers, or to be represented by officials. The bill also provides that even in respect of proceedings which involve questions of law, except appeals from other courts to the Industrial Court, the parties may, if they wish and the court grants leave, be represented by officials. The Government regards this as a practical way of approaching this problem.. The solution is, as I have said, by and large to apply the practice of the past. Clause 15 of the bill applies the rule I have stated to analagous proceedings before the old Arbitration Court.
A second matter of substance is dealt with in clause 14. In recent years, the Commonwealth or its instrumentalities have undertaken a number of major projects. The Snowy Mountains scheme, Woomera, Maralinga, St. Mary’s and the Menai reactor come quickly to mind. The Opposition, when in government, recognized the desirability of Commonwealth tribunals dealing with such projects. For example, it conferred jurisdiction on the Commonwealth tribunal in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Government believes that the principle underlying that decision is sound. There is no reason for thinking the Commonwealth will not in future years undertake other great national projects, and the Government considers that it is entirely right and proper that the industrial conditions governing them should be determined by the federal tribunals and not by the tribunals of each individual State. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is the appropriate tribunal to develop codes of conditions applicable to large-scale construction jobs undertaken by the Commonwealth Government and its instrumentalities wherever they may be located. What clause 14 does is to empower the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with industrial disputes or industrial matters affecting such projects as are declared by the Minister to be Commonwealth projects. The commission will have jurisdiction whether the work is actually undertaken by the Commonwealth or one of its instrumentalities or by contractors or sub-contractors for or on behalf of the Commonwealth or its instrumentality, and irrespective of whether the project is located in one State or spreads across a border.
By and large, the industrial problems that will arise in the case of major Commonwealth projects will concern conditions of employment on the site, but it may be desirable in some cases that the power of the commission should extend to people who are working in connexion with the project and not necessarily on the site.
The Parliament may not have unlimited power to confer jurisdiction on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in respect of all persons who may be connected with a Commonwealth project. For example, persons driving trucks moving earth to or from the site of the project would appear to be within this power. At the other extreme, people working in a factory supplying equipment for the project may not be. In any case, it might be quite undesirable that they should be so regarded. Therefore, power is given to the Minister in the proposed new section 88B (4) to define who are to be regarded as working in connexion with a Commonwealth project, and it will be in relation to such persons that the commission will have jurisdiction.
It may even be that there will be some persons working on the site of a project in respect of whom it would be undesirable that the commission should have jurisdiction under this new proposed division. Such persons may be Commonwealth public servants directing operations who are covered by the Public Service Arbitrator’s decisions or decisions of the Public Service Board. Yet other persons may be officers or employees of a State Public Service or State instrumentality. To meet this situation, provision is made in the proposed section 88B (3) to permit the Minister to exclude from the jurisdiction of the commission in respect of a Commonwealth project such persons as he designates. Industrial matters affecting any such project will be dealt with by the commission in the normal way, that is to say, by commissioners assigned by the President for the purpose. Other provisions of the present act will enable the President himself to deal with, or to assign a presidential member to deal with, a particular industrial dispute affecting a project.
I now turn to clauses 4 and 5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and I should like at the same time to deal with clauses 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11 of the Public Service Arbitration Bill. The need for these provisions really stems from a recent decision of the Public Service Arbitrator, who found deficiencies in amendments to the Public Service Arbitration Act passed in 1955. That decision also led to an examination of the basis upon which the old Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners have over many years been making awards in respect of Crown employees, for example, in Canberra and the Northern Territory.
The problems thrown up are complicated but, at the risk of over simplification, I will try to explain them briefly. I think it is fair to say that the clauses in the two bills I am now dealing with introduce no new principle or concept. In the past, the industrial problems of Crown employees under the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities have been dealt with by both the Public Service Arbitrator and the old Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners. The reasons are no doubt explained by history. Originally, public servants had no access to the Arbitration Court. Only those Crown employees who were engaged in an industry had this right. Of course, in the early days of federation, there were few such people. In 1911, however, all Crown employees, including normal public servants, were given access to the court. In 1920, a separate Public Service Arbitrator was established. The idea was apparently that the Arbitrator exclusively would deal with claims by organizations which were confined to Crown employees. Provision to that effect was made by section 11 of the 1920 act.
Some Crown employees, however, and they have grown in numbers over the years, belong to organizations whose membership is not limited to Crown employees. Some of these organizations continued to go to the Arbitration Court and later to conciliation commissioners. Others have gone to the Arbitrator. This division of responsibility led to all sorts of problems, principally in respect of what I might call Commonwealth industrial-type employees. For example, there was a tendency for organizations to go to the Arbitrator or to the court or commissioners, depending on their assessment of their chances of getting most - natural enough perhaps. Different conditions governing the same type of employees awarded by the Arbitrator or the court or commissioners led to dissatisfaction. Those concerned with the functioning of the Arbitration Act and the Arbitrator have commented adversely on the position. The High Council of the Public Service organizations has also been dissatisfied with the position. So have the Public Service Board and the departments.
How to go about dealing with these problems has received much attention over the years. For example, an interdepartmental committee was set up by the late Mr. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister in 1949, to examine the question. The amendments made in 1952 dealing with appeals and references to the court alleviated some of the problems. In 1955, the Parliament went further. It then empowered the Public Service Arbitrator to refrain from dealing with a claim in certain circumstances. Put broadly, he was enabled so to refrain where he thought it was more appropriate that the claim should be dealt with by another tribunal. This provision, like those contained in the present bills, was really directed to claims in relation to industrial-type employees of the Commonwealth, engaged on work comparable with that performed in outside industry.
It was with this provision that the Arbitrator found difficulty. He found himself unable to refrain from dealing with one claim on the ground that it would be more appropriate for the Arbitration Commission to deal with it. First, because section 11 of the Public Service Arbitration Act, as it now stands, prevented the claimant organization taking its claim to the commission; and, second, because in his view the commission was not empowered to do what the Arbitrator was permitted to do, namely, make an award inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth affecting the wages and conditions of the employees concerned. The fact is that the old Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners in .the past seem to have been doing just this; whether with or without authority is beside the point, for the bills now before the House make the position clear.
So much for the background. What the bills do is -
Now I just want to deal briefly with this last point. Ever since provision was made for arbitral tribunals to deal with Crown employees - the Arbitration Court from 1911 to 1920 and the Arbitrator since - the legislation has provided that an award or determination may be made inconsistent witha law of the Commonwealth relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms and conditions of service or employment, but that any such award or determination may be disallowed by the Parliament. The reason is clear. Employment under the Crown is usually governed by statute. Thus the Public Service Act deals with the great run of public servants and ancillary employees; and statutes providing for the creation of statutory authorities deal with the conditions of employment of their employees. Sometimes these statutes lay down in detail many of the conditions of employment, for example, as to appointments, promotions, discipline, and matters of that character. Sometimes the authority is given power to determine conditions of employment generally or subject to specific legislative provision. Therefore, unless power were given to the Arbitrator to make a determination inconsistent with a law of the
Commonwealth, his function would be very limited. By the same token, however, since a power to make an inconsistent determination virtually gives power to override an act of the parliament, it is necessary that the Parliament should have the right to disallow such a determination.
When public servants were first admitted to the arbitration tribunals, public service employment was almost all, if not entirely, governed by the Public Service Act. As time has gone on, legislation applicable to all Crown employees has been passed. The Superannuation Act, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act are instances. These acts govern the terms and conditions of employment of Crown employees generally, but as the Public Service Arbitration Act now stands the Public Service Arbitrator could make a determination inconsistent with them. It would appear to be entirely at odds with principle to permit the Arbitrator to override an act of general application and to rest on the Parliament’s power to disallow a determination that did infringe such an act. Inevitably, disallowance proceedings lend themselves to political disputation. Similarly, it would seem entirely at odds with principle to permit the Arbitrator to make an award at variance with, for example, the promotions appeals and disciplinary provisions of the Public Service Act and other acts constituting services for statutory authorities. Fortunately, the Arbitrator has recognized this. Although it may well be that the Arbitrator, working in a background of public service tradition, would in future continue to follow this course, it is considered that the matter should not be left to chance. There is, however, a stronger reason; for now we need to put in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the same provisions about awards inconsistent with laws of the Commonwealth as are in the Public Service Arbitration Act. Therefore, we have provided, in both the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Public Service Arbitration Bill that determinations or awards which are inconsistent with the acts 1 have named shall not be made. We have also made provision enabling the prescription of other acts or of the provisions of other acts in respect of which inconsistent determinations or awards may not be made. At the same time, we are carrying into the
Conciliation and Arbitration Act the provisions for disallowance that have always applied under the Public Service Arbitration Act.
The remaining clauses of the Public Service Arbitration Bill require no particular explanation. Clauses 3 and 6 cover mere matters of drafting change. Clause 8 removes a doubt that previously existed as to the time at which the Arbitrator should send a determination to the Prime Minister and theAttorney-General. Clause 10 cures a technical defect which had not previously been noticed. Clause 12 fills a deficiency in the transitional provisions of the legislation enacted during the last sessional period.
I now turn to the Australian National Airlines Bill 1956 and the Aluminium Industry Bill 1956. The only purpose of these bills is to exclude the activities of the Australian National Airlines Commission and the Australian Aluminium Production Commission from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator.In view of what I have already said, the particular reasons for these bills need little additional explanation. The exclusion of particular classes of Crown employees from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator is not novel. Labour, when in government, excluded employees of the Snowy Mountains Authority. Trans-Australia Airlines is engaged in a highly competitive industry. The Government believes that Trans-Australia Airlines should, so far as its industrial conditions are concerned, be dealt with by the same tribunal as deals with its competitors, that is. the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Both the Public Service Arbitrator and the former Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration have commented on the problems thrown up when two tribunals deal with employees in the highly competitive airlines industry. So, as with the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act passed during the last sessional period of this Parliament, we propose that TransAustralia Airlines industrial matters should come under the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The Australian Aluminium Production Commission is in much the same position. It isengaged in a normal industrial undertaking run on purely commercial lines. It is entirely right and proper that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which deals extensively with those in commercial and manufacturing activities, should deal with the industrial problems of thecommission. The amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which I have already described, will, of course, enable the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with industrial problems of both the airlines commission and the aluminium commission.
I commend the bills to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr.Evatt) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have already indicated the reasons for this measure, and I do not propose to debate the matter further.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have already outlined the reasons for this measure.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is linked with the earlier ones, as I have explained.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
SUPPLY. (“ Grievance Day “.)
Standardization of Rail Gauges - Government Contracts - Diesel Fuel - Pensions - Repatriation Payments.
Question proposed -
That the Speaker do now leave thechair.
.- I want to take this opportunity to grieve about the Government’s inactivity in relation to the standardization of rail gauges. It is true that the Government appointed a committee of Government supporters to report on this matter, but I think it is regrettable that when the Opposition proposed that a committee representative of both sides of the House be formed to consider the standardization of rail gauges the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not see fit to appoint such a committee. If we can believe newspaper reports that we have read it appears that the views of the committee of Government supporters and those of a transport committee appointed by the Opposition practically coincide. This matter should not be considered in a party political spirit. The standardization of rail gauges should be a national project entirely divorced from politics.
The Opposition transport committee has made certain recommendations on this very important matter. Its first recommendation was that in view of the urgency of coordinating rail and road transport the Commonwealth should take steps immediately to begin the construction of 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge rail links between Broken Hill and Adelaide via Port Pirie, between Albury and Melbourne, and between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. Because these three rail links were mentioned in that order in the report it does not necessarily mean that the committee regarded that as an order of priority. lt purposely refrained from suggesting any priority because it acknowledged that there may be arguments about which link should be given priority. That point should be left to the experts. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, for example, believes that the link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie should receive priority, because it would provide a standard-gauge line from Brisbane right through to Kalgoorlie. However, there are different views on that matter, and for that reason the Opposition committee considered that it should be left for the experts to determine.
If standard-gauge links were constructed between the centres I have mentioned all the capital cities on the mainland would be linked by lines of a standard gauge of 4-ft. 8i-in. stretching right across the continent from Brisbane to Fremantle.
That would be a worthy achievement. We estimate that, or present day cost levels, it would cost £14,000,000 to provide the link between Broken Hill and Adelaide, £10,000,000 for the section from Melbourne to Albury, and £15,000,000 for the Kalgoorlie to Fremantle section. The total amount involved is £39,000,000, which is not excessive when we consider the importance of linking these centres. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has suggested that the connexion between Port Pirie and Broken Hill would cost £10,000,000, and that it could be completed within eighteen months, thus providing a standard rail gauge from Brisbane to Kalgoorlie.
In the past many reports have been submitted regarding this important matter. In 1921, it was estimated that most of the main lines could have been connected by a standard gauge at a cost of £21,000,000. Another report in 1945 suggested that the work could have been done for about £76,000,000. The important point is that the longer we delay the more it will cost us to complete this work. We believe that the work of linking the centres I have mentioned could be completed within five years, at an average annual cost of £8,000,000. We do not suggest that that would necessarily be the cost in the first year, but it would be the average annual cost in the five-year period. Our second recommendation is that, with a view to arriving at an amicable arrangement for the provision of a standard-gauge railway between these points, early consultation should take place between the Commonwealth and the States affected. I repeat that we do not believe that a project of this nature should be delayed because of financial considerations. The Commonwealth should meet the whole of the expenditure. On this aspect of the matter, if the newspaper reports are accurate, we again agree with the committee that will shortly submit a report.
– The Commonwealth should finance the work as a defence project.
– Yes, as a defence project, but also because of its economic importance. Consultation should take place between the Commonwealth and the- States in regard to this important matter, because section 51 (xxxiv) of the Commonwealth
Constitution gives power to the Commonwealth to construct or extend railways in any State, with the consent of the State. I suggest that it would not be very difficult to reach an agreement for work of this nature to be done, particularly if the whole of the cost were borne by the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, the Premiers resolved, at their 1945 conference that the work of standardization should be proceeded with as being essential to national defence and development.
The third recommendation that we make, and which, if the newspaper reports arc correct, is not recommended by the committee to which I have referred, reads as follows: -
For the purpose of co-ordinating transport in Australia, a federal body should be set up, to be known as the Australian Interstate Commerce Commission, with power to -
control all types of interstate transport in Australia (rail, road and water), and
to fix rates and charges for all such forms of transport and control conditions of carriage.
This is a very important recommendation, in our opinion. The Constitution provides for the establishment of an interstate commission for this very purpose, and there is no doubt that such a body should be constituted. It is obvious that some national body should be set up on the lines of the American Interstate Commerce Commission, which has power to do the very things that we wish to achieve by the establishment of the proposed commission. Sections 101 and 102 of the Constitution make the necessary provision. We suggest that the body could be known as the Australian Interstate Commerce Commission and that it should have the powers that I have already outlined.
I draw attention also to the report on the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for 1955-56, in which, at page 4, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner had this to say -
It is submitted that there is a real need in this country for a statutory authority with power to fix freights, fares and conditions of carriage for interstate railway traffic, and to enforce its decisions. Similar authorities operate in other countries; for example, the Interstate Commerce Commission in the U.S.A. This statutory body regulates those railroads, motor carriers, water carriers, pipelines (gas and water excluded), stockyards and freight forwarders operating in interstate and foreign commerce. Its jurisdiction covers, among other things, tariffs, rates, service and safety, and includes the power directly to prescribe intrastate rates when necessary to remove discrimination against interstate commerce. Among statutory bodies in the British Commonwealth, with somewhat similar functions, are the Transport Tribunal in Great Britain and the Boardof Transport Commissioners in Canada.
There is constitutional power for the Commonwealth to set up an interstate commission, with powers of adjudication and administration of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerceand laws made thereunder. And the power of the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends, inter alia, to railways the property of any State. It may be that, under the powers conferred by the Constitution, a statutory body could be set up having the duties and responsibilities suggested in the foregoing.
We believe that this commission could and should be established. We direct attention to the fact that due to recent decisions of the High Court the State governments have not been able to co-ordinate their transport systems, and certain legislation has been invalidated. There is, therefore, a greater need now than ever before for the establishment of an interstate commission to co-ordinate all forms of interstate transport.
A sub-committee of three members, selected from our full committee of fifteen, made certain recommendations which have been adopted by the Australian Labour party, and we ask that the Government give consideration to them.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that you will not rule me out of order when I say that I do not rise to grieve but to express a certain measure of satisfaction. I wish to comment on the matter of standardization of rail gauges that has been raised by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), and which has been mentioned in this House on several occasions during the last few weeks. One aspect of the matter that causes me satisfaction is that some progress does seem to have been made, and I am glad that this subject is being treated on a non-party basis. I certainly feel that it will be helpful to the Government to have the support of Opposition members, and for that support I should like again to express gratitude and a certain degree of satisfaction.
The Government parties appointed a committee, of which I have the honour to be the chairman, to consider this question. We have completed our report, which is in process of being duplicated at the present moment. When the report is laid on the table of the House on Tuesday of next week, copies of it will be available for the use of honorable members. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was kind enough to consent this morning to the report being laid on the table of the House, for which, as honorable members realize, leave is required.
– Will we be able to debate it?
– I hope that we will be able to debate it, but I do not know the time-table, lt will, at all events, be laid on the table of the House on Tuesday next, and honorable members will be able to study it. I am afraid it is a lengthy report, running to over 80 pages.
We have discussed in it the pros and cons of the various proposals and we have reached quite definite conclusions. Some of the conclusions are set out in detail, but in the case of others ‘the details have still to be provided. Our conclusions are not very different from those that have been reached by a similar committee comprised of members of the Opposition. We believe that there are three missing links in the Australian railway system that should be provided without delay. They are a standardgauge line from Melbourne to Albury, a standard-gauge line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie and then on to Adelaide, and a standard-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. The committee, in passing, had a look at a number of cognate questions, including the extremely important proposed railway between Mount Isa and Townsville - which is, of course, of almost vital concern 10 the development, not only of Queensland, but of the whole of the Commonwealth.
We were able to make quite clear and definite recommendations with regard to the missing links. We thought that the full scheme would cost something in the vicinity of £41,500,000. Honorable members will know that one cannot give an exact figure, and my feeling is that substantial economies could be effected when the actual constructional work was proceeding which would bring the cost below that figure. However we have given what is, I think, a safe ana fairly conservative estimate.
We thought thai the work should bi* started within six months of the presentation of the report. 1 believe that it would not take more than six months - it could take less - to tee up the first proposal. We thought that, taking delays into account, the work might take up to seven and a half years. That, again, was an estimate that did not differ materially from that made by the Opposition. But we came even nearer to the Opposition when we said thai we regarded seven and a half years as the maximum, not the minimum period. 0U view was that as the work proceeded itibenefits would become so manifest thai on the completion of the first stage, there would be considerable economic and political pressure for the more speedy completion of the other stages. We said we believed that the work should be clone in stages, concentrating available resources on one project at a time, so that the first project could be in operation and paying ii way as soon as possible.
When we looked at the three projects we felt that the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle’ link stood rather below the Broken Hill-Adelaide link in the order of priority. They formed a part of the same system, but we felt thai the Broken Hill-Port Pirie-Adelaide line would be of more value in the early stage> because it would do away with two break.of gauge, and also because, according to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner - this information rather surprised us - we could save nearly £1,000,000 a year by putting in a more efficient railway system foi the transport of ore from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. That sum of nearly £1,000,000 a year - the exact figure given was £860,000 - is a very substantial sweetener which gives that part of the line an additional priority
It was a much more difficult matter to decide whether priority should be given to the Albury-Melbourne line or the Broken Hill-Port Pirie-Adelaide line. Both line.seemed to the committee to be high priority jobs which, on any criterion, merited construction straight away. We thought thai the choice between the two lines should depend upon an administrative decision - that is. upon which of the States concerned was able first to come to terms with the Commonwealth and make the requisite arrangements to co-operate with the Commonwealth. Our conclusion was that as they both were high priority lines, the project that could be teed-up first should be the project to be put under way first. 1 think that when honorable members have read the report, they will agree with the committee that priorities should be allocated in accordance with that principle. We must get one work started at the earliest possible moment.
– Did the committee get the governments of South Australia and Victoria to agree with it?
– I am glad that the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has asked that question. The members of the committee would like to express their gratitude to the Commissioners for Railways and the Ministers for Transport of the States concerned for their ready co-operation, lt would not be right to say that they committed themselves in any way. I do not want to give the House the impression that we got from any one of them a commitment, but we did get the most friendly co-operation, first, from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and his staff and from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), and secondly, from the Commissioners of Railways and the Ministers for Transport of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. I do not think that the committee could have got as far as it did without the considerable measure of technical assistance that it received from those gentlemen. The committee also acknowledges gratefully the assistance that it received from many members of the public and representatives of public bodies, who made available facts that otherwise would not have been accessible to us. On behalf of the committee, I express our gratitude to all of those people.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I propose to direct attention to a most serious matter - the prevalence of rackets in a number of Commonwealth departments, and the failure of the Government to do anything of a tangible nature about them. To indicate to the House what I have in mind, I propose to deal with a case involving a firm of builders known as Cody and Willis, and I shall relate certain happenings in the transactions of that firm with the Commonwealth Department of Works. 1 raised this matter as long ago as 6th April, 1954, when I provided the then Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), with a statutory declaration from a former employee of the firm, who had directed attention to a number of defalcations and questionable practices indulged in by the firm in carrying out government contracts. ( have with me a letter dated 9th April, 1 954, in which the then Minister for Works thanked me for bringing that matter to his notice and for supplying him with a statutory declaration. 1 was given an assurance then that the matter would receive prompt attention. That was over two and a half years ago. Let me trace the matter through. On 19th April, 1954, 1 was advised by the Minister that the scope of the investigation had been considerably widened in order to ascertain all the facts. The Minister stated -
The investigations will be most extensive and I will not be able to obtain a full report on this mailer for some time.
I accepted that from the Minister because 1 wanted the matter to be thoroughly investigated. I waited patiently. On 15th November, 1954, I received a further letter from the Minister, in which he said -
The investigations have now been completed and the reports have been received by the Government. Consideration is now being given to the reports and I will advise you as to the result of this consideration as soon as it can be made public.
Again I waited. Then the Minister went overseas. Therefore, I directed an inquiry to the acting Minister, and subsequently I received a reply from the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for the Interior, as follows: -
I have received your letter of 14th January, 1955, asking for information about inquiries that have been. instituted into the affairs of the firm of Cody & Willis Pty. Ltd., Glebe, New South Wales.
In the absence of the Minister overseas, 1 am writing to let you know that inquiries are continuing-
I had been advised some months previously that inquiries had been completed! The letter continued - and it is expected that action shall be taken In the near future.
A further letter on this subject will be written to you as early as possible. 1 waited patiently for the further letter and, having made another inquiry of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, I was informed on 4th March, 1955, that the Minister would be back in Australia on 8th March and that my letter would be shown to him then. Again I wailed and, after reading that the Minister had arrived in Australia, I sent him an urgent wire in which I said -
When may I expect further advice re inquiries instituted into activities Cody & Willis Ply. Ltd.?
The Minister replied -
Returned yesterday and immediately asked Attorney-General’s Department for report as matter still in their hands.
I waited for some time, and then sent another urgent wire to the Minister -
When may I expect further advice re case of Cody & Willis Pty. Ltd.
I received this reply -
Still awaiting advice from Attorney-General’s Department on case of Sydney building firm.
On 18th April, 1955, the Minister advised me by letter as follows: - as yet it has not been possible to decide whether proceedings will be instituted against the firm. The Commonwealth Investigation Service has made three lengthy reports after investigations of a most complex and detailed nature. The stage has now been reached where the Investigation Service has been supplied with a detailed list of some fifty particular matters which are thought to require investigation before final consideration can be given to the institution of proceedings.
I have been assured that investigations have not been interrupted, and that every effort is being made to reach some conclusion in this matter.
Though I wrote to the Minister on 20th June, 1955, and then sent six urgent wires seeking information I received no reply and I was obliged to write to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) drawing attention to the fact that the Minister was apparently refusing to give me any information whatever. Upon being pressed in this way, the Minister replied on 5th July, 1955, in these terms -
Investigations have been completed-
J had been advised in 1954 that they had been completed, but evidently they had not - and the report of the investigators is at present with counsel.
Counsel have asked for a schedule which will involve eight weeks work by people in the Attorney-General’s Department, despite the fact that staff engaged on this work has been doubled.
I have checked your statement that the firm has received further Government contracts and I have found that the firm has not been given any work by the Department of Works since September, 1953.
I am continually pressing for this matter to be brought to a head and as I have said to you in the past, I will write to you when some decisive action is about to be taken.
Again I waited. On 8th August, 1955, I received this communication -
In confirmation of my telephone message of this morning, I desire to advise you that I have just received information from the Solicitor-General that charges were laid on the5th August against Messrs. Cody and Morrison and the Company.
The return date for the charges is 16th August, but it is expected that Shand Q.C. (for defendants) will be granted an adjournment.
Thirty-five charges have been laid, as follows: -
One charge of conspiracy in respect of the claims under the “ rise and fall “ clause;
Two charges under the Crimes Act, section 29B (untrue representation) in respect of the fire;
Three charges under section 29B regarding the total claims in respect of hours worked by all employees (“ rise and fall” clause);
Twenty-nine charges under section 29B in respect of individual wage sheets. (“ rise and fall “ clause).
I am sorry this matter has been so long delayed, but the inquiry was a very long and complicated investigation. I am now, as promised, taking the first opportunity of advising you of the information I have received from the Attorney-General’s Department.
Again I waited. On 23rd March, 1956,
I was informed as follows: -
The committal proceedings in respect of the conspiracy charge against Cody and Willis and others were concluded on the 8th March, 1956. The defendants were committed to stand trial at the Quarter Sessions on the conspiracy charge, bail of £200 each being allowed to Cody and Morrison, and £10 to the company and it is anticipated that the case will be heard in September or October next.
There are five other charges yet to be heard, including that of a fire, and it is understood that the fire charge may be heard in September, 1956. However, it is not proposed to proceed with the remaining charges pending the further hearing of the conspiracy charge.
Time does not permit me to tell the whole story and I shall pass now to the latest information, which I received from the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) on 16th October. The Minister wrote -
I refer to your further letter of 11th September, 1956, regarding the proceedings preferred against Messsrs. Cody and Morrison and the firm of Cody and Willis, under Section 29b and 86 of the Crimes Act. The hearing of the conspiracy charges, set down for September or October of this year, has now been deferred and the latest advice received indicates that they will now be heard early in 1957.
As you are aware, the hearing of the fire charges will not be proceeded with until the conspiracy charges have been finalized.
These incidents occurred in 1951, and it has taken the Government five years to reach the present unsatisfactory position.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 should like to support the remarks of both the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), lt is, of course, quite extraordinary that I am able to agree with the honorable member for Stirling, but 1 am glad to say that this is a subject on which both sides of the House have been able to co-operate. It is a great pity that more co-operation of this kind cannot take place. After all, we are a national parliament and we must surely agree on some matters. The speech of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) was not very conducive to co-operation by honorable members on this side of the chamber, but on defence and foreign affairs, for example, we could surely speak with one voice.
The standardization of rail gauges is of the utmost importance. We are entering a world of seriously competitive trading and every addition to our costs of production decreases correspondingly our prospects of selling overseas. When that happens, those who can least afford it are hit the hardest, for employment and prosperity depend largely upon transport. Government supporters have produced a report which I, even though a member of the committee, strongly recommend that all should read. It is largely the result of the work, energy and extraordinary capacity of our chairman, who should have our fullest congratulations for his extraordinary grasp of railway affairs.
There is no question that break of gauge presents a very serious problem in this country. Newcomers to Australia naturally examine our progress, and the methods we adopt, and it is always a source of great embarrassment to me that there is no common rail gauge between Australian
States, though even unfriendly nations in Europe are linked in this fashion. It does not make sense. Again, one need only consider the tremendous cost of transferring goods at each break of gauge to realize that there can be no justification for retaining the present system. There is an enormous wastage of man-power, both in the transference of goods and the manning of trains, because crews must often stand by wasting their time. In locomotives and railway carriages, there is a tremendous’ loss of earning capacity. Without question, it is an indictment of all previous governments that the problem of a break of gauge has not been attacked in a realistic manner.
Another important point is the unfair competition to which our railways are subjected, and the effects on trade of that unfair competition. Already unfair competition has had a most devastating effect on our coastal shipping trade. Australia is a great island where, it could be expected, shipping would play a very important part in long-distance and intermediate-distance transport. Yet our coastal shipping services have been allowed to be most deleteriously affected by conditions over which we could exercise some control. Coastal shipping services have been made more expensive and gradually killed by the competition of rail and road transport, and by the actions of people on the waterfront, which have added to the tremendous costs already associated with transport by sea.
Then, we have the unfair competition of air services with the railways. How many people realize that, in the last nine years, the Commonwealth has devoted some £40,000,000 to expenditure on capital works for the benefit of air services, including the construction of aerodromes? The current year’s maintenance expenditure on that activity is to be about £4,000,000. The Government gets very little return for its expenditure of those huge sums on air facilities. The air services are competing against the railways for passengers and, to a certain degree, for freight. The railways of Australia have, indeed, been subjected to rather unfair treatment, and it is now time to rehabilitate them, putting them in a position to compete on a fair basis against other forms of transport. The country must, ultimately, benefit from a rehabilitation of our railways.
The defence aspect of our transport services is most important. Without doubt, our railway system will play a most important role in the event of war. The changeover in recent years to major use of oil-burning transport both by rail and road indicates that in a war our transport will have to rely to a great extent on oil supplies. Since only failure has so far met efforts to discover oil in commercial quantities in Australia, we shall have to rely for our oil supplies on overseas sources. The shipping lanes along which these supplies are carried will, in war, be subject to enemy attack. Any potential enemy that we have in the Pacific will have larger fleets of submarines preying on our shipping than any nation has ever before controlled. We aust, therefore, insure ourselves against the eventuality of serious interruption to our oil supplies by having available alternative fuel for use in major transport. For that reason, we should not turn completely away from the use of coal-burning railway locomotives, but keep such of these locomotives as are not in use in mothballs against the time when we may need them.
The report refers to the programme of dieselization of our railways. This underlines the importance to us of uninterrupted oil supplies. The statements in the report also lend support for the need to increase the use of diesel-electric locomotives, because they show that . the effective oil saving through the use of such locomotives as against other forms of transport which use petroleum products is in the ratio, speaking from memory, of four to one. From the defence aspect the maintenance of our railway transport system is of paramount importance.
The threat to our oil supplies in the event of war is a most potent consideration. Our air services and our Air Force are entirely dependent, so far, on petrol for motive power. In time of war, petrol supplies to air services would be severely rationed. Probably our civil airline services would be turned over for use for war purposes, and civilian air transport would cease. In any event, civilian air services and road transport services would probably be completely denied petrol, which would be necessary for war purposes. Therefore, our reliance for transport will shift to the railways.
That brings me back to the point that I mentioned earlier. Our railways still have a large number of coal-burning locomotives which will gradually go out of use with the progress of dieselization of the railways. As I have said, those locomotives should be kept in working order, and mothballed for use in the event of war, when we shall be forced to rely on forms of transport which will help us to conserve oil for war purposes. This is a proposition which, I think, the nation must take up, especially as the cost of making our railway systems efficient - £40,000,000 - does not seem very high by modern standards. As the honorable member for Mackellar has said, it is not necessary to spend all that money in the first year or two of the programme. It could be spent gradually over a period of up to seven years. I agree with the honorable member entirely that once the public realizes the strength of the logic of rehabilitating our railway systems, public opinion, including commercial opinion, will be so strong on the need to link our capital cities by a standard rail gauge that the Government will be forced to push on with that work.
The report also contains some figures, which were mentioned by the honorable member for Mackellar, which strongly support the action proposed.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I propose to devote my time to discussing the Government’s inexplicable reluctance to impose a tax on diesel fuel. This matter has been under consideration for some years. It was raised by the Premier of South Australia. Mr. Playford, at the Premiers conference in 1951. Since that time numerous bodies have suggested that, in order to raise additional finance to improve our increasingly bad road position, we should tax diesel fuel, thus putting that fuel on all fours with petrol, which is taxed by the Government. The position of the States regarding the financing of road construction and maintenance is becoming well nigh desperate because, as everybody knows, the State governments have practically no money to devote to the large programme of road construction and reconstruction that is vital if we are to have road transport befitting a modern, civilized nation.
In recent years the use of diesel-propelled vehicles has been steadily increasing. Not only have the numbers of such vehicles in ase on Australia’s roads increased, but their size and weight has also increased. Anybody who has seen a diesel-propelled semitrailer hurtling along a highway can well imagine the dire effects on our road surfaces caused by the huge numbers of such vehicles now in use in Australia. I do not think :hat anybody either in this House or outside it would deny the damage done to our road surfaces by huge diesel trucks. In recent /ears there has been such a widespread demand that fuel for these vehicles should be taxed in the same way as petrol. All petrol used by motor vehicles in Australia is taxed, and two-thirds of the revenue from that tax at present goes to the States for expenditure on roads. 1 argue, of course, that the whole proceeds of the tax should go to the States, but that is not a matter under immediate discussion. Surely it is only fair and reasonable for the Commonwealth to accept the principle that if it is right to tax petrol-driven vehicles by taxing the fuel they consume, it is right to tax all vehicles that use our roads irrespective of the fuel they use,
– Tyres could be taxed.
– That has been suggested also but, at the moment, we are dealing with a tax which is levied on petrol and not on diesel fuel. A tax is imposed on tyres in the United States of America, but that is not the subject on which I am speaking. I am pointing out the anomaly in the treatment, for taxation purposes, of the two different fuels used in the propulsion of motor trucks.
The latest organization to come into the arena and demand the imposition of a tax on diesel fuel is the Australian Automobile Association, which is easily the biggest motor organization in Australia. That association recognizes the gross iniquity of taxing one set of motor users and not another set. The Government, for reasons best known to itself, refuses to say what it proposes to do. About fifteen months ago, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for information mom the Government’s intentions in relation to motor fuels. I received a reply from him in October of last year stating that the matter was still under consideration and that, possibly at the latter end of the financial year, the Government would make some decision The latter end of the financial year is long past. Recently. I asked the
Prime Minister a question in the House on this matter and he told me that, because it was a matter of policy, he could not disclose the intentions of the Government. 1 suggest to the Government that because of the desperate condition of Australian roads, it must raise additional finance to assist the States to put the roads into even a mediocre condition. I will not say “ firstclass condition “ because it is not possible for State governments, with the finance left to them, to make one decent highway. The observation of all overseas visitors when they travel around the country is, “What poor roads you have compared with roads in Europe, Africa, or America”, or whatever country they come from. At the present time, the States are not receiving sufficient money to enable them to maintain the roads properly. The Government should explore every possible source of revenue in order that the States may be assisted in their terrific fight to maintain, at least, the semblance of a road system.
It is quite anomalous that trucks that use> diesel fuel should be exempt from the payment of fuel tax while trucks that use petrol must pay an impost. Not only must they pay an impost but, from March of last year, they had to pay an additional 3d. a gallon in tax. I suggest that that is only adding insult to injury. I wonder why the Government leaves the diesel trucks alone but increases the tax on petrol. Something has to be done. This is a source of revenue for the Government. Such a tax as 1 have proposed would give little offence except to a small group of hauliers who are waxing fat as the result of the Government’s ineptitude.
Let us look at what is done overseas. After all, this country is not the Alpha and Omega of all knowledge with respect to transport. Let us see whether there is any reluctance in other countries to impose a tax on diesel fuel. In Great Britain, 25 years ago, the United Kingdom Government recognized that there was a case for the taxation of diesel fuel. In 1931 there was in operation a tax of 8d. a gallon on petrol but no tax was, at that time, imposed on diesel fuel. The United Kingdom Government recognized the iniquity of the position. So, in 1932. it imposed a tmi form tax on petrol and diesel fuel. The United Kingdom Government realized that it had been losing a lot of money and that the position which had existed was unfair. So the taxes on the two fuels were equalized in 1932 and on each occasion on which the tax on petrol has been increased the tax on diesel fuel has risen correspondingly. To-day, the price of diesel fuel in Great Britain is 92 per cent, of the price of petrol, because tax is paid on both fuels. In Australia, the price of diesel fuel is only 60 per cent, of the price of petrol because the Government will not face up to the position and do the fair thing by the State governments and the motoring community.
Crossing the Atlantic, we find that a tax was imposed on diesel fuel in the United States of America in 1942, ten years after the tax was imposed in the United Kingdom. In the United States, both State governments and the federal government have the power to impose taxes on motor fuels, and 46 out of the 48 States have a diesel fuel tax. In 39 of those States, the same tax applies to diesel as to petrol fuels. In the other seven States there is a heavier tax on diesel fuel than there is on petrol. In addition to the State taxes, a federal tax of 3 cents a gallon has been imposed on petrol and diesel fuel.
So, both England and America have realized that this problem cannot be solved, as this Government is attempting to solve it, by burying their heads in the sand. It is accepted in .England and America that if vehicles are to be taxed for the purpose of maintaining the roads that they use, all vehicles that use the roads should be taxed, not only vehicles that use one kind of fuel for propulsion.
One of the arguments that has been used in this country, although faintly, is that a lot of diesel fuel is used in vehicles that do not use the roads. That problem can easily be solved. In America, a refund of diesel fuel tax is made in respect of those vehicles which do not use the highways. If anybody suggests that that cannot be done in Australia, my reply is that it has been done in America for many years. It has been found that it presents no grave difficulty in that country because, when all is said and done, the use of diesel fuel is concentrated in the hands of a few transport companies. No difficulty has been experienced in America in taxing only those firms which use diesel fuel on the highways. If that is the Government’s reason for not taxing diesel fuel in Australia-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As a member of the Government parties’ committee on the standardization of railway gauges, I wish to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the honorable members for Stirling (Mr. Webb), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and Hume (Mr. Anderson) on this very great problem. The honorable member for Stirling drew attention to the way in which costs have increased over the years since the report on the cost of rail gauge standardization was made in 1921. Reports on this subject date back prior to federation, when the whole job could have been done for approximately £2,000,000. But, due to procrastination and interstate jealousies, nothing has been done and various reports have been shelved. Never has there been complete agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on this matter. Even to-day, some people agree that standardization is desirable but they state that the time is not opportune. They argue that we should be endeavouring to reduce government expenditure at the present time.
I say that this argument has no basis in fact. In the view of these people, the time has never been opportune and it never will be opportune for the standardization of rail gauges. In the period since federation, we have had two world wars and a long and serious depression. In one way or another, the excuse has been made that the time is not opportune and that no money is available for this job. We of the Government parties’ committee say it is not only desirable but it is necessary that the job of standardization be commenced without delay, on the score of both defence and economics. During World War II., as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, I was stationed in various parts of Western Australia and on five occasions travelled between Melbourne and Perth. I know from personal experience the inconvenience suffered by troops due to the various breaks of gauge and the necessity to change trains at Melbourne, Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. I believe that if the heads of the various defence departments could be assured that the work of standardization of gauges could be completed without cost to defence votes they would support the scheme to the utmost.
As a matter of economics, the members of the committee are convinced that standardization would pay for itself many times over because of the increased revenue which would flow from the greater use of railways, both by passengers and consignors of freight. We are of the opinion that the Commonwealth would be able to recover completely the cost of the work. A link between Brisbane and Perth would enable the various State governments to replace their out-of-date steam locomotives with diesel-electric locomotives, which require long hauls for economic operation and which are able to haul freight at a fraction of the present cost. This would result in greater business for the State railways which, in turn, would improve their financial position and, possibly, could even result in converting their huge annual deficits into surpluses. Since the Commonwealth continually is obliged to make special grants to help State governments balance their budgets and recoup losses on the rail systems, the Commonwealth budget would benefit accordingly. The members of the committee believe that standardization of the section between Wodonga and Melbourne, and of that between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, would each result in an immediate saving of more than £500,000 a year because of the additional freight that it would be possible to carry, and also because of reduced handling charges, particularly in respect of the section between Wodonga and Melbourne.
By the use of diesel-electric locomotives and the making of long hauls, the present heavy traffic on the Hume Highway could be reduced in volume, with a resulting reduction of the huge expenditure on road maintenance. In support of that contention, I point to the fact that, at the present time, road hauliers who travel between Adelaide and Perth make use of the railways on a pick-a-back system. Their vehicles are transported by rail from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie and then transferred back to the road. In other words, it is cheaper for them to pay the freight on the goods and the vehicles for transportation by rail rather than to meet the cost of road transport between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) reminds me, that system also saves a great deal of time. The standardization of railway gauges does not present an insuperable problem. Both the United States of America and the United Kingdom had to face the problem, and both countries had a greater variety of gauges than we have in Australia. The solution of the problem demands a national outlook and a government with sufficient foresight to give effect to the recommendations contained in the report which the committee completed recently. I sincerely believe that this Government will do something about the matter. On the ground of common sense, and as a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, it cannot afford to do otherwise.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the House matters which concern social services and repatriation. I have raised them with the respective Ministers, about whom I have nothing to say but good, because they have done their best. In my electorate of West Sydney there are two pensioners who, because they own a cabin at Wyong, are de-, barred from full pension rights. I have advised them, as did the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) when I brought their case to his notice, to sell the property and make themselves eligible for the full pension. Both pensioners are over 70 years of age. They have informed me - and I have no reason to doubt them - that they bought this block of land at Wyong, which is 70 or 80 miles from Sydney, many years ago with the object of building a home or a week-end house on it. At the present time, the land is valued at only £190. Actually, it was their children who built the house on the land, and for that reason they do not wish to sell the property. They feel that it really belongs to the children. Their daughter and two sons are all married, with families of their own, and it is as much as they can do to look after themselves, without assisting their aged parents.
I wrote to the Wyong municipal council concerning the matter and was informed that the value of the property, which the owners had thought to be £850 had, three years ago, increased to £950, and that it probably would rise to £1,050 at a revaluation now due. Each time the value of the property rises, the owners lose some of their pension. They live in a rented home, for which they pay rent of £1 12s. a week. They receive no income at all from the property at Wyong. Even if it were physically possible for these aged people to visit the property, they could not afford to pay fares, lt is time that the Government considered the position of people of this kind, and in my opinion this is a suitable case for the exercise of the Minister’s discretion. ( might add that the rates and taxes on the property amount to approximately £14 a year which, of course, is a considerable sum for pensioners to pay. Because they own this property, these people are losing 14s. each a fortnight. As I say, they receive no rent from it.
I now wish to refer to another matter, which I took up with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). Although the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Repatriation have not completely closed the door on these two cases. I seem to be making little headway. The repatriation case concerns a man who served for four and a half years during World War 1. and who lost the sight of an eye through a mortar bomb explosion. He receives a pension of approximately £2 17s. a fortnight for the loss of the eye, and I understand that his wife receives an allowance of 17s. a fortnight. In later years, he gradually lost the sight of the other eye and he is now blind in both eyes. For the last two months I have been making representations on his behalf to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). The last letter that I received from the Minister stated that as the evidence stood at present he could do nothing to assist, but thai he was prepared to re-open the matter if further evidence were available. Two doctors have given certificates to the effect that they can find no other cause for this man’s total blindness than the injury he suffered on active service which caused the loss of the sight of one eye. It is disgraceful that in a country like this there should be quibbling by Ministers or anybody else about the entitlement to a pension of a totally disabled man who fought for his country. This man’s wife, who is aged, would accept employment, but cannot leave her totally blind husband unattended. They are living in poor accommodation. In another instance, two pensioners, who live in two-storied accommo dation in Surry Hills, for which they Pa. 22s. a week, are, because of their physical condition, unable to go upstairs and so sleep on stretchers inside the front door. They own a home which is revalued every three years, and the municipal council charges higher rates upon each successive revaluation, which reduces the net amount received from the pension. Taking into consideration the fact that they have to pay rent for the premises they occupy, they are receiving virtually nothing from their ownership of property. However, because of the value of the property which they own, the Department of Social Services has reduced the amount payable to them in pensions. 1 wish now to refer to the provision of homes for the aged. This Government may well take credit for its legislation on this subject. I was the first person in this House to congratulate the Government upon providing money for homes for aged persons, although I then said that £1,500,000 would not be sufficient to provide necessary homes for aged persons throughout the Commonwealth. Experience during the twelve months operation of the legislation shows that organizations which care for aged persons are not able to comply with the requirement of the act that they must provide 50 per cent, of the money required for the construction of homes. It is of no use for the Government to say that it is doing something to provide homes for the aged, if it says to these organizations, “ You have to provide £1 for every £1 of proposed subsidy, before we give you anything at all “. The Sydney City Council is prepared to provide homes for the 5,000 or 6,000 pensioners in Sydney who need accommodation, if the Commonwealth will advance the money, lt stands to the credit of the Australian Labour party and of its leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) that in the 1954 general election campaign he proposed the abolition of the means test, f feel sure that if the means test were abolished aged persons would be able to live in a greater degree of comfort. The very persons who oppose the abolition of the means test support child endowment and social services payments, but say that this Government could not pay increased pensions.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to add to the many remarks that have been made this morning about railways in Australia. Before I proceed, I should like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), who has suffered a serious accident. For some time prior to that accident he acted as secretary of the committee of members of the Government parties which inquired into the standardization of railway gauges, and in that capacity he did a tremendous amount of work. Members of the committee regretted very much that he was prevented from continuing in the position of secretary. I wish to make only one comment on the meetings of that committee. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) paid a tribute to the Ministers and commissioners for railways in various States, and various private organizations and citizens throughout Australia for the co-operation and assistance we received. I think that all of the members of the committee concluded their inquiries with a sense of deep sympathy for Ministers and commissioners for railways in every State.
– And the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, too.
– Yes, I include him, also, but at least he is in the fortunate position of being able to present a balance-sheet which shows a considerable profit and an increase in traffic whereas State commissioners for railways are in the unfortunate position of being faced with huge deficits and not knowing what to do for the future. lt is apparent that a complete transition to diesel-electric traction will assist towards making the railways pay. The various States face other major problems, the solution of which will take extreme courage on the part of Ministers for Railways, because many of the proposed solutions will meet with certain political disfavour. I think that the time has arrived when State governments must be bold and have extreme political courage, if the future of the State railway systems is to be assured.
In the few minutes remaining to me, I wish to mention that one private railway is operating in Western Australia, from Midland Junction to Geraldton, through the midlands area. This railway has been operated successfully for many years. There is a State railway line some 40 or 50 miles to the east, but the majority of the traffic through this rich agricultural area is carried by the private railway. During the war years it did a tremendous job, because a rather large Air Force training station, a service flying training school, was located at Geraldton, and the traffic involved by that station alone was immense. In addition, at one stage a very large force of Army personnel was stationed in the northern part of Western Australia, and all supplies and men for that force were carried on this line. At the conclusion of the war a very heavy rehabilitation programme was necessary, and since then the company has not paid a dividend, ali profits having been devoted to the rehabilitation of the line and the renewal of rolling-stock. Now the company is faced with the need to provide dieselelectric locomotives. The company’s purchases of these locomotives is subject to sales tax, which is not payable by the State railways. Applications to the Commonwealth Government for exemption from sales tax in the purchase of diesel locomotives have met with refusals from the Treasurer. In recognition of the company’s efforts to rehabilitate itself and to continue to give service to a large section of the State, it should be brought into line with the State railways and allowed to purchase diesel locomotives free of sales tax. The company competes with the State railways under adverse conditions in respect of taxes of all kinds, and puts up a creditable performance. Surely it could be allowed some small remission of sales tax to allow it to continue to operate this private railway system in the best interests of a large portion of Western Australia. I do not think that a great amount of money is involved.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Stevedoring Industry Act 1954 - Report by Committee of Inquiry, Parts I. VII., VIII., IX., X. and XI.. together with appendices.
– Can we get a copy immediately?
– Yes. Honorable members will be aware that recently the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) asked me whether I could make this report available before the House considered the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1956, which has been introduced. I have done that before I have had an opportunity to go into the contents of the report fully. I have also had prepared in the department a note on the report, which will indicate in summary form the principal items referred to in the report. Copies of both the summary and the substantial document are available to honorable members. Although it deprived me of the opportunity of going rather more carefully into the matter, as I normally would have wished to do, I thought it advisable that honorable members should have available the subject-matter of this phase of the report of the committee of inquiry for week-end consideration and before the debate on the bill is resumed.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 24th October (vide page 1795).
The Second Schedule to the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph 1 of Part I., and inserting in its stead the following paragraph:
“1. . . .
.- I move-
That, at the end of the clause, the following paragraph be added: - “ and (b) by adding at the end of Part II. the following paragraph: -
The question of zone allowances has occupied the thoughts of this Government over a number of years. Many representations have been made to it to alter the areas designated by zone A and zone B. Legislation for the zoning of areas for taxation purposes was introduced by the Labour Government in 1945. It was intended to
This matter was referred to a committee on taxation by this Government. The committee met a deputation from King Island in Melbourne in 1952 and heard the submissions of that deputation, which sought to have the island included in zoned areas for taxation purposes. The members of the committee were Mr. S. B. Holder, of Messrs. David Fell & Co., Mr. Gordon Wallace, of Sydney, Mr. J. A. L. Gunn, of Sydney, Mr. R. S. Turner, of Adelaide, and Mr. J. W. Hughes, Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Sydney. The case presented by the deputation gave all the facts that the people could assemble for the committee at that time, and their case was very favorably received. I have no doubt that the committee gave serious consideration to the case.
Many factors are involved in this problem. The main points are isolation, cost of living and the fact that people on the island have not and cannot get the amenities that are available to many people, even to those living in zone B to-day. Both islands are in the “ roaring forties “ and gale force winds blow for most of the year. It is impossible for residents to grow their own fruit and in many cases it is impossible to grow even seasonal vegetables because of the adverse wind conditions. Therefore, they must import most of their goods. Previously, goods were imported by sea, but because vegetables and fruit rotted while ships were waiting for favorable weather conditions to permit them to get into these islands, vegetables are now brought in by air. The islanders pay for this service freights between £40 and £60 a ton.
There is no doubt that these points are known both to this Government and to the Tasmanian Government. Residents of King Island receive an allowance of £25 if they are Commonwealth servants or £30 if they are employees of the Tasmanian Government. The State also pays an extra 10s. a week or £26 a year plus a mileage allowance to its employees who use motor cars on the island. Fogs and mists, which blow across the island with gale force, cause cars to rust more rapidly than they would in other parts of Australia. The conditions of employment for Tasmanian public servants provide that fares are paid to Tasmania or to Melbourne, as the case may be, when the employees are on annual leave. That condition does not apply to public servants at Townsville, Cairns or other places included in zone B. I have no doubt that the case presented by the people of King Island warrants consideration. Part of the island is in my electorate and part of it is in the electorate of Bass. The island should definitely have been included in zone B when the legislation I mentioned earlier was before the Parliament in 1945.
– What did the committee recommend?
– 1 have not seen the committee’s recommendation. 1 do not know whether it is available, but I have not received it. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) may be able to tell the honorable member what the committee recommended. The people of the island have asked for the taxation concession repeatedly, and the purpose of the amendment is to obtain it for them.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Luck). This matter is of great concern to the residents of King Island, in the Braddon electorate, and to the residents of the Furneaux group of islands, in the Bass electorate. The inclusion of King Island and Flinders Island in zone B has been the subject of discussions between the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and myself on several occasions. Each time the Treasurer has informed me that the matter was being inves tigated by a committee on taxation and that its report would be considered at a later date. Apparently the report has not yet been submitted to the Treasurer. If it has, he certainly has not disclosed its contents to honorable members.
All that has been said by the honorable member for Braddon about King Island applies equally to Flinders Island and the surrounding islands, such as Cape Barren Island and Babel Island. The honorable member, quite rightly in my opinion, mentioned some ot the places in northern Queensland which are included in zone B. I am disappointed that the Treasurer did not indicate why he considers places such as Townsville, Mackay and Cairns are more isolated than Flinders Island and King Island are. I hope that he will yet do so. This matter has been under discussion for several years, as 1 have pointed out in this chamber previously, and I believe the time has come for the Treasurer to indicate why he and the Government are not prepared to grant to the residents of King Island and Flinders Island the concession of being included in zone B for taxation purposes. I resided in Queenstown, on the west coast of Tasmania, for some years, and I know that residents of that part of Tasmania live in isolation and endure severe weather, but in my opinion their conditions are no worse than are those of the residents of Flinders Island and King Island. Yet one-third of Tasmania, including the west coast area, is included in zone B! The Treasurer should show the residents of Flinders Island and King Island the same consideration as he extends to the people of Mackay, Townsville and other northern Queensland centres. I do not say that in any disparaging spirit. It is perfectly true that Cairns is isolated, but my quarrel with this Government is that Cairns and the other north Queensland towns I have mentioned are no more isolated than Flinders Island and King Island are, as the honorable member for Braddon has pointed out.
I propose to discuss Flinders Island particularly. After all, it is the one with which I am more familiar, and the honorable member for Braddon has explained the position relative to King Island. I shall state the position briefly. There has been considerable development of the island in recent years. It has been the subject of long discussions between this Government and the Tasmanian Government, as a result of which a large war service land settlement scheme has been put into operation during the last three or four years. If this Governments wants to encourage ex-servicemen to settle on Flinders Island and King Island it should be prepared to give them the small consideration of allowing them to claim a zone B taxation deduction. I have raised in this chamber on several occasions the problems of transport to and from Flinders Island. The transport difficulties of the residents are one of the reasons why I suggest that they are more isolated than are the people who live along the coast in northern Queensland. The Flinders Island aerodrome, which is not an all-weather aerodrome, has often been closed during the recent wet season. This has meant that for periods of longer than six weeks the residents of the island have been virtually isolated because they could not travel by air. I have mentioned this matter on several occasions. The only form of transport when the aerodrome is closed is a thrice-weekly shipping service between Launceston and the island. The Government has refused to accept its responsibility to keep the aerodrome open. So I hope it will be prepared to accept its responsibility to extend to the residents of the island the income tax concession for which they have asked.
Both Flinders Island and King Island have a fine future. Their agricultural potential is great, and if we want people to settle on the islands we should give them consideration by extending taxation concessions to them. I say without hesitation that residents of those islands find it much more difficult to obtain transport to other places than do the residents of many of the centres of northern Australia which are served by good rail, road, and air transport services, and which are included in zone B. I do not want to labour the matter. I think the Treasurer, in fairness to the residents of Flinders Island and King Island, should say why the Government refuses to give them the taxation concession for which they have asked. If the report of the committee which has been inquiring into this matter is in the Treasurer’s opinion unfavorable - I very much doubt whether it is unfavorable - I ask the Government to reconsider the matter at an early date with the object of giving to the people of these islands concessions which are already enjoyed by people in other parts of Australia who are more fortunately situated and who live in places included in zone B.
– 1 think it is advisable to give honorable members the history of the zoning system as a basis for the discussion of this matter. When the Chifley Government introduced the zoning system Tasmania was entirely excluded from consideration. It was only as a result of strenuous representations by Dame Enid Lyons that Mr. Chifley, as Treasurer, agreed to include a defined area of Tasmania in zone B.
– The present Treasurer should now be as considerate.
– I have not removed any part of Tasmania from zone B. 1 merely followed the excellent precedent that Mr. Chifley established. This Government is extending zone A. Representations have frequently been made for the inclusion of King Island and Flinders Island in zone B, for which purpose the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Luck) has proposed the amendment. In season and out of season the Labour government and its Treasurer rejected such representations. There is no formula or set of conditions according to which zones are determined. In accordance with the principles laid down by the Labour government, which set the precedent that I follow, special factors such as weather, living conditions, and transport difficulties are taken into consideration. In this bill the Government proposes not only to increase the allowances applicable to both zone A and zone B, but also to extend and re-orientate, as it were, the boundaries of zone A.
Any member of this Parliament can advance an argument for special taxation allowances for a certain zone. When this. Government came to power originally, I. with the approval of the Government, established a taxation advisory board. I obtained the best taxation advice that was available at the time. All the arguments that had been advanced to the previous Treasurer, and to me, with regard to zone allowances for King Island and Flinders Island, were placed before that board, but the board did not recommend that the zone concessions then existing should be extended, although they took into account the representations that were made on behalf of the residents of those islands. I am as certain as I can be that if the Government had not generously increased the zone A allowance by 50 per cent., this argument for an extension of the allowance to King Island and Flinders Island would not have been raised.
This whole matter has been considered and re-considered by the Government. There are many remote areas of Australia, the residents of which have a sounder claim for zone concessions than have the people of King Island and Flinders Island. My information is that King Island is served regularly by air transport and shipping, and that there are satisfactory telephone communications with Tasmania and Victoria. Both islands have self-contained communities, with educational and hospital facilities. If we open the door to claims of this kind by altering the zones along the lines suggested, honorable members can imagine the number of claims that will be received from all over Australia.
– It all depends on how far the door is opened.
– We have opened it much wider than did the Government with which the honorable member for Melbourne was associated. We have not only increased the amount of the zone allowance, but we also have increased the area of zone A. I am quite prepared to have another look at this question, but only on an overall basis, in the form of a general consideration of the zoning system. As a matter of plain fact, the board to which I have referred, which is now defunct, suggested that we should adopt a more scientific approach to the question of zone allowances. I am not adamant on this matter. As I say, J am prepared to undertake a general reconsideration of the zoning system.I believe, however, that it would be unwise to open the door merely for the sake of granting the claims of the residents of King Island and Flinders Island, while totally ignoring the implications in other directions. I am prepared to reconsider generally the zoning system as introduced by the Labourgovernment and continued by this Government.
Mr.Calwell. - What about reducing taxe generally?
– If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition can show how that can be done, we will do it.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Luck’s) be agreedto.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 11th October (vide page 1381), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
– (1.) That in this Resolution . . .. (vide page 1378).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr.~ McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
By. this bill, it is proposed to declare the rates at which income tax and social services contribution shall be payable by individual taxpayers for the current financial year 1956-57. Under our system of payasyouearn taxation, these rates will be applicable to the taxable incomes that will be derived by individuals during the current income year 1956-.57.
As indicated by me in the course of the budget speech which I delivered on 30th August last, the Government, after reviewing the economic situation, did not think the time opportune to make tax reductions which would have the effect of adding to demand. From a financial stand-point also, and having regard particularly to our potentially large commitments, the position does not warrant any major reduction in our available sources of finance.
Accordingly, the rates proposed by the bill are the same as those declared last year for application to the taxable incomes of individuals for the financial year 1955-56. I may emphasize that this bill applies to individual taxpayers only, and has no application to companies, as the rates of tax and contribution payable by companies for the financial year 1956-57 were declared in May last.
There is no occasion for me to undertake the task of explaining the paragraphs of the resolution as, so far as individual taxpayers are concerned, these paragraphs follow the pattern of the resolutions annually introduced. I submit the bill for the consideration of the committee.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd October (vide page 1691), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill seeks the approval of Parliament for an agreement, relating to sugar, which has been made between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. The Opposition supports the bill because it always has, and always will, do its utmost to assist every industry, and to see that it receives justice.
Having said that, it might be suggested that I could take my seat and leave the matter there, but, because I have spent my lifetime in the sugar industry, and have more than an ordinary interest in it, I deem it an honour and a pleasure to be able to lead the debate on behalf of the Opposition.
I have but one complaint against the measure. That is, that the Parliament is being asked, to-day, to make legal a price increase that has been applied since 14th May. The purpose of the bill we are now debating is to authorize an increase of Id. per lb. in the price of sugar, which has been in operation for five months. I suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry that action to legalize the increase is rather belated, and that it would be very difficult now if the Parliament were not to pass this legislation, to restore amounts overpaid for sugar to people who had paid them. 1 think that on future similar occasions legislation to authorize increases should be brought before the Parliament more quickly than in the present case.
Not enough people in the southern States realize the great importance of the sugar industry to the nation’s economy. That industry is unlike other industries in Australia, in that it is subject to the strictest form of price control. That control is not purely a matter for this Commonwealth Parliament. A great deal of proof is required by the Commonwealth Government before any increase in the price of sugar is granted, and that proof is supplied to it by other authorities which must themselves be convinced of the necessity for an increase before they even approach the Commonwalth on the matter. It will be recalled that after the increase granted in 1952 a committee, known as the McCarthy Committee, was appointed to investigate all the ramifications of the sugar industry and report on procedure relating to future applications for increases of price. Mr. McCarthy, the chairman of that committee, was very ably assisted by Mr. Wolfensberger, and both of these gentlemen did a magnicent job in assessing all the costs associated not only with the growing, harvesting and production of cane generally, but also milling, transport and other features associated with the industry. The McCarthy Committee submitted a report of its findings which dealt, inter alia, with the percentage of profit to be allowed on assets employed. It was agreed by the committee that the growers should receive 5 per cent, profit on their investment in land, 10 per cent, on other elements of growers’ investments, and 10 per cent, on funds employed by milling companies, as determined by their balance-sheets. Thereafter, any attempt to get an increase in the price of sugar was considered on the basis set by the McCarthy Committee in 1952.
I realize that when this House handles the appropriation of thousands of millions of pounds during the life of a Parliament an increase of Id. per lb. in the price of sugar may seem an insignificant matter; but it is not insignificant to either the persons who will receive the benefit or the consumers who have to pay more for their sugar. Legislation for an increase of the price of sugar is not just something dreamed up by the Government. The starting point of such legislation lies well in the past and far from Canberra. The legislation is the result of a process which starts right back in the industry itself. Before any application may be made for an increase of the price of sugar the sugar industry has to submit its case to the Queensland Sugar
Board, which in turn has to prove to the Queensland Government that an increase is justified, whereupon that government has to convince the Commonwealth that the increase is justified. The McCarthy Committee established the principle that the Australian Sugar Producers Association and the United Cane Growers Association had to get their experts to work to prove a case to the board for submission to the State government, for further submission to the Commonwealth. So if ever there was an industry whose product was price controlled, it is the sugar industry.
– Tt is the most highly organized industry in Australia.
– That is correct. J have outlined that process so that honorable members, and anybody who may be listening in to this debate over the radio, who are not aware of it, will realize exactly what must be done before such a measure as this can be brought before us. In this instance, of course, the growers were able to prove to the board that an increase was warranted, and the board was able to convince the Queensland Government of the need for the increase. In turn, the Queensland Government was able to convince the Commonwealth, thank goodness, of the need for the increase. So, we come to the stage where the public is called upon to pay lOd. per lb. for sugar, which is Id. per lb. more than it was paying before 14th May, when the increase became operative.
I should like to explain, in passing, that it was only after efforts made over many years that the sugar industry in Queensland became a white man’s industry. For a long time the conditions in that industry were such that no white man could hope to make a living in it. It was a Labour government in Queensland which removed kanakas from the sugar industry and replaced them with white men.
It was a Labour government in Queensland that initiated the approach to the Commonwealth to impose the embargo on the importation of black-grown sugar. From that day to this, there has been a ban on the import of “ black “ sugar into this country, and anybody who stops to consider it for a moment can realize exactly what that means. For example, we could compare the living standards and the working standards of the employees in the sugar industry with the standards of employees n the industry in South Africa. If we did not have the embargo as part and parcel of (he Commonwealth sugar agreement, we would not have a sugar industry in Australia. If we did not have a sugar industry in Australia, Queensland would not be the strong and virile State that it is - strong and virile, I may add, despite the fact that it is starved financially by this Government.
If it were not for the sugar industry and other associated industries, Queensland would be a very minor State indeed.
When the occasion has presented itself
I have never failed proudly to boast that I <tm a socialist. Because of that fact, I get more than ordinary pleasure from the fact that the sugar industry is one of the most successful industries in Australia. Over recent years, with the new plant and machinery and more modern equipment that has been applied, not only to the growing but also to the milling of sugar, it has become an amazingly efficient industry. When one considers sugar production in other parts of the world, one sees that it is to the everlasting credit of those who are associated with the Australian industry that it is such an efficient industry. But if is completely and utterly socialized.
– If the Minister will wait a minute, I shall tell him why it is socialized. I say that it is socialized because one cannot grow a stick of sugarcane for sale without a permit from the Government or an instrument of the Government. One cannot get an assignment. That is to say, if one wants to grow sugar on a block of land, one can grow sugar to the heart’s content, but it will not be sold unless it is assigned to a certain mill.
– That is not true, is it?
– If the honorable member who hates socialism so deeply will wait. I shall answer his question. In Queensland, sugar is grown under State government control. When the cane is harvested and crushed, the sugar is taken over by an instrumentality of the Government. The government can issue a permit or refuse to issue a permit to grow sugar cane. The Government acquires for sale and distribution purposes the sugar that is made from the farmer’s crop.
The Government is responsible for the price that the farmer receives for his cane, not only for domestic use but also, in the main, for the exported product. Whether honorable members opposite like it or not the fac remains that it is a completely socialized industry. If the sugar industry were not as successful as it is, they would be delighted to claim that it was a socialized industry It is completely socialized and it is one of the most successful industries in Australia
Now that I have finished the provocative part of my speech, I may be able to get somebody to listen to me for a change We will consider how sugar actually corney into being. The McCarthy committee of 1952 issued a majority report on this subject, which was subsequently adopted. The report stated that the committee took a production rate of 3 tons of sugar an acre for costing purposes. The industry has increased its efficiency since 1952 and I shall now state the case presented by the industry in connexion with this matter. Since 1952. and in the calculation of present price requirements, a yield of 3.2 tons of sugar an acre has been adopted as normal. The yield of 3.2 tons of sugar an acre has been taken as equivalent to 23§ tons of cane. So it takes slightly over 7i tons of cane to produce 1 ton of sugar.
When people talk about an increase of Id. per lb. in the price of sugar they should remember that the increase in the price during this period of inflation, when the price of ordinary household commodities has rocketed sky high, according to the C series index, is much less than all other increases in the price of items included in the regimen, or basket of goods, or the C series index. So if the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) will forgive me for talking about socialization and the fact that the matter has come up rather belatedly, 1 can assure him that if he wants any assistance to answer the critics in connexion with this matter, he can rely on me for m whole-hearted support.
I have already mentioned the great efficiency in the sugar industry. That brings us to the question, not only of farming, but also of milling sugar cane. In a moment I shall say something about the very contentious subject of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. I know that quite a lot of comment is made in connexion with the influence - if that is the suitable term - that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has on the sugar industry. I want to make it quite clear that I do not purport to come out in defence of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am quite sure that the company is quite capable of defending itself. I know that the company has a great monopoly, but if anybody has the idea in his head that the great wealth accumulated by that company has been gained from sugar, he should examine the history of the matter.
He will find that sugar pays no more to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company than it pays to any other body that operates the sugar mills. I was an employee of the company for many years. I worked in one of its mills in the Ingham area for eleven years and I know something about its activities.
It has been suggested that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will be the principal beneficiary from this increase just as it was suggested that the company would be the beneficiary when other increases were discussed in this House. I put it to the Parliament that that is a complete and utter fallacy. I will say, regardless of whoever I please or offend, that the sugar industry in Queensland has a tremendous lot to thank the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for, because that company operates as agent for the Queensland Government. It does all the initiating. It is a wealthy company. It arranges the sale and purchase of stocks. From all of those activities it derives small commissions, in addition to the income from its milling activities. It is true, of course, that the company owns seven mills, but I suggest that it receives no greater return from sugar than would any other organization which owned seven mills. I am not making these comments in defence of the company, because Heavens knows, it needs no defence by me. I am merely pointing out that those people who claim that they are to pay more for sugar so that the company may increase its profits are on the wrong track.
I turn now to the complaints about the part that the cost of sugar plays in the price of canned fruits. Let me say at once that these complaints are neither real nor honest, because the canned-fruits industry is the one industry that is subsidized in respect of the sugar it uses. I say “ subsidized “ because, in the final analysis, that is what it amounts to. The industry is subsidized by the sugar industry in respect of the sugar content of the products it prepares for export. That situation has applied for a long period of years. 1 notice that honorable members who have spoken on this matter on previous occasions are in the House at the moment, and I assume that they also will have something to say on this occasion. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, although my remarks may incite argument, if you will permit me to do so I shall get in first and answer their criticisms before they are made.
Naturally, the fruit-canners and jammakers use a great deal of sugar. They export a considerable proportion of the products they produce. By special arrangement, under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement Act, they are able to purchase the sugar used in the products they export at a price equal to the lowest possible price at which sugar could be landed in Australia, duty-free, from any other country of the world. That means, obviously, that they are able to use, in their manufacturing and processing, sugar which they obtain at a price equal to that which they would have to pay if we had no sugar industry in Australia, or if there were no embargo on the importation of sugar. Human nature, I suppose, is the same the world over, whether the people concerned are engaged in making jam, canning fruit or in any other pursuit. They are never satisfied, and they never have been satisfied. It might well be asked: To what degree should this canned fruit industry be subsidized? The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is composed of a representative of the Commonwealth as chairman; a representative of the sugar industry, nominated by the Queensland Sugar Board; and a representative of the manufacturers of exported products containing sugar, nominated by the manufacturers. From month to month, the committee examines the position of the industry, taking into account all costs associated with canning, including freight and other charges. It must be remembered that this is the only industry in Australia that receives a subsidy in respect of the sugar content of its products. I know that honorable members opposite like to argue with me when I am on my feet, but I do not think that they will dispute that there are many industries which rely, to v. great degree, on the use of sugar in manufacture. It has never been considered that they should have the benefit of a rebate, or of assistance from the sugar industry. Yet, the canners of fruit and the jam-makers show their gratitude to the sugar industry by relentless and everlasting attacks on it. Whenever the question of increasing the price of sugar is raised in this place, we hear attacks on the sugar industry on the ground that the canners and jam-makers are not getting justice. I remind the House that there was a time when payments into the fund were suspended because the reserves had reached almost astronomical proportions. The sugar industry said, in effect, “Why should we continue to put money into the fund, when the money in it already cannot be used? “ From memory, the sum in hand at that stage was approximately £1,000,000. The sugar industry decided, therefore, that no further contributions would be made until such time as the reserves had been halved. When that had been done, these subsidies, as I choose to call them, were resumed. This year, the amount has been increased from £216,000 to £370,000.
The amount of subsidy is £2 4s. a ton. Yesterday, I heard some one say, “The total funds increase, but the rebate is still only *£2 4s. a ton, whereas at one time it was £6 “.
– That is the basic sugar rebate.
– Yes, that is right. The canners and jam-makers argue that the rebate should be greater because more sugar is being produced. More sugar is being produced because Australia recently was committed to supply 600,000 tons of sugar to Great Britain, 300,000 tons to be supplied at the stabilized price and the remainder to be sold on the open market. The millers have spent great sums of money on improving and modernizing their mills, and new land has been opened up. Those who know anything about sugar know that new land grows a great deal more cane than does old land.
The fruit industry has said to the sugar industry, in effect, “ You have nothing to brag about because the amount of the rebate has been increased from £216,000 to £370,000. You are able to do that because you have produced more sugar “. I submit that all the fruit industry should be concerned about is the amount of subsidy that it needs. There is no evidence that the canners and jam-makers are finding it difficult to meet the cost of the sugar content of their products. They claim, of course, that it is difficult for them to compete on world markets and that the cost of the sugar content of their products is responsible for that. I point out that South African canners produce much the same kind of products as do the canners in Australia. Incidentally, Australia has no reason to be ashamed of the price at which sugar is sold in this country, because I understand that South Africa is the only country where sugar is sold at a lower price than it is in Australia. That brings me, of course, to the history of the embargo, or the ban, on the importation of sugar. South Africa, with its cheap labour, which is reflected in the cost of freight, transport and other services, is able to produce sugar relatively cheaply. The processors of canned goods obtain sugar much more cheaply than do the Australian canners. But that does not mean that the sugar content in these canned goods caused the disadvantage which Australian canners suffer in selling their commodities on the world market.
– They have cheap labour in the factories, too.
– They have cheap labour in every section of production and manufacture. As it is the mickles that make the muckles, they can produce cheaper canned goods, because anything manufactured with the use of cheap labour may be sold cheaply. It is of no use to attack the sugar industry, which has played a magnificent part in assisting these manufacturers of canned goods. They are unique in being the only section which obtains assistance from the sugar industry.
– What about the protection which the sugar industry gets by way of embargo?
– The sugar industry has one protection only, namely, this Parliament’s refusal to allow the importation of sugar grown cheaply with black labour, and its control of the price of the commodity.
– That is everything.
– Would either of the honorable members who suggest that that protection is too great, be prepared, during the remarks that I hope they will make, to say that he does not believe protection should be afforded to the sugar industry?
– Of course we believe there should be protection, if it is not onesided,
– In this argument 1 am one-sided. I confess that I am biased, but it is not a question of being one-sided. This matter is non-political; it has nothing to do with politics. On every occasion on which the price of sugar is discussed in this House, we hear honorable members ask whether the sugar industry is pouring enough money into the coffers of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for assistance to the canning industry. We are asked what amount is adequate. The sugar industry should be commended for the part that it has played. I know that the matter is tied up by agreement and that the industry has no choice, but let us not forget that these discussions would never take place were it not for the fact that the price of sugar is determined by agreement between the Commonwealth and the State, and that this Parliament must pass legislation to validate an increase in the price of sugar by even Id. In 1920, sugar cost 6d. per lb. Of all the commodities in daily use in the household kitchen, from bread to potatoes or onions, not one has increased in price by a smaller percentage than has sugar, yet we face a barrage of attack about the rise in the price of sugar. I do not mind criticism, but we have to face more than criticism.
– It has not happened yet.
– The honorable member asked what protection the sugar industry is afforded. I- infer that he believes that the sugar industry should not have that protection.
– I do not.
– I said that that is the inference to be drawn from his words. I did not say* that that is what the honorable member said. It is for me, not for him, to say what inference I draw from his words. The sugar industry has a magnificent history. Not one industry in this country has worked more smoothly and efficiently. Honorable members opposite cannot criticize production in this industry.
Whether one is a farmer, miller, cane cutter, or cane hauler, his work in the sugar industry is very arduous. Whenever there is talk about the high income of men engaged in the industry, one can be absolutely certain that they earn whatever they receive, irrespective of the capacity in which they are engaged. There is no easy work in the industry. These men work under extraordinarily difficult conditions, but there has been virtually no industrial trouble. It is true that this year there was a little disturbance, but it was smoothed over in a matter of days. I pay a tribute to all those persons, past and present, who have engaged in the industry, whether they have belonged to the Queensland Cane Growers Association, the Australian Sugar Producers Association, or the Proprietary Sugar Millers Association, for the magnificent manner in which they have conducted themselves. Not least of all, I pay a tribute to the Australian Workers Union for its part in achieving industrial stability in the sugar industry in Queensland. The work of the union is not fully acknowledged. I was an official of the Australian Workers Union for a long time. The easiest job that a union official can have is not one which obliges him to tell the men that the executive has made a decision, that they will obey it, and that they will not strike; that is a hard job, but it is the way of the Australian Workers Union. I have no compunction in asserting that the easiest way is the way of officials of many other unions who, when a dispute occurs, go along to a job and say to the men, “ If you do not like it, down tools “. That is a simple task. The Australian Workers Union did not find the battle easy in the sugar industry, because conditions in that industry have never been easy. All improvements in its working conditions have been gained by long, arduous, and determined effort by the Australian Workers Union, which is entitled to equal credit with every other section of the industry.
The sugar industry in Queensland to-day has reached a stage where it takes its place as one of the great industries of Australia, and it must not be prevented from obtaining a reasonable and just price for its product. Everything that can be done by public men and others should be done to ensure that the prospects of the industry are not adversely affected, in the interests both of the economy of the nation and of those persons who are associated with the industry or obtain employment in activities which are related to it. We support the bill, and we hope that honorable members from Tasmania and Victoria will be fair and just if they criticize the bill, as they are entitled to do.
.- The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who has Icd the debate for the Opposition on this measure, finished on the correct note, and that is where 1 start. He said that he hoped that although honorable members from Tasmania and Victoria might criticize the bill, they would be fair and just. 1 sincerely hope that we will be fair and just in our criticism of this agreement, because there are undoubtedly two sides to the argument. We do not oppose the bill, naturally, because it seeks to ratify a very important agreement between the governments of Queensland and the Commonwealth, which involves the livelihood of thousands of workers in a big industry in Queensland, but it is only right that this House should know, also, the other side of the story. We, from Tasmania, feel that we have a right and a duty to put the other side of the story.
As a preface to my remarks, I want to outline the factors before us in this agreement. The purpose of the bill is to obtain parliamentary approval to an agreement already made between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government to regulate the production and the marketing of sugar in Australia during the next five years - [956 to 1961. The main principles of the bill have remained substantially unaltered since 1923, but the cost factor has altered considerably, especially in the last eight or nine years, as a result of galloping inflation which has hit this industry just as it has hit all industries.
The contents of the agreement are, briefly, first, that the Commonwealth Government undertakes to continue to impose an embargo on the importation of sugar; second, that the Queensland Government undertakes to acquire all raw sugar produced from cane grown in Queensland and Vew South Wales; third, to make sugar available in Australia at fixed prices; fourth, to control production; fifth, to accept responsibility for any losses arising from the export of surplus sugar; sixth, to pay re bates on the sugar content of goods exported; and, finally, to contribute to the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee.
That is a broad outline of the contents of the agreement. I shall now give some ot the details of it. The Queensland Government undertakes to sell sugar in all State capitals of Australia, and Fremantle and Launceston at £82 ls. a ton for the next five years. A retail price of lOd. per lb. will be charged for sugar throughout Australia, irrespective of where it is sold. This will provide a profit margin of 13J per cent, on the wholesale price. Prior to this agreement, the price of sugar was 9d. per lb. and £72 1 6s. a ton was paid by the users of sugar. This agreement provides for an increase of about £10 a ton on the wholesale price of sugar.
Another part of the agreement - and this is an alteration of the condition contained in the sugar agreement of 1951 - concerns the method of financing the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Previously, the Queensland Government paid this committee £216,000 a year, as my colleague the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) said. The reserve fund of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee at 1st September, 1951, was just over £1,000.000. but due to heavy payments on export sugar, rebates and substantial grants to the processed fruit industry amounting to £240,427 in the last three years, the fund has been reduced to about £150,000. Consequently, the sugar industry contribution to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee will be increased to approximately £370,000 as against £216,000 last year.
We from the two States in the south. Tasmania and Victoria, entirely agree with that alteration to the agreement. It is most necessary. To be quite fair, I must mention that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee in the last three years expended £50,000 of its funds on an advertising campaign to help jam-makers sell their product on the Australian* market. I will return to that point in a moment. It also voted £73,500 for export assistance on the 1954 jam pack to assist processors to market jams overseas. In the previous season, 1953, the committee decided to allocate an amount up to £75,000 to guarantee Tasmanian berry fruit processors against export losses. Those three payments were most acceptable. The last one was made as a result of constant pressure on the committee from Tasmanian members of both parties. It helped our berryfruit industry considerably, though it has not saved the industry. I am afraid, from disastrous decline.
– Why should the sugar industry subsidize the fruit industry?
– Of course it should; it has all the advantages. It has been protected. Not one pound of sugar will be imported into Australia under this agreement! The industry has the whole of Australia to itself.
– Australia is getting the cheapest sugar in the world.
– We are not getting the cheapest sugar in the world. The Cuban sugar and African sugar is cheaper than ours.
– Not landed in Australia.
– No. not landed in Australia.
– Who is on whose side?
– Yes, I am wondering. The sugar industry enjoys special consideration. The sugar producers enjoy a monopoly of the Australian market through this agreement. The import of sugar is banned and as a result, the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government control the price of sugar to the consumer. I will not go into the other matters raised by the honorable member for Herbert on that point; 1 simply state the fact, and that answers the honorable member for Lille (Mr. Wight).
So far I have spoken on the contents of this agreement. The sugar-growers, the mill owners, and all their workers in Queensland deserve, and must have, security and a profitable price; but I shall say something about the effect of this agreement on the manufacturers of jam, fruit processors, cordial manufacturers, the canned fruits industry and the growers of berry fruits that are canned for the home and overseas markets.
Thousands of people in Victoria and Tasmania are affected by this agreement. Some very disturbing factors come before us. Over the last six years the production of jam, one of our biggest manufactures, has declined to an alarming extent. 1 admit that that has not been due solely to the increased price of sugar. The cost of sugar in home-consumed jams has risen 100 per cent, in that period of six years, but other factors that must be taken into consideration are the cost of tinplate, labour and freight charges, which affect manufacturing costs, lt would be quite unfair for us to sa> to the Queensland people that the increased price of sugar, great as it is, is the only cause for the decline in the consumption of jam in Australia. A definite buyer resistance to jam has been evident in this country in the last few years because of the increased price of jam and has caused grave concern to the Government and to the manufacturers of jam. 1 shall give some facts about that, and ) shall show the way in which fruit processing costs have increased since 1950. In 1950. wages were fixed by the Arbitration Court at £9 3s.; in 1956 they were £12 18s., an increase of 41 per cent. In 1950, tins cost 40s. 8£d. a gross and in 1956, 58s. 5d. a gross, an increase of 43.5 per cent. In 1950. sugar cost £40 12s. 9d. a ton and in 1956 £82 ls. a ton, an increase of 100 per cent. Undoubtedly, the largest single factor in the increased price of jam to the consumer is the increased price of sugar. Let us not bc unfair to the Tasmanian and Victorian people, either. The price of sugar to jam manufacturers has increased by 100 pet cent, in six years and it is no good trying to wipe out that fact by airy fairy words. lt is a fact, and it has affected the jam industry to an alarming extent, as I shallshow.
– What about the other things that have gone up? Everything else has gone up.
– Wages, which are the main factor, and tin-plate costs, which are another important factor, have increased by only a little over 40 per cent., compared with a 100 per cent, increase of the cost of sugar. The jam-making industry absorbs approximately one-fifth of the total tonnage of sugar used by all manufacturers This proportion could be increased very substantially if the consumption of jam in
Australia were restored to the 1948 level. In 1948, more than 65,300 tons of sugar were used by fruit processors. Of this quantity, 53,000 tons were used for jam alone. In 1954-55, the total quantity of sugar used had fallen to 53,000 tons, of which only 21,000 tons were used in jammaking. In the same period jam production declined by 60 per cent., despite an increase of Australia’s population by more than 15 per cent. This is a very serious state of affairs. I do not know whether it has been taken into consideration by the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government in increasing the price of sugar by £10 a ton under the new agreement, which will operate for six years. I am not sure whether the price now fixed must stand for the full period or whether provision is made for it to be reviewed.
The manufacture of jam in Australia has declined during the last decade. In 1948, more than 198,000,000 lb. of jam was produced, whereas this year the rate of production has fallen to only 78,000,000 lb. annually. That is a tremendous decline in eight years. During the same period the cost of sugar has increased from £36 lis. 9d. a ton to £82 ls. a ton. In 1947, the sugar contained in a dozen 24-oz. tins of jam cost 3s. 7d., compared with 8s. to-day. Before the war the annual consumption of jam in Australia was approximately 11.4 lb. a head. In 1952-53, it had fallen to 8.5 lb. a head. It is no doubt even lower at the present time. In round figures, the consumption of jam has declined by 13,000 tons in six years. This trend must affect the sugar industry, which will eventually find that its sales in Australia are not as great as they were expected to be.
The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has tried to help the fruitgrowers with publicity. Tasmanian berry fruit-growers who travel in inland Australia, for example, in the inland towns of Victoria and New South Wales, find that many people have never heard of the jams produced in Tasmania. That is due to inadequate publicity. Two years ago the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee allocated £50,000 to advertise jams in Australia. That was a big help in boosting the popularity of Tasmanian jams, particularly the IXL brand.
– Is the honorable member a Jones man?
– I am not, but IXL jams are made in Tasmania from fruit grown in the Wilmot and Franklin electorates, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and I should do our best to promote the sale of Tasmanian jam on the Australian market. The great decline of the consumption of jam in Australia will eventually have disastrous effects on the sugar industry. Even our exports of jam have declined seriously. In 1949-50 we exported 29,120 tons. In 1954-55 we exported 3,059 tons. This is a serious reduction in only five years. There has been a big decline also in the areas devoted to the cultivation of jam-making fruits. The recorded reduction of the acreage devoted to the growing of berry fruits in Tasmania between 1952-53 and 1954-55 is 1,300 acres. That is a tremendous reduction of acreage in an industry in which the farms are usually only a few acres in area. Much of that 1,300 acres is now devoted to dairying and orchards. Berry fruit production declined from 8,369 tons in 1951-52 to 3,635 tons in 1954-55. These figures illustrate the alarming events taking place in the great jam-making industry.
I propose to emphasize these events by reference to the domestic sugar rebate, which in the south is considered to be too low. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has many jobs to do. One of its tasks is to fix the domestic sugar rebate. It fixes the price paid for sugar by the processors of berry fruits also. The domestic sugar rebate, which is £2 4s. a ton, has not been increased since 1933.
– There is an additional £24 a ton, making a total of £26 4s. a ton.
– I am speaking of the basic domestic sugar rebate, not export rebate, as stated in the new agreement at page 4 of the schedule to the bill. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has again approved a rebate of £2 4s. a ton. It has not been increased by Id. in 23 years, although the price of sugar has increased from £30 6s. a ton to £82 ls. a ton, or by £51 15s. a ton, in that time. That is our main criticism of the new agreement.
The domestic rebate should certainly be reviewed. It was originally investigated by a committee, which apparently sank into oblivion after fixing the rebate at £2 4s. a ton. That committee has never been heard of since. Another committee of inquiry should be appointed to consider the matter from the stand-point of the Tasmanian and Victorian fruit-growers. A committee was appointed by the Government to inquire into the costs of the sugar industry in Queensland, and quite rightly. That committee has presented its report. A similar committee should be appointed to investigate costs at the manufacturing end and to consider whether the domestic sugar rebate should be increased. That would be fair, and that is the proposal we are advancing. It is a one-sided process to maintain the domestic sugar rebate at the same rate year after year and repeatedly approve increases of the price of sugar. It is not fair to the Tasmanian and Victorian fruitgrowers or the manufacturers of products in which there is a substantial sugar content.
– What about confectionery manufacturers?
– They are affected, too, as also are the manufacturers of soft drinks. These people were complaining about the situation when we met them recently at a conference in Hobart, and this whole matter was thrashed out. It was one of the largest conferences dealing with such matters that I have attended. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) was also present. The representatives of cordial manufacturers attended the conference, but I cannot recall the details of the case that they submitted. I hope the honorable member for Franklin can remember them. They definitely made a case, however. It appears that, in the application of a certain formula that is being used, they are allowed no rebate. The application of this formula amounts to a splitting of straws. It deprives the cordial manufacturers of any financial assistance. For this reason, the formula should be reviewed. No users of sugar should be deprived of the advantages of this rebate.
– Who is to pay the rebate - the sugar industry itself?
– It has been paying it in the past, through the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee.
– The honorable member is a bit unfair!
– After all, we are being asked to agree to an increase of £10 a ton in the price of sugar, and I think we should support the claims of all the people who use sugar. 1 do not mean householders, or people who merely put sugar in their tea; I refer to people who use sugar in the manufacture of jams and cordials. As a teetotaller, I believe that their claims are well worthy of consideration.
– Sugar is used in the brewing of beer, too.
– That may be so, but the cordial manufacturers are out on a limb in connexion with this agreement, and they deserve some consideration. I drink so much raspberry cordial and lemonade during election campaigns that I am sure it rots my shoes. I feel that we should have some regard for the manufacturers of cordials. 1 come now to the question of the fixing of prices received by berry fruit growers. This matter is in the hands of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which is a dictatorial body, lt runs and rules the industry, lt decides how much is to be allowed in rebates, and how much the growers in my electorate, and in other electorates in Tasmania, will receive for their products. It has tremendous power. As a result of the decline in the price of berry fruits, 300 acres have gone out of production during the last two or three years. That land was previously used for growing loganberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants and the like.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - The question before the House is not the growing of berry fruits, but the sugar agreement.
– With all due respect, I submit that berry fruits are one of the ingredients of manufactured goods, in the making of which sugar also is used.
But the honorable member is now dealing with the growing of those fruits.
– I shall make a passing reference to it, because, by ratifying this agreement, the Parliament actually fixes the price of berry fruits. The people of Tasmania would like the Fruit Industry
Sugar Concession Committee to give further consideration to the berry fruits industry, in order to revive, by the fixation of fair and just prices, an industry that has practically gone out of existence in that State. Tasmania produces 85 per cent, of all the berry fruits grown in Australia.
I should like now to refer to the composition of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. The agreement provides that the committee shall be composed of one representative of each of the following: - The Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Sugar Board, the growers of canning fruits, the growers of non-canning fruits, the co-operative and State manufacturers of fruit products, and the proprietary manufacturers of fruit products. I believe that the Government should consider granting representation on this committee to cordial manufacturers. After all, the committee consists of only six members, and, as I said before, it is a very powerful committee. It exercises dictatorial powers within the industry, and wider representation on it would do no harm. Cordial manufacturers, who have increased in number during recent years, should be granted some representation on this committee.
I wish now to cite some figures showing how the berry fruits industry in Tasmania has declined. The total acreage of land used for the production of berry fruits in that State reached its peak in 1945-46, when 4,797 acres were under production. The number of acres in production eighteen months ago was only 2,450. Those figures indicate how the production of raspberries, loganberries, strawberries, currants and other small fruits has declined. In 1945-46, the total production amounted to 5,900 tons, but it had declined to 3,806 ton>; eighteen months ago. I have cited these figures merely to show the significant decline that has occurred in what was once a very important industry in my State.
I hold no real brief for the large manufacturers of jams, because they have become a monopoly economically. I am concerned, however, for the people who depend on the jam-making industry, such as the factory workers and the growers of the berry fruits. In Victoria, every one connected with the stone fruits industry is affected by this agreement. On behalf of those Opposition members who feel that there are two sides to this question, I put this case to the Government. 1 particularly ask that the matter of representation on the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should be reconsidered. 1 also suggest that the domestic rebate on sugar should certainly be increased. It has been maintained at the same level, £2 4s. a ton, for 23 years.
– It should be abolished!
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) says that it should be abolished. I am glad to say that honorable members on this side of the House have a wider outlook than has the honorable member for Lilley. The Opposition would not go so far as to advocate the abolition of that rebate. The price of sugar to domestic consumers is now £82 ls. a ton, less the rebate of £2 4s. The price, therefore, is still very nearly £80 a ton, which is a colossal price for a commodity which is so important in the manufacture of many products for home consumption and for export.
I trust that the honorable member for Franklin, when he speaks on this measure, will fill in any of the gaps that I have left, and will emphasize any points that I have failed to stress. I hope that he will show that there is a necessity for the Government to reconsider the domestic rebate system. Having met in Hobart the representatives of those affected by this agreement, I believe that if the price of sugar is increased by £10 a ton, the domestic rebate should also be increased. That argument, I feel, is unanswerable.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has dealt with this matter in considerable detail, and has given a good deal of information that I had intended to give to the House. I shall not repeat what he has said, and in consequence will probably be commendably brief. In order, however, to put the position clearly before honorable members, I propose to trace the history of the sugar agreement. The agreement really had its birth in 1915, and it was in 1923, when the price of sugar was raised to £30 a ton - a very high price for sugar at that time - that rebates were provided for the benefit of the fruit industry. That was one of the qualifications. Between 1923 and 1930 various adjustments were made to both the price of sugar and the actual rebate, and it was as a result of a report on sugar in 1931. that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee was formed. The first actual contribution to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee by the sugar industry was an amount of £315,000, but in 1933 that was reduced to £216,000. It remained at that level until 1951, when the contribution was suspended. Latterly, of course, it has been reintroduced. Although it was argued that the contribution was suspended on the ground that the fund was being built up too greatly, I still say - and I have said this before - that it constituted a breaking down of the orginal agreement.
I desire to make it as clear as I possibly can that sugar rebates are designed to give mutual assistance to both the fruit and the sugar industries. There is, in essence, a form of partnership and the argument that one industry is attempting to live on the back of the other does not really bear examination if one goes back to the basis upon which the agreement was made, and upon which it has been continued.
As has been pointed out, the domestic chute is £2 4s. a ton. lt is paid to processors who comply with certain conditions, the major one being that they will pay prices not lower than those fixed by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Theoretically it is a minimum price, below which no processor may go, but in fact it rather tends to become both the minimum and the maximum. The present rebate is £2 4s. a ton. Originally, in 1931, when sugar was £36 1 ls. a ton, it was £6 5s. Only a year later, when sugar was £32 10s. a ton, it was reduced to £2 4s. As I have already said, it has remained at that figure ever since. If the relationship between the rebate and the price of sugar, which applied in 1931, were maintained the current rebate would be £13 14s., instead of £2 4s.
It has been argued so often as to become public property that in 1952, when there was a sugar inquiry, and subsequently when cases have been presented by the processors and by the fruit industry, sufficient facts, figures and financial information on which to base an increase of the domestic sugar rebate, have not been given. That is a rather peculiar argument inasmuch as in the Department of Trade - formerly the Department of Commerce and Agriculture - one can find all the information on the industry that one needs. The Department of Agriculture in Tasmania has, On several occasions, presented most carefully documented and detailed facts and figures supporting its claims. It would seem that the two governments concerned have become somewhat stubborn on this matter, and do not propose to alter the present rate of domestic sugar rebate. It is now suggested that if certain fruit industries experience real financial difficulty they might make application to the Tariff Board or some similar instrumentality. I have yet to receive an undertaking from any one that that is so and I hope that the Minister, in closing the debate, will give us a definite assurance that a fruit industry which is in real need will be able to make a case before the Tariff Board, and that that case will be heard.
The agreement is to operate for five years. 1 think that that is why the two governments involved have been obstinate, inasmuch as the part that the fruit industry will play ought to be considered in the light of that period. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has given figures, which I would have given, to demonstrate that during the last few years there has been a drop of about 50 per cent, in the berry fruit acreage in Tasmania. One of the arguments that I have heard used in relation to the present rate of domestic rebate is that there is not much real need for it because in the Goulburn Valley the growers are having a better time than they have had for years. Certainly, the major canneries are in the Goulburn Valley. The berry fruit industry in Tasmania is not the only pebble on the beach. But I am told that the extremely wet winter has led to extensive rotting of peach trees in the Goulburn Valley; that a very high proportion of the trees will be lost and, that within a very short period, replanting will have to begin. If I am any judge of those simple facts, it is obvious that the peachcanning industry in the Goulburn Valley will be in a serious position in a year or two. For that reason. I suggest that what has happened very recently in the Goulburn Valley, or anywhere else, should not be the deciding factor, but rather that we should look ahead over a five-year period.
I am all in favour of the stabilization fund which the honorable member for
Lilley (Mr. Wight) proposed by way of interjection. lt would be worth while thinking in terms of raising the domestic rebate to a more reasonable level and contributing part of it to a stabilization fund. I believe that in that way something really good would be done.
The honorable member for Wilmot referred to fruit-processing costs. I want to give a simple comparison of the change in processing costs since 1950. This tells the story clearly enough: In 1950 wages were £9 3s.; in 1956 they are £12 18s., an increase of 41 per cent. In 1950 sugar was £40 12s. 9d. a ton; in 1956 it is £80, an increase of 100 per cent. In 1950 tins were 40s. 8$d. a gross; in 1956 they are 58s. 5d. a gross, an increase of 43.5 per cent. So it is demonstrably clear that the major increase has been the 100 per cent, rise in the price of sugar. We are asked to approve an increase of £10 a ton in the price of sugar. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) was entirely wrong in suggesting that I had something against the sugar industry. It is entitled to a fair go, but the agreement is two-sided, and I do not think that the fruit industry, as such, is getting a proper deal so far as the domestic rebate is concerned. I do not propose to canvass the other aspect - the export rebate - because I sincerely believe that the export rebate is now at a reasonable level, and that there is an extremely sound case for a real increase in the domestic rebate.
.- To speak on the merits of this measure is somewhat like gilding the lily. So far, the measure has not called forth much opposition from honorable members. In fact, the two members from Tasmania who have spoken in the debate have made it clear that the Tasmanian fruit industry has had the benefit of very generous rebates from the sugar industry. Nobody could have made the position regarding rebates clearer than those honorable members did. Their only real contention - and it is a very natural contention - is that Tasmanian fruit interests should have the benefit of even larger rebates. But, obviously, if larger rebates were given the cost of production of sugar would increase, the retail price of sugar would have to be also increased and, presumably, the increase would be followed by another request for greater rebates - and so on.
I do not think that there is another case in Australia - there may be elsewhere - of one industry subsidizing another industry to the extent to which the sugar industry subsidize the fruit-processing industry and the fruit-drinks industry. Nevertheless, when an industry asks for an increased price for its product it should have to show justification for the requested increase. That applies to both primary and secondary industry. Naturally, an increase in the price of any commodity produces an increase in the general cost of living and, in the light of that fact, the case in favour of the granting of such an increase, with the case against it, should established before the increase is granted. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) explained the careful method whereby, when a request for an increase in the price of sugar is made, a check of the costs of production in the industry is carried out.
The sugar industry did not suddenly spring to affluence. The early sugar-growers in Queensland endured very trying conditions in an uncharitable’ tropical country when they were establishing this industry. Anybody who saw in its virgin state the land that they had to conquer in establishing the industry would wonder how that land was ever opened up at all. There is still some of that virgin country to be seen in Queensland. Like many primary industries in the pioneering days, the sugar industry was developed in a haphazard fashion, progress in it resulting from individual and collective experiments. Later, it became apparent that the central and north Queensland areas, and the northern rivers area of New South Wales, were the most suitable places in Australia for the growing of cane sugar. We know that sugar beet has been grown in Victoria but only cane sugar produced in areas suitable for the cultivation of that crop, such as the areas I have mentioned, can meet the requirements for sugar in a large country like Australia. Those three areas where sugar is grown are ideal in that they meet the requirements for sugar-growing in respect of type of soil, climate and water supply. For successful cultivation, sugar cane requires plenty of heat and plenty of water, and those prerequisites to the successful growing of sugar are present in central and north Queensland and in the northern rivers area of New South Wales.
The first sugar cane plantations in Australia were run by private companies, and the sugar was farmed on their behalf by men who were more or less share-farmers. These men were paid on weight of cane and not on sugar content, which was an unfair system that made it difficult for a man to make his living in that industry. Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties that they faced, these men helped to open up the country, and some of them - but very few - prospered in the industry. 1 do not think it is necessary for me to say too much about labour conditions in the early days of the industry, because they were merely a reflex of the conditions of the workers in all industries at that time. Needless to say, they were deplorable. The bigger companies in the industry wanted to open up the country, and introduced kanaka labour into the industry to work under conditions that were worse than those obtaining in United States of America during the days of the slave trade. I have met a few of the old-time blackbirders who provided native labour for the industry. They told me that if the boat trip from the island home of the kanakas to the mainland was not too long, the kanakas received no water to drink during the trip. They were battened down under the hatches and thirsted until they reached the mainland. In addition to kanakas, large numbers of Japanese were employed on these plantations. The good sense of the Australian people led to the removal of the kanakas, and most of them were returned to their homes. Japanese remained on the sugar fields for a long time, but their numbers gradually dwindled, and there are not many left there now. That is some of the history of how this industry was developed.
The first sugar agreement, on which the whole organization of the sugar industry is based, was signed in 1915 by Mr. Andrew Fisher, Labour Prime Minister of Australia, and Mr. T. J. Ryan, Labour Premier of Queensland. It has been said, and it is worth repeating, that the sugar industry has the finest organization of any primary industry in Australia. Often when I hear members of the Australian Country party in this place arguing about conditions in the production of the various crops in which they are naturally interested, I wonder why the production of some of those crops has not been organized along the lines on which the sugar industry has been organized. The splendid organization of the sugar industry could well be applied to other industries, both primary and secondary. I am sure that any honorable member who had the benefit of seeing the sugar industry in operation would admit that it is splendidly organized.
The honorable member for Herbert said, and it is worth emphasizing, that there is no product in the community whose price is so strictly controlled as the price of sugar, no product whose cost of production is so carefully checked as is the cost of production of sugar, before any increase of price is granted. As the honorable member explained, the growers’ organizations have to make out a clear case to the Queensland Sugar Board for an increase in the price of their product. If the board is convinced of the justification for an increase, a recommendation to that effect is made to the Queensland Premier, who refers it to the State Auditor-General, whose officers then make an exhaustive check on costs of production. If the State Government gives its blessing to the increase, the request is then forwarded to the Prime Minister, and presumably the Commonwealth Auditor-General also checks on the justification for the increase. The sugar producers must prove their case to the hilt before it is accepted that they require an increased price for their commodity.
The sugar industry has been responsible for a large amount of employment in other States, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales, and, to some extent, in South Australia. As far as I know, Western Australia is the only State which has not benefited in this respect. The production of sugar is worth £60,000,000 a year and of that amount millions of pounds are paid to the people who supply the machinery for the mills. Millions of pounds are paid to New South Wales and Victoria for farm machinery. All the cane is conveyed from the fields to the mills by trucks for which rails have to be purchased. Over the years, the millions of pounds which have been paid by the sugar industry, particularly to Victoria and New South Wales, have provided more employment in those States than would otherwise have been the case.
This may be termed a very heavy industry, from a farming point of view. The sugar mills are very big and require very heavy rollers and machinery. Those industries which use electrical equipment benefit from generous allowances for obsolescence because it is recognized that that type of machinery can go out of date very quickly. Very often, the machinery in the sugar mills becomes outdated because of the manufacture of new machinery but the mills do not benefit from an allowance of obsolescence equivalent to that which is applicable to electrical equipment. That is another ground on which these people could make an application for an increased price if they were hungry or greedy.
A very large staff is employed in the sugar mills. Very often, there are three or four engineers in these places. During the slack season, the average number of men on the job it at least 100. They carry out repair work to the machinery and field equipment. These are all activities that have to be taken into consideration, not only from the growers’ point of view, because sugar is their only crop, but from the point of view of the millers. The cost of milling forms part of the selling price of sugar. The mill constantly employs men and constantly repairs and replaces its machinery. When war broke out, Queensland, largely because of the sugar mills, was able to provide more ground staff for the Air Force than all the other States put together for the first twelve months of the war. Thereafter, Queensland supplied the same number of men per head of population as other States because of the number of engineers and apprentices that were engaged in the sugar mills. That fact was well known to those who were engaged in recruiting ground staff for the Air Force at the time.
The old puffing-billies that were once used to bring the cane into the mills have been done away with. They have been replaced by modern diesel engines, bringing the transport section of the industry up to date. Many factors are concerned in the increase of costs. One of the greatest factors has been the introduction of what is known as gammexane. The sugar-growers used to lose a third of their crops through the inroads of the cane beetle. The introduction of gammexane practically wiped out the cane beetle, with the result that the rate of production has increased tremendously. I believe that the introduction of gammexane has been the greatest factor in increasing the rate of production in the sugar cane area.
The sugar-growers fertilize their land extensively, and have to pay very high prices for fertilizer. They have to replace what is taken out of the soil, because cane is a vigorous grower. The amount of money spent on fertilizer is simply amazing to those who are used to ordinary farming. I told the cane-growers, years ago, “ If you have a few pounds to spare, take a few shares in a fertilizer company, and you may break even “. The companies that supply fertilizer are very big, and the price of fertilizer forms a major part of the growers’ costs. Thank God they have gammexane, which has saved them from considerable loss. Generally speaking, prospects in the industry are now much better than they were.
Sugar is an essential in the manufacture of soft drinks. The establishment of the sugar industry in north Queensland has enabled the huge factories engaged in the production of soft drinks, in New South Wales and Victoria, to obtain sugar at a reasonable price. That is of vital importance to the manufacturers of soft drinks. During World War I., Australia was unable to supply its own requirements of sugar. After the war, we had to pay up to £80 a ton for black-grown sugar. It will be realized that the establishment of the Australian industry has been an important factor in determining the price that we pay for sugar to-day. The late William Morris Hughes, after World War I., increased the price of sugar and assisted in the establishment of the sugar industry as it is to-day. In the early days, many men, both Labour and anti-Labour, took an active part in helping to establish the sugar industry, lt is now an industry of which Australia can be proud. It contributes more than £60,000,000 a year to the wealth of Australia, and it enables other industries, such as the canned fruits industry, to exist. Naturally, the canned fruits industry seeks greater rebates in respect of the sugar it uses, but I suggest that it probably would not be able to continue to operate if we did not have our own sugar-growing industry, and if it were dependent on the importation of sugar from overseas, as was the case during, and for some time after, World War I.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) referred to the position regarding tin plate supplies. In this respect, we have the ridiculous fact that we sell our tin at low prices to other countries, which manufacture it into tin plate and send it back to Australia. I believe that Tasmania really has not a great deal to complain about regarding the sugar industry. The manufacturers of confectionery have established factories in Tasmania because they are sure of being able to obtain sugar readily, and also because of the availability of cheap electricity. 1 remind honorable members that the people of Innisfail, Babinda, Gordonvale and Cairns, where the sugar is grown, pay the same price for sugar as do the people of Perth, so that there is no bias against residents of particular areas. Naturally, those engaged in the sugar industry would like to have a refinery in the northern part of Australia, so that it would no longer be necessary to consign the initial cane products to the south for refining, and then have the refined sugar taken back to the north. But that is an incidental matter that is not possible to deal with at the moment.
In relation to the position of the Tasmanian fruit industry, 1 had an interesting experience many years ago. The Jones company had, stacked in Melbourne, two years’ supply of fruit pulp. When the Tasmanian growers asked the price that the company was offering for fruit, it told them so much a ton, and added, “ If you do not like it, we can make jam for two years and will not need to buy your fruit at all “. It seems to me that this firm profits most from the Tasmanian fruit industry. Naturally, if a company is established and is functioning efficiently, it is a desirable thing, but the point is that this company seems to have a monopoly of the hop industry, jam making and everything else. As I say, it seems to be getting much more from the canning industry than are either the sugar-growers or the fruit-growers. Unfortunately, Tasmania suffers many handicaps because of its isolation from the mainland, lt may be possible for the sugar industry to do more for the Tasmanian fruit industry, although 1 think that, already, it is doing a very fine job for it. Apparently, apart from the desire for greater rebates, the fruit industry has no real complaint against the sugar industry. I believe that this bill will benefit the sugar industry.
I refer, now to the bulk handling of sugar, which will save a great deal of money. Of course, large sums of money have been spent on the installation of equipment at the various ports in connexion with the bulk loading of sugar. Although 1 am familiar with the industry, 1 still find it remarkable that so much money should be spent in an endeavour to improve the industry, to increase efficiency, and to reduce costs wherever possible. I give the bill my blessing, and I hope that it will be possible to increase the rebate in the future. I believe that the amount of the rebate should be the subject of a special inquiry. If that were so, it might be possible to give satisfaction to a greater number of people.
.- It is rather sad, I think, that whenever this agreement comes before the House, honorable members divide into groups representing the northern and southern parts of Australia, irrespective of political parties. I think we should place this matter on a proper footing right from the start, and that instead of referring to the sugar industry as a great Queensland industry we should appreciate, in this national Parliament, that it is a great Australian industry which contributes substantially to the stability of the economy generally, lt is all very well for the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) to argue that this Queensland industry should help the Tasmanian fruit industry, but not on the basis that it should do so because the Tasmanian fruit industry is a great Australian industry. I emphasize that the sugar industry is of national significance because it benefits every person in Australia.
The agreement provides, in the main, for the continuation of the embargo on the importation of sugar into Australia, but we should acknowledge, at the present time, that that is not really necessary because there is not the slightest possibility of sugar being imported into Australia. The fact is that there is no surplus sugar in the world. If we did not grow cane in Australia, we should not be able to obtain sugar from any other country. Therefore, the Australian industry is supplying sugar to the people of Australia which could not be obtained elsewhere. Not only is it doing that, but it is also supplying sugar at a very reasonable price indeed. The argument that the price of sugar in South Africa is approximately £9 a ton less than the price paid by fruit processors in Australia does not mean very much when we remember that we could not land South African sugar in Australia at the price for which Australian processors are able to obtain it under the agreement.
The sugar industry, therefore, is supplying a commodity without which we should find it difficult to live, and it is doing so at a most reasonable price, to the benefit of all members of the community, whether they are in Tasmania or in the northernmost part of Queensland. The agreement is a joint one between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. Whilst the Commonwealth accepts responsibility to maintain the imposition of the embargo, the Queensland Government undertakes to do the six things enunciated by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) in his second-reading speech. They are: First, it agrees to acquire all raw sugar produced from cane grown in Queensland and New South Wales-
– Pure socialism!
– My socialist friend agrees with that. Secondly, the Queensland Government undertakes to make sugar available in Australia at certain fixed prices. Thirdly, it agrees to control production; fourthly, to accept a responsibility for losses arising from the’ export of surplus sugar; fifthly, to pay rebates on the sugar content of goods exported; and, sixthly, to contribute to the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. We must pay tribute to the part that various governments, both in Queensland and in the National Parliament, have played in the maintenance of this industry that serves Australia so well. I think of it more as a co-operative effort than as a socialist effort: though perhaps this is just juggling with terms. This co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government, in conjunction with the various organizations, has helped to establish a very efficient industry to-day which deserves praise from every quarter. The industry is unique in that the seller of the commodity, because of his efficiency, is able to give through government channels to one section of purchasers, the pro cessors of jam and fruit, a huge concession which enables them to compete on the world markets and to keep down the price of their product within Australia. That an industry should grant huge concessions in the form of a rebate to processors so that they in turn may subsist and bolster their own industry is a unique development in the annals of primary industry in Australia.
– Members of the Australian Country party are not listening to the honorable member.
– They are so well aware of the truth of my statements that we may overlook that. It is not fair to the industry to say that the only concession which has been granted is a measly £2 4s. a ton by way of rebate to processors selling on the Australian market and an additional £24 in respect of exported manufactured goods containing Australian cane sugar, because, as honorable members are aware, the Export Sugar Committee calculates the rebate from month to month, and it is £26 7s. for the month of October. The rate of rebate is based upon variations in overseas prices and costs in Queensland. In the last three years, up to 31st August, 1955, the Australian fruit industry has received from the sugar industry no less than £929,000 in concessions, export rebates, and special assistance. No other primary industry in Australia makes concessions of that kind to purchasers of its product. While it could be argued that the price of sugar has increased in recent times, one must take account of the difficulties under which this industry has to operate. It is a tribute to the Australian sugar industry that to-day it is able to produce the second cheapest sugar in the world. The only competitor on world markets which can produce more cheaply is South Africa, which, as the honorable member foHerbert stated, on one of those rare occasions when I have agreed with him, has cheap black labour both in the fields and in the factories, and lower freight rates. Yet the Australian industry, with the exclusive use of white labour, is able to run second only to South Africa in producing the cheapest sugar in the world.
The Queensland Government has the responsibility, not only of carrying out the terms of the agreement, but also of keeping the price of sugar to the Australian people as low as possible. I am alarmed at the increased charges that have been levied on the industry by the Queensland Government. I am thinking in particular of freight rates. In Queensland the average distance over which cane is carried from farms to mills is about 20 miles. Adopting this mileage as a basis, we can gain some indication of the effect of increased freight rates upon the sugar industry over the last ten years, which increases, after all, are passed on to the Australian people in increased sugar prices. In 1955, there was a rise in the freight rate to lis. a ton of cane for 20 miles. This year, that rate has been increased by 5s. 3d., or about 50 per cent., to 16s. 3d. a ton. In the period from 1943 to 1946, when the freight rate was static, the freight on cane transported by rail for 20 miles was 3s. 3d. To-day, as I have said, it is 16s. 3d. I think that there were nine increases in the freight rate during the intervening period.
An analysis of the figures discloses the interesting fact that the freight rate on cane transported from grower to mill has increased by 400 per cent, in ten years. In the same period the freight rate on raw sugar has increased by 208 per cent. While the freight rate on the cane, from which is manufactured a commodity the basic cost of which must affect every household in Australia, has increased by 400 per cent., the freight rate on manure, if I may make such a comparison, has been increased by 261 per cent. The latest increase in railway freight rates shows that freight on cane has increased by 5s. 3d., on raw sugar by 2s. lid., and on class A goods by only 2s. lid., the same as on sugar, and only about half of the increase applied to the transport of cane. This represents an imposition upon the industry, and I believe that it is brought about by the principle enunciated by the Queensland Minister for Transport and shown very clearly in practice, that the freight rates on the Queensland railways are governed by the competition that the railways receive from other forms of transport. As honorable members are aware, railway transport between the cane-fields and the mills is not subjected to much competition. The railways have a monopoly, and so the freight rates rise. This rise has contributed, in no small degree, to the increase of the price of refined sugar, legislative authority for which is sought in the bill which is now before the House.
I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), in his efforts to keep this industry upon a stable and efficient basis, to endeavour to ensure that rises in freight rates, which perhaps are inescapable generally in Queensland, and 1 am not arguing against them, are spread evenly, because after all I cannot understand why freight on sugar cane should be increased by 400 per cent, when the freight on immure is increased by only 261 per cent. There should be a levelling of freight rates, which would permit a reduction in the rate applied to cane, and would contribute to the future efficiency of the industry. Neither this Government nor the Queensland Government wishes to impose further burdens in the form of rising prices on the people of Australia, who are the main consumers of sugar. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that he was interested in the jam manufacturers but not in the domestic users of sugar. After all, the domestic users of sugar will feel the hardest impact, and we cannot go on indefinitely loading them with increased prices for a commodity that is indispensable in the family budget. Every endeavour must be made on all sides to keep the price of sugar stable, if possible. One way in which the Queensland Government can assist in this direction is by adopting an equitable scale of freight rates. The announcement that the freight rate on sugarcane was to be increased by 50 per cent, came as quite a shock to me, because the additional charge must inevitably be reflected in the price paid by the housewife for the commodities containing sugar. I hope that honorable members who have some influence with the Queensland Government ‘will be able to convince it without rancour - and I speak without rancour - that it should conduct an investigation so that the burden of increased costs, if they are inescapable, will be spread more equitably over all goods that are carried by the railways. The imposition of additional freight rates on sugar hits the whole of the Australian community in the long run and makes it difficult for this industry to survive.
Although the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Wilmot have spoken for their State - Tasmania - and the industries that are conducted there, I hope that the result will not be any difference of opinion between the users and the producers of sugar. We are proud of our fruit processors and fruit canners. They are doing a splendid job, and are producing a worthwhile commodity at a reasonable price for the households of Australia. At the same time, we must pay a real tribute to the sugar cane producers, the millers, those who handle the product and the governments that have co-operated in this scheme to produce a needed commodity at a reasonable price.
Nothing is to be gained by remarks such as those made by my friend, the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), who sneered at the sugar industry and said that Victoria needed cheaper sugar. I point out to the honorable member and to other honorable members that, if Queensland did not produce sugar, under present conditions we could not obtain sugar for Australia. There is no place from which we could purchase it, let alone purchase it at a cheaper price overseas. It is all very well to talk about the cheap sugar produced in South Africa, but by the time that sugar was brought to Australia, the price would possibly be about £10 a ton dearer than Australian sugar on the domestic market. We would be paying about 2d. a lb. more for it in the fair State of Victoria than we are paying now.
Let us put all those arguments to one side. Every one is getting the benefit of this industry, whether he lives in Tasmania, Victoria or Queensland. It is a worthwhile industry and by co-operation right through the piece this Government is able to play a part in giving a much-needed commodity to the people at a reasonable price and at the same time contributing to the general economic stability of the nation.
.- This bill provides for the ratification of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government to maintain the stability of the sugar industry for another five years. We are dealing with the matter in retrospect because the increase in price was granted on 14th May last and has been charged since that date. In the closing stages of this sessional period we are asked to ratify the agreement. The Government would be very embarrassed if, by some means, the will of some Tasmanian members prevailed and the bill was rejected. But I think the common sense of most members will predominate and the bill will be passed.
The agreement was first entered into in 1915 between two Labour governments. They were the Labour Government led by Mr. Fisher, the Prime Minister, who represented the electorate of Wide Bay, a Queensland constituency, and the Labour government in Queensland led by Mr. Ryan. The agreement was the basis for the stabilizing of this most important industry in Australia. It is the most important industry in Queensland and as an export commodity it is a great dollar-earner. I do not propose to follow the lead of other members who have spoken about the basis on which the price is determined, because I feel that so much has been said on that point that all members are completely convinced that the sugar industry is compelled to submit a watertight case before the Commonwealth will agree to increase the price of sugar.
This great Australian industry is responsible for the settlement of large areas in tropical northern Queensland, lt is the principal industry in northern Queensland and the production is valued at £60,000,000 in a year. It is a most efficient industry and takes advantage of all modern scientific developments in the growing and processing of sugar. Without this industry, northern Queensland would not have been developed to the same degree as it has been in recent years. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), who represents a sugar-producing constituency, has informed us - and he is competent to do so because of his long experience in the industry - of the role that the Queensland Labour Government has played in the development of this industry.
In the early days of this century prior to 1915, sugar was grown on large estates. We had a kind of peasantry or sharefarming system in the industry at that time. The Queensland Labour Government decided to apply its socialistic ideas to the industry, as far as possible, and resolved that the industry must be placed completely in the hands of the producers. That is to say those who produced the wealth in the industry must control it. That government was responsible for breaking up the large estates on which sugarcane was grown under the share-farming system and to-day many thousands of sugar-growers operate their own farms - either freehold farms or farms leased from the Crown.
The development of the industry was undertaken, first by Australians and British immigrants. At the conclusion of World War I. a large number of Italians entered the industry. They have been most successful as producers of cane and as cutters and workers in the cane-fields. The operation of the industry has been most successfully carried out by Australian, British and Europeans in the cane-fields.
I have said that the industry is an efficient one. It is also - and this is something of which Australian can boast - a completely white industry. The kanakas have been taken out of the industry. In the closing days of the last century, it was a black industry, and blackbirding was a common and profitable undertaking by many Queensland master mariners. The record of blackbirding is a very grave blot on Queensland’s history. Blackbirding was the recruiting of black labour in the Pacific islands by force. The native labourers were brought to Queensland and treated as slaves. They were given only a miserable pittance as a reward for their labour. This practice ceased at the close of the nineteenth century, and although some of the descendants of these labourers still live in Queensland the sugar industry is conducted most efficiently, even in the tropics, wholly by white labour.
The Queensland sugar industry is controlled by the cane-growers, and all those engaged in it, whether producers or workers, receive a reasonable reward for their efforts. It is to the credit of the trade unions in Queensland, particularly the Australian Workers Union, that the interests of the workers have at all times been completely safeguarded. The unions take a very keen interest in all phases of the industry, as we learned from the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who, prior to becoming a member of the Parliament, had considerable experience in the sugar industry as an Australian Workers Union official in the
Townsville area. Doubtless he is better informed about the sugar industry than is any other honorable member present today. It is something to be proud of that the unions in Queensland have adopted such a reasonable approach to this most important Queensland industry and have shown so much concern for its welfare.
The growers themselves own many of the mills at which the sugar cane is crushed. I suppose the best example of the cooperative system is to be found in the Queensland sugar industry. It is true that several mills are owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and another by the Millaquin Sugar Company Limited at Bundaberg. But the processing of sugar from the .crushing of the cane to the brown sugar stage is undertaken largely in co-operative mills owned by the growers. I hope that this system will be extended. If the Labour Government continues to hold office in Queensland grower control and the co-operative system will be extended as the industry expands. Although processing up to the brown sugar stage is conducted largely in co-operative mills owned by the growers, the refining and marketing of sugar unfortunately is completely in the hands of private enterprise. I have mentioned the Millaquin Sugar Company Limited at Bundaberg and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which operates throughout Australia and acts as agent for the Queensland Government in disposing of the refined product in various parts of the country.
It cannot be said with truth that excessive profits are being made by the sugar refining companies. Their profits are considerable, but they are no greater than those being made by other manufacturing companies. Every one acknowledges that profits are increasing, and that it is the policy of this Government not to discourage higher profits. That is one of the reasons for the present inflationary spiral. The sugar refining companies are making profits at the same rate at which other industrial concerns are making them. I hope 1 shall see the day when control by the growers will have extended so much in the sugar industry that the complete processing of sugar, including refining, will be undertaken either by co-operative establishments or by plants owned by the Queensland
Sugar Board or the Queensland Government. The growers have demonstrated their ability to control the industry in the initial Stages of production. As improved methods and scientific developments are applied to the growing and crushing of cane and the processing of sugar a great step forward in the interests of the industry and the consumers of Australia could be taken if refining were placed completely in the hands of the sugar producers. That proposition is not unreasonable, and I hope it will be put into effect as the industry grows and develops.
In north Queensland, particularly at the port of Mackay, bulk-handling equipment is being installed to load sugar into ships. As the honorable member for Leichhardt has said, this is an important development which will be a major contributing factor in the reduction of costs. Bulk handling can cushion the increased costs which are common in all industries to-day.
As I have said, the sugar industry produces £60,000,000 worth of sugar annually. This production is not only for home congumption, but also for export, and the industry is a major earner of dollars for Australia. The “ Monthly Bulletin of Oversea Trade Statistics “, issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics in June last, shows that during the year ended 30th June, 1956, a total of £24,641,000 worth of sugar was exported from Australia. The United Kingdom bought £13,827,000 worth, and Canada, £3,491,000 worth. New Zealand also was a good customer, and bought £3,456,000 worth. Japan apparently wished to keep on side with us, and bought £2,051,000 worth.
– What about Hong Kong?
– There was a small trade with Hong Kong, amounting to £1,039.000. Singapore purchased sugar worth £105,000. When we are considering an export industry that sells goods overseas worth almost £25,000,000, we should realize the importance of that industry to Australia.
I shall now cite some figures from a booklet issued by the Queensland Government Statistician, in order to substantiate my claim that the industry is most efficient. The industry has grown rapidly in Queensland in recent years. In 1950-51, the area of land on which cane was grown for crushing amounted to 263,666 acres. By 1954-55, this area had increased to 367,640 acres. The increase in the amount of sugar sold has been really phenomenal.. In 1951-52, a total of 921,000 tons of sugar was sold. This had increased by 1954-55 to 1,327.000 tons. It is very pleasing to note that 44 per cent, of the sugar produced in 1950-51 was exported, while in 1954-55, the proportion had increased to 59 per cent. It can be seen, therefore, that production in the industry is sufficient not only ro supply the Australian market, but also to satisfy a considerable export demand.
Other speakers in this debate have pointed out that the price paid by consumers in this country for Australian sugar is less than the price for which sugar produced anywhere overseas could be sold in Australia. It is true that South- Africa, by employing black labour under sorry conditions, is producing sugar at a cost less than that for which it is being produced in Australia. South African sugar, however, could not be brought to Australia and sold at a lower price than that for which Australian sugar is sold, even if it were duty free. That is because of the high freight charges that would be involved. The Australian consumer, therefore, is buying the cheapest sugar that it is possible for him to buy, even if the import of sugar into Australia were allowed. This reflects great credit on all those associated with the production of this most important commodity. It is true that the industry enjoys many advantages, and that the importation of sugar is prohibited. However, the industry has risen to the occasion and has done all that the Australian people expected it to do. It has demonstrated its appreciation of what has been done for it over the years by the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.
The sugar industry is most efficient. It is closely supervised by the Queensland Agricultural Department. Every modern scientific device that can be used in the industry is being used. The finest canes are grown. The cane grown in the north Queensland fields has a higher sugar content than cane grown in any other part of the world. The industry will maintain this very high rate of efficiency, and so long as it continues to enjoy the goodwill of the Australian and Queensland governments it will go from success to success.
It would be wrong for me, as an Opposition member, not to conclude by criticizing the Federal Government for certain action that it has taken which has had a harmful effect upon the production of a by-product of this important sugar industry. As honorable members know, rum is a major by-product of Queensland sugar. I am reliably informed, although I can speak with no authority on the matter, that the rum produced in Queensland is of very high quality. The consumption of rum in Queensland and, I take it, in other parts of Australia, has declined considerably.
– Hear, hear!
– Let not the temperance men cheer until I finish my statement. The consumption of rum has fallen because of the action of this Government in reducing the excise on brandy produced by South Australian grape-growers, while maintaining the high excise on rum. 1 understand, although again I cannot speak with authority and must be guided by those who can, that rum is a less harmful drink than brandy.
– Don’t you believe it!
– It would bs a generous gesture on the part of this Government to place rum, a by-product of the sugar industry, in the same position with regard to excise charges as it has placed brandy produced by the South Australian winegrowers. I make that plea, and I hope that the Government will do something about it.
– I do not intend to detain honorable members for more than a few minutes, because no doubt they arc most eager to hear the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in reply. I should like to say a few words, however, on the general approach of the Australian Labour party to the sugar industry, and then to refer to the industries in Tasmania and elsewhere in which sugar is used for processing fruit and other products. Our attitude towards the sugar industry has been the same through the years. One of the greatest achievements in Australian history has been the establishment of the sugar industry, especially in Queensland and the northern part of New South Wales, on the basis of European labour. The struggle, of course, is finished in one sense, but at one time in the history of Queensland there was grave anxiety because of the possibility that the industry might not be established on the basis I have mentioned, lt has been done, not entirely but very largely, through the work of the pioneers in Queensland of the Labour movement, and the pioneers representing other political points of view. It is quite obvious that the coast of Queensland, particularly of north Queensland, would not have been so secure as it was during the last war. had it not been for the settlement of Queensland, which in itself constituted a great contribution to the defence of Queensland, and which is inseparably connected with the sugar industry. Therefore, the development of the industry has been something of a romance, which has affected the whole of Australia. It has been very well organized. I can recall some of the struggles which led to the great contests in the courts of the land. The organized employees, at first, had great difficulty in maintaining their positions vis-a-vis the refining company, but gradually they came into their own. If Government supporters, and especially those who sit in the corner, were consistent, they would be hostile to the way in which the industry is organized. Sugar can be grown on certain land only, and production is controlled. If it were not, the industry could not be successful.
– That is socialism.
– That is so. From many points of view, it is an example of an industry which is, to a large extent, socialized, but Government supporters accept that because the system works. I do not want to do any more than make that point. When the industry was not organized, it was in a parlous economic position. Intervention by the Queensland Government, especially the Labour government of Mr. Ryan and his successors, and the great cases which were fought through the High Court and taken, ultimately, to the Privy Council, were all necessary in order that the industry should become organized. The Labour party, therefore, favours the renewal of this agreement, on just terms, and after careful examination of it has been made. We believe that it is necessary in the interests of the industry, of overseas commerce, and of the development of the north of Australia, which is a vital element in our defence.
I come now to the point which was, quite correctly, made by my colleague, the honorable member for Wilmot, and other honorable members representing Tasmania on this side of the House. It is not right that the subsidies, or grants, given to the processing industries should be linked in this way with the sugar industry, although sugar is, of course, the vital product. The Australian people want to see all primary industries successful. There is no need for this tug of war between two industries each year. The grant-in-aid should not be dependent upon the arrangement as to sugar, although, of course, sugar is the commodity in respect of which the ultimate aid is given. There is a false contest every year, and all Australians will agree that this apparent conflict should not exist. That is, I think, the point of view of my friend, the honorable member for Wilmot. These points are not made in any sense of opposition to the basic features of the sugar agreement. It is easy to introduce politics, as some honorable members are tempted to do, but both industries should be encouraged.
Notwithstanding all this, the sentiment of Australians, and especially of the Labour movement, in regard to the sugar industry is long-standing and very real. We have, in Australia, something that. 40 years ago, would have been thought possible - a great sugar industry, with massive production, operating under strict organization and controls of the kind to which Government supporters opposite, and in the corner, normally object from beginning to end. Those controls are accepted without question because they are to the benefit of the people. That being the point of view of the Opposition, I thought it right, at the end of the debate and without interfering with any further comment that the Minister may make, to express it.
The work of the pioneers in the sugar industry of Australia should not be forgotten. In Queensland, because kanaka labour was used, there were disgraceful and terrible working conditions. Those who, with courage, foresaw that that would do injury to Australia, and to the sugar industry, were great men in their time and undertook a tremendous struggle. One has only to look at the Queensland press of those days to realize the attacks that these pioneers had to combat in order to improve conditions. The improvement in the industry has been brought out by men in public life who have represented a number of political parties, but it cannot be denied that among the pioneers were the earliest members of the Labour movement in Australia. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who has put the case for the Opposition, represents, with his colleagues from Queensland, the continuation of that tradition.
– I was very interested to hear the final remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He referred, quite correctly, to the great achievements of the sugar industry on the north-eastern coast of Australia, and to their great value in developing that area and increasing our defence potential. The honorable member described the history of the industry as a romance. As one who has been associated, ever since 1 can remember, with this particular romance. I feel that I can contribute something of value to the debate and can suggest to Tasmanian representatives who have been somewhat critical of certain aspects of the agreement, a way in which Tasmanian producers could derive much greater advantage than they could from the proposals that have been put forward on their behalf to-day.
I was very surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that my colleagues of the Australian Country party should really be hostile to this proposal because the industry provides an example of controls and socialization. That is a theory that one hears expressed from time to time by people who do not understand how the sugar industry works. I suppose that I have been associated with the industry for more than 30 years. It is one of the finest examples of co-operative farmer organization formed for the purpose of looking after the farmers’ interests. The controls, which have operated to such good effect, have, before their adoption, been discussed thoroughly by the rank and file, approved by a majority vote, and adopted in a way that is not socialistic, but democratic. Indeed, the great success of this co-operative effort, as compared with the results obtained under the burdensome system of socialistic controls, could well engage the attention of honorable members opposite.
Most of the reaction to this bill has been favorable. No real opposition has been expressed to it but, as 1 have said, one or two criticisms have been voiced by honorable members from Tasmania. Let us look, to begin with, at the relationship between the two primary industries, which have been mentioned by both the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). Since before 1915 there has been a close relationship between the southern fruit industry and the northern sugar industry. Any suggestion by those honorable members that the relationship has favoured the sugar industry is not well founded, because the actual position is that the relationship has been almost entirely in favour of the fruit industry. I shall not go into a lot of detail on this matter, but it is contended that as a result of the operations of the fruit industry the sugar industry has been provided with a very considerable market. Well, we in the sugar industry value our markets. From time to time, we have had some difficulties in respect of markets, but let me assure the House that, as a result of the excellence of our organization, we have always been able to market our product, and would have been able to do so even without the support of the fruit industry.
Another fact that is not generally known is, that during the period from about 1943 to 1953, the sugar industry made available, by way of domestic rebates to the fruit industry, a total of approximately £1,300,000 at a time when sugar sold to the fruit industry for fruit processing could have been sold on overseas markets at prices from £10 to £30 a ton higher than those received from the fruit industry. We do not begrudge that loss. That was part of the economic set-up of the industry, but the point should be explained in rebuttal of any suggestion that the sugar industry has gained a great deal from its association with the fruit industry.
The economy of the sugar industry is based on the embargo on the importation of sugar, to which reference has been made, and on the fixed price for sugar consumed in Australia. This bill proposes to extend the embargo and to increase the home con sumption price. The increased home consumption price has been in operation during the present season. That arrangement, which has existed for many years, is now not only an important and integral part of the economy of the sugar industry, but is also of great importance to the national economy, and will undoubtedly be supported without question by the Parliament. The sugar industry has voluntarily accepted certain obligations to offset the benefit it gains from the fixed home consumption price and the embargo on importation. One of those obligations is accepted in the form of export rebate in respect of sugar used by Australian manufacturers who export goods containing sugar. The sugar industry has undertaken to make sugar available to Australian manufacturers at the minimum price at which the manufacturer could obtain sugar from overseas after paying world parity rates and such charges as freight. In other words, the manufacturers are able to obtain the sugar component of the goods they produce at a price competitive with the price paid for sugar by manufacturers in other parts of the world who are producing the same kind of goods. So the export rebate offsets the effect of the embargo on the manufacturer. We in the sugar industry have no desire to evade that obligation, and I shall point out in a few moments that the proposals in the bill, which were suggested by the sugar industry, give ample evidence of the fact that the industry is prepared to do all it can to improve the existing situation.
Then there is the domestic rebate, around which some of the criticism uttered here to-day has revolved. The domestic rebate is entirely designed to assist fruit-growers in the southern States. When this system was initiated, I think by the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), it was made plain that it was a temporary expedient only, and was not to be regarded as part and parcel of the economy of the fruit industry for all time. It was felt that the fruit industry required some assistance, and that this was the right way to provide that assistance, so that that industry, which was then in a parlous condition, could be put back on its feet and enabled to support itself thereafter. The method of operation of the domestic rebate has already been dealt with at length, and I need not expand much on the explanations already given.
Briefly, it enables manufacturers using Australian fruit for local consumption to pay the fruit-growers a certain definite price, on the understanding that if that price, as determined by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, is so paid the manufacturers will qualify for the domestic rebate. As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) pointed out, that rebate has been ZZ 4s. a ton for many years, during which there has been no increase in consonance with increases of costs. There is no logical justification, I submit, for expecting one primary industry to support another primary industry in perpetuity. I repeat that the domestic rebate was initiated originally as a temporary expedient, lt has remained in existence because those who speak for the sugar industry have said that although the rebate was not justified they were willing that it should continue, but they were not willing that it should be increased. They told the Government that, whilst they would not seek a discontinuance of the rebate, there should be a new basis on which both the domestic rebate and the export rebate were determined. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has received from the sugar industry a statutory annual amount of £216,000, plus an ex gratia amount as determined from year to year by the Export Sugar Committee. I point out that the statement of the honorable member for Franklin that the total amount paid by the industry to the committee for many years was £216,000 is not correct. The statutory amount was £216,000, but for many years before the last war the sugar industry was required to make, in addition to that statutory contribution, an ex gratia payment. It is evidence of the desire of the industry to honour its obligations in this regard that it made this payment each year without any question. The sugar industry was, therefore, providing the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee with up to £300,000 a year. It is considered more desirable, from the point of view of the industry and for the sake of the simplification of accountancy problems in handling the rebates, that this system, in which the ex gratia payment has to be worked out at the end of the season, be altered. Therefore, the industry suggested to the Govern ment that it, the industry, should contribute to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the payment of the domestic rebate an amount of £120,000 a year. At the moment, the payment in respect of the domestic rebate is about £105,000 so the industry’s suggestion means that it is willing to continue the present payments, plus £15,000.
The industry also suggested, in respect of the export rebate, that it would be better if it undertook to pay whatever amount was required, as determined from month to month by the Export Sugar Committee, so that the committee itself would not be in the position of running short of cash and having to come to the industry for an amount not previously determined. As a result of that arrangement, which has been accepted by the Government, the industry under this legislation, will be committed to the payment of an estimated amount of £355,000 a year, with export prices as they are, as distinct from the statutory amount of £216,000 provided for in the previous agreement. I want that understood because that is the proposal of the industry itself, put forward in the usual fair and honorable way in which the industry generally puts forward its claims and proposals.
I turn now to the position of the fruit industry. There is no doubt that the jam industry, as distinct from the canning industry, is not in a very happy or successful economic position. What is the reason for that? The reason is that certain costs have increased. We find that, in order to deal with this situation, the fruit industry is immediately flying to the sugar industry for help - probably as a matter of habit - saying that it is getting into a worse and worse position and that, as the sugar industry has given help for many years, it should give more help now. There is no logical justication for such an argument.
Honorable members will find, if they go into the position, that the increases in costs, which have put the jam industry into this position, are not due solely to the sugar content of the product. Here is the actual position: Let us take a 24-oz. tin of plum jam and compare the price in Sydney in June, 1938, with the price in May, 1956, and let us compare the sugar component in that tin in 1938 with the present sugar component. I suggest that that is a fair and reasonable way of determining whether there is any virtue in the claim that the sugar industry should contribute more than the amount of £2 4s. a ton which it previously paid. In June, 1938, the tin of jam could be bought in Sydney for just over 9d. Now it costs about 2s. 6d. The cost of the sugar in June, 1938. was 32.3 per cent, of the price, but .by May, 1945, the figure had dropped to 24.3 per cent. The cost of all the other components rose from 67 per cent, in June, 1938, to 75 per cent, of the selling price. So it is not the sugar component which has caused increased costs in the jam industry. Therefore, the remedy does not lie in attempting to make some minor alteration to the sugar component cost while other components remain untouched.
It has been suggested that if the sugar industry is to be called upon to make a contribution which will really help the jam industry, the amount should be of the nature of £13 or £14 a ton instead of £2 4s. That, in itself, indicates that there is some factor other than the sugar component in the price of jam which has to be tackled. What would bc the position if the fruit industry were successful in its submissions and it was decided that the sugar industry must contribute more to the berry-fruit industry in Tasmania to enable it to operate successfully? Let me interpolate that nothing that f am saying now is to be attributed to any desire to see the fruit industry continue in a parlous condition. Certainly, as a primary producer, I want to see it prosper. But we must look at this position: If it were desired to help the fruit industry with a further contribution from the sugar industry, that could be done only by another increase in the price of sugar to the consumer, because the cost of assisting the fruit industry could not be taken out of the present return to the sugar-grower.
This amending bill provides for an increase of Id. per lb. in the price of refined sugar. As has been pointed out by previous speakers, that increase to the sugargrowers and the sugar-millers has already been taken up, practically, in increased costs. Therefore, as the figure determined by this Government has given only a fair and reasonable return to the industry, eating into that return by assisting the fruit industry could only result in a further increase in sugar production costs. Such an increase would mean that the’ sugar industry would be required to put up the price of its product in order to enable another industry to obtain a greater return. In effect, the sugar industry would be blamed for increasing the price of its product when in actual fact none of the increased price of sugar would go to the industry. That would be an untenable position.
Let me suggest to those who have been applying themselves to this problem that the remedy for this position lies in adopting the recommendation made about three years ago by the McCarthy committee of inquiry into the sugar industry. This was a committee which went very thoroughly into the conditions in the sugar industry and made certain recommendations. Representations were made to the committee by representatives of the fruit industry. The recommendation of the committee was -
That the amount and conditions of payment of the fruit industry rebate of £2 4s. a ton remain unaltered.
That was the recommendation of an impartial body after it had made a very thorough investigation into the position of both industries. The recommendation of the committee continued -
That any request for an increase of the fruit industry rebate be referred to the Tariff Board or some other competent authority for full inquiry.
I strongly commend to those who are desirous of helping the fruit industry that that recommendation should be put into effect now. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has already said that this way is open to the fruit industry, but I do not know of any real approach having been made by the fruit industry to the Government for the holding of such an inquiry. Certainly, I understand that representations have been made to the Minister from the fruit industry for further relief. But the Minister will confirm that no firm proposal, based on need, has been put to the Government for consideration. When the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) was speaking, he referred to this matter and said that the industry had been told to try this other method. He asked whether there was any guarantee that if such an approach were made the Government would consider it. In the first place, the responsibility is surely on the industry itself to prepare a documented case and present it’ to the Government. Secondly, 1 point out that this Government has never refused to give urgent and detailed consideration to any proposal that has been put forward authoritatively on behalf of any primary industry.
From time to time, the sugar industry has presented to the Government a carefully documented case. It has argued that case, and has submitted itself to investigation. Finally, as a result of that action, it has achieved the result that it desired. The wheat industry, from time to time, has approached the Government. The dairy industry has approached the Government from time to time. The dried vine fruits industry, recently, through the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) approached the Government. Therefore, why has the Tasmanian fruit industry not approached the Government? What is there to stop it from approaching the Government? What other assurance does the industry need that its case will be given reasonable consideration than the history of this Government in dealing with primary industry organizations in the way that I have outlined?
I sincerely believe that, by this method, the fruit industry would achieve something of far greater value than it would achieve by means of any request to the sugar industry to give it a bit more by way of domestic rebate. If such an investigation is held and if the case of the industry is sound and properly presented, I. feel that the report of any investigating committee would be of such a nature as to place that industry’s economy on a far more sound basis than it is at present. It will not then be forced, as it is being forced now and has been forced in the past, virtually to go cap in hand to another primary industry and say, “May we have some more support? “
– It is not nonsense. I put that to the House sincerely. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) should say to the people in the fruit industry, “ Get moving in a practical commonsense way. Prepare your case and put it up to the Government for investigation by a board and the probable result will be that you will receive assistance, but not at the expense of a sister industry “. I commend that attitude to those who are sincerely trying to help the berry fruits industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 1752), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 1751), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territoray [8.2]. - First, I wish to say that the Opposition does not oppose this bill, which seeks to correct certain anomalies in connexion with the Northern Territory Legislative Council which we think have long been overlooked. These anomalies have been revealed specifically by the recent resignation of one of the elected members of the council in order to take a position with the Commonwealth Public Service. The measure now before the House seeks to clarify the position. When it becomes law, persons who seek nomination for election to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory will know just where they stand. In addition, the bill will make clear the somewhat precarious position of some of the elected members who are serving on the council at the present time. As a result of this clarification, some of the members of the council, and one in particular, may be debarred from nominating for re-election in the future.
Although the bill will clarify the qualifications of elected members, it still will not widen the range of persons eligible to seek nomination for election. For instance, civil servants, whom the original legislation sought to bar in some instances, will be barred completely by this bill. At one time, it was thought that certain persons employed by the Northern Territory Administration were eligible for election, but as a result of the clarification of the position by the measure before the House they too will be debarred from serving on the council. The limitations placed in the way of those eligible to serve on the council in the past were somewhat peculiar. As was pointed out approximately three years ago, when the Government introduced legislation dealing with the matter, the act as it then stood debarred practically every resident of the Territory from seeking nomination for election to the council. For instance, the provision relating to contracts made it apparent that a person who held even a petty contract, such as a contract to maintain an aerodrome on a property - a job which, of course, only a person living on the property could do - for a payment of £20, £30 or £40 per annum, was automatically disqualified. Similarly, any person who held a Crown land lease in the north was disqualified. Any one who had contractual obligations to the Government was automatically disqualified.
However, the resignation to which I have referred brought the matter to a head, and as a result, the Government decided to clarify the position by means of legislation. Honorable members on this side of the House would have preferred to see the range of qualifications broadened to include civil servants, because we feel that a civil servant should not automatically be disqualified simply because he is a civil servant. Although the Minister stated, in his secondreading speech, that the council would not be called together until after a general election had been held, no mention has been made of the date of the general election. The Opposition considers that an indication by the Government that an election will take place some time before the New Year would allow the various interested parties in the north to get to work and plan their campaigns, so that they would be in a position to start campaigning the moment the decision was made. If, on the other hand, it is not the intention of the Government to hold an election until after Christmas, that fact should be made known, because at that time of the year many people leave the north for holidays in the south, if they are sufficiently fortunate, and if an election were to be held immediately after the Christmas holidays, they might not be able to avail themselves of the opportunity to participate.
When I said that the Opposition would not oppose this bill, I did not mean that we on this side of the chamber were satisfied with the present arrangement in relation to the Legislative Council. We believe that, in considering this legislation, it would have been opportune for the Government to say, “ A crisis exists in relation to the council at the present time, and we shall investigate the whole of its activities. We think that this is an opportune time to extend the scope of the activities of the council “. In this respect, the Minister stated, in the course of his second-reading speech -
It came under notice that provisions incidental to the election of members had produced an unsatisfactory situation. It was desirable that this be remedied as early as possible. There has been no occasion for a wider review of the constitution, of the council, and no such wider review has been made.
The council, as we know it to-day, has functioned for some eight or nine years. It has functioned under this Government since 1949, and we of the Opposition think that it is time that a positive step was taken to widen its functions with a view to allowing the citizens of the north a great deal more say in their affairs than they have at the present time.
I do not think that it could be said that I am wasting the time of the Parliament to-night when I direct attention to the composition of the Northern Territory Legislative Council. It consists of a chairman and thirteen members, of whom six are elected and seven are nominated. The Administrator is the chairman of the council and he has a casting vote as well as a deliberative vote, which, in effect, means that the Government, through its nominated members, exercises nine votes to the six votes exercised by the elected members. I feel sure that in those conditions nobody could say that the people of the Northern Territory have a real say in their own affairs. Let me suggest some means whereby the Government could enlarge the opportunities of citizens to participate in their own local government. At present, the representatives of the people are in the minority. There has been no attempt, in the nine or ten years of the council’s existence, to increase the representation of the people. It is true that three years ago some minor amendments were made to the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, under which the Northern Territory Legislative Council is established, but those amendments were purely of a machinery character and did nothing to broaden the functions of the council or to improve its composition. It would be impossible for the Government to say that the elected members of the council have not discharged their duties with a sense of responsibility and with credit to themselves. The Government could not say that the elected members have acted irresponsibly, and therefore any suggestion that the people of the Northern Territory are not capable of looking after their own affairs and governing themselves cannot be sustained.
When wider powers for the people of the north are sought, the retort always is that the Australian taxpayers find the money required for the development of the north and so they must have the final say in the disbursement of those funds. We agree that possibly the Australian taxpayers generally do find most of the money that is expended in the north, but we say that the expenditure by the Commonwealth of money in the north is an investment, and virtually an insurance policy for the rest of Australia. The money expended by the Commonwealth Government .in the Northern Territory is not nearly as much as the Government suggests from time to time. There are sources of revenue which are not credited to the accounts of the Northern Territory Administration. I refer to the profits that are made by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission from the development and exploitation of the Rum Jungle uranium field. Some millions of pounds must be earned annually and profitably on this project. It is impossible to obtain an exact figure, because the Government refuses to divulge the profits that are made. We know that the profits are substantial, and that if they were credited to the accounts of the Northern Territory Administration it would be shown that we are not a great burden on the Australian people. I should say that we have very nearly reached the stage of financing development from production.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) supports me in this contention. He has been over the country and he realizes the possibilities and acknowledges that we should at least receive the benefit of our own production. I suggest, in all seriousness, that the Government should consider widening the powers of the Legislative Council, even if safeguards to protect Commonwealth revenue are retained. The Government could now easily make the council fully elective or at least provide for the majority of its members to be elected, with the safeguard of a veto vested in this Parliament. This would give this Parliament an overriding power to veto any decisions which were not in line with Commonwealth policy, although I do not think that that power would be required. However, if the Government insisted on such a safeguard, there would be a means of keeping a check on the council, while allowing it a greater share of self-determination.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in a previous debate, strenuously denied the suggestion that the Northern Territory was governed by remote control from Canberra, saying that there were 400 civil servants in the Northern Territory but only 200 in all sections of the Department of Territories in Canberra and Sydney. Unfortunately, the Minister is not here, but I should like him to tell me in what way the people of the Northern Territory have any positive say in the government of the country. As I have said, in the Legislative Council their elected representatives are in a minority. It is true that on one or two occasions Government nominees have felt that they could no longer support a Government measure and have voted with elected members, but on the whole the policy of the nominees, who comprise the majority of members of the council, is the policy of the Commonwealth Government, and they receive instructions directly from Canberra on how their votes should be exercised. I cannot see how, in the Legislative Council, the people can have to any degree a say in their own affairs.
Since 1922, when provision was first made for the Northern Territory to elect a representative in this Parliament, there has been no worthwhile amendment to the Northern Territory Representation Act. I stand here as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament virtually without any voting powers at all.
– It is a disgrace.
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) is in a like position. I should like to instance the position in which I, a duly elected representative of the people of the Northern Territory, found myself when recently I was appointed as secretary of the parliamentary Labour party. That appointment traditionally carries with it appointment as a teller in divisions in this House, but because of the Standing Orders and the limitations placed upon the extent of my representation, I was debarred from filling the position of teller. I believe that a strict application of the Standing Orders would require both the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory and me to walk out of the chamber when the division bells are rung. I should like the Government to point, if it can, to anything which shows that the people of the Northern Territory have an effective voice in their own affairs, either in the Legislative Council or in this Parliament. We have no senator to represent us. There is no constitutional barrier to having a senator to represent the Northern Territory nor to the Parliament enlarging the powers of the members who represent the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. There is no constitutional barrier to giving us full representation in this Parliament, but the Government has not seen fit to do so. That is the position to-day.
I should like to point out how remote control functions in relation to the Northern Territory. As I have mentioned, we have the Legislative Council, but the elected members are in a minority. Those members have no say in the placing on the- Estimates of works which they and their electors desire. They cannot say in the Legislative Council that they want a road, a bore, fencing or other improvements that would benefit their constituents. They have no such power. The Estimates are prepared in the departments of the Administration and are, in turn, vetted by the officers in Canberra. That is an aspect of remote control that completely destroys any illusion that the people have any say in the conduct of their affairs, either through their elected representative in Canberra or their elected representatives in the Legislative Council in Darwin.
We would place party politics to one side if the Government would take the opportunity now to review the representation of the people of the Northern Territory, the functions of the Legislative Council and the functions of the elected member in the House of Representatives. The people of the Northern Territory, through their elected representatives, should have an effective voice on matters that affect it. If the Government were to do that, it would only be giving to the people of the Northern Territory something that they are justly entitled to receive. It would be giving to the people of the Territory something that every person in the Australian States enjoys to-day. It appears that we in the Territory are a forgotten minority. We look across the seas at the fight being waged by minorities to take their place in the sun. We should realize that we can see the same thing in Australia.
People must be encouraged to go to the north to develop it. But people cannot be expected to leave the southern parts of Australia, where they enjoy full citizenship rights, to go to a place where they become part-time citizens. If the Government were to act immediately on my suggestion, it would not be acting too soon. The adoption of my proposal would react to the credit of the Government and would not in any way prejudice the responsibility of the Government to the taxpayers. It would only make for the contentment of the people of the north.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 1751), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition agrees wholeheartedly with this bill. It is a small bill, but a vital one. Having spent a lot of my early life on a farm, I can appreciate the value to the farming community of a measure of this kind.
I, like many others on this side of the House, particularly my Western Australian friends, give full credit to Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited, in Western Australia, for entering the field of heavytype tractors against rather stiff opposition from bigger combines in Australia, and from some with associations outside Australia. I know that, during the last eighteen months, Western Australian members within the Government ranks have put up quite a fight to ensure that this firm would receive a better spin than it has been getting. The tractor is almost entirely of Australian construction. It is gradually winning friends in the eastern States. Admittedly, they are a long way from the place of manufacture, but this tractor is winning friends rapidly amongst the farmers of the eastern States.
One important aspect of this bill is that it will enable the bounty to be paid on tractors with 70 horse-power engines, as well as on tractors with 55 horse-power engines, as at present. In other words, the bill enables Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited to increase the size of the engine in the tractor by 15 horse-power. That is a very good move indeed. This firm is catering for the heavier type of work on farms. The tractor is being used extensively where breaking-up work has to be done on newly won land, where power is of prime importance. This bill will give a great boost to this splendid industry in Western Australia.
The Tasmanian Farmers Federation thinks very highly of this tractor. That federation has about 9,000 members, and is affiliated with the Australian Primary Producers Union, which held a big conference in Canberra this week. Recently, one of the top men of the federation decided to have a look at this firm for himself. He went to Western Australia and made a thorough investigation of the factory. He came back to Tasmania with a very high regard for the whole set-up, and gave a report to the central executive of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation. This is the only tractor, to my knowledge, that this big farmers’ organization is personally fathering, or in which it is personally interested. That speaks volumes for the quality of the workmanship of this firm.
– Where is that factory’?
– In Western Austrafia. It is good to know that the island State of Tasmania is taking Chamberlain tractors from Western Australia to help boost the economy of our far western State.
– Western Australia might buy some Tasmanian jams.
– It would be a good idea if Western Australia bought some Tasmanian jams. We would then have a very nice two-way traffic. I commend the bill on behalf of the Opposition. We fully support it and we wish the Western Australian firm of Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited the success it so thoroughly deserves.
.- lt is pleasing to find that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) supports this bill I am not always in agreement with him. and even this evening 1 agree with him with reservations. I suggest thai he and some other honorable members have noi correctly interpreted this measure. I am particularly interested in it, and am at least consistent in my views on the tractor bounty, as it was my pleasure to speak with some emphasis when the Tractor Bounty Bill 1956 was under consideration during the last sessional period.
This bill does not go far enough. To me and to the company which will benefit from the bounty it is most disappointing. J want to emphasize that the Tractor Bounty Act was passed to encourage and protect the Australian tractor manufacturing industry. It was recognized that Australia, as £ young, developing country, needed mam more such industries. This is a heavy machinery industry which is vital to out development. Therefore, it comes within the category of those industries which, as we have seen over the years, should receive definite encouragement, particularly in their early stages.
It so happens that the only company that receives direct benefit from the tractor bounty is Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited, of Welshpool, in Western Australia. This company’s factory, which employs some 800 or 900 workers, is situated in my electorate. J am closely associated with its operations, and I am naturally vitally interested in its future. I remind honorable members that the basic principle underlying the Tractor Bounty Act is that the bounty paid should help the company concerned to make a profit on its operations after years of struggling to become established. I am sure it is not necessary for me to-night to go over the ground that I traversed some months ago when I pointed out how desperate was the company’s situation in its early months of operation. As the years have passed it has, understandably, accumulated an overdraft, which is so great that the Western Australian Government has had to come into the picture and support the company’s operations in order to save it from collapse. The object of the act, as far as I can interpret it, is that the company should receive the bounty for every tractor it produces. I suggest that this is the logical interpretation. For what other purpose is the bounty paid except to ensure that a margin of profit shall be enjoyed by the company?
Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited is a progressive company. I have previously referred to its struggle to become established. As I have said before, it will enjoy a slight profit margin if the bounty is continued for the next, three years as has been arranged. Without the bounty it would have no margin of profit. Not only has this company made progress in its operations, but it is offering to primary producers and to any one who requires a tractor a most acceptable machine. The name of “ Chamberlain “ is known across Australia to-day, and honorable members who represent country electorates will agree that it has become recognized as the mark of a machine of excellent quality. The demand for Chamberlain tractors has naturally been most outstanding in Western Australia, but in Queensland, the State which is farthest removed from the Chamberlain factory, there is a growing demand for the various tractors produced by this company, which, as other companies have done, has once again proved the capabilities of Australian enterprise.
Since its establishment the company has been conducted not as a government concern but as a private undertaking. There is now clear evidence of its success and of the high quality of its products. I emphasize that the Chamberlain company has naturally undertaken market research so that its production programme may be based on a clear understanding of the demand for tractors in Australia. This programme has been adjusted with the passage of the years. In the last twelve months or so the company has made every possible endeavour to reduce costs. Precision machinery has been installed for this express purpose and to enable it to produce tractors of even better quality. I should like to take the opportunity to tell the House something of the company’s production programme, and what it expects to be able to do in the current financial year if it receives for every tractor produced a bounty of between £200 and £240. It expects, if the demand continues at the present level, to be able to produce during the next twelve months between 1,200 and 1,500 Champion model tractors of 48 maximum belt-pulley horse-power; approximately 200 55 D.A. model tractors of 55 maximum belt-pulley horse-power; and 120 70 D.A. heavy model tractors which exceed 70 maximum belt-pulley horse-power.
The Tractor Bounty Act was renewed during the last sessional period for three years subsequent to the submission by the Tariff Board of its report of 14th October last year. The board had been requested to undertake its tenth investigation into the tractor industry in Australia, and to report to the present Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan), who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, whether the Tractor Bounty Act should be renewed for another three years. In its conclusions at page 8 of the report the board stated - the Board is satisfied that the industry has not remained static. The evidence shows that the industry has already introduced, and plans further introduction of, new models: by incorporating diesel power units in its locally produced tractors it has kept abreast of the present tendency on the part of tractor buyers to favour diesel tractors. The local industry has been forced by competition to meet the demand that, it is claimed, exists for high-powered tractors of this type.
When the Tractor Bounty Bill 1956 was under consideration in this Parliament I found that a careful examination of its provisions in conjunction with the Tariff Board’s report clearly showed to any one who was interested in the matter and who could intelligently read the report that that om introduced two anomalies. I realize, of course, that the Tariff Board is a select committee of men entrusted with very great responsibility in their various investigations and reports in connexion with Australian industries, and they were most deliberate, in the report from which 1 have quoted, in two respects. Their views on these two aspects of the matter have not been supported by the bill that the Government has introduced. One of the board’s recommendations was as follows: -
That the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1953 be amended to provide for payment of bounty on tractors exceeding 55 m.b.p.h.p., when fitted with an imported engine, of £200 per tractor.
In its explanation to support that recommendation, the board said -
No provision is made in the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1953 for the payment of bounty on the production in Australia of wheel-type tractors of over 55 m.b.p.h.p. As the present tendency is towards high-powered tractors the board considers thai a bounty should be paid on wheel-type tractors coming within this category. The volume of sales in the over 55 m.b.p.h.p. classification is relatively low by comparison with the sales volume in the other five classifications and the board is of the opinion that it would bc uneconomic to manufacture in Australia the large high horse-power multicylinder diesel engines used as the power unit of these tractors. For this reason the bounty should be extended to cover such tractors when manufactured in Australia and incorporating imported engines. At the present time Australian tractor manufacturers using diesel engines imported from merica have to pay a duty of 10 per cent, a valorem on the engine, whereas a competitive tractor of United Kingdom origin is free of duty. Hie board suggests that the rate of bounty on tractors exceeding 55 m.b.p.h.p., incorporating imported engines, should be £200 per unit. The cost of the engine would need to be excluded from calculations determining the percentage o’ Australian content. nother point of view expressed in the board’s report, and which I believed was anomalous when not incorporated in the
Jill, was that the Tariff Board felt that a protective tariff was entirely warranted in order to protect the Australian tractor manufacturing industry. When these two points, which I recognized as anomalies, were not covered by the bill, and it was recognized that the bill would merely enable he continuance of the subsidy payment on tractors below 55 horse-power, and that there would be no tariff protection, I made subsequent representations to the Minister. 3nd I expected that the amendment that is now before the House would be so drafted that at least one of those two anomalies would be adjusted. If any misunderstanding occurred in my contacts with the Minister and the discussions that I have had, 1 must claim that at least I understood that the larger tractor would be covered by subsidy when the amending bill was brought down.
– The honorable member was dumped.
– My representations then were primarily aimed at obtaining bounty payment on tractors over 55 horsepower, and in my correspondence and my discussions I used the wording used by the Tariff Board in its report. Nowhere in this Tariff Board report is there any reference to a ceiling of 70 horse-power, and 1 was most surprised, on examining the bill, to find that the schedule of the bill is to be altered by replacing the figure 55. with the figure 70. I suggest, therefore, that the amending bill before the House, as it stands, will accomplish very little indeed. I might well ask the question: What will this bill accomplish? In very succinct terms, I suggest that this is what the bill really does: In the first place, it removes the necessity to fit a governor to reduce the horse-power of the larger tractor produced by the Chamberlain company. The company found it necessary, under existing legislation, to fit a governor on these tractors, in order to reduce their horse-power below 55 and allow them to qualify for subsidy payment. This bill removes the necessity to fit such a governor.
– And that is all that we claim the bill does.
– In the second place, the bill confers, possibly, a slight benefit on the company because it will be able, in its advertisements, to offer a 60 horse-power tractor instead of only a 55 horse-power machine.
– And “ slight “ is the operative word.
– This would, in my opinion, represent only a minor benefit because if the company’s marketing programme shows any improvement, it will be only because some farmers may prefer to buy a tractor of 60 horse-power rather than one, the engine of which is governed back to 55 horse-power. As a third result of this bill, the setting of a ceiling limit of 70 horsepower for the payment of subsidy robs the Chamberlain company of approximately £24,000 in subsidy for the current year, as it is expected that the company will produce up to 120 tractors of more than 70 horsepower.
– The honorable member used the word “ robs “. Is that right?
– What should be done? What is it possible for me to do in this set of circumstances? I want to urge the Government most strongly to review the Tractor Bounty Act once again, and to provide for the following two matters - first, the removal of the limit of 70 horse-power in the table of bounty rates, and a provision that tractors of more than 40 horse-power should qualify for the bounty of £240; secondly, because of that recommendation of the Tariff Board which is material in regard to the larger tractors, I strongly recommend the exclusion of the cost of imported engines used in Australianproduced tractors when determining the percentages of Australian content for the purpose of qualification for subsidy. In other words, the cost of the imported engines should be excluded, so that the company may legitimately claim the subsidy on each of the heavy tractors that it produces.
In conclusion, I may say that T am disappointed in the bill as it stands.
– You can say that again!
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who has been interjecting, needs to be reminded that his colleague, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), said that he felt that the bill as it stands is exactly as the Opposition would like it.
– He did not say that.
– I repeat that I believe, as does the company which receives assistance under the act by way of bounty, that this bill is barely a move in the right direction. However, while it does not provide for the logical encouragement that I had expected, it has at least the merit that it removes the necessity for the installation of governors on tractors to reduce their horsepower below 55. In the interests of the tractor industry and of the particular company that this bill affects, and also of the hundreds of employees associated with the company, which is situated in my electorate of Swan, I shall vigorously press for the adoption of the Tariff Board’s recommendations, which I have endeavoured to bring strongly before the notice of honorable members to-night.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) spoilt a rather good effort by finding some advantage in this bill - something dealing with governors. Australia has reached a stage of development at which we could very well forget about bounties altogether. Either we are to have protective tariffs, or we are not. The bounty is a device which keeps industry in a state of suspense from year to year, or from one three-year period to another.
– What is the honorable member’s answer to the problem?
– I shall proceed to educate the honorable member as I develop my argument. I have inspected the Chamberlain undertaking in Western Australia on a number of occasions. I saw it more than three years ago when the question of a bounty was being canvassed. The Chamberlain people felt that there ought to be a tariff barrier to protect this nascent industry, which was developing in one of the most sparsely populated areas of Australia. I believe that we should have a tractor industry somewhere - wherever we can best develop it.
I was. amazed, when I was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground recently, to find that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was present to receive a donation of the fifty-thousandth Standard tractor to be imported to Australia. We do not need to import tractors or motor cars. If we are to develop as a nation we ought not to encourage firms to manufacture articles from material partly fabricated in another country where there is a 45 or a 48-hour week, a basic wage of £6 12s., no paid holidays, no long service leave and no annual leave, and then send the product to compete on the Australian market with goods manufactured under Australian working conditions.
– Does the honorable member suggest that this country can be completely self-sufficient at this stage of its development?
– I do not. I merely suggest that the Government, having granted a bounty to the tractor industry for three years, ought to make up its mind whether it will protect it properly or keep it in a state of suspense for another three years. I would import from abroad nothing that could be manufactured here. We are told that it is uneconomic to manufacture this or that in Australia. What does that matter? In war-time we did many things that were allegedly uneconomic. Who is to determine whether the production of a certain commodity is economic or uneconomic? Who is to be the final judge in this matter?
– The people!
– I hope that ultimately the people will judge this and many other questions. When World War II. broke out we did not have an aircraft factory in this country. We had to start from the bottom. The argument against the manufacture of tractors in Australia is similar to that which is being advanced right now in regard to the manufacture of aircraft. We are told that, because of large-scale manufacture, aircraft can be obtained much more cheaply overseas, and that we ought not to continue our own aircraft industry in this country. I believe that we should encourage the manufacture of aircraft, tractors and anything else, as much as we can. If we do not do that how shall we fill the country; how shall we give people o employment; how shall we hold this continent of 3,000,000 square miles as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations? The Minister has a surfeit of the old free trade propaganda. He comes, of course, from New South Wales which, before federation, was the home of free trade, but which, when protection became our national policy, developed into out greatest State.
– If it is an offence to come from New South Wales, I have many fellow malefactors.
– It is an offence to advocate pre-federation free trade policies. lt is an offence to Australian nationhood to advocate the sort of ideas that went out of date at the time of federation. What the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said about the Chamberlain company is quite true. He knows the position at firsthand because he represents that area. Those who have had the opportunity to go over the Chamberlain establishment and to see the number of people who are employed there feel that the Government, having appointed a Tariff Board, ought at least to carry out its recommendations. The Government should not act as a kind of super tariff board. What do Ministers know about tariff matters that would justify them in disregarding the opinion of the expert body that has been set up to advise them?
– I would not claim that the board was always right.
– The Government is so seldom right that I am beginning to believe that when it disregards the opinion of the Tariff Board it can always be expected to be wrong. I know that the Tariff Board is not always right, but at least it is an instrument of this Parliament, and was set up for the purpose of protecting young and growing Australian industries. If the Parliament had no confidence in the board it would long ago have protested against its succession of recommendations. Every one acknowledges that the Tariff Board gives a dispassionate report on matters that it investigates. All of us at times would query whether the board is sufficiently adventurous in its recommendations, but if it recommends protection for an industry it ill behoves any government to say, “ No. We will not protect that industry. We will let it live for another year or two or three on a bounty “.
– Would tariff protection not increase the price of tractors to farmers?
– lt might, or it might not. Primarily, I am concerned with holding this country for western civilization. The farmers of Australia have done very well out of the legislation which, over the years, has been passed by successive governments to protect their interests. The honorable member’ for Hume (Mr. Anderson) would surely not suggest that our farmers are suffering financially, in view of the high price of wool, the protection afforded by the wheat stabilization scheme, the various bounties, and the assistance that is given them by that great socialist institution, the Commonwealth bank, in financing various primary product pools at a lower price than is charged by any of the private banking institutions.
– What about-
– Order! Interjections must cease.
– I realize that interjections are disorderly, Mr. Speaker, but I was endeavouring to enlighten the honorable gentleman. He, at least, among Australian Country party members, is capable of conversion to a broader view. For. that reason, I have wasted a little time on him. When World War II. broke out Australia could not make any part of the fuselage of an aeroplane. When it ended we were making Rolls Royce engines. The industry most concerned by this legislation is there already and we ought to gear our whole potential to the manufacture of everything that Australians can make, whether it be the motor cars that run on the roads or the tractors that work in the fields. It is no compliment to Australians to know that Standard Motors, Rootes and Nuffields still manufacture much of the components of their vehicles overseas and then put the completed product together in Australia for sale on the Australian market. If a final decision is called for, let us do what the Scullin Government did - prohibit the importation of many of these components and force companies that are manufacturing them abroad, for sale on the Australian market, to set up their factories here.
– What happened to the Scullin Government?
– The honorable member, and other members of the Adelaide Club, distorted the position to the Australian people, and destroyed the Scullin Government. James Henry Scullin will h» remembered long after the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has been forgotten. The late gentleman did something for Australia. He put Australian manufacturing on a firm basis. Though the Scullin Government was afterwards attacked and destroyed, its members were the real protectionists of Australia and set up our secondary industry in such a way that it could survive against outside competition. Let the Ministry take its courage in its hands and say that at least this is an industry that has established itself and which ought to be protected, and which wifi be protected.
– If it has established itself why does it need the protection of which the honorable member is speaking?
– Because it has protected itself only insofar as it could protect itself.
– What about other industries that do not need protection?
– What other industries?
– There are plenty of other manufacturers.
– It is all right for th, Minister to wave his arms and talk about other industries that do not need protection.
– Ask some of the Melbourne manufacturers.
– You ask them. The> are closer to you than to me.
– Does the honorable member support the principle of tariff protection alone, or tariff protection in addition to the bounty?
– Order! The honorable gentleman must not interject.
– With your permission. Mr. Speaker, I shall answer the interjection I would say that I want protection against bounty wherever possible. I want to give protection and dispense with the bounty. I know the history of this particular factory. It is not just a mushroom show which started yesterday and needs some assistance to protect it improperly. It is a really established, running show. It was established in the war period and it has given a great deal of work to many people. It has trained many operatives and has many people on its pay-roll who are really competent mechanics and good engineers. II that industry fails, there will be no work anywhere else in Australia for the people who are at present employed in it, and Western Australia is one part of this continent that we ought to try to develop. 1 am not interested in what is done in Melbourne or Sydney, although I am the member for Melbourne, and have been for a very long time.
– Too long!
– Not too long, I assure the honorable gentleman, and by the grace of God, and the votes of more than 50 per cent, of the electors, I hope to remain the member for Melbourne for a long time yet. I do not want to see Melbourne and Sydney grow at the expense of the rest of Australia. I want to see development in other parts of Australia, and even in Papua and New Guinea. I want to see this industry encouraged in every way possible, and I do not think that a bounty for another three years is the tribute that this Government, which protests that it is out to help develop Australia, should pay to an organization that has run many financial risks in establishing itself. The company has done a very good job for Australia, and has produced tractors under Australian conditions. It has been able, with the help of the bounty, up to date, to compete against tractors produced overseas.
– What can it accomplish?
– It can give employment to Australians in Australia. It can help in the development of Australia. I am not a farmer, although my grandfathers broke virgin soil in this country. Whatever developments are embodied in other tractors can be incorporated in this tractor, and unquestionably it is doing a good job for Australia. I hate to think that we have to use our hard earned balances in London to finance the importation of equipment of any sort that we can manufacture here.
– You cannot always sell and never buy.
– Oh, I know the old free-trade arguments about the law of supply and demand and all that kind of nonsense.
– What the honorable member for Mallee said was that you cannot always sell and never buy.
– Of course we are buying. We have an adverse trade balance with London. Is not that the whole trouble that the Government is faced with to-day? Is it not because of the adverse trade balance that we have to suffer from import restrictions, credit restrictions and all sorts of other restrictions? But, of course, we want to sell as well as buy. But the whole trade set-up is operating to our disadvantage.
This may, of course, have some association with the Ottawa Agreement and imperial preference and all that sort of thing. AH I want to say is that under the Ottawa Agreement, as it operates at present, the United Kingdom gets advantages worth at least £100,000,000 a year and we are lucky if we get benefits worth £10,000,000 a year. It is time that agreement was revised. Perhaps, when the new agreement is brought before the Parliament we will be in a better position to judge the standing of the whole of our Australian industries.
I support what the honorable member for Swan has said in favour of an industry in his electorate. I regard it as not merely an industry in his electorate but as an industry in some part of Australia. The Government is certainly deserving of all the criticism that the honorable gentleman has offered. Admittedly he has offered it with bated breath. He has been rather sparing in what he has had to say. He could have delivered a full-blooded attack on the Government for destroying something of value to Australia in his electorate.
– Destroying it?
– The Government is destroying it because it has not protected it. It is not destroying it outright, but is allowing it to die from inanition.
– Nothing in the bill will have that effect.
– I suggest that the Minister for Air should get rid of a lot of his thinking. The old cry “ Sydney or the bush “ no longer applies. Let him go to Fremantle and look round there, and look at the rest of Australia and see what can be done to develop industries. Melbourne and Sydney are not Australia. They are not the only parts of Australia that count. The whole of Australia counts, and I support the honorable gentleman’s advocacy of this industry. I ask the Minister for Air, now that he is no longer Minister for Customs and Excise, and therefore should be able to take a more detached view as Minister for Air-
– Hot air!
– I did not say hot air, or that he was up in the air. I said that he should be able to take a more detached view of the matter now that he is Minister for Air. I ask him to consider this case from the Australia-wide angle and that of the future. Never mind the people living to-day - think of the kids and their descendants, the next generation, and the one after, and let us help these Australians of the future all we can. Imposing a tariff duty for the protection of this industry will not harm anybody in Australia. After all, it is Australia that counts. It ought to count first with all of us.
– Is the honorable gentleman supporting the bill, or opposing it7
– I support the bill as the lesser of two evils, because I do not intend to oppose a measure which at least gives some assistance, however inadequate, to a deserving Australian industry. I am talking to the two Ministers in the chamber at present who really represent predatory wealth in this House. I am telling them that it is their bounden duty to try to do something for the people who are struggling for. a living. I am pleading to-day, not for the social upper stratum, but for the impecunious nine-tenths of the community whose chronic impecuniosity is due to the failure of this Government to protect Austraiian industry properly and satisfactorily.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has quite rightly said that the industry that the bill is designed to assist can do a lot of good for Australia. That is the beginning, and it is likewise the end, of the points he made with which I can agree. The question of bounty and tariff protection depends on how a particular case is looked at. I suggest to the honorable member for Melbourne that if the purpose of assisting in establishing or extending an industry is to assist the Australian economy, the correct thing to do is to ask the whole of Australia to provide the necessary measure of assistance. That measure of assistance would not be forthcoming if a protective tariff were imposed on behalf of this industry instead of a bounty being paid to it. The honorable member, after stating the very desirable objective of helping the Australian economy, submitted a most undesirable and illogical argument as to how that objective should be attained. The increased cost of equipment consequent on the imposition of a tariff would have to be borne alone by the users of the goods on which tariff is imposed. Either they would bear the cost because of having to pay the tariff on the imported article or they would bear the cost because the price of the local article had been increased to bring it nearer to that of the imported article. So it is the farmer, in this case, who will be called upon to bear the burden.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that the farmers had done well out of Australian governments. There is many a starving dog which has done well out of its owner, and I suggest that the farmers are in a similar position in relation to Australian governments. They have been handed a bare bone when they were starving in order to keep them alive. That is the measure of assistance that has been given to the farming people. The farmer has been assisted just to encourage him to maintain the tremendous effort that he puts forward all the time, because that effort is so plainly necessary to the economy of this country. No government can entirely ignore the existence of the farmer. So, like the owner of a starving dog, it occasionally hands him a bare bone.
Speaking apparently in accordance with traditional Labour policy, the honorable member for Melbourne postulated a continuance of that very thing. In other words, he said, “ If this industry is necessary for the benefit of Australia and if the farmer is the one who will use its products, let the farmer pay, and the whole nation will reap the benefit of the assistance he gives to that industry “. I contend that, if a bounty is to be paid, then the contribution should be made by the whole nation in the nation’s interest. That should be reasonably clear to the honorable member for Melbourne.
The honorable member also said that because this country enjoys a 40-hour week and favorable working conditions, we should not permit the importation of goods from countries in which working conditions were not of an equivalent standard and in which the people worked for 46 or 48 hours a week. I would not disagree with him in that regard. But is a section of the community to be called upon to pay the cost of planting this country’s political or industrial ideology in another country? If that ideology is Commonwealth policy, should this not be attempted by the whole nation? In imposing a tariff to restrict the importation of goods because they are produced under working conditions which are not comparable with those in Australia, the Government would, in effect, be saying to the primary producer, “ Because we believe that those people are not working under suitable conditions you must pay the cost of ramming home to them that they should introduce a 40-hour week “.
If it is desirable that the high standards of this country, which are so frequently abused, should be introduced into other countries and if we feel that it is our duty to assist their introduction in other countries, it is the responsibility of the whole nation to bear the cost of introducing our political and industrial ideology in those countries. For that reason, the provision of a bounty for the protection of goods produced in this country is desirable. So the honorable member, even on his own argument, loses ground in every respect.
Apart from that aspect of the matter, it is obviously quite wrong continually to impose a burden on people who are compelled to use these goods as capital equipment. If a consumer article such as a shirt, tie, suit of clothes or pound of butter were concerned, 1 would not care what was done. But to impose a tariff upon capital goods which a section of the community that has to dispose of its product in unprotected markets is compelled to use, is obviously an injustice.
Let me come to the proposals in this bill. The honorable member for Melbourne was quite wrong when he said that this tractor industry had been established in Western Australia in war-time. The fact is that the industry was established in the post-war period. It took over a munitions factory, ft had not been a tractor factory. It was taken over by Chamberlains and converted into a proprietary company. The company has its faults. It has one very vital fault.
– What is that?
– The company’s fault is that the standard of the goods it produces is too high. In all these mechanized industries the art of success, the art of achieving profits, the art of expansion, is to dispose of a product the users of which will be compelled to come back to the manufacturer for spare parts and to buy a new implement within a short period. The trouble with the Chamberlain enterprise is that its machines do not require spare parts. The life of the machine is far too long foi it to be profitable to the manufacturer.
Had the Chamberlain company descended to normal business practices and produced a shoddy article in order to make the buyer come back, time and time again, for spare parts, this factory would be one of the wealthiest in Australia and might be even bigger than General Motors-Holden’s Limited. But it has been honest. Every farmer who has used machines made at this factory will admit that he has got value for his money. He will tell anybody that he does not have to go back to the factory for spare parts. He does not have to replace the machine after a short life on the farm. That is the trouble with Chamberlain Industries. Proprietary Limited. . Is it a bad one? Should we say to the company, “ You cannot be so efficient, and therefore, we will not encourage you “? The very thing that the company is doing deserves every encouragement from the Government and the people.
In my opinion, it is a shame - an injustice to this industry, to the goods it produces, and to Western Australia - that this company has not participated in the disposal of tractors and farm machinery to Asian countries under the Colombo plan.
– Is it not obvious? The eastern States have the market. Here is an opportunity to assist this industry. We all say, “ Let us be national in outlook. Industry should be decentralized and spread all over the Commonwealth “. If this industry were given an opportunity of disposing of its machines under the Colombo plan, it would be able because of the quality of its manufactures, to establish a reputation for Australian goods that would stand unchallenged and unchallengable in any other country. In that way we could build up goodwill and a good name for our products in the countries with which we want to trade. It would pay the Government to give tractors away in those countries because it would know that, as more tractors were needed; the example set by the machines obtained from the Chamberlain company in Western Australia would induce them to buy further machines. But in view of the influence of the eastern States, perhaps that is asking too much. Like the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), I accept the bill. I offer a meed of praise and gratitude for what the Government has done, but I conclude by saying that, nevertheless, the provisions of the bill are disappointingly inadequate.
.- I think that honorable members on both sides of the House will pay tribute to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) for the fighting qualities that he exhibits. Although I do not always agree with his parochial attitude regarding Western Australia, particularly in relation to the federal aid roads formula, I personally pay a tribute to his efforts on behalf of the primary producers. When he fights for the primary producers of Western Australia he also fights for primary producers all over this great continent. Therefore, sir, to have such a fighter behind me - he now sits behind me in this chamber - is something of which I am very proud. He said many of the things that I would have liked to say, and he said them in an enthusiastic manner that must appeal to the people. He is an enthusiastic man, and that is a great thing. Some one has said that an enthusiastic man has had a visitation of the gods; the mind grasps certain facts, reason draws certain conclusions; and imagination binds them togeher like faggots into a torch and lights them at the fires of enthusiasm; in that genial glow the heart warms, faith and hope revive, energy takes command, mortal men become heroes, the impossible becomes possible, and the work of the world is done.
The primary producers of this country will welcome the subsidy that is to be given, by means of this bill, to the Chamberlain company of Western Australia, because Australians like using tractors that are built in their own country. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has remarked, in a very quiet interjection to which I am sure you, sir, would not have objected, that this debate is a great advertisement for that company-. I think that that is right, because the name “ Chamberlain “ is to-night being broadcast all over Australia-
– Order! 1 must say that, during the last ten minutes or so, the company that has been mentioned has received quite sufficient advertisement, and I do not intend to allow it to receive any more.
– I could not agree with you more, sir. I made that remark merely in passing.
I wish now to reply briefly to comments made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member said that, if it were possible, it would be better to prohibit the importation of such things as tractors, as was done in 1930. At the present time, we are subsidizing the manufacture of tractors in Australia and also allowing other tractors and machinery to come into the country from overseas. The honorable member, however, has missed the real point completely. We are subsidizing the manufacture of tractors and helping to extend production, rather than clamping down in the way that would be necessary if the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne were adopted, and if imports were restricted to the degree suggested by him. He also said that we should not allow goods to come to this country from countries where a 48-hour week is worked, to compete with us because Australians have the advantage of a 40-hour week. What we have to remember is that if we are to make a success of the 40-hour week, we have to produce effectively, efficiently and in quantity comparable with that of the countries where the working week consists of 48 hours. After all, we are a unit of the great trading nations of the world. The isolationist attitude of the honorable member for Melbourne, in this respect, cannot be described by any other word than “ deplorable “.
I appreciate the action of the honorable member for Moore in supporting the case for the primary producer, when the honorable member for Melbourne said - and 1 wrote it down - that the farmers had had a very good run with Commonwealth governments, through wheat stabilization, subsidies, and so on.
– Hear, hear!
– Of course, 1 do not expect honorable members from metropolitan areas to have any knowledge of these matters. Therefore, 1 hope to be able to give them some, information. How much money have the wheat-growers received from stabilization of the wheat industry?
The answer is not one penny, and every supporter of the Australian Country party will agree with that statement. What is the position of the dairyman in relation to subsidies? There is not the slightest doubt that when the honorable member for Melbourne used the word “ subsidy “ he was referring to the dairy-farmer. Actually, the subsidy is a consumer subsidy, because it keeps down the price of butter to the consumer. The dairy-farmers at the present time, as is evidenced by meetings of dairyfarmers, are trying to tell the people that, at the moment, they are receiving only the bare cost of production. Therefore, the subsidy with which the honorable member for Melbourne found fault is really assisting considerably the people whom he represents in this Parliament, particularly those who live in the City of Melbourne.
It is remarkable that members of this Parliament should make statements such as those made by honorable members opposite to-night. The honorable member for Melbourne said, in effect, “ Do not stay in the cities. Go out into the country and see what is happening in the wide open spaces of Australia.” I suggest that he should do so himself, because if he did, he would see what the farmers have to contend with. After all, the people in the cities are reasonably well protected, but if the farmer experiences a drought, a flood, a bush fire, or some other calamity, he may lose the whole of his production for the year. But he has to put up with that. The whole trouble with the honorable member for Melbourne is that he objects to people making a success of a private enterprise. He wants socialism.
– Of course, his leader says “ No “. But it is on record in “ Hansard “ of the night before last that the honorable member for Melbourne said, by way of interjection, “lama socialist “.
I support this bill and am pleased, on this occasion, to be on the side of the men from Western Australia. I had the great pleasure of viewing this tractor in the early stages of its production. There was a factory at South Melbourne at which the same kind of tractor was being, produced, and I was invited to go and inspect it. I am not suggesting, of course, that the project was not commenced in Western Australia, because the Western Australians would be up in arms if I did so.
When the honorable member for Melbourne was speaking I interjected, “ You cannot always sell and never buy”, meaning, of course, that you have to buy, as well as sell, if you wish to take part in world trade. He immediately went on to say that our balance of payments in the United Kingdom had been depleted since this Government came to office. I suggest that he overlooked the fact that we must have imports because we, in this country, have a great developmental programme in hand. In my opinion, the way in which the country has been developed since Labour went out of office in 1949 has been almost miraculous: If this Government had continued petrol rationing, which existed in the days of .Labour and which throttled the progress of the country, of course our overseas balances would have been kept at a high level. But, on the other hand, we would not have had so many motor cars and so much machinery with which to increase production in- the pastoral and agricultural fields.
– Why does not the honorable member say something about the bill?
– By the way, I always find, when I get interjections of a hostile nature, that they come from members with city interests who sit on either side of the House, and when I make a plea on behalf of the primary producer, whether my interjector is a member of the Liberal party or the Labour party, if he is opposed to the man who produces the main commodities which comprise our national wealth, 1 invariably make an appropriate retort.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member will confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the bill.
– I believe that the man on the land should have the greatest possible support in this Commonwealth Parliament in the fostering of his great work.
– in reply - When I introduced this bill, on 23rd October, I referred to it as a simple bill intended to raise the existing maximum limit of horse-power of tractors on which bounty is payable under the Tractor Bounty Act. I would not have believed that such a simple bill could have provoked a debate which would range so wide or produce so many interesting and varying viewpoints. I do not want to be taken as agreeing entirely and completely with everything that has been said by my friends, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). They have put their hands on the essence of the criticism raised by the Opposition, and, indeed, raised by my friend, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), who objected to the Government’s failure to adopt the recommendation of the Tariff Board that a customs duty should be imposed on imported tractors. The two members of the Australian Country party who have spoken have pointed out the inevitable effect of the imposition of a customs duty on tractors in increasing the costs of primary production in Australia, because, whether the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, likes it or not, the fact is that most Australian primary producers are dependent on imported tractors, and any imposition of customs duty on. imported tractors would inevitably raise the cost of primary production in Australia. As this Government knows very well, and as I believe the whole House knows, though some Opposition members are occasionally reluctant to admit it, a prime function of government to-day is to do all that it can in keeping down the costs of primary production.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in an amusing speech, criticized the Government for not adopting the Tariff Board’s report, and he ranged wide, in his imaginative manner, over the whole field of the Australian economy. I never listen to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, particularly when he speaks about an economic measure, without being profoundly thankful for the fact that we live in a democracy which enables the people, by their votes, to prevent him from applying his economic theories, because I think that if the theories he advanced to-night were ever applied they would have some very curious and strange effects on the Australian economy. I might also be permitted to say that I never listen to him speaking on these measures without feeling somewhat envious of a member of the Opposition who can speak without any responsibility for what he says. He does not care what he says, because he knows that his policies will not be put into operation. He wound up, oddly enough, by supporting the bill, having spent most of his time criticizing it. The essence of his criticism seemed to be that we, in this country, had passed the time when any industry should be supported by a bounty, and that all industries should be supported by customs duties, which, to my mind, is an extraordinary proposition. The whole purpose of the adoption of bounty assistance is to support a single industry in its establishment stages without causing a rise in the whole scale of Australian costs through the imposition of a customs duty over a wide range of manufactures.
He used, in his criticism of the Government, the fact that in this bill we have not followed entirely, or indeed even substantially, the advice of the Tariff Board contained in its report on tractors made on 14th October last year. He admitted that the Tariff Board is not always right, and then he criticized the Government severely for not always adopting its recommendations. I should have thought that his own experience in office would have reminded him that the Tariff Board has one function, which is to advise the Government within limited issue, but that the Government holds the whole responsibility for the effects of its legislation and its administrative acts, and that it is obliged to examine critically the recommendations of the Tariff Board in each report which comes to it, and would be irresponsible if it did not do so. The final responsibility lies with the Government. It cannot escape that responsibility, and it must exercise its own judgment on the reports of the board. The fact is that the Government, in the vast majority of cases, accepts the recommendations of the Board, in which it has the greatest confidence, but in this case it did not feel able to do so, and for very good reasons.
A more serious approach to this bill, not only in relation to what the bill proposes to do but also in relation to what the Government has not done in this matter, was made by the honorable member for Swan. I hope that he will not feel unkindly towards me if I say that I think his judgment has been affected by his concentration on the importance to the area he represents in the Parliament of the one manufacturer who is most concerned in this matter. I think that it might be said of the criticisms that he offered that in his zeal for the representation of his own electorate perhaps he did not give full consideration to the effect of the measures which he would have preferred the Government to adopt. In fact, the Chamberlain company is the only company which receives any benefit under the Tractor Bounty Bill. The company manufactures three different types of tractors, one large tractor and two smaller ones.
– What is the difference?
– A difference of size. The last amendment of the Tractor Bounty Bill provided, in effect, that a bounty was payable on all of the smaller tractors which the Chamberlain company produce. The bill was so drawn as to limit the payment of the bounty to tractors which had an engine with a capacity of between 40 and 55 horse-power. It was pointed out to the Government that the company was in fact using in these two smaller tractors an engine which was capable of developing more than 55 horse-power, and that it was embodying in the engine a governor to ensure that it did not develop more than 55 horsepower. The Government immediately recognized that the existing provision imposed a needless restraint on the company. lt seemed unnecessary to require the company to embody a governor in the tractor to prevent the engine from developing its maximum horse-power, and so preventing the buyers of the tractors from enjoying their full capacity. So the act is to be amended to ensure that the bounty on the two smaller types of tractor which the company produces shall be payable, even though they develop their full engine power. That is all that this bill purports to do.
The honorable member for Swan said that he was disappointed that the bill did not go further and, in fact, provide a subsidy for the larger tractor produced by Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited. The Government has considered that matter very carefully and has decided not to subsidize the larger tractor. I should like to tell the House the principal reasons for that decision. First, the company at the present time produces only about 100 of the larger tractors a year and the bounty involved would be approximately £20,000. Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited has been doing comparatively well in recent times, lt has been getting nearer to a commercial profit-making standard and, in fact, is making a small profit. It is progressing satisfactorily with the three types of tractors it is making, and the Government does not believe that it is necessary to subsidize the larger tractor to keep the company afoot.
The next point is this: In the larger tractor, which the honorable member for Swan hoped would be subsidized but which has not been, the company has been using an engine imported from America, on which it pays duty. That was one of the points mentioned at the Tariff Board inquiry, lt proposes very soon to change to an English-made engine, on which it will not pay any duty. The saving that will arise from the change to a duty-free engine from an engine on which duty was paid will be greater for each unit than the amount of bounty which would be paid.
– Now repeat what you had to say about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– He can read it tomorrow. It lies within the power of the company - and we understand that it will very shortly so arrange - to make a saving greater than the bounty which the honorable member for Swan would like us to pay by using the English-made engine.
The next point is that if the Government amended the Tractor Bounty Act in the way suggested to cover the tractors with target horse-power, the products not only of Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited but also of other manufacturers, who are manufacturing quite successfully without any bounty or duty, would become subject to bounty. The cost to the taxpayers would be enormous.
– The other company has never made such a tractor.
– If, as the honorable member for Swan suggested, we had raised the limit on horse-power to enable these tractors to qualify for bounty, tractors manufactured by other companies in Australia would qualify for bounty, and those companies do not need that bounty.
The final argument that a customs duty should have been imposed has been effectively answered by my friends from the Country party, the honorable member for Mallee and the honorable member for Moore, who spoke earlier. The Government does not believe that the costs of primary production should be increased by the imposition of a duty on tractors in order to assist one company producing, at the present time, 100 of those tractors a year. Another reason is this: The honorable member for Swan referred to the somewhat peculiar capital structure of the company in question. It is, in fact, supported very substantially by the Western Australian Government through its agencies. If it comes to a question of receiving government support, the company is already receiving considerable support by its favorable capital structure and is assisted by the Western Australian Government.
I hope I have indicated to the House, even if honorable members do not agree with them, sufficient arguments to show that the Government has seriously considered this problem and, in deciding to go only as far as it has in adopting the recommendations of the Tariff Board, it has at least made a considered judgment and, I feel, the only reasonable judgment to which it could come. I commend the bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator Anderson had been appointed to fill the vacancy on the Public Works Committee caused by the resignation of Senator Henty.
Message received from the Senate intimating that, until such time as the two vacancies for members of the Senate existing on the Foreign Affairs Committee were filled by members of the Opposition, Senator Robertson and Senator Vincent had been appointed to serve on the committee.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 1748), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for a sum of £18,500,000 to be share among what are generally known as the claimant States in terms of the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, as contained in its Twentythird Report, which was tabled yesterday. The commission recommended that the grant to South Australia be £5,800,000, to Western Australia £9,200,000 and to Tasmania £3,500,000, a total of £18,500,000. Measures such as this are becoming an annual event in this Parliament. That fact indicates the difficulty of obtaining the ideal revenues for the various States in a federal system if they are left to their own financial resources. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has directed attention to that matter in both the 22nd and 23rd reports. At page 19 of the 23rd report the commission states, referring to its previous report -
In paragraph 30 of that Report the Commission said - “ It might well be asked, however, why the need for special grants persists so strongly when 1 other Commonwealth payments to the States have increased greatly, and when there is evidence of economic expansion in the claimant States at least equal to that which has occurred in the nonclaimant States. In general terms, the reason is that costs of expansion of State services, of development, of undertakings such as railways and water supply, and of general administration are relatively heavy in the States of smaller populations. At the same time benefits to revenue arising from economic expansion do not flow directly to the State Governments.”
I suggest that that statement epitomizes some of the difficulties that occur under out federal system. As the report indicates, there are disparities in population between the States - disparities which have arisen largely out of the original disposition of economic forces. Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia suffer from these disabilities peculiarly, and the scheme provided for in section 96 of the Australian Constitution has been arranged to attempt to redress the balance in their favour to some extent, and, in terms of the canons that have been evolved by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, to see that they are put in a position to function at a standard which is not appreciably below that of the other States. In other words, the surplus of the revenue derived by the Commonwealth from its taxing machinery is used to redress the balance in favour of certain of the States. I submit that that is a worthy principle. Nevertheless, the machinery that has sometimes been adopted to obtain this objective has certain difficulties attaching to it.
The reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission are always very interesting documents. They contain a comprehensive summary of the position, not only of the claimant States, but also of the other States, during the financial year to which they relate, and I suppose they contain the most up-to-date information available. In the 23rd report we are given the latest information available in relation to the finances of the States, in some instances up to the end of the financial year 1954-55, and in others up to the end of the financial year 1955-56. As was indicated yesterday something like £211,000,000 out of a total revenue of £325,000,000 received by the States comes from Commonwealth grants of one kind or another. The grants provided for in this measure are of a particular kind paid only to the three claimant States. But they are a significant factor in the financial position of those three States. If one reads the twenty-third report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission carefully, one can see that it indicates the tenuous basis on which the solvency of those States depends. By way of example I refer to paragraph 7 of the report at page 12, in which the commission deals with Tasmania in particular in the following terms: - .
For that year all States, non-claimant and claimant, except Tasmania, had large deficits.
That highlights the earlier reference to the difficulties of the States in obtaining the revenues needed to enable them to meet their commitments. They have to resort to all kinds of devices in trying to bridge the gap. The Grants Commission states that Tasmania was the only State that did not have a large deficit. To illustrate the chance factors on which the finances of a State may depend I point out that the report continues -
Tasmania closed the year with a surplus, although in the early part of the year the State Treasurer had budgeted for a deficit. The improvement resulted from a substantial increase in lottery revenue which could not have been foreseen when the estimates of revenue and expenditure for the year were presented to the State Parliament.
In other words, Tasmania was more fortunate - although in this instance to only a comparatively small degree - solely due to the chance factor of people in that State and in other States investing more in lottery transactions in Tasmania than had been expected. The report does not go on to contemplate whether Tasmania’s good fortune was enjoyed at the expense of the other States. This is an example of the chance events upon which the States nowadays depend to balance their budgets. It would be regarded as absurd if the Commonwealth had to go to similar extremes to secure its financial solvency.
As 1 pointed out yesterday, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I think it is characteristic of our federal system of finance that the Commonwealth still has at its disposal reasonably large revenue surpluses. It can choose to spend money in a certain way because it has available a million pounds or so, whereas the States have not the same capacity to manoeuvre, to improve, and to develop services which they nevertheless are still constitutionally obliged to provide. That rather delicate position presents the States with considerable difficulties in balancing their budgets, and it is extremely hazardous to their future development. As we all know the States still have considerable constitutional powers. The comprehensive tables embodied in the appendixes to the Commonwealth Grants Commission report indicate the kind of functions that the States are still called upon to perform. They are those which most intimately touch the daily life of the individual citizen. lt is interesting to note the variations of expenditure on various activities among the States. These variations indicate that some of the States, all of which are sovereign in their particular fields, choose to spend more on education and less on health than do others. I do not at this stage argue the merits of the federal system of government, but it seems to me, taking a reasonably long-term view, that we shall have a federal system for a considerable time to come. I for one believe that so long as the federal system exists, and the States have their present powers, it ought to be within their province to allow for these differences of expenditure. They may freely choose to spend so much out of a given revenue in one way rather than in another, and that is the kind of choice that faces every individual in the community. Out of a given income one may buy this or that; one cannot always buy this and that. Governments and individuals alike face this choice.
I submit that the heads of power mentioned in the appendixes to the report indicate the importance of the functions still retained by the States. Education includes primary and secondary education, kindergarten, university, technical and agricultural training, libraries, and the training of the deaf, dumb, and blind. All those activities come within the province of the States under their educational functions. The average per capita expenditure on education throughout Australia is 148s. 9d. per annum. The annual per capita expenditure varies widely from State to State. In New South Wales it is 157s. 8d., in Victoria 141s. 5d., in Western Australia 173s. 9d., and in Tasmania 178s. 5d. These figures do not necessarily indicate that greater expenditure ensures better education. They do indicate the difficulties with which the States are confronted. Western Australia, with its large area and comparatively small population, may not receive as much for £1 spent on education as some of the other States would receive. The Commonwealth Grants Commission attempts to take such circumstances into consideration, and to make adjustments accordingly. Admittedly, it is a very difficult task but, nevertheless, the commission does attempt to do it. I do not wish to argue about the effectiveness of the machinery. I merely say that the commission attempts to reduce all these services to a common standard. A similar system is adopted with regard to health and hospital services. Under this heading is included provision for mental patients as well as for other sick people. The care of mothers and children is also provided for. The Australian average expenditure is 91s. 5d., but it is as high as 100s. 6d. in Western Australia, and as low as 82s. Id. in Victoria. I repeat that the value of the services does not necessarily depend only on the amount of money expended, because Western Australia may not receive as much in the way of these health services for an expenditure of £1 as would be received by one of the more closely populated States.
Similar remarks apply to law and order enforcement, although in this field I believe we see a more uniform pattern, and this fact, perhaps, strengthens my argument. The average expenditure in Australia on law and order enforcement and public safety, including the administration of justice, police and gaols, is 43s. Id. The variation as between the States is not so great as it is with some of the other services. In South Australia the expenditure is 33s. 8d., which is the lowest. Whether that means that South Australia is an orderly State 1 do not know. Tasmania has the highest expenditure, being 49s. 6d. We do not see the same variation in expenditure as between the different States under this heading, which would seem to indicate that a more uniform service is provided in the various States.
The point that does need to be considered is that the States, out of the revenues at their disposal, have not evolved a uniform pattern of expenditure. Some spend rather more, relatively, on education, and less on health. I think that Queensland tends to spend a higher amount on health than do some of the other States, because the Queensland Government has different social ideas regarding its hospitals, and is to be commended for those ideas. It is noteworthy, however, that the States choose to exercise their sovereignty in different ways, and I believe it to be a good thing that the States are still allowed this degree of manoeuvrability, as it was called yesterday, which, however, is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve because the States must look round for meagre sums of from £50,000 to £500,000, whereas in the Commonwealth budget an amount of £50,000 does not appear to loom very large. While £50,000 may not appear a very large amount in a budget of £1,230,000,000, any one with a sense of financial responsibility would not regard such a sum as small. I am sure that my esteemed colleague, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) would agree with me that sometimes persons charged with the responsibility of spending money tend to see it not for what it can achieve in itself but for how it appears in relation to the whole. The substance is sometimes lost sight of in the very small shadow that it seems to cast in the whole picture. When that kind of attitude is adopted, we detect a lessening of financial responsibility.
I believe that in many cases greater value could be obtained for the community by the States spending £50,000 or £60,000 on services that are still State functions than by the Commonwealth spending a similar amount on functions controlled by the Commonwealth. The States have to cast round for small amounts, while the Commonwealth is able to say, “ That is not a very large amount, and we will devote it to this purpose or that purpose “. The purpose chosen may well be a worthy one, but it is impossible to decide whether the amount has been wisely spent, having regard to the overall national needs. It is because this situation obtains to-day that the State governments tend to be regarded in some quarters as little more than glorified local councils. I do not wish to be understood as disparaging the functions of local councils, but we are tending to think of a kind of hierarchy of government, with local councils being of slight importance, State governments a little more important, and the Commonwealth Government most important of all. In thinking along these lines I believe that we pay scant regard to the fundamentals that underlie our federal system of government. We have ordered our system of government in such a way that each of these governing bodies exercises its peculiar responsibilities in administering to the needs of the citizen, whether he . be regarded as a citizen of the shire of Cooroorooke, or a citizen of the State of Victoria, or a citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia. He has needs in each sphere, and it is the responsiblity of government to provide for those needs, and to provide for them as well and as economically as possible, in terms of the moneys that are expended. I referred, yesterday, to the activities of library development and adult education in Victoria, and showed how, with an additional £100,000, we could greatly improve our services. The State, however, says, “You cannot have £100 for this purpose, because we have not nearly enough money to meet the day-to-day needs of our growing population for ordinary education facilities “. Because of this, our national development, particularly on the social and cultural side, is languishing.
As I have said, this bill really relates only to the three claimant States. However, according to the theory followed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, it helps to allow all States to function at what might be called a national overall minimum level, so that certain States will not be penalized because of their geographical position or a limitation of their resources. For this reason, the measure is worthy of support. However, as I mentioned earlier, it does indicate the man difficulties that beset us, in a federal system, in trying to equate responsibilities to financial resources. I, for one, do not believe that we can ever reach a stage in a federal system - and we certainly have not reached it in Australia - at which every unit of government can be made responsible in the sense of raising the revenue that it is called upon to spend, lt cannot be done, because of diversity of resources. I have never subscribed to what economists, when I was a student, used to call the vicious principle - I am sure that the honorable member for Warringah knows what I mean - of one government spending what another government collects. Certainly, we have had to depart, in Australia, from the practice of governments spending only what they collect, and I believe that the fact that, nowadays, we scarcely ever hear the phrase “ vicious principle “ used in this regard indicates that, in the general analysis, it is no longer regarded as an accurate description of the practice to which it was formerly applied - although my friend, the honorable member for Warringah, may be one of the last die-hards who would urge at least a partial return to what was formerly regarded as a sound principle.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lawrence) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.9 p.m.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
Will he make available evidence of the contravention of Article 9; 13, sections 1 and 2; 18; 20, section 1; and 23 of .the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by any of its signatories during the years 1955 and 1956?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not constitute a binding obligation and is not open to signature. The declaration, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United
Nations on 10th December, 1948, by a vote of 48 in favour with two absent and eight abstentions, is properly speaking a statement of principles which can be regarded as a common goal for all peoples and nations. Therefore, it is clear that there cannot be any formal contravention of the declaration. As regards evidence of practices which fall below the principles stated in the declaration, there are, as far as I am aware, no official compilations from which the information requested could be extracted.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19561025_reps_22_hor13/>.