22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Leader of the House yet had an opportunity to peruse the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference held at Bangkok in November last? If so, will the right honorable gentleman table the report before this sessional period ends? In view of the importance of the resolutions carried - mostly unanimously - by the 39 nations that were represented at the conference, and the fact that members of the union are urged to promote the principles enunciated in those resolutions, will the Minister consider setting aside a day for a debate on the report when the Parliament meets in the spring?
– 1 am not clear in my own mind as yet just what protocol requires of us in relation to these matters, and whether I am the appropriate Minister to table such a report, or whether it should be tabled by the leader of the Australian delegation. However, I shall study those aspects of the matter during the day. I fear that it is not practicable to have a lengthy discussion on the report during this sessional period, although there may be opportunities, during the consideration of some of the items of business before the House, for individual members to address themselves to the matter, if they so wish. I shall consider the honorable gentleman’s proposal, and shall see whether arrangements can be made for discussion later, if that seems desirable.
– Has the Minister for Supply received any information indicating that background radiation in Australia has been increased by Britain’s explosion of a hydrogen bomb in the Christmas Island area last week?
– The report that I have received does not indicate any increase of radiation. In fact, it indicates that there has been no increase of background radiation.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. Is the honorable gentleman aware that undue hardship is being inflicted on some applicants for the age pension who receive long, service leave payments on retirement, because those payments are taken into account as affecting their pension entitlement? Will the Minister consider amending the Social Services Act during thebudget sittings to provide that, wheremoney received in payment for long service leave is used for the repair of pensioners.” homes, the purchase of household goods or other personal requirements, pensioners may be allowed at least three months in which to complete the work in hand without their pension or pension entitlement being affected?
– When an application is made to my department for an age pension, the normal means test is applied. If, in the application of the means test, a pensioner is disqualified from receiving an age pension, or if his age pension is reduced below an amount that he himself deems to be reasonable, it is competent for him to make application for me to review his particular case. The honorable member for Shortland ought to know that I would be only too happy to review cases of the kind and to mete out generous justice wherever I could. That, of course, is the limit of my powers under the Social Services Act.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the stage that has been reached with the Government’s plan for the establishment of a national television station in Brisbane, and for the coordination of the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission at Sidney House, Toowong, which was purchased a short time ago by the Government for this purpose?
– Regarding the first part of the question asked by the honorable member, as I have stated on a number ot ‘ occasions recently, since the initiation of television in Sydney and Melbourne, the whole question of the extension of television to other capital cities and country areas has been kept under close watch by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the
Postmaster-General’s Department. It will be remembered that the Government announced, when television was commenced, that it intended to await the operation of the stations in Sydney and Melbourne before formulating its policy regarding further extensions. Now, sir, the position has been reached at which I have asked the board to give me a report concerning the operation of television so far, together with any recommendations regarding its extension. I have not yet received that report, but when it is received it will be presented to the Cabinet for discussion and determination of future policy in the matter. So far, there has been no determination of the form of any future extension of television, but I assume that the decision will not be withheld too long.
The second part of the honorable member’s question referred to the co-ordination of broadcasting and television services in Brisbane, as the result of the purchase recently of a property which, I think, is in the honorable member’s electorate. That has been done as a long-range policy, not just for the purpose of extending television, and it is not to be interpreted as meaning that any decision regarding the extension of television to Brisbane has been taken. Eventually, this building will house all the broadcasting and television services in that area. It represents a means whereby the costs of operation and administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the Brisbane area may be reduced considerably, because we shall be able to get rid of expensive leases at present being held in various parts of Brisbane.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of the conditions of employment of civilian managers in Army canteens in Queensland? Is it the policy of the Government to adhere to the 40-hour week, as provided in all industrial awards? Is the Minister also aware that civilian managers of Army canteens are called upon to work approximately 72 hours a week, for which they receive slightly more salary than that provided by the shop assistants award for shop assistants, which is not in any way commensurate with the amounts that they would receive if they were paid overtime at the rate provided in that award? In view of the unsatisfactory treatment that is being meted out to these people, will the Minister cause an immediate investigation to be made and see to it that the military officers in charge of the canteens pay the managers overtime, in strict accordance with the shop assistants award? Further, in view of the fact that the Parliament will shortly go into recess for a lengthy period, will the Minister forward the result of his investigation and decision to me at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices, Brisbane?
– As the honorable member knows, the canteens service is run by a board of trustees in a normal way as all businesses are run. How the trustees run that business is entirely in their hands. I am the appropriate Minister to whom they report on the results of their management, but they are required to carry out their business functions in the same way as any ordinary business would conduct its affairs. I am not aware, of course, of the matters raised by the honorable member, but I shall certainly make inquiries of the trustees, get their report, and let the honorable gentleman know the result in the way he has indicated.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is correct that he proposes to bring a distinguished Englishman out to Australia for the purpose of inquiring into the future planning of Canberra. Is it also a fact that the original magnificent plan of the Australian capital was made mainly by a very distinguished American? In view of the fact that Australian conditions approximate far more closely to American conditions than to British conditions, has the Minister considered associating with the distinguished British expert an expert of similar qualifications from the United States, so that the original conception of this as a capital worthy of Australia may not be destroyed? Finally, I ask that the Minister, in any action which is taken, will take special care to see that the present tendency adopted in certain State capitals of using recreation areas for purposes other than that for which they were originally planned, shall be avoided in the National Capital.
– It is quite true that Sir William Holford, who is Professor of
Town Planning at London University, has been commissioned by the Commonwealth to review the Canberra town plan. Sir William will arrive here on about 10th June and will spend two or three weeks, I think, on his on the spot investigations. He will then return to London to prepare his report, lt is quite true that the original plan of Canberra resulted from a competition which was won by Walter Burley Griffin, who was an American town planner. 1 think that if the honorable gentleman reads the records he will find that Walter Burley Griffin’s work and proposals did not pass without a good deal of scathing criticism and a good deal of compromise. I think he will also find that, due to the terms and conditions of the competition and one or two other things that happened at that time, quite a number of prominent town planners who might have joined in the competition refrained from doing so. It can be generally said that we are quite aware of the fact that Australia tends to develop more along American lines than British lines.
At the same time, however, the principles of town planning are universal, and I have no doubt that Sir William Holford is not only capable of applying his tremendous experience to this particular problem in the Australian background, but as he has done so much work in other countries he will also give us views which are not likely to follow an English pattern. It is quite true that we have not investigated the possibility of bringing an American town planner of comparable experience here, but I think it is a job for one man. Otherwise, we would find a whole series of disagreements, and we would rather avoid that. The honorable gentleman will understand that any alteration to the gazetted town plan of Canberra must first pass the scrutiny of the Parliament, a fact which would give the honorable gentleman an opportunity to submit his own ideas on the subject.
On the question of the use of parklands, it is interesting to note that, in fact, there has been no dedication of parklands in Canberra up to the moment. A tremendous amount of open space is being used for sporting and recreational purposes. The tendency is for the public to come to regard these areas as parks, and that is one of the reasons why we felt that it was timely for the whole matter to be looked at by a competent town planner. The honorable member may rest assured that we will handle the matter with extreme care.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that for the past four weeks there has been a serious outbreak of disease at the Preston Immigrant Hostel in Victoria, the cause of which has been diagnosed by doctors as food poisoning? Will the Minister have an immediate investigation made to ascertain the cause of this outbreak and will he request that particular attention be paid to the source of the food supplies and the handling of food?
– I had not been made aware of the outbreak or the spread of illness in the hostel to which the honorable member refers, but I shall, of course, have immediate inquiries made to find out the extent of the trouble and also the cause, if that can be ascertained. I know the interest which the honorable member, in common with other honorable members, has been taking in conditions at this hostel. He may be interested to know that during the Easter recess I made visits to several immigrant hostels. I was accompanied by the honorable member for Lalor when I visited the hostel at Williamstown and that near Maribyrnong. I did not go to the Preston hostel on that occasion. If I can get some information for the honorable member during the day, I will let him have it.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information which he could give to the House with regard to the Security Council meeting on Suez, and also with regard to the present situation in the Gulf of Aqaba?
– Yes. The Security Council began meetings yesterday in New York, at the instance of the Government of France, to discuss the Suez Canal situation. I may say that the French Government has brought it about that French commercial shipping will not use the canal - at present, at any rate. As honorable members know, the present regime - which we hope is a temporary, ad hoc regime - for the use of the canal is a unilateral regime, imposed by Egypt, which does not conform to the six principles that were unanimously accepted by the Security Council in October last. It falls far short of them. The French Government, together with a number of other governments, including Australia, does not regard the present unilateral arrangement for the use of the Suez Canal as in any way satisfactory. It is very much hoped that it is not in any way permanent. I understand that that will be the burden of the representations of the French Government, which will have a lot of support, including that of Australia, on the Security Council at this group of council meetings in New York. After all, the foreign Minister of Egypt was present at the Security Council meetings in October last when the six principles were unanimously adopted, and presumably he represented his government and accepted those principles. As has been said before, good faith is essential in international dealings, just as it is between individuals. In fact, its importance in international affairs is infinitely greater than in dealings between individuals. That essential principle is at stake in the discussions now proceeding in the Security Council.
So far as the Gulf of Aqaba is concerned, all I can say is that there has been persistent propaganda, very largely from Egyptian sources, which has been pointedly directed towards denying Israeli shipping free and innocent passage through the Gulf of Aqaba. One hopes that that, too, is only temporary, and that the position will be put beyond doubt by some international agreement or instrument so that the State of Israel would have full, free and fair access, along with all other countries, to the Gulf of Aqaba.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether equity obtains in all States in the installation of new telephones. I have in mind my own State of South Australia, and I am wondering whether full consideration is being given to the needs of newly settled areas, and areas where there has been a great expansion of business premises. Will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether everything possible is being done to make equipment available for the Woodville and Port Adelaide exchanges? At present cable is available but telephones cannot be installed there because further numbers are not available. Many people are suffering great business and private hardship - for health and other reasons - because they cannot get telephones.
– The honorable member’s question is wide in scope and is directed to the whole of the department’s policy for handling the great and increasing number of applications for telephone services throughout Australia. I shall have a. considered statement prepared so that the honorable member may be given an outline of the general policy adopted in meeting all the problems that arise. That is more than I could give him by word of mouth at the moment. However, I assure him that equity obtains between all States in this matter. No State is deliberately given priority over another. At the same time, consideration is given to the various factors which determine where telephone services shall be provided. The honorable member himself has mentioned two or three. Quite often there is a sudden requirement for telephones as a result of rapid expansion in country districts. It may be in connexion with war service land settlement, or some other type of land settlement. Suddenly, an area which has previously been lightly populated is developed, and additional telephone services become necessary. It may be that, in such circumstances, one State will get more telephones than another in a particular year, but I think that the honorable member will agree that that is only reasonable.
A special problem is posed by the rapid business and industrial expansion that is taking place in some areas, especially those outside of Melbourne, about which some of my colleagues have been seeing me lately. The sudden development of a new suburb means a great deal of extra work in the provision of new services. In all cases, the department specially investigates the problem, and does what it can to meet the needs created by the new development. It must also be realized that demands for new services must be considered in the light of the outstanding applications that are already with the department. One cannot ignore the rights of such people, or the length of time since their applications were submitted. The department does its best to expend equitably the money that is received from the Treasurer each year, and is anxious to give everyone as fair a spin as possible. That is the general position, but I will try to give the honorable member more detailed information with regard to Woodville and Port Adelaide.
– Will the Minister also look at the position in the new satellite town of Elizabeth?
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Does the Government engage private architects for its public works programme, and, if so, has any such system operated in Western Australia?
– It has been the policy of the Department of Works to engage outside architects, engineers and quantity surveyors when it is necessary to do so to supplement the resources of the department where works in a particular area will exceed the normal. That policy operates generally throughout Australia, and certainly it would operate in Western Australia. We know from the Institute of Architects who is available for that sort of assignment and very often we are able to engage the services of architects who, perhaps, have developed specialties. If we have not engaged the services of outside consultants in Perth, that would be because the works programme in Perth is, perhaps, more stable and we have been able to supply our needs from our own resources.
– The Minister for Trade will recall that last year this Government sold the Commonwealth whaling fleet to private enterprise after vigorous and sustained opposition from this party and most of the people of Australia. What has become of the proceeds of that sale? Is it true that the money has been used to assist the fishing industry in the provision of extra and better landing facilities, safety precautions and so on? If not, will this sort of financial aid to the fishing industry be considered by the Government?
– The Government sold the shore-based operations of the Australian Whaling Commission to the highest bidder on terms that were decided after tender by all interested parties. Those terms were approved by the Parliament. In accordance with the statute, the proceeds were placed in a trust fund to be used, as described in the statute, for the improvement, betterment and expansion of the Australian fishing industry. That is being done.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. At the annual conference of the Australian Institute of Metals in Sydney last night, the Minister forecast that export income from metals and minerals would exceed the wool cheque. He gave much of the credit to scientists and metallurgists, and, in my opinion, rightly so. But does the Minister believe that there is much that the Government could do, to great national advantage, in assisting the mining industry to greater development, with particular emphasis on the encouragement of exploration and the consequent development of new mines? Does he agree that it is only the mining industry which will support large populations in the sparsely settled and otherwise barren areas of this continent?
– I did make a speech on this subject last night at the Tenth Congress of the Institute of Metals. Indeed, if I may say so with becoming modesty, it was a very good speech. The point I then sought to make was that Australia should diversify its industries as much as possible so that it would no longer be dependent on the main staples, such as wool and wheat, as it has been in the past. I pointed out in that connexion the very good contribution which the development of minerals was making. I think the income from minerals 50 years ago was £26,000,000; that figure has now risen to £200,000,000. I am one of those who believe that, in the course of time, mineral production will, in fact, match our wool cheque, and I believe that to be a very good thing in the interests of Australia.
I entirely agree with the suggestion made by the honorable gentleman that governments should do what they can to stimulate mineral production in Australia. Indeed, I point out that my distinguished colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, said in this House some time ago that up to 1950, apart from, I think, Mount Isa, no new minerals had been discovered in Australia since federation, but since 1950 - that is to say, since this Government came into office - there has been an enormous development and discovery of minerals in this country. That is reflected in the rise of income from minerals and metals to this quite high figure of £200,000,000. The work is going on and this Government is doing a great deal. The Bureau of Mineral Resources, under the control of the Minister for National Development, makes an enormous contribution to mineral development in this country. Private enterprise is also doing a great deal. I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government will continue to do all that it can to develop sources of national wealth in order to raise the standard of living in Australia, and bring us a greater degree of security.
– I desire to know whether the Deputy Prime Minister has undertaken all the responsibilities of the Prime Minister. If he has, will he indicate when I am likely to get a reply to the questions on the noticepaper that I have directed to the Prime Minister, some of which have been there for twelve months? If the Deputy Prime Minister has not undertaken the full responsibilities of the post, will he talk to the Prime Minister and find out when I am likely to get a reply to those questions?
– Only this morning, I brought to the notice of officials the necessity to clear the notice-paper as expeditiously as possible.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has received a request from the Premier of Victoria for the provision of additional television stations or the extension of the present services to relay stations in that State. If he has not yet received such a request, has he been made aware of the announced intention of the Premier to make such an approach? In considering any such approach, will the Postmaster-General bear in mind that there are still four States of the Commonwealth, as well as the Territories of the Commonwealth, which are not yet provided with television? Will he direct the attention of the Premier of Victoria to that fact, and suggest to him that Victorians might curb their financial greed and for a change adopt a national outlook?
– I have not been approached by the Premier of Victoria regarding the matter raised by the honorable member for Moore. It was brought to my notice last Saturday week, I think, that the Premier of Victoria had made a statement in the press to the effect that Victoria should have at least two more television stations, and that relay stations should serve country districts in Victoria. I was asked whether I had any comment to make on the statement. Neither then nor since has there been an approach from the Premier of Victoria. I do not know whether the comment that I made appeared in the press, because I was in northern Queensland at the time, but it was along the lines of the reply that I gave a few months ago to the honorable member for Ryan regarding the general policy of television extension. On that occasion, I stated that extention of television was being considered by the Government, and that the claims of all areas in Australia, particularly country areas, would receive consideration equal to the claims of Victoria in accordance with the policy on which the Government will formulate its determinations.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration: How much longer the Immigration Department intends to maintain vacant, self-contained flats at the Mowbray Hostel at Launceston while new Australian families are living under appalling conditions? For almost twelve months, it has been understood that the hostel is available for disposal. But so far as I can ascertain no action has been taken to put that policy into effect. I ask the Minister whether he will reconsider his previous decision and make the flats available on a temporary basis for urgent cases.
– In reply to the honorable member, the simple fact is that the Department of Immigration does not own the hostel. It has been passed to the Department of the Interior for disposal.
– I ask a question without notice of the honorable the Minister for the Interior. Will the honorable gentleman arrange for the floodlighting of prominent buildings in Canberra, either every night or on several nights each week throughout the year? I refer particularly to the Australian War Memorial, the American War Memorial, and Parliament House as examples. This is a practice followed in many national capitals throughout the world, and it would greatly embellish the Canberra scene.
– I am rather grateful to the honorable member for the suggestion he has made. I think anything that turns the spotlight - or the floodlight - on Canberra, particularly from the point of view of tourist attraction, would bear looking into. I will not undertake to meet the honorable member’s request, but I will undertake to have a very careful look at his proposal.
– I ask a question without notice of the Minister for Air. I wrote to the Minister earlier about canteen services at Richmond and other Royal Australian Air Force stations. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the fact that the House will rise to-morrow, and in view of the uncertainty that exists in the minds of a number of people, including servicemen, he can supply the House at this stage with information regarding the Government’s rumoured intention to hand canteen services over to private enterprise.
– It is an odd circumstance that the honorable member should ask me whether there is any correctness in a rumour that the Royal Australian Air Force is disposing of its canteen services to private institutions, because at this very time I am answering, departmentally, another question dealing with a complaint that the Royal Australian Air Force is establishing a full-time canteen in one of its establishments near Sydney, which will have the effect of closing down a small private enterprise on those premises. So we get it from both sides. I assure the honorable member that there is no truth whatever in any suggestion that the Air Force is disposing of the control of its own canteen services. The Air Force canteens, like those of the Army referred to by the Minister for the Army earlier, are run by a board of management presided over by one of Australia’s leading retailers, a Mr. Kelly, who gives his services entirely voluntarily, and I think the thanks of the House are due to him for his public spirit in giving as much time as he does. There have been considerable discussions in recent weeks between the Air Board and the board of management of the Air Force canteens. Those discussions have been directed to ironing out some difficulties of management and organization which have arisen. The discussions have concluded completely satisfactorily and decisions have been made with the intention of ensuring to the serving members of the Air Force further and more effective canteen services, run by the board of management. There is no truth whatever in any suggestion that outside organizations are being invited to run the canteen services.
– My question to the Minister for Trade relates to various reports and statements that threaten the premier position of the wool industry in Australia. Is it a fact that for many years the people of Australia have been told that substitute textiles will replace wool and destroy the Australian wool market? Were they told also a few years ago that uranium would become Australia’s leading export and that rabbits, droughts, floods and other catastrophies would make disastrous inroads into wool production? Is it a fact that in spite of all these things the wool industry through exports this year has increased by not less than 50 per cent, its contribution to the Australian economy? Therefore, can some balanced expression of views be made on this question and every possible support be given to the premier industry of wool-growing, particularly through research and market organization, and in every other way that lies in the power of the Government, so that the industry will be aided in its continuing contribution to Australia’s economy?
– Part of the honorable member’s question might well have been dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and part by my other colleague who is in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It is an economic fact that the wool industry is the basis of the economic stability of this country. The Government readily recognizes this fact. Australia is indebted to the skilful men in the wool industry who through the years have brought, and are continuing to bring, Australian wool to the classic perfection that is sought to be attained. The production of apparel wools in this country is unequalled in the world.
The extent to which wool-growers collectively contribute to the welfare of Australia through their voluntary efforts is not well enough known. Voluntarily they ask the Government from time to time to tax them to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds each year for two main purposes. The first is further research into all aspects of the industry, from production of wool on the sheep’s back to its processing into textiles, and the second is to publicize the virtues of wool in the consuming countries of the world. Vast sums - more than £1,000,000 a year altogether - are spent on this second activity in co-operation with wool-growers and industries that process wool in other countries. This enormous monetary contribution is voluntarily made by woolgrowers themselves, and heavy subventions are added by the Government, with the approval of the Parliament, of course, for the fulfilment of both those purposes - research and promotion of wool sales overseas.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Thirty-first Report - Advance to the Treasurer: Presentation of Supplementary Estimates; together with Minutes of Evidence taken by the Committee in connexion with this report.
This report is concerned with the present practice of presenting Supplementary Estimates to the Parliament. The matter arose because of legal advice that, once the Parliament had voted the Advance to the Treasurer in the main Estimates, no further action by the Parliament was legally necessary. In the report, the committee discussed the current practice, and the legal and constitutional issues involved. In making its recommendations, it has been careful to preserve for the Parliament opportunities to consider the expenditures made under Advance to the Treasurer similar to those that the Parliament has enjoyed hitherto under the practice of presenting supplementary appropriation measures.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon, through Mr. Roberton) agreed to.
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the establishment of an Australian Wool Testing Authority.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to Ordinances of Norfolk Island.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill does not raise any new question of policy. The need for it became urgent as the result of a recent advising by the law officers of the Commonwealth that the procedure which had been followed since 1915 in regard to the commencement of ordinances made for Norfolk Island might be open to question. The purpose of the bill is to place beyond doubt the validity of ordinances that have been brought into force in the past, and to simplify the procedure for bringing new ordinances into force in the future. In explaining the bill, I direct attention to section 8 of the Norfolk Island Act 1913-1935 - the act at present in force. That section gives the Governor-General power to make ordinances for the peace, order and good government of Norfolk Island. It provides that ordinances so made shall be published in the manner directed by the GovernorGeneral, and shall come into force at a time to be fixed by him, not being before the date of their publication in Norfolk Island. In accordance with these provisions, the then Governor-General, in 1915, made an ordinance entitled the “Interpretation Ordinance 1915”. Section 5 of that ordinance provided, that every ordinance shall, unless the contrary intention appears, commence and take effect on the day on which a copy thereof is affixed by order of the Administrator on or near to the Court House, Norfolk Island. Since 1915, all ordinances have been deemed to have commenced in accordance with that provision.
The Attorney-General’s Department now takes the view, Mr. Speaker, that, as the law stands at present, every ordinance must be brought into force by the GovernorGeneral fixing the date of commencement, and that the Governor-General cannot delegate the power exercisable by him in pursuance of that provision to the Administrator of Norfolk Island. Our law advisers take the view also that the power of commencing the operation of an ordinance is exercisable by order in council, not by ordinance. The opinion of the law officers is that section 5 of the Interpretation Ordinance 1915-1940 is probably ineffectual in the light of those views, since what that section purports to do should, in their opinion, be done by order in council in pursuance of the Norfolk Island Act. It seems, therefore, that no ordinance made since 1915 has been properly commenced. Accordingly, it becomes necessary first, to validate the ordinances made in the past, and, secondly, to set out clearly the method for the commencement of the ordinances made in the future. This bill is intended to achieve those two purposes, and it does not attempt to do anything else. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in. a bill for an act to provide for the government of Norfolk Island.
Bill presented, and- read a first time
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, unlike the Norfolk Island Ordinances Bill 1957, is intended to repeal the Norfolk Island Act 1913-1935, and to replace it by a new Norfolk Island Act which will contain most of the provisions of the existing act, together with some new ones. As honorable members will be aware from, my explanation of the previous measure a few minutes ago, it was recently found necessary, as the result of advice given by the law officers of the Commonwealth, to re-examine certain sections of the Norfolk Island Act relating to the method followed for the commencement of ordinances made under that act. Since we were required to make that examination, it was thought desirable, at the same time, to review the act as a whole in order to see whether any other changes or revisions might be necessary after the lapse of more than twenty years since the act was first passed. The opinion reached was that it would be a decided advantage to re-make the act, partly for the sake of making the legislation tidier; partly in order to bring it into line with the more recent acts passed by the Parliament in relation to the administration of other Commonwealth territories; and partly in order to introduce new positions in relation to the administration of justice and local government in the island community. As I indicated earlier, the greater part of this bill simply repeats the provisions of the existing act, and I shall not refer to those provisions. I direct the attention of honorable members only to those parts of the bill which either amend existing provisions or introduce new provisions.
First, I think that I should say something about this Territory for the benefit of those honorable members who have not had the pleasure - and it is indeed a pleasure - of visiting it. A parliamentary delegation visited the’ island at the time of the celebration of its centenary last year. I feel sure that all the members of that delegation - I see some of them in the chamber at this moment - carried away a lasting impression of the beauty of the island’s scenery, and the kindliness of its people. Norfolk Island lies about 900 miles off the east coast of
Australia. It has a population of just over 1,000 persons, living on an island of an area of approximately 13 square miles. It might be compared, in general appearance, with a piece of one of the most pleasant parts of southern England with the difference that it is encircled by the sea. It has also been called the’ Madeira of the Pacific.
The life lived on Norfolk Island is the life of a rural community. Hitherto, the most important cash crop, and the major source of the income of the island, has been the production of bean seed, but recently a whaling station commenced operations, with a quota of 150 humpbacked whales, and it is possible - in fact, there is a very strong possibility - that an expansion of this activity will be the commencement of commercial fishing and the quick freezing of vegetables for export. So we look forward to a period when the island may be economically on the verge of greater activity. The tourist traffic is also of some importance to the island, and its picturesque past, the romantic ruins which survive from the old colonial period and the beauty of its scenery, present attractions which deserve to be more widely known. A large number of the population are the descendants of the Pitcairn islanders who came to Norfolk in 1856, but the general character of the population is very similar to that of the sort of population to be found in any of the country areas of Australia.
The most important innovation in the bill now before the House is a proposal to create a Norfolk Island Council. There is at present on the island an Advisory Council of eight elected members. They have the functions of advising the Administrator on any matters referred to them, and of scrutinizing the drafts of ordinances before the ordinances are made by the GovernorGeneral. The bill now before the House proposes to create a Norfolk Island Council, and it is proposed that this council, when created, will have all the powers and functions of the present Advisory Council and, in addition, it will be given, by ordinance, control over a defined field of government. These new powers and functions to be given to this new body will include the making of by-laws, the levying of rates and fees, and control over its own expenditure. The field of government in which the council may be given these powers is set out in a schedule to the bill. In broad terms, this field of government corresponds to the field of government which is occupied by a local governing authority, or by other local authorities set up for defined purposes in Australian rural areas. For example, among the subjects mentioned in the schedule as being subjects over which the council can have authority and control are matters such as roads, drainage, sanitation, control of livestock, pests and noxious weeds, electricity supply, water supply, control of guest houses, control of places of public entertainment, the sale and distribution of foodstuffs, buildings, road traffic, trading hours and so forth. That gives an indication, and the second schedule to the bill gives exact details, of the field of government in which it is proposed that this council should exercise its powers.
It is intended that this council will be inauguarated by ordinance, or ordinances, in accordance with the provisions of the bill now before the House. It will, of course, be necessary, for the smooth working of the proposed council, that there should be a willingness on the part of the island community to undertake the burdens and responsibilities of local selfgovernment. In doing so, they can be assured of the ready support and encouragement of the Government. We believe that this will open the way to a greater measure of autonomy than the island community has ever enjoyed. On matters other than those confided to the council, the provision for making ordinances for the Territory will continue unchanged. The procedure, as honorable members will know, is for advice to flow from the council to the Administrator, to the Minister, and to the GovernorGeneral, who makes the ordinance.
This bill will, however, make a slight change in the procedure for submission of ordinances to this Parliament. All ordinances made in any of the Territories have to be tabled in this Parliament, and it is, of course, open at any time to this Parliament to act on matters tabled in the Parliament. In future, ordinances will have to be tabled within fifteen sitting days, instead of 30 days, and can be disallowed by this Parliament, if notice thereof is given within fifteen sitting days after tabling. The bill will also provide that, if the conditions concerning tabling are not complied with, an ordinance shall be void and of no effect; and that, if notice of motion is given in Parliament to disallow any ordinance and such motion has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of within fifteen sitting days, the ordinance shall be deemed to have been disallowed. These tabling provisions are similar to those contained in the Commonwealth Acts Interpretation Act and will be in line with an earlier recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. That committee considers the present provision for tabling Norfolk Island ordinances within 30 days to be unsatisfactory, as it could mean that Parliament rises before it has time to consider an ordinance and the 30 days expire before it is again in session. In those circumstances, of course, opportunity to move for a disallowance would consequently be lost. This provision of the bill complies with the recommendation of the committee to which I have referred.
Opportunity is being taken in the bill to give the “ Norfolk Island Government Gazette “ formal standing, and for the notification of the making of ordinances to be published in it. This will do away with the present rather archaic practice of posting notices regarding ordinances on or near the Court House, Norfolk Island.
Another change - a small one - concerns the office of Administrator. Previously, the office of Administrator - not the appointment of the occupant - was created under ordinance. Now, it is proposed that it should be created by act of this Parliament, in the same way as in the other Territories. The bill provides that the Administrator, who is charged with administering the government on behalf of the Commonwealth, will be appointed by the Governor-General by commission, will hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General, and will be required to exercise and perform all powers and functions that belong to his office in accordance with the tenor of his commission, and in accordance with such instructions as are given to him by the Minister. The Administrator is at present appointed under an ordinance, and that ordinance makes provision for the appointment of a deputy of the Administrator, but there is no provision for the appointment of an Acting Administrator to perform the functions of the Administrator during his absence or incapacity. This bill now makes provision for the appointment of an Acting Administrator.
A third innovation concerns the courts. The present provision in relation to the organization, jurisdiction and constitution of courts is unsatisfactory. The bill provides for the establishment, for the first time, of a Supreme Court, and for an appeal from the Supreme Court to the High Court of Australia. It provides for Supreme Court practice and procedure and for the establishment and jurisdiction of other courts, not being superior courts, to be covered by ordinance. In passing, I may mention that there is, happily, not enough litigation or crime on the island to occupy the whole time of a judge, and it is intended to continue the system under which the Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory will also hold a separate appointment as Judge of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island.
The bill will make provision to enable the Supreme Court to sit outside the island to deal with cases other than criminal proceedings. Such a provision could well save the expense and time of the judge having to go to Norfolk Island to hear an undefended case if the person concerned happened to be in Australia. Such a provision would, however, only be likely to be used on rare occasions. The bill generally incorporates the usual provisions relating to appointment and tenure of judges, acting judges, qualification of judges and oaths of office, which are already in the Norfolk Island Act and which are similar to those in the other Territories. While preserving the Governor-General’s power to grant remission of sentences, the bill rewrites this part so as to make it possible to introduce for the first time a code of remission of sentences for good conduct for prisoners serving imprisonment on Norfolk Island. The code remissions will be on the lines of those existing in the Australian States.
In conclusion, may I now refer to some of the lesser modifications of the existing act which the bill proposes to make. There has been some doubt, due to the wording of the existing act, whether a retrospective ordinance may validly be made. The bill makes it quite clear that such an ordinance may validly be made. This is a change, not in the intentions of the act but in the drafting of the act. The bill also makes provision for regulations to be made under the act.
There are also some instances where it is considered that matters at present included in the act might more properly be dealt with by ordinance in order to meet changing local circumstances from time to time. The principal instance of this is the provision relating to the sale and manufacture of alcoholic liquor. It seems to us that this can be dealt with better by ordinance than by an act of the Commonwealth Parliament. On the other hand, some matters which are at present dealt with by ordinance could more properly be covered by an act of this Parliament. An example of this is the provision that the public accounts of Norfolk Island shall be subject to inspection and audit by the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth. This Parliament does vote the large portion of the revenue of the island, and it is quite appropriate that an act of this Parliament should stipulate that the accounts of the island shall be audited by the Auditor-General responsible to this Parliament.
– Will the Minister say whether the act is administered by officers in Canberra who have no right to govern themselves?
– The honorable member is raising controversial matters in territories which are not under my administration.
The present act provides that the GovernorGeneral, or any person authorized by him, may, in accordance with law, make grants or other dispositions of Crown lands in Norfolk Island. The Minister of State administering the Norfolk Island Act 1913- 1935, or any Minister or member of the Executive Council for the time being acting for or on behalf of the Minister of State administering the Norfolk Island Act, has customarily for many years been, under delegation from the Governor-General, granting leases of Crown lands and authorizing the occupation or use of waste lands in Norfolk Island under such a delegation from the Governor-General. The bill will make provision for the Minister to grant leases of Crown lands and to authorize the occupation or use of waste lands in Norfolk Island. In other words, it will do by powers given directly by the new act what has hitherto been done by delegation by the Governor-General. That is a provision quite in line with the general tendency to relieve the Governor-General of administrative detail that he normally does not carry out.
– Does that indicate that any report is to be made to the House on what the Minister does?
– There is an annual Norfolk Island report to this House.
– Would that include that class of information?
– I am not sure whether it would include it in detail, but that information would be available by question or direct application at any time. It is not secret information. It is available to the public.
In commending the bill to the House, I would again emphasize that the only two substantial changes which it proposes are those relating to the creation of a Norfolk Island Council in place of the Norfolk Island Advisory Council, and the provisions in relation to the reconstitution of the Supreme Court. The other clauses of the bill either repeat sections of the existing act or make the minor improvements which I have described. I commend the bill to the House both because it will extend the opportunity of the islanders to share in the management of their own affairs and because it gives a neater and more effective piece of legislation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20th May (vide page 1625), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This debate might well be regarded by the Government as a sounding board for the purpose of gathering information from honorable members who circulate among the people and so discover what the people are thinking and what is agitating the public mind.
I shall direct my speech to the subject of transport, of which I have some experience and knowledge, and the subject of health. A meeting of the Australian Loan Council will be held in Canberra this week. It is generally known that when the Deputy Prime Minister and the Premiers meet, the important question of rail transport will be raised. I appeal to the Government, when dealing with this question at the Premiers conference, not to regard rail transport as merely being the responsibility of the States. The fact is that at long last we have reached some degree of unity, stripped of politics, in respect of the great need to solve our railway transport problems. I say that it is to some degree stripped of politics because we have the Bolte anti-Labour Government in Victoria and the Cahill Labour Government in New South Wales, both of the one mind in respect of the importance of the problem. The time has arrived when we must have at the very least one standardized connecting line between Melbourne and Sydney as the first instalment of a programme of railway gauge standardization. It may not be common knowledge, but there is an urge to prevent that from happening. My advice to the Government is not to let anything of a political or other nature stand in the way of our doing something to solve the present transport problems of Australia and prevent chaos.
As I have said in this House before, 33 per cent, of the price of commodities in this country is represented by transport costs. It is not usual for me to clash with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), as I did in this House the other night. That clash occurred when I found that the Government was prepared to put still further imposts on the cost of transport in Australia by increasing the stevedoring industry charge. I became alarmed as to whether the Government was really awake to its responsibilities in respect of transport.
I am beginning to think that by the end of the 1950’s the Australian Loan Council, which was established in the 1920’s, may be found to have outlived its usefulness. I fear that when the transport question comes before the council this week it will be dealt with in the usual wrangle between the Commonwealth and the States as to division of responsibility. If we have reached a stage in our political progress when the only attitude that the council can take to such an important national matter is to argue about division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and States, it is time the council ceased to exist and was replaced by an organization that would have more regard for the needs of Australia’s development as a nation. I make that statement very deliberately. I cannot help feel, as the result of what happened at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council, and at the one before that, and at meetings of the council right back to the time of the Labour government, that that organization has outlived its usefulness.
I am happy to see at the table the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) with whom I have had some discussions on previous occasions about road construction. The problem of road construction and road development is another phase of our transport problem connected with which is our long haulage problem, which has really brought many great worries to this country.
The thing that upset me the other night when the Minister for Labour and National Service was piloting the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill through the House, was that the bill provided for an increase from ls. 7d. to 2s. a man-hour in a charge that would mean increased transport costs amounting to £3 a week for every registered watersider working a 30-hour week. The thing that agitated my mind then, as it does now, is that Australia, as a nation, cannot afford to adopt that approach to its transport problems. What it will do is to upset the balance between sea transport and road transport. Sea transport will be pushed out of the picture and the present problem of road transport ruining our highways will be further aggravated. I urge the Government to press on with railway gauge unification. If the Loan Council is alive to its responsibilities, at its forthcoming meeting it will prohibit, as far as it can through its financial powers, the further construction of nonstandard gauge railways. During the life of this Government - and I do not blame this Government for what has happened - hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent in South Australia to push the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge line through to Mount Gambier. That is wrong. South Australia now want to push a 5 ft. 3 in. gauge line through to Broken Hill, and that is equally wrong.
I want to deal quickly with the Mount Isa-Townsville line. My friends from Queensland may condemn me for what I am about to say, but I take the view that, although our friends may criticize our opinions, it is our duty to express them if we believe them to be in the best interests of Australia. This morning the Minister had something to say about the development of the mineral resources of Australia. The Mount Isa mines would be regarded in many other countries as a bonanza, but the efficient utilization of the minerals there is being hindered by high transport costs. Unless transport costs are reduced, a great deal of ore-bearing material that would produce 4i per cent, of copper will never be smelted. Transport charges at present are such that any ore that would produce less than 4-i per cent, of copper is not worth mining. The main reason for the high transport charges on the Mount Isa-Townsville line is that it is a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge line. If a 4 ft. 8 in. gauge line were built between those two centres haulage costs would be greatly reduced.
As an illustration of this, I remind honorable members that as a result of the 4 ft. 8 in. gauge line being built between Leigh Creek and Stirling North, in South Australia, the transport charges between those two points have been reduced to approximately a halfpenny per ton-mile. It is common knowledge that if transport costs between Mount Isa and Townsville could be reduced even to three farthings per tonmile, it would be worth while to extract ore-bearing quartz that would yield 2i per cent, of copper. For this nation to turn its back on a situation of that kind is nothing short of tragic. If the Loan Council were willing to make funds available to construct that line, transport costs would be reduced and this nation would have the benefit of the far greater wealth that would be produced, because it would then be economical to extract and process the great body of ore-bearing quartz capable of producing from 2i per cent, to 4i per cent, copper which is now being left in the ground.
We have to think of the future generations, and it is not good enough for us to turn our backs on this great transport problem. If the Queensland Government will not deal with this matter, my advice to the Loan Council and to the Commonwealth Government is to be firm. If that Government or any other government will not do something to reduce transport costs in Australia, it should not be granted any more funds from the Loan Council until it agrees to do so. Mount Isa is a classic example of what could be done to increase the wealth of the nation by improving rail transport facilities. I say that the time has arrived for the Loan Council, this Government, and all of us to show whether we are really concerned with the future of Australia. The responsibility has been placed on us to care for Australia, to protect it, to build it up and to make something of it.
– Would the honorable member apply sanctions in a free country?
– If it were proved beyond reasonable doubt that the application of sanctions was necessary to prevent a nation from being destroyed by bad government, it would be a failure on our part if sanctions were not applied. People change governments because they find them to be failures. I wish to turn to another matter which I hope the Government will consider carefully and will stress at the forthcoming Loan Council meetings. At this moment, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is representing Australia at the meeting of the World Health Organization in Geneva. I am sure that no honorable member will deny that the Minister will capably represent our country and thoroughly state the case with regard to its health problems, but it seems to me that when the Minister addresses the organization on behalf of Australia he will have to admit that Australia is a backward nation in health services. The World Health Organization has laid it down, over a long period of years, that it is essential for the development of a nation to provide sanitation. People must be educated in cleanliness and sanitation, which are most necessary for good health. I wonder how the Minister will describe the sanitation services that operate in Australia.
I hear an honorable member say that he would hardly describe Australia as a sewage dump. The honorable member ought to be concerned about the health of Australia, He should realize that the real problem is not the provision of hospitals, but the provision of ways and means to prevent people from going into hospital. That should be the attitude of us all. I wish to illustrate my argument by referring to Bankstown, a municipality on behalf of which I presented a petition yesterday. It bore 2,833 signatures, which were gathered in ten days from residents, many of whom have children going to school. The Bankstown public schools are attended by between 1,000 and 1,100 children, but are not provided with sewerage facilities. I do not blame this Government for that state of affairs, but it is another illustration of the fact that the Loan Council has outlived its usefulness. Bankstown is a classic example of the growth of Australia. What has happened there has happened in other centres. In the ten years from 1947 to 1957 the population of Bankstown has increased from 42,000 to 137,000, and the number of homes has risen from 10,304 to 34,363. Industries in that municipality have increased from 47 to 472, and the improved valuation of properties has risen from £10,000,000 to £109,500,000. That area represents a great section of our community, but the people there have been told, frankly and deliberately, that under present financial arrangements they cannot expect to be supplied with sewerage in the area for another twenty years.
That state of affairs reflects the policy of the Loan Council, which tells local government and semi-government bodies that they can have only a limited amount of loan money. In Sydney the great Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board organization is subject, financially, to the control of the Loan Council. For the last three years it has been allowed by the Loan Council to raise £6,500,000, but its real financial requirement is at least double that sum. A worse feature is that that board will not know what money the Loan Council will allocate to it in this next financial year until the forthcoming meetings have been held. Consequently, it is not able to make any plans in advance. It is not able to negotiate with private enterprise to supply pipes and essential equipment. When the new financial year begins on 1st July next, the board will have £1,000,000 made avail able to it by the New South Wales Government. For the rest of its finance it will have to depend on the loan market and the amount that the Loan Council allows it to borrow. If it borrows more than the sum prescribed, it will be made to hand the surplus back to the Treasurer.
As a result of this policy the number of unsewered homes in the Sydney metropolitan area has increased from 90,000 to 180,000 in the last five years. Many areas are growing as Bankstown has grown, and it is said that owing to this tremendous development the stage has been reached where forward planning is essential. In my own humble capacity as a back-bencher, I have examined this question for some months, and I believe that this week’s meeting will be the test of whether the Loan Council can survive. Once we reach the stage where the standards of the World Health Organization cannot be applied here, we must look for the reason. It is merely that the necessary money is not being provided.
The Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board says that it can provide all the machinery needed, and that it has lists of men waiting for employment. It is merely waiting for the green light, but this will not go on unless more money is made available. Of the £6,500,000 that the Loan Council allowed the board last year £3,000,000 or £3,500,000 had to be spent on the Warragamba dam, which must be finished in the minimum time possible. If we had eighteen months of this dry weather, thousands of people would find that no water would come through their taps, so Warragamba has to go through to completion. In addition, a major project at Salt Pan Creek, which will cost £2,000,000, must be undertaken before any of this great area can be sewered.
It is of little use for the Government to send to the meeting of the World Health Organization a representative of the great capacity of our Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) if he has to admit - if tested - that the municipality of Bankstown, which has grown so greatly in the last ten years, bears all the marks of a community in a backward nation. Neither the present Minister for Health nor his predecessor, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), would relish being put in that position at Geneva right now; but that is the situation. The matter can be rectified in a substantial way only by a changed approach on the part of the Loan Council to the whole developmental plan for Australia. I do not blame this Government, for it inherited the Loan Council system, as did the previous Labour government. The Loan Council, which had its early growth because of the lack of Australian development, was at its peak during the depression years. It has never risen above depression standards and its members are always divided on national issues. The Federal Government is intent upon protecting its own interests, and each State has a similar approach. New South Wales is concerned with its problems, and South Australia is concerned with still other problems. The factor of overriding importance is that the Loan Council appears to have forgotten the need to work on behalf of Australia and the Australian people.
I have made those points, not by way of condemning this Government, but in order to try to alert this Parliament and the nation to where we are being led by an organization which was set up in the twenties and which, in the ‘fifties, has outlived its usefulness. The Loan Council is meeting here this week and the way in which it decides the two questions that I have raised will, in my view, decide whether it should be allowed to continue to throttle Australia’s progress as it has in recent years, or should be replaced by some fullblooded organization with a really Australian outlook which will give the nation the things to which it is justly entitled - the high position to which it can rise if the brake now being applied by the Loan Council is removed.
.- I hope that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) will not think it discourteous on my part if I do not refer in detail to the various points that he has made this morning. A lot that he said would, of course, command common agreement in all sections of the House. For instance, I am sure that all honorable members would agree with his reference to rail standardization.
– Also health, and sewerage.
– In general terms, as my honorable friend points out, these would be matters for agreement. I agree, too, that the Loan Council has a responsibility to seek, as it were, a new charter for its activities. However, I do not agree that the Loan Council has, in the ‘fifties, outlived its usefulness. I am sure that the honorable member for Blaxland will agree that, far from scrapping the Loan Council, it would be infinitely more desirable to charge it with obtaining a new charter for its activities. Let me take a case in point: The honorable gentleman referred to the difficulties - and they are very real - of local government authorities. He instanced the plight of Bankstown, but in the City of Brisbane we have an identical sewerage problem. I live in an unsewered area and take no pride in saying so. It has been said that the solution of the problem - and I think that there is a lot in this - is to see that local government authorities are directly represented upon the Loan Council. As it stands, a local government authority which wants a loan for sewerage, water reticulation, or any other purpose, has to go to the Loan Council after first seeking the approval, in one form or another, of the State government. That is an impossible situation. A local governing authority, which is charged with a heavy responsibility, is obliged to go, in the first instance, to the State parliament for approval, and then to the Loan Council. The problem is not beyond solution, and it may well be tackled by devising a formula for obtaining the direct representation of local government authorities upon the Loan Council.
– It would have to be a long-term plan.
– As my honorable friend points out, it would have to be a long-term plan, but the problem is not beyond solution, and must be faced. The honorable member referred to the visit abroad of the honorable member for Oxley, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to the meeting of the World Health Organization. That brings me to the main burden of my remarks this morning. There has, in the last few days, been a spate of criticism by various organs and people throughout Australia of visits abroad by members of this
Parliament. 1 want to say at once that I do not subscribe to that criticism. 1 believe that, for the most part, these critics are ill-informed and the critiques ill-based. The people of Australia obtain manifest value from having their representatives in this National Parliament go abroad and, as it were, broaden their outlook so that they are able to bring a fresh intellect, and fresh ideas, to bear upon the problems that face the nation.
Having said that, may I refer to one of the proposed visits abroad by members of this Parliament. I want to preface my remarks by assuring honorable gentlemen opposite that they need not permit their blood pressure to rise, because I do not intend to be destructively critical about this. I intend to make a few observations of my own, and the responsibility for accepting or rejecting those observations will remain entirely upon the shoulders of my friends in the Opposition. During the recess, representatives of Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament are to visit red China. 1 do not criticize that visit. Honorable gentlemen opposite are entitled to come to their own conclusions. They must take, and face up to, the responsibility for any action, or inaction, on their part. I do not envy them in going to red China, or to what is euphemistically and improperly described as “ Continental China “. 1 believe that Communist China stands charged with being responsible for one of the greatest crimes against humanity. I believe that murder in Communist China has been on a massive and monstrous scale. I believe that the land in China has been fertilized, and well fertilized, by human blood. I believe that there exists in China to-day a regime which has been built on crushed bones. These are my own conclusions.
I do not ask honorable gentlemen opposite to agree or to disagree with them. I am merely asking them to accept the responsibility for the stand they take. I may be asked, “ How then do you arrive at these conclusions? “. My reply in the main would be that I have arrived at these conclusions not by any empirical contact with the conditions in China, but rather from a perusal and something in the nature of an intimate study of various text-books and of observations made by people, students of China, and so on. I then leave myself open to the charge, “ Are all those authorities and all those students of China biased? Could not they be described as reactionary? Are they not fascists? “ I suppose in a sense there may be some substance in that charge. These people may be reactionary in the eyes of certain elements in this Parliament and reactionary in the eyes of certain people. The main authority upon which I have based my conclusion regarding the regime in red China is not the various text-books - writings such as “ China Under Communism “, by Ronald Walker, or “ When Iron Gates Yield “, by a young evangelical missionary, Geoffrey T. Bull - my authority is an authority which I trust will be accepted by all honorable gentlemen in this Parliament as being unbiased. The authority is a report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Office.
I have in my hand at the moment a report by the two gentlemen to whom I have referred. Their report deals with forced labour. It is, as honorable gentlemen can see, a substantial document and contains more than 300 pages. The greater part of this report deals with China. In the beginning, it deals with some of the Soviet satellite countries in Europe. This is a report not by a reactionary organization or by a biased group, but by two individuals commanding great objectivity. I hope that all honorable gentlemen and the honorable members for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), Parkes (Mr. Haylen), Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and a gentleman in another place will take an early opportunity to read this report, because I believe that it will enable them to appraise conditions in China possibly with a greater degree of realism than if they should go without having read it. It is a most valuable document and I deplore the fact that it has not been greatly publicized.
I shall read from page 95 of the report, and I remind honorable members that these are the words of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the DirectorGeneral of the I.L.O. Under the heading “ Number of slave-labourers in Communist China “ the number of persons listed totals 25.000,000. I do not know whether the minds of people to-day have become numbed and have lost all sensitivity; but I ask the House to pause for a moment to consider the enormity of a charge against a nation that it holds within its frontiers some 25,000,000 people as slave-labourers. I do not believe - I am quite sure I am right in saying this - that there is one honorable gentleman in this place who would not manifestly deplore that charge being laid against any one country. I may be asked: Upon what authority do the two gentlemen mentioned base their charge; can it be substantiated?
– Do they give any definition of slave labour?
– Yes. I am grateful to the honorable gentleman for his interjection. For example, the report gives the following information: -
As I mentioned before, the total is 25,000,000.
– Over what periods of years?
– I have not been able to determine that. I should imagine it could be taken over the last five to ten years. Indeed, I think 1945 was about the end of Chiang Kai-shek in China. I think ten years would cover it. The two gentlemen I have mentioned go on to give typical examples of the location of the various slave labour camps. Not contenting themselves with that, they then proceed to give the source of their information. For example, they refer to the reform centre for prisoners at Kukong in Kwantung. Their source is a Chinese Communist newspaper, the name of which honorable gentlemen can see if they like but which I hesitate to attempt to pronounce.
This, of course, is the first visit by people of this country to red China. I do not suppose it will be the last. Whether the visit should be encouraged or discouraged depends upon one’s own attitude of mind towards this matter. It is purely a matter of opinion and I suppose one is entitled to come to one’s own conclusion. The House will recall a recent visit made by members of the Anglican Church. I speak as an Anglican, not a nominal Anglican but a practising Anglican. I deeply deplore some of the references made, conclusions reached and pronouncements made by members of the delegation. For example, a great number of people have the idea that something in the nature of an atmosphere of respectability now spreads over red China because the Primate of this country referred to the conditions in China and mentioned that the church was in some measure restricted, but by and large the people of China were happy, well-contented, and so on. At the time, I found myself in the position where, as a humble and obedient servant of His Grace, the Anglican Primate of Australia, I had to speak my mind and, though not necessarily challenging the accuracy of His Grace’s observations, to invite further comment and discussion upon the observations that were made.
I mentioned a moment ago that there was an admission of restriction on church practices in China. I suppose all honorable gentlemen have read the small pamphlet prepared by Canon Arrowsmith, “ The Church and the Bible Society In China To-day “. He referred to the fact that there exists in China to-day a degree of restriction on the activities of the church. I took the position, and I maintain it now, that if the Christian church is tolerated in China, that postulates one of two conclusions. It suggests that the church is docile or that the church is being tolerated and the Communist regime in China is simply adopting what may be, and indeed is, described by Leninists as a temporary retreat from a given situation. For any person to maintain for one moment that communism and Christianity are compatible indicates a failure to understand either what communism means or what Christianity means.
I referred a moment ago to an evangelical missionary in China who was taken prisoner. His name is Geoffrey Bull, and he has written a most admirable book. He was taken prisoner in Tibet, and his book details all his experiences in China. He describes the process of “ reform through education”, which is a mild and nonsensical term for “ brainwashing “. He describes “ reform through labour “, which is a mild and nonsensical term for “ slave labour “. I appeal to every member of the delegation to read, in the first instance,, the report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Office, and then to read Geoffrey Bull’s magnificent book, “ When Iron Gates Yield “.
I should be grateful if the delegation would ask pertinent questions. I know that they will do that but, if I may presume to suggest to them, these are the sort of questions that 1 should be grateful if they would ask and, on their return, furnish me with the replies they receive.
– I take it that the honorable member is not against their going?
– No. But I do not envy them their visit. I hope that the members of the delegation will ask certain questions when they are in China. I should like them to ask to be shown the forced labour camps at Kukong, Ching Ho Farm, Shansi Szechwan, Northern Kiang Sum Sungkiang Soo Chow, or any of the other forced labour camps which, overall, hold in imprisonment 25,000,000 people. I suggest that the delegation ask why, in order to sustain its regime, the Chinese Communist Government has found it necessary to put to death a number of people estimated to be between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000. I ask the delegation to ascertain the view of the Chinese Communist Government on the sentiments expressed on page 125 of the report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Office as follows: -
The conditions relating to the treatment of prisoners in China bears out the fact that they are closely related to the Soviet system of forced labour. Treatment of inmates of the camps seems to be similar, and copied from the U.S.S.R. regulations.
The delegation might ascertain whether the Chinese Communist Government can offer any explanation of the statement by the Chinese Minister for Finance in September, 1952 to the effect that more than 2,900,000 bandits had been liquidated. It might ask what comments the Chinese Communist Government can offer on the report of Ku-Ta-tsun. a Communist official, who, on 18th September, 1952, stated that of the 89,701 persons arrested in Kwantung province, 28,332 were executed in ten months.
I also request the delegation to ask the following questions: What lies behind Mao Tse-tung’s intention to create, by 1965, 2,000 divisions of troops, and whether the five years’ compulsory service training of Chinese eighteen-year-olds is really necessary? What, precisely, is meant by the terms “ reform through education “ and “ reform through labour “? Will the members of the delegation be permitted to see at first hand the various processes of these reforms; and will Mr. Ho, the chief of the Maintenance of Security Section of the Bureau of Public Security in Shanghai, be made available to describe in detail the manner in which confessions are extracted from offenders against the “ people’s democracy “? What is meant by article 26 of the “ Regulations Enacted in the People’s Republic of China covering Reform through Labour “ which says, inter alia - I implore the House to observe this with great attention -
By the continuance and systematic use of such methods as collective instruction, private conversations, study documents and organized discussion, the prisoners shall be trained to confess their guilt.
I also request the delegation to ask why the Communist Chinese Government has found it necessary to interfere with, and restrain, the activities of Christian missionaries within China; whether that government has any comment to make on Geoffrey Bull’s book, “When Iron Gates Yield “; and why the Chinese Communist Government appeared in the Korean dispute, and why it made its allegations that germ warfare was being waged by United Nations forces.
I have very little else to add. I wish the delegation a good trip and a safe return. I repeat that I do not envy them in going. I, myself, would find it a little difficult to shake hands with people whom I describe, without any apologies, as bloody murderers. I invite the members of the delegation, once again, to read the report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the International Labour Office. Finally, if I may be permitted to do so, I would ask the members of the delegation to read carefully and think over the words of St. Matthew, beginning at the 10th Chapter, verse 16, which reads as follows: -
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
.- I am not in a position to say whether the delegation that is going to China as the representatives of the Australian Labour party will accept all the suggestions that have been made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), but I am certain that they will give them very careful consideration. Knowing that they are all very good Australians, I can say that the part that they will play when they go to China will be well intended on behalf of Australia.I was surprised at the honorable member’s statement that he would refuse to shake hands with the Chinese. I notice that he did not take any objection to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went to Japan and shook hands with people who had committed against Australia the greatest atrocities that were ever committed in the history of the world.
In view of the measure at present before the House, this is an opportune time for me to put to the Government some of the matters that are affecting people in my electorate. The Australian Loan Council will meet in Canberra this week, and this bill gives all honorable members an opportunity to ask the Government to take a more realistic attitude to matters affecting the States when the Loan Council meets. I do not altogether agree with the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who did not blame the Commonwealth Government for the position of the States. I do blame the Government. I believe that if it took the correct action in the Loan Council there would be better relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and that the Loan Council would fulfil its proper functions. I disagree with the contention of the honorable member for Blaxland that everylocal-governing authority and semi-governmental authority should have representation on the Loan Council. This chamber would not hold all the representatives. I am quite satisfied that the Premiers meet here well fortified with all the necessary information in relation to those bodies, and that they put their case properly to the Loan Council.
It is not an easy matter for the Slates to develop a work force to carry out the various works in which they must engage. The Premiers came to Canberra last year, but after taking everything into consideration, the Government cut their allocation down to the barest minimum. The States asked for £210,000,000 and they only got £190,000,000. All the Premiers and therefore the majority of the Loan Council voted for the larger sum of money, but this was vetoed by the Commonwealth Government. So I say it is the Commonwealth Government that is at fault and not the Loan Council.
The States have very great responsibilities. They have the great responsibility of education, and I know how education has been affected in my own State by the shortage of finance. I also know that what applies in my own State applies in every other State. Australia has a development economy. Its immigration scheme is bringing a lot of extra people into the country, and they are distributed throughout the States. In New South Wales the number of children attending school is increasing by 25,000 each year. If that number is divided into classes, it is found that 700 extra classrooms are needed each year and, of course, each new class needs a new teacher, so that means 700 extra teachers are needed each year. So, the States have very great responsibilities, and when they come to Canberra, I think the Loan Council should take what they say into account and not prune them down.
The States also have rapidly increasing hospital responsibilities, owing to the natural increase of population and the influx of new Australians. The existing hospitals are not nearly adequate. Transport, roads and water conservation are all State responsibilities. Housing is another very important State responsibility. All these things demand that the Loan Council should take cognizance of and give proper attention to the representations of the Premiers when they come here. If the Commonwealth Government continues to prune the amounts allocated to the States this will not only prevent progress but also will have an effect upon employment. In fact, it is already having that effect. I listened with interest to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) yesterday when he presented a petition on behalf of people who cannot obtain employment. He petitioned this Government to be more generous in its allocation of finances, so that unemployment would not develop.
This is an opportune time to remind the Government of the many important matters that must be attended to in the 1957-58 budget. It will be too late to complain about omissions when the budget has been brought down. Yesterday, the Opposition, as a matter of urgency, brought to the notice of the Government the needs of the aged and infirm people. I think that when the budget is being compiled first priority should be given to ensuring that the pioneers of Australia shall get their proper deserts. I submit that £4 a week is a very improper desert for them. All honorable members know that the present age and invalid pension and, indeed, all social service payments have less purchasing power to-day than they have had for many years. In 1943, the relationship of the pension to the basic wage was 33.85 per cent. To-day, although the pension is £4 a week, its relationship to the basic wage - which has increased twice in the last twelve months while the pension has not increased at all - is only 31.1 per cent. That is the lowest it has been since 1945. In the peak year, 1948, the relationship of the pension to the basic wage was 36.4 per cent. That was the last time the Labour party, under Mr. Chifley, increased the pension. Our social services then had the highest value in their history. I challenge the Government to take that into account and to carry out the promises it made in 1949. It said at that time not only that it would maintain the purchasing power of the pension, but also that it would increase pensions. I challenge the Government now to carry out that promise.
There are many other matters that are affected by the inflationary spiral for which this Government is responsible. Repatria tion pensions have lost their value. Pensions to widows and war widows have lost their value. Child endowment has lost its value. The Opposition asks this Government to restore those values. Then there are the unemployment and sickness benefits. We know how important they are. Judging by what the honorable member for Fremantle said yesterday, there are quite a few thousand people unemployed in Western Australia. The unemployment benefit is only £2 10s. for a husband and £2 for his wife, making £4 10s. in all, which is even less than the pensioners are getting. That is a matter that should receive the attention of this Government.
Another matter raised by the Opposition is the funeral allowance made to age and invalid pensioners. When it was introduced in 1943 by the Labour party it was £10, and it is still £10. Surely the Government recognizes that that amount is out of date! Not long ago in the metropolitan area of Sydney one of two pensioners who had been residing together died. There was no’ money to pay for a funeral and no undertaker would carry out the burial service. The burial of this pensioner was delayed. The State was not responsible for this unfortunate happening. It was not possible to provide a pauper’s grave because the circumstances did not permit it. That state of affairs should not be allowed to obtain for our pioneers. The Government should look into this matter and bring the funeral allowance up to date. These things are disgraceful and they should have been attended to. I challenge the Government to restore value to all social services in the next budget.
Another matter on which I would like to say a few words is superannuation. This, too, has lost its value. Superannuation was introduced in 1923, when the unit was worth 10s. The value of the unit has been increased until now it is 17s. 6d., but that is only a 75 per cent, increase. In view of the greatly increased cost of living the value of the unit should be considerably more than 17s. 6d. When this scheme was first introduced, the usual thing was for public servants to contribute for about eight units which entitled them to a retiring allowance of £4 a week. At that time the basic wage was also £4 a week; but now the basic wage is £12 16s. and the eight units of superannuation are worth only £7. It is out of all proportion. I challenge the Government to put some value back into superannuation payments. The Joint Council, consisting of representatives of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, various government departments and unions of employees in the Commonwealth service, has agreed upon an increase in the value of superannuation units, and I ask the Government to take heed of its recommendations.
At present, the allowance for the widow of a contributor to the superannuation scheme is only 50 per cent, of the allowance that the husband would have received. The council representative of the Public Service Board, departments and unions, has suggested that this allowance should be increased to five-eighths of the contributor’s superannuation allowance. This is the rate that applies for the widow of a Prime Minister. I am not disputing, of course, the right of a Prime Minister’s widow to five-eighths of her husband’s superannuation allowance, but I consider that the same rate should apply to the widows of contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. Another recommendation of the council is that the superannuation payments to an orphan child should be increased to £104 per annum. The allowance for dependent children is at present £26 per annum, and the council suggests that this should be increased to £39. The suggestion of the council in respect of the value of units is that the first eight units of a contributor’s pension should be increased from 17s. 6d. a week to 20s. a week. A number of Crown employees have contributed for many years for a number of units that they considered would afford them a reasonable pension when they retired, but the inflation that has developed in recent years has deprived that number of units of the purchasing power they thought it would have. The proposal to increase the value of the first eight units of a superannuation allowance would assist lower-paid employees who contribute for a smaller number of units of superannuation. An increase of 2s. 6d. in the value of the unit, making it £1 instead of 17s. 6d., would help them. I am bringing these matters to the notice of the Government now because if nothing is done about them it will be too late to complain when the budget is brought down.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) mentioned the matter of sewerage reticulation in Sydney. He pointed out that the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board of Sydney is a corporate body, semigovernmental in character, and that the extent of the sewerage works it may undertake depends on the extent of its allocation of loan funds from the Australian Loan Council. The honorable member for Blaxland told the House that over the last three years the board has been permitted to raise loans to a total of £6,500,000. All honorable members realize that the sum of £6,500,000 allotted to this work over the last three years will not, because of inflation, do as much work as was estimated when it was set aside. I consider that loan allocations to the board should be reviewed. When the Premier of New South Wales puts before the Australian Loan Council an application for a greater allocation to local government and corporate bodies in that State - particularly the Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board - I hope that the Commonwealth representatives will take notice.
The honorable member for Blaxland mentioned also the great progress that has been made in the Bankstown district. He intimated that the population there has increased by 100,000 in ten years; the number of dwellings has grown from 10,000 to 34,000, industrial buildings from 38 to 500, and commercial buildings from 270 to 1,300. He mentioned also the importance of reticulating sewers to schools, in the interests of the children’s health. I represent the southern suburbs in the municipality of Bankstown, which cover almost half the local government area. This district is worse served than any other in the Bankstown municipality in relation to sewerage reticulation. In the whole of the municipality are 28 schools and about 21,000 children attend them. I should like the Treasurer, who presides at the meetings of the Australian Loan Council, to come to Bankstown in the summer months and visit the schools there, as I have done, to see for himself the great need for making money available to the Premier of New South Wales for allocation to the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board for the important work of sewerage reticulation.
The board, with the money that it is receiving at present, is able to undertake 100 miles of sewerage reticulation each year. At this rate work is falling behind. The board needs to lay 150 miles of sewerage reticulation each year merely to keep pace with development, without making any inroads on the work that is necessary to catch up with the lag in reticulation. The ideal would be for the board to be granted enough money to permit it to lay 200 miles of sewerage reticulation each year. This would enable it to overtake the lag, keep pace with development and eventually reach the stage where it could lay sewers in advance of the building of the homes they would serve. Present methods of reticulation are unnecessarily expensive. Sewers are laid after kerbing and guttering have been put down and roads have been built. It costs a lot of money to break through improvements to lay a sewer line. It would be more practical and economical for the Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board to be able to do its important work before land is fully developed; and for this it needs more loan funds.
I believe that the findings of the Australian Loan Council should be based not on what the Australian Government will grant but on what the State governments need for their purposes. The plan should be not to make development fit finance but to make finance meet the requirements of development. If that plan could be put into effect, important works that must be done could be done. I appeal to the Government to take into account all the matters that I have raised here to-day so that when its representatives attend the meeting of the Australian Loan Council they will be ready to give earnest and sympathetic consideration to the many problems that will be put on behalf of the States.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 16th May (vide page 1484), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 16th May (vide page 1485), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 16th May (vide page 1485), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 12.54 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1404), on motion by Mr. Townley -
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 - byleave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1406), 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 passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1409), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a most important bill, but I do not intend to delay the House for very long because I know that the measure has the support of both the Government and the Opposition. Wool is by far our greatest export. According to figures which were announced recently, in the first nine months of the current financial year wool was responsible for 47 per cent. of our total export earnings. It appears that a return of approximately £500,000,000 will result from the sale of wool during the current year. It is obvious, therefore, that the future of wool is of immense importance to Australia. This country, of course, is not the only wool-growing country of the world, but it is, perhaps, the country with the greatest need to see that the wool industry is fully developed. We have the greatest vested interest in wool.
It is true that wool research is carried on in other countries of the world, but it cannot be denied that if those countries found a fibre which could be used in place of wool they would use it. We, on the other hand, would be in a perilous position if anything happened to undermine the use of wool as a fibre. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), when introducing this bill, stressed the fact that there is a tremendous volume of research throughout the world with the object of finding synthetics to take the place of wool. One firm alone in America is reputed to be spending £50,000 for every working day of the year on nothing else but research in this direction, whilst the total amount spent on such research throughout the world is well over £20,000,000 annually. Research into the wool industry, on the other hand, would not account for more than £2,000,000 a year in Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand combined.
I welcome this measure and I want to congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry. I wish also to congratulate the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and, at the same time, to say a word in praise of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) who, after all, has to find the money in the long run. The fact that he has seen fit to agree to a contribution on the part of the Government, to match that of the growers, has made it possible for this measure to be introduced. I think that we in this country are particularly fortunate in the calibre of the officer who leads the C.S.I.R.O., Sir Ian Clunies Ross.
Wool, as a fibre, has many advantages and also many disadvantages. Its advantages are, first, its spinning qualities. Recently, I read that a man in England had taken a pound of superfine Australian wool and had spun it into a fibre which was well over 100 miles long.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
– Ring the bells!
– May I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker? Is the honorable member for East Sydney-
– Order! The Minister is out of order. [Quorum formed.]
– I thank the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for being instrumental in bringing more honorable members into the chamber, because 1 think that this bill is one of the most important to be presented to the Parliament for a very long time.
As I was saying, if we are to hold our place in the world and if wool is to hold its place as a textile fibre there is a great necessity to spend considerably more on wool research than we have been spending. In addition to the spinning qualities of wool, to which I have already referred, there is the advantage of its great ability to take dyes. There is also the advantage of its resilience. Unlike synthetic fibres, wool can be stretched and regain its form. It has a great ability to absorb moisture. Wool can absorb up to 20 per cent, of its own weight of water. In fact, this very capacity for absorption is being considered by the Government at present in relation to the setting-up of wool testing houses, so that the actual content of wool may be defined.
But, with all its advantages, wool has many disadvantages, and this is where the money made available as a result of this increased contribution, to be made partly by the growers and partly by the Government, will be used. It will be expended on trying to overcome those disadvantages with a view to making wool a more ideal textile than at present.
The Minister for Primary Industry mentioned the disadvantages of tar brands, which occur frequently in wool. The C.S.I.R.O. has done considerable work on this problem, and has produced two branding fluids, one of which is known as “ B “ and the other as “ Siromark “, which are completely scourable but will not be washed out by the normal process of weather in the field.
The time has come when the State Departments of Agriculture should legislate to make the use of tar brands illegal. We know that they cause considerable trouble in the industry. Many fabrics are completely ruined because the area where a tar brand shows has to be torn out. The loss to the wool industry is considerable.
Another disadvantage of wool is that it has to be moth-proofed. Here again, the C.S.I.R.O. is doing a considerable amount of work at its textile research laboratories at Geelong. It has shown that by treatment with as little as 0.02 per cent, of a preparation called dieldrin, wool can be made almost permanently moth-proof. In the experiments which are going on in that direction the cloth is put through all the vicissitudes to which it would normally be subjected in its life time.
Shrinking is another disadvantage of wool, and far more research is necessary into this problem, because, although there are nineteen different methods of shrink-proofing, none of them can be said to be 100 per cent. The C.S.I.R.O. is using one of its own products called “ Si-ro-fix “, in which resins from nylon scrap, and casein have been used, to proof wool fibre and, more or less, to weld the fibres together, thus preventing a considerable amount of shrinkage. This is not 100 per cent, satisfactory yet, but I do not think that wool will ever be a completely satisfactory textile until a garment made from it can be thrown into a washing machine, completely washed out, and, when hung out to dry, show absolutely no sign of shrinkage. We must overcome the tendency of wool to shrink if we are to compete with synthetic fibres.
Another disadvantage of wool is that it cannot be permanently pleated. This quality is possessed by some of the synthetic fabrics. Although the pleating done may not be actually permanent, it will last for a considerable time. Nothing like a 100 per cent, permanent process for pleating wool has been discovered. I know that work is going on in this direction, and we are assured by the scientists that they hope to achieve a permanent process for pleating wool. If it is achieved, we will have gone a long way towards making wool the ideal textile fibre.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has done considerable work in Melbourne, Sydney and Geelong on the removal of grease during the original processes of scouring. It has been possible, by different means, to reduce considerably the damage done in those processes. Another method which has been invented by the C.S.I.R.O. is the method of putting a wetting agent in the sulphuric acid when the carbonizing process takes place, which makes it possible to reduce the damage greatly, lt is believed that when this method is adopted over the whole of Australia, it will mean a saving to the industry of £500,000; and when the method is adopted all over the world, it will probably save ten times that amount.
In the field of textile research, there is a very great problem ahead of the scientists both here and abroad. We can say that, generally speaking, the research work being done on wool is being done mainly in Australia and the United Kingdom. Apart from the work in those two countries, there is a little done in Europe and an almost minute amount done in America. We in Australia have a vested interest in seeing that this work is carried on and that wool is made the ideal textile. I hope that what I have said will show that an increase of the amount of research on wool as a textile is necessary, that good results have already been achieved, and that there is every possibility that much better results will be achieved in the near future. After all, it is only in very recent years that we have started to delve deeply into the question of wool as a textile. In the past, the wool trade has been regarded rather as a craft in which people learned the lore handed down by their fathers and grandfathers. Very often, work was done without a scientific basis. Now that the scientists are looking into wool problems, they are asking why certain things have been done, and whether it is not possible to do something else. The result is that this great textile, on which Australia is so dependent for its overseas balances, is being improved every year, and we hope the time will come when it will really become the ideal textile fibre.
With these few comments, I support the bill wholeheartedly, and I would like to congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry on the introduction of the measure, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) who is ministerial head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, on the work already done by that organization and the work which, I have no doubt, it will do in the future, and also the Treasurer on making extra funds available in the interests of the wool-growing industry.
.- The Opposition supports this bill. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will speak to it later. I should like to say at the outset that the Wheat Research Bill and this bill both deal with research into two of our greatest primary industries. We believe that an excellent job of work has been done by those responsible for the two bills in their present form.
Research into the wool industry’s problems was begun by the Labour Government in 1945 just after the end of the war. At that stage we recognized the great necessity for improving the quality and the volume of production of wool in Australia, which is one of the principal primary producing countries of the world. The fact that the present Government has continued with the work we started shows the unanimity that exists between the Labour party and the parties now in office, including the Australian Country party, on the vital question of the production of wheat and wool, particularly wool.
I speak on this matter because my electorate comprises one-half of the area of Tasmania, and in it is produced most of the wool produced in that State. Not only that, but at the recent wool sales in Launceston, Tasmania, prices broke the world record. Five growers in my electorate received more than 500d. a pound. I think the top price was 505d. I know quite well the method that is used on a grazing property to produce wool that will bring top prices. That record price shows that in that part of Tasmania top-grade wool is grown. Many wool producers are friends of mine, and I feel that it is only right that I should speak on their behalf on this occasion and say that they welcome this bill wholeheartedly for what it is trying to do to provide more finance for wool research. The Government’s contribution will be raised from 2s. to 4s. a bale, and the growers will pay 2s. a bale into the research fund. That is a big step forward. I say again that the men whom I represent approve of this proposal wholeheartedly.
I now wish to refer to some salient features of the bill. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) pointed out that it has three purposes. There is a three-point programme. The first purpose is to bring all the other funds that were created when Labour was in office into one fund, to be known as the Wool Research Fund. This fund will contain the moneys collected by way of contribution - 2s. a bale from growers and 4s. a bale from the Government - and it will be the source from which all wool research expenditure in the future will be met.
The second provision is that any money not required for immediate expenditure shall be invested in securities guaranteed by the Commonwealth or a State. That is an excellent provision. The third provision is that there shall be established a new Wool Research Committee, comprising nine members who shall be appointed - I am not so happy about this - by the Minister for Primary Industry, to hold office during his pleasure. I should not like to be a member of this committee, appointed at the behest of the Minister and liable to be sacked by him at will. The members of the committee are to consist of a chairman, who will represent the Department of Primary Industry; two members nominated by the Australian Woolgrowers Council; two members nominated by the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation; the chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau; one representative of the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia; one member to represent the universities in Australia which engage in research related to the wool industry - I think that is an excellent provision - and one member to represent the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That also is an excellent provision.
I know that several organizations applied to the Minister to be represented on this committee. Although the members of this committee will be appointed and may be sacked by the Minister, it is important for us to know who they will be and what interests they will represent. I should like the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, to pass on to his colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, a request from the Tasmanian Farmers Federation that a representative of the Australian Primary Producers Union be included on this committee. The Australian Primary Producers Union is an organization some thousands strong. It is centred principally in Tasmania, Victoria and the other eastern States, but it represents many small farmers all over the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I have both received representations from the Tasmanian Farmers Federation on this point, and I cannot see any reason why an organization of this nature should not have one representative on this body.
– If representation is granted to all primary producing bodies, where will it finish?
– I appreciate what the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) says. If such representation is granted, where will it finish? The Minister said that several other organizations had applied to him for representatives to be appointed to the committee. I think that the Minister must ask himself: How far are those organizations related to the wool industry? If the membership of the committee were increased to ten or twelve, leaving room for the representation of other organizations, the Minister, in considering applications for representation, would ask: How far are these organizations related to the wool industry? I admit that the Australian Primary Producers Union represents more than the wool industry.
– The wharf labourers union might as well be represented on the committee.
– I am making this speech. The Australian Primary Producers Union is a farmers’ union, but probably the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) has not heard of it. The Australian Primary Producers Union represents dairy-farmers and wool-growers. Every type of primary producer is included in that union, and that is why
I feel that it should have some consideration. It has a wide approach to primary industry generally. Wool is related to other industries, directly or indirectly, and I ask the Minister to give further consideration to the Australian Primary Producers Union being represented on this committee.
The income from wool represented 47 per cent, of Australia’s total income last year. I sometimes wonder how long Australia can go on riding on the sheep’s back to such an extent as that. I, personally, feel that we should diversify the sources of our export income to a far greater extent. We are too dependent on one industry. If the price paid overseas for the product of that industry collapses, we in Australia are affected immediately. It is like throwing a stone into a pool and the ripples travelling out to the edge. We are all affected by the rise or fall of the prices paid for our wool overseas. The history of our balance of payments in recent years has been the history of wool. When wool prices fell from about 80d. per lb. in 1953-54 to 70d. and then to 60d., our overseas balances decreased and, as a consequence, there was a severe tightening of import restrictions. That was the effect of a drop of 20d. per lb. in the overseas price of wool. This year, with wool prices back to an average of 80d. per lb., we have been able to afford a substantial relaxation of import restrictions. So the economic barometer goes up and down according to fluctuations of the price of wool. The question arises: Is it safe for a nation like Australia, with a great continent to develop, to depend utterly and entirely on one of its primary industries?
I know that in recent years, many primary producers have turned to woolgrowing, because the prices have been good. Farmers have the privilege, which they do not always grant to others, of swinging from one primary industry to another. They can swing from one form of agriculture to another, and they do so according to the market prices of primary products. They might swing from potatoes to dairying, as many farmers in Tasmania have done during the last two or three years, because the prices for dairy products have been stabilized. Many have gone out of dairying into wool producing. Our dependence on wool is too great, taking it over a period of years. I dread what would happen if wool prices overseas collapsed again to about 40d. per lb. The income from wool is the mainspring of our economy at the moment, but I make a plea to the Government to do everything in its power to widen the scope of our export earnings into other fields of primary industry.
The importance of the wool-growing industry was well stated by the Minister when he said -
Our export income from wool this year will be about £500,000,000, more than 50 per cent, of all export earnings.
That is this year. When I mentioned 47 per cent., I was quoting last year’s figures. The Minister went on -
Wool is also Australia’s outstanding dollarearner, contributing over one-half of Australian dollar-earnings from all merchandise exports. In the last five years, wool has accounted for 8 per cent, of the gross national production - easily the biggest single item.
That is a commendable achievement, and we pay tribute to all the wool-growers of this country who have done their level best to improve the standard of their flocks and pastures and who have been prepared to break up native land or increase their use of superphosphate to extend the area of their production. One of the criticisms that I make of the great wool industry, generally - I am not particularizing in this case - is that millions of areas in Australia on what are called grazing properties are still growing native grasses. That is a crying shame. In countries overseas, every acre of land is precious. Japan regards every square foot as precious, yet Australian farmers squander land. Thousand of acres that could be put into production are still overgrown with gorse.
– Where are they?
– There is plenty of such land in my own home State. It is even to be found along the highways. It is still under native grass, as it has been for 100 years.
-Order! The honorable member should direct his remarks to the Chair.
– In Queensland, where there are vast open spaces, the position is even worse. In Western Australia the same situation obtains. It is criminal to allow land to lie idle in a world of ever-increasing populations. Australia’s own population has been increasing rapidly, and thousands of
Asians need the clothes that could be made from our wool and the food that could come from- our fat lambs, yet we are prodigal with our land. There should be a completely new attitude in Australia, especially among the wool-growers, to the use of land. On the other hand, we should be proud of those wool-growers who are spending thousands every year to develop their properties. Some of the growers in my own State of Tasmania have undertaken this work on a large scale. They are employing heavy machinery and, by pushing out into new areas, they are setting a splendid example for the rest of Australia. Their efforts are resulting in new land being put under pasture for sheep-raising. Honorable members may find it difficult to believe that in Tasmania there is a property 85,000 acres in extent, another of 74,000 acres, and many of 22,000 acres and 25,000 acres. They are big properties for such a small island, although they are small by comparison with some found in Queensland and Western Australia. Some owners are opening up land that has been under native grasses for the last 100 years.
– What is the State Government doing about it?
– It is giving every encouragement possible. We hear a great deal about the contribution of the wool-grower, but what of those who keep only enough sheep to put themselves on the right side of taxation? So far as they are concerned, the rest of the land can go to pot. They have beautiful homes and farms that have been handed down by their forebears, who settled there 100 years ago. They have no mortgages to contend with. Many of them are using only a fifth or a quarter of the land available, while thousands of our ex-servicemen are waiting for a little land on which to set up a farm. What we criticize most is their general disregard for the public good.
This Government has encouraged, to a shocking degree, the monopolization of land. A property of, say, 5,000 acres which is put up for sale in Tasmania goes not to the man who wants to go on the land, but to the man who already has 50,000 or 20,000 acres. Instead of two farms becoming available, a bigger, single farm emerges. Monopolization of that kind is proceeding apace.
Returning now to deal with the bill in more detail, on this matter of research I quote the following passage from “ Facts and Figures “, No. 52, at page 22: -
World output of the main textile fibres reached a record in 1955 and was almost seven per cent. higher than in 1954. Although production of cotton and wool increased, that of man-made fibres increased at a greater rate. It is estimated that production of all fibres will increase further in 1956-57, except of cotton, in the case of which government restrictions on acreages, mainly in the U.S., may reduce world output by about two per cent. Despite the continued expansion of synthetic fibre production, wool is maintaining its position in the apparel field and synthetics are becoming more concentrated in industrial uses. The greater supplies of synthetics, therefore, are not all directly competitive with wool and the use of each is expected to increase in those fields for which it is best suited.
These are encouraging words for the wool industry of this country, which has been worried about synthetics. I saw synthetic fibre being made at Dumfries, in Scotland, some four or five years ago, and I remember thinking, “ If this becomes the general practice, wool will suffer a king hit so far as its use for wearing apparel is concerned “. Wearing apparel was being made out of ground nuts, which had come from Africa. We learn now that synthetics are moving over into the industrial field. This will leave the wearing apparel field wide open for wool, which is best suited to it. One has only to study reports from overseas to. realize that wool is still the most popular wearing substance in all countries and that synthetics, in trying to push wool out of the world markets, have had a very bad time of it.
– What about all the nylon shirts that the members of the Australian Country party wear?
– Yes. They are not much help to the people whom they represent here. In thinking of research, one must pay a tribute to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I do not know what we would do without this organization, which was set up by an earlier government and has been supported by all subsequent governments and parties. I have before me issue number 19 of “ Rural Research in C.S.I.R.O.”, five or six pages of which are devoted to diseases in sheep which the C.S.I.R.O. has, in many cases, tackled with success. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) referred to some of them a short time ago. The booklet shows pastures before and after treatment, wool lengths before and after treatment, and so on. The facts are so clearly set out that even mugs like myself can understand them. The wool industry owes a tremendous debt to the C.S.I.R.O., and the bill before us will pour into that organization’s laboratories several hundred thousand pounds for additional research into the things that restrict production, retard our pastures, and tend to lower the quality of our wool. I have not time to refer in detail to all the matters raised in the booklet issued by this marvellous organization. These publications come out regularly, and I hope that many farmers will obtain copies of the excellent issue that I have before me.
Our chief rivals in the wool market are the Argentine, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay. I should like to give a few figures to illustrate the impact that these countries are making on our wool industry. The Argentine, with 52,000,000 sheep, produced 380,000,000 lb. of wool last year. Production per sheep was 6.98 lb. Australia, with 139,000,000 sheep, produced 1,488,000,000 lb. of wool, the production per sheep being 10.68 lb. New Zealand with 40,000,000 sheep, produced 470,000,000 lb., and the production per sheep was 11.85 lb. - the best in the world. New Zealand’s agricultural and pastoral industry is highly concentrated and the excellent production obtained is better understood when set against their comparatively small sheep population. South Africa, with 38,000,000 sheep, produced 320,000,000 lb. of wool, a production rate of 8.46 lb. per sheep. Uruguay - and this shows the value of research - with 30,000,000 sheep produced 200,000,000 lb. of wool, or only 7.14 lb., per sheep. The value of research is further illustrated in the case of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China and Eastern Europe. Those three countries grouped together with approximately 195,000,000 sheep produced 823,000,000 lb. of wool, but the average for each sheep was as low as 4.10 lb., compared with 11.85 lb. for New Zealand and 10.68 lb. for Australia. I claim - and I think the Parliament would claim - that the comparatively high rate of production of wool in this country has resulted from research into means of improving the industry. Obviously, other countries have not reached the standard that Australia has attained in research. The research work done in this country is remarkable. I am proud of it, and I feel that .all our farmers are proud of it. With those few words, I support this bill most sincerely. I know that the graziers in my electorate also support it.
– There are moments when I would wish that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) would stick to his last, whatever his last may be. This is one of those moments. He was, of course, labouring under a grave disability. He was speaking about primary industries, particularly the wool industry, and the bills that are before the House without having any knowledge of the wool industry, the primary industries or the associations that are incidental to the introduction of bills of this importance.
I know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) would want me to make this simple explanation on one point that the honorable member for Wilmot raised in his innocence. He made reference to the fact that no provision had been made for representatives of a very worthy organization, the Australian Primary Producers Union, to be appointed to the committee. There is a very simple explanation for that state of affairs. I made some brief reference to it recently when I had occasion to address myself to another bill. The simple facts are that the agricultural and pastoral organizations of our country have followed the pattern of our politics. Our politics began, of course, with State or provincial parliaments, and from them stemmed ultimately the Federal Parliament, or the Commonwealth Parliament, as it is called. Our agricultural and pastoral organizations followed the same pattern. In each of the States, agricultural and pastoral organizations were established. They were intended to confine their activities exclusively to their own State affairs, but, because of the increasing importance of those affairs, they found it necessary to enter into conference with similar organizations in other States. So serious and important did that development become that, out of sheer necessity, federations had to be formed covering all our major primary industries. We had the State organizations, and the State organizations themselves established the federal organizations. The qualifying State organizations made application for affiliation with the federal organizations. Subsequently, although this is not very important, the federations themselves found it necessary to establish a national organization because Australia, as a nation, ultimately had to undertake international responsibilities. When it undertook international responsibilities, as far as the agricultural and pastoral industries were concerned, it was found that no appropriate national organization existed to become affiliated with the international organizations. Therefore, a national organization was formed. The national organization was confined to the federations, and the federations were confined absolutely and exclusively to the State organizations. These bills cover expressions of opinions made and decisions reached by the federal organizations appropriate to the wool industry. Those organizations have been in consultation with the Minister. They have expressed their opinions and have communicated their decisions to the Government. These bills are the result, and are designed to serve the wool industry and the nation as a whole; and no one else is involved.
It may be that certain State organizations have been excluded from being elected to the Wool Research Committee, but their exclusion is entirely their own affair. It is competent for any qualifying State organization to make application for affiliation with the appropriate federal organization. If that affiliation is approved and the State organization becomes an affiliate of the federal organization, it could be represented on the committee that is to be set up. But I should like honorable members who have no knowledge of these affairs to try to understand the complexities of the pastoral and agricultural organizations of our country. This committee will be representative of wool-growers from the Australian Wool Growers Council, which is one of the two federal organizations dealing exclusively with wool, and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. These are the appropriate organizations for the Ministers to deal with from time to time, and, if any organization wants particularly to be repre sented on committees that are set up under legislation of this nature, it is competent for them to affiliate with the federal organization and in that way become closely associated with and allied to the functions of committees set up under legislation.
– In discussing this bill and allied bills, which have been taken together and which have as their object the provision of finance and the establishment of a system for scientific and economic research into the wool industry, we reflect due credit on the name of Sir Ian Clunies Ross who, from the inception of his office in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has taken a very prominent part in this most important section of the Australian economy. I feel that honorable members on both sides of the House recognize the extremely valuable work which that gentleman and the capable officers who are supporting him are doing in solving some of our most important economic problems.
I could not allow the opportunity to pass without saying how refreshing it is to discuss a piece of legislation which is aimed to produce something for the general welfare and economic advancement of this country. On many occasions we discuss means of disbursing money and are sometimes forgetful of the source from which that money comes. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), if I may say so, had a little each way. His subsequent remarks about the grazing industry as a whole in Tasmania reflected to his misguided electors where his sympathies lie. The honorable member took great credit to himself in connexion with the record price that had been achieved for high-class fine wool in one part of Tasmania, but I suggest that his sympathy with the growers is hard to reconcile with his political affiliations in this Parliament.
On several occasions during this debate, honorable members have referred to the enormous importance of the wool industry in the Australian economy. It would be idle to discuss the important part that the wool industry has played in the internal finance of this country without discussing the part it has played in solving the problem of our balance of payments. I suggest that its value to Australia would easily be seen if the price of wool were to decline radically. We would then all feel the effect immediately. It would be felt, not only in the wool industry, but in every industry in Australia and in every walk of life.
I repeat that it is important and interesting that we should be discussing a measure designed to bring the benefits of science to the aid of those capable sheep masters who have done so much to make the Australian wool industry one of the great industries of the world. If we cast our minds back over British history, we shall recall that the wool industry played a considerable part in the expansion of the British economy prior to the industrial revolution.
In a country that enjoys what might be termed leisurely hours of work and working conditions it is pertinent to reflect that by passing this piece of legislation we may be doing something that will improve the lot of the animal to which we owe so much. I refer particularly to the Merino sheep, which plays such a large part in our wool industry. We submit the poor animal to indescribable indignities. We never think in terms of a 40-hour week concerning it. We do not worry about long service leave or annual holidays or sick leave. We expect the poor old sheep to go on like old man river, just rolling along, and keeping the national economy on an even keel. When something goes wrong because of some unfortunate circumstance overseas the economists say, “ the economy cannot be pinned to one staple industry. It is all wrong.” But we are all happy to accept the advantages of the wool industry when everything is all right.
The thought that arises out of a consideration of these facts is that the patient animal which brings so much benefit to this country may itself derive some direct benefit from the legislation before the House, both in health and diet, two very important things to that animal. Tremendous strides have already been made in research in Australia. Great advantages have been conferred on the industry by the work of skilled sheep-breeders over several generations. I believe that a prosperous future for the industry will lie in coupling the results of research with the practical knowledge that has been gleaned by generations of sheep-breeders. We have already seen most spectacular discoveries which have assisted not only the wool industry but also the grazing industry generally.
Mention has been made of the introduction of myxomatosis to deal with the plagues of rabbits that affect Australia from time to time. Whilst I do not want to detract in any way from the merit of the work done by the officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I feel that it would be unjust and unseemly, on this occasion, not to introduce into the debate the name of Dr. Jean McNamara, who exerted such a dynamic influence in persuading the authorities to persist in the trial of this disease for the alleviation of the rabbit pest.
Great advantage to sheep has accrued from the introduction of new vermifuges and various types of insecticides which have had a tremendous influence on costs associated with the sheep industry. The use of dieldrin and aldrin has largely solved the problem of the blow-fly, which has been one of the most destructive single scourges that the industry has had to deal with. We have also seen tremendous developments in the improvement of fodder grasses and herbages. The officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have conducted an intense search for suitable grasses and herbages that can be profitably grown in the various climatic regions of Australia. They have succeeded in producing grasses for dry areas, and grasses for those areas in which there is an excessive rainfall. However, much remains to be done. I believe that the results that have already accrued from research in the grazing industry, with particular references to wool production, augur well for the future.
We shall always be up against the problem of introducing better fodder grasses to suit our varying climatic conditions. Queenslanders will realize from their own practical knowledge that there are large areas in the high rainfall belt on the coast and in other areas of Queensland which, because they are almost entirely covered with spear grass, are quite unsuitable for wool-growing. One of the problems now under investigation by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is the introduction of a suitable type of legume, or some mineral treatment which would eradicate the spear grass and make the country suitable for the introduction of grasses that would not interfere with the skin and the wool of the sheep as spear grass does. That, in itself, is a problem of immense dimensions, and its solution could have a vast effect on the quality of wool grown in Australia.
The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) has referred to the immense value of wool textile research. I was particularly interested to read, during the last fortnight, of the discoveries that are being made in connexion with the carbonizing of Australian wool to remove burr and grass seeds. If that process is effective, and goes past the experimental to the practical stage, it will be of immense advantage to the textile industry.
I do not propose to discuss the mechanics of the bill, which has already been clearly explained. I content myself with pointing out that this legislation is based on the principle of self-help. The graziers have made a contribution to the wool promotion fund and, on a similar basis, they will make a contribution to this wool research fund. This, coupled with the donations of the Commonwealth Treasury, in regard to which, I am pleased to say, I was able to exercise some slight influence, is an important move in the right direction.
Whilst in general I endorse the attitude of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), I should like to comment on his remarks concerning the request that representatives of the Australian Primary Producers Union should be placed on the new wool research committee. The Australian Primary Producers Union is a fairly new body. It was started in the latter years of the last war - 1944 or 1945. It sprang from quite a humble origin, and by virtue of the attraction of its composition and the energy of its original officers it spread dynamically throughout the whole of Australia. While I accept that there is a certain duality of membership - obviously a number of members of dairying organizations and graziers’ organizations throughout the States are members of the A.P.P.U. - the union, by its interstate character, is a federal body, and its membership, I understand, exceeds 100,000 to-day. So I feel that the time must be coming when an organization so expanded as this is must receive some federal recognition. It could be said, as the Minister for Social Services said, that representation should be sought through affiliation with some State woolgrowers’ organization. I think the Minister knows that the A.P.P.U. is a federal organization. If we are going to continue on these lines, this organization will be denied the representation on these bodies, which I feel in the long run it must achieve.
If I remember correctly, a representative of the A.P.P.U. was sent to Great Britain, as an observer or as an accredited member of one of the wool delegations that went there on behalf of the Commonwealth. That was Mr. Dawson. So I feel that the precedent has been set, and I appeal te* the Minister for Social Services to press this case again to the Minister for PrimaryIndustry (Mr. McMahon).
I commend the Government on this bill. I commend the wisdom of those who are making a contribution in conjunction with the Government to assist their own industry to greater strength. I believe the bill will make a contribution not only to keeping down the cost of production of wool in Australia, but also to the evolution and development of better types of textiles and woollen fabrics generally.
.- The measure before the House for discussion is the Wool Research Bill 1957. On the notice-paper there are four other measures dealing with wool - the Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1957, the Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1957, the Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1957, and the Wool Use Promotion Bill 1957. The ultimate intention of all these measures is to bring up to date existing legislation relating to the use and improvement of Australian wool. It would facilitate the business of this House, I suggest, if honorable members were permitted to direct their remarks in this debate to the all wool bills. After all, these bills are intimately related, and their concern is the welfare of the great Australian wool industry, which is so important to our economic life.
As I listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) - I might include also the second-reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) - I thought that if I had been uninformed, I would perhaps have been inclined to think that these measures were some move by this Government, to render assistance, for the first time, to the great wool-growing industry.
The history of government action to assist this industry is very long, but it is sufficient for my purpose to go back to 1936. I hope, by doing that, and by outlining the subsequent measures, to give a clean picture of the background of the legislation before the House. It is my purpose to give a very brief and concise historical review of action taken by successive governments to deal with the problems of this great industry. If one goes back to 1936, one finds that there was then a wool measure before this Parliament which provided for a levy of 6d. a bale on all wool produced by Australian wool-growers. In those days, that levy produced a substantial amount of revenue - indeed, an amount almost the equivalent in terms of purchasing power to that which the levies now imposed on wool produce. In 1945, despite the fact that the world had just emerged from a war, the then Labour Government was acutely conscious that wool was the all-important factor in Australia’s economy, and that research into its uses and quality should be undertaken to ensure that Australia would continue to lead the world in both the quality and the quantity of wool produced. For that purpose an amending Wool Tax Act was passed. That act provided for a tax of 2s. per bale, ls. per fadge or butt, and 4d. per bag on all wool grown in Australia. The proceeds of this tax were to be paid into the Wool Use Promotion Fund. In other words, the levy covered the whole of Australia’s wool production. The Wool Use Promotion Bill of 1945 was the forerunner of the Wool Use Promotion Bill now before the House. Although the first Wool Tax Act was passed as far back as 1936, it was not until 1945, when the amending measure was passed, and the Wool Use Promotion Fund was established, that the Commonwealth - and I remind the House that a Labour administration was then in office - subsidized the wool-growers’ contributions on a £l-for-£l basis. The Labour government was, of course, acutely conscious of the economics of the wool industry at that time.
It was estimated in 1945 that the contribution from the Commonwealth Treasury would be £650,000 annually. I emphasize again that this was the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that such a substantial appropriation was made from Commonwealth revenue to match the amount contributed by the wool-growers of this country for wool use promotion and research purposes. The legislation provided that the Government’s contribution should be paid into the Wool Research Trust Account. Thus, there were two separate funds, one contributed to by the woolgrowers and the other contributed to by the Government on a £l-for-£l basis. The proceeds of the levy on wool-growers were to go to the Wool Use Promotion Fund and the Government contribution was to go to the Wool Research Trust Account.
The 1945 act continued provision for the appointment of a Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the reconstitution of the then existing Australian Wool Board so that it would consist of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and three representatives of both the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool Producers Federation. The administration of the two funds was to be supervised by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who was empowered to take measures to promote the use of wool and perform other functions of benefit to the industry. As a means of better utilization of the growers’ contribution, the Australian Wool Board was strengthened financially and in every other way so that it would be able to cope with the problems that confronted the industry and effectively exercise the powers that were vested in it by the Parliament. The Australian Wool Board as it was constituted by the 1945 act did magnificent work. Ultimately, it affiliated with an international secretariat and put forward most constructive suggestions for inducing the world to use more wool. Wool is the basic material for the best clothing of mankind in every country.
The 1945 act provided for the constitution of a Wool Research Trust Account. The administration of that fund was vested in a Wool Consultative Council, provided for in the legislation itself. The fund to be administered at that stage amounted to approximately £600,000, which had been contributed by the public. It came from government funds. The Wool Consultative Council was established to advise Ministers on matters concerning the wool industry and its members consisted of the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, two grower members of the wool board, the then existing wool use promotion instrumentality, representatives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, wool manufacturers and - I emphasize the next groups of members - representatives of textile distributors, technical education authorities, the Australian Workers Union and the Textile Workers Union. The financial provisions of the legislation were to be administered by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O. and the Treasurer. They were to be assisted by an interdepartmental committee of which the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the chairman of the Australian Wool Board were members.
The C.S.I.R.O. was made responsible for scientific, biological and technical research and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture for economic research. Provision was made also for co-operation with the State Departments of Agriculture and other organizations. That legislation established an organization that was considered in those times adequate and suitable for its tasks, both in promoting the use of wool and in research. It is admitted that with the passage of time and the placing of other responsibilities on the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the Commonwealth Deputy Wool Adviser, and with other developments in the economic sphere since 1945, there is some need to simplify the administration of the funds gathered from both sources - growers and government. To that extent I do not disagree with the general principle of making a more modern approach to the expenditure of those funds, as is proposed in the measure before the House. Nevertheless, I am emphatic that it is retrograde to provide in this bill that the representation of the Australian Workers Union and the Textile Workers Union shall be abolished.
It is acknowledged that human relationships in industry have never been more important than now; that employees should be taken into the trust of employers. In addition, it must not be overlooked that taxpayers generally are finding half, and sometimes more’, of the money contained in these funds administered by the important bodies constituted by this legislation.
It is all the more essential, therefore, that those bodies should include representatives of the workers in the wool and textile industries. Their presence must make for more effective administration, but this bill proposes to drop them from the controlling bodies. At a later stage, my colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), will move amendments to the bill, and we hope that they will receive support from all sides of the chamber. The purpose of those amendments will be to restore to these important controlling bodies representation of workers in the industry.
In 1952 an act was passed to repeal the 1945 act that had been sponsored by the Labour government. The 1952 legislation provided that all assets of the Australian Wool Board would be vested in a new body to be known as the Wool Bureau. The funds that were available for promotion of the use of wool were to go into the Wool Use Promotion Fund, which was to be established under a later act passed in 1953. The 1952 act provided further that the maximum tax permitted to be imposed on the wool-grower would be increased from 2s. a bale to 4s. a bale. The 1952 legislation made no provision for a government contribution, but the Government promised to consider later making from Consolidated Revenue a contribution equivalent to 2s. a bale. This would have been approximately £350,000. In 1953, yet another act was passed. There seems to be no end to the acts passed by this Parliament in relation to wool. The 1953 act provided for the appropriation of about £350,000 from Consolidated Revenue, and made some improvements in the legislation that was then current. It provided for the transfer of the statistical services of the Australian Wool Realization Commission to the Wool Bureau, and so on. It made the most important provision that the funds at the credit of the Wool Research Trust Account established by the 1952 act and the proceeds of the 1952 tax of 2s. a bale should be augmented by a government contribution equivalent to 2s. a bale.
I am departing now from the chronological order of events to refer once more to the 1945 legislation. In that year the Wool Tax Act was suspended and it was estimated that the revenue from the tax on wool for the current year would be £4,500,000. Therefore an act called the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act was passed. This was associated with the vast transaction that took place between the Governments of New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa and the Commonwealth of Australia in connexion with the disposal of surplus wool accumulated during the war years as a result of purchases by the United Kingdom Government. This Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act provided that a tax should be applied to the sale value of the wool at the rate necessary to meet half the expenditure over the whole period of the Joint Organization plan, and that it should be at the rate of 5 per cent, for the year 1946-47, three-quarters of 1 per cent, for 1947-48 and one-half of 1 per cent, for 1948-49. The proceeds of the tax were to be expended in meeting the industry’s share of the operating expenses of the Joint Organization - that is quite apart from research or wool use promotion; in the payment of interest on the amount expended in the purchase of wool and unrecouped; and finally - and this is where wool use promotion and wool research come in - in payment into the Wool Use Promotion Fund of the equivalent of the wool taxation collected under that act. So the growers had to pay the wool tax of 2s. a bale, in addition to the administrative charges of the Joint Organization, of which the Australian Wool Realization Commission was a subsidiary.
The Wool Industry Fund Act - Act No. 52 of 1946 - made certain provision concerning funds of approximately £7,000,000, together with any additional profits subsequently accruing. I well remember the acrimonious debate that took place over that measure. At that time I was a Minister in the Labour Government, and the present Government parties were in opposition. In brief, that act provided that the accumulated funds of the Central Wool Committee arising from its activities in nonparticipating wool under the war-time wool purchase scheme be paid into the Wool Industry Fund. As I have pointed out, that fund was to be used to finance research. The 1946 act also stipulated how the money could be expended. The fund was to be applied - and this, again, indicates the interest taken by the Labour Government - in supplementing the moneys available under the Wool Use Promotion Act for the pur poses of (a) wool research, (b) capital expenditure for wool research, (c) the application of the results of research, and (d) wool use promotion; or in regulating or assisting the marketing, or stabilizing the price, of wool - that is, in economic research; in providing temporary relief for the wool industry; or in meeting any ultimate loss under the wool disposals plan.
Some objection was taken in this House to the last of those purposes, because we were then in the process of disposing of approximately 10,000,000 bales of warsurplus wool in transactions with the United Kingdom. It had been agreed that any profits arising from the sale of that surplus wool would not be collected by the Australian Government as government funds, notwithstanding the fact that the government of the day had invested £40,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money in buying a share of that surplus wool. It had been agreed, also, that the profits, if any, should be distributed among the wool-growers of Australia pro rata in accordance with the contributions that they had made during the currency of the agreement with the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the Government was to cover any losses. Fortunately, over the period of realization, the profits that accrued to the Australian Government amounted to between £90,000,000 and £100,000,000, every penny of which, under legislation introduced by the Labour government, was distributed pro rata to the Australian wool-growers. There was no complaint about that. That is the explanation of the £7,000,000 of the accumulated funds from war-time transactions that went into wool use promotion activities, and I think that that adequately covers the provisions of the 1946 act.
Further legislation was passed in 1952 and 1953, and we now have another measure which makes some amendments to the 1953 legislation. The Government has decided to drop the Commonwealth Wool Adviser and the Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser from the organization concerned with wool use promotion and wool research. The Opposition does not quarrel with that. I think that the work of the wool adviser and his deputy in other fields is so great, and that wool use promotion and wool research activities have now developed so much, and are so clearly defined, that it is no longer necessary to have the wool adviser and his deputy as members of the body concerned with wool research and wool use promotion. The bill provides that the new Wool Research Committee, which is to administer the separate funds which are to be combined, shall have one representative of the Department of Primary Industry. In the old days, the wool adviser was a member of the executive staff of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The representative of the Department of Primary Industry may be displaced at the whim of the Minister for Primary Industry in favour of some other member of the department. The fund to be administered by the Wool Research Committee will be a substantial fund, because the total contribution is to be increased to 4s. a bale. We hope that there will be large private contributions to the fund. The Commonwealth contribution will be substantial, as it was under Labour legislation. We hope that more and more of the tag ends of funds - most of them are included now with the taking in of the funds of £7,000,000 and £2,750,000 - will be put into the one bag, as it were, and that administration and planning for the future will be facilitated.
The Wool Research Committee, which is to administer the Wool Research Trust Fund, shall consist of the chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau, which, at one time, was the Australian Wool Board - the bureau was established under the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953; one member to represent the Department of Primary Industry; two members to represent the organization known as the Australian Wool Growers Council; two members to represent the organization known as the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation; one member to represent the organization known as the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia; one member to represent such universities in Australia as engage in research related to the wool industry; and one member to represent the C.S.I.R.O. This body is equivalent almost exactly to the consultative council established in 1945, on which there were a representative of the Australian Workers Union, which, after all, plays a very important part in taking off the wool clip, and a representative of the employees in the textile industry. Representatives of the workers are not provided for in this measure. In the name of goodness, why?
What harm have representatives of the workers done in the past? All the evidence that I have been able to find suggests that they have been a decided and decisive help. I shall have more to say about that aspect of the bill at the committee stage. If the Government wishes to bar from this very important body representatives of the workers, who, no doubt, could play a constructive part in its operations, why is representation of the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia provided for?
– The members of that organization are very large buyers of wool.
– Of course they are, and they are very large manufacturers. But shearing, and the operation of textile machinery, upon which the textile industry is completely dependent, are activities that are undertaken by members of the Australian Workers Union, and by textile workers. Likewise, the provision of the capital which, in the final analysis, is the result of human labour, is provided, after it has been extracted from the producers in industry, by the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia. Are the owners of the factories, the plant and the materials more important in this process of making textiles than are the members of the union, either in the field or in the factory? I say to the Government that it is of no use its supporters going round the electorates, as they have in the past, and posing as the friends of the workers unless they are at least prepared to give the workers representation on advisory industrial organizations.
During my period of office as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, representation was granted to the Meat Industry Employees Union on the Australian Meat Board and representation also was granted to the unions on the Australian Egg Board, the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Apple and Pear Board, the Australian Wool Realization Commission and the Australian Dairy Produce Board. There has not been one complaint from any of those great and successful export organizations, which represent every field of endeavour in the respective industries, about the activities of the union representatives who serve on them.
Mr. Turnbull interjecting,
– The honorable mem-‘ ber for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is an auctioneer by avocation and therefore would not know anything about production, manufacture or any other useful human activity.
I have never yet heard, from employer or employee, exporter or importer, one word of complaint about the union representation on those useful organizations which have been created by statute. On the other hand, I have been told of the very great importance of their service and of the useful work which they have performed. In some instances, the representatives have been able to go to the wharfs and explain to fellow unionists the need to load on to ships proceeding overseas the particular products in which they have been interested, and matters of that kind. I know that the union representative on the Australian Dairy Produce Export Control Board tours Victoria and other parts of Australia from time to time visiting the various butter factories, thus transmitting to the members of his union a knowledge of the importance of the organization with which he is associated and the need for every endeavour to be made to see that it achieves greater status in the economic life of the community.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– There are times in this chamber when a debate ensues on a subject that is, relatively speaking, of a noncontroversial nature, and this is one of those rare periods of luxury. I do not propose to detain the House for more than a short space of time in order to deal with a matter that I believe needs a little exposition and explanation, perhaps particularly after the speech that has just fallen from the lips of my friend from Lalor (Mr. Pollard). At the beginning of his speech, the honorable member said that it would not matter very much whether this measure was called a wool promotion bill or a wool research bill. With great respect,, this is a wool research bill quite simply and has nothing to do with wool promotion. The reason for this bill, and for the action which it will make possible, is that wool continues to be the most important individual commodity in our Australian economy. In fact, it is appreciably more important now than it was pre-war, or ten, twelve or fifteen years ago, in that wool accounts for almost 50 per cent, of the value of our total exports, whereas pre-war, it accounted for little more than one-third of the value. The point of this is that, in spite of the very considerable degree of industrialization which has occurred in Australia during the war years and the post-war years, wool still has an undisturbed place in our economy and is now more important than it was half a generation ago.
Now, sir, perhaps I might venture very briefly to deal with this question of wool promotion and wool research, which are two entirely different things. The wool industry in Australia provides 4s. a bale, and has done so now for some considerable time, for wool promotion. The Commonwealth Government does not find any money at all for promotion. All of this 4s. a bale is spent on wool promotion. A large proportion of it goes to the International Wool Secretariat, which has headquarters in London, for attempts to be made, by means of promotion and all the avenues of publicity, to get people to realize the truth that there is nothing like wool. That truth is rubbed in in all the consumer countries, particularly, of course, the United States. That is wool promotion. The organization for which I am politically responsible fur the time being, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has of course nothing whatever to do with the wool promotion side.
Of course, a certain proportion of that 4s. a bale is spent in Australia with a similar purpose, because even our fellowAustralians need to be exhorted, to a degree, to wear wool rather than the many superficially attractive synthetics that are now available. As I say, that is all on the promotion or publicity side, for the purpose of encouraging increased use of wool, in which the C.S.I. R.O., of course, has no hand at all. But on the wool research side, with which the C.S.I.R.O. is very definitely and very largely concerned, it is quite another story.
When the bills in this small series come into operation, as they will, I hope, within 48 hours or so, there will be no less than 6s. a bale available for wool research; that is, the existing 2s. a bale that the Government provides, and an additional 2s. that the Government is going to provide, plus another 2s. provided by the wool industry, giving a total amount, in a normal year, of approximately £1,350,000, the largest amount of money we have ever had to spend on wool research in Australia. That money, of course, will be spent by the C.S.I.R.O. very largely on research into wool textiles, but it also will be spent on a whole series of matters concerned with improving the calibre of sheep and the quality of wool in Australia, right from the breeding, or genetic, side through to sheep diseases, nutrition, health, and all the other many matters that enable a better type of sheep, and therefore better wool, to be grown in Australia. That research is carried out in the Divisions of Animal Health, Nutrition and Pastures of the C.S.I.R.O., and most of the actual field work is done at Cunnamulla, Armidale, Deniliquin and Kojonup, in Western Australia.
As I am politically responsible for the C.S.I.R.O , I am understandably interested in and concerned with this measure. It may be asked, “ Why is it that we need this relatively large sum of £1,350,000 solely for research?” The answer is that it is needed for the simple reason that, in the past, we in Australia have not been able to do anything like the requisite amount of research, in the broad, concerning wool and the sheep that produce the wool. There is a great deal of work still to be done.
The honorable member for Lalor mentioned the £7,000,000 left over from the operations of the Joint Organization in the last war. On the proper financial and legal advice we have been drawing on that £7,000,000 in the last year or so in order to make up the deficiencies in the amount of money that the C.S.I.R.O. has had available to it for expenditure on research. That will not be so in future. The interest on that £7,000,000 will be used largely for the construction of capital works in connexion with wool research, but for no other purpose. The £7,000,000, or what is left of it - I think it is about £6,800,000 or £6,900,000 - will be retained intact as a fund to produce income for the works side of wool research in Australia in the future.
There is really only one more thing of any consequence that I want to say on this matter. That is, as I have said, we will have in future £1,350,000 to spend on wool research in Australia. As the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) has said, the greater part of wool research done in the world is done in Australia. In fact, I have attempted to have the relevant figures taken out in the last week or so, and the C.S.I.R.O. believes that not very much more than a world total of £1,500,000 is being spent on wool research. The amount may be a little more than that. So, something like 90 per cent, of the world’s wool research is being done in Australia. That is understandable, because Australia is the greatest wool-producing country in the world.
The story in regard to synthetics, the great competitor with wool, is very different. The C.S.I.R.O. estimates that at least the equivalent of £15,000,000 is being spent on synthetic fibre research throughout the world, the greater part of that amount, of course, being spent in the United States, and the greater part of American research on synthetics being done by the E. I. du Pont de Nemours interests at Wilmington, in the State of Delaware. The amount of £1,500,000 being spent on wool research compares with at least £15,000,000, and perhaps £20,000,00, spent annually on research on synthetic fibres. Those two sets of figures, which are nothing more than approximate, tell their own story. They tell why the Government has been moved to create this appreciably larger fund - and not too large a fund even now, considering the large slice of our Australian economy which is likely, in the years ahead, to be dependent on wool’s ability to maintain itself in face of the increasingly fierce competition that can be expected from synthetic fibres.
The Government has, of course, had the assurance of the federal body representing the wool-growers that all the State bodies are in favour of this project. If there is any opposition to the project, it comes from minorities within the State bodies. As we all know, sometimes to our cost, minorities can be quite vocal; but generally speaking, the majority of the wool-growers in Australia are wholeheartedly in favour of this project.
– There is no opposition to it.
– The Minister for Social Services says that there is no opposition to the project, I do not see how there could be. I commend the bill to the House.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) took to task my worthy colleague, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is a very knowledgeable man on rural affairs. He said that because the honorable member for Mallee is a professional auctioneer he could have no knowledge of rural conditions. Nothing could be further from the truth, because an auctioneer has to have an intimate knowledge of the stock that he handles, and also a good knowledge of land, because he also engages in dealings in land. An auctioneer is also gifted with a powerful voice, which he can make heard. The honorable member for Lalor hails from a State where not one member of the Labour party represents a rural constituency in the State Parliament. That is because the Labour party has entirely lost the confidence of the rural producer.
The part of this bill which interests me is not so much the scientific side of research, although nobody will quarrel with that, because it is of the utmost importance. Indeed, it is only now that industry generally is waking up to the fact that money for research is essential if all our industries are to continue to exist in a competitive world. The side of the measure I am interested in is the more practical side - that which has reference to the improvement of our pastures and methods of dealing with the great problems that arise in primary production. In previous times it was common to clear the land, wait for the natural pastures to germinate, and then put stock on the land. Improvements were made by decreasing the size of paddocks and by animal husbandry. There were no problems of disease. The decrease in the size of paddocks, and the improvement of pasturage, accompanied by the grazing of a larger number of sheep to the acre, were followed by the problem of disease. . The C.S.I. R.O. is doing very great work in combating the diseases of live-stock, particularly sheep. That is the scientific approach. What I want to stress to-day is the great need for animal husbandry, because the practice of animal husbandry must be adopted by farmers in face of varying conditions.
It is quite easy for industries other than rural industries to adapt themselves to changing conditions, because their affairs are subject to reasonable control by man. But nature is in control of the affairs of the man on the land, and he has to adapt his programmes and policies in relation to the facts of nature. One thing that strikes me, as a practical sheep-farmer, is that, generally speaking, sheep do better on short pastures. If a farmer improves his pastures properly he is faced with an enormous growth of pasture over all his property. The problem is to maintain the kind of pasture most suitable for sheep. The growth is systematic over the whole property. The farmer can close up two or three paddocks for hay-making but he is still faced with the problem of the whole area.
When I came first to Australia I was struck by the fact that the value of farms was estimated on their carrying capacity. Land which could carry one sheep to the acre might be quoted at £8 an acre. I looked at the rainfall records of the district in which I was interested, and found that in one year the rainfall had been 30 inches, in another 25 inches, and in another 12 inches. How do you assess one sheep to the acre under these conditions? You cannot do it because, when the rainfall is good, the land will carry two or three sheep to the acre. I mention that only as an illustration of the problem of maintaining pastures properly.
A great deal of research could profitably be made into animal husbandry. The scientific side of that has been handled very well, but I am thinking of the practical side. Can any agronomist with any certainty tell a man who wants to go on the land that in a certain district the best type of pasture is such and such, and that a certain way of handling it is the best way? I know of no district in New South Wales where any agronomist can do that. All they can say is that the practice that farmers in the district have followed is such and such, and that it has had good results.
In addition to the rainfall problem, there is the problem of rotation of stock in the paddocks. A trained man can arrive at the solution much quicker than the ordinary farmer can. The trained man often gives the theory and the farmer will apply, in practice, what he tells him, in an endeavour to make the best of his problem.
Another problem arises from the fact that not sufficient research has been made into the storage of fodder. The last five or six years have been periods of excellent rainfall. The result has been an abundant growth of pastures, particularly in the pasture-improved areas. The natural and sensible thing to do is to create an insurance against drought, but this depends largely on the way that fodder is stored. One problem is how to make hay when rainfall is continuous at the haymaking season. That has been the problem in my district over the last seven years. In only one year - last year - was the weather suitable for haymaking. I should like to see research undertaken to improve the cultivation of pasture crops for silage. I should like also to see research into the production of machinery that will dry hay, such as is used in Europe. Inclement weather often occurs at a time when the pastures are exactly right for haymaking, when the grass and clovers are just right for preservation. If it were possible to have a machine that would artificially dry the grass after it had been cut and was passing through the machine, it would be possible even at such times to harvest and preserve first-class fodder. The average farmer cannot afford to pay for research work of that kind, and I commend it to the Government as a subject for investigation.
The proposed representation on the Wool Research Committee seems to me to be very fair. I notice that the Labour party intends to move an amendment to add two members to represent the trade unions. I cannot understand the motive for such a proposal. The bill deals with the production and scientific control of wool, and I fail to see where labour comes into it. I have a great deal of respect for those men who work in the pastoral industry, but I say that the suggestion of the Labour party could be compared with a request by the fruit pickers for representation on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Would there be any sense in their being represented on that body? It would be just as logical to have representation of the consumers of apples and pears or to appoint a member of the Housewives
Association to the board. If a committee or board is too big, it will defeat its own ends. I think that the decision of the Government on the membership of this committee, both as to the number and personnel, is very wise indeed. It is necessary, nowadays, to increase our efforts to maintain the position of Australian wool in the world’s markets, and the plan envisaged by this bill has not been presented too soon. I am certain that it will receive very strong support from the wool-growing industry.
.- I do not propose to speak at length on any of the various bills under discussion, but I think it will be agreed by all honorable members that they are all of profound importance. It may be trite to say that the wool industry is, in a very real measure, the basis of our entire economy. One only has to read the second-reading speech of the Minister on this bill to find proof of that. He said -
Our export income from wool this year will be about £500,000,000, more than 50 per cent, of all export earnings . . .
Wool is also Australia’s outstanding dollar earner, contributing over one-half of Australian dollar earnings from all merchandise exports
In the last five years, wool has accounted for 8 per cent, of the gross national production.
They are facts well known to every member of this House. Nevertheless, I believe that if we are honest with ourselves - and it would be a refreshing exercise to engage in some honest introspection - I think we will readily admit that we frequently overlook those facts. The wool industry is the largest and most valuable primary industry in this country. What affects the wool industry affects the entire economy of Australia. If the House would care to consider an hypothesis, I invite honorable members to assume that the present portents of drought bear on for another six or twelve months and that a fierce and intense drought prevails in this country. In twelve or eighteen months’ time that would have a terrific effect upon the wool industry. In a relatively short space of time, that effect would snowball throughout the length and breadth of Australia. No section of the economy would escape damage. I do not think there is another nation in the world whose economy is governed so much by a single factor. I suppose one could say that some of the Middle East countries are dependent entirely on oil, but oil is not a product that is affected by seasonal conditions as wool is.
I rose this afternoon, however, simply to strike a blow at what I regard as a very disturbing attitude adopted by many people in this country to the challenge from the synthetic fibre industries. Not only is this attitude disturbing, but there is evidence of a very real measure of smugness and complacency. As an illustration, I read from an article entitled “ Synthetics Industry Virtually ‘ In the Doldrums ‘ “, appearing in the issue of “ Muster “ of 14th May. The opening paragraph of the article is as follows: -
The synthetic fibres industry in the United States is “virtually in the doldrums”, the “U.S. Textile Reporter “ says.
I shall not read the whole of the article because this journal is available for all honorable members to see. I shall content myself with reading this paragraph: -
The industry remains, despite being surrounded by fat profits on all sides, virtually in the doldrums. At this point there are no factors present that would seem to indicate anything but a continuation of this unfortunate condition into 1957.
Only last Friday I spoke to a person whose standing and experience in the pastoral industry one immediately recognizes and accepts, but I was very alarmed to hear him say, “Why worry about synthetics? There is nothing in them at all. We have been faced for years with this so-called challenge - this so-called ‘battle of the fibres ‘ or whatever other expression has been used to describe the contest - but nothing has really happened “. He referred me to the decline in the production of synthetics in the United States of America. I have the figures, and they are interesting. For the nine months ending November, 1955, the production of artificial fibres in the U.S.A. amounted to 1,683,000,000 linear yards. For the nine months ending November, 1956, production was 1,671,000,000 linear yards. That represented a decrease in production of 11 per cent. One meets many individuals who point to facts such as those and say that there is no need to worry about the battle of the fibres. They suggest that there has never really been a contest. It is precisely that attitude of mind that prompted me to rise this afternoon, because I believe that the struggle against synthetics is far from over. If people are going to remain possessed of the idea that this is a contest with no application to this country, I believe that they are exposing the nation to the gravest harm.
If I may suggest another hypothesis for the House to consider, let us assume that a synthetics firm - I do not care whether it is du Ponts, Unilevers, Imperial Chemical Industries or Shell - develops a synthetic fibre in five or ten years’ time that has all the characteristics of wool. Where would this country be then? It would take £500,000,000 out of our export-earning capacity every year. I put it to honorable members that if a synthetic fibre to replace wool could be developed, this country would pass through such an era of depression that the 1929-32’ period would by comparison seem to have been a boom.
I thought that the estimate of the right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey), the Minister for External Affairs, that £15,000,000 was being spent annually on research into the fibre synthetic industry was remarkably conservative. I would have been inclined to move a little closer to £20,000,000. Be that as it may, here is an industry spending between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000 on research, but what is the wool industry spending? As the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) pointed out, the total being spent throughout the world is about £2,000,000.
I have already mentioned the activities of du Pont, Unilever and Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. Some of those companies are spending up to 25 per cent, of their profits upon research into synthetics. With all the goodwill and charitableness in my frame I say to my collagues of the Australian Country party that if the representatives of our wool industry were asked to devote 25 per cent, of their profits to wool research, there would be such a crop of coronary occlusions, strokes and cerebral haemorrhages that the hospitals would be packed out. I think there is urgent necessity for the House and the nation to come to the point and be realistic enough to admit that the challenge from the synthetic industry is far from over. The legislation now before us is a notable step, however minor it may be in the overall scheme of things, towards such a recognition.
I propose to take up the time of the House for a few moments in order to illustrate some of the characteristics of synthetics. They may touch no nerve of novelty so far as honorable members are concerned, but I believe that there is some value in reminding ourselves of some of the characteristics possessed by synthetics that are not possessed by wool. For example, terylene has a very real degree of moth and mildew resistance. It is not a contrast, but rather a notable fact that approximately one-fifth of suit production in the United States of America is devoted to rayon. Orion is resistant to a number of acids, has amazing strength and is also moth and mildew resistant. Vicara is nonitching and creates no allergy problem. Dynel is also resistant to chemicals, gives good warmth and can be ironed without damping. It, too, is allergy-proof.
The development of wool has not yet been brought to the stage where it commands all the various characteristics of the synthetics. I am the first to agree that wool possesses many characteristics that synthetics do not as yet command, but that is no argument for saying that synthetics will never, at any time in the future, command the characteristics of wool. I refer again to the smugness and self-satisfaction that prevail in the minds of many people who are directly associated with the wool industry of this country. In that smugness and self-satisfaction there lies a very real degree of danger.
There is a great time lag in Australian wool research. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has made a great contribution - one that is readily acknowledged by honorable gentlemen on both sides of the House - but some indication of what I mean by time lag may be gleaned from the following observation of Professor George D. Beal, an American engaged in wool research -
The time lag between laboratory development and commercial utilization ranges from 2- li years, in the aviation industry, to 85 years in the woollen industry.
The last matter to which I wish to refer is section 9 of the bill to establish a wool research trust fund. The bill might well have made provision for the recognition, in tangible form, of the contribution made by particular individuals to the woollen industry. If I may give a case in point: Some years ago I was jackerooing on a property adjoining the C.S.I.R.O. research station at Gilruth Plains, near Cunnamulla. I had the opportunity of using extensively the mulesing operation for the protection of sheep against blow-flies and other pests, I do not know whether the inventor of that operation - the person who first thought his way through the mulesing operation - was ever recognized by the wool industry. I have an idea that he was, but that is the sort of thing that I have in mind. Again, there is the case of the individual or individuals within the C.S.I.R.O. who developed the branding fluid that scours out readily. That sort of achievement should be recognized.
It may be argued that it is very difficult to single out one, two or three individuals and say, “ We regard your work as making a notable and important contribution to the wool industry and we propose to recognize your talent and inventiveness “. I do not accept that argument. The difficulties, however real, are not insuperable. It would provide an incentive to an individual directly associated with the wool industry by way of research within the C.S.I.R.O., or outside of it - whether a jackeroo, station hand or station owner - or in woollen mills at any level, to exercise his energies in this direction. If he knew that his inventiveness would be recognized, I believe that we should have ideas and suggestions coming forward. Probably no more than a dozen or so ideas of that kind have come forward in the last five or ten years. Certainly, there has been virtually nothing of major importance.
There have been improvements in pasture research and breeding, but we have no had any facilities for recognizing tangibly work that has a direct bearing upon the wool industry. I ask the Minister in charge of the House to consult his colleague, the Minister, for Primary Production (Mr. McMahon), upon his return, and also the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O. (Mr. Casey) to see whether some formula can be developed, for inclusion either in this legislation, or in one of the associated acts, to recognize the inventiveness of individuals who make a notable contribution to the wool industry.
.- There is not the slightest doubt that the wool industry provides one of the greatest illustrations of the success of private enterprise in this country. It has been built up by private enterprise.
– With government aid.
– The industry was built up by men who came here in the early days, established great sheep flocks and increased their numbers and excellence over the years. An honorable member has suggested that they have received government aid, but the wool industry has received less government aid than any other primary or secondary industry in Australia. The wool man, under private enterprise, has built up this industry, and in building it up he has built up Australia. The wool industry is the greatest factor in the progress and prosperity of Australia. It has been amusing to listen to Labour members praising the wool industry, and then, a little later, when they thought of their positions in their party, saying things that were not quite so favorable as one would expect from them after the start that they made.
I want to explain one or two things in this bill. I favour it very greatly and support it. Of course, favouring and supporting a bill, one does not want to debate it. I listened to the second-reading speech of the Minister and have gone through speeches that were made in the past. Many of them have been outlined by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I am sure the wool people generally will be very happy with what has been said. When the honorable member for Lalor was speaking - and he was formerly Minister for Commerce and Agriculture - he advocated that a member of a union should be on the board. 1 interjected, “Why not have a grazier on the executive of the union “ ? That was a very fair proposition. His argument - and I understand that an amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has been foreshadowed - is that certain unions handle wool and, therefore, they should be on the board that has been constituted. Of course, the wool that is handled by those unions should permit the people who grow it, and make possible the employment of men, to be represented on the unions. The Labour party always wants it one way. It should look at both sides.
The honorable member for Lalor is a bit hot-headed in this House, but outside the House he is quite an amiable fellow. When I interjected, he said, “What would the honorable member for Mallee know about wool, primary production, administration or anything to do with the man on the land? He was an auctioneer “. I should like to clear this matter up once and for all. It is over seventeen years since I was an auctioneer, and I was an auctioneer for about seventeen years. I was one of the youngest auctioneers in Australia when I started. One good thing about it is that the auctioneering experience I gained gave me a chance to travel all over the country and to handle countless thousands of sheep. One thing I can say with every confidence - and nobody can deny it - is that, if I were in business again, I could do business with every man I dealt with before as an auctioneer. The honorable member for Lalor seems to resent the fact that I have this particular knowledge. Apart from experience as an auctioneer, I was brought up amongst sheep and on sheep properties. My people were associated with sheep on a property in the electorate of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) - the famous “ Winton “ sheep property from which I got my name. It was taken up by my great-grandfather in 1825, and my grandfather was born there and we have been engaged in primary production ever since. Yet, the honorable member for Lalor points to me as a man with no knowledge; I would be very happy to meet the honorable member in friendly competition in classing or counting sheep or estimating weight. After all, a man who has had considerable experience with sheep knows how to count them, and I would like to compete with the honorable member for Lalor.
I do not think we can take seriously the suggestion that a member of the union should be appointed to the board. I do not think any fair-minded Labour man would want to have it both ways. The member whom I believe is fair-minded is the honorable member for Bendigo. Surely he will not move this amendment to provide that the wool industry should have foisted on it a man from the unions! But, after all, I suppose if he has his instructions from the union, he must carry them out and will carry them out whatever may come. I was interested to read a speech made in this House on 21st September, 1945, when the Wool Realization Bill 1945 was before the House. I do not want to bait Labour members any more; I want to deal with the bill as it is. The speech to which I have referred gave the information that for the five years before the war the annual value of wool produced in Australia was £51,000,000. The Minister in his secondreading speech said that the export income alone from wool this year will be about £500,000,000. That is ten times the prewar value of wool. The value of wool has increased a lot, but the number of sheep has also increased, and that is of paramount importance. We are very fortunate to have had good seasons.
The honorable member for Wilmot spoke of the area around Campbell Town and those places where the superfine merino wool is grown - “ Valleyfeld “, “ Winton “ and other places made famous by the Taylor family. After praising the wool-growers in his electorate, the honorable member got on to the old Labour theme of cutting up the land. Do Labour members know that, if the land is cut up into small enough farms and intense culture is introduced, a blow will be struck at the production of superfine wool?
– That is nonsense.
– The honorable member for Lalor says that is nonsense. That shows his abundance of want of knowledge on this subject. What I have said is a wellknown fact. Surely, the honorable member for Wilmot knows that the area he represents in Tasmania is light carrying country.
– Not for merinos.
– No, but where the superfine wool is produced is light carrying country. The electorate of the honorable member for Lalor, of course, is chiefly in the City of Sunshine. Incidentally, not one Labour member from Victoria at present is dependent on rural areas for his majority. That is a remarkable fact. The honorable member for Lalor, perhaps, has a little more rural area in his electorate than other Labour members have, but without Sunshine and a few other places around Essendon, he would be in a hopeless position and would not be a member of this House now. With intense culture, wool assumes body, and, having assumed body, is not of the superfine quality that has made Australia famous. Does the honorable member for Lalor say for one moment that, if sheep are run at the rate of four or five to the acre, as would be done with intense culture, superfine wool would be preserved? Of course, that cannot be done! The more the honorable member for Lalor speaks about this subject the more he gets into difficulties from which he cannot extricate himself.
Auctioneering has been mentioned. The auctioneering business has contributed greatly to the success of wool sales in Australia. With the exception of one or two misguided wool-growers who perhaps sell their wool privately - I do not include those who send their wool direct to the United Kingdom - nearly all wool in Australia is sold at public auction. The system of public auction, of course, has done much to foster the industry by securing the best possible prices in the world’s markets. Buyers from all over the world come to Australia to compete at the wool sales. Of course, if we are fair, we have to pay a tribute to the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, put up a great fight to continue auction sales at a time when certain nations of the world had asked that the auction system in Australia should be abolished.
Members of the Opposition bring up the subject of wool in this House when the atmosphere suits them. When the Wool Sales Deduction Bill was before this House, Labour members went around woolgrowing areas saying: “ You will never get back this money that the Government is holding. Once this legislation is on the statute-book it will never be erased “. What was the position shortly afterwards?
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - Order! I think the honorable member is getting a bit wide of the bill.
– May I say in passing that every man got his money back, and the legislation was erased from the statutebook as soon as it was found to be necessary. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) mentioned how the price of land was affected by the price of wool, and how sheep husbandry affects prices generally in Australia and that at one time country that carried a sheep to the acre was worth about £8 an acre. I have been informed that it is worth £25 an acre now. I do not think that the value would be as high as that, although it may bring that figure. I would say that it was worth about £20 an acre on present sheep and wool values. When I was a small boy, the price then recognized for one sheep to the acre country was £3 15s. an acre, and later it went up to £4 10s. All these things are now history.
I rose in my place chiefly because the honorable member for Lalor made an attack on me that was not justified, and I thought that it required answering. I also rose to point out to the Labour party that all the ills of Australia will not be solved by cutting up the land. It must be remembered that certain land can be cut up to advantage. There is other land which it would be to the detriment of the wool industry to cut up. I have heard Labour members say that they have travelled through my electorate of Mallee and seen paddocks that were not being used. They know nothing about the rotational system of cropping, whereby land will lie idle, perhaps for two years. By allowing land to lie idle for a couple of years, and then fallowing and cropping it, farmers use the land in the correct way. So the fact that one may go through the country and see some land that is apparently not being used should not make one think that the owner of the land is not getting the maximum production from it.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has explained this bill very fully. I received, not a telegram as did some honorable members, but two letters from a primary producers’ organization asking me to endeavour to have their representatives included in the executive of this new organization that is being set up. I spoke to the Minister for Primary Industry about it, and he said that he was not prepared to accept any amendment to the proposal set out by him in his second-reading speech in which he said -
Consideration has been given to the requests of several organizations that they be permitted to nominate representatives to the committee. The requests have been carefully considered, but the
Government has come to the conclusion that the composition of the committee mentioned in the bill is both adequate and representative.
In case there may be any misunderstanding, I say that it was not trade union organizations that asked me to move an amendment for them, but a primary producers’ organization. However, if I were to move as I have been requested the motion would be rejected. Consequently, I think it better that I should not submit such a motion because I should only bring the names of those organizations into the House without their gaining anything from it. It has been stated in this place that once we start to nominate certain primary producers’ organizations to such a body it is hard to know where to stop. In my electorate, there are two primary producers’ organizations that are very favorably looked upon by the primary producers in the area, but as the Minister has stated definitely that he will not accept an amendment I shall not move one. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. I hope that this legislation will come up to expectation, and that the wool industry will be kept at as high a standard as it is at present and improved, if possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to establish a wool research trust fund and for purposes connected therewith.
Resolution reported; and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 11 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
Clause 12 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be a Wool Research Committee, which shall consist of -
.- I move -
That, in clause 12 at the end of sub-clause (1.), the following paragraph be added: - “ (h) two members to represent the trade unions associated with the production, sale and processing of wool.”.
Clause 12 of the bill provides for the creation of the Wool Research Committee. It is my desire to add to clause 12 a new paragraph (h), which will read -
Two members to represent the trade unions associated with the production, sale and processing of wool.
In moving this amendment I desire to point out to the committee that I am endeavouring to put into this clause the principles which were contained in section 14 of the Wool Use Promotion Act passed in 1945. That act created a Wool Consultative Council, and on that council representation, amounting in all to nine persons, was given to various interests which it was believed would be helpful in promoting the use of wool. Among the organizations listed for representation on the council were two unions, the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Textile Workers Union. The other organizations and phases of the industry to be represented were the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the wool manufacturers, the textile distributors, and authorities concerned with technical education. In addition the council has to include two persons actively engaged in the production of wool. The Wool Research Committee to be appointed under this measure will be called upon to consider problems associated with the wool industry, and representation is being given to various wool interests and research organizations. In nearly all the legislation which the present Government has passed since 1950, dealing with bodies of this description, there has been a tendency to discard trade union representation altogether. This bill continues that policy, and I believe that policy to be wrong. There are two parties in industry - those who provide the capital from which comes the land, plant, buildings, or stock, and those whose capital is labour and who have invested that labour in the industry. Only through the co-operation of those who own the capital and those who give their labour can industry progress and produce the goods that are required.
When one considers the future of an industry - how it can be protected, how it can be expanded, how it can deal with problems such as those pointed out by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) this afternoon - one finds that both employers and employees in the industry are vitally concerned. Because there is a general recognition by the modern employer of the part played by employees in industry, many big concerns that are managed in an exceptionally capable manner to-day invite and encourage their employees who have knowledge and experience of the industry, to make suggestions that will enable the undertakings to be run more efficiently. That is particularly the case in the United States of America, where the “suggestion box “ idea operates. In this way, the information possessed by the employee - his know-how and experience - is utilized for the better running of an industry or plant. I suggest, in moving this amendment, that the know-how and experience possessed by the employee in the wool industry should be made available on the Wool Research Committee so that the employee’s viewpoint on the difficulties and problems he experiences in his job may be readily available to those who are carrying on the very important work of research.
The classes of work done by the employee include every phase of the production and use of wool. They include the care of sheep, shearing, wool classing - a very important job which must be done efficiently if the pastoralist is to receive the best possible price for his wool - the sorting of wool into spinning counts for manufacture, the sale and distribution of wool from warehouses, scouring, and the processing and manufacturing of wool. In addition, of course, many people are engaged in the chemistry and the technological processes of the textile industry. To suggest that all those people, with their vast knowledge and experience extending over many years in the industry, would not be competent to give valuable advice on the production, the uses, the weaknesses and the strengths of wool, is, I think, flying in the face of the facts.
T suggest to the House that in research work, knowledge and experience is not a monopoly of one section of the wool industry. Knowledge and experience are gained by many different classes in industry. That is already recognized in this clause, because it provides for representatives of the
Department of Primary Industry, the Australian Wool Growers Council, the Wool and Meat Producers Federation, the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia, and also the Australian universities engaged in research related to the wool industry, to sit on the Wool Research Committee. I think the very constitution of the committee as provided for in this bill, indicates that a very wide range of experience and knowledge has to be pooled so as to ensure the best possible research and the best possible results. To say that those who give their life to the wool industry as employees have neither knowledge nor experience, and are unable to make useful suggestions is to fly in the face of facts. Certainly it cannot be regarded as a sound argument against employee representation.
The principle of employee representation was used during the war with very great benefit to war production. I believe that it can be applied to Australia’s greatest industry. The Parliament should see that all those qualified to give advice, including the employees, are brought into this scheme.
– I very much regret that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) is unacceptable to the Government for the very good and sufficient reason that it is redundant. Already there is provision for nine representatives of the trade unions on this committee. Whom, might I ask the honorable member, is the chairman of the committee to represent? I would remind the honorable member that this Government has never been able to see the class division of Australian society, and when it appoints a chairman to a committee of this description, it expects that chairman to be all things to all men. Similarly, the second member of the committee cited in the bill is to represent the Department of Primary Industry. Is it to be suggested that the representative of a government department should represent the Government to the exclusion of the trade unions on this committee? That is utterly absurd so far as the Government is concerned. It will be the manifest duty of the representative of the Department of Primary Industry on this committee to represent the trade unionists who might be interested in the production of wool in precisely the same way as he will represent his own department and other people.
Similarly, there are to be two members to represent the organization known as the Australian Wool Growers Council. Has the Australian Wool Growers Council never taken into consideration the point of view of the people who are engaged in the wool industry? Any such suggestion would be utterly absurd. From day to day, constantly, the Australian Wool Growers Council is concerned with what honorable members of the Opposition describe as trade union affairs and their effect on the industry. Of course the trade unions engaged in the wool industry would be represented by the Australian Wool Growers Council in precisely the same way as any one else. I was a member of that council; I was a member also of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. Never at any stage of the proceedings did we ignore the representations that were necessarily made from time to time in the industrial interests of the people engaged in the meat and woolproducing industry.
Of necessity, the representatives of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation would so exercise themselves as to mete out justice without fear or favour to all those who were engaged in the industry, regardless of their equity in the capital sense of the term. Exactly the same considerations applied in some shade of degree to the other three members of the committee. One member represented the organization known as the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers. There is a complete explanation why this organization is proposed to be represented on the present body. It has technical information that is available to no one else, and the committee is anxious to avail itself of that technical information on textiles. Whoever might be the member nominated by the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers for appointment to the committee, is it to be supposed that he will ignore the operatives in the textile industry, which is the secondary industry to wool production? Of course, he will not! It is in his own interests and in the interests of his organization that he take into all his considerations the attitudes and aspects that are of material concern to the people engaged in his own industry.
Another member is to be representative of such universities in Australia as engage in research related to the wool industry. I defy any reasonable man to suggest that the representative of the universities, whoever he might be, would confine himself exclusively to matters related to academic aspects of research. He is a member of the Australian community, in exactly the same way as every one else. It is his manifest duty to represent all those who might be affected by the investigations he is likely to make and which the universities are likely to undertake. One member is to be a representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which is engaged from day to day in research into the wool industry. It would be redundant for me to repeat in relation to this representative the arguments that I have already put in support of other representatives, and it would be impossible for any man who is a member of the C.S.I.R.O. to engage in activities contrary to the interests of trade unionists or those of any other section of this community. For the nine substantial reasons that I have given the Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo.
The honorable member, in moving the amendment, made certain important observations. The honorable member for Lalor, when debating the bill, mentioned some other boards and committees, but the honorable member for Bendigo said that this industry, like every other, has two parts - capital and labour. I wish to speak on this matter of capital and labour in primary industries. Vast sums of money must be invested in any industry and the workers are the people who put that capital investment to work. The combined effort brings about production. However, I suggest with every deference to the honorable member for Bendigo that there is a third and even more important component in primary industry. I have been a farmer all my life and I have known people to pour capital into, land without ever making a farm of any value out of it. I have known also men and women who have poured their labour into the land, but have been entirely unsuccessful in everything they have attempted to do. It is obvious that some other ingredient is necessary to build primary industries, and especially a great primary industry like wool-growing. The most important ingredient in the success of industries that use the land is preliminary thinking. This must precede capital investment and the expenditure of labour.
Men and women who are to be successful on the land must sit down and work out their plans before spending a penny or touching it. Deliberative thinking is necessary. They must say to themselves, “ Here is an area of land that might conceivably be effectively occupied. What must we do, if we can get the capital? “ When they have completed their preliminary thinking, they apply themselves to the task through the investment of capital and the expenditure of labour. Even after the capital has been invested they must apply and exercise their intuitive knowledge - if they are fortunate enough to possess it. It is a tragic mistake to believe, as is prevalent in this country, that any person can go on the land and be successful. When an inexperienced man is put on the land, he is at once handicapped by a lack of intuitive knowledge that -the successful farmer has inherited from his forefathers or gained in his childhood and adolescence. Intuitive knowledge is of greater value than anything else. The skill of a man’s operations is important also. At question-time to-day, when mention was made of the value of wool-growers to the Australian community, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) interjected that credit should go to the sheep. That was just a whimsical remark.
– It was a very good one.
– Listen to the boys who know nothing about it! If it were left to the sheep, the Australian wool industry would be cut to pieces. Its strength comes, not from the sheep, but from the men who apply their intuitive knowledge and skill in it. If it were left to the sheep, they would be cutting 2i lb. or 3 lb. of wool a head, as they did originally.
Order! I ask the Minister to get back to the matter before the committee.
– I respect your suggestion, Mr. Chairman. I merely wanted to make that point, since the matter was raised by the honorable member for Bendigo when he proposed the amendment. I conclude by saying that the amendment is unacceptable to the Government for nine very good and sufficient reasons: The Australian trade union movement will have on the Wool Research Committee nine representatives of the workers engaged in the wool industry. No reasonable Opposition would want anybody to be more heavily weighted than that.
– I wish to move a further amendment, Mr. Chairman.
– Order! The honorable member may not propose an amendment to the amendment.
– I have a further amendment.
– Order! The honorable member may not move a further amendment until the one before the committee has been disposed of.
.- I must confess that the amendment has met with a most disappointing reception by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). I am disappointed, not only because the Minister will not accept it, but also because of the reasons that he gave for his refusal. Apparently, I did not put my argument clearly, and the Minister has failed to grasp what I was trying to put to the committee. My argument was that knowledge and experience gained from activity in an industry should be drawn upon in any scheme for the promotion of research in that industry. The only way that I can see of taking advantage of the vast knowledge and experience of the employees engaged in all phases of the wool industry, including manufacturing, is to give them representation on the proposed committee by appointing to it representatives of employees’ organizations. The organizations mentioned in the clause, which are to have representation on the committee, do not comprise trade unionists, and the representatives of those bodies will not represent trade unionists as the Minister would have us believe.
The organizations that are to be represented on the committee all have a particular outlook on the industry. The chairman of the Australian Wool Bureau cannot be classed as a person who has had active experience as an employee in the wool industry, whether on a grazing property, in a wool-broking warehouse, in a wool scour, in a classing or sorting capacity, or in a textile or carpet manufacturing establishment. Employees engaged in the industry in those capacities have vast experience of all sorts of problems, and their knowhow would be of great value to the community. Their store of experience and knowledge should be tapped in the interests of research in the wool industry. In suggesting that persons who will represent on the Wool Research Committee, the Australian Wool Growers Council, or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, will represent trade unionists, the Minister merely played with the question. Those persons will represent interests that have knowledge and experience of the wool industry from one stand-point. The Government desires that that knowledge and experience should be brought to bear on the deliberations of the committee, and no one objects to that. Every one believes that it is right and proper that that store of knowledge and experience should be drawn upon. But the Opposition does object to the Government’s deliberate exclusion of knowledge and experience gained from a lifelong association with the industry from another stand-point. As a result, the Wool Research Committee will not have at its disposal all the information that it could have. The reasons advanced by the Minister for rejecting the amendment indicated that he failed to appreciate the motives that had actuated the Opposition in proposing it.
In conclusion, I should say that a measure such as this, which deliberately prevents employees from contributing the knowledge and experience that they have acquired, in order to make the industry more secure, may be regarded as class legislation, because it divides those engaged in the industry into two classes - the employers, who are to have all the say, and the employees, who are to have no say, notwithstanding their valuable experience. Such a measure stands condemned. It is not worthy of support, because such class legislation does not help to improve industrial relations.
– Five of the members of the Wool Research Committee will not have any association with the employers.
– The Minister still does not understand. It is not a question of appointing trade unionists to the committee. It is a question of making available to the committee the experience and knowledge of the processes of the industry acquired by daily activity in the industry over a very long period. The representatives of the organizations, and others prescribed in the clause, cannot possibly have that experience. I hope that, in spite of what the Minister has said, the committee will accept the amendment.
.- I support the very constructive remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has gone to considerable trouble to indicate that the Government will not accept the amendment. He said, in effect, “ I am hostile to the trade union movement. I am opposed to organized marketing. I do not believe that there is abroad any new spirit of co-partnership to bring employees and employers together in the conduct of industries. The old class warfare prevails, even in research “. One would expect that, where research designed to strengthen Australia’s greatest industry was concerned, the Minister would gladly agree to give the proposed wool research committee the benefit of the knowledge and experience of workers in the industry, many of whom are the sons of farmers, and some of whom, perhaps, have had small landholdings of their own. As trade unionists, they should be permitted to give to the committee the benefit of their views. Any trade union representative on the committee would not dictate to it, but would give to it the benefit of the lifetime experience of shearers, rouseabouts jackaroos, and other workers in this key industry. I am amazed at the Government’s attitude. Even in the broader field of the organization of industry generally, to promote the better productivity that is generally acknowledged to be desirable today, one would expect unionists to be brought into partnership with management in the conduct of important activities such as research.
We are considering the important matter of research into the wool industry, and I am at a loss to understand why the Minister and the Government are not prepared to accept the amendment. As I indicated at the outset, it must be because of their hostility to the trade union movement, although that movement has a great wealth of knowledge concerning the wool industry. I believe that if the trade unionists were invited to make their contribution and to elect representatives to serve on this body, the result would be most beneficial for the industry. The suggestion that has been made by the Opposition, and which could do much to promote good will and better understanding, may be rejected by the Government, but it will be accepted as reasonable by a wider audience outside the Parliament.
.- I regret that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is in charge of the bill, has adopted this attitude. Unfortunately, it appears that his mind is wandering in a pre-historic age. After all, this measure provides for the appointment of a wool research committee, and the Minister has enumerated the people, of a representative character, who will comprise the committee. The fact that he did so somewhat nullified his reply to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who sought an amendment to provide for the appointment to the committee of two members of the trade union movement. We find that the bill contains provision for four members of primary industry to represent the primary producers. I do not know that there is any particular virtue in providing for representation by four primary producers, but since that is so, why should there not be four representatives of the employees of the industry? If it is proposed to deal purely with matters of research, either in the economic or the scientific field, to adopt the so-called logic of the Minister, why should we not make the committee exclusively a committee of persons highly skilled in research problems? Why should it not consist only of technicians and scientists capable of dealing with all the difficult problems of the industry? The wool-grower is not an economist, nor is he a research worker.
The Government has provided for representation of the Department of Primary Industry, for representation, by four members, of grower organizations, and for representation, by one member, of the Associated
Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia. What does the Associated Woollen and Worsted Textile Manufacturers of Australia, as an organization, know of wool research? I suggest that it would be quite possible for the representative of that association on the committee to be the director of a large textile manufacturing concern who was interested only in the investment and economic side of the industry. He might not even know anything about the economic side. Actually, the only effective representation from the manufacturing side would be representation by an employee who was either a technician or an economist. By providing for representation of the manufacturers we will not necessarily get representation by a man skilled in economics, science, or anything of that kind. As I have said, the representative might well be a director who knew nothing about the industry and be more of a hindrance than a help to the committee. He might be nothing but a holiday-maker.
The same reasoning, of course, could be applied to the representatives of the two primary industries that are mentioned, in the bill. It also could be applied to representatives of the trade union movement, but at least if representatives of that movement were appointed, equality of representation would be accorded. In these circumstances, I suggest that the Minister in charge of the measure unbend and concede our point. Why, there is not a university that I know of in the capital cities of this country which has not on its council a representative of the great trade union movement! The universities realize, naturally, that university education is mostly concerned with the great working class whose sons and daughters aspire to become mentally equipped, through university education, to serve their fellow men and women. For that reason, our universities have accepted the principle of representation of the Labour movement and the trade union movement on their councils.
The same principle has been applied by some of our great and more enlightened manufacturers and employers. I know of an employer - and a most successful one - who has given directorships to his employees, and has even gone so far as to vest absolutely in them more than one-half of the capital invested in the industry. He feels, no doubt - and I believe rightly so - that because of their judgment and ability to further the welfare of the industry, this arrangement is likely to be of an advantageous character not only to himself but also to the employees. But I know mat all our appeals in this matter will fall on deaf ears. We hear of Ministers and supporters of the Government addressing constitutional clubs every now and then and speaking of the need for harmony in industry; of the need for employees to understand the employing side and for employers to understand their employees; about the need for profit sharing and the need for share-holding by employees in industry. But when it comes to a mere request for representation of the Labour movement, or the trade union movement, on a research body it is a different matter. The employees then are beneath contempt - no useful purpose could be served, by giving them such representation.
Even assuming that the representatives of the employees were not able to render any real assistance on the technical or academic side, it must not be overlooked that the organization is charged with responsibility not only for technical research but also for economic research. Who, after all, know more about the economic angles of the industry, and of the human relationships involved, than do the employees themselves? Taking a hypothetical case, it might happen that, in the course of research, a problem arose regarding a disease of sheep communicable to human beings. Would it not be an advantage if the men who handled the sheep at the point of communication of the disease were represented on this body? Would it not also be an advantage to the employees and everybody engaged in the industry if, having heard the very best medical advice that could be tendered, the representatives of the employees were able to go back to the shearers, first of all, and say, “We have heard the wisdom of the sages. We have heard the opinions of the people engaged in this research and we are able to come to you and say that they are doing the best that can possibly be done. Have you people who shear the sheep anything to suggest? Can you do anything about it? You can rest assured that we, as your representatives, are doing our best “. If you are not able to do that sort of thing, if you are not able to have representatives to go direct to the labour force and dissipate suspicion or illusions about obstacles on the part of employers or others in the industry, you will find that labour disruption will follow, producing strikes that will spread from State to State, eventually involving the whole Commonwealth and causing loss to every man and woman in the country. I warn this Government that if on the one hand it persists with the sort of thing contained in this measure and many other measures of a similar character that come before us, which involve either research or human relationships, and on the other hand goes out at election times with its prattling nonsense about the need for industrial harmony and for participation of both sides of industry in the solution of our problems, it is only hastening the day of its destruction, when the people will throw it out of office and elect a government that will give effect to the same policy as the Labour government put into effect in regard to such instrumentalities as this, on which it provided for trade union representation.
, - I want to say just a few words for the good of the soul of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). There is grim irony in the situation in which he finds himself. I have very vivid recollections of 1945, when he, or his immediate predecessor, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government, adopted a certain attitude when that government entered into negotiations for an international wheat contract. On that occasion I made representations to the honorable member for Lalor, both before he became Minister and after, that in international negotiations dealing with a commodity like wheat, surely the wheatgrowers ought to be represented in relation to the disposal of a product which rightly belonged to them. The honorable member for Lalor at that time would have nothing to do with the wheat-growers or anybody else. He said, in effect, “ This wheat belongs to the Crown, and the Crown will dispose of it as it likes “.
– Well, two wrongs do not make a right.
– The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) said that the amendment was not acceptable to the Government. I expressed my own com ments to substantiate that attitude. In case they failed to convince honorable members opposite may I be permitted to quote the opinions of the Minister, who has considered the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The Minister has written, in a note, as follows: -
As clearly illustrated in the Wool Research Bill 1957, the function of the Wool Research Committee is to recommend to the Minister for Primary Industry the expenditure of moneys in the Wool Research Trust Fund on scientific and economic wool research, the co-ordination and application of the results of such research, and for the dissemination of information and advice relating to research in connexion with the wool industry.
It will be obvious, therefore, that labour conditions or management are not involved in the functions of the Committee and accordingly, there is no necessity to provide for trade union representation on the Committee.
On the other hand wool-growers are vitally concerned with research into wool in order to make it better fitted to compete with man-made fibres, and to this end are prepared to voluntarily levy themselves in order to help finance the wool research programme.
During the negotiations with wool-growers for the financing and administration of wool research, no request was made by the wool-grower organizations for trade unions associated with the production, sale and processing of wool, to be represented on the Committee. Nor have any requests been received from trade unions themselves for representation on the Committee.
Even if requests had been received from unions they would have been refused for the reasons outlined above.
Finally, the Minister writes -
Provision is made in the Bill for the committee to appoint advisers if required. Accordingly, if the occasion ever arose where the committee considered that the views of trade unions would be helpful, then they can be consulted.
So, the point regarding advice, which the honorable member for Lalor raised, is provided for in the bill. If there is any person anywhere - a member of a trade union, or a member of the general community - who has any advice to tender to the Wool Research Committee, the committee, and the Minister, will at all times be pleased to hear it.
.- I suggest that as the Minister has handled this measure so adequately and effectively there is nothing more to be said, and the committee should get on with the business of voting on the amendment.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Clarey’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That in clause 12, at the end of sub-clause (1.), the following paragraph be added: - “ (h) A representative of the Australian Primary Producers Union.”.
I made this suggestion, Mr. Chairman, in my speech on the motion for the second reading of the bill. I pointed out the jus tice of having on this committee a representative of the Australian Primary Producers Union, an organization with a membership of about 30,000 people. Support for this proposal comes from other primary producers’ organizations in Victoria and Tasmania. An interesting feature of the composition of this committee was referred to by my colleagues, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who pointed out that two of the nine members will not be wool-growers. They are the representative of the universities and the representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In my speech I commended the inclusion of such representatives, but I feel that the case I am now presenting on behalf of the A.P.P.U. has more weight from the growers’ point of view than the case for the appointment of representatives of the universities and the C.S.I.R.O.
I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to give consideration to this amendment. I wonder whether the Government received representations from the A.P.P.U. when this bill was under consideration, and if so, whether it gave serious consideration to those representations. In any case, I trust that it will give consideration to my proposal now. The A.P.P.U. is probably the biggest union of its kind in Australia. I feel that only good could come of having a wool-grower member of that union on the Wool Research Committee. The woolgrowers’ section is an important section of the union. Its representative on the committee would not be a narrow-minded wool-grower-
– That is the way to win friends!
– I appreciate the interjection from the honorable member for Moore. I am glad to be pulled up on that statement. What I mean is that whereas a wool-grower generally thinks only in terms of wool, a representative of the A.P.P.U. would think in terms of all the primary producing industries. He would have in mind the effect that wool has on other primary industries.
A Government Member. - Rubbish!
– A wheat-grower on the Government side says, “ Rubbish! “ He would not know anything about wool. Although the Minister was very stubborn over the other amendment, I trust that he will redeem himself by taking a favorable attitude towards this one. I am stating the case for a primary producers’ union. Perhaps the Minister does not believe in unions of primary producers, let alone unions of workers. I am sorry if he thinks that way, because this union is doing great work for the country by helping to bind together the primary producers.
– In informing the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that his amendment is unacceptable to the Government and to me, let me preface my few words by saying that I have been a member of the largest, oldest and most reputable farmers’ union in the Commonwealth for the last 35 years. For my sins, I was the general president of that organization for four years, and I have been a member of its executive council for more than a quarter of a century. That is the answer to the snide suggestion that I am opposed to unionism, particularly to farmers’ unions. We know that it is difficult for the honorable member for Wilmot to understand the pastoral organization of our country. I know that the honorable member knows nothing whatever about primary industries, primary producers or primary producers’ organizations.
– I rise to order. I ask, Mr. Chairman, whether it is in order for an honorable member, a Minister into the bargain, to reflect, so to speak, on the pastoral intelligence of members on this side of the chamber? I was brought up on a wheat farm-
– Order! No point of order is involved. The Minister’s words were not unparliamentary. The Chair cannot verify the truth of everything that is said.
– I went to a great deal of pain to explain to the honorable member for Wilmot what the pastoral organization is, but apparently it is beyond his comprehension. Let me say to those who are really interested in this question that the simple facts are that there are countless primary producers’ organizations through out the country, that most of them are interested in the wool industry and that on that basis all of them have a just claim to consideration for election to a committee of this description. It would be unthinkable to have a wool research committee with a membership so large that it could be described as either absurd or substantial. Because of that, those eligible for election to the committee have had to be restricted. That has been done in the only possible way available to the Minister. The only people who are eligible for election to this committee, so far as the primary producers are concerned, are the accredited representatives of the two wool federations of the Commonwealth.
– Is the Minister’s union affiliated with them?
– Yes. Every other organization that understands the full implications of the purposes of agricultural organizations is affiliated with them. If any organization wants to have representatives on a committee of this description, all that it has to do is to discharge its federal and national responsibilities in full. Having done that, it immediately becomes eligible for representation. If the honorable member for Wilmot would only attempt to understand a situation of that kind, he would see himself the absurdity of his amendment.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). The proposal that a representative of the Australian Primary Producers Union should be on the Wool Research Committee is reasonable and practical. It will give representation to wool-growers who are not represented by the organizations set out in clause 12. The Australian Primary Producers Union is a growing organization because, in the main, it is made up of the small farmers and land-holders in the various States. I know that most of the producers in the Heathcote district of my electorate, where there are quite a number of pastoral properties, belong to this organization. Other members are to be found among people engaged in agricultural activity, such as tomato-growing.
The organization deals with the problems of the small man. The man who runs a small number of sheep, or engages in several classes of agriculture, having perhaps a few sheep and a couple of cows, has problems of his own - problems quite different from those that might be experienced by the big pastoralists, most of whom are members of the Australian Woolgrowers Council, or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. I can only speak from experience in my own electorate. The man who runs thousands of sheep has one kind of problem, and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) indicated the sort of problem that might be encountered by the small land-holder. He doubted whether Australian wool of superfine quality could be produced by other than the present method of raising sheep, whereas the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was of the opinion that the small land-holder could produce sheep with wool of superfine quality. That is an indication of the difference of opinion that can exist between two honorable members with experience of primary production in regard to what the small land-holder can produce. It indicates clearly that the breeding of sheep in large numbers poses problems of its own, and that the same is true of the breeding of sheep on a small scale. That being so, it is most essential that the small land-holder should be represented and thus ensure that research into his special problems is in fact conducted.
There would be the additional advantage that the Australian Primary Producers Union would be able to disseminate among its members the results of wool research, to which the widest possible publicity should be given. If the organization were represented, that could be done quickly, and its members could take full advantage of it. The amendment, if accepted, would strengthen the bill and give the small man a chance to have his special difficulties examined.
.- I am sure that you will allow me, Mr. Chairman, to correct a mistaken impression that may have been created by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). He said that I disagreed with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and suggested that the small wool-grower could not produce superfine quality wool. Of course, I did not say that. Having had many years’ experience with sheep, I know that the small grower can produce superfine wool.
What I said was that if land were cut up into small areas which were subjected to intensive cultivation, and if four sheep were then run to the acre, the superfine quality of wool could not be retained without the aid of special food and culture.
– That is nonsense.
– At the moment, 1 am answering what the honorable member for Bendigo said.
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member for Mallee to proceed along those lines. Clause 12 relates to the personnel of the committee.
– The honorable member should-
– Order! If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith offends again, he will be dealt with.
– I agree with your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I was merely correcting, in passing, what the honorable member for Bendigo had said. I mentioned, at the second-reading stage, the matter of representation on the committee, and said that certain organizations had asked me to move an amendment to the proposed clause. The honorable member for Bendigo has made out a big case for the small growers. He said that, speaking as a Victorian, he could only say what had happened in his own electorate. Why does he exclude the Victorian Wool and Wheat Growers Association from consideration? Does the Labour party intend, later, to move a further amendment for the” inclusion in the committee of a representative of that organization also? Why does the honorable member for Bendigo make a special plea on behalf of the Australian Primary Producers Union? That organization has played a very great part in assisting the producer, but the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association is surely not without merit.
I am aware of the merit of both the Australian Primary Producers Union and the Victorian Wool and Wheat Growers Association, but, in common with every honorable member of the Parliament, I must be guided by what is politically possible. That is the first thing that one must find out. I found out that it was not politically possible to have a representative of the Australian Primary Producers
Union or the Victorian Wool and Wheat Growers Association included in the committee. For that reason, I said, at the second-reading stage, that I did not think it served any good purpose to drag the names of these associations into the House by way of an amendment that was sure to be defeated.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), in moving this amendment, knew full well that the Minister had. at the second-reading stage, said that he had considered the case made out by different organizations for representation on the committee, and had been unable to agree to it. The honorable member for Wilmot is prepared to drag in the name of a very fine union, knowing full well that the amendment will be rejected. I do not believe that that is in the best interests of the organization. The honorable member has been in this House almost as long as I have and knows what is politically possible. At the second-reading stage, the Minister made what would happen quite clear. The honorable member is not putting this amendment forward in the best interests of those concerned.
.- I rise to answer briefly the malicious and unwarranted attacks made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) on the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). I was amazed at their attitude and at the cavalier manner in which the Minister dealt with this amendment. It has been moved by a man who was reared on a wheat farm and lived among hazards which are quite comparable with those experienced by members of the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Wilmot is a representative of a rural constituency.
– Order! The qualifications of the honorable member for Wilmot are not under discussion.
– In all deference, Mr. Chairman, two members on the other side of the chamber have cast aspersions on the capacity of the honorable member for Wilmot to move this amendment and on his experience and background. They have also referred to the background of a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. On occasions, I have had this kind of criticism levelled at me and, therefore, I am resentful, as is the honorable member for Wilmot, that his background has been dealt with instead of the substance of the amendment. Will the Minister for Social Services go forth among the people and put forward the views he has1 expressed to-day in regard to the Australian Primary Producers Union? Will he go forward and substantiate his views at a meeting of that organization or will he, as he has done in this Parliament, continue to support the representatives of the people who put money into the coffers of the Australian Country party and the organization to which he belongs, irrespective of the claims of other organizations which have been put forward by honorable members on this side? This amendment has been moved in all sincerity. It has been put forward by the honorable member for Wilmot in an endeavour to give justice to a section of the rural community. We on this side of the chamber are not concerned whether the Australian Primary Producers Union and the wealthy pastoral interests which support it supply funds to the Australian Country party. We are concerned to see that the representatives are the best available, the most impartial and the ones who can make this measure successful.
The honorable member for Mallee had the temerity to suggest that Opposition members should not move amendments if we know they will be defeated. It is easily seen that, like other Australian Country party members, his only connexion with the land and his only interest has been selling sheep or cattle in the auctioneering business. He has no practical knowledge of the matters now under discussion. Through the years, the Labour party has had to give expression to views which should be supported by members of the Australian Country party. When we study the record of members of the Australian Country party, we find that not more than 2 per cent, of them represent any practical rural interest. The Australian Country party has among its members a collection of accountants, doctors, auctioneers and motor mechanics.
– Order! The honorable member will come back to the clause or I shall order him to resume his seat.
– I just wished to make that passing reference. Having a knowledge of your affiliation with the Australian Country party, Mr. Chairman, and whilst not doubting your impartiality-
– I return to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wilmot. It should be supported. I hope that members of the Australian Country party realize that the Minister was in error in giving the lead he did on this occasion. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; progress reported.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister) - I lay on the table the following paper: -
Taxation - Thirty-fifth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, dated 1st June, 1956, together with Statistical Appendices.
As a result of proceedings in the High Court in the McGrath case, it is not desirable that copies of the report be made available to honorable members or published until the Parliament has given the necessary authorization. I have mentioned this aspect to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and he has agreed not to oppose the motion so that the report may be circulated as soon as possible.
Ordered to be printed.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 12 (Wool Research Committee).
.- Before the suspension of the sitting, I was dealing with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) to clause 12 to provide that two representatives of trade unions associated with the processing of wool be appointed to the committee.
– Order! That is the amendment that was defeated.
– In that case, all I can say is that I have been incorrectly advised. If that is not the clause under discussion I shall speak on the one that is. Under clause 12, a representative of the primary producers’ organizations is to be appointed to the committee. I think that that was the question under discussion before the suspension of the sitting, when I pointed out that the bill gives representation to all kinds of organizations, particularly those which contribute to the campaign funds of the Australian Country party. The representatives of interests closely allied to the Australian Country party are among those listed for representation, yet workers’ representatives are denied any representation. It is significant that before the suspension of the sitting I got numerous interjections from members of the Australian Country party on this question. None of them thought of giving justice to other organizations which the Opposition desires to have represented on the committee.
The bill provides that the committee shall be representative of a number of organizations, but why should it not give representation to the Australian Primary Producers Union? Why should the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), in flippant mood, try to injure the prestige of the honorable member for Wilmot by alleging that he was not qualified to talk on this subject? It was because the Minister did not have any satisfactory answer to the question as to why a member of the Australian Primary Producers Union should not be appointed to the committee. It has been left to the Labour party to put up a fight for the right of primary producers to be adequately represented.
The qualifications of the honorable member for Wilmot to speak on this subject have been questioned because he is not himself a primary producer. That fact cuts no ice with me. He was reared on a wheat farm and has a great knowledge of people who are associated with wheat and wool. He represents a rural constituency, and that is more than can be said about a lot of members of the Australian Country party. What are the occupations of members of the Australian Country party? It would astound you, Mr. Chairman, if I were to announce them. I am not so naive as to believe that you would let me do so. The honorable member for Wilmot knows what he is talking about. This is a carefully thought out amendment, which has the support of members of the Opposition.
I shall be delighted to see members of the Australian Country party rise in their places and speak against this amendment, and then go to their electorates and try to justify the denial of representation on the committee to people who know the industry. I heartily support the amendment put forward in an attempt to do justice by those people who will have to pay the levy. I consider that politics should be kept out of this important issue. Representation should be given to the Australian Primary Producers Union in accordance with the spirit of the amendment of the honorable member for Wilmot. This is a matter on which he is competent to speak on behalf of a great number of people who are interested in this legislation. The honorable member has an intimate knowledge of the subject. I sincerely support the proposed amendment, and I hope that, for once, the Australian Country party will abandon its parochial attitude and do something in the interests of the people who will be affected by this legislation. I sincerely support the amendment of the honorable member for Wilmot.
.- I would not have taken any notice of the buffoonery of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) if it were not for two facts. One is that he obviously did not know whether or not the amendment to which he was speaking was that which had been put to the committee earlier, dealing with the representation of trade unions on the committee which is to be set up under the bill. The other fact is that he recommended to the committee that this matter should not be dealt with on party lines. Then he made an accusation concerning the support that is received by the Australian Country party, and his statement calls for correction. The honorable member suggested that we were supporting the inclusion in the committee of those people who had supported us financially as a party. The primary producers representatives, whom the Government has proposed shall be appointed to the committee, are to be two nominees of the Australian Wool Growers Council, and two of an organization known as the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. I challenge the honorable member for Grayndler to bring any proof to this House that those organizations give financial support to the Australian Country party. Any support that the party receives from the wool-growers is given by way of voluntary contributions. There is no compulsory levy on the growers such as is paid by members of trade unions and handed over to the Australian Labour party. Any support which the Australian Country party gets-
– Order! I do not want the honorable member to develop that subject.
– I think, Mr. Chairman, that in fairness you must let me deny the accusation that has been made. I deny that any support given to us is not entirely voluntary.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) in suggesting that the Australian Primary Producers Union should be represented on this committee, made out a very poor case. The Australian Primary Producers Union, to my knowledge, is not a federal organization. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has pointed out in this debate that it was quite open to State organizations to apply to be represented on the committee, but that the aim of the Government, in such cases, has always been to obtain representatives of organizations which cover the whole of Australia. That principle has been observed in this bill. No doubt, the Australian Primary Producers Union has a fairly large membership in Victoria. It has a smaller membership in New South Wales. It might have a number of members in South Australia, but I have no knowledge of any membership in Queensland or Western Australia. I am not knowledgeable on this subject. The reason that I do not know about it is that the honorable member for Wilmot has not given the committee that information. He has not stated the number of wool-growers who are represented in the organization. When, by interjection, I asked him what percentage of wool-growers were members of the Australian Primary Producers Union he was not able to tell me.
It has been said also that the Australian Primary Producers Union represents the small grower. Does the honorable member for Wilmot know that it represents the small grower? He has not given any information to the House on that score. There are some members of the Australian Primary Producers Union in my electorate and they are not small growers. In fact they are some of the biggest growers. They have been persuaded to join this organization although they are members of other organizations. If organizations are to be considered on a State basis, I suggest that hundreds of organizations with woolgrower members might consider themselves fit to be represented on a council such as this. After all, what function is this committee to carry out? The function is laid down very carefully in the bill. The purposes for which money may be paid are specified in clause 9. They include scientific or economic research in connexion with the production or use of wool, or of goods made wholly or partly from wool. I suggest, therefore, that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the universities are suitable bodies to be represented on the committee. Expenditure may be approved also in relation to the application of the results of research. That is a matter on which those who carry out the research are able to advise. Money may be spent also on the training of persons in connexion with the wool industry. Surely the representatives of the Australian Wool Growers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation - men who know the industry from the time the lamb is dropped until the wool goes into the bale and is sold at auction - are best able to train persons in connexion with the wool industry.
– Order! We are not discussing clause 9. That has already been passed.
– I am not attempting to discuss clause 9. I am attempting to discuss clause 12, which sets up this research committee. The question of the qualifications of the members of the committee has been raised, and it is suggested that the Australian Primary Producers Union would be able to make representations of greater value than would other members of the committee mentioned in the clause. I have pointed out that one member will represent the Australian universities engaged in research. Surely such a representative will be ideally qualified to deal with “ the dissemination of information and advice relating to scientific, economic and technical matters “. There is also to be a representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organization. He, too, I suggest will be quite capable of carrying out the asks mentioned in clause 9.
I submit therefore that clause 12 provides for the appointment to the committee of persons who will be thoroughly competent to carry out their jobs. What good purpose could be served by adding the representative of another organization, the qualifications of which have not been explained, and which possibly are not even known to the honorable member for Wilmot? We should be content to let this clause rest. It is capable of fulfilling what is required of it under the bill and I for one am perfectly satisfied to leave it as it stands.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has moved an amendment to clause 12 to provide for representation of the Australian Primary Producers Union. The measure already provides that there shall be two members to represent the Australian Wool Growers Council and two members to represent the Australian Wool, and Meat Producers Federation. I point that out particularly for the information of the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), who, in opposing the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wilmot, worked himself almost into a state of hysteria when he said that whereas trade unions imposed levies, there would be no compulsory levies under this particular measure. The fact is that members of this research committee will have very great powers indeed. Subject to the approval of the Minister, as is provided for in another clause, they may spend money on all manner of things. If the honorable member for Lawson looks at clause 5 of the bill he will find that a fund, to be known as the Wool Research Trust Fund, is to be established, and that this fund will be a trust fund for purposes of section 62 of the Audit Act 1901-1955.
– Order! I told the honorable member for Lawson that the committee has already passed those clauses.
– It is essential that I refer to the fact that, as this committee has certain functions to carry out, the representation of primary producers should be fairly extensive. I will endeavour to obey your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I want to connect two things. This committee will have extensive functions and if the honorable member for Lawson looks at clause 5 he will find that a tax is to be levied which will be provided for in another bill. That tax will be anything from 2s. to 5s. a bale, and it will be levied on every wool-grower in Australia, whether he is a member of the wool-growers’ organizations represented on the research committee or not. What has happened, quite clearly, is that representatives of certain wool-growers’ organizations have gone to the Government and said, “ Our organizations favour a contribution of so much to a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the industry “. But thousands of men who are not members of any primary producers’ organization will also be required under the associated tax measure to pay so much per bale, so much per bag and so much per fadge. They are to be compulsorily levied because some organization, which calls itself a primary producers’ organization, says they should be levied. They have no option in a free country to resist the levy. It is placed upon them without their consent. The honorable member for Lawson says there are no compulsory levies connected with this measure. He speaks in complete ignorance-
– I rise to order. I listened quietly to the honorable member until he said I spoke in complete ignorance. I never said there was no compulsory levy associated with this legislation.
– That is not a point of order. I asked the honorable member for Lawson not to develop that line of argument, and I ask the honorable member for Lalor not to develop it.
– I was only making a passing reference because mention has been made of a compulsory levy on unionists.
– I ask you not to develop that.
– I leave that; but this levy will apply to every wool-grower. Under the circumstances I suggest that it is not unreasonable for the honorable member for Lawson to agree to the amendment of the honorable member for Wilmot. Agreement to this amendment will un doubtedly bring into representation on the proposed committee a far greater number of wool-growers than will be represented if the clause is accepted as it stands. I am optimistic that honorable members on all sides of the chamber will support the amendment. After all, honorable members on this side are not seeking amendment of the clause to enable appointment of a representative of a trade union; we are asking for better representation of primary producers through one of their own organizations, and our proposition is eminently reasonable.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He declared that I said that a compulsory levy was being made on wool-growers. In my remarks I referred to the fact that there is no compulsory levy on wool-growers to support the Australian Country party, as alleged by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I made no reference at all to a compulsory levy in the bill.
, - I am sorry that I was not in the chamber this afternoon when the debate on clause 12 commenced. I was addressing the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association on a matter of importance. I express my regret that I was not able to listen to the whole of the debate as it occurred in the chamber, but since I have returned I have been informed of the opinions of honorable members and the views that they have expressed. First, let me say that whenever the representatives of the Australian Primary Producers Union have come to me to discuss their problems they have presented a well-balanced, wellargued case and I have always been only too happy to listen attentively to them. I have always received promptly any delegations that the Australian Primary Producers Union has sent along to me and indeed I received such a deputation as recently as half-past two this afternoon, in Melbourne, and heard the representations that the members wished to make to me. I think I understand the point of view of my colleagues who have during the last few days asked that this question of representation of the Australian Primary Producers Union be reconsidered. Several of them have spoken to me since my return from Melbourne this evening and I have informed them that I have given the most careful attention to this problem.
The fact is that more than ten weeks have passed since the principles of this bill were announced. During those ten weeks interested people had the opportunity to make their representations to me and I have been only too willing and anxious to listen to anything they wished to suggest. Therefore it comes as a surprise to me that an amendment of this character should be moved at this late stage. What does this clause do? This is one of the most important bills to be introduced here because it affects the future development of the Australian wool-growing industry, and clause 12 sets out the representation on a committee that is to consider and recommend to the Minister how the various funds are to be spent on research projects. I am not interested in the politics of the various organizations that are representative of the great primary producing interests of Australia. My interest is in getting on this committee proper representation of wool interests, of scientific interests and of wool and textile manufacturing interests so that the committee will be able to make sound recommendations to me. After the most careful consideration I think that clause 12 provides an effective way of getting industry representation on the committee.
The Australian Wool Growers Council is the senior organization in the wool industry and represents a considerable body of Australian producers. The Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation also represents a substantial number of producers. By and large, those two organizations together represent by far the great bulk of Australian wool producers. I personally am convinced that their representation will be an effective and adequate representation of the Australian wool-grower. This problem of representation is not new; it goes back a long time. When the post-Joint Organization wool marketing scheme was first thought of in 1950, the A.P.P.U. asked that it be represented. It was told that its request could not be met, though its representatives could go to London as observers. The reason given for this decision was that the A.P.P.U. had a common policy with the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, which differed from the Australian Wool Growers Council. The A.P.P.U. representatives went to London on this basis of being observers only, and were informed that the Government recognized them, but not upon any basis of voting strength. The Government considered that it could not allow the Australian Wool Growers Council, as the senior organization of wool-growers, to be outvoted. This matter of representation of the A.P.P.U. has a long history and has been considered in the past; it has been carefully considered by me in connexion with this legislation, and I came to the conclusion that the constitution of the committee as provided in clause 12 is adequate.
If the A.P.P.U. were given the representation it seeks, where would this matter end? If this particular council were opened to the A.P.P.U., similar committees relating to every other industry also would have to be opened to it. I look to the Australian Dairy Industry Council as the organization representing dairying. Similarly, I look to the Australian Dried Vine Fruits Association as the organization representing the dried vine fruits industry and to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation as representative of the wheat industry. If another organization is permitted representation on this committee relating to the wool industry, there would be no limit to the consequences and the acts that would need to be amended to conform with what is sought to be done here. I am not willing to accept the amendment. Several persons have pointed out to me that there is no reason why the A.P.P.U., if it wishes to do so, should not affiliate in this matter with the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. The A.P.P.U. could do this to-morrow. If it wished to make its voice heard through the Wool and Meat Producers Federation, nothing prevents it from doing so. The opportunity is open to the A.P.P.U. and if it wishes to take it, it can make itself heard.
I repeat, I have given the most careful thought to this matter of representation. The Government has come to the conclusion that as the Australian Wool Bureau included representatives of both the Australian Wool
Growers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, those bodies would be effective representatives of wool-growing interests on the new committee. I regret to have to inform the honorable member for Wilmot that his amendment will not be accepted.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Duthie’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 22
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.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1411), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1411), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1411), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
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 15th May (vide page 1412), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this measure is to amend the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953, and the principal reason for the amendment is the new arrangements for research covered by the Wool Research Bill 1957 with which we have just dealt. One of the main features of the bill is that it provides for the Commonwealth Wool Adviser, and the
Deputy Commonwealth Wool Adviser, to be no longer members of the Australian Wool Bureau, which is charged with responsibility for wool use promotion and, in addition, for the administration of the Wool Research Trust Fund by which research is to be financed. The bill provides also for putting into proper legal form the consequential arrangements made necessary by the Wool Research Bill 1957, and the wool taxation measures which immediately preceded this bill.
The Opposition does not object to the principles of the measure generally, but it suggests that the Australian Wool Bureau should have, in addition to six members representative of the Australian woolgrowers, at least two representatives of the trade unions associated with the production, sale, and processing of wool. I foreshadow, at this stage, that my colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), will move an amendment to that effect at the committee stage.
As this measure deals with wool use promotion, it naturally follows that it is linked directly and indirectly, on the economic side, with the types of wool that are produced in Australia. I take this opportunity to join issue with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), regarding certain remarks that he made earlier to-day. He said, in effect, that if you broke up the large estates into smaller holdings you would thereby endanger the fine wool production of Australia. I suggest that that is a fallacy. It was once a belief honestly held by a considerable number of the people, particularly primary producers, and it was also the viewpoint expressed by many of the larger landholders and squatters who opposed by every means at their disposal the cutting up of large holdings for the benefit of those who wished to be farmers.
– The honorable member should put what I. said.
– I know what the honorable member said. He may make an explanation when I have finished, if he wishes to do so. The purport of what he said was that when you improve pastures, which is the inevitable result of cutting up large estates to make smaller holdings, there is a deleterious effect on the quality of the wool. I believe that that opinion is honestly held by some people and dishonestly held by others.
The facts reveal that exactly the reverse is true. Perhaps you will allow me, Mr. Speaker, to answer the honorable member for Mallee directly. If it is the case that improvement of pastures and better feeding of sheep result in deterioration of the quality of wool, let me ask the honorable member this-
– 1 rise to order, Mr. Speaker. 1 do so because the honorable member for Lalor is not stating the case correctly. Is he in order in referring to a debate of the House which occurred earlier in the day?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member for Lalor is in order, provided that he confines his remarks to the bill.
– I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that as the bill deals with wool use promotion, there is a direct link between my remarks and the bill. Those who hold the view that improved pastures and smaller holdings inevitably result in the production of wool of a less fine quality should ask themselves why it was that, at the recent Sydney Sheep Show, a competition for the finest fleece in the world was won by a fleece from the Merriman property, “ Merryville “, which is not far distant from Canberra. That fleece was adjudged the finest merino fleece in the world; yet it came from a property every acre of which has been top-dressed with superphosphate for a long period of years. It came from very high-class pasture. It did not come from the outback, from saltbush, native grass, wallaby grass, or some other type of pasture. It came from high-class pasture less than 50 miles from Canberra, although certainly from a large holding of 22,000 acres.
– That blows the honorable member out.
– It does not. The argument of the honorable member for Mallee was that an improved pasture results in deterioration of the value of wool. Did the great ram “ David “, which brought 5,000 guineas at the Sydney sheep sales, ever see a bit. of saltbush or kangaroo grass? Of course, he did not! He was born and reared in the lucerne paddock at the station from which he came, and he produced, and his progeny are producing, the fine wool for which Australia is famous.
The story that improved pastures and smaller holdings will result in deterioration of our wool is markedly not true. In further support of my proposition, I point out that more recently still the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - and the honorable member for Mallee may look at the relevant publication if he wishes - has agreed, after extensive research, that there is no deterioration in the fineness of wool from sheep of improved pastures. To the wall, therefore, goes this long-standing argument and very clever piece of propaganda of people who do not want their large estates broken up.
It is true that another situation could develop through the breaking up of large estates. It could be that those who went on to portions of large estates, when they were broken up, and improved their properties and increased the carrying capacity might consider that there was more money to be made by breeding sheep which produced wool of a quality not as high as superfine merino, but which enabled them also to breed fat lambs. That is an entirely different proposition, but even then, those holdings, when broken up, would return far more revenue to the Commonwealth than would holdings devoted exclusively to the production of fine wool. If those who carry on the wool production of this country want to produce fine wool predominantly, there is no reason in the world why, in a particular district or in respect of a particular group of holdings, there should not be a co-operative organization devoted solely to breeding and improving a strain of sheep to produce fine wool.
I have made these remarks because I wanted to dispose of this long-held belief. It is true, I know, that some people have said that, in addition to the features I have mentioned, smaller holdings would mean that ploughs and harrows would be used, with the result that dust would find its way into the fine wool. But, of course, dust gets into the wool in the outback of New South Wales, back of Bourke, in Western Australia, and so on. Some years ago, I was on the property of Mr. Foster, outside Launceston in Tasmania. I went all over it. Its area does not amount to more than 1,000 acres, but it consists of improved pastures of the highest order. It is wellknown that Mr. Foster produces on that property of improved pastures some of the finest wool in Australia. It is possible that the honorable member for Mallee will develop another argument and say, “ Oh, but there is more condition in that wool. Nothing, however, can detract from the fact that wool will retain its fineness provide that the breed and the line are maintained.There may be more condition in it and more pounds to the sheep, but in competition withthe rest of the world, as has been” proved by the examples I have given, there are nofiner fleeces anywhere. To the best of my memory, on no occasion during the last ten years .has wool shorn from sheep off native pastures been able to compete with the fine wool from sheep from small holdings and improved pastures.
.- I do not mind at all the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) showing his booklearned skill, because that is all it can be called. When it comes to actual experience with merino or any other sheep, of course, it is a different matter. I suppose that the honorable member may be able to speak of smaller properties, but he is only able to do that in respect of certain areas near M.eU bourne. He has not had a wide experience in this field. The point I want to make is that what I said earlier was not interpreted in the correct way in the explanation given by the honorable member. Those who were in the House at the time will recall what I said.
– But surely the honorable member cannot refer to a debate that took place earlier in the day!
– I am replying to the comments of the honorable member for Lalor. What I said earlier was that if you cut up large holdings into smaller holdings and then introduced intensive cultivation - I did not say just topdressing - and ran, say, four sheep to the acre, the sheep would not retain their capacity to produce superfine quality wool. That is altogether different from what the honorable member for Lalor claimed that I said. He may read what I said in “ Hansard “. I have seen my proof, and it has been reported exactly as I said it.
The honorable member for Lalor said in effect, “ I know of fine wool coming from a certain part of New South Wales where e the land has been topdressed “. I will admit the Merryville property is of 22,000 acres. Putting more sheep on a small property - say four sheep to the acre - by the very density of the carrying capacity would be injurious to the wool. But these things are not known to the honorable member for Lalor. One could not expect him to know them, because he has not had the necessary experience. Those with a lifelong experience with fine-wool sheep will agree with me. To illustrate this point further, does the honorable member for Lalor know that if alarge-framed merino sheep in the Western District of Victoria is taken up into the Mallee area, in twelve months’ time it would be just a comeback insofar as the count of its wool would become equivalent to that of a comeback. People should know that. If members of the Opposition do not know what a comeback is, I do not suppose that illustration means much to them.
I do not mind fair criticism in this House, but I object to a member misrepresenting what another member has said in order to score a paltry political point. Let me say again that sheep from the electorate of the honorable member for Wilmot - superfine merino rams - have in the past six years in succession topped the Melbourne ram sales. They were chiefly from Valleyfield and Winton which are in light carrying country. Any expert will say that it is necessary to have light-carrying country to produce superfine fool. The honorable member for Lalor has not answered my statement regarding four sheep to the acre on a small property. He has tried to put a case against my judgment by misrepresenting my statements. When an honorable member has to change a man’s statement to win in debate he is up against heavy weather; when he tries to answer a statement built on experience and knowledge with some book skill, such as the honorable member for Lalor possesses, he is at a complete loss.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953 and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 5 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 - (1.) Section nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (1.), (2.) and (3.) and inserting in their stead the following sub-sections: - “ (1.) The Bureau shall consist of -
– I move -
That after paragraph (a) in proposed sub-section (1.) the following paragraph be inserted: - “ (aa) two members representative of the trade unions associated with the production, sale and processing of wool; and “.
The clause, as it stands, provides for the bureau to consist of seven members - six members representing the Australian woolgrowers, and one other member. This bureau, which is to deal with wool use promotion, is smaller in number than the committee which was provided for in the Wool Research Bill, the membership of which numbered nine. So, by adding two more members to this bureau, the number of representatives would be nine as in the Wool Research Committee.
I move this amendment because I believe that the bureau, with the membership proposed by the Government, will not be properly balanced since the majority representation is to be given to the wool-growers, who will have six members on it, whilst no representation is to be given to the employees associated with the industry who are as vitally concerned with the promotion of the use of wool as are the wool-growers, as the industry depends, first of all, upon the wool-growers who own the flocks and the land and, secondly, upon the employees who do the necessary work of production and without whom the industry could not function. Therefore, if anything is being done in order to expand the industry further, it is essential that all those who are concerned with the industry should have representation on this bureau.
Unfortunately, the Minister for Primary Production (Mr. McMahon) was not here this afternoon - admittedly through no fault of his own, because he was away on important public business - when this question was being more fully discussed. But I put it to the Minister that the principle contained in the amendment is a principle that has been recognized in similar measures in the past, particularly during the war, when it was necessary to secure the very best results in production and, in the interests of the nation to do everything to increase the war effort. At that stage it was found that it was desirable that the employees should be represented on the numerous committees and other bodies appointed to further war production, in order that those bodies could gain from the knowledge, experience and know-how which the employees in an industry possess. There is no doubt that those who are actually engaged in doing the work of wool production have a different angle in respect of the wool industry from that of those who are merely the employers. If we desire to create a pool of knowledge which can be used in the best interests of the industry itself, and of Australia as a whole, that pool of knowledge should be tapped to the fullest possible extent. That is what we propose to achieve by this amendment.
I further suggest to the Minister that it is highly desirable that the amendment be adopted, because of the effect it will have in achieving a better understanding between employers and employees in respect of the industry’s problems. One of the difficulties in arriving at a better understanding in industry is that although the employer has one viewpoint and the employee has another, the two sides do not meet frequently enough to exchange views and get to understand each other’s problems. If that were done in the wool industry, it would be one of the means of securing the very best results from the work of the bureau and would improve employer-employee relations in the wool industry.
I do not wish to pursue this matter further. I desired to remind the Minister that there is a pool of experience that should be made available to this bureau, but clause 6, as it stands will prevent the bureau from taking advantage of that pool of experience and the know-how which should be made available to it to enable us to get the best results from it. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are desirous that the community shall get the best possible results from the work of this bureau. That objective can be achieved only if both sides engaged in the production of wool understand each other’s problems and work together with the common aim to secure the best results from wool production in Australia.
– What the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has said is very interesting to me. I should like to say at the outset that, either as Minister for the Navy, Minister for Social Services and as Minister for Primary Industry, when I have had to discuss industrial problems with leaders of the trade union movement, I have always found that they have adopted a national approach and have always been prepared to discuss those problems on a logical basis. I have had very pleasant associations with them in my various ministerial capacities. In the Department of Primary Industry it is a growing practice, when a question of production or distribution arises, particularly one involving transport, to call in trade union representatives. On many occasions, I have found that they have contributed to a quick settlement of what might otherwise have been difficult problems. I say these things at the beginning of my remarks, because I do not want the honorable member for Bendigo to think that I am not sympathetically disposed towards his contention that the partners in industry should get together as frequently as possible.
However, I do not think - at least from a quick review of the measure - that the proposed bureau is a body on which the trade union movement should necessarily be represented. First of all, it will not deal with production and distribution in the normal sense. Its work will be connected with developing wool-promotion activities either in Australia or through the International Wool Secretariat. It will be engaged in technical work devoted to advertising and wool promotion. That is not the sort of occupation in which, normally, the closest understanding between management and employees is called for.
A second point is that the wool bureau is a voluntary organization. True it is that the levy is compulsory, but in this case the Government does not make a contribution. The people agreed to contribute on a voluntary basis. It was their suggestion that a levy should be made in order that wool promotion activities could be carried on. A third point is that I have had no approach for a change to be made in the constitution of the bureau, other than to cut out the two Commonwealth representatives - the Wool Adviser and the Deputy Wool Adviser - whose functions no longer exist. All that this bill does is to cut out their representation on the bureau, because they are no longer needed, and to replace them with one Commonwealth representative.
I have given this matter close consideration. I will concede that I did not consider trade union representation in this particular case. However, I can only say that I do not think it would be appropriate for trade union representatives to come into the bureau and advise on wool promotion activities. Therefore, I really regret that the amendment of the honorable member must be rejected.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Clarey’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of the bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1150), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure amends the Customs Act 1901- 1954 and, generally speaking, is designed to facilitate customs administration, to simplify the examination of aeroplanes at their respectivelanding points in Australia, and to protect the revenue of the country. The Government’s weight of numbers will undoubtedly result in the bill reaching the committee stage. We have been told that the Government then proposes to set up an obnoxious provision by removing the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ from proposed new section 35a.
– Does not the Opposition propose to support that amendment?
– We support the bill in the form in which it has been transmitted from the Senate. We want the administration of justice to be fair and reasonable. I realize exactly what I am doing. The measure has come to us with an amendment inserted by a majority of the Senate for the purpose of protecting the rights of citizens. Indeed, a Government supporter was the instigator of the amendment which has made the bill so much more acceptable, and Opposition members of the Senate supported that amendment to a man. The Government has foreshadowed an amendment designed to restore the measure to the state in which it reached the Senate. We shall examine that position in the committee stage.
In other respects, the Opposition takes no objection to the measure before us. . Protection of the revenue is desirable, as is the facilitation of customs procedure. I do not know of any more complicated department of government. That is no doubt inevitable and flows from the very nature of customs work. Therefore, anything that we can do to facilitate business transacted between the public and the department should be done. With the exception of the foreshadowed amendment, the Opposition will support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 5 -
After section thirty-five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 35a. - (1.) Where a person who has, or has been entrusted with, the possession, custody or control of dutiable goods which are subject to the control of the Customs -
fails to keep those goods safely; or
when so requested by a Collector, does not account for those goods to the satisfaction of a Collector, based upon reasonable grounds, that person shall, on demand in writing made by a Collector, pay to the Commonwealth an amount equal to the amount of the duty of Customs which, in the opinion of the Collector making the demand, would have been payable on those goods if they had been entered for home consumption on the day on which the demand was made.
– I ask the committee to consider an amendment to proposed new section 35a which is inserted by clause 5 of the bill.
The amendment will have the effect of restoring the bill to the form in which it was originally presented to the Senate. As the bill was originally presented, proposed new section 35a would impose a liability on a person who, havingbeen entrusted with dutiable goods which are subject to customs control either fails to keep those goods safely or, when so requested by a collector, does not account for those goods “ to the satisfaction of a Collector “.
By an amendment introduced in the Senate, the words, “ based upon reasonable grounds “ were added after the words “ to the satisfaction of a Collector “. The Government has been advised that, under well-settled provisions of the law, an obligation already rests upon a collector to act reasonably, so that the additional words are not necessary. For reasons which I will explain, the additional words could have results adverse to the cause of good administration, and adverse to the apparent intention of the mover of the amendment in the Senate. Therefore, the Government does not accept the amendment carried in the Senate and asks this House to restore the bill to its original form.
The requirement “ to the satisfaction of a Collector “ occurs frequently in customs and excise acts, and in regulations and securities under those acts. If this expression is qualified when used in section 35a, and left unqualified in the other instances in which it is used, it could be inferred that some different meaning is to be applied to the expression in section 35a from that applicable when the expression is used in numerous other cases without qualification. Honorable members will appreciate that such a situation is undesirable. The intention of the mover of the amendment was no doubt to prevent a collector from exercising his authority under the section in an arbitrary, capricious or unfair manner and to ensure that such exercise of authority could be brought under the surveillance of our courts. I would like to show that this is already amply assured under the existing law, without the addition of the words added in the Senate.
Mr. Justice Webb, of the High Court, in his judgment in the case Regina v. the Canadian Pacific Tobacco Company Limited in June, 1952, when considering the meaning of this very expression “ to the satisfaction of the Collector “, said that counsel had raised, among other questions, the question “ To what extent can a court review the dissatisfaction of a Collector? “. In answering that question, the learned judge said -
It is the failure to satisfy the Collector that finally determines the liability to pay the duty on the deficiency. It is the Collector’s want of satisfaction, and not a court’s, that is made the test of liability by Section 105. The court must, however, examine the material which was before the Collector to see whether there could have been any reasonable ground for the dissatisfaction of the Collector. But unless the court finds that his want of satisfaction was not honest, or was arbitrary or capricious, or against sound and fundamental principle, or based on some fundamental error or illegal, it cannot interfere.
Later in the same judgment, His Honour cited with approval the following statement of the law from a judgment of the Privy Council -
The Court is always entitled to examine the facts which are shown by the evidence to have been before the Minister when he made his determination. If those facts are in the opinion of the Court insufficient in law to support it, the determination cannot stand. In such a case the determination can only have been an arbitrary one. . . .
This judgment shows that where a person is required to account for goods to the satisfaction of a collector, a collector cannot unfairly or capriciously refuse to be satisfied if evidence which could cause a reasonable person to be satisfied is produced. For these reasons, the Government cannot see the need for the inclusion in section 35a of the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “. Such wording does not exist in other provisions of the Customs and Excise Act or in regulations and securities bearing on similar matters, and it is highly undesirable that there should be a difference in the provisions now before the chamber. For these reasons, I now move -
That in proposed new section 35a(1.)(d) the following words be omitted: - “ , based upon reasonable grounds “.
.- The Opposition objects to the removal of the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “. The whole principle at stake in this matter is this: Shall a person whom the Commonwealth sues to recover duty assessed by the collector automatically, have to pay the amount which the collector assesses or will he be able to have a court determine whether the collector was reasonable in assessing it? It is a matter upon which we have to determine whether we should rely upon an administrative decision or a judicial decision. The Minister, speaking for the Government, said that in this matter we should rely on an administrative decision which, except in unusual circumstances, is not examinable by a court. The Opposition says that this matter, like all matters where moneys are sued for, should be a matter for judicial decision.
The Minister has given two grounds for wanting to exclude the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “. The first is that if we put those words in this section the very absence of the words in other parts of this bill, in the Excise Act and in the Distillation Act will mean that in those other cases the collector’s satisfaction does not have to be based upon reasonable grounds. One would surely think that the answer to that argument of the Minister is to insert the words “ upon reasonable grounds “ after the words “ to the satisfaction of the Collector “ wherever they occur in this and other acts.
– But the Opposition does not propose to do that; it proposes to do it once only.
– The Minister has the initiative to introduce bills. If this small amendment is made to all revenue bills, we shall support it. It is no argument for refusing an improvement in one law that improvements will then have to be made in cognate laws. If it is a desirable improvement, it should be made in all of them. The other argument of the Minister was that the law is already well settled. He cited the judgment of Mr. Justice Webb in the High Court on 1st August, 1952, in the case of “ The Queen v. Canadian Pacific Tobacco Company Limited “. That decision is not reported in the “ Commonwealth Law Reports “ or in the “ Argus Law Reports “.
– I shall be glad to lend the honorable member a copy of the judgment.
– The honorable gentleman will be happy to know that another department made a copy available in anticipation. It is not reported in the two series of reports which report High Court decisions. It is not referred to in the “Australian Law Journal “, the “ Legal Monthly Digest “, or any other legal journal in Australia which refers to decisions by our highest tribunal and other tribunals.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that it is not a good judgment?
– Of course, I do not have the presumption to say that, but I say, with respect, that the decision does not bear out the Minister’s contention. Other tribunals just as high have given decisions contrary to the Minister’s view, and I shall cite one of them.
– That is the trouble with lawyers; you never agree.
– When lawyers cannot agree, the Parliament can put the matter beyond dispute. Why not make it certain by inserting the words “ upon reasonable grounds “? The Australian Country party, apparently, is prepared to leave to administrative decision matters which traditionally for centuries, since the days of Elizabeth I., have been increasingly placed in the hands of judicial bodies. It is a principle for which it was usually contended that persons of liberal persuasions would go to the stake.
All I say about Mr. Justice Webb’s decision is that it is not available to the general public. It is nowhere reported and nowhere referred to. It is plain from His Honour’s decision that, when a person is sued for not paying the debt assessed by the Collector of Customs, the onus is on the defendant to satisfy the court that the collector’s decision was not honest or arbitrary or capricious or against sound and fundamental principle or based on some fundamental error. The defendant has a most unusual onus and he can upset the decision only on most unusual grounds. We contend that the normal thing should be that, when a defendant is sued by the Commonwealth, the same general law should apply, unless very good reasons are shown to the contrary, as applies when a person is sued by another private citizen; that is, he should show that the debt is a proper one. In this case, the court must give judgment for the Commonwealth unless the defendant can show that the collector was dishonest or was capricious or made some fundamental error. But it does not enable the court to substitute its judgment for the collector’s judgment; that is, the plaintiff is the sole judge of the reasonableness of the assessment made. In fact, in this case Mr. Justice Webb gave judgment for the Commonwealth and stated that “ the test of liability was the collector’s want of satisfaction and not the court’s “.
Let me cite a case in the Court of Appeal in England, a court of the same level as the High Court of Australia. It is the case In re the City of Plymouth (City Centre), Declaratory Order 1946; Robinson v. Minister of Town and Country Planning. It is reported in  1 K.B. 702. The decision was made on an act which provided that the Minister of Town and Country Planning could make certain planning orders if he was satisfied on a great number of matters. The judge of first instance quashed the Minister’s order, and the Court of Appeal reversed the judge’s decision. Lord Greene, the Master of the Rolls, said at page 713 -
This matter is, in my view, one of opinion and policy as to which the Minister, assuming always that he acts bona fide, is the sole judge . . . No objective test is possible.
His Lordship went on at page 714 -
There are, as it appears to me, a variety of grounds on which this argument (of the applicants) should be rejected. It imports an objective test into a matter to which such a test is entirely inappropriate since it leaves it to the court to decide what matters are and what are not sufficient to justify a conclusion as to requisiteness; this is necessarily so since the question which, according to the argument, the court has to propound to itself will be, was the evidence before the Minister such as to entitle him to be satisfied on the point of requisiteness; and this is to substitute a test formulated, in some unexplained manner and according to some unascertainable principle, by the court itself for the opinion of the Minister to which the language of the subsection commits the decision. . . . The proposition is in general true that a Minister cannot be compelled to disclose to the court material which has come to him in his executive capacity.
In conclusion, His Lordship said at page 717-
How can this Minister, who is entrusted by Parliament with the power to make or not to make an executive order according to his judgment and acts bona fide (as lie must be assumed to do in the absence of evidence to the contrary), be called upon to justify his decision by proving that he had before him materials sufficient to support it? Such justification, if it is to be called for, must be called for by Parliament and not by the courts and I can see no ground in the language of the Act, in principle, or in authority for thinking otherwise. As I have already indicated earlier in this judgment the argument ob behalf of the applicants necessarily involves in the last resort substituting the opinion of the court for that of the Minister.
Lord Justice Somervell, in agreement with the Master of the Rolls, said -
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen to speak I shall take my second period now. Lord Justice Somervell said at page 720 -
It would need, to my mind, clear words in order to entitle an aggrieved person to raise such issues before the court in challenging what is, in my opinion, under the words of the section, a purely administrative decision by the Minister. I think the Act gives the Minister the power to come to his decision as an administrative decision, which no doubt he can be called upon to justify in Parliament, but which be cannot be called on to justify in a court of law on the ground that there was either insufficient or no evidence on which a reasonable man in the position of the Minister could so decide.
Again, Lord Justice Somervell said at page 723 -
The Judge of first instance held that the words “ is satisfied “ prima facie mean “ satisfied on reasonable grounds “.
Honorable members will see that this is on all fours with the present case. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has said that the words “ upon reasonable grounds “ are assumed, and that the court before which the collectors’ claim is sought to be recovered would determine whether his decision was made on reasonable grounds. That is what was determined by the judge of first instance, who was on the same level as Mr. Justice Webb in this case. But Lord Justice Somervell went on -
No doubt Parliament always intends that a Minister should act reasonably, but this is a matter on which opinions may differ and the question is whether it is for the Minister or the courts to impose the standard. The learned judge look the view that he was entitled to inquire into the sufficiency of the grounds and that taking the evidence to which I have referred as the only evidence before the. Minister there was no evidence that the applicants’ property was to bc freshly laid out.
That is, that the Minister could make the order. He continued -
I have, I think, sufficiently stated nay reasons for coming to a different conclusion. It would be undesirable and impossible to formulate precisely what evidence and in what circumstances the courts might examine the Minister’s decision under this Act or Acts with similar provisions.
Lord Justice Wrottesley concurred, in a brief judgment, with the two other members of the court. It is quite plain, therefore, that in a decision on all but the highest level - only the House of Lords could give a higher decision in England - it has been held in connexion with a comparable provision to the one before the committee that it is for the Minister to make the decision, and the court is not permitted to substitute its idea of what is reasonable for the Minister’s idea of what is reasonable. The court agreed that the United Kingdom Parliament could have allowed the court to substitute its idea of what is reasonable for the Minister’s idea, but it did not do so.
Similarly, in this section which the Minister wishes to restore to its former form, and in all the cognate sections of the Distillation Act, the Excise Act and the Customs Act, the Australian Parliament has, wrongly we think, left it purely to the discretion or the judgment of the collector or other official to make the decision. What applied to the Minister in England applies to the collector or the administrative official in Australia. It is plain, applying these English decisions which were given on a higher level than the one which the Minister quoted, that a court would say: “We are not going to make up our own minds whether it is reasonable that the defendant should pay the amount claimed. We just have to be satisfied that the collector was satisfied of the reasonableness and amount of the claim. Then there is no defence unless you can show that the collector was dishonest or capricious or acted on a wrong principle.”
There are cases in which courts have examined the judgment of collectors and other officials, and have decided that they have acted on wrong principles. In each case, the court has held that the official has overlooked certain specified matters of which an act has required him to be satisfied. In this bill no such matters are listed. The section here merely provides that when a person who has custody of goods does not account for those goods to the satisfaction of a collector he must pay what would, in the collector’s opinion, have been the customs duty on them. In those circumstances, I submit, no court before which such a claim came would substitute its decision for the collector’s. No court would inquire into the question of whether the collector had been reasonable in making his decision. It would only go into the matter if the defendant brought evidence that the collector had been dishonest.
– Is the honorable member saying that the High Court’s decision was wrong?
– I say, with respect, that the Minister has wrongly interpreted that decision and the decisions of other and higher courts.
– I think that the honorable member for Werriwa is talking about two different things - a decision on a question of liability and a decision on an administrative act. The two things are quite different. The honorable member is talking about one, and this act deals with the other.
– It is true that in England there was not a subsequent claim for money, but property rights were affected just as much by the Minister’s order under the English act as by the collector’s demand under this bill. The only thing that the court could determine when a claim of this kind came before it would be the question of whether the collector had said he was satisfied. Then, unless the defendant could show that the collector was dishonest-
– Or capricious or unreasonable.
– No. Let me repeat what I have said. Sir William Webb nowhere used the word “ unreasonable “. The test that he made was to ask whether the collector’s want of satisfaction was not honest, or arbitrary or capricious, or against sound and fundamental principle, or based on some fundamental error. He went on to say that the onus was on the defendant to satisfy the collector. Presumably, the onus would be on the defendant to satisfy the court. The courts in England have held that a court cannot substitute its idea of what is reasonable for what the administrative decision says is reasonable. The Opposition thinks that in these matters, as in any matter where money is sued for, it should be left to the court and. not to some administrative body to determine whether the claim is justifiable. There is no defence here except to show that the Collector was dishonest or capricious - not that he was unreasonable. Mr. Justice Webb defined the extent to which a court can examine administrative decisions under acts such as this. Accordingly the Opposition says that the words as they have come down to us from another place should be preserved. It is not inappropriate to remark that they were put in the bill in another place at the instigation of, I think it will be conceded, the most distinguished lawyer on the Government side in that other place.
– Not at all.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to proceedings in another place
– I am not reflecting on members of another place in any way.
– Is the honorable member reflecting on the Attorney-General?
– I reiterate that these words were inserted in the clause in another place by the most distinguished lawyer on the Government side in that place, and I do not reflect on the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) because that honorable gentleman would be the first to admit that he has not had the forensic experience that the other gentleman who moved this amendment has had.
– Forensic experience, did you say?
– That is what 1 saidthe experience in litigation. The other honorable gentleman has in recent years had more experience of litigation of a general character than any one else on the Government side and is at present conducting a case of world-wide interest before the High Court of Australia.
.- I support the amendment. The reason for this amendment is that great confusion will be caused if the words inserted in the clause in another place are allowed to remain. The word “ satisfaction “ appears in this act and in similar acts in many places without the accompaniment that has been inserted in the bill in the Senate. If the House allows that amendment to remain in the law, the inference will be that wherever the word “ satisfaction “ occurs elsewhere it will mean satisfaction without any reasonable grounds whatsoever. Both sides of this House, as I understand it, agree that the satisfaction should be based upon reasonable grounds; but the amendment made in another place, while making the meaning positively clear and unnecessarily clear in this proposed section of the act, will throw absolute doubt on whether “ satisfaction “ where it elsewhere appears means satisfaction based on reasonable grounds or otherwise.
The word “ satisfaction “, where a power is given in satisfaction, is well understood in law, despite what my learned and honorable friend, the member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), may say. The word “ satisfaction “ means that a power given to the satisfaction of the person must be exercised bona fide and not capriciously. In other words, it must be exercised honestly and on reasonable grounds, because if there are no reasonable grounds for its exercise, then it is undoubtedly exercised capriciously.
I do not understand the case cited as differing in any sense from that, because in the passage read by the honorable member for Werriwa there was a phrase that no doubt a Minister must always act reasonably. In addition, the phrase “ bona fide “ was used. As to the honorable member’s point that Mr. Justice Webb’s decision has not been reported, I would be very surprised if His Honour’s decision was reported. I have had some slight experience as an editor of law reports over twenty years, and it is not the practice to report cases that deal with matters of law which are positively clear and for which there is ample authority already existing in the law reports. This is one of those cases and I have no doubt that the editors of the “ Argus Law Reports “ and the “ Commonwealth Law Reports” considered that His Honour’s decision did not add in any way to what had been frequently declared before. Because I believe that the amendment introduced in another place will do a great deal of harm and will confuse the matter, and because I believe that the amendment now proposed will straighten out the law and will achieve what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) desires to achieve, I support the amendment.
.- I find myself on one hand confronted with the learned opinion of my friend the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and on the other with the opinion of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske).
– What is your own opinion?
– The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) wants to know my opinion. He will be told my opinion in due course. I am one of the great mass of people unacquainted with the law. Let us read, word for word, the clause we are debating and see how much divides us and how the ordinary man will expect his Labour representative to cast his vote. Proposed new section 35a states - (1.) Where a person who has, or has been entrusted with, the possession, custody or control of dutiable goods which are subject to the control of the Customs -
Thieves might enter the premises in which dutiable goods are kept and steal those goods. That would be a situation over which the importer of the goods would not have absolute control. It is true that he is responsible for the security of his store, but bars on the windows and bolts and locks on the doors would not necessarily ensure security. We know that from time to time safe-crackers get into the strongest banks in this country and get away with the loot.
– What has that to do with the section?
– The Minister for Air does not want me to put the position in plain words. He wants to dispose of the matter in his way; but he is not going to dispose of it as easily as that. As I have said, despite all reasonable precautions, burglars may break into a store and dutiable goods may disappear overnight. That is one illustration. There are many more I could give. If the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ are deleted, an importer who, in spite of his reasonable precautions, has had his goods stolen, will be called upon to pay duty. If the collector is not satisfied, the person who has had the possession, custody or control of dutiable goods must pay the duty. If the amendment is agreed to, the collector need not be satisfied on reasonable grounds. If the words, “ based upon reasonable grounds “ remain, the collector’s decision as to his satisfaction must be so based; if the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ are removed, all that is involved is the satisfaction of the collector.
– No, it is not. The honorable member did not listen.
– The Minister need not interject. If I interject when he is speaking he obviously does not like it.
– The honorable member has interjected on other occasions.
– And the Minister obviously has not liked it. He must take what I am saying now. I am putting the point of view of the person who might be involved with this clause. If the collector is not satisfied, the owner of the goods will be in trouble and will be required to pay the duty. If the amendment is accepted, the collector is not to be satisfied on reasonable grounds at all. It is proposed to remove from the responsibility of the collector in making his decision the requirement that his satisfaction shall be “ based upon reasonable grounds “. Some people are arbitrary: some public servants are arbitrary. Most of them are good men, but it is the responsibility of the Parliament to protect the public against the type of officer who is described as a bureaucrat. When honorable members on the Government side were in Opposition they were pleased to call all these people bureaucrats.
A collector who says that he is satisfied need not base his decision upon reasonable grounds. If the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ are omitted, it is enough that he shall be satisfied. If the collector must be satisfied that the reasons advanced by the owner of goods are based upon reasonable grounds the prospect of justice being done to the citizen is greater. I should imagine that the normal collector would be happier to be required to base his judgment upon reasonable grounds. These men are supposed to be reasonable, and in most cases would be, but there are circumstances in which they could be unreasonable and act arbitrarily, even capriciously, notwithstanding the access to the courts that the Minister mentioned. The passage through the courts of an action to decide whether the owner of goods had kept them safely or accounted for them to the satisfaction of the collector would be much longer than the hearing of any matter that had to be determined by the collector upon reasonable grounds. If these words apply to the decision of the collector, the owner of dutiable goods is more likely to obtain speedy justice.
I suggest that when lawyers fall out and there is disagreement about the meaning of a provision, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the citizen. No honorable member of this chamber, whether lawyer or layman, will argue that a citizen is not more amply protected under this clause of the bill if the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ remain intact.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I am expressing the view of the Opposition that if the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ remain in the clause there is a greater measure of justice to the citizen. Nobody wants to see the legislation weakened. The argument put forward by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) that other portions of this legislation and other acts do not include the words “based upon reasonable grounds “ when dealing with a situation such as that mentioned in proposed new section 35a is relevant, but it is not of grave or immediate importance. Cases of this sort do not arise every day. Matters for decision under this portion of the Customs Act or similar portions of other acts would not come up for decision frequently.
– There have been only three in 57 years.
– The Minister says there have been three cases of this sort in 57 years.
– Something like that.
– That situation destroys completely the argument of the honorable member for Balaclava and the Minister that, if the Minister’s amendment is rejected, other portions of the legislation as well as this clause will be adversely affected.
– Those three cases have settled the law on the matter.
– The decisions in three cases do not end the thing for ever. I am destroying the argument of the honorable member for Balaclava and the Minister, who have both contended that if the committee does not omit these words “ based upon reasonable grounds “, effective administration of the legislation will be upset. The argument has been that it will upset not only the Customs Act, in which similar words do not appear, but also many other acts; but almost in the same breath the Minister informs the committee that there have been only three cases in 57 years!
– The section has been in the act only since 1952.
– There were similar provisions in State customs acts.
– I am taking the Minister’s word for it that there have been three cases in 57 years.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like guidance from the Minister on this amendment. If the collector can do something according to his satisfaction and this committee deletes the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “, does not the Parliament give to the collector an arbitrary power? In those circumstances, the collector could make an arbitrary decision. I understood that honorable members on this side of the chamber were elected to protect the freedom of the individual. I fear that if these words are deleted the freedom of the individual will not be protected. I am a little surprised at the line taken by the members of the Opposition because one of the reasons they were defeated in 1949 was that they had given too much power of an arbitrary nature to senior public servants. Now, the Opposition ‘directs its arguments against the use of arbitrary power, though they reposed such power in public servants to a considerable extent. One of the greatest arguments of the Government parties during the election campaign in 1949 was that we would do all we could to combat arbitrary powers. I ask the Minister to re-assure me that this amendment does not give arbitrary power to the collector.
As it has been seen fit in another place to include the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “, an amendment for their deletion must be considered very carefully. Some federal public servants who are entrusted by Parliament with these powers do not even know the meaning of the word “ arbitrary “. Most dictionaries define is as meaning, “ Known only to the will of the person making the decision “. The collector can make a decision, whether based upon reasonable grounds or capriciously, and he does net have to give reasons for it. If the Government cannot satisfy me that the deletion of these words does not give arbitrary power to the collector or does not put him in a position in which he need not explain his actions, I cannot accept the amendment.
I should like to hear argument on the matter in plain, ordinary words that can be understood by every one. We should get away, if possible, from legalisms. I want to ensure that individual citizens in Australia are protected from the exercise of arbitrary power, which should not be handed by this Parliament to a public servant. It is of no use for any member of the Parliament to criticize a public servant for exercising power that it has given to him. If the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ are omitted from paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 35 a. of the principal act, a public servant will be able to continue to exercise arbitrary power.
– No. The honorable member has misunderstood the whole argument.
– I should be happy to be convinced by the Minister. If the words are omitted, we say to the Collector of Customs, in effect, “Do what you like. You do not have to account to any one for what you do “.
– That is not so.
– The Minister knows that I have recently taken up with the Department of Customs and Excise a case in which it seemed to me that power was used arbitrarily by the Collector of Customs. I still think that he used his power arbitrarily. These words should be omitted, if their omission will have the effect of deliberately giving arbitrary power to the Collector, and .telling him that, unless the Minister for Customs and Excise calls upon him to disclose his reasons, he is not bound to do so. I consider that the amendment made in another place is wholly fair. The matter should not be taken lightly. I have not made any agreement about it elsewhere, and I should like to be convinced that the amendment now proposed will not have the effect of deliberately giving to a public servant power that could be used arbitrarily.
.- The consideration of this clause is an interesting example of a situation in which three or four legally qualified members of this chamber have had to debate matters which, at the brief glance that we have been able to give them, seem to be of great importance to the community, while the other 120 honorable members have had to look on. As a layman in this field, I have had to gather up the threads of the argument as best I could, and to study the “ Hansard “ report of the proceedings in the Senate. After examining the matter, I have come to the conclusion that I should support the stand taken by other Opposition members on the general ground that the Government is seeking to continue an administrative procedure to the detriment of the people, even if, as we have been told, only three persons have been affected by that procedure in 57 years. The majority of honorable members are afforded very little opportunity to pick up the threads of the debate on an important matter such as this, which has great legal significance. When it is debated at this late hour, and at this stage of the sessional period the whole position is confused. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) says that there have been only three people affected by the exercise of this power in 57 years. On the other hand an honorable member, for whose legal knowledge I have the greatest possible respect, has pointed out that the provision in question has been embodied in the act for only about five or six years.
As the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has said, we should not treat this matter lightly. It is of no use for us to try to pass over the customs procedures lightly, especially in relation to the great authority and powers that are given to public servants - a body of men for whom I have the greatest possible regard. But the complexities of administration and the law are continually increasing, and we must consider very carefully any proposal to extend the powers of public servants or, shall we say, of irresponsible or nonjudicial tribunals to deal with matters that are vital to the welfare of individual citizens, whether they be engaged in business or not. We should support to the hilt the rights and privileges of citizens who engage in business. That is the first matter that we should consider.
It seems to me that the Minister and the Government are acting unreasonably in this matter in rejecting the arguments advanced by a Government supporter in another place who is an eminent legal practitioner. I have carefully examined the arguments advanced, during the consideration of this measure in the Senate, by both that gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna), who also is highly regarded in legal circles. The arguments of those two gentlemen merit support. The words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ in paragraph (b) of subsection (1.) of proposed new section 35a of the principal act simply open up for examination by a court decisions made by the Collector of Customs. What is unreasonable about that? Why should we not support it?
With the continuous evolution of our administrative procedures making us more and more dependent upon administrators, we must carefully consider the position of public servants, and make their decisions open to scrutiny at every possible turn. We recently had an almost violent debate in this chamber on the question of the control of imports, a field somewhat akin to that involved in this measure. Decisions respecting imports, by their very nature, must be left very largely to administrative personnel. Administrative procedures become increasingly important in modern life. I recall seeing advertisements for recruits by one of the trading banks, or by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or the Commonwealth Public Service in which reference was made to administration being the great modern industry. Administrators are playing an increasingly important part in the running of our governmental machine and, consequently, in decisions that affect the welfare of every one of us. They are becoming more and more powerful, and it is becoming increasingly imperative that every decision made by them, even in respect of a procedure that has affected only three people in 57 years, should be scrutinized by some authority that can decide whether justice has been done. If these words are omitted, the Collector of Customs will simply have to say in court, “ This is my decision “. As provided in sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 35a, he could then obtain a verdict against a person from whom he sues to recover money.
The words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 35a merely open the whole matter to the scrutiny of a court. This seems to be reasonable. There is nothing dreadful about it, and it will not put the country to great expense. I do not want to join issue with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), or with any other honorable member versed in legal matters. The honorable member for Balaclava said, if I remember rightly, that if the words “ based upon reasonable grounds “ were omitted, the court would still have to consider whether the Collector of Customs had acted capriciously or arbitrarily. Are these decisions open to public scrutiny in the ordinary course? Is any report about them tabled in the Parliament? One of the definitions of the word “ capricious “ given in “Webster’s New International Dictionary “ is -
Fickle, crotchety, fitful, wayward, erratic, unsteady, inconstant, arbitrary.
In the ordinary course of events, when decisions made by the collector are made smoothly and quietly, no one will know about them. They will be confidential, and there will be no way of telling whether or not they are capricious, if the words in question are omitted. The honorable member for Macarthur referred to a matter in which the High Court of Australia held, in the words of Sir William Webb, that the test of liability was the collector’s want of satisfaction, and not the court’s. The Collector of Customs should not be in a position to make the final decision. Large amounts of money are involved in these matters, and people could be driven into bankruptcy, and businesses could be ruined. That should not happen unnecessarily, even now and again. Justice should be done, and should appear to be done. The Minister and the Government are acting unreasonably in attempting to prevent decisions of the collector from being scrutinized by the courts.
I have stated where the Opposition stands. The Parliament has a duty to see that, in the evolution of administrative procedures, principles for which we have fought for very many years are preserved, and that justice not only is done, but also appears to be done. As a layman, I discuss this matter with some diffidence, and without an expert knowledge of the legal points involved, but I have dared to discuss it because I take a dim view of an attempt to have such vital matters considered in this fashion, when an attempt is made to hurry through to the possible detriment of the people measures involving important matters of principle.
.- The words proposed to be deleted ought to be deleted, in my opinion, because if they are left in they will superimpose upon the administrative function words of a judicial type which involve explicit interpretation by a court. The person to be satisfied is a person who is exercising an administrative function, namely, the collector. The collector must be satisfied, if the words are eliminated. I feel that the proper source of satisfaction ought to be with the collector, not with a court of appeal. If the words are left in, a court of appeal must be satisfied. Let me give an analogy: If a court considers a matter in which damages are at issue and awards a specific amount of damages, it is open to the person who is pursuing his claim to appeal on the basis that the damages awarded were either insufficient or excessive. The appeal court will then decide whether or not there is evidence which would reasonably justify the lower court in reaching the decision it in fact reached. So it is in this instance. On appeal, the court of appeal will decide whether or not there were grounds upon which the collector could have been satisfied. His Honour Mr. Justice Webb, of the High Court, in the unreported case of the Canadian Pacific Tobacco Company, has quite clearly delineated the grounds within which the collector must be satisfied and all the matters which must be comprised within the decision on his satisfaction.
There are, I understand, some thirteen other acts in which the form of words proposed by the Government is used. Unless this amendment is carried, I suggest to the committee that it will be necessary to amend all of those other acts because, as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has pointed out, there is a fundamental opinion in the law that if you specifically define words on one occasion and do not do so on another occasion, on the occasion on which you do not specifically define them you lessen their effect. It may be that the Government is faced with this proposition: Are these words necessary? If they are necessary, let us accept them and put them in the other thirteen acts as well, but please do not let us insert the words if they are unnecessary, because their insertion will involve a whole lot of other machinery amendments of other acts. If we do not amend those acts, the words used here necessarily will reflect upon the acts in which they are not used. The point made by the honorable member for Balaclava is indeed worthy of real consideration.
It seems to me that the point to be considered here is whether the bondholder is being adequately protected. I think that he is. The truth of the matter is that the words under discussion were inserted in another place at the instance of an individual who, I think, acted of his own accord and not because of representations made by people who required the wording of the bill to be altered. Indeed, the history of the Commonwealth, even before federation, indicates that, in all State enactments, the words used were similar to those that will appear in the bill if the amendment is carried. It must be the fundamental purpose of the Parliament to ensure that the bond-holder is adequately protected, as I believe he will be if the amendment is carried and the words deleted. The words of Webb J., in the Canadian Pacific Tobacco Company case, put the matter beyond doubt.
I therefore support the removal of these words from the clause and I hope that the committee will agree, on the argument presented by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) and the honorable member for Balaclava, that it is necessary to delete them to save this unfortunate but necessary corollary that if these words are approved, there will be a weakened meaning in thirteen other acts, which will be most undesirable.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Osborne’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 1639) on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
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 (vide page 1642) on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I should like to commend the Government for bringing down this bill to give some measure of local authority to the inhabitants of Norfolk Island. It will grant them certain limited powers similar to those given to most local government bodies on the mainland. I respectfully submit, however, that the bill misses the real point. It overlooks the fundamental causes of the problems and difficulties of Norfolk Island and of the deep sense of frustration which was apparent to me and other honorable members who comprised the delegation from the Federal Parliament which went to the island last year for the centenary celebrations of the landing of the Pitcairners. From our observations, it appeared that one cause of that frustration was the isolation of the island and the lack of regular contact by the islanders with the outside world. A second cause was the dwindling population. There is a distinct minority of young people in the population, which was previously about 1,200 or 1,300, but now is about only 1,000. Most of the young people have gone to the mainland because they consider that there is no future for them on the island. A third cause was the sense of insecurity that prevailed throughout the island, not only because of economic difficulties, but also because of exposure to physical danger owing to the absence of local defences. In view of all these factors, the granting of local self-government to the island will be of very little use, especially if it is accompanied by the imposition of taxes and does nothing to the feeling of insecurity to which I have referred.
At this stage, I want to congratulate the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), the Administrator of the island and his lady, also the local officials and the islanders generally, for the manner in which the centenary ceremonies and celebrations were conducted. Those celebrations gave a real fillip to the islanders and, at least for the time being, made them feel that they were really on the map. One of my reasons for accepting the invitation to attend the centenary celebrations was that some time ago there was circulated among members of this House a petition signed by practically all the residents of the island, outlining certain grievances that they claimed to have. I took the opportunity to go to the island to investigate the complaints contained in that petition, which seemed to me to be in the nature of an appeal for help.
On arrival, we were approached by certain people who seemed to be quite decent types. They painted for us a rather unfavorable picture of some of the personalities connected with the administration of the island. Our first impression was that there was something radically wrong with the administration, but it seemed to be rather difficult to get to the bottom of the matter. There is no newspaper or other medium of public expression on the island and the only way that the people can ventilate their grievances is by word of mouth. Sometimes that is a good medium of communication, but it can also be bad, depending on the source from which the information comes.
It was difficult for us to investigate or discuss the matter during the festivities and ceremonies, but the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) and I stayed on the island for a few more days with the express intention of making independent inquiries. It was really only on the afternoon before we left that we gleaned any real information, and then only because of an accidental call that we made on an old identity who seemed to have no axe to grind. We were able to get from him an unbiased picture of the situation. Let me say that the complaints made about the Administrator and other officials seemed to be quite unfounded and, perhaps, unfair. The complaints appeared to represent a sectional point of view and, to a certain extent, to be based on ignorance. For example, there was a complaint by some of the islanders who had come to the island to settle there because there was no income tax and customs duties were very light. An increase was made of customs duties just at a time when one or two of them had arranged to import cars. They were caught napping and thought that the Administration should have given them some warning of the impending increase of duties. Honorable members who know anything about customs and excise duties are aware that that sort of information is not allowed to leak out, but these people were smarting under a sense of grievance because they thought they should have been told about it.
Personally, I thought that the Administrator and the officials were, generally speaking, sympathetic and had the interests of the islanders at heart. They appeared to be anxious to help them. The Administrator was keen to make a success of his job, but he was in a somewhat difficult position. He had inherited a situation of long-standing which was not of his making. Most of the islanders regarded the Advisory Council, although it was elected by the residents, as a rather innocuous body, with no real power to implement its decisions. Consequently, the people felt that they were left more or less at the mercy of the whim of the Administrator and that there would be irritating delays on the part of officialdom. All those factors contributed to the sense of grievance and frustration which we found was prevailing on the island. That was not the fault of the Administrator. As I have already said, he had inherited a situation which had its origin in the days of the penal settlement and the days when, after the arrival of the Pitcairners, the island was made a Crown colony and was controlled from the mainland. In those days, the people were subjected to the disadvantages of an imperialist colonial system of government in an island outpost. They had no parliamentary representation and no real power in their own hands. Their remoteness from the mainland of Australia and the difficulties of communication aggravated the situation.
But Norfolk Island is no longer a remote place. Means of communication have improved. It is no longer isolated from the disorders of the world. During the recent war in the Pacific, it was very much on the map. It does not seem a great distance from Australia now, because it is possible to travel there in a few hours by air, but previously a voyage of many days or weeks was involved and only an infrequent shipping service was available.
Other factors increased the sense of grievance and frustration. Some, of an economic nature, were of recent origin. Previously, this island, which is very rich and fertile, provided the means of subsistence for most of the islanders. After the landing of the Pitcairners, farms were established. The people were able to produce enough food for their families and also to export fruit and other products to New Zealand, which was their natural market. Unfortunately, they became victims of the trade barriers that arose between Australia and New Zealand. For example, when Australia restricted the importation of potatoes from New Zealand, New Zealand retaliated by cutting off its trade with Norfolk Island, and this seriously affected the incomes of those people. It affected also the shipping service to the island, because when trade was reduced the visits of ships became more infrequent. That, in turn, affected the tourist trade, which previously had been moderately good.
As the Minister has quite rightly said, Norfolk Island is an idyllic place. It has been properly described as the Madeira of the Pacific. It is a place of great historic interest, not only because of the penal establishment that existed there, but also because of the settlement that was established after the landing of the Pitcairn islanders. They were taken under the protective wing of the British Crown. Queen Victoria had a particular regard for these patriotic people in the Pacific of whom she had heard so much, and who had become almost wholly Christian. When the British Empire went to war they showed their appreciation for what had been done for them in the past. Ten per cent, of the male population volunteered in the last war, and a considerable number volunteered in World War I. For humanitarian reasons, and because it is our duty, we should take a far greater interest in the welfare of these people, whose needs have been so greatly overlooked in the past.
There is also the aspect of defence. During the last war Norfolk Island was a vital base, used mainly by the American forces. It also has a cable station, and while we were there we were told a rather fantastic story of the part that had been played by the cable services of the Pacific during the Battle of Midway and the north African campaign especially. Norfolk Island is now a base on the civil air route between Australia and New Zealand, and could be used as a naval and submarine base for this country. If that were done, not only could the island be defended, but also we should be establishing a strongpoint in the defence of Australia itself.
No racial problem could arise because the population is 100 per cent. British stock. If we were once more involved in war, and the tables were turned in the Pacific, it would be a very serious matter if Norfolk Island fell into other hands. The Chairman of the Advisory Council, Mr. Ray Nobbs, who is a kind of island patriarch, spoke to us from his hospital bed, being unable to participate in the celebrations. He told us some of the problems of the island and made this very significant remark, “ If anything happens to this place don’t say I did not warn you “. He is looked upon as a good Christian and a patriotic citizen. He implied that if, in desperation, the Norfolk islanders were driven into the hands of some other country the outlook for this country would be very serious. For all these reasons Norfolk Island should receive greater consideration than it has in the past.
First, trade with the mainland and with New Zealand could be stimulated. Secondly, technical advice and assistance in agriculture could be given. In recent years crops have failed because some disease has crept into the soil and affected its productivity. Not only the export trade but also the food supply of the islanders, has been affected. Thirdly, the Government might consider boosting the tourist traffic to the island, which is ideal for that purpose. More people could be brought there. Something could be done for workers and others who might want to spend their longservice leave or annual holidays there. A greater tourist trade might result in other people settling on the island. The population has greatly decreased because the young people have left for the mainland.
The Minister referred to the many historic relics and buildings on the island. These could be restored as has been done by the Tasmanian government. The fact that some of the buildings have been allowed to remain in ruins and deteriorate further, is deplorable. I have in mind not only the old penal settlement buildings but other Government and church buildings. On our visit we saw the Anglican church which had been established by the Melanesian Mission. It is beautiful inside, but unfortunately the roof is beginning to deteriorate and the islanders cannot afford to effect repairs. The Government could do something in that direction also.
The factor that is contributing most to the feeling of insecurity and discontent among the islanders is the lack of real social services. The islanders do not enjoy child endowment, age pensions, widows’ pensions or any other social services, such as may be had on the mainland. That was stressed by the islanders. The population is ageing and the failure of crops has worsened the economic position of all. Many old people are concerned for their future security. They stressed that they would appreciate the provision of an adequate pension scheme.
I met an elderly couple who had resided in my former electorate but had sold up their home and moved to the island to retire. Having put their money in the bank, they found themselves because of the means test, outside the pensions scheme. They had some difficulty in getting the pension restored. Other islanders are not entitled to such social services. A limited health scheme may be availed of by the descendants of the original Pitcairners who pay a nominal amount for hospital services but other islanders, who have come from the mainland, are not entitled to any concession of that nature.
Those are some of the things that could be considered by the Government. The bill is a forward step and I commend the Minister for at least giving the islanders this measure of local autonomy. However, the bill should go further and give them direct representation in this House. The establishment of the council is an improvement, but its authority will be limited to matters of a local government nature. Indeed, it will result in further burdens being placed on the islanders. The Minister may know the exact figure, but 1 understand that there are about 200 miles of roads on the island. The people will also have to provide sewerage, drainage and all the other matters set out in the schedule to the bill. I see no reason why the islands should not be given direct representation in this House, as are the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory and the citizens of the Northern Territory. Lord Howe Island is included in the electorate of East Sydney and there is no reason why the thousand residents of Norfolk Island should not have a similar privilege. No racial problem would be involved in linking Norfolk Island with one of the existing Federal electorates or, alternatively, with the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, New Guinea or some other Commonwealth territory.
The argument is raised that, if they are given social service benefits, they should be called upon to pay taxes. Various leading citizens put to me the view that probably no objection would be raised to paying taxes, provided the islanders received the usual social service benefits and obtained reasonable security in regard to their economic standards generally. However, I do not see any reason why taxes should be imposed, or why the islanders, if they receive social service benefits, should not be given tax concessions similar to those applying in Papua and New Guinea and the Northern Territory. Those are only matters of detail, but I am sure agreement could be reached upon them if the islanders had direct representation in this House. No racial problems have to be met; the islanders are 100 per cent. British stock, descended from the Pitcairn Islanders with, perhaps, a tinge of Polynesian blood.
If they were given direct representation, their member would visit them from time to time. I understand that we were the first group of. Parliamentarians to visit Norfolk Island. We took an interest in the islanders because we felt that, as they had no representative to listen to their problems, we might listen to them as unofficial representatives for the time being. We are not under any obligation to them; it is simply out of goodness of heart that we raise these matters. If they had a direct representative in this Parliament, he would have to report to them from time to time and submit himself for election, as other members of this House must do.
This is an indirect way of bringing their problems to the attention of the various authorities. The powers to be given to the new council relate only to matters of a local government nature and do not relate to problems of an overall nature or questions of social security generally. The action now being taken by the Government under this measure is the least that could be done for these friendly, hospitable people of 100 per cent. British stock in an island outpost who, for the most part, are forgotten by the rest of the people of Australia.
– I shall detain the House for only a few minutes to draw attention to clause 15 of the bill. I ask the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) to look at that clause; and I hope that at the committee stage he will accept an amendment. The Minister pointed out that the bill extends the local autonomy to be enjoyed by the people of Norfolk Island, and that is characteristic of what he has been doing in the administration of the territories in respect of which he has been giving as great a degree of local autonomy as possible. However, he has included in the bill a clause which is subject to very grave criticism. He said that the wording of the existing section left some doubt as to whether a retrospective ordinance could validly be made, and that this bill seeks to make it quite clear that such ordinances can be validly made.
It is a tradition of liberal people that legislation cannot be made retrospective except for the purpose of correcting something that has gone wrong or for giving a benefit to some person. If by retrospective legislation a penalty can be imposed on a person or a person can be given duties not accepted by him when he took a position, then a situation which could cause serious unsettlement is introduced. People would not know where they stood if a government could legislate to cover things that happened earlier. Therefore, a great deal of care has been taken in the drafting of legislation by liberal people to ensure that retrospective duties or obligations are not included.
I agree that the argument could be advanced that in such circumstances the best protection is in the alertness of the people. It is true that this measure provides that notice of any intention to make an ordinance must be published in the Gazette. That would bring the matter under the notice of the people who are affected, but it is imposing too great a burden on them to ask them to watch always what is being done. For example, the spate of ordinances and regulations that goes through this House is so great that I doubt whether any honorable member does more than cursorily glance at it and consign it to the wastepaper basket. However, those ordinances and regulations may contain some matters which are objectionable to the principles we hold. Therefore, the burden of watching ordinances should not be imposed on people. We should protect the public.
It is true that the only protection the public has is in the integrity of the Public Service and in the honesty and integrity of the Administration. I very much doubt whether any administrator would willingly impose penalties on people retrospectively, but he could do so. The right to do so could be abused. Therefore, we should take action to prevent the obligation being placed on the Parliament, or whatever the authority may be, to disallow regulations. We ought not to frame our legislation in such a way as to impose these liabilities. I hope that the Minister will consider whether a few words can be omitted from clause 15 with a view to meeting theobjections I have raised.
.- I listened with very great interest to the speech of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and I should like to add my hearty congratulations to those already offered to him for taking a step in the right direction. I visited Norfolk Island last year. I was glad to go with the honorable members for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay), Reid (Mr. Morgan) and Banks (Mr. Costa) and Senators Robertson and Scott. On various occasions I have read in the press criticisms by editors and others of parliamentary delegations that have visited various parts of Australia. If it were not for these delegations, we would not be able to find out things and see for ourselves what is really wanted throughout Australia. I venture to say that if this parliamentary delegation had not visited Norfolk Island last year, nothing would have been done for the islanders. When we visited the island we were told what the islanders thought was right and were informed of many things that had been denied to them, such as the right of local government. Now, they are being placed almost on the same footing as a local municipal council, and that is what the islanders sought.
When we went there, we were asked why they could not be given powers which would be in keeping with our Australian standards and the principles of British democracy. I agree with my colleague, the honorable member for Reid, that a lot more could be done for the island. This measure is the first step in the right direction and in all probability in a very short time we might be able to do something more for the people of Norfolk Island.
– I support the thesis of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). I have no doubt that this bill is a very good one and I have every confidence, as he has, in the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the way in which he has carried out the administration of the territories since 1951. At the same time I want to make a request - and I make it publicly and very strongly. Here we have a bill which is no doubt a very good bill, but it contains 32 clauses and was introduced only this morning. Yet the House is asked to deal with it at this late hour. An emergency has not arisen. This bill could have been brought in at any time during the session, and I ask, therefore, that in future the procedure of this House should be such that we would not be asked to pass a bill which nobody has had time to read. They cannot have had time to read it much less digest what is in it. I know that it only deals with a few people. I know that it only sets up a form of government that is probably an advance on that which previously existed in Norfolk Island. At the same time, I do not think it is right and proper or in accordance with the dignity of Parliament that a bill of 32 clauses should be introduced two days before the end of the sessional period and that Parliament would be asked to discuss it at 11 o’clock at night. If such a bill were due to an emergency which had just happened, that would be another matter; but this measure could be left over until the next period without doing very much harm.
Having said that, I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). I do not like retrospective legislation unless it is justified by special circumstances, even if such provisions have been contained in other acts of Parliament. We have just passed a bill putting beyond doubt the validity of some things that have already been done. But in this bill we propose to give power to make ordinances which may be retrospective. I have been brought up in a school to which the honorable member for Warringah referred as a “ liberal school “. That school believes that no Parliament should pass retrospective legislation, except under the most extraordinary circumstances.
I understand that even penalties can be made retrospective under this bill. Certainly, regulations such as building regulations could be made retrospective. If honorable members will look at the schedule to the bill containing a list of matters on which ordinances can be made, they will see that a lot of ordinances could be made which it would be most unfair to make retrospective. I know that only a thousand people will be affected in this case but I feel, with the honorable member for Warringah, that the principle is wrong. Even if the Parliament has done this sort of thing in the past it should not do it in the future. Therefore, I ask the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) to give very serious consideration to the proposals made by the honorable member for Warringah when we reach Clause 15 at the committee stage. As to the other clauses, I, like every other honorable member, take them on faith from the Minister but this is not the right way for the Parliament to legislate.
.- I feel very strongly that retrospective legislation, insofar as it may impose a penalty, should be resisted. Like honorable members who have just spoken, I want to compliment the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on the bill as a whole which goes a long way towards the establishment of selfgovernment on Norfolk Island. At the same time, I think that it still must be regarded as subordinate legislation. It has been an accepted principle for many years now that subordinate bodies that have power to make legislation should not have power to make retrospective legislation imposing penalties for acts done before the promulgation of that legislation. For example, under this bill the Executive could pass a building ordinance providing that no house should be erected without a clearance from floor to ceiling of 9 ft. 6 in. A person, in all innocence, might erect his house with a clearance of less than that height and might then find that, under an ordinance made operative for a date prior to the construction of his house, he had infringed the law. He would be liable to a penalty and could be compelled by law to pull down his house. Therefore, I say that this matter is not purely academic.
To the best of my knowledge, no local government bodies have power to pass retrospective legislation. In my own State, I know that the State Parliament has been particularly careful in its local government acts to provide that by-laws of a local government shall operate only from the date of promulgation. Therefore, I feel that I should move an amendment to clause 15 as it stands. However, I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Territories and I understand that he is prepared to give an assurance that, in another place, an amendment will be made to the bill to prevent an ordinance having retrospective effect insofar as penalties are concerned. That being the case, I am prepared wholeheartedly to support this bill, and I congratulate the Minister on it.
– in reply - I only wish to speak briefly in answer to some of the comments that have been made. First of all, I should like to thank honorable members for the appreciative references that they have made to the bill. I should like to endorse the remarks made so cogently by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) to the effect that this bill demonstrates the value of visits by parliamentary delegations to the Territories and that the measure represents a consequence of the information gained by the last parliamentary delegation to Norfolk Island.
The only point that has been raised by way of objection to the bill concerns a clause which, among other things, makes it possible for ordinances to have a retrospective effect. One point which I should clear up at the outset is that these ordinances will not be made by the proposed council. Ordinances, in this case, will be made by the Governor-General and, having been made by the Governor-General, they will have to be tabled in this Parliament within fifteen days and unless so tabled they will have no effect at all. An opportunity will be presented in this Parliament for any ordinance to be disallowed within fifteen days of its being tabled. I should like honorable members who have objected to clause 15 to bear that basic fact in mind.
I do not propose to discuss at length the power to make retrospective legislation, but I point out that that is a power that resides in nearly all law-making bodies. It certainly resides in the State parliaments which, in this respect, correspond to the Executive in the making of the basic laws which apply to this Territory. A similar provision has already been inserted by this Parliament or a previous parliament in every act affecting the administration of any Australian territory. From the point of view of those who are engaged in the task of government, such a power is necessary in order to deal with the emergent situations that arise, day by day, in the government of a community. One cannot deal only with immediate situations. One sometimes has to deal with prospective situations and sometimes with retrospective situations. I point out that clause 15 refers, not only to retrospective legislation, but also to prospective legislation. So, the first point that I want honorable members to remember is that this is not a novel or unusual kind of power but a customary kind of power in a great number of law-making bodies.
Having said that, I want to say as emphatically as I can, speaking personally and on behalf of my colleagues in the Government, that we share to the utmost the expressions of liberal sentiment that have been made regarding the undesirability of retrospective legislation. The possession of power and the use of power are surely two different things. What is objectionable is not the possession of the power, because the power may be sometimes used, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has said, to confer benefits. It is only when the power is used in a bad way to secure ill effects that the use of power is open to objection.
We agree fully with , all that has been said about the liberal point of view that retrospective legislation is bad, but that is surely an argument regarding the careful safeguarding of the way in which the power is used. It is not an argument for the complete abolition of the possession of power by any law-making authority.
Having disclosed our views to that extent, I want to go back to the point that I made at the outset, that not one of these ordinances can come into effect until it has been placed on the table of this House. An ordinance, having been made by the Governor-General, has to be placed on the table of this House before it can come into effect, and the members of this Parliament who fear the abuse of the power have their own opportunity in this place of making sure that the power is never abused. They have the opportunity in this place of moving for the disallowance of any ordinance which they think transgresses liberal principles.
But I do appreciate the fears and the apprehensions that have been voiced by honorable members on my side of the House. As the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has indicated, we are quite prepared to arrange for the insertion in another place of an additional sub-section to section 15, to read something like this -
This section does not authorize the making ot an ordinance imposing a penalty in respect of an act or an omission occurring before the date of publication of the ordinance in the “Norfolk Island Government Gazette “.
I should think that if that provision were inserted in another place - and I give my assurance that it will be submitted in another place - it would overcome the objections that have been raised.
– Why not insert it here?
– The reason why I do not propose that it should be inserted by this House is a purely mechanical one. It would involve the reprinting of the bill, and I suggest, simply as a matter of convenience, that it be inserted in another place rather than here.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 14 - by leave - taken together and agreed to.
Clause 15 - (1.) Subject to this Act, the Governor-General may make Ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. (2.) Notice of the making of every Ordinance made under this section shall be published in the “ Norfolk Island Government Gazette “, and an Ordinance shall, unless the contrary intention appears in the Ordinance, come into operation on the date of publication of the notice.
– I thank the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for the explanation that he gave, but I still do not like agreeing to a provision that gives power to act retrospectively. It is all very well to say that that power is possessed by the supreme governing body, the Parliament, but it is very rarely used, and when it is used, unless it is to invalidate something that has already happened, there are generally, very loud objections to it.
I appreciate the Minister’s proposal that the amendment shall be made in another place, but if we are in favour of the amendment, this is the proper place to make it. Why cannot the amendment be made in this House? It would not be printed and circulated, but I do not think that that is necessary from the legal point of view.I would rather see it made here. Why would the bill have to be reprinted?I was going to say exactly what I think I overheard the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) say to the Minister - that is, that if we do not make the amendment here and it is made in another place, it will have to come back here for our approval. Therefore, I do not see any objection to making here the amendment that the Minister has suggested for cutting out retrospectivity with regard to penalties.
– Why not move it yourself?
– I would far rather move “ That the words unless the contrary intention appears in the Ordinance ‘ appearing in clause 15 (2.) be omitted from the bill “.
The number of occasions on which one would want to use retrospectivity are very few and far between. Therefore, it would not take up much of the time of this House if we had to bring in a piece of legislation to deal with it on each occasion. I do not agree with giving any governing body, whether it be a local council or anything else, powers to introduce an ordinance which will affect the lives and the livelihood of people, with a provision for retrospectivity in case it is needed in the future. As this Parliament is responsible for the Territory, anything of that nature should come to the Parliament - not by way of a regulation which one may or may not see. The Parliament may or may not be sitting when a regulation is promulgated. If the Parliament is not sitting, the regulation remains operative, although when the Parliament sits again, it may disallow the regulation within fifteen days.
I have already voiced an objection to this sort of legislation being brought in at this stage of a session. I do not propose to hold up the bill at this stage, but if the Minister does not want to move the amendment here, I shall move it. I move -
That after sub-clause (2.) the following subclause be added - “ (3.) This section does not authorize the making of an ordinance imposing a penalty in respect of an act or omission occurring before the date of publication of notice of the making of the ordinance in the ‘Norfolk Island Government Gazette ‘ “.
– I will accept that amendment.
– I understand that provision for retrospectivity is contained in other acts, so I shall leave the general question of retrospectivity until another session. If that provision is in other acts, it ought to be deleted from them.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Wheat Research Bill 1957.
Flax Fibre Bounty Bill 1957.
Without requests -
Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1957.
Wheat Tax Bill 1957.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1415) on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- On the 22nd November, 1946, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, I announced in this Parliament the appointment by that Government of a committee known as the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee. That committee was charged with the responsibility of making an inquiry and reporting back to the Government the outcome of its inquiry. Its exact charter was that it should -
The committee consisted of nine members representing the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Treasury, the then existing Prices Branch, and the primary producers.
Before I proceed to the outcome of the committee’s investigation I might say that with the appointment of that committee there commenced a new era for dairy farmers in Australia. From that time onwards they were assured of a guaranteed cost of production price for their product, although it is true that there have been modifications of the scheme from time to time. The committee made a report to the Commonwealth Government and its majority recommendation was as follows: -
That it be a recommendation to the Commonwealth Government that an overall return be guaranteed for a period of years, and that during this period the return be subject to variations up or down in accordance with the demonstrated movements in cost factors; and that the present price be established, with retrospective adjustment to 1st April, 1947, on the basis of 2s. Hd. per lb. commercial butter to the farmer at the factory door.
The report then gave further details of the committee’s recommendation, which I need not read. The minority report was as follows: -
That it be a recommendation to the Commonwealth Government: (i) that an overall basic return to the farmers at the factory door of 2s. per lb. commercial butter basis is a fair and reasonable objective to operate from 1st April, 1947;
that the basic return be subject to variation up or down in accordance with the demonstrated movements in cost factors, determined on the basis of an appropriate review to take place each year between 1st April and 15th June; any variation in return to become effective as from 1st July in that year;
that the overall basic return, varied as necessary in accordance with (ii), be guaranteed by the Government for a period of five years from 1st April, 1947.
The Government accepted the price recommendation of the minority committee, which consisted entirely of the representatives of the Treasury, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and the Prices Branch. That recommendation was 2s. per lb. The majority recommendation was made by the producer representatives on that committee. Naturally, allowing for unconscious bias, as we may pleasantly call it, the producers’ recommendation was inclined to be more generous than the minority recommendation of the unbiased Government representatives on the committee. However, take it as you will; another factor had to be considered. In the majority recommendation the term of the guarantee was not precisely stated. It said “ for a period of years “; but the minority recommendation was more precise. It specified a period of five years as the duration of the guarantee.
The then Government then proceeded to make provision for the implementation of what was a combination of the recommendations of the majority and minority factions on this committee. It adopted 2s. as the basis of a guaranteed price to the dairying industry for a period of five years, but in the first period of operation, as the result of increased costs between the appointment of the committee and the commencement of the scheme, the guarantee became 2s. 2d. The recommendation was implemented in the first instance by making a provision that the Joint Dairying Advisory Committee should be charged with the responsibility of ascertaining annually any variation in the cost, upwards or downwards, from the 2s. basic recommendation of the original cost-finding inquiry. In accordance with the minority report, the guarantee was to operate for a period of five years ending July, 1952. It was decided also that, in accordance with the recommendations of the committee, the guarantee should cover all butter produced in Australia, whether for local consumption or for export. It was an over-all guarantee that for whatever the farmer produced he would be paid the price accepted by the Government after consideration of the decisions of the investigating authorities.
– It was terribly low.
– The honorable member who has interjected says it was terribly low. It was the most generous guarantee and the greatest measure of security ever enjoyed by the dairymen of Australia. To sustain that assertion I have in my possession resolutions and letters containing tributes of gratitude to the then government from every responsible dairymen’s association, State and Federal, within the confines of the Commonwealth of Australia, many of them of most conservative tendencies. Some of these organizations went so far as to say that this was the first measure of justice that the dairymen in this country had had since the inception of the industry. That was no doubt substantially true. It is true that this guarantee operated over a period when there was running simultaneously with it a contract system for the sale of all our butter and cheese. That was a contract with the United Kingdom covering a period of years. It did not terminate until 1955. Under that contract, we sold our butter to the United Kingdom Government at a basic price that was subject by agreement and after consultation, to a variation upwards or downwards of 7i per cent. only. It is true that from time to time the opposition of that day in this Parliament criticized that contract and the provision for a 7± per cent, movement up or down, but it is also true that when those who were the critics became the Government and had to administer the contract system, they approached the United Kingdom for a variation of the upward movement of 7i per cent., and the best they could secure was 3£ per cent. The over-all operation of the contract proved most beneficial to the dairymen. Perhaps its success is best illustrated by the fact that prices were so good under the contract system with the United Kingdom Government that for a period a price return was made to the dairy-farmers substantially above that found to be necessary under the guaranteed price system. The dairyfarmers who were well organized, after consultation with the government of the day, decided that they would be wise to establish a fund into which the industry would pay, out of receipts from the United Kingdom, the surplus obtained from the United Kingdom contracts over and above the guaranteed price payments. Over a period of years, the payments into that fund, after the farmers had received the guaranteed price for butter and cheese, amounted to something like £4,000,000. At this juncture in our history when prices are lower in London that fund has already been drawn upon to make up the difference - not entirely, of course, but as far as possible - between the net realization under the scheme which this Government ultimately introduced and the guaranteed price as laid down by the investigating authority. That is the basis of the dairy industry’s security to-day. But when the guarantee that ran for five years from 1947 to 1952 expired, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in this Government was confronted with the need to enact similar legislation because the legislation that had operated for five years had been satisfactory to the industry. Notwithstanding an election promise that the dairy industry would be stabilized for from five to ten years, the Government brought down a new plan in 1952 to succeed the old one. Under the new plan the guaranteed price was not to cover all butter and cheese produced for five years but was to cover only the amount of butter consumed locally, plus up to 20 per cent, of that quantity. That means that the dairy-farmers were penalized for the increase in production that every government had asked them to achieve to the extent that, as exports were increased, unless the subsidy provided was very high, there would not be sufficient funds available to pay the farmers the guaranteed cost of production figure. In addition, the subsidy was payable under the plan that operated under the jurisdiction of the Chifley Government and for more than two years under the jurisdiction of the Menzies Government. At one period the subsidy designed to prevent an increase in the prices to the consumer amounted to £16,000,000. That was the position with which we were confronted in 1952. There was a guarantee to cover all butter consumed locally plus up to 20 per cent, of that quantity and no more. If we exported more than that amount, the excess was taken into consideration when distributing the bounty and assessing returns from local sales at the rate arranged between the State government and the Commonwealth Government. Let us look at this question from the point of view of statistics. This year it is estimated that butter production will be about 200,000 tons. I am speaking in round figures and approximately.
– The figure is now 190,000 tons.
– Home consumption will amount to about 120,000 tons. Because of drought conditions the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) now estimates that production will be 190,000 tons. However, for the purposes of comparison, the difference does not matter. Production is estimated at, say, 200,000 tons, and the amount that will be consumed locally is, say, 120,000 tons. That will leave for export 80,000 tons. Twenty per cent, of 120,000 tons amounts to 24,000 tons. So the total amount of butter covered by guarantee for this year would be 120,000 tons consumed locally plus one-fifth of that amount - 24,000, tons - or a total of 144,000 tons. The balance of 56,000 tons will not be covered by guarantee. Under the Labour government’s guarantee the whole of the butter exported was covered by guarantee.
– To do that now would wreck the industry.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has stated that the industry would be wrecked if the guarantee covered the lot. The Australian Labour party promised during the last general election campaign that if it became the government it would give a guarantee to cover the whole production of the dairy industry. We are prepared to repeat that promise now.
– You offered the moon.
– The leaders of this Government promised to restore value to the £1. What “a great take-down that was! Everybody knows that the £1, which was then worth 12s., is now worth less than 5s. That promise was the worst ever to be put into a policy speech.
In order to cover its guarantee the Government may vary the local price upwards or downwards. It can vary the price by agreement with the State governments. The amount of subsidy is estimated by the Minister to be £13,500,000. It is likely to remain at that figure for the remainder of the new scheme. Under the terms of the measure before the -House the Government could draw on the stabilization fund which was established when butter sold on the overseas market for more than the guaranteed price. Last year instead of the farmer obtaining a guaranteed price overall of roughly 4s. 3d. per lb. he got a net return of approximately only 3s. 9id., although 4s. 3d. was recommended.
Even though a larger quantity of butter were available for export - but that possibility might be modified by the estimate of lower production mentioned by the Minister - the dairy-farmer will receive possibly substantially less return per lb. of commercial butter-fat than even 3s. 9d. or 3s. 9id. But in any case, he must lose. So long as export continues to be increased on the one hand and there is, on the other hand, a decrease in local consumption as a consequence of the increase of 4d. per lb. in the price of butter in 1956, even with the system of a guaranteed price for local consumption plus 20 per cent., the butter producer is not so well off as he was. This position has confronted the Government for some considerable time under its old guarantee scheme that is now to be abolished, and it will continue under the new system of guarantee.
The guaranteed-price plan of the last five years has another regrettable feature. The Labour government received recommendations directly from the Dairying Industry Advisory Committee. These related to any movement up or down in the guaranteed price. However, that authority has been supplanted by an entirely new one. It is termed the Dairying Industry Costing Authority and was established under the 1952-57 plan.
– It is the Dairying Industry Investigation Committee.
– There is a Dairying Industry Investigation Committee and a Dairying Industry Costing Authority as well. The Dairying Industry Costing Authority, instead of being charged solely with the ascertainment of the actual cost of production, is charged also with another set of functions. The obligations imposed upon the costing authority are, first, to investigate production costs annually. Usually, the authority completes its investigation and reaches a conclusion towards the end of June. The Minister then confers with the industry through the organizations of farmers. The Minister tells those organizations what the costing authority’s figures are and what the government subsidy will be. The industry and the costing authority then consider sales and market prospects in Australia and abroad, and afterwards recommend the ex-factory price. They take into consideration the absorptive capacity of the market and the effect that an increase in the price of butter of so many pence per lb. - if the State governments agree to it - will have on the consumption of butter in Australia. Then, further discussions are held, and when these are completed the price announced is one that departs from the price as found after the costing investigation of the authority. The Government operates according to this ultimate price.
I am not going to say that this procedure is altogether bad. It parallels the procedure adopted by the Labour government between 1947 and 1952, and the outcome under both schemes is much the same. The initial finding of the costing authority under the Labour government was 2s. Hd. per lb. in the view of the majority section of the authority and 2s. per lb. in the view of the minority section. The Labour government accepted the minority section’s finding because it believed in its soundness. This Government adopts a similar system, but operates behind the screen of the authority that it has set up to investigate and recommend and so on. Also, it has departed from the price found by that authority. It is well known that the Government has not adopted the cost of production that the costing authority has found. Both governments have operated on a somewhat similar basis in this respect, but there has been a considerable difference between the policies of the two governments in relation to the guarantee of quantities of butter produced. I know that the first guaranteed-price scheme was subjected to caustic criticism because the committee investigating costs of production recommended after its first inquiry that a sum of about £800 a year be assessed as a managerial allowance. It was said by the critics of the government of the day that that allowance for the managerial cost of running a dairy farm was inadequate to the point of being miserly. In the early years of the scheme of the Labour Government that allowance was made more generous; it was increased from £800 to £1,000 a year.
– It was first £650 a year and then increased to £800.
– It went from £650 to £800 and then to £1,000. Under the present scheme the managerial allowance is £1,200; but under conditions of inflation and advancing wages that £1,200 to-day is no more effective in giving the dairyfarmer an adequate return than were the sums of £650, £800 and £1,000 adopted earlier under the guaranteed-price scheme. A comparison of the basic wage now with that in 1946 and 1947 shows at once that £1,200 to-day does not compare favorably with £1,000 or even £800 ten years ago. However, these are only quibbles. The principal interest of the dairy-farmer, I am sure, is not so much the sum that is allowed as managerial expenses in making an assessment of production costs; his interest is how much he will get in the end result through the operation of any guaranteed-price scheme. The amount he will receive under the new scheme and the amount that he has received under the old scheme must be less, because of the inadequate quantity of butter covered by the guarantee, in comparison with the quantity that was covered in the first five-year plan of the Labour government.
When I turn to the measure itself, I must say that there is something strange about it. This bill is entitled: “ An Act to make provision for the payment of bounties on the production of butter and cheese, and for other purposes “. A measure that merely states that a bounty will be paid on butter and makes no mention of the extent of that bounty leaves one in the dark. The bill blithely states that a sum will be declared at specified intervals and that the industry will be informed. What value is a vague scheme to any industry? The industry will not know whether the bounty on butter will be £10,000,000, £5,000,000 or £25,000,000. The Minister said in his second-reading speech that it will be about £13,500,000 for the year that is about to begin, and he expressed a pious hope that it will remain at that figure for the rest of the scheme.
– No, I did not say that. I said that it would be considered annually.
– The Minister is now going to commit himself to a payment of £13,500,000 annually.
– No, for next year.
– And he will decide at the end of the year what the next year’s bounty will be?
– In negotiation with the industry.
– Negotiations with the industry will go on. Here we have the administrator of a plan that will run for five years who has not yet finished his negotiations with the industry.
– Do not pervert what I say.
– An examination of this bill discloses an absence of any mention of a specific bounty over a specific period. There is an absence of any mention of any agreement with the State governments. I sympathize with the difficulties of the Minister in this position. The bill makes no mention of any agreement with the State governments as to the power to be referred by the States to the Minister under agreement, by Act of Parliament or by alteration of the Constitution, in relation to fixing the price of butter in any of the States. The plan has five years to run and the Minister apparently has not yet made any agreement of a binding character. There is no mention of it in this measure, or that the States have agreed that the price of butter in their respective territories shall be fixed annually in consultation with the Minister.
I can well understand, in the absence of any agreement covering the five-year period of operation of the plan, the trepidation that the industry must be feeling. All authorities connected with the plan must be perturbed about whether they will be allowed to raise the price of butter by 4d., or 3d., or make any other variation that might be necessary in implementing the scheme. The fact is that the Government cannot pay a guaranteed price even on local consumption plus 20 per cent, unless it has some means of fixing the ex-factory price of butter in every State. On the other hand, the plan might work in the absence of this power to fix the price, if the Government is willing to pay almost unlimited subsidies.
– If the honorable member will look at the second page of the bill he will see that the State Governments have agreed to continue the arrangements under the plan.
– The Minister says that State governments agreed to continue the arrangements. In what specific terms have they agreed? There is no reference to it in the bill.
– The term is the handing over of price-fixing to the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member can talk until he is blue in the face. The fact is that there is no specific reference in the bill before us now to any agreement or arrangement with the respective State governments in connection with this very knotty problem. I know it is knotty, because I have had experience of it. The Minister, too, knows it is knotty.
The preamble to the 1952 act specifically states -
And whereas the Governments of the States have agreed with a view to ensuing the guaranteed return, that the maximum prices fixed, under the laws of the States relating to prices, for sales of butter or cheese otherwise than by the proprietor of a butter factory or cheese factory will be based on a price from time to time determined by the Minister of State for Commerce and Agriculture of the Commonwealth as the appropriate price for the sale, for consumption in Australia, of butter or cheese, as the case may be, by proprietors of butter factories or cheese factories, and have further agreed to endeavour to have legislation passed by the Parliaments of the States to impose a legal obligation on the appropriate authorities of the States to give effect to that agreement.
There is nothing like that in this new legislation, which completely nullifies the original act. This bill states explicitly that the 1952 act is repealed, though outstanding equalisation payments may be finalised. At least the 1952 act did contain an expression of the moral obligation of the Government to guarantee the price for the whole of local consumption plus 20 per cent, of such consumption. Again I refer to the preamble of that act to support my suggestion. It reads -
Whereas the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States are desirous of guaranteeing to producers of milk and cream used in the production of butter and cheese, for the period of five years which commenced on the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred and fifty-two, a minimum return in respect of so much butter fat as is used in Australia in each year of that period in the production of butter or cheese up to a quantity equal to the quantity of butter or cheese (as the case may be) produced in Australia that is consumed in Australia in that year plus so much of the quantity of butter or cheese (as the case may be produced in Australia that is exported from Australia in that year as does not exceed one-fifth of the quantity of butter or cheese (as the case may be) so consumed and produced in Australia.
I admit that is not binding, but it does express a desire and an obligation. That is to be repealed by this bill. This measure contains no reference to any pledge by the State governments.
Therefore, I suggest that the dairyfarmers will be standing on very shaky foundations. I make that statement for two reasons. One is that the Government has no commitment under this bill, except to pay a bounty of £x, which could amount to any sum from £1 to £20,000,000. There is no reference in the bill to any agreement between the State governments that the prices ex-factory will be left to the discretion of the Commonwealth. Finally, there is no undertaking by this Government to guarantee cost of production on all butter and cheese produced within the Commonwealth.
I venture the opinion that the Government is fearful that if it guaranteed the cost of production on all butter and cheese produced in Australia it is possible that within the next five years, or some other period, the strain on the Consolidated Revenue Fund would be very serious indeed. The Government fears that production will continue to increase, as it has been doing over the years, and as we all hope it will do. But everybody knows that on the law of averages there must be a decline in production when droughts overtake the industry.
Again, the Government is confronted with the fact that its immigration policy is increasing our population by approximately 120,000 souls annually so that within a period of only five years the population of Australia will be not 9,000,000 but 12,000,000. If in the meantime the Government fails to encourage the industry by guaranteeing the cost of all production, it may be placed in the invidious position in which it found itself so recently as 1951 when the industry had declined to such an extent that it could not supply our own people in some parts of the Commonwealth. The dairying industry is not one into which thousands of new settlers rush each year.
– You should not be a calamity howler.
– I am not a calamity howler. I am merely warning the honorable member for Macarthur and others who support a limited guarantee that it is possible that within a very short period there will be a butter famine in Australia. lt is true that in the coming year such a scheme could cost the Government a good deal of money, but on the other hand it might not cost anything in another year. The Government must accept responsibility, and it must assess the situation. Under the present system of guaranteeing cost of production on local consumption plus onefifth of that amount, we have the invidious position that the more a farmer produces the less his return becomes. What a nice incentive that is!
I was responsible for persuading the Government of which I was a member to grant to the dairying industry £250,000 annually, for five years, to be distributed through State Departments of Agriculture and other instrumentalities, for the purpose of increasing efficiency and encouraging increased production. Under the system of limited guarantees, we have a situation in which the more a man produces the less he gets. That is lovely, is it not?
– That is not so.
– It is so.
– Do you mean per lb.?
– That is right. If production went up to 260,000 tons next year and our local consumption did not increase much beyond what it is now-
– It will go down.
– It will, but if that should happen, we could have a situation under which, if the London price is low, a man who produces more butter will receive less money. Let us all hope that the London price goes to a figure that will enable a guarantee to be paid on all butter produced. I am referring to a situation in which the London price will remain low. In those circumstances, the more a man produces, and, consequently, the bigger the surplus he exports, the lower his return will be.
I remind the House that the Labour government inaugurated this wonderful scheme which has worked so successfully. I admit that it has been limited in its application over the last five years The Labour party will support this Government in any scheme that will guarantee to the producers a price as recommended by a tribunal, even one set up by this Government, for every lb. of butter and cheese produced in Australia. We are not calamity howlers. We are conscious of the rapidly increasing population, and we hope to see an increase in the standard of living. We hope that the consumption of butter will be increased instead of reduced.
The present position is that the increase of 4d. per lb. in the price of butter granted by this Government in 1956 has resulted in a decrease in the consumption of butter by 1 lb. per head per annum. Some may argue that that is not a very large quantity, but when we appreciate that this reduction in consumption is suffered by the less affluent sections of the community, by those who can least afford to have their consumption of butter reduced, it becomes very serious indeed. Again, every time the price of butter is increased beyond a fair figure, the consumption of margarine is encouraged.
Therefore, I urge the Government not to discourage the dairying industry. I am confident that it would be doing a wise thing and would be making the industry safe if it applied the guarantee to all butter and cheese produced. The Labour party is prepared to support such a scheme. It has never retreated from its attitude in connexion with this guarantee to the dairying industry.
The dairying industry is a great industry. It is a seven days a week industry. Having worked in it for years, I know all about it. It is a most arduous industry, but if the returns for the labour put into it are sufficiently remunerative, it is a most attractive industry for lovers of live-stock.
In conclusion, I submit that these producers are entitled to an adequate and comprehensive guarantee in return for the great work they carry out for the community.
– What does the honorable member suggest it should be?
– The honorable member for Macarthur can work that out for himself. It depends on the local market and upon production. The honorable member represents a dairying district. He knows the obligations and implications. A satisfactory guarantee would not be beyond the financial resources of this country. If it involved the payment of very heavy subsidies, it might be a little more inflationary than an increase of the price of wool would be, but all the additional money paid to the dairy-farmers would help to boost the spending power of the whole community. The farmers would buy more agricultural machinery, superphosphates, and the like, and employment in all the industries that sell to the dairyfarmers would be increased, and the employees would have more money to spend. Surely the risk of inflationary pressure is not too great in the circumstances. I leave the matter there.
Sitting suspended from 12.1 to 12.31 a.m. (Wednesday).
Wednesday, 22 May 1957
– We are nearing the end of the second five-year term of a stabilization scheme applicable to the dairying industry - an industry which has grown to be the third or fourth most valuable primary producing industry in Australia, and one which is distinctly valuable as a source of overseas credits. Undoubtedly, the first five-year scheme was implemented by our predecessors in office, and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) went to great pains to justify their actions and their acceptance of the recommendations of the cost-finding committee.
Before I refer to the record of the honorable member for Lalor as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the previous government, and to the record of that government itself, let me say, as a believer in stabilization schemes for primary industries and as one who has worked all his life for orderly marketing, irrespective of party politics, that the Labour government which introduced the first five-year stabilization scheme for the dairying industry is worthy of commendation for that action. However, that government did not act in the bona fide way that the honorable member for Lalor would have us believe. That government was in office for about two and a half years of the first five-year scheme. It appointed a costfinding committee, as the honorable member himself has Told the House to-night. The majority recommendation of that committee was for a price of 2s. lid. per lb., but the government officials - the minority section - recommended 2s. The then government accepted the minority recommendation. That is something which this Government has never done; we have always accepted the recommendations of the cost-finding committee. That was the position in the first year’s operations.
In the second year, the Labour government did accept - as far as my memory serves me - the finding of the committee. We come to the third year, 1949. In that year, it looked as though the scheme would collapse completely, because the then government would not guarantee for twelve months the price recommended by the committee. It would guarantee it only for six months, although there was a five-year scheme. That guarantee extended to thirteen days beyond the date of the general election, and the dairymen were left in the dark. They did not know what would happen after the election if Labour was returned. Fortunately for the dairying industry, the Liberal party and the Country party were successful at the election, and they promised to implement the recommendation of the cost-finding committee. That promise was honoured. More than that, when the £] loading was put on to the basic wage by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, this Government, although it was not committed to do so, decided to increase the amount that the dairymen were to receive. We have proved our bona fides by accepting every recommendation made by the committee. The formula upon which the costs were determined, as laid down by the honorable member for Lalor when he was the responsible
Minister, was liberalized considerably when we came into power and was made much better for the dairymen.
In the second term, we guaranteed the cost of production plus 20 per cent, on all local consumption. The dairymen were very happy about that and expressed their satisfaction with it. For the first two years of that five-year term there was no uncertainty. During the term of that agreement, again without any commitment to do so, we liberalized the formula. We agreed to an extra allowance for family labour, which had not previously been provided for. We increased to 4 per cent, the interest rate of 3i per cent, that was allowed by the honorable member for Lalor, in respect of capital invested in properties, stock and so on. To-day we allow the normal bank interest of 5i per cent-, which is quite a fair proposition.
Let us look now at the other matter that the honorable member mentioned - the owner-operator allowance. Surely the honorable member for Lalor would take a dim view of any one who did not pay even the basic wage to a dairyman managing a farm. This Government increased the allowance for an owner-operator, and today it stands at £1,005. I express some disappointment that the Government has not increased the allowance further by this measure. No one could suggest reasonably that an owner-operator, with the responsibilities that he has to carry, and working far in excess of 40 hours a week, should receive an allowance no greater than, perhaps, a stenographer in this House, who works only 40 hours a week and does not have the same responsibilities or liability to loss. I hope that the Minister, in his determination - which may not have been finalized - will do all that he can to see that the £100 extra allowance asked for by the dairymen is conceded by the Government. I express myself as being strongly in favour of that. I can see no reason why the request should not be granted.
I express my appreciation of the Minister’s recommendation to the cost-finding committee that there should be a production formula or a balance to determine costs throughout the years. If I may say so to the Minister, it is essential that we should have an average production figure upon which costs can be determined. In a dry spell such as we are experiencing this year in Queensland and New South Wales, and also, to a degree, in Western Australia, costs are higher than they are in a bountiful season. If, next year, we should have a good season, and costs are determined on the basis of this year’s drought conditions, we shall have the costs of a drought year being applied to a bountiful season. In other circumstances, we could have costs determined in a bountiful season applicable to a season of drought. Instead of that, the dairymen are prepared to accept, and the Minister has recommended that the costfinding committee also should accept, the principle that an average production figure should be adopted. If that figure were determined at the beginning of the five-year period, it would encourage efficiency and enable farmers to improve their herds and their pastures, and thus achieve a better result. The indifferent farmer who did not increase efficiency or output would not derive any benefit from this arrangement between the Minister and the dairyfarmers. I suggest that that is something that we should do to increase efficiency in the industry.
The honorable member for Lalor boasted of the fact that when Labour was in office the whole of the output of the industry was guaranteed, but he did not state all the facts. We know that during the time he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture there was a shortage of butter. There was, too, a government-to-government arrangement between Great Britain and Australia. The price that Britain was paying for our butter at that time did not involve any commitment on the part of the Australian government, because the export price was then greater than the local consumption price. In view of the fact that the dairymen were receiving as little as 2s. per lb. for butter at that time, it is easy to appreciate that the overseas price was considerably more than that. Although the overseas price is low to-day, it is still in excess of 2s. per lb. I am open to correction, but I think that when this Government came to office the price of butter was 2s. 6d. per lb. We know that to-day the cost of production in the dairying industry has risen to 4s. 3d. per lb., which more than compensates for rises in the cost of living. The dairyman is therefore better off as a conse quence of the action we have taken in liberalizing the formula and in giving every encouragement to this great industry.
This is an industry which has proved to be worthwhile because, as the Minister stated in his second-reading speech, butter production has increased by 26 per cent.,, whilst the incomes of dairy-farmers haveincreased by 17 per cent. The value of butter production alone last year was. £83,000,000, whilst the value of milk products exported was approximately £40,000,000.
We hear a great deal of talk about the importance of wool, and it is said frequently that the economy rides on the sheep’s back. That is true to a degree, but if we excluded industries such as the meat industry, the dairying industry and the wheat industry, the economy would not be able to survive on wool alone. It is therefore essential for the Government to recognise the worth of these other industries. The honorable member for Lalor stated that the bill before the House dealt only with bounty payments. That is so, of course. The subsidy or bounty payments are determined from’ year to year by the Government. I am pleased that the Minister has refrained from reducing the amount of bounty from the present £13,500,000. Speaking for myself, I would battle against any future reduction, so far as this five-year stabilization scheme is concerned. A reduction certainly would not be made with my consent.
The honorable member for Lalor also said that there was no guarantee provided in the bill. I point out, however, that there has been a guarantee given by the Minister to the Australian Dairy Council, which represents the industry. The guarantee is covered by a letter from the Ministry to the council, which is a more legally effective way of providing a guarantee than that provided by the previous legislation. There is no doubt that the guarantee that has been promised by the Minister will abide. The term of the guarantee is five years. I believe that that is a sufficiently long term. In the past, I have been an advocate of stabilization schemes of ten years’ duration for various industries, but as a result of experience, and having seen the way in which circumstances have changed in the dairying industry between 1952 and 1957, I think that we ought to review these schemes from time to time, so that we can meet the circumstances that confront us.
– Now tell us about peanut butter.
– The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the bill before the House embodied three main points; first, a price guarantee for five years, from 1st July next, in respect of butter and cheese; secondly, the guarantee to cover all butter and cheese consumed in Australia, plus 20 per cent, of that amount; and thirdly the method of determining the level of returns to dairy-farmers for butter and cheese consumed locally, plus 20 per cent, of that quantity. The Australian Dairy Council is content with the first and second of those points, but requests additional consideration of the third one. Indeed, the council has asked for a special subsidy to obviate the lower price that results from averaging the export and local consumption prices. I do not know whether I understood the honorable member for Lalor correctly, but it seemed to me that he was not very favorably disposed to the system of subsidy payments.
– I am very favorably disposed towards it.
– I am glad to have that correction. I did not want to misrepresent the honorable member. This Government considers that the payment of subsidies to the dairying industry is beneficial both to the industry and the country. Every householder has benefited to a great degree because subsidies have been paid. Even the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who interjected something about peanuts, benefits by 6d. on each pound of butter he buys, and in the past he benefited by 7id. per lb. In the main, the dairying industry subsidy has been a consumer subsidy. No one will contend of course, that it has not also assisted the industry considerably, because if that subsidy of 6d. or 7id. had not been paid the dairymen’s market would have been considerably restricted. Because of the payment of this subsidy, the dairymen enjoy a better local market. The system therefore assists both the producer and consumer. The local market is the best market for the dairying industry, as it is for many other industries. We are dependent upon Britain and certain other countries for the sale of our export butter. The fact that production has risen by approximately 26 per cent. - in Victoria it has doubled in recent years - means that the difficulty in selling our product overseas has been increased.
I am glad to know that the Minister has agreed to send experienced men in the industry abroad to investigate the best means of selling our products on overseas markets. I refer to men like Chris Sheehy, who has spent all his life in the industry. No one is better fitted to lead the delegation, to ascertain the facts, and to determinate what recommendations ought to be placed before the Minister. I am sure that the sending of this delegation will pay dividends and will help us to determine the position abroad.
We are all glad, of course, to know that export prices have risen somewhat in recent weeks. Previously they had been quite unprofitable. There may be need to investigate conditions overseas to ascertain whether we could employ better means of marketing our produce, and whether we are placing too much on the market at once. We have bountiful seasons and consequently have a surplus; and under a stabilized marketing scheme surpluses should not necessarily be sold at glut prices. What is the good of a stabilization scheme if we dump everything on the market as it is produced? A stabilized, orderly marketing system should provide for the orderly delivery of our products to the best advantage of the seller, and that fact should be taken into account. Because of drought conditions, Queensland is now so short of butter that it cannot supply part of its normal market in New South Wales. Consequently, no butter is being exported. I repeat that an orderly marketing system should include an orderly system of delivery. So the action of the Minister in allowing a delegation to go overseas is commendable.
Perhaps the delegation will determine the wisdom or otherwise of the system that has been adopted overseas to market our produce under various brands. We have heard that the Department of Trade has embarked upon a system of advertising other commodities, using the name “ Aus “. Can we not advertise butter, using the name “ Aus “, and not allow it to be blended with butter from other countries? I hope that the Australian delegation will do something definite in that direction. I admit that until recently we have not had a continuous supply to meet overseas demands. It is difficult to market a product when we cannot satisfy the market all the year round, but I think we have reached the stage where we can do that. For that reason, I think we ought to market our butter as an Australian product, and support that advertising scheme by supplying the best quality butter that we can produce. If we produce a commodity that is worthy of the name “ Aus “, we will get better results.
I am disappointed that the owneroperator allowance that was sought by the industry has not been granted. I am pleased that the Minister has adopted an averaging system on the lines suggested by the industry in order to determine the cost of production. I do not know that I am pleased that the amount of the subsidy determined by the Cabinet has not been raised beyond £13,500,000, because dairymen have been negotiating with me day and night for months and months, and I know that the Minister has had similar negotiations with the Australian dairy council as being representative of the whole industry.
To sum up, I commend the Minister for his energy and enterprise, and for the sympathetic way in which he has met the industry. I hope that he will even grant the last concession that I have sought, that is, an increase of the owner-operator allowance. If he does that, he will have done more for the industry than has been done before.
– It is amazing just how much this Government, when dealing with the wheat, wool and dairying industries, has copied from the Labour government that preceded it, and how many of the ideas that Labour introduced have been followed and even expanded by this Government in the light of modern conditions. For that reason, Labour has supported the majority of the measures that have been introduced by the Government in relation to those three important primary industries. The idea of stabilization or equalization was introduced by Labour. We are glad to know that the Government has embarked upon a second five-year plan that will take us to 1962.
Consideration of a few statistics relating to the dairying industry- would not be out of place at this stage. The number of dairy farms in Australia has risen considerably within the last three years to 66,000. Those farms employ approximately 110,000 people, and 10,000 persons are employed in factories that manufacture butter, cheese and other milk products. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has stated that there are 150,000 milking machines in this country, which indicates the vast degree of mechanization that has taken place. In 1950, there were 145,000 milking machines- in Australia. Although the Minister said that there are now 150,000 machines, I think that figure is incorrect. The Commonwealth “ Year Book “ for 1956 shows that in 1954 there were 189,000 machines in Australia, and I should say that now probably many more than 200,000 are being used. Another interesting fact is that between £600,000,000 and £700,000.000, is invested in the industry, which shows that it is of considerable importance.
The figures that were furnished by the Minister in his second-reading speech in relation to annual production were most interesting. He indicated that butter production amounting to 190,000 tons can be expected during this financial year. A further interesting fact is the increase in recent years of the number of dairy cows in this country. From 1952 to 1954, the number of dairy cows rose by 165,000. I am referring to cows in milk, and not dry cows. There are about 5,000,000 dairy cows both in milk and dry on the 66,000 dairy farms in Australia to-day.
As the honorable member for Lalor pointed out, the method provided in the bill for assisting the industry by a guaranteed price for all butter and cheese consumed in Australia, plus 20 per cent., is the crux of the measure. That is the limited subsidy system, and the example given by the Minister of how this would work out shows that if the production of butter amounted to 190,000 tons - as it will this year - and local sales, come to 120,000 tons, the guaranteed quantity would be 144,000 tons, which would be 120,000 tons plus 20 per cent., so that about 75 per cent, of the total production would be subsidized. The other 46,000 tons would go to the overseas markets; then trust to luck. That is what it means. We have to face the vagaries of fluctuating markets overseas in respect of 46,000 tons.
The honorable member for Lalor very rightly pointed out that a situation could develop where a low overseas price, even under a stabilization plan, could mean that the return to the farmer would not cover cost of production. So, even though we do our best to plan ahead and stabilize the industry to try to give the dairy-farmer a cost-of-production return, there is always the question mark of the overseas market conditions which hangs like the sword of Damocles above the heads of the dairyfarmers.
There is another point that I consider to be a very crucial one. That is that in the last two years the United Kingdom bulk purchase system has terminated. It ended in 1955. The Minister pointed out the change that has come into the industry as a result of the end of the firm-contract arrangement. Before, when this system operated, the Commonwealth Dairy Producer Equalization Committee Limited was safe in authorizing interim payments up to the export price. Consequently, interim payments were finally close to the equalization value, and only a small deferred payment was necessary. This will no longer be the case, because the overseas prices will not be able to be gauged. As the Minister has said, the position has changed dramatically, and the committee is faced with estimating initial payments on production in the light of fluctuating overseas prices. This will place the industry on the shifting sands of uncertainty.
Now that the contract system has ended it is useless for the Minister to kid himself that we are in a better position in comparison with our position even in the pre-war period. According to his statement, the farmers can now expect small initial interim payments at the commencement of the season and substantial deferred payments when the season’s produce has all been sold, and we know what was obtained for overseas sales. This is, in large degree, a return to the law of the jungle, which the equalization plan is not going to iron out easily.
The dairy-farmer surely knows at this stage the uncertainty that really faces him. As the honorable member for Kingsford Smith (Mr. Curtin) has said, he is on the execution block, and those who are wielding the axe are the buyers and consumers overseas. For this scheme to work there must be a consistent overseas market to take all the surplus for sale at a reasonable price, and there must also be an increase of consumption at home.
The “ Year-Book “ shows that we are exporting our dairy products to 22 countries, which is the greatest number of countries to which we sell any rural commodity. I notice with satisfaction that eight of those countries are Asian countries - Borneo, Ceylon, Hong Kong, India, Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is interesting to note that from March, 1956, to March, 1957, we increased our exports to those places from 6,268,000 lb. weight to 7,568,000 lb. weight, which is an increase of about 1,300,000 lb. weight. The advantage of this is twofold. First, we have new markets in Asia and, secondly, the transport cost of sending our products to those countries is not as great as it is for sending them to England. In respect of freights to England, we are tied up by the Conference lines, which are already blackmailing the Government in regard to immigration, and our primary producers have to face the problem of increased freights in the future.
Development of our markets in Asia is a sound policy, and it is satisfying to see the great increase in our dairy products trade with Asia. I hope that it will increase even further in the five years of this plan, because it is on the continuance and expansion of our overseas markets for those products that much of the success of the stabilization plan depends. If we fail overseas, the plan fails as far as the return to the farmer is concerned.
A serious statement about our exports was made in Melbourne to-day by Mr. J. G. Crawford, Secretary of the Department of Trade. A statement of his is quoted on page 3 of to-night’s Melbourne “ Herald “, under the heading of “ Price Cutting War Hits the Dairy Market”. I did not realize that the lack of quality in our products was so serious until I read his statement. He said -
The dairying industry should take a searching look at the quality of its products. In 19SS its figures for grading of export butter showed that only 55% was choicest grade and the rest was first and second grade. Prices in England recently reveal a much higher price for New Zealand and Danish butter compared with Australian butter. ls it that we have not used research as much in this industry as in the wool and wheat industries? Is the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organization devoting sufficient of its time to improving the quality of our milk, cheese and processed milk products? If we cannot maintain a high quality, how can we compete with New Zealand and Danish butter, cheese and other dairy products on the overseas market?
– What is wrong with our first-quality butter?
– It may be all right, but 1 am just quoting Mr. Crawford, the Secretary of the Department of Trade, who is very concerned about the matter. All I ask at this stage is that the leaders of the dairying industry, during the next two or three years, make a combined effort in relation to quality. We have to improve the quality of this product, according to the statement by Mr. Crawford. For exports the quality should be much better than 55 per cent, for choicest grade. Countries such as New Zealand and Denmark concentrate on quality rather than quantity, and I feel that Australia will have to pay more attention to quality. Because of my concern about increasing our home market for dairy products, I asked the Minister for Primary Industry the following question in the House on 1st May: -
Is the Minister aware that the overseas market for dairy products is now over-supplied? Will the Government, in an endeavour to boost sales of our dairy products within Australia, amend the Dairy Industry Act so that the Australian Dairy Produce Board will be empowered to finance promotion of dairy produce sales in Australia in order to expand home consumption? Failing this, will the Government establish, by act of Parliament, a dairy industry marketing commission to handle and publicize the internal sales of dairy products?
Some people may say that 120,000 lb. is a lot of butter to be consumed in Australia, but as we increase the number of dairy farms and encourage more people to go into the industry, our production will increase and this means we must expand the home consumption. I understand that the Dairy Produce Board has no power to assist in promoting sales in Australia. It can deal with overseas sales only.
– The honorable member should read the bill. That is provided for.
– I still have to be convinced that such a provision is contained in the bill. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has raised an interesting point. He says that such a provision is in the bill, but the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out what I have noted myself - that two or three points contained in the Minister’s secondreading speech relate to matters that are not in the bill. A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) said that the Government had not brought this point out completely. We need a separate organization to help to boost the sales of this product in Australia. In reply to my question on 1st May last the Minister said -
The Victorian Dairy Farmers’ Association, the Primary Producers’ Union of New South Wales and the Queensland Dairymen’s Organization are now undertaking a promotion campaign for the sale of butter in their own States.
That sounds very well, but how much will this Government help them? What about other Slates such as Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia? We have to make a greater effort to increase the home consumption of these products in all States, and only a Commonwealth-wide organization can achieve that. In his reply to my question, the Minister further stated that representatives of the Australian Dairy Produce Board had gone to England to try to boost our sales over there. We hope that they will meet with success. In the opening sentence of my question, I asked the Minister whether he was aware that a startling decline was expected in the new interim butter-fat prices to be announced shortly. The Minister, in reply, said -
As to London prices, it is true that the price of butter on the London market has fluctuated up and down and, a few days ago was, I think about 258s. per cwt., which was a little better than previously. In March it was 248s. per cwt.
If the price were maintained at that level, the dairying industry would not be satisfied, but as I said before, if it drops below that level, the industry could be in very serious difficulties.
– The figure of 258s. is too low. That is no good for dairying.
– That may be. What would the honorable member suggest is a reasonable figure?
– Not below 300s.
– The honorable member for Fisher thinks that 300s. would be nearer the mark, and I agree. The figure of 258s. is a long way below that. I saw in the precincts of the House to-day a member of a major dairying organization. His opinion was that this is a good bill, and he is perfectly happy with it. I hope that it works out as he expects it will. However, members of the Opposition can see many dangers facing the industry in the future. On 20th May - that is the day before yesterday - the Minister wrote to me, dealing more fully with the matters I had raised in my question on 1st May. The last two paragraphs of his letter are as follows: -
The pattern of equalization payments to dairy farmers since the termination of the United Kingdom contract, therefore, seems to be for a low initial rate and a fairly substantial deferred payment.
Because production prospects for 1957-58 give no reason for optimism at the moment, and United Kingdom market prospects on the other hand are most encouraging there is no reason to believe that the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee will cause any startling decline in the new initial interim butter-fat rates for 1957-58 shortly to be announced. You will appreciate, however, that the determination of the new rates is entirely a matter for the industry itself, through the Equalization Committee.
That price has not been announced yet, but we all hope that it will be over 300s. per cwt. As a member who has a large number of dairymen in his electorate, I feel that they will greet this bill with mixed feelings. The majority of the articles published in the Tasmanian Farmers Federation journal lately have been concerned with the doubts and fears of the dairymen. The impression I have gained from those articles is that the dairymen are restless about their future. There are factors outside their control which make them afraid of what the future holds. If there is only a slight decline of the prices of dairy products many of the men who have just gone into the industry will go out again, quick and lively- They are just on the borderline now, getting a return sufficient to cover their costs of production.
Summing up the situation, I feel that the future of the industry is in the balance at the moment. If prices were to fall either at home or overseas, grave economic disability would be caused to hundreds of dairymen who have gone into the industry in recent years, including many returned soldiers. I am certain that all honorable members, particularly those on the Opposition side, hope that the plan proposed in this bill will work out successfully, that the overseas market will maintain its high level and that the consumption of dairy products both at home and overseas will be increased.
– Firstly, I commend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) for the patience with which he has approached this problem and for the great amount of hard work and time he has spent in consultation with industry leaders on this most important matter. I wish to mention one or two points that previous speakers have raised. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) implied that if he were in the ministry he would guarantee total production. He did not say how he would pay for that guarantee. Such a statement is, perhaps, typical of many of the remarks that come from the Opposition side. Honorable members opposite say that they will do this and that and that they will hand out money right and left, but they very rarely say where the money will come from.
The dairy-farmer gets his return from two sources - from the price the consumer pays over the counter and from the bounty. To guarantee total production this year - based on present overseas market prices for the remainder of this year and on the price for the last few months - would have meant an increase of lOd. in the local price or an increase in the subsidy of £12,000,000. The first of these would obviously have a considerable effect on consumer resistance. The second one is of doubtful validity when we consider that over the last few years already well over £100,000,000 has been spent in subsidies to this most important industry.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that the honorable member for Lalor said that the total guarantee would not constitute a continued drain on Consolidated Revenue. However, if we look at the experience of the United States of America we find that that is not so. That country got into considerable trouble with its farm-support programme for the very reason that it guaranteed total production. The honorable mem- ber for Lalor said that droughts and the law of averages would lower production inside this country, but I doubt whether that opinion is realistic. Over the last few years, many new areas have been opened up in assured rainfall areas of Australia, and many more soldier settlers are on dairy farms, and it is unlikely that even with adverse seasons production in the dairy industry will ever fall back to the levels of five or six years ago.
It would not, I am quite sure, be in the interests of the industry to have total production guarantee. It would tend to draw too many people into the industry, place more and more butter on an unprofitable overseas market, and constitute a considerably increased drain on Consolidated Revenue as each year went by.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that the success of the stabilization plan depended upon a consistent overseas market. I believe that to say so is to fly in the face of the facts, because we just have not a consistent overseas market and we do not look like getting one. Real stability in the industry depends far more, I believe - and I will have a few words to say about this in a few moments - on having a far greater proportion of our total production consumed inside Australia. If that can be achieved, then real worthwhile benefit will accrue to the industry.
It may be worth looking very briefly at what has happened over the last five years under the expiring stabilization scheme. Production has risen by about 40,000 tons from 160,000 tons to 200,000 tons. Victorian production has risen from 60,000 tons to 90,000 tons and New South Wales production is up by 4,000 or 5,000 tons. The other States have maintained their previous production, but not much more than that. The total income for the Commonwealth is up by about 17 per cent, from £71,000,000 to £84,000,000 last year. Victoria’s income is up from £25,000,000 to £38,000,000. These facts tend to show that areas in Victoria and certain specified areas in New South Wales are by far the most suitable for efficiency and low-cost dairying.
Over the last five years, more than £100,000,000 has been paid in subsidy, 45 per cent, of which has gone to production in Victoria, 20 per cent, to Queensland and New South Wales, and only about 4 per cent, to the other States. Those figures again reflect the production in the different States.
Consumption over the last few years reached a peak in 1951 with over 31 lb. per head. The price of butter to the consumer, despite the stabilization scheme has risen slowly but steadily. No real evidence of consumer resistance occurred until the 4d. increase in 1955-56, but the fall in consumption per head that followed that increase of price was evidence of consumer resistance, although it is also true that we must take into account the increasing number of immigrants coming into Australia, who had been used to consuming far less butter than we do in this country. The figures which come to mind are about 3 lb. per head for Italians and about 15 lb. per head for Germans. Those figures are far below the Australian average, and it is reasonable to suppose that as more immigrants come here they will tend to lower the average for the whole of the country. The total consumption rose from about 110,000 tons to 118,000 tons, but a far greater proportion is being drawn on to an unprofitable export market. That means again that the guaranteed proportion is falling from something like 67 per cent, to 57 per cent., although this year, because of lower production, it will rise again to a certain extent.
Certain factors emerge from these figures. First, they show that the home market is by far the best market for the Australian dairy industry, and everything possible must be done to preserve and extend that market. Everything possible must be done to make sure that more of the total production is consumed on our local market. It has been shown quite clearly that the British market is an unreliable one and that it is very difficult, when dealing with a stabilization scheme, or a five-year plan, to pay any real regard to the price of our butter sold in the United Kingdom at any particular time. A few months ago, the price was about 250s. sterling per cwt., but just recently it rose to over 300s. Those figures show that the United Kingdom market is an unreliable factor in dealing with a five-year plan and the influence of such a price can be dealt with only on a year-by-year basis.
Generally, it is quite clear that production is increasing steadily throughout Australia. There are several reasons for this.
The major one is probably that we have experienced good seasons. In addition, there are many more dairy-farmers than there were coming directly from soldier settlement policies in most States, and more especially from Victoria. Thirdly, there are better herds and better techniques and, last but not least, there has been a stabilization plan which has given farmers confidence in their industry and encouraged them to improve their herds and production where they can.
In the new plan, there are various new factors which I am happy to see. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) mentioned one of the most important, the acceptance of a constant productivity factor on the recommendation of the Dairy Industry Investigation Committee. This will be a stimulus to farmers for efficiency and will give efficient farmers the benefit of their own increased production. 1 am also glad to see, in view of the present overseas market position, that there is to be no hard-and-fast rule regarding the subsidy. It will not, as a matter of course, be lowered each year. Indeed, I am happy that it is not to be reduced in the coming year and I am glad to see that it is still being preserved at a fixed amount to be determined at the beginning of any one year.
Then again, it is an important point, and contrary to what the honorable member for Lalor said a few minutes ago, that the Dairy Industry Stabilization Fund will be made available, on the advice of dairy industry leaders, and with the approval of the Minister, for necessary research and sales promotion. This is so stated in the Minister’s speech, and is also written into the bill in clause 13, sub-clauses (a) and (b). The fourth point is that the industry wanted an assurance that there would not be a price rise merely to cover a reduction in subsidy. I think that is a fair enough request in view of present circumstances. The only thing that would go against it would be a very great rise in overseas prices which would have made a reduction in subsidy possible, but then it would have been necessary to raise the local domestic price. I am sorry that that assurance was not given directly to the industry, because I think it would have been fair enough in view of the present market conditions overseas.
However, the Government has indicated that it is unwilling to approve a price rise for three most important reasons. It tends to lower the Australian consumption, it throws more on to the unprofitable export market and the price margin between butter and margarine is increased. For these three reasons, I would think it most unlikely that the Government would reduce the subsidy and, as a consequence, increase the price, but I am sorry that it did not give the direct assurance on that point to the industry.
The Government and the Liberal party are, in principle, opposed to subsidies, but if we are to be realistic, and take into account all the circumstances, including the export prices, and the quantity exported in any one year, we must admit that there is no practical chance of reducing or getting rid of the subsidy while maintaining stability and prosperity in this most important industry. lt presents a long-term problem because, as things are, the industry depends upon the subsidy and that is not a healthy condition.
There are two, or perhaps three, possible solutions. First, the diversification of dairying industry products. At present about 60 per cent, of the milk goes to the making of butter, and 8 per cent, to the making of cheese while about 25 per cent, is used as milk. Very little of it finds other outlets and 1 hope that the research of the future will be directed to trying to persuade people to consume dairy products in forms other than those to which we have been accustomed. Alternatively, we can say, “ We want exports to the greatest extent possible and will subsidize you because you are selling your goods on an unprofitable market “. If we are to do that we may as well admit that we shall have to pay the subsidy, and continue paying it, but I believe that that is the wrong solution. We should try to make the industry independent so that removal of the subsidy, without destroying the prosperity of the industry, will be possible. I am sure that the producers would prefer that.
If the industry is to become independent, two things are implied. First, costs must be lowered and a greater proportion of the product consumed on the home market. To achieve this various other things are needed. First, there has to be co-ordination with the States. This has been sadly lacking in regard to the dairying industry in past years.
That co-ordination could operate in regard to soldier settlement and closer settlement programmes, but the States must be told what we want from the dairy industry. In the absence of that information they cannot make adequate decisions on the opening up of new land, for they cannot know what form of production is needed. So far as soldier settlement is concerned, the land chosen is sent before by a committee on which this Government is represented. It has a power of veto regarding the form of settlement undertaken in any particular area. That power has been used once in regard to the dried fruit industry at Robinvale. Influence should perhaps be brought to bear in that way again concerning dairying. I know from my own experience that some soldier settlers in Victoria who have been classified for grazing holdings, have been told, “ If you want a block you had better accept this mixed farm, which means dairying.” Many Victorian soldier settlers are on areas that are so small that, no matter what happens to the industry in the future, they must engage in dairying. It may be possible in this way to place more men on farms in a smaller area, but that is not a long-term view. Closer settlers and soldier settlers should not be placed on areas that lend themselves to only one form of production, unless that form of production is sound and their future is assured. Even though they may be placed on some of the best dairy farms in Australia, the production for which they are responsible will tend to make the industry less stable because it will add to the total quantity that is thrown on to the overseas market.
In addition, a certain amount of reconstruction of the industry is needed. Highcost producers should perhaps not be in the industry at all. It is quite possible that they would be better off producing something else, Australia would also be better off because it would then have available increased production of some other commodity that could be exported at a better price. Reconstruction within the industry implies greater development and mechanization on farms and properties, and these things in turn imply capital, which, I believe, has been available to neither the dairy industry nor many other branches of primary industry in the last few years. Primary producers, as a whole, need three kinds of capital. First, they need capital to buy land. Under present banking policies, credit has been kept tight and has been made hard to get in order to prevent undue inflation of land values. This course is obviously right at the present time. Secondly, working capital for daytoday operations is needed. I believe that this is generally available. Thirdly, developmental capital is needed for the improvement of pastures and the opening up of new land. This capital is not readily available and is often impossible to obtain. It is true that a few people finance their development out of income and that there are very great advantages from the special depreciation allowances, but any one with an income of less than about £3,000 gross derives very little benefit or advantage from special depreciation policies or allowances. Their incomes are just not big enough in the first place to take advantage of them.
Banks, both public and private, will not lend on the future value of land. Only present value is accepted as security. This is true not only of the private banks, but also of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank and the State rural credit organizations which, in any case, have not sufficient money to meet existing demands. This problem is not peculiar to the dairy industry. It must and should be tackled. I would not wish to put forward any specific plan, but I believe that money should be made available to producers for developmental work that will increase production and lower costs. Money should also be available at lower rates of interest. It is quite impossible to improve land at present, or to put much money back into development and make, at the same time, more than 5 per cent, on the fixed and working capital involved. At present the ruling overdraft rate is 5 per cent. An agricultural development agency should be established, in conjunction with the States, to make available to the States funds for approved projects undertaken by proved farmers in certain areas.
This problem goes far beyond the dairy industry itself. If what I suggest could be done, the effect on exports generally would be very great indeed, and would redress the imbalance of investment and development which has been evident over the last few years. We have tended to say, “ We have made available these special depreciation allowances. They have had a wonderful result” and leave the matter at that. I agree that the special depreciation allowances have been wonderful, but a certain class of .producers is not able to benefit from them and we should, if we can, do something to help them.
A few brief figures bear out this point. To December last- - before the impact of higher wool prices would have been felt in primary producers’ returns - bank advances to producers were down by 13 per cent. During the same period advances for industry were up by 6 per cent, and, for public bodies, by more than 3 per cent. This tends to show that the credit squeeze of the last eighteen months has affected the primary industries far more than it should have. Nothing could be more wrong, because it is upon the primary industries that we depend so greatly for our exports. The great rural industries of Australia have carried the baby of Australia’s development so far, and despite what many people say about uranium and the exports from secondary industry, the rural industries will carry the baby of Australia’s development for many more years to come.
– I support the plea made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that the total production of butter should be guaranteed by the Government. I support the promise he has made to the dairying industry and to those who look to it for stability. It is indeed an amazing situation that this important industry is threatened by its own success. Increased production contains within itself the very threat to this industry under the legislation now before the House. The more we increase the price of butter, the less is consumed locally, and the more that is available for export, the less bounty is provided. Consequently, the proposal made by the honorable member for Lalor that the total production should be guaranteed is wise and timely. The present situation is indeed a vicious circle. The Government should, in the interests of Australia, try to meet the crisis and guarantee to those engaged in the industry that the harder they work and the more they produce their efforts will be rewarded.
An honorable member asked what the proposal would cost. On the present figures, it would cost about £8,500,000. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon): Is £8,500,000 the type of challenge that the Government is not prepared to meet on behalf of the dairyfarmers? The provision of £8,500,000 for the dairy industry would be a sum of money infused into this important industry which would percolate through the economy and bring beneficial results not only to those engaged in the industry but also to the whole of society. It is true that dairyfarmers are good spenders and good citizens, and in the communities in which they reside they play their part in every way in developing communal life.
Cost of production has been estimated to be 4s. 3d. per lb. An investigation of 126 farms showed that the amount spent on land improvement was £93,476 or 64 per cent, of the net cash earnings of those engaged on farms. Of the money that the farmers obtained, 64 per cent, was spent on land improvement. I support the plea made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) that finance ought to be available. The attitude of those engaged in the dairying industry that they are prepared to spend the money they get from their labours on this industry surely is an indication that any money paid to the dairying industry would be money well spent. A statement contained in “ The Dairy Situation” of November, 1956, issued by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, shows how the money is spent. It said -
In the five years 1950-51 to 1954-55, gross capital investment on , the 126 farms totalled £401,000 (£3,183 per farm) of which 14.2 per cent, was invested in land improvements, including clearing, soil conservation, drainage, water improvements, new fences and farm buildings.
That is positive proof of the manner in which the money obtained by the dairyfarmers is spent on improving their property. But a grim prospect faces the dairy-farmers with this legislation, when the Government burkes at the real issue and is afraid to face up to its responsibilities by guaranteeing the whole of production as the Labour Government did. We find that, as production is increasing, greater quantities of butter are available for export. With the present situation, in which butter overseas is bringing only approximately 2s. 8d. per lb. and the cost of production is 4s. 3d. per lb., the position is clear indeed. The great problem facing the dairying industry will not be solved by this Government under these conditions. I put it to the Minister for Primary Industry that, unless butter prices decline excessively, the final returns to producers for 1955-56 should be about 3s. 9id. per lb. for commercial butter compared with 3s. 10 1/4d. per lb. for 1954-55.
That statement is supported by “ The Dairy Situation “ for November 1956. This official statement provides proof for the case made by the honorable member for Lalor. It confirms the statements made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and calls attention to a grave situation facing the dairying industry. The Government lacks confidence in Australia and in the dairying industry. I suggest that the problem would be met by improving the standards of living of the people “of Australia. If the standard of living were improved, pensioners would be able to buy an additional pound of butter a week and large families would be able to buy an additional 2 lb. of butter a week. That would make a substantial contribution towards the solution of the problem. But on every occasion on which Opposition members suggest to the Government that real wages should be increased, that this situation should be met, and that the dairyfarmers should be assured of their position by a definite guarantee, the Government refuses to act, despite the fact that in this instance only about £8,500,000 is involved. Of course, real wages have been reduced, as the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt) said. I shall read again from “ The Daily Situation “ of November, 1956. These figures are illuminating, and underline the real problem facing the dairying industry and the people of Australia. It is already true that many essential items of food are not being bought because real wages are falling in this country. On page nine of the “ The Dairy Situation “ the following statement appears -
Despite the rise in population from 9,149,134 to 9,377,253 between March 1955 and March 1956, the total consumption of butter in Australia declined from 122,457 tons in 1954-55 to 121,676 tons in 1955-56. This represents a fall of slightly less than 1 lb. per head to 29.3 lb.
The smaller consumption per head has been the result of several factors, but more particularly of the retail price increase of approximately 4d. per lb. in July 1955.
Further, this increase occurred at a time when real wage rates for adult males were declining slightly; inflationary pressures were continuing without cost of living adjustments to money wages.
– What is the honorable member reading this for?
– This is most important. I read it to the House so that it may be incorporated in “Hansard “. It is informative and I hope that it will be read by members of the Government and heeded by the Minister for Primary Industry. The following table sets out the “ real “ weekly wage rates during 1954-55 and 1955-56:-
These figures are most unpalatable to the Minister and most unpalatable to the Government because they prove that, despite anything that has been said by them to the contrary, real wages have fallen in this country. With the falling of real wages, the capacity of the Australian people to buy butter has fallen likewise. The report from which I have quoted also states -
Another important factor was the widening of the price differential between butter and margarine combined with the increased supplies and improved quality of the latter product. The more vigorous advertising campaigns on its behalf may also encourage greater consumption of margarine. The further increase in the butter retail price of approximately 2d. per lb in July 1956 must be expected to have an effect upon consumption, and a further decline of about i lb per head can be expected. Consumption in Australia is therefore likely to be about 120,000 tons in 1956-57.
I read that only because it is a matter that ought to be considered by the Government. There is a challenge to the dairying industry. I uphold the dairy industry. I believe that this basic industry should be protected by this Parliament. The dairyfarmers of this country look to the Australian Parliament to protect their industry.
What assistance has the dairy industry received from this Government? Let us look at the picture. The honorable member for Wilmot, in dealing with this matter, rightly related how the efficiency of this industry had developed. He mentioned pasture improvement, herd improvement, and the introduction of milking machines - factors which had resulted in a 50 per cent, increase in production in the last eight years. There has also been a 12 per cent, rise in the milk received from the cow - from 384 gallons a cow in 1947-48 to an estimated yield of 430 gallons in 1956-57. These unassailable facts indicate how the dairy industry has developed and improved.
The Government should not be faint hearted. It should stake its faith in the development of this nation. Whilst we are having difficulty in adjusting our balance of payments overseas, we must not overlook the fact that this country will have a substantially greater population as the years go by. As the population of Australia increases, so too will the output of the dairymen increase, because the home market is the best market and, with the increased population, there will be a greater demand for dairy products. 1 issue this warning: If the Government fails the dairymen in this situation and allows the dairy industry to decline so that it will not be able to meet its problems, it is possible that, in the foreseeable future, butter will be imported from New Zealand to meet the requirements of Australia. We must not assume that because we have a surplus of about 80,000 tons at present available for export we will always be in that happy position. Unless the Government comes to grips with this problem and guarantees the pound cost of production at the represent time so that the dairymen may receive the whole cost of production which is 4s. 3d. a lb. instead of being fobbed off with 3s. 9£d. a lb. as they are now, many of them could easily go out of business.
There may be people in our community who say that the dairymen have elevated themselves. The dairy industry is a prosperous industry. I think it ought to be a prosperous industry. I hope that the bad old days of the dairy industry will be forgotten and buried. I want to see this industry elevated. I want to see the people who engage in dairy-farming enjoying the same conditions as people in any other industry. It is remarkable that some people seem to think that the highest standard of wages and conditions ought to be paid to some sections of the community, but that those who are engaged in dairying ought to be sentenced to perpetual misery, hardship and slavery in the industry. The Government should do as the honorable member for Lalor said this evening it should do. It should meet the present crisis by making the promises to this industry that the honorable member for Lalor has made. It should act upon those promises and guarantee the whole cost of production. Then those who are engaged in the industry could go forward with every confidence.
I would not have participated in this debate had it not been for the fact that I believe that there is a challenge in the dairy industry to the people of Australia. There is a challenge to this Parliament to ensure that those who are engaged in the industry receive the just reward of their labour. Unless there is a profound change in world conditions or unless there is increased consumption of butter in this country I think that a crisis is due for the industry. I sincerely hope that this is not the case. In any event, I ask the Government to face its responsibility fairly and well. What is the Government doing to meet this crisis? The Government has not prepared any plan to overcome this problem. It has made no suggestions. By guaranteeing the whole cost of production the Government could increase the sales of butter to the people of Australia.
The Government should encourage greater production of butter in this country. It should make it possible for the age pensioners to have more butter. It would be a wonderful thing if, from time to time, the age pensioners could be given an additional amount of butter. Why do not the members of the Australian Country party stand in their places and make a plea on behalf of the age pensioners? Perhaps at Christmas time they could say, on behalf of the pensioners and the dairy industry, that a substantial issue of dairy products ought to be made to every pensioner in this country. That would be one way of overcoming the lag in home consumption. But such a suggestion has not been made by the Country party.
Would it not also be a way to win friends and develop our commercial relationships with Asian people if we were to assist them to buy our butter? On a recent visit to Asia 1 was disturbed to find that most of the milk products imported into Asian countries came from Europe. Upon making inquiries at various places, I was disappointed to find supplies of Anglo-Swiss condensed milk and various other brands of milk which had been imported from Europe. Perhaps one of the problems facing the dairying industry in this country is that overseas companies monopolize the Asian market. That is a field that rightly belongs to Australia and which ought to be developed by Australia. The Minister for Trade and the Minister for Primary Industry might employ their departments and their talents in this direction, not only winning markets for Australia and helping to build friendships, but also protecting the people who have played a most important part in building up this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Freeth) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Mr. McMahon) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Mr. McMahon) read a first time.
HEARD ISLAND AND McDONALD ISLANDS BILL 1957.
Bill received from the Senate.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Mr. McMahon) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 2.5 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Tea From Formosa.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions asked by the honorable member are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Imports of synthetic rubber increased considerably in 1955-56. During 1956-57 the rate of imports has been broadly the same as in 1955-56. Clearances of crude synthetic rubber have been as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation has been established and the necessary preliminary work is under way. This is not yet advanced to the stage where the corporation is able to issue policies. Consequently no transactions have yet been insured.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What number of full-blood aborigines in the Northern Territory was receiving age or invalid pensions at the 31st December, 1956, and the 30th April, 1957?
– Four full-blooded aborigines, having qualified under the regulations covering native welfare in the Northern Territory, were receiving age and/ or invalid pensions on each of the dates mentioned. The Department of Territories, however, makes special provision for the care of natives of the aboriginal race.
t asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What is the estimated extra cost of social services if the exclusion provisions applying to aborigines were removed and, for example, maternity allowances, pensions, unemployment benefits, &c., made payable to some organization or trustee on behalf of aborigines considered to be incapable of handling their own affairs?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Section 51, placitum (xxvi.), of the Constitution gives the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws with respect to: - “The people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws “. In the circumstances, and because of the absence of information as to sex, conjugal conditions and age groups, an estimate of the cost of paying social service pensions to all aborigines who are not at present exempt from the State control laws could have no practical value.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What is the total to the 30th June, 1956, of members of the forces granted pensions in relation to the 1914-18, 1939-45 and Korean wars respectively?
– I am advised as follows by the Minister for Repatriation: -
Prior to 1935-36, a figure only for current pensions is available, that is grants plus restorations less cancellations and deaths. With this qualification, the answers to the honorable member’s question are as follows: -
m asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What was the last occasion upon which the South Australian Railways Commissioner carried out the obligation under the agreement made on the 29th November, 1935, between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia, to ensure that passengers by the Trans-Australian Railway need not change carriages between Port Pirie and Melbourne?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following reply: -
The practice of running sleeping cars “ through “ between Port Pirie Junction and Melbourne for passengers travelling to and from Western Australia was introduced from the date of the opening of the Port Augusta to Port Pirie Junction railway, viz. 26th July, 1937, and operated until the disruption of the Trans-Australian Railway express train services, due to World War II. in 1942, caused its discontinuance. This arrangement was in accordance with the provision of clause 8 of the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments, which forms the first schedule to the Port Augusta to Port Pirie Railway Act 1935-1950, the relevant portion reading: -
The Commonwealth and State agree that their respective Railways Commissioners will co-operate - (a)…..
to ensure that passengers en route to either of these places (i.e. Kalgoorlie or Serviceton) and travelling or booked to travel in sleeping carriages (and, as far as practicable passengers travelling or booked to travel otherwise than in sleeping carriages) on the express train running between Adelaide and Melbourne shall not be obliged to change carriages elsewhere than at Port Pirie Junction.
Unfortunately, owing to destruction of old records relating to the movement of sleeping cars, the Victorian and South Australian railway authorities are unable to furnish any definite information regarding date of discontinuance of the arrangement. The South Australian Railways Department advises, however, that all sleeping car services between Adelaide and Melbourne were suspended on 28th September, 1942, and that it is understood “ through “ running of sleeping cars between Port Pirie Junction and Melbourne ceased prior to that date. The “ through “ running of sleeping cars provided a very desirable convenience to eastern States passengers to or from beyond Adelaide, and was greatly appreciated. The South Australian Railways Commissioner is favorably disposed to “ through “ running of cars, but has intimated that under existing conditions the number of cars available is insufficient to permit of “ through “ working being re-introduced. The
Commonwealth and South Australian Railways Commissioners both regard the “ through “ running of cars as most desirable in the interests of long-distance passengers. The matter is kept under close scrutiny with a view to this working being restored immediately conditions will permit.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has now furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s questions: - [n 1952, legal advice was obtained as to whether the establishment of one-brand service stations was a contravention of the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906-1950 and the legal opinion given at that time was that it seemed most unlikely that the policy mentioned would result in any contravention of the act. The question of whether the refusal of the petrol distributing companies to supply standard petrol to Queensland would be an offence under the provisions of this act raises somewhat different issues, but on the information available it would appear that a similar conclusion would be reached. However, the Government has not requested legal advice on this question as it believes that this is more appropriately a matter for the Queensland Government.
r asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Consideration has been given on several occasions to the requests of organizations not already represented (including the Australian Primary Producers Union) to nominate members to the Australian Wool Bureau. The requests have been carefully considered but the Government arrived at the conclusion that the composition of the Wool Bureau, as laid down by the Wool Use Promotion Act 1953, is both adequate and representative. Similar consideration was given to the requests of several organizations to be represented on the Wool Research Committee to be established under the Wool Research Bill 1957. It will be recalled that under the Wool Research Bill 1957, which I introduced into Parliament on 15th May, moneys standing to the credit of the Wool Industry Fund, along with other finance available for wool research, are to be combined into a new Wool Research Trust Fund. Moneys in the new fund can only be expended on wool research and extension on a recommendation of the Wool Research Committee approved by the Minister for Primary Industry in consultation with the Minister responsible for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
Is he able to furnish information regarding (a) the number of dams for irrigation purposes which have been commenced in each State since December, 1949, and (b) the number of farms which will be irrigated as a result of the construction of these reservoirs?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The construction of dams for irrigation purposes and the use made of the stored water are constitutionally matters for the State governments. Nevertheless the Commonwealth Government because of its interest in overall national development maintains information on major development projects, including irrigation schemes. The Department of National Development has produced a publication entitled “ Major Development Projects in Australia “, and this contains information which I am sure will be of interest to the honorable member. The information is lengthy and I have arranged for a copy of the latest issue of the publication (June, 1956), to be supplied to the honorable member.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570521_reps_22_hor15/>.