24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay’ took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. UREN presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
A similar petition was presented by Mr. Armitage.
Petitions severally received.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of his recently repeated statements that TFX and TSR-2 aeroplanes are in the same stage of development - that is, aeroplanes on the drawing board only - and in view of his statement yesterday that the press photograph of the TSR-2 was a mock-up, which is usually a full-scale wooden workshop model used to check up on the overall dimensional design and to plan the interior arrangements of instruments and the like, I ask the right honorable gentleman: Is it not a fact that the press photograph of the TSR-2 depicts an aeroplane in a very advanced stage on a fully equipped production line with other aeroplanes following on? Is it not also a fact that the aeroplane depicted in the press is an aeroplane flying, and that a mock-up plane never flies? I do not mind the merriment of honorable gentlemen opposite, Mr. Speaker, because for most of them this is their last day in this House. As this is the last day on which the present Parliament will sit, I ask: In view of the Prime Minister’s claims that the Canberra bomber has several years of life left in it and can probably be used until TFX aeroplanes are delivered in 1967, will he explain the urgency for placing orders immediately before the election? Was the visit of the Minister for Defence to the United States of America concerned more with election purposes than with getting aeroplanes? Why did the Minister not also go to London for consultation with the United Kingdom Government on a high political level in order to find out whether that Government could make an offer which would match the American offer?
– This, of course, is not a question, it is a speech. I do not understand why the Leader of the Opposition thinks he has any future in pursuing this argument; he certainly has had no past. He is now getting frightfully technical about mock-ups and about a picture of a plane in flight. I thought it was well known that the prototype of the TSR-2 will not fly until next year. The prototype of the TFX has not flown yet. The fact is that, from the point of view of getting aircraft and putting them into service, the delivery dates of the TFX and the TSR-2 are substantially the same - that is, if all expectations come to pass. Two big factors in this matter - shall I have to repeat them indefinitely? - are, first, that our own experts, whose advice the honorable gentleman was promising the other day to take, have said that for the purposes of the Royal Australian Air Force the TFX is the ideal plane, and they have pointed out four or five respects in which it is superior to the TSR-2. My colleague, the Minister for Air, mentioned them yesterday. I am not asking honorable members to take my word in this matter. I do not claim to be an expert on it. But I do claim to be able to read English in a report, and when I tell the House that our experts said that from the point of view of the Royal Australian Air Force the TFX-
– Why don’t you table the report?
– Really! Honorable members opposite are hard up, aren’t they, flogging a dead horse on this matter. All of a sudden they have discovered that we ought to ignore the advice of the experts. Really, the whole thing is ludicrous. As to the rest of the honorable gentleman’s speech, I will hear it many times in the course of the election campaign.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to previous discussions 1 have had with him regarding proposals to market in Japan citrus fruits, apples, pears and bananas. The honorable gentleman may recall that the representative of the industry has suggested that to facilitate agreements or arrangements it would be of advantage to have some Japanese officials visit Australia. The officials having shown interest in the proposal, I ask the Minister whether he has any information to give to the House regarding the request of the industry.
– The Japanese have had a ban on the importation of our fruits because of the insects that affect our fruit industry here, namely the Queensland and Mediterranean fruit flies and the codling moth. Negotiations have taken place with the Japanese Government to try to establish an acceptable basis on which we can export to Japan the fruits mentioned by the honorable member. As the honorable member has said, it was understood that when the Japanese Prime Minister was here discussions on this matter would be held. The secretary of my department had discussions with Japanese officials who intimated that it was quite possible that they would send a small delegation here to discuss this matter. We have heard nothing more definite on that, but it is still expected that they will arrive and discuss the matter further.
– Is the Minister for Territories aware that the “ South Pacific Post “ of 17th September last stated that a new land ordinance in Papua and New Guinea will replace 69 earlier land ordinances? Is it a fact that some time ago a land bill was introduced into the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea which would have materially affected community ownership? Was this bill strongly opposed by the indigenous members? Is it a fact that the proposed land ordinances deal with matters similar to those contained in the bill and that the enactment of the ordinances is being used to by-pass the Legislative Council, in which the bill was presented?
– I find some difficulty in following the details of the honorable number’s question. With all respect to him, the points he makes seem to me to be rather garbled. I think he is referring to the Lands Bill which is before the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea. As its main point, it tackles the problem of conversion of tenure from customary tenure to some form of tenure which has a recognizable and defensible title. I think the honorable member will realize that in view of the rapid economic development of the Territory and the participation of the native people in that development, a system of land holding based on customary rights is not always suitable for modern conditions. For example, a man may plant cocoa trees on a piece of land to which he has rights of use, but he may have no rights to leave that land to his descendants. By native customary rights it may go to some one other than his descendants. In those circumstances it is necessary to devise a system of land holding which will meet the economic advancement of the people. The bill as introduced was intended to bring about a system by which it would be possible, not under compulsion but with the voluntary acceptance of the people, to’ turn in, as it were, customary rights to land for conversion to a title held from the Crown. This is very clearly in the interests of the economic advancement of the native people and is intended to serve no other purpose.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Externa] Affairs: In discussions that took place prior to and during his recent trip overseas, the Leader of the Opposition stated that he had said to Mr. Averell Harriman -
We will re-negotiate the North West Cape Base Agreement with the American Administration. We want joint control of the base.
The Leader of the Opposition also implied that re-negotiation of the agreement would be considered by the American authorities. As to discussions with Mr. Dean Rusk on the nuclear free zone theory for the southern hemisphere, the Leader of the Opposition had this to say -
My discussions with Mr. Rusk were cordial, warm-
– I wish to raise a point of order. Mr. Speaker, you have often ruled - I think quite properly - that questions of the kind now being asked by the honorable member for Ballaarat constitute the giving of information, and that the purpose of a question should be to elicit information.
– I think there is some substance in the point of order. However, we are in the final quarter, as it were. There was a little relaxation of the rules yesterday, but I suggest to the honorable member that he do not go too far wide of the customs of the House.
– The Leader of the Opposition had this-
– I raise a point of order. While 1 was overseas 1 did not see Mr. Averell Harriman at all.
– 1 have already said that prior to and during-
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member ask his question.
– The Leader of the Opposition had this to say-
– The honorable member is now out of order.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Sir Ian Potter, in a published statement that has been reported, has warned against the policies of large commercial enterprises favouring increased inter-company lending. Can the Treasurer say whether any steps have been taken to control these operations? Does he regard this new monetary method as being a threat to the orthodox control that the Reserve Bank of Australia is supposed to exercise over our monetary system?
– It is a fact that over recent years the practice of intercompany lending has been growing and has now assumed quite sizeable proportions. The Government has not taken any specific action in this matter, but the subject is under close study by the Treasury and the banking authorities. However, I am nol in a position to make any policy comments about it.
– I wish to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has he seen reports that in New York on Monday Mr. Averell Harriman charged Russia with suppression of religious groups in a statement in which he said that undoubtedly the heaviest burden of this attack had been borne by the Jews; that there had been some relaxation in antiJewish discrimination but the respite was brief; that synagogues had been closed and that Jews were kept out of high posts; and that he had found it difficult to do something effective to alleviate the position? 1 ask this question having regard to the raising of this important subject of human rights by Australia at last year’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Will the Minister instruct Australia’s ambassador to discuss this matter with the United States representative at the United Nations in order to raise again this question of persecution of the Jews in Russia as a matter of urgency at the present sitting of the third committee of the Assembly?
– I know that the honorable member has maintained a close interest in this question of religious intolerance and oppression. Last year, he asked me a question much along the lines of the one he has just put to me. The House will remember that I responded and that Australia raised the question during the discussion of a human rights resolution - and to some point. I was very pleased, if I may say so, to see that Governor Averell Harriman had again called attention to this oppressive activity on the part of the Soviet. It is very interesting to see how ready the Soviet always is to pick on other people and speak of what other nations do and then proceed itself to do the very thing that it condemns. 1 am quite sure that in the future we shall have to watch more closely Soviet imperialism and also particularly red Chinese imperialism. I am glad to see, as I have said, that Governor Harriman has called attention to this case of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. I shall most certainly ask our representative to confer with Mr. Adlai Stevenson, the United States representative, at once to see whether something effective can be - done. 1 lay stress on the word “ effective “, because it is not useful in this sphere to do things that are not effective.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I ask: Is he aware of the announcement made by the Reserve Bank of Australia in late September that salaries of the bank’s employees would be increased somewhat in line with the formula of increases adopted in the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service, representing margins increases of about 10 per cent, plus an average increment of £50 to £60, dated from 22nd April, 1963? Can the right honorable gentleman say why the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, over its whole field of activity, has not yet made any similar announcement? Why is this differential in wages allowed to continue? Is it because the corporation is prepared to tie itself to private banking conditions in relation to its employees instead of adopting the lead given by the Reserve Bank?
– This is not a matter that comes within my own sphere of direction, and I do not have the facts in mind. However, I shall obtain an answer that I can make available to the honorable member by letter.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, relates to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Affairs, a body which has received generous support from the Government and which, I understand, receives the support also of the Opposition. Since it has proved impossible to bring down in this session legislation formally to constitute this body on a proper basis, would it be possible for approval to be given for the appointment of a permanent head without delay? May I say that this is a matter of great urgency in view of the rapid changes taking place in the field, and that the work of the institute would be much improved if it had a permanent head.
– I shall be very happy to have a look into this matter and see whether 1 can arrange for some decision to be made upon it in the course of the day.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether he is aware, that in the last three annual budgets married pensioners were unjustly treated in that they did not receive any rise in their pensions. Will he promise that if this Government is returned he will make amends by. paying married pensioners the 10s. a. week rise that is being paid to other pensioners?
– I find it is my melancholy duty to remind the honorable member for West Sydney once again that expenditure from the National Welfare Fund has increased since this Government has been in office from £81,000,000 to not less than £411,000,000 in the current financial year. I hope that that progress can be continued on into the future, but it can only continue consistently’ with the capacity of the Australian people to pay the additional cost.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is there any way in which a true record of the discussions concerning the United States Naval Communication Station at North West Cape and the nuclear-free zone theory for the southern hemisphere which took place between the American authorities and the Leader of the Opposition can be made public?
– Records will no doubt be kept of those confidential discussions, but whether or’ not the parties to them would want them made public is a matter for them and for nobody else. As to the nuclear-free zone, I do know that the American authorities made it clear to me, and I am quite sure they, did also to the Leader of the Opposition, that if this proposal for a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere was persisted with America would not only be opposed to it but would have to rethink its relationship with us in Anzus.
As to the question of re-negotiating the North West Cape agreement, as I have said in this House, the Americans made it perfectly clear to me that they would not agree to joint control and they would not have come here had there been an insistence on joint control. I have no doubt they made that perfectly clear to the Leader of the Opposition also.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. Was a report made by the brigadier in charge of ordnance services earlier this year expressing concern at the number and variety of defects being found in new ammunition after it had been received into ammunition depots from the Department of Supply? Did this report say, among other things, that in almost every inspection over the last five years defects, which should have been detected and corrected before the item was accepted into service, were found? In view of these and other examples of gross negligence in the supply of vital ammunition to the Army, will the Minister say why this state of affairs was allowed to continue for at least five years and what action, if any, has been taken since the report to which I refer was written earlier this year?
– I think the honorable member is on a rather long trail. His question covers a period of five years. There is no current complaint before me, nor can I recollect one dealing with this particular matter. Difficulties which arise from time to time arc discussed departmentally between my department and the Department of Supply. I can assure the honorable member that no major difficulties at present affect the supply of ammunition to the Army.
– J address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the Australian Labour Party has forces at work to damage the dairying industry by encouraging the production of margarine? Also, is it true that the honorable member for Grayndler is an advocate for the margarine industry and in fact calls himself the shadow Minister for Margarine?
– 1 take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The question asked by the honorable member is obviously political. It is true that in my district there is an establish ment that manufactures margarine and, like other taxpayers, it is entitled to representation when it considers this to be necessary. In keeping with my general policy-
– I might say also-
– Order! No point of order is involved. I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– The records show, of course, that the increases in the quotas for the production of margarine were made in both instances by Labour governments - the Labour Government of New South Wales and the Labour Government of Queensland. The attitude of the honorable member for Grayndler is apparent in his speeches, which are reported in “ Hansard “. He champions the cause of the margarine manufacturers and speaks detrimentally of the dairying industry. No doubt this repre*sents the Labour viewpoint.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. It refers to the restrictive trade practices legislation that had been proposed. Has the AttorneyGeneral received representations from certain overseas shipping interests regarding the exemption granted to the conference shipping lines on the United Kingdom and Europe run under the Industries Preservation Act, in which they have sought to have the exemption extended to conference lines on all overseas routes by an appropriate section in the proposed restrictive trade practices legislation? If so, will the Minister give details of the representations, and say whether he has considered them, and what attitude the Government has adopted on the submissions?
– I have said many times that I have had a lot of representations of all kinds. AH of them have been made in confidence, because the people concerned have trusted me. I do not propose to disclose what took place in those conferences.
– I address my question to the Minister for Air. In the various discussions and statements about the B-47E bomber, some allegations have been made that there are defects in the air frame. Has the Minister any comment to make on these allegations?
– It is correct that some years ago some fatigue problems were associated with the B-47E. These did not arise from any fault in the design of the aircraft. It was originally designed as a high-level bomber, but, with the introduction of improved radar and surface-to-air missiles, a new technique of low-level bombing was adopted. The technique under which the United States Air Force operated was to come in low down, to pull up in probably a 5G loop and roll off the top, throwing a bomb off as this was being done. I am sure that honorable members will realize that, with an aircraft weighing 200,000 lb., this placed a little bit of strain on the wings. Consequently, in about 1958, the aircraft was grounded and strengthening was put into the wing spars. Since then, there has been no difficulty at all with the aircraft. The honorable member may be interested to know that we have two squadron leaders in the Royal Australian Air Force who have both done periods of exchange duty with the United States Air Force flying the B-47’s. One of those, Squadron Leader Wilson, is in Canberra at the present time. He was, fox a considerable time, an instructor with the United States Air Force in Kansas, on these aircraft. This has been a great help to the Royal Australian Air Force and when we introduce these aircraft to service he will be an enormous help.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. Has his attention been directed to recent reports suggesting that the Australian Capital Territory police are showing favoritism in the allocation of towing jobs to private operators? In view of these reports can he say whether both he and the Australian Capital Territory Police Commissioner have directed police strictly to observe a roster system and not to recommend any particular operators? Is he also able to say whether any evidence has been presented either to him or his department to support these serious recent allegations against the police? If so, what action does he propose to take?
– Some considerable time ago - I think it was two or more years ago- a detailed investigation was held into allegations similar to those mentioned by the honorable member. No substantial evidence was produced that any favoritism was shown by the Australian Capital Territory police, or that they had acted in any improper way, but they were instructed to be very careful in observing the tow-truck roster. When I saw the recent allegations I made further inquiries, but there is no evidence to show that the police have disobeyed instructions in this respect. Some tow truck operators do not maintain a 24- hour service on the telephone. When they are rung, as their turn comes on the roster, there is no response and so the police have to go to the next man who is available. Very often citizens who are involved in accidents - particularly if they are from outside the Australian Capital Territory - press the police to give them the name of a tow truck operator who can be reached on the spot. The police have been advised not to do this. It is very difficult for the police, when pressed by people, not to give them some advice or information. I am quite satisfied that there is no improper action on the part of the Australian Capital Territory police.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Repatriation a question. Earlier this year he announced changes in the rates of repatriation benefits for Torres Strait islanders. I ask the Minister whether his recent visit to those islands has stimulated interest in the increased benefits and also whether he will inform the House of the current position with respect to applications for these benefits.
– As the House is aware, a bill was introduced earlier this year to increase the rates of war pensions for Torres Strait islanders - that is the men who had served with the Torres Strait Islands Regiment - to the same rates as those for other Australian ex-servicemen. At that time, their rates were much lower. In addition, we introduced service pensions for Torres Strait islanders for the first time.
Knowing this, I paid a visit to the area. In the party, I bad the federal member for the district, the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, a representative of the Returned Servicemen’s League and a representative of the Australian Legion of Exservicemen. We arranged meetings in the area. This was the first opportunity that the islanders had had to discuss matters at ministerial level. Resulting from the conversations, I left behind an officer who visited all the principal inhabited islands and interviewed approximately 200 exservicemen islanders. Resulting from these interviews approximately 80 new applications for war pensions are at present being considered. In addition, a number of applications for increases in the existing rate of war pensions are being considered, together with approximately 40 new applications for service pensions. It is expected that the result of these investigations will be known in the near future.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service - that proud aristocrat of Australian liberalism, ls the Minister aware that the Western Australian branch of the Australian Council of Trade Unions - the Trades and Labour Council of Perth - has shown great foresight, tolerance and co-operative understanding in the agreement that it has arrived at, on behalf of all unions concerned, with the employers concerned, on all matters relating to working conditions and other relevant matters associated with the building of the North West Cape radio base affecting the whole term of the contract which will extend over an estimated period of 960 days? Is this agreement registered or about to be registered with the Arbitration Court of Western Australia? “Will the Minister now acknowledge the wisdom of the course followed by the trade union movement in Western Australia in deciding to settle the necessary industrial code at the commencing point of the project for the purpose of ensuring industrial peace during the whole period of work on the project?
– I think it should be stated that the Government’s attitude in respect of this matter from the very beginning has been to encourage the trade union movement to negotiate an industrial agreement with the employers before any action was taken on the security of the base. I personally wrote to the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Monk, and informed him that this was the Government’s approach in the matter, The Government wanted negotiations to take place. It has been patiently waiting to see whether the negotiations h?-.« been completed before taking any action. I know that Mr. Monk welcomed the Government’s approach in this matter and to the best of my knowledge so, too, did the Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia. Until yesterday I had not been informed that a satisfactory settlement had been reached and that the agreement had subsequently been registered. Nonetheless, if a settlement has been agreed to I applaud it and express my satisfaction that the Government’s attitude was the correct one to take in the circumstances. The Government has done all in its power to show to the trade union movement that it encouraged negotiation and I am sure that the trade union movement acknowledges that the Government’s approach was the proper one.
There was another part of the question of the honorable gentleman which I cannot recall.
– Do you know that the agreement was registered with the court?
– The honorable gentleman stated that the agreement has been registered with the industrial commission of Western Australia, not with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I did not know that the agreement had been registered, but if it was registered yesterday-
– I said that it had been or was about to be registered.
– If the agreement is about to be registered I would not know about it, but if it is registered to-day I am sure that the authorities in Western Australia will let me know.
– Will the Prime Minister make searching investigations in an endeavour to ascertain the reason for the recent noticeable lack of enthusiasm in this House and the complete silence at election time of members of the Labour Party regarding their socialist policy?
– This is a magnificent suggestion. I hope that everybody will conduct a little research into th’is matter. In fact, if I may boost a recent work of literature, I advise everybody to read the book recently written by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In accordance with the Budget announcement the taxation law has been amended to provide that where the spouse of a taxpayer has a separate net income in excess of £65 a year, the allowable deduction in respect of the spouse is reduced by £1 for every £1 by which the separate net income of the spouse exceeds £65. As taxpayers submitted their income tax returns prior to the amendment being brought into force on the basis of a reduction of the allowance for the spouse of £2 for every £1 by which the separate net income of the spouse exceeded £65, will it be necessary for them to submit amended returns showing a reduction of the allowance for the spouse of £1 for every £1 by which the separate net income of the spouse exceeds £65, or will the Taxation Branch adjust returns accordingly without putting taxpayers to the trouble and expense of submitting amended returns, which will create unnecessary work for the branch?
– I hope it will be possible to avoid any inconvenience to taxpayers in these circumstances and that the adjustments can be made within the commissioner’s office. However, I shall put the substance of the question to the commissioner and ensure that a written reply is sent to the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for Immigration state how successful he has been in attracting single women to Australia under our immigration scheme?
– The Government, quite naturally and properly, has ha.d a very healthy interest in this problem. ‘ One’ of the aims of our migration programme has been to redress the slight imbalance of the sexes that remains. On the whole, I think we can say that our activities have been fairly successful. Honorable members probably will be more interested in what I am about to say if I use round figures. In 1961, we attracted to Australia 11,500 single females of marriageable age - that is, between the ages of 15 and 44 - and in 1962 we brought in 13,700. I think the House will agree that this is the kind of progress that every healthy man would like to see.
– I preface my question to the Minister for External Affairs by stating that as an Australian and a member of the Australian Labour Party I have a very real interest in preserving the integrity of Australia’s shores. How does the Government view the concept of Maphilindo? What steps has the Government taken to use its good offices in the unhappy relationship that exists between the countries of that conceptual federation, namely, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia?
– At no stage have I offered what is technically called good offices in relation to the differences which have arisen between our three neighbours, but last February I did give positive encouragement to the proposal that they should meet with a view to resolving’ their differences and removing misunderstandings that may have existed between them. As a result of that meeting, the concept of Maphilindo emerged. We have not shown any disfavour to it; indeed, we have shown interest to the contrary. Recently there have been more acute differences, and I have taken the stand that, at this time, we should allow these Asian neighbours to work them out for themselves. I think that they will find a way to resolve their differences without any outside interference at this time, and I hope that they do so.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, refers to the career guidance work done by the Commonwealth Employment Service. So that young people leaving school in South Australian country areas may have the same advantages as young people in the metropolitan cities have, will the Minister ensure that the excellent films on careers in the possession of his department are available for showing to young country people?
– My department has produced a number of films, both blackandwhite and coloured, dealing with occupations and trade testing. They are worth seeing. I have seen several of them. I am sure that they would be of interest to most honorable members. In reply to the honorable gentleman’s question, I will ensure that all of these films are made available in South Australia, and I certainly will see that enough are made available to enable them to be distributed in country areas.
– Mr. Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– On what subject?
– On a misrepresentation during question time.
– I think the honorable member had his opportunity to speak during question time.
– I took a point of order.
– All right, I will hear the honorable member.
– During question time the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) a question, which was answered. In the course of his question, the honorable member for Gippsland said that I represented margarine interests in this Parliament. That statement is completely false. I represent the industry only as a constituent part of my electorate. As such, it is entitled to approach me on matters, just as people in the electorates of other members of this Parliament are entitled to approach them.
The industry has the right to have its case presented. That is the only activity in which I take part in this Parliament on behalf of the industry. I have no shares and no other interest in the industry. The Minister for Primary Industry, in his reply-
– Order! The honorable member has made his point.
– No, I have not. I have been misrepresented-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: The Minister for Primary Industry, in his reply, said that I cast aspersions on the dairy industry. In that respect I was misrepresented, and I seek leave to explain the position.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member has had his opportunity to make a personal explanation and he is not entitled to debate the subject-matter. He was debating it, and I asked him to resume his seat.
– On a point of order-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– On a point of order-
– Order! There is no point of order to be raised.
– On a point of order-
– Order! If the honorable member docs not resume his seat I will deal with him.
– I was misrepresented by the Minister for Primary Industry-
– Mr. Speaker, may I intervene at this stage? The honorable member for Grayndler wants to put right a certain position. He claims that he has been misrepresented and he asks for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler did not ask for leave. The Leader of the Opposition was not in the House to hear the personal explanation.
– I know that.
– I have ruled that the honorable member had his opportunity. I have also ruled that he was debating the subject-matter. I asked him to resume his seat.
- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I was misrepresented by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). He misquoted what I said. I have in my hand the quotation from “ Hansard “ on which I based my question. It will clear the air on this matter. In the debate on the Dairying Industry Bill in May, 1962, the honorable member for Grayndler made a statement which I will read. This is not taken out of context; it is taken direct from “ Hansard “, and is only one of many statements that I could quote-
– Order! The honorable member must not make any comment.
– The honorable member for Grayndler said -
But how does the Country Party . . . come to sponsor a policy whereby the production of margarine is restricted deliberately in order to give the dairy industry an unfair advantage in this sphere?
– Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order.
– Order! The House will come to order.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I think you are a bushranger.
– Order! I name the honorable member for Grayndler.
– Mr. Speaker, as this is the last day of this Parliament, I ask you to give the honorable member for Grayndler a chance to apologize.
– I warned the honorable member for Grayndler. The remark made by him was a gross reflection on the Chair, and I named him.
– Will you accept an apology?
– I am not prepared to accept an apology.
– Mr. Speaker, I feel that you have been under great provocation in this matter; but, as this is the final day of this Parliament, if the honorable gentleman is prepared to make a complete apology and withdrawal of his remark, I would press you to accept it.
– I withdraw my statement.
– Does the honorable member apologize?
– All right; I accept the wisdom of the House.
Mr. FAIRHALL (Paterson - Minister for
Supply). - I present a report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Ordered to be printed.
– Mr. Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and I wish to make a statement on the matter. In the course of a reply to a question to-day, the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) said that he had been advised by leading statesmen in the United States of America he said he had no doubt that I had been advised of this, too that, if the Labour Party persisted in its attitude of seeking to make the southern hemisphere a nuclear-free zone, the United States might have to review its obligations under the Anzus Treaty. No American of any status even mentioned the question of the Anzus Treaty to me. Neither the President, the Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary of
State nor any of their officers ever mentioned the Anzus Treaty when we discussed the question of having a nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere. I did discuss that question with them. They did not agree with the attitude of the Labour Party on the question. I pointed out to them that we would try to persuade all the powers having interests here, whether they were powers in the northern hemisphere or powers in the southern hemisphere, to reach an agreement, and that if any one held out there could be no agreement. I thought I made my position clearly understood. At no time was it suggested that the United States viewed it in the way in which the Minister said he was told, and in which he claimed that I was told.
On the other question of the installation at North West Cape, it is true that the U.S. representatives hold very strong views. It is true that this Parliament has agreed to an act and that we are bound by the agreement in that act for a period of 25 years. I told the Americans that a Labour Government would not repudiate the agreement, that we would feel bound by it, but that we claimed the right at any time within the 25year period for a Labour Government or some subsequent government to try to negotiate an alteration in the agreement if this was thought wise. That was how I put the story, and I want the record of this Parliament to contain my story, so that when people read it alongside what the Minister for External Affairs has said today they will know my view as well as his view. What I have said is completely in accordance with fact.
– I present the following paper: -
Audit Act - Supplementary Report by the Auditor-General upon other accounts, for year 1962-63.
Ordered to be printed.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Dairy Produce Export Control Bill 1963.
Dairy Produce Research and (Sales Promotion Bill 1963.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr.
Fairhall, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Copper Bounty Act 1958-1960 expires on 31st December, 1963. The Tariff Board has now completed a further inquiry into the industry and, in a report dated 14th October, 1963, has recommended that this act should be extended in its present form for a period of two years from 1st January, 1964, except that small producers should be paid, in future, bounty on up to 100 tons over two years instead of on 50 tons in any one year as at present. The Government has accepted these recommendations of the board and the bill now before the House is to implement them. The board has made its recommendation for continuation of the existing rate of bounty as, in effect, a holding action for the next two years. By that time, the position in regard to the potential new mine at Cobar, New South Wales, and its effect as a new major producer on domestic and export sales of the present mines, will be clearer and easier to assess.
In recommending that small producers be paid bounty on up to 100 tons over the two-year period, instead of on 50 tons in any one year as at present, the board had regard to the difficulties experienced by small producers in that their production can vary greatly from year to year because of such factors as the necessity for developmental work to provide for future production, good or bad weather, and favorable or unfavorable areas. It is not possible to estimate precisely the cost of continuing the present bounty scheme for a further two years, but in the three years to 30th June, 1963, the annual bounty payments varied between £405,000 and £699,000.
Provision has been made in the bill to give my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), authority to delegate his powers and functions under the act. In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in his personal work in administering the increasing number of bounty acts, and it is considered neither desirable nor possible for the Minister personally to make each and every decision required to be made in the course of administering the various bounties.
In accordance with its terms of reference, the Tariff Board has limited its examination and recommendations to existing copper producers. It is, however, proposed to extend the act in its present form, apart from the change in respect of small producers, and to refer the matter to the board for review within the next two years.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with a request.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of the amendment to be made upon request by the Senate in the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Bill, announced.
In committee: Consideration of Senate’s request.
Clause 8. (1.) Bounty in respect of superphosphate, not being superphosphate in respect of which the next succeeding sub-section applies, is payable at the rate of Three pounds for each ton of superphosphate. (2.) Where the percentage of the phosphorous pentoxide content of any superphosphate is less than nineteen and onehalf per centum, or more than twenty and onehalf per centum, by weight of the superphosphate, bounty in respect of that superphosphate is payable at the rate of Fifteen pounds for each ton of the phosphorous pentoxide content of that superphosphate. (3.) The Minister may, from time to time, by notice published in the Gazette, determine that bounty shall be payable at the rate of Three pounds in respect of each ton of superphosphate the percentage of the phosphorous pentoxide content by weight of which is less than nineteen and one half per centum and, where such a determination is in force, the last preceding sub-section has effect as if for nineteen and onehalf there were substituted the percentage so determined and in force.
Senate’s request -
In clause 8, sub-clause (3.) leave out all words after “ nineteen and one half per centum “, insert “ and is greater than a percentage specified in the determination and, where such a determination is in force, the last preceding sub-section’ ‘has effect as if for the reference to nineteen and onehalf per centum in that sub-section there were substituted a reference to the percentage so specified.”.
.- I move-
That the requested amendment be made.
This is a minor drafting amendment, suggested by the Parliamentary Draftsman himself, to clause 8. The amendment merely makes a little clearer the intention that in the event of it being necessary to use rock phosphate which will produce a lower content of phosphorous pentoxide than the proportion of 19.5 per cent presently agreed to, the Minister will be empowered to make a determination that superphosphate containing a higher proportion of P205 will qualify for the full £3 a ton bounty.
– It is higher than the new limit determined by the Minister it will qualify for the full bounty. At the present time the proportion to qualify for the bounty is 20 per cent plus or minus . 5 per cent. But in view of the fact that you may have to use a poorer phosphate rock as a basis for your fertilizer, it may be necessary for the Minister to determine a lower figure. It may come down by 1 per cent. This amendment merely makes it a little clearer that superphosphate containing a proportion ofP2O5 in excess of the newly determined limit will attract the full benefit. It is a drafting amendment.
.- The Opposition has no objection to the amendment. It will facilitate the provision of machinery necessary to allow the payment of bounty on superphosphate manufactured from phosphate rock that may be of a quality inferior to the phosphate rock deposits at Ocean Island, Nauru and other places where there arc high-grade deposits.
Requested amendment made.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 2267), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
.- The Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill provides for certain amendments of the Wheat Stabilization Act and also consolidates the wheat stabilization legislation to date. Normally I would be tempted to use this opportunity to make a fairly long survey of the history of Australian wheat stabilization legislation. I can claim to have a longer political experience of legislation dealing with wheat stabilization and the problems of the wheat industry than anybody else in any of the parliaments of Australia. I can also claim a fairly long record of experience of the industry in a personal sense. I have always been most actively interested in cooperative marketing, which is the most effective way in which the primary producers can obtain just and adequate returns for their labour. The political party to which I belong has the same outlook on the marketing problems of primary producers.
In 1921 I sowed a 20-acre paddock with wheat in order to qualify for a vote in a ballot arranged by the conservative Victorian Government of the clay. Following World War I., the wheat-growers of Victoria - and indeed of Australia generally - were experiencing acute financial difficulties brought about by the low price of wheat. They agitated until they provoked the Country Party in the Victorian Parliament into putting pressure on the party equivalent to the Liberal Party of to-day. I am not sure what the Liberal Party was then called, but it was at last galvanized into activity. It had at first refused to concede to the demands of the Country Party for a ballot of the Victorian wheat-growers on whether they desired compulsory wheat pooling. The Labour Party, true to form in this matter, supported the Country Party in the Parliament and the two parties by their combined votes, defeated the Government. I think it was the Lawson Government. Anyhow, it resigned and the ensuing election was fought on the question whether there should be compulsory pooling of wheat in Victoria. The Country Party and Labour Party returned in greater numbers than they had when they went campaigning, but, as it does ever and anon, the Country Party peaked and formed a liaison with the Liberal Party. In the result, the growers of Victoria did not get the legislation they were seeking.
In the period between the two World Wars the wheat-growers were never out of trouble. Agitation continued and a wide variety of schemes for the solution of their problems was produced. There were flour tax schemes, home-consumption price schemes and all manner of schemes. With the outbreak of World War II., the Commonwealth Government of the day enacted legislation to acquire the wheat production of Australia for the period of the war. Because of the difficulties experienced in getting agreement between the State governments on a wheat stabilization plan and a wheat marketing plan after World War II., it became necessary for the acquisition powers to be exercised for several years after the cessation of hostilities. Although a Labour government was in office in the Commonwealth sphere, the powers of acquisition were exercised in those years only at the request and with the consent of the State Premiers. This was done in order to give the wheat-growers and the government time to launch an effective stabilization scheme. In 1946, after many conferences, the Labour Government enacted legislation to give effect to the 1946 proposals for wheat stabilization. It has been repeatedly stated here by members of the Country Party and other honorable members that the Commonwealth legislation enacted in 1946 was not approved of by the wheat-growers’ organizations of Australia, or at any rate by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I want to show that those statements are incorrect. I have the report of a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Canberra from 22nd January to 25th January, 1946. During that conference there was read out a letter written by Mr. Stott, the general secretary of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, to Sir Thomas Playford, who then was and still is the Premier of South Australia. The letter, which completely refutes the statements that have been made on this subject-matter, was quoted by Sir Thomas Playford at the Canberra conference that I have mentioned, and 1 now read it in this Parliament. The letter is dated 18th January, 1946, and reads as follows: -
The Hon. the Premier, Treasury Buildings, King William-street, Adelaide.
In accordance wilh your request to set out the views of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation in respect to the new wheat plan, 1 report as follows: -
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation agrees with the broad principles of the plan but our policy stands as follows: -
We require 5s. 2d. per bushel f.o.r. as a guaranteed minimum first payment.
When the overseas price exceeds the guaranteed minimum of 5s. 2d. f.o.r. 50 per cent, of the excess should be paid into a reserve fund for the purpose of creating a fund to draw upon when the price is below the guaranteed minimum. The balance SO per cent, to be paid to the grower.
That the present home-consumption price for flour be adjusted in accordance with the price level since the homeconsumption price was fixed; and that the flour tax legislation bc amended to provide that all wheat sold for use in Australia- 1 emphasize those words - other than stock feed shall be sold at the price not less than wheat sold for local flour.
That expressly excludes a requirement to pay for stock-feed wheat the same price that was to be payable for wheat for the local manufacturer of flour - 5s. 2d. a bushel. Mr. Stott’s letter, referring to the Labour Government’s plan, goes on - 1 would point out that the Government plan is 5s. 2d. f.o.b. There is a difference between f.o.r. and f.o.b., as no doubt you would be aware. Further the Government plan is for 60 per cent, excess to bc paid into the reserve fund and 40 per cent, to the grower.
Other resolutions carried by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation which affects this plan at the Sydney conference are as follows: -
I want the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to note the next resolution -
You will appreciate that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation believes that on information supplied to it that there is a reasonable chance of an international wheat agreement being ratified at an early date . . .
General Secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
Mr. Stott, in that letter, mentioned that the Labour Government’s plan required 60 per cent, of the excess above a price of 5s. 2d. a bushel to be paid into a reserve fund and 40 per cent, to be paid to the grower. The Government, when it introduced the plan, agreed to a 50-50 contribution to the stabilization fund. In respect of other differences between the federation and the Government, there was some disputation about whether the basis should be f.o.r. - free on rail ports - or f.o.b - free on board ports. At that time, the difference between the two was about -id. or id. a bushel.
– It must have been more than that.
– Was the average freight component only id. a bushel?
– That was the difference between f.o.r. and f.o.b. The cost of taking wheat from rails to ships at that time varied from id. to id. a bushel. If the honorable gentleman would like to read afterwards the report of the discussions at the Canberra conference, I shall give it to him. He will find that the estimate was confirmed. The matter was argued, however. Some construed the price f.o.r. to mean the price at the grower’s home siding.
– I see.
– That is where lh:rc has probably been some confusion. Commercially, f.o.r. is always interpreted to mean free on rail ports. That interpretation was accepted by the members of all political parties represented at the Canberra conference as the basis of the legislation now in operation. The Government adopted the f.o.r. price. So, to all intents and purposes, in 1946, the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation completely agreed with the provisions of the measure that the Labour Government introduced in that year.
– Was that the first measure or the second?
– That was the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1946.
– Was that the first measure?
– Yes. The second one was introduced in 1948. Does the honorable member agree that that is correct?
– I cannot remember the date.
– All right. There has been a lot of misconception regarding the 1946 measure. There have been allegations that it did not give effect to the wishes of the growers and that it inflicted on them a stabilization deduction that was not justified. However, all that happened in regard to the 1946 plan was that the respective State governments did not effect the necessary complementary State legislation to enable that plan finally to operate conclusively. That was the reason why, in 1948, when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, legislation was introduced and subsequently enacted in this Parliament and the necessary complementary legislation was enacted by the State parliaments to enable the 1948 plan to become a reality. The 1946 plan had to be continued, in effect, under war-time powers. Can the honorable gentleman from Mallee see that?
– What were the differences between the two?
– By 1948 wheat prices had improved and, naturally, the growers requested - and were granted - an increase in the basic price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, which was raised, I think, to 6s. 3d. a bushel. That was practically the only difference between the two plans.
– I have just one other question. In the first plan, did you not ask for contributions from the previous harvest?
– The plan was designed to operate, with the consent and agreement of the Premiers, for the 1946, 1947 and 1948 harvests.
– But you wanted contributions from the previous harvest.
– No. Nothing whatever came from the previous harvest.
– No, but you asked at the start for contributions from the previous harvest.
– It does not matter what we asked for. We finally approved a plan covering the harvests for 1946, 1947 and 1948. The whole thing is outlined in Mr. Stott’s letter. I emphasize again to the honorable member that that letter was dated 18th January, 1946. There is no disputing the letter.
The next thing that I want to point out to the honorable member is that repeatedly, during the discussion of wheat matters in this chamber, by interjection and otherwise, he has implied and, indeed, stated that the Labour Government was responsible for the introduction of restrictions on acreage. Is that right?
– Of course I have.
– The honorable member admits that he has done that.
– And I can prove that that is so.
– Now the honorable member says that he can prove it. Let me throw this allegation right back in his teeth. A former chief president of the Central Council of the United Country Party was the late Colonel Bowden, who was highly respected by everybody.
– Do not bring him into it. He cannot speak for himself.
– The honorable member ought to keep quiet. He has been going on with this allegation and this lie for a long, long time. Now let me throw it back in his teeth and prove it false.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask that the honorable member withdraw that remark.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Lalor to restrain himself.
– 1 have asked that he withdraw his remark.
– I ask the honorable member for Lalor to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it. Let the honorable member for Mallee now keep quiet.
– I shall deal with the honorable member later.
– Order! I ask that the honorable member for Lalor be allowed to make his speech.
- Colonel Bowden, who was a very highly respected member of this House for many years, addressed the annual conference of the United Country Party, the honorable member for Mallee’s own organization-
– At Ballarat!
– At Ballarat. The conference was held on 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th March, 1941. Referring to the wheat legislation of the anti-Labour Government, Colonel Bowden said -
The Australian crop for the 1939-40 season amounted to 196,000,000 bushels actually delivered to the Australian Wheat Board- every State had either a record or a very large crop.
I shall not read everything that he said; I shall come straight to the point. Referring to the 1938 scheme he said -
This scheme provides for the registration of both farms and growers, and the objective is to restrict the production to the present average figure, namely 140,000,000 bushels annually, and to guarantee a payment to growers of 3s. lOd. per bushel at ports for their wheat.
– You said that was 1938. Did you mean 1948?
– No, I meant 1938. What I quoted was a statement by the president of your own organization.
Now let me quote from an official document which confirms that.
– You protest too much.
– No. You have been getting away with it for a long time now.
I have before me the relevant official documents. First, I have the Wheat Industry Act, No. 53, of 1938. It is the act to which Colonel Bowden referred. The purposes of that legislation were to assure the wheatgrowers of a payable price for wheat and to establish a stabilization fund. Just for the moment I am unable to find the provision I seek in the 1938 act, but a similar provision was made in the Wheat Industry Stabilization Regulations of 1940, which were made when the present Government was in office. One of the purposes of those regulations was to establish the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. They also provided that wheat-growers should not sow with wheat a greater area than , that which the board determined. So this policy of restriction was actually introduced before the Labour Government came to office
– Is that so?
– That is quite true. The honorable member can see that for himself if he peruses the official documents. They disclose that at all times during the many discussions that took place up to the end of World War II. the Labour Party and all other parties were inclined to support the restriction of the acreage sown to wheat. When we took office we found ourselves committed by legislation we had inherited from the Government which the honorable member supports to the payment of money to growers not to produce wheat. I shall let it go at that.
It was my good fortune to be a member of a government which gave the wheatgrowers of Australia the first stabilization scheme they had ever enjoyed during a peace-time era. The act setting up that scheme was severely criticized by members of the Country Party and members of the then Opposition in this Parliament. That criticism was understandable. In fact, those people went further and condemned the legislation, but it was put on the statutebook. It ran for a period of five years. It was not put into effect until the growers in a poll conducted in every State of the Commonwealth, except Tasmania which was not involved, agreed to it, which they did by an overwhelming majority. All State governments passed the necessary complementary legislation. When 1 look back, I marvel at the results we were either lucky enough or just shrewd enough to achieve. Whether it was luck or shrewdness on our part, I do not know. I arn inclined to think that it was more likely that by that time the growers had become so fed up at being for so long without any organization whatever that they were glad to accept our proposals.
– We did not have a vote in Queensland.
– No, because opinion in favour of it in that State was so strong that the State Government did not think it worth while putting it to the vote. In any case, it did not matter very much because you had only about 3,000,000 bushels and the authorities up there did not think it worth while putting the question to the vote. We do know that you campaigned against it. The wheat-growers of Queensland have never protested, have they?
– You promised to leave us out of it. We had the first stabilization scheme in the Commonwealth.
– The wheat-growers never protested?
– Did you say we promised to leave you out of it? It was given to you by what government?
– By a Labour government.
– Exactly. The first attempt to give the Queensland wheatgrowers a stabilization scheme was made by the Labour Party. It forced the Liberal administration to have a vote taken on it. Eventually the legislation was enacted and the scheme became a reality. It has been successful ever since. When the first five-year term expired, the growers voted for a continuation of the plan. The present Government has re-enacted the legislation on several occasions, and it is before us now for re-enactment again. Inevitably, as time has passed, experience has shown certain amendments to be desirable. Those amendments have been made and on all occasions the members of the Labour Opposition, which is proud of the original act, have voted in support of the amendments that have been found to be desirable with the passage of time. I do not propose to speak further on the history of the industry; suffice it to say that once again it has been found necessary to amend the plan which is to run for the next five years.
One of the proposed amendments is an increase in the limit of export wheat on which the guaranteed price is to be paid from 100,000,000 bushels to 150,000,000 bushels. I think it is only right that that should be done because, based on the present production of wheat, 150,000,000 bushels represents almost the same proportion of total production as did 100,000,000 bushels when the Labour Government introduced the original plan. In other words, when the Labour Government first paid a guaranteed price on 100,000,000 bushels of wheat for export the average yield was about 180,000,000 bushels. Would anybody quarrel with that estimate?
– That is the average crop.
– The total production for the year was about 180,000,000 bushels and the guaranteed price was paid for 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat. That 100,000,000 bushels would represent about nine-tenths of 180,000,000 bushels.
– It would not be as high as nine-tenths.
– It would bc five-ninths, and we paid the guaranteed price on that amount of wheat.
– There was also the local consumption.
– Yes, but I am talking about export wheat. In 1948, the guaranteed price was paid on 100,000,000 bushels. The total crop at that time was about 180,000,000 bushels. So the guarantee was given on about five-ninths of the total production at that time. Is that correct?
– Yes, except that you are not dealing with all of it. The guarantee really covers the production for local consumption as well as for export; so it is 100,000,000 plus the local consumption.
– I was not arguing that point. The point 1 was arguing was the value of the guarantee applied to that portion of Australia’s crop that is exported. I was not dealing with the other subjectmatter at this stage.
– 1 thought I was helping you.
– You probably did not know what 1 was trying to get at.
– I was not trying to trap you.
– No, I think you were trying to help roe. Let mc repeat what I have said. The export guarantee given by the Labour Administration at the time it was in office covered five-ninths of the production. The guarantee provided in this bill will apply to an increased amount of 150,000,000 bushels. The recent production of Australia was 307,000,000 bushels, so this guarantee covers a little less than onehalf. The difference between five-ninths and one-half is one-half of one-ninth. That is the margin in favour of the guarantee given by the Labour Government.
– It is one-eighteenth.
– Yes. The Labour Government’s guarantee was one-eighteenth better than the guarantee now given on the increased amount by this Government.
– How many loaves of bread would that be?
– 1 am not interested in how many loaves of bread it would bc. 1 will put this more generously and say that the present proposal to extend the guarantee to a greater volume of export wheat restores the guarantee to the position it held under the Labour Government in 1948. That is not very clear, 1 will admit, but that is what it means.
The bill does not make any variations to the system of determining the cost of production. This remains the same. However, there is one very important variation. In order to enable the Treasury in some circumstances to meet a liability which may arise, the Government has increased the amount that is required to accumulate in the stabilization fund from the present £20,000,000 to £30,000,000. That is a very big increase in the reserve fund. It means that no surplus money can be given back to growers until £30,000,000 has been accumulated.
– lt is the same proportion, though.
– I am quite in agreement; it is the same proportion. However, it means that no surplus money can go back to the growers until £30,000,000 has been accumulated. 1 am not sure that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) is right about this being the same proportion as the Labour Government had. Unless my memory is very bad, the Labour Government’s limit before money could be distributed to the growers from the stabilization fund was £15,000,000.
– J think it has always been £20,000.000. It was £20,000,000 in the 1948 act, anyway.
– You may bc right. I had an idea that it was £15,000,000.
– I will check it.
– However, it is not important.
– Yes, £20,000,000 is right.
– I thought it was £15,000,000. I am wrong. However, it is not an important point. 1 cannot sec any objection to the measure. 1 express pleasure at this provision being made for the wheat industry. This is a great industry. Last year, it brought an export income lo Australia of roughly £186,000,000. In this country, there is less discontent amongst wheat-growers than there is in any other section of the primary-producing community. Over me long period that the stabilization fund has operated, from 1948 to the present time, I do not think (he Commonwealth revenue, in round figures, has been called upon to contribute more than £15,000,000 under the terms of this scheme. Honorable members will note that 1 am speaking from memory. The Government has brought in such a rush of bills at the end of the session, before it goes to meet its masters, that it is impossible to check every detail before debating a bill.
– The amount is over £20,000,000 now.
– lt may have reached nearly £20,000,000, but that amount is infinitesimal when compared with the vast export income that has been derived from wheat since 1948. No reasonable government would quibble about a payment such as this. 1 regret that there are not more similar stabilization schemes operating now. It is unfortunate that stabilization schemes that should have continued to be equally as efficient as this scheme is have fallen on evil times. This is particularly so with the scheme for the dairy industry. Although the original scheme for the dairy industry was based on a guaranteed price, related to the efficient cost of production, on all exported butter and cheese, dairy farmers are now receiving only 44d. per lb. for commercial butter at a time when the ascertained cost of efficient production of dairy produce is S6d. per lb.
– Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the bill.
– 1 think you are right, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We should resume the even tenor of our ways. I hope that, whichever party may be in government in the future, it will ensure that this type of legislation is continued and also that the principles involved in it are applied to the marketing of all primary products. In view of the difficulties of ensuring that marketing legislation, including this measure, is constitutional and in view of the long delays that occur before the Commonwealth authorities - I sympathize with all Ministers on this point - and the State authorities can reach unanimity on the concurrent legislation that is required of the State governments, whatever their political colour may be, I hope that, whichever government is in office in the future, it will follow the recommendation of the all-party committee of this Parliament which reviewed the Constitution and hold a referendum seeking to amend the Constitution so that all organized marketing schemes will have the protection of the Constitution. At the moment, none of these schemes wholly enjoys this constitutional protection.
There is no need for me to say any more. Normally, I would have had the time to prepare a much more coherent and accurate account of the industrial history of our great wheat industry. I have a considerable volume of documentary evidence that I could use to produce an impartial summary of the history of wheat marketing in Australia, if I had the time. Some of the evidence that I have does not redound to the credit of a great many people in this country. Despite all the disputations on this politically inflammable subject of wheat, I. am pleased that the industry has emerged protected by legislation which this Parliament now is proposing to extend for a further five years. I wish the industry well and hope that no government will ever abolish or destroy the protection it now enjoys under this measure.
.- When debating in this House a bill dealing with a primary industry, we can always rely on the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to provide entertainment in the form of an historical record of the Government’s administration in connexion with the industry concerned. He always tells a most fascinating story, although it is not completely correct in detail, but 1 think that in the circumstances, we can excuse any little omissions on his part. It is a fascinating story, and I do not intend to canvass it, particularly at this time.
An important consideration, as the honorable member for Lalor has reminded us, is that in the past the wheat industry has gone through most turbulent times, has been afflicted with serious disabilities and suffered the consequences. All that it is necessary for us to do, in attempting any sort of rehash of the past, is to remind ourselves that such conditions must not happen again. This coalition Government, on several previous occasions, has committed itself to the principle of stabilization of the wheat industry and protection for the growers. The bill involves a most important principle, which gives expression to the political philosophy of the Government parties. It also illustrates some difference between the parties comprising the Government and the Opposition, even though we all agree and acknowledge that it was a Labour government which, in 1948, first announced the intention, to promote a wheat stabilization scheme.
While Labour may claim that it started stabilization, I ask everyone to realize that, with the Government’s method o£ operation of the stabilization scheme, the growers still retain control of their own industry. I am not sure that, had circumstances been different over the past fourteen years, the growers, not only in the wheat industry but in other industries also, would still retain that same measure of control over their industries and the marketing of their products. Both the Liberal Party and the Country Party have adopted the policy of orderly marketing of primary products. At the same time, they have insisted that, whatever schemes are adopted for stabilizing and protecting primary industries, they shall be those which are requested by the growers and their organizations.
By way of example, I will mention other industries in this connexion. Legislation has been enacted for the stabilization of the dairy, cotton and woolgrowing industries, and Commonwealth schemes for the stabilization of the poultry industry and the dried fruits industry are proposed. One could compile a considerable list in this regard. All the measures fit in with the pattern of the Government’s approach towards stabilization in primary production. The schemes are evolved as the result of specific requests by the growers’ organizations and when they are achieved the growers can rely on retaining control of the marketing of their products and the administration of these organizations.
Let me analyse the situation in regard to wheat, as it is encompassed in this bill. The stabilization plan was due for renewal at the expiration of the five years term. Representatives of the wheat-growing industry and members of the Australian Wheat Board agreed that any renewal should bc based upon determinations and calculations after surveys by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and that the quantity of wheat to be subject to the guaranteed price would need to be re-assessed in the light of present-day conditions. The honorable member for Lalor made a comparison between the quantity of wheat subject to the guaranteed price in 1948 and that proposed in this legislation;
A survey was carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and it should be emphasized that the farmers involved were representative of the growers throughout Australia. The costs of production of wheat taken into consideration were, in fact, the actual costs of the farmers- fuel, fertilizers, freight and all the other actual costs involved in the production of wheat. In addition there were included allowances for return on capital invested, operating charges and so on. These calculations, in the terms of imputed costs, have come up for some discussion and debate and this is one of the subjects which may need to be looked at further. But the fact is that, in this legislation, the calculations and the determination of imputed costs have been accepted and agreed to by the wheat industry and the organization.
Remarkably enough, I have found that farmers occasionally complain that they have never actually received the costs of production. This is obviously true because all items of their legitimate costs have already been allowed for in arriving at the final figure. Strangely enough, there is a misconception in the minds of some people who feel that they should receive the full amount of the cost of production and that the costs of fertilizer and so on have not been taken into consideration.
A highly important item in this determination was the actual cost of production per bushel of wheat. In order to obtain that cost, it was necessary to ascertain the average yield per acre and this became a question which required governmental decision. What should the figure be? Should it be the average yield at the last harvest or the average over the previous five years or some other period?
While it is acknowledged that improved yields have been contributed to by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and by State governmental activities, as well as improvements in machinery, plant and so on - and in the case of the C.S.I. R.O. and departmental activities Commonwealth money has been involved - I still believe that the chief factor has been the farmer’s own industry and work in the production of his crop, his astute use of capital, the way he has used that capital and plant and- his preparedness to apply enterprise in obtaining his harvest. Therefore, has the Government recognized that it has been the farmers’ own work, in the ultimate, which has resulted in this increased yield? The Government has accepted the recommendation of the Wheat Index Committee, which consists of representatives of growers and departments of agriculture, that the average yield should be based on a longer period providing, in the ultimate - as contained in this bill - a figure of 17 bushels per acre. As the Minister said, that figure corresponds roughly to the average yield over the period during which the stabilization scheme has been in operation. This is approximately H bushels per acre more than in the previous term. It must be appreciated that any lesser term of calculation which may have been accepted, and which the Government may have been justified in accepting, would have given a higher yield divisor and, therefore, a lower price per bushel.
The next problem was the quantity of wheat on which the new price of 14s. 5d. should operate. Under the previous plan the quantity subject to the guaranteed price was 100,000,000 bushels, as the honorable member for Lalor has said. It should be realized that the Government gave full consideration to the representations of the industry in respect of the great contributions that the wheat industry makes and has made for a long time to Australian finances. The wheat industry has made one of the largest contributions ever made to Australian finances. The Government also took into account the increased production, the very rapid development of new land in Australia and the extension into marginal areas. The Government also had regard for the generally buoyant state of the export market. The Government took these matters into consideration in deciding to increase the quantity covered by the guarantee to 150,000,000 bushels. The effect of this increase is that in respect of the harvest about to begin the farmer will receive the guaranteed price for a greater proportion of his crop. This obviously will compensate him to a large extent, if not completely, for the reduced price per bushel. The effect of this legislation will be that the Australian taxpayer may have to contribute a greater amount to the industry in the event that export prices do not reach the required level. But let me emphasize that the guarantee applies only to something less than half the present crop - not to the entire crop. Also, it should never be forgotten that the home-consumption price is based on the guarantee figure. The Australian consumer - the local stock producers and those who eat breakfast foods or bread - have been subsidized to the tune of many millions of pounds during all the years that export prices have been higher than the local price. This situation has operated so much to the advantage of the local consumer that he has had very little about which to complain. This fact is clear except in somewhat deeper discussion.
This is, of course, in my view the very essence of stabilization. It has been claimed that stabilization has made the wheat industry but in the event of urban interests claiming that the Government has been overgenerous to the wheat industry in its calculations of the yield divisor or the guaranteed quantity, let me say that all the benefits which the consumers are receiving in the form of lower prices are due in the main to two things. They are due first to the increased efficiency of those engaged in the industry - this is something which the consumers may well try to emulate in their own spheres - and secondly, to the understanding and co-operative approach of the Minister, to whom I pay a particular compliment, and the Government in recognizing the proper reward to be made to this great Australian industry. I am pleased to support the bill.
.- I do not wish to delay the House for long in speaking to the bill. Most honorable members, as well as the wheat-growers scattered throughout the Commonwealth, have taken an interest in wheat legislation and possibly they know my views on it. The Country Party as a political party is enthusiastically in support of this legislation. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that he did not want to recite the history of the wheat industry. Anybody in this chamber who has taken an interest in the wheat industry will appreciate the great knowledge of the industry possessed by the honorable member for Lalor. We also appreciate the fine contributions that he has made to the industry’s well-being. Those contributions date back to the time when he .was a Minister in a former government: Although <the honorable member claims credit - it is due to him - for the early success of the wheat stabilization scheme we must not overlook the fact that the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Government are introducing this renewed stabilization plan. The new plan is the first break-through of any consequence on the original plan, because for some years the guaranteed price applied only to 100,000,000 bushels. Now the guarantee will be extended to cover 150,000,000 bushels. This extension is greatly appreciated by the wheat-growers. They are aware that it is an improvement on the previous plan. The guaranteed price will continue to be based on the cost of production and will be varied each year according to movements in the cost of production.
In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
Increased efficiency in the industry due in no small measure to the results of research, to which the Commonwealth and State governments contribute, has resulted in higher yields per acre and a consequent decrease in the cost of production per bushel. Because of this, the Australian consumer will have the advantage of a decrease in the price of wheat while the cost of production return to the growers will be preserved. For the first year of the new scheme the guaranteed price to apply to 150,000,000 bushels of export wheat will be 14s. 5d. per bushel bulk basis f.o.r. ports. As in previous schemes the home consumption price fixed under State legislation is based on this figure.
I would like to stress one point referred to by the Minister. Although a lot of the increased yield has been attributed to such things as research, I would like to pay a particular tribute to the wheat-growers themselves. Over a period of years they have carried out a good deal of what might be termed private research. All people engaged in primary industry carry out their own experiments, concentrating on improving their pastures. The wheat industry is no exception. Many years ago the average yield per acre was 12 bushels, but to-day it is 19 or 20 bushels. A good deal of the increased yield is attributable to the efficiency of the growers themselves.
Some growers have a few complaints about this legislation. One complaint is that there is no margin of profit. Another complaint is that for the coming harvest the guaranteed price has been reduced from 15s.- lOd. to, 14s. 5d. a bushel. Anybody who has studied the wheat industry or who understands it will appreciate that those are legitimate complaints. Dealing with the margin of profit, there are many hidden margins of profit that we are inclined to overlook. Although we cannot pinpoint the percentage, there is a hidden margin of profit. The average yield on which the cost of production is based is calculated over a period of fifteen years. The average yield thus obtained is 17 bushels an acre but in actual fact the yield is 19 or 20 bushels an acre. This, of course, gives an advantage to the grower. That is one of the hidden margins of profit. Having regard to the fact that the yield divisor in the previous scheme was based on a 15.5 bushels average it is obvious that there was a higher margin of profit there. That is why there has been a reduction from 15s. lOd. to 14s. 5d.
I think it was the honorable member for Canning (Mr. McNeill) who stated that only one-half the Australian crop - 150,000,000 bushels - would be guaranteed. I think that was an oversight. He did not mention the 60,000,000 bushels which are used for home consumption and which brings the guaranteed quantity to 210,000,000 bushels. We cannot use last year as a base because honorable members will remember that last year our crop was an all-time record. In very few years would we expect our crop to reach 300,000,000 bushels. We need a terrific run of good seasons and a right price before all and sundry are encouraged to grow more wheat. This legislation guarantees 210,000,000 bushels. I suppose that one can make a rough forecast that average production will be in the vicinity of 250,000,000 to 300,000,000 bushels, so the guaranteed amount represents a very good percentage of the total crop.
Another point I wish to make relates to restrictions on the wheat industry. It has been said from time to time that if the Government introduced a good stabilization plan and lifted the price it would encourage over-production. Then it has been said that if there is a danger of over-production we must introduce a stabilization scheme which will discourage production. I repeat what I have said on numerous occasions: I do not like the word “ restrictions “. I never have and I do rot think I ever will. We have heard these statements made time and again. With the exception of the war period, when things certainly were a little difficult, I have not seen the day when Australia has had a surplus of wheat for any length of time. Admittedly our bins have been filled to overflowing at times but eventually we have always managed to find markets for our wheat. This is due in no small measure to the work of the Australian Wheat Board, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry, who always battle very hard.
A few years ago we sold wheat to China. This emptied our bins. Recently we sold wheat to Russia. Many people disagree with these sales. I do not like tying my hands to any country like mainland China or Russia. We should not depend on selling our wheat to them. But when our bins arc full and while we are still growing wheat and those countries are prepared to pay for it, naturally we should sell it because after all their money is as good as any one else’s. However, we must be very careful not to tie our hands by depending on sales to them every year. Tn any case, until our bins are filled to overflowing we should forget about restrictions. If we do reach a stage when we must consider restrictions - I hope we never will - we must be sure that we do not restrict by fixing a price which will discourage the production of wheat. If we must restrict production we should do this by reducing the acreage. We must never return to the bad old days of crippling prices. There is no doubt that you can restrict production by the price level, but we must avoid doing so at all costs. We cannot afford to allow our wheat industry to become down-trodden. 1 again congratulate the Government on introducing this bill. Like the honorable member for Lalor, I could have taken all of the time allotted to mc to speak to this bill but two or three of my Country Party colleagues want to participate in this debate and I do not want to deprive them of the opportunity to do so. I conclude by complimenting the Minister on the wonderful work that he is doing. I am sure that after 30th November he will still be the Minister for Primary Industry.
Mr. IAN ALLAN (Gwydir) fi 2.40]. - The honorable member for Lalor (Mr.
Pollard) attempted to draw a parallel between the 100,000,000-bushel guarantee offered in previous stabilization schemes and the 150,000,000 bushels proposed in this bill. In fact, there is no parallel between the two. When the first wheat stabilization scheme was introduced we enjoyed a seller’s market. Buyers from all over the world were seeking our wheat, so the government of the day look very little risk in offering a guarantee on 100,000,000 bushels. The situation now is completely different. An immense surplus of wheat is held in many countries. America is paying 1,000,000 dollars a day to store its surplus of 1,000,000,000 bushels of wheat. We are living in a very difficult period for the marketing of wheat. It is salutory to remind ourselves that if it were not for the failure of the Communist countries - Russia, China and Cuba - to produce enough food for their own people it would not have been possible for the Australian Government to increase the guarantee from 100,000,000 to 150,000,000 bushels. There has been an improvement in the market for wheat due to the huge purchases in recent times by Communist countries. Russia, China and Cuba have bought between 500,000,000 and 600,000,000 bushels and there is every prospect of similar purchases being made in the future because, in spite of their claim that they have had to purchase wheat only because of temporary mismanagement or bad seasons, it has become plain that they are buying wheat because of the fundamental defect in their structure of production. It is not possible for the Communist countries, operating through huge State farms and collectives, to deliver the goods. Under that system they cannot produce enough food for their own people.
We in Australia have had plenty of experience of socialistic experiments. They all end in the same way. I do not need to refer to the spectacular failure of experiments such as that at Peak Downs in Queensland. Let me refer to the situation which existed in New South Wales, my own State, when it had a Labour government and when there was a Labour government in office in the Commonwealth sphere. Those two Labour governments succeeded in reducing production in New South Wales to the point at which the State was importing more of the basic foodstuffs per head of population than was the United Kingdom, a country which is very little larger than my electorate but which supports 50,000,000 people. In those days New South Wales was importing vast quantities of potatoes, cheese, beef, butter, onions and wheat - the whole range of essential foodstuffs.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I pointed out that our experience in Australia has been that whenever socialist principles have been applied on the land they have been a failure. Even in the limited extent to which they have been experimented with in Australia over a period of years we have seen that they have always failed. That being so, we can be quite certain that the type of socialism that is applied to rural production in Communist countries with full rigour and ruthlessness will be equally a failure. As the realization of that grows and spreads around the world, the place of the farmer will come to be appreciated more and more. People will realize that the cold war against communism will be won on the wheat fields and the farms of the free world. It will be the farmers of the free world, with their enormous rate of productivity, who finally will demonstrate to the world the inefficiency and unwisdom of socialism.
I support this legislation because it is a demonstration of the way in which the wheat-growers of Australia, working under a free system, can co-operate in order to raise the rate of production and the total production of wheat. In doing that they are providing the world with an example of how wheat and other commodities can and should be grown. If we continue in this way, in the course of time we will achieve the goal that we all so earnestly desire, namely, a world of peace; a world in which no such thing as a cold war exists; a world in which our resources are not diverted towards armaments; a world in which our total resources are devoted to the cause of creating an era of abundance; and a world in which nobody need go short of essential food.
.- I gladly support this bill. I believe that it is the best stabilization measure that has been before this House and that it will be welcomed by wheat-growers and other people throughout this great country. I welcome it because primary producers are a section of the community who, without stabilization, cannot participate in Australia’s high economic standards. The reason for that is that wheat-growers and other primary producers must sell the bulk of their production in overseas countries which have lower standards of living and consequently pay lower prices.
As I have said on numerous occasions, if Australian primary producers could buy in the markets in which they sell the bulk of their products, all the goods that they need for the upkeep of their families and to produce their products, they would not require stabilization. As I have tried to point out, stabilization is necessary because in this country we are building up secondary industries and a good home market; but Australians are a long way from being able to buy everything that can be produced from the soil. If everything that was produced in Australia was bought in Australia at Australian prices, there would be no need for subsidies or any of the other measures that governments have to provide in order to keep primary producers on the land.
The primary producer is at the end of the line. If a man is making shoes or clothes and he finds out that he is making too many, he reduces his output. If costs rise under certain conditions - perhaps because of strikes, the introduction of a 35-hour week, or one of the many other things that force costs up - he adds the increase in costs to his price.
– You mean higher wages.
– The honorable member says that I mean higher wages. Of course I do. Higher wages force prices up. The man in a secondary industry passes the increase on to the consumers by way of an increase in price.
– You are advocating a reduction in wages.
– I am not advocating a reduction in wages. I am advocating stability at a high level by the stabilization of primary industries. Every one should know that a man in a secondary industry passes on a rise in costs by increasing the price of the product he sells. Wheatgrowers and other primary producers are at the end of the line. They can do that only in respect of the limited proportion of their production which they sell in Australia and for which they receive Australian prices - and even this is difficult.
As I have said so often, we have to do something to overcome this problem. The only way that we can overcome it is by stabilizing the industry so that, if overseas prices fall, the price received by the primary producer is built up to a price in accordance with Australian economic standards. Everybody must agree with that, because it is fundamentally sound. Primary industry is the saviour of secondary industry. Secondary industry cannot continue to function unless it has the necessary raw materials. Raw materials to the value of about £500,000,000- oil, rubber and all the other materials that are so necessary- - must be brought from overseas each year. If we did not build up our overseas balances by having an adequate primary production, secondary industry could not continue to function because it would not have the materials that it needs. That is a fundamental principle of stabilization in Australia.
I wish to refer to one or two other points that have been mentioned in this debate. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was the first speaker for the Opposition. I pay tribute to him because he is the one member of the Opposition who knows something about general primary production. As I said only last night, he has gained his knowledge from personal experience. You cannot show any book-learned skill when you start to talk about primary production.
– What were you before you entered this Parliament?
– I was a wheatgrower at one stage. I was brought up in cattle and sheep production and I have been associated with live-stock and primary production for the whole of my life. No man can deny that. The honorable member for Lalor and I do not always agree. Fundamentally, we agree; but now and again he says something with which I do not agree and I say something with which be does not agree. We have our disagreements.
At many meetings in my electorate and elsewhere people have stood up and said that the honorable member for Lalor, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, made what is known, I suppose, as the infamous New Zealand wheat deal, He did not. I have had to say on numerous occasions that he did not make that deal and that he was not Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when it was made. It is wrong to accuse any man of something of which he is innocent. However, I cannot lift the burden in respect of that deal from the Labour Party, because that party made the deal. It was only after weeks of intense questioning in this House - at first the Labour Party denied it - that it came out that the deal had been made. I did not agree with the honorable member for Lalor, who tried to support the Minister who made that deal, when he said in this House only recently that the wheat-growers did not lose a penny by it. It could be said, perhaps, that the wheat-growers did not lose through sales of wheat, but the taxpayers as a whole had to meet the difference in price, and as wheat-growers are big taxpayers they lost a lot of money as a result.
I have heard different people giving different reasons for the increase in the production of wheat. The reason most often given, I suppose, is that there have been good seasons. Another reason is increased efficiency of farmers and more modern machinery. There is also the fact that myxomatosis has rid the country of rabbits. All these things have combined to bring about greater production. Of course the stabilization of the industry has also been largely responsible for increased production. Recently I attended an auction sale of land at Woomelang in Victoria. I was interested to note that before the auctioneer offered the property for sale he read out some of the things that the Government has done recently for primary producers. Although what the Government has done may have forced up the price of land to a higher level than I think is desirable, we cannot be held responsible for that, because we are eager to help the man who produces the goods.
The honorable member for Lalor has more or less challenged me with regard to what I have said in connexion with restriction of wheat acreage in Australia. I have brought with me a copy of “Hansard” of 5th December, 1946, Volume 189, to prove my point. We know that the Wheat Industry Stabilization Committee had been set up and that it had power to restrict the acreage of wheat. The honorable member for Lalor says that it was set up in 1939 but that the government of the day did not implement the proposal with regard to wheat at that time. Just to show that what I am saying is not fantasy, I will read something of what I said on 5th December, 1946. I was then protesting against a continuation of this kind of control.
– What kind of control?
– Control of the acreage of wheat. I said -
I am protesting against the continuance of that kind of control. In order to show that it is being continued, I shall now read a letter dated the 14th October, 1946. A man at Minyip, Victoria, asked that his basic acreage should be increased to 170 acres on a property of 412 acres, his present basic acreage being 140 acres. The Wheat Industry Stabilization Committee stated in reply to representations on his behalf -
The area of the farm is 412 acres. Sound farming practice in the district is on a threeyear rotation so that the basic acreage of 140 acres will permit of this practice on the farm.
That man at Minyip is being told by a man in Melbourne how to carry on his farming operations. Primary producers who have had experience of farming lasting a lifetime, and perhaps are the sons and grandsons’ of primary producers, are being told how to run their farms, at a time when we need the greatest production it is possible to obtain. . . . The letter went on to say -
In these circumstances the request that a basic acreage of 170 acres be fixed for each year cannot be granted.
What the honorable member for Lalor is doing is trying to hide behind the Wheat Industry Stabilization Committee, and what I was doing in that speech was advocating that the committee be stripped of all power to restrict acreage. What kind of support did I get? Later in that speech I said -
If a man’s acreage is reduced, the consumer must go short of food. This kind of control should be swept aside. Surely the primary producers, who have developed this country and are at present maintaining it, know how to run their own business without advice from a government department. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) must realize that. If these regulations are to have the effect of reducing acreages in the future, when greater food production will be needed, I am strongly opposed to them, and suggest to the Attorney-General that they should be discontinued.
I could read other letters. There is one, for instance, from a man at Sea Lake who had a basic acreage of, I think, 400 acres, and who also had a self-sown crop of wheat which he said would produce, in that good year, about seven or eight bags to the acre. He had 400 acres as a basic acreage and he also had about 70 acres self-sown. He asked to be allowed to strip the self-sown wheat, and he was told, “ Yes, you may do so, but you must then leave 70 acres of your basic acreage “. Then he asked to be allowed to strip the 70 acres of self-sown wheat and to keep it for pig and stock food on the farm, and he was told that he could not do so. No wonder we were fighting against these things, and no wonder I take exception when the honorable member for Lalor gets up and says that Labour stands against any restriction of acreage.
– I did not say that at all.
– If you did not say it, then let me put it another way. I accept your word. I have never doubted your sincerity. You say that you have never said that Labour stands against restriction of acreage. You cannot have it both ways. You either did say it or you did not. I thought you said it, but if you say you did not, I will accept that. So you have never said that Labour stands against restriction of acreage. It must be one way or the other.
Restriction of acreage has brought about many very serious results apart from the actual restriction. Shortly after this time Australia was desperately short of wheat, so what happened? Wheat was imported from overseas, and the imported wheat contained all kinds of noxious weed seeds. Indeed, in the electorate of Wimmera, represented by my colleague here, and in the electorate of Mallee the people are still fighting the weeds that were brought in in that wheat. The importation of that wheat should have been quite unnecessary.
The speech I made, passages of which I have read to the House, was delivered on Sth December, 1946. I had been elected to this House on 9th February of that year, so that it was not long before I got into action, imploring the Labour Government to do away with these restrictions, but what kind of a reception did I get? I got a complete denial that there was any need for this to be done, and complete inaction on the part of the government of the day. The wheat-grower is playing a magnificent part in this country to-day, as has been said by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King). We are selling a certain amount of wheat to countries such as the one they call mainland China.
– Oh, red China!
– We are not selling wheat to red China, but to-
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the Chair. I am afraid I am missing a lot of his speech.
– There is only one other point I want to make in connexion with this bill. It is a long time ago that certain important happenings occurred, and I remind new members of them. After all, there are only four members on the Government side at present who were here when I came here on 9th February, 1946. They are the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The Labour Party has about the same number. The change-over of members makes it necessary to explain what has happened in the past, because new members have no idea of what has been happening. They are unable to bring into play the arguments that are necessary to combat certain statements that have been made. We are grateful that the Government has extended the guarantee to cover 150,000,000 bushels of wheat for export.
This is a very good bill. I would not have risen to speak on it had the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) not said what he did. I suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry that, in order to set the seal on his great achievements for primary industry - on this occasion, specifically for wheat-growers - he could not do better than announce that the first payment on deliveries from the 1963-64 wheat crop will be not less than the first payment last year. Growers have asked me what the first advance payment will be. I have not been able to tell them, but I know that the Minister is in full sympathy with the wheat-growers and other primary producers. In questions directed to the Minister and in speeches I have urged that this year’s first payment should be not less than last year’s first payment. I am hopeful that this will be the position. I am sure that such an announcement by the Minister would completely satisfy wheat-growers all over the country. With the greatest possible pleasure and enthusiasm, I support the measure.
Mr. ADERMANN (Fisher- Minister for Primary Industry 12.371. - in reply - I appreciate the reception that has been given to this bill by both sides of the House and the unanimous support that has been given to a scheme that has proved its worth and is to be amended to meet the circumstances of the time. There are no controversial points to be answered.
As to the request of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), the amount of the first advance payment depends upon the passing of this legislation. If I am advised later in the day that it has been passed in this and another place, I will have the greatest pleasure in announcing to-day the amount of the first advance payment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from ?4th October (vide page 2267), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third lime.
– The honorable member may proceed if he wishes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 2339), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this measure, which grants to Western Australia a sum in the vicinity of £1,500,000 for the building of a jetty at Broome. Half of the money is repayable, the Government taking the view that the jetty is a moneyearning asset. The measure also provides for the grant of £2,000,000 towards the supply of irrigation water to, and drainage from, farms to be served by water stored by the newly completed diversion dam on the Ord River.
The Ord River scheme, which is being financed by this measure, has recently come in for some criticism from a former officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In the latest issue of the Sydney “ Bulletin “ there appear some of his criticisms of the industries which will develop around the Ord River dam. He doubts whether they will be economic and asks whether the expenditure should not have been directed elsewhere in Australia, where the growing of similar crops would be more profitable. I do not express any opinion on this criticism but 1 do express disappointment at the kind of abuse which has been directed at him for the statements he has made. Any assertion that the scheme will prove economically sound in the immediate future is not to be sustained merely by saying that no one ought to advance any reasoning to the contrary or that he has a defective outlook if he does.
Most honorable members are interested in northern development. Any sane person will hope that the scheme will be economically sound and will recognize thatit is a wise policy of the Commonwealth and State governments, if they believe that to be so, to sustain the project through its early stages. These are early stages. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) revealed in his secondreading speech that so far five farms have been established and that the establishment of another seven farms has been approved. He has in mind, in the scope of this bill, 50 farms of 600 acres each. Some correspondence has appeared in the “West Australian “ on this matter. Some correspondents have advocated farms larger than 600 acres, and one person, writing an objection to this view, has stated that a farm of 2,000 acres would require a capital of £100,000.
Some honorable members on this side of the House doubtwhether the Ord River project is being sufficiently worked in with the development of roads and facilities in the Northern Territory, quite near to it, and whether there is sufficient co-ordination of policy between the Commonwealth Government, which is responsible for the Northern Territory, and the Western Australian Government, which is responsible for the Kimberleys. We certainly hope that, if the success of the scheme requires action from both sides of the border, that action will be taken.
There is a tendency to speak of northern development in purely engineering terms. I suppose it would be possible to dam every river in the Northern Territory, but it does not necessarily follow that then you would have irrigated a valuable agricultural area. One must assume that the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government which has put millions of pounds into this scheme have made a thoroughly responsible analysis of the possibilities’ of the industries that are to be established there. That being so, the Opposition welcomes the additional expenditure for the irrigation channels which are envisaged in this bill. We see no reason for delaying its passage.
.- Mr. Speaker, like the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), I shall be brief in discussing this bill, which provides for financial assistance by the Commonwealth to Western Australia for the development of the northern part of that State. I, too, deplore the criticism that has been levelled in certain quarters illinformed quarters, in my opinion at the lack of success in developing the north. The whole of the scheme for development of the northern part of Western Australia is experimental. I remind the House that the whole of the development of Western Australia was undertaken, in the first place, in an experimental way. The State lost millions of pounds I do not know the exact figure, but it was something like £7,000,000, £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 in attempting to develop the dairy industry. The honorable member for Fremantle will recall what happened concerning development on the Peel Estate and in the adjacent area. We lost millions of pounds also in trying to develop the wheat industry in Western Australia. But can we say that the money that was written off was really lost, in view of the development that has taken place as a consequence? If that start had not been made, the State would still have been undeveloped. We have learned from our mistakes and have developed the State in consequence.
The development for which financial assistance is to be given under the terms of this measure is experimental. We shall know eventually whether the areas of the farms are too small or too large and whether the right kind of development is being undertaken. I am satisfied that we shall have to write off millions of pounds. But, if we do not do so, what will happen? We shall just let the country lie uninhabited even, for the most part, by the aboriginal people, who were the original occupiers. We have to make a start somewhere on development of the area. Commerce and industry are prepared to undertake experimental development in various fields and to debit losses against future returns from the development that takes place. The only way in which development can be undertaken is by writing off initial losses against future returns. We deplore criticism by people who, at this stage when the whole scheme is only in its infancy, say that it will be a washout and that great losses will occur and will have to be written off.
In my opinion, the Commonwealth has been very generous in assisting development that has been undertaken in Western Australia in recent years. Hitherto, the State itself has had to finance development and bear the whole of the losses sustained. I hope this may not be quite relevant to the bill now before us that the Commonwealth, in providing financial assistance for the development of the north of Western Australia, in the area commonly known as the north-west, will not overlook the urgent requirements of development in the southern part of the State, especially in the southwestern division. That division has now proved its capacity, but completion of the comprehensive water supply scheme is urgently needed. A request for financial assistance for the completion of that scheme is at present before this Government. Let the Commonwealth not devote its attention entirely to the north-west. Let it take the view that the south-western part of the State has proved its potential and that Commonwealth assistance for further development there should be provided.
I support the bill, Sir. I hope that the combined efforts of the State and the Commonwealth under the terms of this measure will in time prove a success.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Davidson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28th October (vide page 2362), on motion by Mr., Fairhall -
That the, bill be now. read a second time.
Mr. POLLARD (Lalor) 12.50].- Mr. Speaker, this measure will give effect to a recommendation by the Tariff Board for the payment of a bounty on uncompounded vinyl chloride polymers and copolymers, including latex. In effect, the bill provides for a bounty of 4d. per lb. on vinyl resins for a period of three years, provided that they are produced in Australia and sold for use in Australia, or used by the producer in the production of other goods. The two Australian manufacturers of these products arc B. F. Goodrich-C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited and Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited. The industry employs more than 200 people. These resins are used extensively in the manufacture of electrical insulating materials and in the production of a variety of other goods used in most important sectors of industry such as those that manufacture motor cars, furniture, clothing and packaging materials. I point out that this bounty protection is additional to tariff protection already operating. The bounty is subject to the usual bounty provisions in measures of this sort, inasmuch as it will bc reduced or eliminated if and when profits exceed 10 per cent, before the payment of tax.
I do not want to make a long speech about this measure. However, I want to say that, pretty frequently, we in this Parliament have to consider bills providing for the payment of bounties to manufacturers on products that they make in this country. There is justification for the payment of bounties to infant manufacturing concerns to enable them to overcome the difficulties of establishing new industries in this country and, in the initial period of manufacture, to protect them against competition by imported goods.
One of the features of recent measures of this kind has been that they have appeared to me in some respects perhaps to show an excessive degree of solicitude for powerful and wealthy manufacturing interests compared with the interest and assistance accorded to less strong industries. It has always seemed a little strange to me that great industrial enterprises such as Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which is associated with the Dow Chemicals Com pany in the manufacture of chemicals, having great accumulated wealth and large resources, come to the Government in the initial stages of some new kind of manufacturing enterprise and ask to be subsidized. When the ordinary wage or salary earner, perhaps after a lifetime of saving or a fortuitous win in a lottery or sweep or something of the sort, tries to establish a business in a competitive field, he does not, in the initial stages, ask the Government for a bounty on his labour or for some form of subsidy of his efforts. He takes the hazards of the market and. battles along, frequently at a loss, depending on his accumulated capital, though, very often, he has extremely little of that. He may be depending upon going to a bank and borrowing money at an excessive rate of interest; he may be depending upon the goodwill of and financial assistance from his friends. He certainly gets nothing from governments. Yet the moment these great wealthy corporations and cartels of all types invest in a new form of production some of the capital they have accumulated from soaking profits out of the Australian consumers they come to the Government and say: “ For the first two or three months we will not be making any money. We arc not prepared to live on the accumulated fat earned from our other activities until we reach the profit-making stage. How about giving us a subsidy or bounty? Wc employ 200 or 300 people”. They invariably use as an inducement the fact that they are creating employment. Of course they arc creating employment, and the implication is that if they do not get protection by way of subsidy or bounty they will not start the enterprise and keep it going. Therefore, as it is important to our progress that industries be encouraged to develop, the Government yields to pressure from these wealthy groups and pays out the peoples’ money to assist them to reach the profit-making stage. But, when they do reach the profit-making stage, do any of them ever suggest that they should pay back to the people or the Commonwealth Treasury the money they received to assist them in the development stages? Not on your life!
I make these few comments notwithstanding the fact that we propose to support the measure. We support it because, of . all things, the Australian Labour Party appreciates that from the viewpoint of defence and having regard to our experiences in World War I and World War II it is essential that we should encourage the establishment of major industries to manufacture the goods we need rather than import them from other parts of the world. They should be encouraged also because they provide more scope for the employment of the Australian people. Whilst offering those words of criticism of the general principle involved, especially that which relates to the assistance given to the very wealthy organizations, I support the bill.
.- On looking over previous speeches that I have made with relation to assisting secondary industry in one way or another, I noticed with regret that a tinge of bitterness had crept into them. In this case, I am glad to take the opportunity of saying that I think this is an absolutely splendid measure.
– What a change of front!
– It is. I am glad you appreciate it. I really think that this proposal is a change for the better, for reasons that I shall explain. First I should like to commend the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on having seen fit to include with this report the correspondence that passed between the chairman of the Tariff Board and himself. The Minister raised with the chairman of the board the question whether the board’s report really covered a particular aspect of the industry under consideration. The chairman of the board, Mr. Rattigan, wrote back in a way for which I honour him, and gave a full explanation. He then suggested that the correspondence be attached to the back of the report. I think this is a very proper procedure, and I commend both gentlemen for the action they have taken.
I am interested in this question of polyvinyl chloride for many reasons. This is one of our old shuttle service friends. This is one of those cases in which reports went backwards and forwards between the Special Advisory Authority and the board. First, the Tariff Board reported on it in 1961. lt then went to the Special Advisory Authority in 1962 and then came back to the Tariff Board in 1963. We are now dealing with the report relating to all those transactions. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out, the two producers - Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited and B. F. Goodrich-C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited - use the acetylene route. They purchase most of their acetylene from overseas and treat it with chlorine which is produced from salt. The salt is gathered mostly in South Australia and shipped to the eastern coast for treatment. One remarkable fact that emerges from the Tariff Board’s report is that the Japanese producers, who are our main competitors for polyvinyl chloride, enjoy an advantage of 25 per cent, in the cost of salt, and Japan gets most of her salt from approximately the same area of Australia. For the life of me, I cannot understand how salt can be shipped from the same gulf in South Australia to Japan and sold to the Japanese producer for a price which is 25 per cent, lower than that charged to the Australian producer, on the eastern coast. There may be some explanation of it, but I find it difficult to understand and I look forward with confidence to receiving an explanation from the Minister. It seems to me that either the shipping rates must be completely out of balance or perhaps the I.C.I, company is charging itself too much for its salt. I can think of no other alternative. There may be others, and I shall be glad if the Minister can advise me of them.
Another point on the salt or chlorine side of this matter is the fact that in two recent reports and in the last annual report, the Tariff Board made particular reference to the need for a closer examination of the cost of the chlorine group - soda ash, caustic soda, and so on. It may be that the same processes should be used in those cases as we are following here. It may be that a bounty should be paid in order that the very much higher cost of these products will not bear too heavily on other industries further down the line. So much for the I.C.I.A.N.Z. group which makes this polyvinyl chloride in this way.
The other manufacturing group is a combination of B. F. Goodrich and C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited, in which B. F. Goodrich has invested 60 per cent. of the capital and C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited, 40 per cent, of the capital. They use the ethylene dichloride route to produce the same product. They get their ethylene dichloride from C.S.R.C.-Dow Proprietary Limited, who supply it as a by-product of the Altona chemical complex.. The Tariff Board says that it is not sure whether C.S.R.C.-Dow Proprietary Limited is charging C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited the proper price for ethylene dichloride. This is also something about which I think there must be an element of doubt. But, whatever the route used, they both sell at the same price, and I make no comment about that.
The Tariff Board then proceeds to discuss why the industry needs this kind of protection. It makes the pertinent comment that the overhead cost of the plant producing polyvinyl chloride in Japan is 400 per cent, lower than that of the plant producing this product in Australia. It does say that there may be various factors responsible for this. For instance, the cost of electricity here may be dearer, but it cannot understand this great difference; nor can I. There must be some explanation for it. I should hate to think that the I.C.I, company would be charging to overhead breakages of its large glass windows at the head office building, or something like that. It just cannot be. There must be some explanation for the overheads in Australia being 400 per cent, higher than elsewhere. If the Minister could help me resolve my puzzlement on that point, I would be even more grateful than I am now for his many past courtesies.
The Tariff Board went on to measure how much assistance the industry needed. After thrashing around with various figures, it decided on 10jd. as the appropriate figure to equate the costs. The board said that this was a very big margin and very high protection. It was obviously perturbed about the level of protection needed. If I may, I will quote directly from the board’s report, because this matter obviously puzzled the board a great deal. It said -
Until the industry can substantially improve its competitive position, it is clear that the local production of P.V.C. resins will require a degree of protection substantially greater than the Board would consider appropriate for products which in turn are the raw materials of a large number of subsequent industries.’. -,<r ‘ v
In this, the Board finds itself confronted by a serious economic problem. The production in Australia of P.V.C. resins and a relatively small number of other basic products has developed during periods of world shortage and of local import controls. With the elimination of these shortages and a return to more competitive trading conditions, some of this local production has become highly uncompetitive and thus damaging to subsequent manufacturers and to the competitive position of the economy as a whole. Particularly is this so as these products find increasing use in a wide area of industrial activity. For example, P.V.C. resin is now extensively used as an electrical insulation and in the production of such goods as motor and other transport, furniture, apparel, packages and floor coverings. In subsequent inquiries still under consideration the Board has received representations concerning the effects of P.V.C. prices on a number of these products.
It is a long way round to the point that really should be considered, but it is this -
It is also clear that the number employed in the production of the basic material is quite small compared with those engaged in subsequent processing industries most of which face keen competition from imports and from goods made from other materials.
This is why I have been arguing in this House that we should consider more carefully the protection we so often hand out lavishly. Many more people use polyvinyl chloride than make it. If you made polyvinyl chloride too dear, you could affect employment in the user industries. This is the opinion of the Tariff Board; it is not mine.
The Tariff Board was faced with the problem of arranging the protection, lt realized that if it helped the industry by imposing a duty, it would make the position of the user industries too difficult. It decided, therefore, to give a duty of 61d. m.f.n. rate and bounty of 4d. In this way, the user industries would not be placed at such a disadvantage, and that is the essential reason why I gladly support the bill.
It is interesting to note that the 6 id. duty on a price of 12d. per lb. works out at 54.2 per cent, and on 13d. per lb. at 50 per cent. This is obviously a very high protection before the bounty is added. The bounty of 4d., on present production, is estimated by the board to cost the taxpayer £450,000. If the industry gains a greater share of the market, as the board and the Government expect it will, the cost of the bounty to the Australian taxpayer will be £550,000. That is a considerable amount of money - or it is to my simple mind.
I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor on this point.
I was always under the impression that bounties were intended to aid infant industries. I had a touching picture of the directors of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited meeting inside the tin shed that an infant industry would naturally use. I pictured the directors sitting around in anxious conclave. The chairman would say, “ Well, things are not too good. “ He would turn to the treasurer and ask, “What is in the kitty, Fred?” Fred would look into the kitty, anxiously count the cash and find that the profit for last year was only £3,040,000. He would be concerned about whether this was enough, but he could now say, “ We still have the bounty money to come and this will help us “. Surely the grant of a bounty in circumstances such as this should be looked at with some care.
However, as the honorable member for Lalor said, with typical kindness and eloquence, employment is the object of the exercise. The Tariff Board mentioned this point. It said the number of men employed in the production of this material was in excess of 200. I was uncertain - I am still uncertain - whether this is 200 men or 300 men, so I did a little arithmetic taking each figure. If the figure is 200, then the bounty alone amounts to £2,200 for each man employed. If the 64d. duty is added, the amount of assistance is £5,775 for each man. If the figure is 300- as the Tariff Board said it was in excess of 200, it must be between 200 and 300 - the taxpayer will be paying a subsidy of £1,500 a man and the consumer subsidy plus the taxpayer subsidy will work out at £3,937 a man.
– Not enough!
– The honorable member may say that it is not enough. I do not say it is too much. I simply draw the attention of the House to it. I think we ought to look at these matters with more interest. Obviously, employment is the object of the exercise, but let us agree that wc have bought employment at a price. If honorable members would like me to repeat the figures, I would be only too happy to do so.
Wc are always told that investment should bc encouraged. I am not contesting that; it is obviously a proper attitude to take. Most of the capital used in Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited comes from overseas and] 60 per cent, of the capital of B. F. Goodrich-C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited comes from America, I understand. Not only do we encourage these industries to come here - that is quite proper - but having brought them here, we also guarantee them exceptionally good profits so that they will stay here. This is done at the expense of the taxpayer and consumer. I do not say this unkindly. I think it is a matter that we ought to examine to ascertain whether we are doing this in the right way.
It is interesting to note that the bounty is subject to a profit limitation of 10 per cent, per annum. In the case of the I.C.I, company it would be a miracle if any one could tell when the limitation of 10 per cent, was reached and how the overheads had been allotted between the various factories. I would be glad to hear the Minister’s views on this question. I also ask the Minister how the limitation whereby the bounty will be reduced or eliminated if and when profits exceed 10 per cent, before tax is to be applied in the case of the other process, when the ethylene dichloride has to be bought from one of two companies, the chief constituent of both of which is the C.S.R. company. But the profit limitation is there and it should be there. I do not contest it, but I would be glad of the Minister’s advice as to how it is going to be arrived at.
I really rose to say how glad I am that this method of protection has been used. If any other method had been used and ;f full assistance had been given by duty alone, it would have placed a calamitous burden on the user industry. I am glad the Tariff Board recommended as it did and that the Government followed the board’s recommendations. We should realize that with the tariff, plus the bounty, we are giving these firms very high protection. I do not say it is too high, but with the 6id. duty and the bounty at a f.o.b. price of 12d. per lb. the ad valorem rate of duty works out at 87.5 per cent, and at 13d. per lb. it works out at 81 per cent. Obviously we are not halfhearted in our desire to help these industries - infant in age though not in statures ‘ .
I welcome the use of the bounty system rather than the tariff system and I think we should use it more than we do. The Minister gave an open invitation for industries to press for bounties rather than for duties. I ask him, if he will be so good, to answer the questions I have raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) read a third time.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I present the report relating to the following proposed work: -
Construction of a terminal and operations building and a maintenance and stores centre at Launceston Airport, Tasmania.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House, namely, the construction of the proposed terminal and operations building and a maintenance and stores centre at Launceston Airport, Tasmania.
I apologize to the House for not having given honorable members the opportunity to study the report of the Public Works Committee but I think they will realize the circumstances and the fact that it is desirable that the work should proceed. The committee has reported favorably on the proposal and on the concurrence of the House in this resolution detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendation of the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I present the report relating to the following proposed work: -
Construction of the Lonsdale Exchange Building, Melbourne, Victoria.
Ordered to be printed.
.’ - by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House, namely, the construction of the proposed Lonsdale Exchange Building, Melbourne, Victoria.
The proposal provides for the erection at an estimated cost of £2,400,000 of a concrete encased steelframe structure consisting of sub-basement, basement, ground and fourteen upper floors. The building will be situated in Lonsdalestreet, Melbourne, and it will provide for the expanding needs of the Melbourne local subscribers network and trunk line communication systems. The committee has reported favorably on the proposal and on the concurrence of this House in this resolution detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendation of the committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Loan Bill 1963.
International Development Association (Additional Contribution) Bill 1963.
Currency Bill 1963.
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2411), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– ls it the pleasure of the House that the suggestion of the Minister should bc agreed to?
– With very great reluctance.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
.- -When 1 agreed that we should proceed with the debate on this bill and should include in it discussion on the related bills, 1 really meant it when I said “ with very great reluctance “. 1 was not joking, because 1 think it is high time some protest was made with regard to the disgraceful haste with which legislation is being pushed through this Parliament. We have under consideration three measures which concern the welfare of one of Australia’s greatest primary industries, the production and canning of deciduous fruits which are produced mainly in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queenshind. This industry has increased its production since 1927 by something like 6,000,000 cartons of canned fruits. The value of the production has increased from f 250,000 per annum in 1927 to £8,600,000 to-day. Owing to a rather disastrous fall in the prices of canned fruits for export, this industry at present f::ces a crisis.
The three measures that have been introduced are complicated. They require a good deal of study before anybody is able to make an intelligent analysis of their meaning and effect when applied to the industry. Members of this Parliament should be allowed at least a fortnight in which to study bills of this nature before being called upon to debate them. An intelligent study of the legislation means analysing every clause in the bills. To expect this Parliament intelligently to interpret measures that were brought before it and explained for the first time as late as yesterday is unfair. Such action is wrong, whatever may be the merits of the legislation.
This situation arises because only recently the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) determined that he would abandon the ship of state. Notwithstanding that he had never suffered a defeat in the Parliament, the Prime Minister decided to walk off the deck and ask the people to look for a n.w captain. He offered himself as the new captain but at a time when the ship still was in effective working order. The right honorable gentleman saw a virile, intelligent and capable Opposition in his path. Rather than continue to indulge in combat with the Opposition he walked off the deck without any consideration of the fact that primary industry and the general economic state of the nation required that the Parliament proceed intelligently and deliberately with consideration of measures necessary to advance the economic welfare of the Commonwealth.
– You tried to push the Prime Minister off the deck.
– Of course, lt is not so long since the press of this country was accusing the Opposition of not being sufficiently strong in confronting the ministerial benches.
– The press was about right. When you complain about having an election it seems to me what there must have been some substance in the complaints of the press.
– I am not complaining about having an election. The Opposition has always wanted an election, lt is the people who will complain at being involved in additional expenditure of £500,000, which could give them a parliament constituted exactly as is the present Parliament. That could happen. If it did happen, would the Prime Minister accept office or would he say again: “ I cannot do the job. Let us have another election. “? Those arc the factors that have resulted in legislation like this being brought to this Parliament without opportunity being given for the Opposition to consider maturely whether the legislation is justified or whether it is likely to be of effective help to the industry.
The Canned Fruits Export Marketing Bill is said to relate to the export of canned fruits and purposes connected therewith. The bill provides for the repeal of the various Canned Fruits Export Control Acts, restores the powers that were contained in the old acts and changes and adds to some of those powers. In effect we have a new consolidated act dealing with the Australian canned fruits industry. What problems that arose under the old acts are some of the provisions in this bill designed to remedy? They are of such a nature that the Government has seen, fit to reconstitute completely -the board which, up to date, has been in control of the industry. There will be a number of additions to the constitution of the board and some changes in representation. Clause 7 of the bill states - 7.- (1.) The Board shall consist of-
Under the old act co-operative canneries and canneries other than co-operative canneries were represented on the board by only one member each. As far as I can ascertain the new board will be clothed with a new set. of powers. The bill provides that upon recommendation by the board the Government may impose an excise levy on all canned fruit consumed in Australia. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the imposition of a levy on goods for consumption in Australia invariably leads to an increase in price to consumers of the particular product concerned. If a can of peaches today is worth ls. 2d. and a levy of 2d. a can is imposed, quite likely the price to. the consumer will rise to ls. 4d. On the other hand, if the board so recommends the Minister may, under the complementary legislation, impose a levy as high as 6d. a can. We are told that the levy is designed to allow the board to promote the sale of canned fruits and to assist generally in the marketing of canned fruits in overseas markets. The Government taxes the local consumer in order to raise funds to assist the controllers of the industry to foster the sale of Australian canned fruits on export markets. That is not unusual but I should like to know- I will deal with this matter further in the committee stage - what limitations are imposed on the manner in which promotional funds are to be spent in overseas markets. Can moneys collected by the levy imposed on canned fruit consumed within Australia be distributed to assist in increasing the income derived from the export of canned fruits to overseas markets? In other words, you collect 2d. excise on a can of fruit sold in Australia and you apply i-d. a can to each can of fruit sold in the export markets. Is that feasible or possible? Can such a levy be constitutionally imposed when this bill becomes law? This is what I would like to know. Is the money so raised to be apportioned for advertising, for the payment of rewards, for printing and cinematographic work, and for the payment of agents who peddle canned fruits from door to door or from agent to agent? For what purpose will it be used? That is one question that arises.
Then there is a completely new departure. In his second-reading speech the Minister stated -
The board will be permitted to purchase and sell canned deciduous fruits under certain conditions. Provision is also made in the legislation to permit the board - where it desires to finance the purchase of canned deciduous fruits - to obtain advances from the Reserve Bank under guarantee from the Government.
It appears that this purchase power could be applied to canners who perhaps had a surplus on their hands and offered it voluntarily to the board for purchase. The board could purchase the surplus with funds guaranteed by the Reserve Bank, backed in turn by the Commonwealth Government. I do not know the purpose of this provision, and I think the House is entitled to an explanation. Does it mean that a canner who has on hand 1,000,000 cartons of canned fruits that he cannot sell can approach this newly created board with an offer to sell at a specific price? If the board agrees to purchase, but has insufficient funds, can it then approach the Reserve Bank for assistance? Will the Reserve Bank then say: “We will advance £200,000 to purchase the 1,000,000 cartons of canned fruits, provided the Commonwealth Government is prepared to sign a guarantee to us “? Will the board then hold the fruit in store if at that’ time the market is not suitable and the price offered is not sufficient? Will the board await its chance to feed that fruit on to the export market at an appropriate time? Is that the meaning behind the proposal? Is that the kind of transaction which is envisaged? Does that come within the range of the power vested within the board? Perhaps the Minister will tell me later.
At this stage let me say that the Australian Labour Party has never opposed any measure introduced during the life of this Parliament that was designed for, and in reality was in the interests of the primary producers. We do not want to oppose this measure, but t say here and now that we do not view with any great favour a bill which, of its very nature, is likely to result in the price of canned fruits to the Australian people being increased, if the industry is in need of assistance - I believe that it is desparately in need of assistance - we would prefer the Government to assist by way of bounty, lt is unfortunate that this measure has not reached us until the dying hours of the Parliament and when we are faced with an election. The canned fruits industry is not the only industry in this field which is desperately in need of assistance. The Government has done nothing to assist the dried fruits industry in Mildura and elsewhere, although it needs assistance. The relief now proposed is confined to the canning industry which, in the main, is centered in the electorate of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). The people in the dried fruits industry, who also need assistance, have been neglected. No one can deny that.
The Opposition takes the view that it would be more just to assist this industry by a straightout bounty payment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund than by imposing a levy, the proceeds of which could te applied to promoting the export of canned fruits at an unsatisfactory price. With a bounty payment of £1,000,000, £2,000,000 or whatever is necessary, the burden of assisting an industry is snared by the Australian people in accordance with their ability to pay. The levy proposed by this bill can and will place on the shoulders of purchasers in the lower income group, with large families, a greater share of the burden of assisting the industry than they should be required to .bear. We. criticize this measure from that point of view,.
We have just disposed of a bill relating to the payment of a bounty on vinyl resin. That bounty will assist the two local producers, B. F. Goodrich-C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited and Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited. 1 think the bounty will amount to £600,000 or £700,000. The burden will not be placed on individuals in the low income group. It will be spread over the whole community, which means that those receiving higher incomes will pay a higher share of the cost of assisting those organizations.
Another bill is to be introduced relating to assistance by means of bounty to the copper industry. A bounty payment is the right way to assist industries. The end result of the payment of a bounty on copper is that the Minister, who because of his income pays a high rate of tax, will do more to assist the copper industry than will the man on the basic wage or £20 a week. And the Minister should pay more! However, in relation to the canned fruits industry the levy, which could amount to as much as 6d. a can, will be borne by the local consumer. If a levy as high as 6d. a can is placed on canned fruits and increases the price of a can of fruit by 6d., there will be a diminution of the consumption of canned fruits in Australia. That will not be good for the industry, but it probably is something in the nature of a brake on a high levy.
These are aspects of the proposal which we should have had a better opportunity to debate. We should have been given a better opportunity to study and consider the implications of the bill now before us as well as the associated excise bill. I emphasize that we on this side are not opposed to the purpose of the measure, but we quarrel with the principle of putting the burden of a levy on the shoulders of the consumers of canned fruits in Australia. Although perhaps instances can be cited in which the Opposition has supported a form of assistance based on the principle of a levy, there is no reason why that principle should be continued unduly. It is not one that we view with any degree of favour. If no bounty is provided or if nothing is done to assist the industry except by means of a levy, the. price of canned fruits to the /Australian -. .consumer could increase.
The Government could appeal plaintively to the respective canning interests to make - a contribution to a fund to assist promotion and the marketing of exports of canned fruits. We know what would happen. We would have the same experience as we have had in other cases. Some people would play ball and some would not. The advantage of this compulsory levy on the industry by excise duty is that it eliminates the unfairness and the impossibility of effective collection of a voluntary levy from the canning interests. The canning interests will now do compulsorily what they might have done voluntarily.
Those are the features of this measure about which I am concerned. I believe that the Australian public, however great is their desire to assist this industry, when they realize that this Parliament, in its dying hours and without sufficient mature consideration, is empowering a government to inflict an excise duty on the consumption of canned fruits within Australia, will agree with the Opposition that this is not the right way to assist an industry which they would be only too willing to assist. This is a marvellous industry. I think, in the economic sense, the Australian industry is better than any other deciduous fruits or canned fruits industry in the world, in that we have thousands of fruit-growing blocks all over Australia. We hope that they are sufficient in size. Under normal circumstances, they provide a reasonable income for a man and his family. The home is situated in a 10, 20, 30 or 40 acre block, or whatever it might be.
The Australian position contrasts with the circumstances in some other countries. For instance, in California you will see a 100 or 200 acre block producing fruit for canning, jam making or some other form of consumption. There is one mansion in the centre of the block and the labour comes from itinerant workers camped around the place during the picking and processing season. The Australian industry is magnificent. Its little communities, with their churches, schools and business centres, contrast with what happens in other parts of the world. The Labour Party and I are anxious to help the industry. But we do not view favorably at this stage this method of assisting the industry. We will not vote against this bill, although we ought to
However, we certainly will investigate the incidence of taxation when we form a government after 30th November. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is the villain of the piece in respect of the imposition of this levy, will not be jibing at the person who will be occupying the position that he now occupies. He will not be saying, “Now you had better do what you said you would do “.
There is the bill as I see it. I hope that the Minister will enlighten us on some of the questions that I have asked. I want to know - I want a straight and clear answer to this question - whether the levy can be spent not only on promotion but also on the payment of a bounty in respect of the section of the production of the industry that is exported, thus enabling by an equalization process the distribution of a uniform payment to the industry as a whole.
.- I will not delay the House for very long, but there are a number of points which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), I and the Opposition generally would like to clarify. We are greatly disappointed with and critical of the Government for introducing this bill yesterday and not giving adequate time for members of the Opposition and Government supporters to examine its implications. That gives rise to the doubts that we express to-day. This is unfortunate. If members of the Government, including the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), wanted an election so quickly, they should have ensured that we would have adequate time to examine the implications of the bills that had been introduced and were yet to be introduced.
There is no question about the fact that this industry is in trouble. That is indicated by a number of factors. It is also true that this was one of the industries which were directly threatened by the prospect of Great Britain’s entry into the European Common Market. This industry, because of its great dependence upon the traditional market in Great Britain, would have been affected gravely. I point out, as no doubt honorable members know, that whole communities in Australia are greatly dependent upon this industry and this industry alone. They have been built upon this industry and its activities as a result of what was known in the early 1930’s .as. imperial preference and what has been known since as Commonwealth preference. If Great Britain had entered the European Common Market - 1 have no doubt that that prospect still exists - this industry would have been gravely affected and some government action would have been required. The Labour Opposition recognized the threat at the time and said that it would have no hesitation in financially assisting the industry to obtain additional and alternative markets to the traditional markets on which it has relied for so long.
The situation in the industry now is that it is being under-sold in competition on its traditional market in Great Britain and on other markets. We know that South Africa has increased tremendously its production and its sales to Great Britain and other countries. As a result of that, our overseas sales and export markets have been threatened. That is indicated clearly in the thirty-sixth annual report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, which shows that the United Kingdom imported 2,760,000 cartons from Australia in 1961, whereas South Africa exported 5,029,000 cartons to the United Kingdom in that year, lt is apparent that South Africa is now a major supplier of canned fruits to the British market. That has undermined Australian sales on that market.
One of the factors which enables South Africa to undersell Australia is that its labour costs are far lower than Australia’s. The ordinary costs of South African orchardists, including pruning, fruit picking and all the other necessary costs, are probably only one-quarter of the costs of Australian orchardists. That is brought about by policies adopted in South Africa, in which wc do not believe. In mentioning this matter, I certainly am not saying that we should endeavour to lower the wages and working conditions of the people who work in the orchards of the Goulburn valley and other fruit-growing areas throughout Australia. I have said that whole communities depend upon this industry. The centres in the Goulburn Valley - including Kyabram, Ardmona, Mooroopna and Shepparton - and the centres as you go north towards Cobram, depend almost entirely upon the fruit industry and the co-operative and company canning factories. Griffiths, Leeton and other towns in the Riverina district are also very dependent upon this industry. On the overseas market the fruitgrowers and the canning factories of Australia have bc:n in trouble, and there is a prospect of greater trouble if Great Britain joins the European Common Market, which is not, of course, out of the question.
On the home market there has been intense competition. Any honorable member who has time to watch television on odd occasions has seen evidence of this competition, in the form of costly advertisements advertising brands such as Ardmona and S.P.C. This intense competition on the home market has undoubtedly been brought about largely by the big carry-over of canning fruit that has built up in the last few years, and which I understand amounts to 1,000,000 cartons or more this year. This has resulted in a drastic fall in prices. It is obvious that the canning companies are trying hard to sell their products and are using everything that is available to them in the field of sales promotion. The canning companies that sell overseas dispose of about 70 per cent, of their pack on the overseas market, leaving about 30 per cent, for the domestic market.
There arc certain questions that I would like answered. First, I would like the Minister to tell me whether this legislation discriminates against canned fruit. ft apparently does not apply to fruit packed in glass. I would like to know whether this is so and whether fruit packed in glass is to be given an advantage in competition against canned fruit, with what is in effect a sales tax being imposed on canned fruit sold on the domestic market.
The honorable member for Lalor raised the point that it will be possible under this legislation for a levy of up to 6d. a can to be imposed in respect of the domestic market. Although prices have dropped in recent times because of the intense competition, any levy of this magnitude must surely build up buyer resistance, which would cancel out the benefits that the levy is designed to confer. If the price of canned fruit goes up 6d. for a 29-ounce can, obviously the housewife will think twice about buying it. This can only result in a lowered volume of sales on the home market. If the levy is used to give a little more return to canning factories in respect of overseas sales, they could lose on the merry-go-round; obviously if their sales were reduced at home they would have’ to sell more overseas.
There is another point I would like cleared up. What sort of levy is proposed? What will be the rate of the levy and what will it cost the industry itself? What amount is it estimated will be raised by this levy in a period of twelve months? Will it be £1,000,000, £2,000,000 or £5,000,000? This is the kind of question I would like answered. I would also like to know whether it is proposed that the levy be imposed on canned berries and canned pineapple. I know that the levy will be applied in the case of canned peaches, canned apricots, canned pears and canned mixed fruits, but will it apply to canned pineapple and canned berries? If it will not, will the canners of those fruits be given an advantage over the people in the Goulburn valley and other centres who concentrate on peaches, pears, apples and so on?
We all know that when the Budget was presented on 13th August the Government announced that it was removing sales tax on foodstuffs. This was applauded by the community generally and by the Labour Party in this House. After all, we of the Opposition have been advocating this for a long time. What is now proposed will be, in effect, a tax on a foodstuff, on canned fruit, and it must inevitably have its effect on domestic consumption. I make this point because, as the honorable member for Lalor has said, this industry needs assistance, but we question the kind of assistance that it is getting, assistance at the expense of the domestic market to aid sales on overseas markets.
The honorable member for Lalor has questioned whether this levy will be available solely for sales promotion. Sales promotion can do a great deal in a great many industries. Every manufacturer of a product endeavours to promote his sales by advertising and other means. Will this levy be used solely for sales promotion, or will it be used, in effect, to buy excess production of canned fruit from the canners? Will it be used to make up losses on this excess production that is purchased by the board for a certain amount of money and sold overseas for a lesser amount of money? We would like to have a clear explanation of the exact way in which the levy will be applied, at what rate it will be applied and the) manner in which the money raised by it will be spent.
The honorable member for Lalor also said that the Opposition recognizes the need to aid the industry. That is true. We realize that in future years the industry may be in greater trouble, and it is essential to right the wrongs now existing in the industry if we can. In 1956 Victoria experienced a very wet year and floods inundated many hundreds and perhaps thousands of acres of Goulburn valley orchards. Orchardists lost a great deal of production and also many thousands of trees. With Government assistance they re-planted after the floods receded, in some cases on virgin land and in other cases on the land. on which the trees had previously been growing. We now find that those trees are bearing fruit and we will have added production from them. It is quite obvious that this will increase the industry’s problems. It will have to sell the additional production on the home market and overseas - one or the other or both.
I point out that the areas in which the deciduous fruit industry and the canned fruit industry are carried on are decentralized areas. For this reason alone, if for no other - and there are others - I would advocate assisting the industry. After all, if we are ever to achieve and maintain some sort of balanced population we must assist centres like Shepparton, Mooroopna, Ardmona, Kyabram, Griffith and Leeton to maintain themselves at their present population, and to expand if they can.
I ask the Minister to say exactly how much money will be raised. There must be some sort of estimate of the amount required in the next twelve months. I would like to know also how the money will be spent - whether on sales promotion or on some means of price support.
We are in favour of assistance to the industry. Although we support this bill, in a way we disapprove of it because the fruitgrowers and canners will be helping themselves. We believe that the help should come from the general community, out of national revenue, by the payment of a bounty such as other industries have received. Payment of a bounty could operate only temporarily. I am sure that the Labour government which will oe in office after 30th November will assist the industry, out of national revenue, so that it can solve the problems which confront it now and the even greater problems u’.’:b will confront it in future.
.- This is a hazardous industry and this is a very hazardous way of assisting it. That is the opinion of honorable members on this side of the House. We appreciate the organizational capacity and the tightly knit workings of the Australian fruit canning industry. We know how long the industry has been in existence. We have a great admiration for the growers of fruit for canning. We realize that fruit growing may be troubled by all kinds of diseases and weather conditions. The fruit-growers do not know from one year to another what their returns will be for all the hard work they have done in maintaining their orchards. 1 am amazed that the Government has waited for so long to help the industry. Why is it that in the dying hours of the twenty-fourth Parliament we have such an important measure before us? The Government has been in office for fourteen years, and for all of that time the fruit-growing industry has suffered so much from loss of export markets because of competition from other countries as to warrant the kind df assistance provided by this measure. The presentation of this and so much other legislation in the last week of the Parliament suggests to me that the Government is trying to jam through as much legislation as possible before the election.
– We have not stopped any member of the Opposition from speaking.
– I am not referring to that angle. I am saying that the Government has brought in so many bills of a similar type in the last fortnight that we cannot help but think that they have been introduced for election purposes. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who introduced the bill, represents a portion of the biggest fruit-growing area in Australia.
– I am not going to say that. 1 repeat that this is a hazardous way of assisting the industry. We do not know how much will be raised by the imposition of a levy. The fruit-growers will not know from year to year or even from month to month how much they will have to contribute. We do not know precisely how the amount raised will be spent. It is amazing that there is not one indication in the bill - except in a broad sense - of how the money will be used in the promotion of export sales. No details are given of how the money raised by the levy will be spent. We on this side of the chamber are convinced that an increase in the price of canned fruit to the consumers will depress home sales immediately, and we all know that the home market for any of our primary products should be encouraged first.
A kind of vicious circle will be created. An increase in the price of canned fruit to the home consumer will reduce home sales and reduced home consumption will in turn reduce the levy as it is paid only on fruit consumed. We all like canned fruit. The quality of our canned fruit is equal to that of any canned fruit in the world. Our fruit is attractively presented for sale. We must congratulate the industry on the way its products are marketed. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to pay more than we pay now for canned fruit. An increase in price will place canned fruit fair and square in the luxury class. Why should the products of Australian soil be sold at luxury prices? The more canned fruit that is sold, the greater will be the amount paid as a levy and used to promote export sales. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said, it would be far better to pay a straight-out bounty from Consolidated Revenue, as is paid to assist other industries, than to have this method of an excise tax on each can sold in Australia. If this means a price increase of 6d. a can, it will price Canned fruit out of many Australian homes. Canned fruit is one of our most delicious products, and it is appalling to think that by this measure we may reduce its sales.
In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
A new feature of the proposed, legislation provides for the chairman of the board to be elected by the board instead of being appointed by the Minister as at present.
I would like the Minister to explain the purpose of that change. The Minister then said -
A further provision enables the board, should it feel that special skills and or knowledge are required, and in this case subject to approval by the Minister, to appoint a chairman from other than board members. In this case the chairman shall be an additional member of the board.
If I have understood that correctly, the chairman will be brought in from outside. Why should this be so? It is a hotch-potch kind of arrangement. I am in favour of bringing in skilled men to assist the board with advice, but why should an outsider be appointed as chairman? It is not necessary to do that in order to get the benefit of his knowledge. In fact, it would probably shut him up, because most chairmen feel that the more they speak the less chance they have of remaining chairmen. I would be pleased to hear the Minister’s explanation of the change.
We have mixed feelings about the legislation. We believe that the industry should be assisted, but we are not very happy about the way it will be assisted. We believe that a levy on canned fruits sold in Australia is a very haphazard way to raise money to promote export sales. We appreciate that there is great competition on the overseas markets and that there is a surplus of over 1,000,000 cans in Australia at the moment. That is a tremendous quantity of fruit to be seeking to sell on overseas markets which are already cluttered up. I appreciate the Minister’s concern for the industry. When he was absent from the chamber I said that I was amazed that representatives of the industry had not asked him for assistance a long time before this. I cannot understand why the Government should suddenly decide that assistance is needed.
– They probably asked for it and were knocked back.
– Yes, that may have happened. The Minister may enlighten us on that point.
– Is not this also intended to protect the Minister for Social Services, who represents the , Riverina electorate?
– Yes. The Riverina and also the central part of Victoria come into it. This proposal is intended to assist the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who represents Riverina, and also the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), as well as one or two other honorable members opposite. It is very strange indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that legislation of this kind has come before the Parliament at this precise time. The Minister for Trade would not tell us the real reason for its introduction, I suppose, and probably he will not answer any questions about that.
The fact remains that I believe that a better and surer method than this of raising funds to help promote overseas sales of canned fruit could have been found. The method chosen is a haphazard and hazardous one based on a homeconsumption levy. If home consumption is reduced, the levy will be reduced. That is as clear as the fact that two and two make four. I believe that, after the first season during which this legislation has operated, the industry itself may try to scrap it in favour of some better method. The method suggested by honorable members on this side of the chamber is the payment of a bounty on fruit-growing for canning so as to assist the industry.
That is all that I wish to say about these measures. Very little deciduous fruit is grown in the Wilmot electorate, but those growers in my electorate who grow deciduous fruit for canning will be assisted. There are areas in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) where a lot of deciduous fruit is grown, and a great deal is grown in Queensland and in parts of Western Australia.
In conclusion, I say that I do not think that the Minister for Trade includes berry fruit in the application of this legislation. It will apply purely to canned deciduous fruits. There will be no benefit in respect of the great deal of berry fruit grown in Tasmania. I hope that a Labour government will be able to put the fruit-growing industry on a sounder footing.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to say something about these measures before the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) finally answers the questions asked and assertions made by honorable members on this side of the House, because I think that this legislation has produced a difference of approach between the Opposition and the Government that deserves closer examination. I believe that this is really a difference of approach as between the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Country Party on the one hand and, on the other hand, the Liberal Party of Australia, members of which comprise the majority of those in this Parliament who support the Government. I fancy that the Country Party and the Minister for Trade would prefer to attack this problem in the way that the Labour Party suggests - by payment of subsidy or bounty rather than by the method that is proposed in this legislation. I wonder whether in the background there has been a submission emanating from the Country Party, submitted to the Cabinet through the Minister for Trade, for the payment of subsidy or bounty on the production of fruit for canning in Australia and whether, perhaps, the submission has been rejected by the Liberal Party majority in the Cabinet.
The payment of subsidy or bounty seems to me to be the logical way of attacking the problem that any practical man would adopt. And the members of the Country Party and the Minister for Trade are practical men. In the Liberal Party, on the other hand, we have a number of men who have been brought up in the fairyland of certain kinds of economic theory.
– Who is talking now of economic theory!
– I include the honorable member in that category. Those members of the Liberal Party believe that the best and easiest way to solve problems is to use laisser-faire methods based on tax and expenditure. I think that the present situation reveals a difference not only between the Australian Labour Party and the Government but also between the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party section of the Government. In many respects, there are common ground and a common approach on the part of the Labour Party and the Country Party. In both cases, the approach is practical and not so theoretical as that which emerges very frequently from the Liberal Party majority in the Government.
I should like to have the views of the Minister for Trade on these differences, i should like to know whether, at any stage, he considered the payment of bounty or subsidy on the production of fruit for canning and whether, in fact, he tried to have such a method adopted, or whether he is satisfied with this less practical and more theoretical way of assisting the fruitgrowing industry.
The growing of fruit for canning is a very specialized industry that is confined to certain areas of Australia. In those areas, the great majority of people are employed, directly or indirectly, mainly in the growing and canning of fruit. We heard the very vivid description given by the Minister for Trade, at the time of the European Common Market debates, of what would happen if Britain went into the Common Market. He said that in that event he main industries in certain parts of Australia would be wiped out overnight by the loss of markets in Great Britain. It is true that these areas are highly specialized. It is true that they have problems that will increase even if Britain never enters the Common Market. It is true that the access of Australian canned fruit to markets in Britain and in Europe is declining steadily and significantly as a result of the natural diversions of trade in those parts of the world. In that respect, changes due to the Common Market are simply an accentuation of something indigenous that is natural in the circumstances. So these problems exist apart from anything that may be related to the Common Market. They are getting more serious.
The Australian Labour Party disagrees, not with the giving of assistance to the fruit-growing industry, but with the method adopted. We prefer payment of subsidy or bounty to the imposition of a tax - that is what the levy will be - on canned fruit sold for home consumption. However, we differ with the Government more widely than that. I believe that, sooner or later, more significant action in relation to the canned-fruit industry will have to be considered. We shall have to take the initiative at Commonwealth Government level in the development of new industries in those parts of Australia where fruit is grown for canning. Those are perhaps some of the most attractive parts of the country in which to live, and they provide favorable conditions for the development of many new activities. But Commonwealth initiative and assistance are required.
One has only to think of , the New South Wales town of Orange, which owes a great deal to government initiative and assistance in the development of industry, to realize what can be done in the Mumimbidgee valley in New South Wales and in the Goulburn River valley in Victoria to develop other forms of activity and other industries that do not depend on canned fruit. Measures to establish new industries will have to be undertaken seriously on a regional basis. The tragedy of the short-term measures that the Government adopts in cases like this is that they just put off effective action and divert attention away from what will be needed in the long run.
I should like to know from the Minister for Trade whether these matters that I have mentioned have been considered and whether he is satisfied with this very limited, short-term method of assisting an industry that is completely significant in his own electorate. I think that if he, in his very influential position, is able to produce nothing better than this on the eve of an election, he cannot expect any great gratitude to come from his own electorate.
I should now like to say a little more about the method that the Government has adopted. I have said that it is short-term and limited. It in effect imposes a tax on the sale of canned fruit in Australia in order to give the Government a fund to use for particular purposes. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) have pointed out that the Government has given us little or no information about how this money is to be used. Presumably it will be used either to pay some kind of subsidy ‘on the proportion of production exported, or to finance an advertising or sales promotion campaign overseas. Although we do know that a large proportion of our canned fruit is sold overseas and that therefore a certain amount of money should be spent on sales promotion in those markets, it seems to me that a great deal more could be done in the way of advertising and promoting the sale of canned fruit in Australia. I remember my own experience many years ago. Whenever I raided the pantry, the first things I went for were a tin of canned fruit and some cream. This combination of foods seems to me to have a strong attraction to Australian consumers. I should like to see more programmes on television depicting canned fruit being placed in a bowl and cream being poured over it. I feel that if we saw more of that kind of advertising sales of this product in Australia would be improved considerably.
What the farmers in the Country Party must surely realize - and this is one point on which the Country Party and the Australian Labour Party are on the common ground that I mentioned earlier in my speech - is that the Australian farmer depends mostly upon the Australian consumer for his prosperity. The more money the Australian wage-earner has the better market he provides for the Australian farmer. The Australian farmer and the Australian wage-earner have a common interest in this direction, and I think it is tragic that sometimes the employers of labour in the country, men like some members of the Country Party and a great number of the members of the Liberal Party - think about these questions primarily as employers always anxious to keep down labour costs.
What they should be more concerned about, especially the small farmers amongst them, is preserving the common interest that exists between farmers and the workers in the cities. How much consideration has been given to the relative advantages of increased expenditure on promoting the sale of canned fruit in Australia as compared with expenditure on sales promotion overseas? As the honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out, competition is more intense in Australia. For instance, on the Australian market we have to compete with fruit canned by slave labour in South Africa. It is extremely difficult for the Australian producers to meet that competition.
– Are you sure it is slave labour?
– Of course it is slave labour. This increases the intensity of competition-
– Have you been there?
– If the honorable member for Perth desires to be an advocate of apartheid, let him get up and say so.
– That is a complete twist of what you said.
– If you are trying to split straws on this matter, that makes you no better. No decent person would seek to split straws on this matter of policy. If we see that there are bad working conditions in any part of the world, such as there are in South Africa, it is our duty to say that we are opposed to such conditions. Only by opposing them can we hope to improve our competitive position on the world’s markets. If any member of the Liberal Party wants to split straws about apartheid, let him get up and so so.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to return to the bill.
– With all due respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you would keep the interjectors under control I could keep to it. We of the Opposition would like to know why a more practical method of paying a subsidy or bounty to assist the canned fruit industry has not been adopted in this case. In this instance we have conflict not only between the Australian Labour Party and the Government with relation to the practicability of the method proposed to be adopted on this very important question, but also between the Country Party and the Liberal Party.
We support this bill which seeks to provide assistance for the canned fruit industry because we realize that the industry must have some help, but we are not satisfied with the method which is to be adopted. We would like to see adopted a method by which the necessary funds would be raised according to the ability of Australians to pay instead of the imposition of a flat rate increase in the cost to the consumers of canned fruit in Australia, irres pective of the income of the person being required to contribute. As both the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) have pointed out, the method proposed by this measure could result in a decline in the consumption of canned fruit by many people in Australia who should not be compelled to go without this product.
Canned fruit is not a luxury; it is almost a necessary of life, and the proposed imposition will place too heavy a burden on some consumers. We disagree with the method to be adopted, and the Australian people should recognize the difference between the principles advocated by us and those adopted by the Government. The Australian Labour Party believes that when the Government needs money for any purpose that money should be raised according to the ability of individual Australians to contribute. The more they have, the more they should pay. The principle more commonly favoured by the Government is that the less you have the more you should contribute. In other words, the Government adopts the principle of inflicting impositions upon people according to the amount they spend on the ordinary necessaries of life. Further, we of the Labour Party say that this short-term or limited method will not be successful in the long run. Something more practicable and enduring should be planned for the canned fruit industry. With those qualifications, the Opposition supports the bill.
, - an reply - 1 wish to refer briefly to the various points made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and other speakers during this debate. First, let me make it clear that this bill is introduced having in mind the election, but not electioneering. The industry itself has been working on a plan which, in its judgment, is designed to meet its particular circumstances and it wants the plan to be operative during the forthcoming canning season. In my electorate the canning season generally begins between Christmas and the New Year. It is obvious that a scheme containing the provisions embodied in this one could never be fairly introduced in the middle of the selling season. It can be introduced fairly only before the season commences so that it may- operate for the whole of a season. The industry realized that it had to hasten to a conclusion on its needs and present its proposal to the Government, assuming as it did at the time that this session of Parliament would run on perhaps until the end of November or early December, as I had been predicting it would a few months ago.
– In other words, it was not the fault of the industry; it was the fault of the Prime Minister.
– No. The industry had been working on a scheme and finally reached a conclusion. Its representatives then spoke to me and to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and asked us to put the scheme before the Government so that, if appoved by the Government, it could be presented to the Parliament before the Parliament dissolved and, if approved by the Parliament, put into operation a year earlier than would have been otherwise possible.
– Is this the first time you have had a request from the industry?
– This is the first time there has ever been a request of this kind from the industry. As honorable members know, this is a very self-reliant industry. That is exemplified by the fact that this proposal, which is almost 100 per cent, the industry’s own proposal, does not request Parliament to vote any money for the purpose of assisting the industry. It merely invokes the authority of the Government to tax, not the consumer, but the seller of the product - the canner. Whatever one may think of the scheme- I think it is a very good one - at least we must respect the industry’s intention to remain self-reliant in this instance. There is at the back of the proposal, of course, the knowledge that trees have been planted and are coming into production. There is to be a very steep increase in the production of an item that cannot be switched on and off, as the production of an item in a factory can or even as annual crops such as wheat and potatoes can. Peaches have been known to be in production for 25 years or so and pears are known to have been in production for 70 years. We do not know how long they will remain in profitable production. Once the trees have been planted and the investment made, this is a long-term “ industry
International markets are now becoming more highly competitive and the Australian production is growing at a fast rate. There is one old-fashioned way in which a grower can always be sure of selling his products and that is by keeping on lowering the price until a buyer is found and all the goods are sold. This is the way to insolvency; but this industry is very prudent and businesslike. It has spent a lot of money and has devoted itself to winning a good reputation on the home market and particularly on the markets in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. These are its three preferential markets and its three great markets where it has a good reputation and a ready sale. The industry does not want to be driven to reducing its price on these established markets. It wants to hold its price there and by promotion and hard selling to get into other markets on a permanent basis. It will not be easy to do this.
Several questions have been very properly asked about the amount of money that will be raised and the purpose for which it will be used. On last year’s domestic sales - that is the point at which the levy is to be made - and at the proposed initial rate of 2s. a dozen cans, I am told that £600,000 would be raised. Honorable members know that the legislation contemplates the possibility of the board asking that the amount be increased. In an effort to sell its products, the industry has been dropping the price on the Australian market. If the industry went to the extreme that the legislation contemplates and proposed a levy of 6s. a dozen cans, and if that were added to the present price, it would do no more than raise the price of canned peaches to what it was about a year ago. This is an indication of the extent of the price reductions on the domestic market that the industry has been compelled to accept.
– How much per 30-oz. can would that be?
– It would be 6d. If I may explain this, 1 said that the Government had accepted almost all of the industry’s proposals. I think there was only one aspect of the industry’s proposals that the Government did not accept, and that was that a sales tax should be imposed. The imposition of a sales tax would mean an addition to the price at which the canners sold and therefore an addition to the price paid by the consumers. The Government said, “ No, for a variety of reasons we cannot accept that, but we will agree to impose an excise duty “.
– It has the same effect.
– It does not have the same effect at all. Sales tax is an addition to the invoice price; excise is a subtraction from the invoice price. Therefore, it is not prima facie an addition to the consumer.
– They will put up their prices.
– They may put up their prices. I hope the honorable members for Bendigo and Lalor, who display a very great interest in and a very great sympathy for this industry, will not be upset if the price perhaps goes back to what it was a year ago, before the industry was driven into a price cutting competition within its own ranks. Just as the labourer is worthy of his hire, so the peach-grower is worthy of his hire. We do not want any more than this to happen.
– Have you any figures on the cost of production?
– I do not have them in my mind, but the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has conducted a study into the cost of production. I am sure the honorable member would be supplied with this by my colleague if he were to ask for it.
The Australian Canned Fruits Board deals only with peaches, pears and apricots an 1 some mixtures of them. These are the only items to which this legislation will apply. It does not apply to canned berries or pineapple. It is true that there may be some distortion of the relationship between these items. The industry has faced this problem. It feels that the plan we have considered is the best plan that it can present to the Government. I add that there has been a very close liaison between the canned fruit industry and the sugar industry ovc. the years. They are to a certain extent inter-dependent. The sugar industry his been very understanding and very helpful to the fruit industry, and the fruit industry reciprocally has been helpful to the sugar industry. After all, the canned fruit industry is one of the big consumers of sugar.
Opposition members have made the point that, instead of the money being raised by excise, it would be better to provide the money from general revenues as a bounty. In this respect, the honorable member for Lalor mentioned copper.
– A bounty operates in respect of butter.
– No. Well, technically, it does operate in respect of butter.
– And in respect of a deficiency in the wheat stabilization fund.
– Yes, technically that is quite correct. Let me speak of copper for a moment. The bounty for copper is very discriminating and it is known to be designed to help the isolated communities at Mount Lyell and Mount Morgan and other such distant parts. Mount Isa is excluded on a profit test. It is a very specialized application of a law that is tailor-made to help these isolated communities where mines which are not rich are operating. They could be put out of business by mines that are rich if there were not some very highly specialized and tailor-made provision such as this. The production of these centres goes predominantly on to the domestic market.
In recent years I have spent a good deal of time arguing that our competitive opportunities, which arise from the marriage between our skills on the land and our natural environmental conditions, should not be negatived and destroyed on overseas markets by other governments paying a cash subsidy to aid the price cutting of some product that is in competition with ours. This is the complete reason why I would not wish to see us have a Treasury bounty. The arrangements under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are designed to forbid this.
– A lot of hatches are available to dodge out of it.
– I will not comment on that. As I have been described as a practical person, let me put it on a more practical ground. Our principal competitor is the United States. The United States has a longer purse than we have. If it is a matter of one government digging into its Treasury resources to subsidize its product to the detriment of the product of another country, we must realize that we do not have sufficient resources to compete on this basis. That is putting the matter in the most practical terms. I am glad to be able to say that the United States subscribes quite meticulously to the practices of Gatt in regard to export subsidies. We do so in respect of butter, as the honorable member for Lalor said, and in respect of wheat. This has been argued out and discussed and approved in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, because of two things: Those two industries had arrangements of long standing in which there is virtually, in theory, a self-insurance scheme, for the wheat-growers have paid into the fund much more money than the Government has. This is not a straight Treasury subsidy for wheat. It is a balancing arrangement that, in certain circumstances, the wheat-growers pay into the fund and, in certain circumstances, the Government pays into it.
– It is the same with this industry.
– It is not the same in this case, but it is the same with butter and there is no hokey pokey business about this in Gatt. What the industries do and what the Government has done have been fully discussed and approved of in Gatt, but a simple, unadulterated Treasury bounty on export, which would enable you to undercut the other fellow, is not approved of in Gatt. If we defied Gatt and went to work on that basis there are other people with greater resources than we have. I do not want to go further with that.
– I can give you illustrations of how it works the other way.
– I hope you will not complicate life by doing so. However, that is why we have not taken a certain course and why the industry has not asked us to take the course to which I have referred. This is a highly organized industry, with very intelligent spokesmen, and it believes that nothing could put it in greater jeopardy than for Australia to establish a state of affairs which would justify the governments of the countries of its competitors engaging in competitive subsidization of the product in world markets.
What is intended in respect of this fund? It is intended, in the first place, that the fund shall be used on advertising and for straight promotional purposes to do as we have done with success in many markets and in respect of many products; that is, to get in and promote sales by every device that can be dreamed up and try to sell more stuff at better prices. The second thing the industry proposes to do is concerned also with sales. If, notwithstanding the best promotional activities, at a point of time the whole crop cannot be sold, instead of following the almost constant commercial practice of dumping the surplus at a pricebreaking rate the Canned Fruits Board will stand ready to buy that quantity.
– Wil! any of the levy fund be available for that purpose?
– I am coming to that.
– Or only bank funds?
Mr. McEWEN__ No. The legislation contemplates that, if the board agrees, by arrangement with the canneries, not to sell but to insulate from the market a certain quantity of the product, the Government will guarantee the board with the Reserve Bank of Australia for the purpose of purchasing or financing the holding of this fruit until it can be fed back onto the market in circumstances which do not break the level of values on the market. It is not impossible that in this process and in sales in some markets - and particularly markets we are trying to break into - fruit might be sold for less than its cost. That is contemplated and, if that should happen, this is the second purpose for which levy money may recoup the loss. This is the kind of thing which may occur. It is in the mind of the industry. But I think honorable members will agree that if this industry can avoid destroying itself by price competition in the home market and also can avoid destroying the markets it has spent 40 years to build up in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, and if it spends money to protect only fresh markets and to buy the fruit and hold it until it can be fed into markets as they are found, this is a pretty good and practical approach by the industry itself to selfhelp and to expansion without destructive price competition by the units within the industry.
This industry has a long record of successful management of its own affairs. I do not stand up here - but I would1 be proud and happy to stand here - and say that the Government, the Department of Trade, my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and I dreamed this arrangement up. The industry dreamed it up and I am merely presenting to the Parliament what the industry - having examined everything that has been said in the House to-day and having accepted some of it and rejected other parts of it - has asked us to do. That describes most of the matters that have been raised here.
I have stated in quite clear terms that the industry has not previously put forward the proposal and had it rejected. I am putting it in clear terms that I am not presenting to the Parliament something other than what the industry has proposed to us. The industry has carefully considered whether it would be better or worse served by the introduction of the idea of a cash subsidy from the Treasury on exports, with all the consequences that could follow.
One honorable member raised a question about the chairman of the board. Hitherto (he board, which does not lean on the Government financially, has had a chairman nominated by the Government. The industry feels that it would like its own board to choose its chairman and the Government says: “Right. You can choose your own chairman. We will have one government man on the board.” There is the possibility in my mind1 - and it is implicit in this legislation - that the board, looking at its own membership, as chosen, may feel that there is not a person with the highly specialized qualifications in merchandising that it would1 like to have and say, “ If that is the situation, we would like to be able to choose a chairman, from outside our own members, for that purpose ‘. The law is designed to give the board that opportunity.
– That is quite sound.
– I think this is very desirable legislation. The industry is a very worthy one, as every honorable member who has spoken in this debate has testified, and I hope the bill will be passed without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7 (Constitution of the Board).
.- Clause 7 provides for the constitution of the Australian Canned Fruits Board. The clause reads -
– (1.) The Board shall consist of -
The board appears to be reasonably satisfactorily constituted but I note that a later clause of the bill provides that the member appointed by the Minister to represent the Commonwealth may be removed on the authority of the Minister. I do not quarrel with that. The member is the direct appointee of the Minister and when he is appointed he probably knows what he is in for.
I note also that a later clause in the bill gives the Minister power to remove, on the recommendation of the board, any of the members referred to in paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of clause 7 (1.). That is rather an arbitrary power to repose in the Minister. The members referred to in those paragraphs are elected in the prescribed manner but if one of them persistently voices views that do not coincide with the views held by the majority of members of the board at a particular time, the board may, by majority decision, recommend to the Minister that the member concerned be removed from the board. The bill does not say that he should be removed for misconduct or some offence. He may be removed merely because the board feels that he is becoming a nuisance. It may simply be that he does not agree with the views held by other members of the board.
– He may be the most intelligent member of the board.
– And he may be the only one right. This has happened in the past.
– As in the case of Mr. Date.
– I did not want to mention names but that sort of thing could happen. I do not think it should happen unless the member concerned has recourse or appeal to an intervening authority. The members appointed under paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of this sub-clause are not appointed by the Minister. They are the elected representatives of particular sections of the industry. But simply because a member in one of those categories holds views that do not coincide with the views held by the majority of members of the board, the Minister, who has had nothing to do with the member’s election to the board, may dispose of him arbitrarily. This is not right and it is something which the Minister might look into before the bill reaches the Senate so that some safeguard may be provided.
I recollect an occasion in my past parliamentary experience when the chairman of an authority in Victoria - I will give his name privately to the Minister later - came to me and asked me to sign a minute relating to the affairs of the authority. I read the minute - I am careful about that sort of thing - and discovered that the authority had recommended the dismissal of one of its officers because the man’s wife had been a little friendly with people associated with the authority. The man had no right of appeal. The person who placed the minute before me was held high in my esteem. I asked him whether the man whose dismissal was sought had a right of appeal to any other body. I was told that he did not have a right of appeal. I said that I would not dismiss him. The member of the authority who sought my signature to the minute said that his board would resign. I said that I would get a new board. I told him to go away and think the matter over. After the next meeting of the authority that man came to me again and said that the authority had adopted my suggestion and had transferred the officer concerned to some other place. In that case if the Minister had accepted the recommendation of the authority a grave injustice would have been done. The individual whose dismissal was sought had no protection between the authority and the Minister. I think there is room in the bill now before the committee for something better than is provided and I suggest that the Minister give this matter further consideration.
The bill provides that the three members appointed by the Minister on the nomination of the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers Association may be removed from the board on the recommendation of the association. Those members are members of the association and in this respect they are a little different from other members of the board. If a member of the association ceases to put before the board the views of his association there may be some justification for seeking his removal but I do not like the power vested in the Minister in relation to other members of the board.
– The provision to which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has referred has been in this legislation for 40 years. That is a pretty powerful reason for leaving it there, but perhaps it is not the complete reason. The honorable member asked me to look into this matter. Without guaranteeing anything, I will look into it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 17 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 18 (Power of Board to purchase canned fruits for export.)
.- This clause refers to the power of the Australian Canned Fruits Board to purchase canned fruit for export. The clause gives the board very considerable financial power, limited only by the consent of the Minister in relation to the guarantee of repayment to the bank. The clause also gives the board power to purchase canned fruit. As has been pointed out in this place in the last two years, proposals such as those contained in this clause of the bill are in line with the proposals that I outlined on behalf of the Australian Labour Party in the speech that I delivered in 1961 relating to Labour’s rural policy. That is another slab of Labour Party policy which the Government has adopted. At that time we expressed the opinion that the power and authority of most of these export control boards associated with primary industries should be enlarged substantially so that, subject to certain safeguards, they could engage in a good deal more trading, financing and promoting of the product with which they are concerned. I am glad that this is the case here.
In passing, may 1 say that I appreciate the Minister’s statement that this industry has not been continually on the doorstep of the governments of this country, seeking assistance. He recalls to my mind an occasion 32 years ago when I happened to be associated with the Victorian Department of Agriculture. A deputation of representatives of the canned fruit organizations in Shepparton approached me, as the Minister administering the department, in an effort to raise the small sum of £29,000 to enable the Shepparton canneries to pay the growers £4 a ton at the door of the cannery, to process the fruit and to export it in an attempt, as the deputation pointed out to me, to offset some of our very onerous overseas liabilities at that time. The State Government had no resources of its own because the financial powersthatbe had clamped down on financial accommodation, following years of sad mismanagement of the economy. However, my colleague, the late William Slater, and I approached the Commonwealth Bank and appealed to the then governor of the bank, the late Sir Robert Gibson, for assistance. We said, “If this money is advanced to the industry, the industry will process and produce an exportable commodity “. Sir
Robert - very imposing, very conservative - stroked his beard and then offered me a cigar, which I accepted. My friend did not smoke. After pacing the room for a considerable time he said: “Well, gentlemen, your suggestion is a sound one. The money will be made available. “ Then his political spleen came to light and he said, quite sincerely, “But I will not help that man Lang “. That is why, due to the machinations of those who hated the Labour movement at that time, the doors of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales were closed. That is just a little story in passing.
.- Clause 17 (1.) is in these terms -
The Board has power to do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions.
Will the power given to the board by this clause enable it to approach the Tariff Board to seek additional protection against imports from overseas or will the industry itself, or sections of the industry, have to make an approach to the Tariff Board? I should like the Minister to clear that point for me. In the last financial year about £1 30,000 worth of canned fruit was imported into Australia, the majority coming from California. Honorable members will know that in the capital cities the big stores, such as Myer’s in Melbourne, have on their shelves for sale to the public Californian peaches and pears. This seems to be a ridiculous situation. The Australian industry is struggling for survival. We have legislation to assist the industry in its battle for survival, yet canned peaches and pears are permitted to come here from overseas and to compete against the Australian product.
It may be said, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) has said so often when discussing legislation relating to tariffs, that imports prevent inefficency, but my estimation of this industry is that it is extremely efficient. It does not require the importation of canned fruits to keep it, shall we say, on its toes. The industry has a carry-over from last season of something like 1,000,000 cartons of canned fruit, so it is ridiculous that we should be importing canned fruit from America or anywhere else. Surely, in addition to this legislation, which has been introduced at such short notice, the Government should consider giving immediate protection to the industry against the inroads of canned fruit from overseas. Will the Minister tell me why the Australian industry should not be protected against competition from canned fruit from California? The next thing that we can expect to happen is that South Africa, which competes against our canned fruit on the British market, will export her canned fruit to Australia and attack the domestic market here. Wage costs in the South African industry are probably onequarter of those in the Australian industry. We should protect out industry, which is battling for survival, by some form of import control. Can the board approach the Tariff Board and ask for either emergency assistance or the imposition of import controls, or must the individual canners make this approach?
– The Australian Canned Fruits Board would not approach the Tariff Board because normally it would not be an owner or a seller of fruit. To that extent it normally would not be an interested party. The interested party would be the cannery. There is a tightly-organized Australian canners association as well as a canning fruit growers association. Under Australian law and practice, if an industry makes a prima facie case of the need for protection it is entitled to a reference to the Tariff Board.
– But under this legislation the board will be a seller.
– It is contemplated that the board will be a seller in only a very minor way, by comparison with the normal channels of disposal. However, I think the question is academic because the canners, who are well organized, have the right to ask for a reference to the Tariff Board. There is in fact a tariff on these products at present, so there could be a request for the tariff to be increased. The general implication of the honorable member’s speech was that, as we quite clearly can supply the Australian market and as this industry has its difficulties, there should be such a tariff or control as would result in no overseas fruit being permitted to come into Australia. I agree immediately that there is no need for any overseas fruit to enter Australia, but let us remember that if Australia adopted the policy suggested, we would have no grounds on which to argue if another country said that it would adopt a similar policy. Some European or other country could then say, “ Because we can produce canned fruit here no Australian canned fruit will be allowed to enter”. There would be no future for Australia, as the twelfth largest international trader, if by its own actions it established grounds upon which countries that import our commodities would be justified in saying that they would not allow our products to enter because they could produce those products themselves.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 30 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 31 (Directions by Minister).
.- This clause is somewhat obscure to me. The Minister for Trade probably has the easy answer. The clause reads - (1.) The Minister may, by instrument in writing, direct the Board that moneys standing to the credit of a Fund specified in the instrument shall not be applied for a purpose specified in the instrument. (2.) In this section, “ Fund “ means the Canned Fruits Export Fund or the Canned Fruits Excise Fund.
In simple terms, does this clause mean that the Minister may direct that money standing to the credit of the Canned Fruits Export Fund or the Canned Fruits Excise Fund shall not be used for the purposes of those funds, in order to facilitate the utilization of that money for the purpose, say, of subsidizing the sale of part of the export pack? I may be a little dense, but this clause is a little obscure to me.
– The functions and powers bestowed on the Australian Canned Fruits Board by this legislation are very wide. They are set out in clauses 16 to 22 of the bill. The language is very broad in order to give the board complete flexibility in assisting sales of canned fruits, which may be made by a variety of means and in a variety of places. Because these provisions have been consciously drafted so widely and because these funds will be raised as a result of a decision of the Parliament, it is felt that it is proper that there should be preserved to the Parliament, through the Minister, some residual right in this regard. I think that it is a proper matter of government policy.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I congratulate the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on the courtesy and co-operation that he has shown in putting this bill through the House. He has set an example to many of his colleagues in the Government. Quite a number of bills have been put through this House in the last few weeks, and the Minister in charge of the bill has not always stood up and answered the questions raised by honorable members on this side of the chamber. On behalf of the Opposition, I thank the Minister for answering, to the best of his knowledge and experience, the questions that have been raised during the debate on this bill.
Unfortunately, the provisions of this bill do not apply to the berry fruits industry in Tasmania, particularly in the Huon and Derwent valleys. We believe that the bill will give some benefit to fruit-growers on the mainland. After 30th November a federal Labour government will consider a similar bill for the berry fruits industry in Tasmania, which is in difficulties similar to those of the canned fruits industry. It has come to my notice that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has sold his farm and has come to live in Wagga. I am wondering why he has not spoken on this bill, which relates to an industry in which he is so deeply involved.
– in reply - I thank the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) for his courteous reference to me. I wish him a merry Christmas. I do not know whether he was serious in his assertion about the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). The honorable member was completely wrong in saying that my colleague has come to live in Canberra. He is living in his electorate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2410), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2411), on motion by Mr. Fairhall-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2412), on motion by Mr. Fairhall -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) read a third time.
– I move - [Customs Tariff Proposals No. 94.]
[Customs Tariff Proposals No. 95.]
[Customs Tariff Proposals No. 96.]
[Customs Tariff Proposals No. 97.]
[Customs Tariff Proposals No. 98.]
[Customs Tariff Proposals No. 99.]
[Customs Tariff Proposals No. 100.]
[Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 19.]
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 October 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19631030_reps_24_hor40/>.