25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information about a suggestion by Ayub Khan of Pakistan that a Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference might be held to consider, or that a committee of Prime Ministers might intervene in, the war over Kashmir with the object of bringing about a ceasefire and ultimately some settlement of that unfortunate dispute.
– My attention was drawn to this report this morning. The honorable member will understand that I have no desire to be making any statements or promoting any particular activity in this matter until the Secretary-General of the United Nations has made his report in New York, which he has not yet done. If, as appears to be likely, the report records a failure of his mission, a great number of us will have to give further consideration to possible action, the difficulty of which I do not underestimate, having had some little experience of this very matter before.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask whether he has received volume III of the report of the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia. If he has, will he advise the House when it can expect the report to be presented? If the right honorable gentleman has not yet received the report, can he intimate when he expects to have it?
– I regret that I cannot answer the question. I will get the information sought and give it to the honorable member.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the appalling lack of hospital facilities in South Vietnam and the desperate need for basic medical care and drugs for the wounded, the sick and the diseased among combatants and non-combatants in that country, will this Government consider sending fully equipped, specially trained, volunteer, mobile hospital units to South Vietnam as a planned humanitarian act - a policy already being carried out by the Canadian Government, which has not committed Army units? Is the Government aware that in vast areas of South Vietnam the only health service is the distribution of medicines by the regular, nonmedical units of the United States Army? Would not such an act of mercy on the part of the Australian Government have a favorable reaction among our Asian neighbours?
– I am just reminded by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, that we have a surgical team now in that country - a fact that must not be overlooked. Insofar as the question seeks information about what other countries are doing or promotes suggestions about what we should do more than we are doing already, I will take into account what the honorable member has put to me and will make the necessary inquiries.
– Can the Prime Minister tell me when the Vernon Committee’s report will be released? If there is to be any further delay will the right honorable gentleman, when answering my question, give me a brief summary of the tariff chapters, as I do not think I can wait much longer?
– The honorable member will be glad to know that given the necessary health and strength I propose to lay the report on the table of the House on Tuesday evening.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Has his attention been directed to a letter published yesterday, which the Minister for Supply sent to some of his constituents on the Saturday after the Budget was introduced and in which he stated that he sincerely hoped that the reserve price plan would be thrown out and that he hoped to see the referendum proposal defeated? Does the Prime Minister consider that this letter is a breach of the ministerial responsibility and Cabinet solidarity which are to be expected in a matter on which the Government had decided to introduce legislation and seek an appropriation of funds? If so, will he write for the Minister’s resignation, as he did when another public dispute arose amongst his Ministers concerning the European Common Market?
- Mr. Speaker, when I cease to be capable of attending to my own Cabinet business I will resign.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. On 25th August 1965 the Minister stated that about II private companies had leases to prospect for phosphate. Can the Minister tell us the terms and conditions of the leases and whether or not any phosphate discovered will be retained for use within Australia?
– The leases that have been given to private companies to prospect for phosphate have been given by the State or Territory concerned, so I am not in a position to know their actual terms and conditions. They are issued under the normal mining laws of these areas and as I understand the position there are no special conditions attached to them. There is, of course, an embargo on the export of phosphate so that any phosphate discovered in Australia would be available for use in Australia. When I was answering a question from the honorable member earlier in the session I informed him that a prospector had delivered to an officer of the Bureau of Mineral Resources some samples of phosphate that he had discovered. I am now able to tell the honorable member that these samples, which were discovered in a cliff about five miles from Darwin, were of quite high quality. I believe they showed more than 30 per cent of phosphate. They are now being looked at by the Bureau. There were only small nodules in the cliff but drilling is now being carried out behind the cliff to see whether larger quantities are available.
– I ask the Treasurer a question concerning the £5.6 million surplus in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund.
The right honorable gentleman will remember that I have asked him questions previously regarding the disbursement of this surplus to superannuation pensioners and contributors. Can the Treasurer tell the House when he is likely to introduce legislation giving effect to the recommendations of the Superannuation Board?
– As recently as last night I received a deputation on this matter consisting of representatives of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. I had with me Mr. Hewitt, one of the very senior officers of the Treasury, who is in charge of this section of Treasury administration. It was pointed out to the members of the deputation that we had received only this week from the Commonwealth Actuary certain details on which the various contributions or entitlements - do not hold me to exact terms - have to be worked out. The point that I am trying to make is that about two million calculations have to be made in order to carry this process a stage further. The services of computer equipment will be employed for that purpose. The calculations necessary to afford a final disposition of the surplus to the beneficiaries is just one of the stages along the road. I can assure the honorable gentleman that it is the desire of my officers and myself to get this work completed as speedily as possible. We are doing everthing that we can, but this is a problem which is unique for Australia. It is not by any means easy of solution or speedy of accomplishment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the fact that certain States make available concessional rail freight rates for relief of drought stricken areas. I ask: Does the Minister consider that further action along these lines might be of considerable practical assistance to primary producers? Is there some scope for the Commonwealth Government to subsidise the organisation of special trains to operate shuttle services, carrying fodder in from areas enjoying better seasons and carrying stock back for sale or agistment? If he does so consider will he consult with his colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport, and suggest to him that he might discuss this matter in the first place with the Government Members Transport Committee so that the technical problems involved can be examined with a minimum of delay?
– I might say at the outset that our sympathies, at least, are in harmony. The preface to the honorable member’s question indicates that the States are in charge of transport. That is essentially the position. Certain States are subsidising transport costs to enable producers to secure, their produce for drought relief purposes at a cheaper delivery rate than otherwise would be possible. The transport position, both by rail and by road, is essentially under the control of the States concerned. The only transport responsibilities that we have are in Commonwealth Territories. The honorable member suggests that this matter be looked at sympathetically. I assure him that this will be a matter for discussion when the States make representations to the Commonwealth at the Premier to Prime Minister level. This issue will be considered in that aspect and of course the Commonwealth will always make a sympathetic approach to these matters.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. I make no criticism of our quarantine services, but I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that the report of the DirectorGeneral of Health states that during the year 1964-65 no less than 2,010 persons arrived in Australia in an unvaccinated state? Are any penalties enforceable against those responsible for this dangerous state of affairs? I refer particularly to airline operators. Can an aeroplane be quarantined for 19 days?
– If I could just clear one point as I could not clearly hear the question: Is the honorable member referring to the quarantine of humans?
– There are certain penalties which can be applied to any individual who arrives without a completed health certificate, but this is a matter which must be administered with a degree of tolerance. The main essential is to ensure that quarantine restrictions and quarantine con trols are fully observed and that health certificates are maintained up to the right standard. We will not allow any departure from that as a basic principle. Where people are discovered coming in without a completed health certificate they lay themselves open to spending some time in quarantine here if certain of the diseases against which they have not been protected are notifiable or subject to quarantine laws. In recent years we have had a number of cases, fortunately isolated, where people have har to be detained in quarantine stations. There have not been many, but there have been some. I repeat that if a person comes here without a completed health certificate he runs the risk of detention in quarantine for a specified time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Now that medical benefits funds provide in the higher tables for payment of 18s. for surgery consultations and 22s. for home visits - these are Victorian rates; in New South Wales they are 20s. and 24s. respectively - doctors are charging patients visited daily in their hospital rounds at a higher rate in order to gain the extra 4s. This constitutes a heavy drain on fund finances. Will the Minister give a ruling on how such attendances should be assessed by funds and will he specify what is intended to be covered by “home visits”?
– Two distinct matters are involved in this question, the first being the basis for the charging of doctors’ fees. We have no control over doctors’ fees, as the honorable member knows, but the Australian Medical Association recently decided on changes that are to apply from 7th November this year. I understand it intends to review the situation each year to determine whether changes are desirable. The second point relates to the payment of fund benefits. Again, under the Act, the Commonwealth cannot control the rules of the funds nor does it want to interfere in the private business of the funds. However, I know that a problem has arisen in Victoria in relation to this aspect due to circumstances of which the honorable member is fully aware. This does not apply in other States. In Victoria some funds are paying benefits at the rate applicable to a home visit and other funds are paying at the rate for a surgery visit, whereas in New South Wales, for example, all funds are paying on the basis of surgery visit rates. The solution to this problem is in the hands of the funds themselves. In each State there is an association of funds and I can only suggest that in Victoria, where this problem has arisen, the funds should raise the matter in their own State association. From that point they can make recommendations to me or they can take the matter up through the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council. It is in their own hands to rectify the matter and they should first of all discuss it in their own association.
– My question to the Minister for National Development is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Canning. Does the Commonwealth Government offer a reward for the discovery of phosphate and, if so, what conditions are attached to the reward?
– The Commonwealth Government does not offer a reward. It feels that the biggest reward for anyone to receive is the ability to get a lease and to make a considerable amount of money from the exploitation of that lease by selling the phosphate.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to a report that cracks have been found in three Boeing 727 aircraft and I ask whether he can give an assurance that special attention will be continually paid to this problem, as it is one of great national concern and raises the possibility of a large number of by-elections - a matter, I am sure, of particular concern to this House.
– I believe it is a fact that a crack was discovered in a Boeing 727. As a result, an immediate inspection took place and two other Boeing 727 aircraft were found to have cracks. We have four of these aircraft altogether, so three of the four were found to have small cracks. I believe no particular risk problem was involved with the cracks. They were temporarily repaired immediately and two of the three aircraft have now been permanently repaired. I can assure the honorable member that the likelihood of any by-elections is considerably reduced.
– I direct my question to the Minister for External Affairs. Why was Australia’s limited obligation to Pakistan as a member of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation not made clear in the Treaty, as was the position of the United States of America? By definition, the obligation of the United States is confined to cases involving Communist aggression. If Australia has contracted out of its S.E.A.T.O. obligation to Pakistan since the Treaty was signed 11 years ago, can the Minister say whether other S.E.A.T.O. powers can adopt the same attitude with their defence obligations to Australia?
– The honorable gentleman has quite misunderstood the position. There is no contracting out of S.E.A.T.O. The Australian interpretation of our obligation under S.E.A.T.O. was stated before the Treaty was concluded and signed. It was stated at the time the Treaty was brought into this Parliament for ratification.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. Will the honorable gentleman report to the House the circumstances that warranted the cancellation of a sale at auction of a residential block in the Australian Capital Territory for 10s. a few days ago? How does he justify the action taken? Was there a distinct breach of provisions previously announced or should the Government adopt a reasonable attitude of leniency and permit the purchaser to enjoy his good fortune?
– The lease of one block of land was sold for a premium of 10s. I am told that when this block was offered at auction, no bid was made. Eventually the purchaser, as a joke, so he said, put in a bid. However, after putting in the bid and having the block of land knocked down to him, he signed a statutory declaration that he was qualified to take a restricted block. Restricted blocks are available only to people who have not owned the lease of a block of land in Canberra within the preceding three years.
Unfortunately, this person had held the lease of a block in Canberra in that period and he will therefore have to take the consequences.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Does the right honorable gentleman recall that in May last I suggested in a question to him that Australia step up its diplomatic activity in an attempt to settle the differences between India and Pakistan and not wait for the United Kingdom Government to make a move? I now ask the right honorable gentleman: Will he give an assurance that after the Secretary-General of the United Nations has made his report to that body, Australia will immediately take the initiative if required and not drag behind the United Kingdom Government?
Sir ROBERT MENZIES__ I really have nothing to add to the answer I gave to an earlier question on this matter. I do not propose to be firing off until the U Thant mission has made its report. It would be far from helpful if any Commonwealth Prime Minister did so. I do not need to be told either that Australia has a lively interest in preserving peace in this area. A long time ago I myself, as Prime Minister, initiated discussions about Kashmir, not in a Prime Ministers’ Conference but during one. Nobody could have accused me of a want of persistency in the matter or of failing to think of alternative propositions. The result was failure. Ever since then the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conferences have refused to list or discuss the problem of Kashmir. That is one of the simple historic facts. Therefore, it will be seen that all Commonwealth Prime Ministers will have a problem to consider if and when the U Thant mission reports failure. We are not at all deficient in activity on this matter. We have maintained the most constant diplomatic relationship, in New Delhi, Karachi and here, about these and allied matters. All I can say, as I have already indicated to my colleagues, is that when the time seems appropriate we will have to consider whether there is something we can do or say that might be helpful. That is a matter requiring a lot of thought if whatever we do is to be useful.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Mackellar. Do graziers in southern Queensland drought areas receive a freight rebate in respect of fodder transported for starving stock on the Queensland transport system but pay full freight rates in respect of fodder transported on the New South Wales and Victorian systems? Is the cost of freighting fodder from Victoria and New South Wales greater than the cost of the fodder itself? Has this led to graziers not obtaining fodder from these States, resulting in the death of their stock? Does not this attitude make nonsense of the spirit which made Australia a federated nation? Will the Minister ask the Government to assist in the interstate transport of fodder for starving stock?
Mr. ADERMANN__ I am not fully aware of all concessions granted by the various State Governments, nor am I aware whether some States pay all freight charges in certain circumstances. I understand that there has been reciprocity of sympathy evidenced between two States inasmuch as New South Wales has given considerable assistance to the interstate transport of fodder to assist drought stricken people in Queensland. As I am not fully aware of all the facts I can say no more on the matter.
– When does the Prime Minister expect to be in a position to make a statement on the actions of certain life assurance companies in Australia which have altered the policies taken out by Australian servicemen now fighting in Vietnam?
– A question was put to me on this matter.
– By the honorable member for Scullin.
– I think so. I said that 1 would look into the matter. Looking into it has turned out to be not frightfully simple. The Treasury has circularised no fewer than 34 life assurance companies in order to get complete information as to the rules that they variously apply. I assure the honorable gentleman that as soon as we have the information that we have sought I will be prompt to let him have it.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question about Rhodesia. In view of the crucial importance to the Commonwealth of the Rhodesian question, will the Government consider arranging for a delegation from this Parliament to visit Rhodesia? Will the Government also consider accrediting representatives of Australian newspapers to accompany the delegation? In considering this matter will the Government take cognisance of the fact that recently the New Zealand Parliament sent an all-party delegation to Rhodesia, resulting, I am assured, in a more particular understanding of Rhodesian difficulties?
– The view of the Australian Government is that matters relating to the independence of Rhodesia are primarily matters between the United Kingdom Government and the Rhodesian Government and that no good purpose would be served by other governments intervening in matters affecting those two Governments where the constitutional relationships and the political responsibilities are quite clear. As the honorable member knows, in recent years, during the winter recess, we have sent parliamentary delegations to various parts of the world. During the last winter recess one delegation went to eastern Asia and another went to Latin America. In the forthcoming winter recess I will be making to my colleague the Treasurer a proposal that we again send delegations of members overseas. Subject to whatever conditions may exist at the time I should think that Africa - not Rhodesia only - would be one of the regions which might receive the attention of a parliamentary delegation. I hesitate to make any promise about sending journalists along with parliamentary delegations. Those members from both sides of the House who have been on these parliamentary delegations might share my opinion that the access that members have to officials and governmental representatives in other countries might be limited if delegations were accompanied by journalists.
– My question to the
Minister for National Development is supplementary to questions asked by the honorable member for Canning and the honorable member for the Northern Territory. Will the Commonwealth give financial assistance to any prospector or other person to develop a phosphate deposit if that deposit is found to be worthy of development? If so, what are the conditions of financial assistance?
– If a phosphate deposit were discovered I would think that there is no doubt that it would be financially attractive. The mere fact that eleven companies have taken out leases already shows that they are interested in the discovery and development of phosphate resources. Thus, if a prospector were to discover a phosphate deposit there is no doubt whatsoever that he would have something that would be saleable and for which he could get a very considerable amount of money by acting in conjunction with some of the companies that are anxious to develop deposits. The Government is very actively encouraging the search for phosphate deposits, and we have in Canberra at the present time Dr. Sheldon of the United States Geological Bureau, who is spending four months in Australia and is working with the Bureau of Mineral Resources in making recommendations as to what may be done to expedite the search for phosphate.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question. I refer him to an announcement made last night by the Prime Minister that a retired senior naval officer has been appointed Australian Commissioner-General at the 1967 Canadian International Exhibition. May I say how delighted I am to hear that those who have served the Government so well receive recognition. Can the Treasurer advise me whether this officer will be entitled to receive his defence forces retirement benefits during the period of his appointment?
– I cannot answer the question offhand, but I shall make inquiries and supply an answer to the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Treasurer aware that numerous organisations have indicated their intention to gain increases in the prices of consumer goods and services at the time of conversion to decimal currency? Has the Decimal Currency Board reported on, or investigated, any of these cases? Does the Government intend to seek ite cooperation of the States to place any restraint on unjustifiable price increases on or about C Day?
– I do not know the source of the information that gives the honorable gentleman concern that organisations might take advantage of the change to decimal currency in order to force prices upward. As is well known, the Commonwealth Government has already indicated its general attitude, which I think would be the attitude of governments generally. As to private enterprise, I have noted with interest consultations which have been held and conclusions which have emanated, I gather, from the Australian Council of Retail Traders and various other bodies. These bodies have given assurances that the rounding off of prices would be likely, if anything, to produce a larger number of reductions than of increases. However, the proof of the matter will be in the experience. In South Africa, the rate of price increases following the introduction of decimal currency was lower than the average for the three years leading up to the introduction of decimal currency. I think that Australian traders have no less a sense of responsibility and propriety than have those of South Africa.
– I address to the Minister for the Interior a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Swan. Has the Minister seen the comment in some newspapers on the sale of land in Canberra for as little as 10s. a block? Does he consider that the selling method adopted is sound land policy and that it is fair to the taxpayers of Australia?
– I have seen a number of the articles which appeared in the newspapers yesterday implying that a block of land could be bought in Canberra for 10s. All I can say is that the articles do not reflect much credit on their authors because one cannot compare the prices for freehold land in capital cities and other places with the premiums paid for leases of Crown land in the National Capital. In the National Capital, we do auction leases of residential blocks. The purpose of auctioning the leases is to give people the opportunity of exercising a choice, but, in exercising that choice, they must meet the market demand. For a long time now there have been complaints that Canberra has been land hungry and that the premiums on residential leases have been too high I am pleased to say that there is a healthy downward trend in premiums now am: I think they have reached more satisfactory levels at the moment.
All land in Canberra is Crown leasehold land. Leases are offered at auction. Before the sale, each block is valued at a certain figure. The successful bidder for a lease, in addition to paying the premium over the original value set, is required to pay a land rent of 5 per cent, per annum on the original unimproved value determined by the Department. That unimproved value is generally something over £700 a block. Therefore, over a period of 20 years, a successful bidder at auction actually pays to the Crown the full unimproved value of the land. After 20 years, the land is revalued. Therefore, if there should be an increase in land values, the benefit goes to the Australian taxpayer.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman will be aware that Australia finished the 1 964-65 financial year with an unfavourable trade balance of £158 million. In view of this most unsatisfactory position, will the right honorable gentleman instruct each Commonwealth Department to play its part in reducing imports by ensuring that, wherever possible, orders are placed with Australian manufacturers instead of overseas manufacturers?
– The policy of the Government and of Commonwealth Departments in relation to buying and the sources of buying has been established now for a long time and nothing that exists at the present time would suggest that we should change it. We are very well aware of the balance of payments problem. We also, of course, are very well aware of the numerous other factors which have a bearing on it.
– As I am receiving many letters stating that there is an increasingly urgent need for the printing and distribution of the proposed White Paper on Communism, can the Prime Minister say what progress is being made in this matter?
– I am not yet in a position to answer that question.
– I address my question to th: Minister for External Affairs. I refer lo a statement made by the Prime Minister of Malaysia that if Singapore established friendly relations with Indonesia, Malaysia would have to fight Singapore. The statement is obviously directed at Singapore’s trade. As Australia has a substantial trade with Indonesia will the Minister state the Government’s policy on this matter? Also, will he inform the Malaysian Government that Australian troops in Malaysia will not be used in any aggression against another member of the Commonwealth of Nations?
– In part, the honorable member asks me to make a pronouncement of policy, and that is not usual at question time. Secondly, he asks me to comment on a hypothetical situation. I think that that is one of the most dangerous things that the Government could do.
– Order! Both parts of the question are out of order. 1 call the honorable member for Swan.
– My question is to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. I refer to the attractive market Australia has with the 34 million people of Hong Kong and Australia’s achievement last year of the sale of goods valued at not less than £18 million. I ask: What specific action is being taken by the Department of Trade to establish reasons for the lower than usual sale of items such as oranges, apples, potatoes, onions and wool tops to Hong Kong? When demand fluctuates, as evidenced in this case, is there an automatic review of the situation by the Government and the industries concerned to hold our share of this market?
- Mr. Speaker, if the honorable gentleman could refer to a recent issue of the publication “ Overseas Trading “, prepared by the Department of Trade and Industry, he would find that the Department has analysed very carefully the Hong Kong market. The trade commissioner for that area has analysed the trade over the past year, indicated the opportunities for expansion, and also analysed some of the reasons why the trade in certain products declined. Overall, of course, there has been a most remarkable increase in our trade with Hong Kong from a value of £9 million in 1959-60 to £27 million in 1964-65. The decline in certain products was due to local factors. I would not attempt to analyse them because it is not a field with which I am closely familiar. But as an indication of the sort of thing that does happen, Hong Kong was selling refined sugar to other countries which now buy raw sugar from Australia and is importing wheat from Australia for milling in Hong Kong, which has led to a decline in the imports of flour from Australia. The honorable gentleman can be assured that the Department is closely watching every aspect of our external trade and taking every measure which it can to promote it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the statement of Mr. R. Hawke, when addressing the congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in Sydney on Tuesday last, that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decision on the basic wage case was entirely repugnant to the whole trade union movement; that its judgment deliberately reduced the real value of award wages by 4 per cent; and that the Commission had assumed a role which it was not required to assume, acting as an economic regulator? Did the Minister, by learned counsel’s representation before the Commission, make both the Government and himself privy to this decision and the exercise of such regulatory powers? Has the Minister weighed the inevitable industrial consequences of this action?
– Mr. Hawke, when addressing the conference, was entitled to. express his point of view if he wanted to do so. He has expressed a political point of view. I do not wish in this House to debate the matter with him. I believe that the kind of intervention which the Commonwealth Government took in the last basic wage and margins case was right. It was in the interests of the nation. Equally am I sure that the majority decision must be upheld by all people who believe in the system of industrial arbitration in this country. I am glad to be able to remind the honorable gentleman that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions himself, at the same conference, stated that we must not permit the arbitration system to be thrown overboard. He rejected demands by those elements that are interested not in the welfare of the country but only in their own political advantage.
– I present the report, together with the minutes of proceedings, of the Committee of Privileges in connection with the matter referred to the Committee by the House on 18th August 1965. 1 move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Pensions - Funeral Benefit - Homes for the Aged - The Parliament - Census and Statistics Act - Australian Economy - Dredging Operations in Botany Bay - Land Sales to Australian Servicemen - Overseas Shipping Line - Postal Services - Communism - Unemployment.
Question proposed -
That grievances be noted.
.- Mr. Speaker, in the last two days we have listened to the wool barons discussing what is best for the Australian Country Party or the Liberal Party of Australia. Today I intend to speak on behalf of people in my electorate, in many of the electorates about Sydney and in many electorates in all States who are suffering as a result of the Government’s latest decision on pensions. This is not to say that I am entirely divorced from the wool argument. On Lord Howe Island, in my electorate, we have several sheep, but I doubt whether we produce the 10 bales of wool or have the 300 sheep needed to qualify for a vote at the proposed referendum on the reserve price scheme.
Coming back to West Sydney, I want to say straight away that the Government should be ashamed of itself for the meagre pensions that it pays and the low funeral benefit that it gives. I am surprised at the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). He does not do things in a small way - when he does anything at all. But he appears to know nothing about the situation with respect to the funeral benefit. The pensioner wife or husband of a pensioner who dies may receive £20 to pay for the funeral. But, when the surviving pensioner eventually dies, the son or daughter who accepts responsibility for the burial expenses has to be content with a payment of £10, the rate that has existed since the inception of the benefit.
Let me tell the House something of the conditions that exist in Sydney. Within the boundaries of the area controlled by the Sydney City Council we have 11 welfare centres, thanks to the efforts of the Council and its aldermen who have prevented many people, and particularly pensioners, almost from dying of hunger. There is no other way in which I can describe it. Every day, volunteer workers from all over Sydney gather to help in providing good meals for pensioners at a cost of 2s. This service is available from Monday to Friday inclusive but, of course, not on Saturdays and Sundays. This brings us to consider the effects of the Government’s attitude in paying low pensions. The houses in which many pensioner married couples in the electorate of West Sydney and in suburbs in other parts of Sydney at present live really ought to be pulled down. Yet such pensioner married couples are supposed to be doing well because there are two instead of one. This Government reckons that two can live more cheaply if they are a married couple.
Many of the pensioner couples in the inner Sydney area who are buying their own homes - if one may go so far ar to describe them as homes - were compelled to borrow from their sons and daughters to put down a deposit of £50 and are trying to pay off at the rate of £3 or £3 10s. a week the novels in which they live. Yet these are people who, according to this Government, can always live happily because there are two of them together. The Government apparently gives no thought to the trouble that such people have in buying the necessities of life. With meat at 10s. and 12s. per lb., how on earth can any pensioner who has to pay half his pension in rent be supposed to live happily or even in adequate circumstances unless outside assistance is available? Mr, Morton, Minister for Local Government and Highways in the present New South Wales Government now says that representation on the Sydney City Council and other local government authorities is to be changed. The existing arrangements do not fit in with the views of the Liberal Party. Does he know what he is condemning people to. where they depend on local councils to keep them alive because they are neglected by the Federal Government?
This Government, I admit, must be thanked for the benefit obtained in many ways from the grants of £2 for £1 for the construction of homes for the aged. This is admirable as far as it goes, but it is of no use whatsoever in my electorate or the surrounding electorates, where it is impossible to raise money to qualify for these grants. This scheme is of real benefit only in the Liberal held seats where there are plenty of land and plenty of opportunity to raise funds and thereby to qualify for a grant of £2 for every £1 raised for the provision of homes for aged people. In the electorate of West Sydney, in South Sydney and in other inner city areas, land has become too dear because the speculators h:ive come in and offered enormous prices for sites for petrol stations and factories. This has caused dwelling after dwelling to be pulled down, in many instances leaving 10. 12 or 15 pensioners at the mercy of the winds. I appeal to the Government to consider this situation.
I know of 12 councils that would willingly help in providing accommodation for pensioners and aged people if grants of £2 for £1 were available to local government authorities. Many of them would give land for the purpose if they were allowed to qualify for these grants. But this Government has imposed a hard and fast rule that no local government authority may receive help under the scheme of grants for homes for the aged. The Government apparently wants charitable organisations to provide the funds that qualify for grants for the building of homes and hostels for aged people. There are plenty of people who would be willing to manage homes for municipal councils, who are prepared to work for the dignity of the undertaking in these areas, but unfortunately the local councils are not allowed to take advantage of the assistance available to charitable organisations under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who is now at the table, this question: If he and the Government are sincere about housing and feeding these aged people, why do they not, in addition to sending £60 million overseas for aid to foreign countries under the Colombo Plan and other such schemes, give our own people a little something to help them to live decently in their own country? It is all very well to claim that a pensioner couple gets £11 a week, but when they take from this their rent payment or their instalment payment on a loan they have negotiated to purchase a home they are down to bedrock before starting to buy any goods at all. We have been arguing the toss for the last two days about the wealth of this country and about who is going to sell or buy our wool and who will benefit from a decision that is shortly to be made about the selling of our wool; but not one word has been said about the people in various parts of the Commonwealth on whose behalf I am now making a plea. We have heard three members of this House from New South Wales, the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), but what are these members doing about organisations that want to build homes for the aged? Not one word has been said by them on behalf of the people who want to help those who are unable to help themselves. They forget that it was the sons and daughters of these aged people who served in the last war in an effort to safeguard the wealth of this country.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to raise two related matters which appear to me to affect the operations and the effectiveness of this House. They are not strictly matters of privilege, but 1 hope that 1 will be able to say something constructive in regard to them. The first relates to the moving of amendments to Bills in this House. As you, Sir, know very well, the drafting of amendments is sometimes a highly technical matter requiring a certain degree of skill and experience. Although a private member may know very well what he intends and what he wants to put into a measure, the actual form of the drafting is not always within his competence. The technical competence does not reside even in Ministers. As you know very well, Sir, Ministers call upon officers of their Departments and on the Parliamentary Draftsmen to do this technical work for them. Nobody would expect, for example, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to be able to draft the technical details of the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill which is at present before the House. It would be unreasonable to expect him to have that competence.
It is important to this House that private members, whether they be on the Opposition or the Government side, should have the capacity to put their amendments before the House in proper legal form. It is, therefore, essential that there be made available to them, whenever required and without limitation, the services of a technical legal officer - the Parliamentary Draftsman or somebody equivalent - to see that they are helped in arriving at the correct legal phraseology in framing amendments they wish to put forward in this Chamber. There have been times when the services of the Parliamentary Draftsmen have been made available, but they are made available conditionally and only sometimes.
Some months ago I had occasion to consider the possibility of an amendment to the income tax legislation which will be coming before this House sometime during this Budget session. It was an amendment the tenor of which I had worked out some months before I wanted to bring it forward, and I wrote out my proposals and sent them to all Ministers, including the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden). T asked the Attorney-General whether he would make available to me the services of the Parlia mentary Draftsman to put the matter in proper form. I emphasise that I did not ask for his services at once; it was not a matter of urgency and I gave some months notice. The Attorney-General wrote back to me in these terms -
With reference to your letter dated 26 July 1965, you know, I think, the terms upon which the Parliamentary Draftsman prepares amendments of Bills for private members. These are that he can do so without interference with his official duties and that he is at liberty to disclose the amendment to the relevant Minister.
Unfortunately, the resources of the Draftsman are wholly taken up with his official duties and I do not think 1 could ask him to undertake your amendment.
I will not bother with the rest of the letter. That is sufficient for my purpose. If in a case such as this, when some months notice was given in relation to a highly technical matter, it is impossible for a member, whether on the Government side or the Opposition side, to obtain the services of a competent legal officer, it is an utter and absolute scandal.
The Attorney-General’s stipulation that the Draftsman should be at liberty to disclose a proposed amendment to the relevant Minister does not concern me but it might concern members of the Opposition. I personally have no complaint with this. I am a member of one of the Government parties and any of my proposals can be disclosed to the relevant Ministers. But members of the Opposition might consider themselves in a different position. Members of the Opposition have some rights, and they should have available to them the services of a trained legal officer to put these complicated matters - and very often they are complicated - into proper legal form. It may be that the Parliament itself has been negligent in not having dealt with this earlier. It may be that the blame does not lie with the Attorney-General or his Department. I am not trying to blame the Attorney-General; I am blaming the system. I say it is a scandal and even if, as I think is probably the case, the blame does not rest with the Attorney-General, something should be done now by this Parliament to correct this lamentable and deplorable state of affairs.
I said I would raise two matters. The other is a cognate one. It relates to the late tabling of the Vernon Committee’s report.
As you know, Sir, this has been the subject of questions and discussions in this House, and I will not go over that. However, I can tell the House that on 12th July I wrote to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in these terms -
I wonder if you could let me know when copies of the Vernon Committee’s report are. likely to be available. I understand that it was delivered to you sometime early in May and as you can well imagine, I and other members of the party would be anxious to have a chance of studying it before the budget debates and this, of course, cannot be done overnight.
The Prime Minister replied to me on 3rd August and said -
Until the Cabinet has dealt with the Report, and it is tabled in Parliament, it is, of course, necessary to hold it confidential. 1 wrote back to him on 13th August and said -
I can myself see no reason why this should be so, but perhaps I have overlooked some aspect of the situation. Could you please enlighten me . . .
The Prime Minister subsequently wrote to me again, saying very much what he has said in the House. I think that was not a good argument. This report relates to the general economic situation. It has taken the giant brains of Cabinet four months to appreciate it. It is to be thrown on the table of this House and we are expected to absorb it in a few days so that we can use it - the Budget debate is over - perhaps in relation to the debate on some part of the Estimates.
There is no good reason why this report should have been held confidential. Some members of the Vernon Committee - I shall not name them - have spoken to me and said that they did not know why the report was not being released. They said that they saw no reason why it should be held as a confidential document. How can the Cabinet be better informed by keeping the House worse informed? This attitude is altogether wrong. The Cabinet cannot just use the House as its vehicle. May I remind the members of the Government - those who are members of the Liberal Party of Australia - that the preamble to their party constitution claims that the Executive should be responsible to Parliament. If they are endeavouring to keep Parliament ill-informed, that responsibility cannot be effectively enforced.
,- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has raised two matters which are of very great importance in the working of the Parliament. The second matter concerned the delay in tabling the Report of the Committee of Economic Enquiry, which is known as the Vernon Committee. The delay has been justified on two grounds. The first is that the Government wants to digest the report before releasing it. The second is that the report can only be safely published when it has been tabled in Parliament. I agree with the honorable member that both grounds are spurious. Too often the Government takes the attitude that it should have as long a time as it needs to digest the increasingly complex matters which it has to consider whereas the Parliament should be able to carry out its survey of such matters much more briefly. The other ground is equally unsound. There is a good legal reason for the report of the Commissioner for Taxation to be tabled in Parliament before it can be released. One scarcely suspects, however, that there is anything defamatory in the Vernon Committee’s report.
The Vernon Committee’s report was available to the Government before the Parliament rose in May and it could have been tabled then. The delay typefies the general attitude which the Government takes on econimic matters. It may be conceded that there has been some acceleration in the presentation of statutory reports to Parliament. Where there would be a delay because the Auditor-General had not yet had the opportunity to look at the figures of some instrumentality, interim reports are tabled. The Department of Primary Industry has set a good example in this respect. Its reports come down promptly. There is still, however, the same old delay with the more comprehensive economic reports which the Parliament receives. I have long felt that it is a scandal that honorable members do not have these reports in time for the Budget debate. Members are expected to debate the annual affairs of the Parliament on the basis of the Treasurer’s statistics and comments alone.
There are some reports which have to be made regularly to the Parliament in addition to the Treasurer’s annual Budget speech. There is the report of the Reserve Bank of Australia which this year came down in good time during the debate on the Budget. Secondly, there is the report of the Tariff Board. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) received this report weeks ago, but it has not yet been tabled. Then there is the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission which is a particularly important report where Commonwealth and State financial relations are concerned. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Harold Holt) received this report weeks ago, but it has not been tabled. On this occasion, for the first time for many years, there was the Vernon Committee’s report. This was essential to any arguments concerning long range planning or basic weaknesses or challenges in the economy, but it will be tabled after the Budget debate has concluded. Its relevance on the Estimates will be great, but it should have been available to honorable members - not just to the Government - last May so that they could have read it. The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) last May asked, after the Government had received the report, when we would get it and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) would not say. We can at least be thankful that we are receiving it after nearly five months. We waited some seven months for the report of the Martin Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia.
The other matter mentioned by the honorable member concerning draftsmen illustrates the general shortage of assistance available to private members of Parliament, and private members of Parliament include all members of the Opposition and all members of the Government parties except those who are Ministers. This is not just the fault of any individual Minister; it is the fault of the Cabinet as a whole. It is the fault of all of us that we do not sufficiently insist that the Parliament be properly armed to carry out its job. There are some respects in which the Ministry can be blamed. The Ministry takes as long as it needs to draft legislation and then assumes that private members, including the Opposition, should be able, in the course of a few days, to digest all these very elaborate matters. I agree with the honorable member on the question of draftsmen being available for private members who wish to move amendments. Occasionally one has the pretty miserable spectacle of Ministers criticising amendments which are moved by private members on the basis that they have not been expertly drafted. This comes with very bad grace from Ministers who have had months to see that bills have been drafted according to their wishes. Then, very often, they have had to introduce amendments which showed that they themselves have had second thoughts.
The position of private members has deteriorated in the Parliamentary system. The Executive now has as much control over this Parliament as, say, the Executive has over the French Parliament under the Fifth Republic. We do not even have the safeguard of a long established committee system which there is in the British Parliament. We do not have the safeguard - the check and balance - afforded in the American Congressional system by the separation of powers. 1 believe the time is long overdue when the private members of Parliament should be given independent sources of advice and assistance. Above all, the Library is the source where this should be available. There is nothing comparable in this country to the legislative reference section of the United States Library of Congress. Members are entitled to have assistance independent of the Government on any subject which can come before the Parliament. It is impossible for them to do so out of their own resources. No Parliament elsewhere has to do so. Our Library should be the great source; as the honorable member for Mackellar said, the assistance of draftsmen is one of the features that we all need.
I rose to speak on a question which arose in the first week of the session concerning an allegation by a doctor, published in the “ Medical Journal of Australia “, that the Commonwealth Statistician, in breach of his obligations, was revealing information to the police about births to young unmarried mothers. A question was asked by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp). The Treasurer replied that he had already received a report on this matter from the Statistician and that the report was available. He gave me a copy of it and I later put a question on the notice paper to which he gave me a reply two days ago.
I am concerned at two features of this report and the Treasurer’s replies. I am not here concerned with the propriety of State acts or Territory ordinances requiring birth registrars to reveal, or permitting them to reveal, information to the police. I am concerned about the secrecy provisions of the Commonwealth Census and Statistics Act. On one hand the Statistician said there was no breach of the Act and on the other hand he said that the provision of such information was comparable to the provision of information about births that is given to Commonwealth and State agencies concerned with social service benefits and health services. He was both denying the breach and justifying the breach. In fact, there is no parallel between the two types of information. If people want information to be given to the police they can give it on their own account. They do not expect the Statistician to provide it. The information given to the social services authorities is given because the people concerned seek social service benefits. They expect the Statistician to provide it.
On the other point, the Statistician reported that the Victorian Government Statist is the same person as the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician in that State. It appears that the doctor’s complaint in the “ Medical Journal “ was well founded as far as Victoria is concerned. The Victorian Statist gives information to the State police which his signed undertaking under the Census and Statistics Act of this Parliament, and the regulations which the Parliament has permitted, precluded him from divulging. It is essential that the confidences reposed in the Statistician and all his officers should be respected and their obligations should be observed; otherwise they will not receive correct information.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to take up time that on “ Grievance Day “ should be available to private members, but two matters have been raised that involve the Government and I believe they call for some immediate comment. The fact that they have come from the two preceding speakers who enjoy - to judge from the pages of “ Hansard “ - more speaking time on their respective sides of the House than any other member, is a good indication that the democratic spirit is still flourishing quite vigorously inside this Parliament and that they are able to take advantage of it from time to time in giving free expression to their views in this place. Indeed, we have these two immediate examples of their exercise of that right.
My friend the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) complains that in his view the Government has been tardy in bringing the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry - the Vernon Committee report - before the Parliament. Of course, if all the Government had to do was to receive the report and hand it over to the Parliament the criticism would be well justified, but I remind the Parliament of the nature of this report. This Committee was set up to review virtually the whole field of the Australian economy. Its terms of reference were very far reaching and there was virtually no substantial area of the economy that the Committee was not given an opportunity to examine and to comment upon. In the course of its report, as honorable members will find when the documents are placed before them, it has either conveyed views, or there are clear implications of such views from what appears in the report, on the Government’s policies or on policies that it felt the Government might usefully pursue.
It would have been quite unsatisfactory to the Parliament, and to the public, for the Government to table the report without having first taken time to study it closely and to be in a position to comment from the outset in respect of certain substantial items that emerge from the report. It has been said that there has been unnecessary delay. This is admittedly an important matter, but the Government has had many important and urgent matters to deal with over the period. We have not been neglectful of such opportunities as have been available to us. We have had many Cabinet discussions of considerable length covering many aspects that will be unfolded to honorable members when the report reaches them. I point out that not only did the Committee take about two years over its labours, but it reported at great length. Tha first volume of its report consists of about 540 pages and the volume of appendices, which contains many substantial matters that have to be studied in addition to the text of the report, runs to more than 1,100 pages. We are not asking the House to take the report and debate it immediately. There will be a reasonable interval before the House will be expected to debate it. I think that when honorable members have had an opportunity to study the report and consider the covering statement that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) will be making-
– Is the Press getting the report on Friday?
– The honorable member had better address his question to the Prime Minister, who is in charge of the report and its disposition. When honorable members have before them not merely the report but the Prime Minister’s covering statement they will find the substantial answer to what the honorable member for Mackellar has been putting. This is a monumental report and the Government does not wish to treat it in any perfunctory fashion but to bring close attention and study to it. This will become evident as the debate upon it proceeds.
The other matter to which I refer was that raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). He claims some breach of the Census and Statistics Act. I was concerned by this allegation when I first saw it in the Press and I made immediate inquiries. I discovered that the Commonwealth Statistician was no less concerned and had prepared a report on it for me before my own inquiry reached him. What he puts to me is that there has been no breach of the Act. The registration of births is carried out by registrars under the provisions of State and Territory registration acts which provide for the registration procedures, custody of records and, inter alia, the giving of certified copies of registered information. There are numbers of instances where information about births registered is given to Commonwealth and State agencies concerned with social service benefits and health services.
The information for birth registration is thus not connected under the Census and Statistics Act. Operations under that Act begin when information on individual births registered is given to the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics by the State and Territory registration authorities for the purpose of compiling statistics of births. This information in the hands of the Statistician is fully protected under the Census and Statistics Act and may not be divulged to any other person or authority. The statistical tables which the Statistician publishes or otherwise issues are all carefully framed not to reveal particulars of individuals.
Except in Victoria, the registration authority forms or is part of a State Department separated altogether from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. In Victoria, the officer who holds the office of State Government Statist - he is a State officer - in charge of the registration of births, deaths and marriages under a State Act, does, under an arrangement with the Victorian Government in consonance with the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956, perform the duties of the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician in charge of statistical compilation under the Commonwealth Census and Statistics Act. There is a dual function. That is not denied. What is involved here is the question of whether there was any breach of our Act, and we deny that this is so. We claim that the circumstance of the dual office may have led to the confusion in Dr. Christophers’ letter, whereby the procedures of the Victorian Government Statist, operating in his capacity as the State registration authority under the State Act, are erroneously described as contravening the secrecy provisions of the Commonwealth Census and Statistics Act.
We take, I believe, a proper pride in the way in which the Census and Statistics Act is administered. I am not aware of any breach having occurred, or there having been public complaint about this, at any time in the period of my tenure of the office of Treasurer. I am not here making any criticism of the action that the Victorian Government takes under its own arrangements, lest there has been no breach by the Commonwealth in its administration of the census and statistics legislation. The facts that I have put before the House confirm this.
.- This morning I wish to raise the matter of the
Commonwealth’s refusal to accept responsibility for the serious beach and park erosion and other damage that has occurred in my electorate and the adjacent electorate of St. George following the dredging operations in Botany Bay. I have raised this matter with the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) and he acknowledges that there has been very serious erosion of the whole of the foreshores in this area. As a matter of fact, the Minister very recently informed me that the damage had occurred in two broad areas. The first is in the Kyeemagh area between Bestic and Bruce Streets, Brighton-le-Sands. This damage took place during the storms that occurred in the period from the 17th to 24th July. The Minister’s departmental officers advised him that serious erosion of the beach occurred over a length of about 350 feet in this area. The Minister also admitted that the erosion has caused under-cutting of the 15 to 20 feet high sand cliff at the back of the beach. It is recognised that this beach constitutes the frontage of the important Cook Park in the Brighton-le-Sands and Kyeemagh areas.
It has also been admitted by the Minister and his advisers that an area of the park collapsed on to the beach and this also brought down a lengthy section of galvanised iron fencing. The iron fencing was erected there some years ago to protect nearby residents from the effects of sandstorms. The Minister also admitted that a large volume of sand from the cliff was washed into Kyeemagh baths. As a matter of fact, the Kyeemagh baths, which are enclosed by shark proof netting, have been almost completely filled with sand. It has not been admitted, but it is stated as a fact that roads and houses along the beach front are seriously in danger of being undermined. I am talking particularly about Grand Parade, which faces the beach. The houses are only a matter of about 50 yards from the beach itself. This has caused a considerable amount of alarm. A number of residents rang me the morning after the first onset of this erosion and asked me to look at the position. I was quite shocked to see the extent of the damage that had occurred.
The second area mentioned by the Minister is in Brighton-le-Sands, nearer the shopping area itself. Most of the damage took place between the Brighton baths and Presi dent Avenue during a storm on 25th July. In this instance, the Minister admits that a considerable amount of sand had been removed from the beach and that there had been movement of sandstone blocks which had been dumped there to protect the foreshores. It is further admitted that the beach area was exposed to such an extent that rubbish and garbage that had previously been deposited under many feet of sand and other material to help build up the beach front had been exposed. Furthermore, the shark proof Brighton baths enclosure is now 20 feet away from the high tide mark. In other words, during high tide it would be possible for sharks to swim in and out of the so called shark proof enclosure. The beach at Brighton is now covered at high tide and the sand slopes away quite sharply from the foreshores. Anybody who knows that area of Sydney would know that Grand Parade and General Holmes Drive are very important trafficways leading to the southern suburbs. They have become more important since the opening of the Taren Point bridge, which takes traffic into the Caringbah and Cronulla areas. The great danger is that, if this erosion continues, the busy thoroughfare of Grand Parade along the shopping front will be undermined.
Another important effect that has been brought to my notice this week is the serious silting of the entrance to Cooks River from Botany Bay. I am told by the Rockdale Municipal Council that it has also made representations to the Commonwealth Department of Works, to the Maritime Services Board and to the State Government of New South Wales. The Council has brought the serious silting of this outlet of Cooks River to the notice of these bodies. This silting can only result at times in serious flooding of the surrounding residential areas of Kyeemagh and BrightonIeSands. As a matter of fact, the drainage in this part of the municipality will be seriously affected if this condition is allowed to persist. The Council has a very keen interest in having the Government accept responsibility for some of this damage.
I have also had urgent representations only a few days ago from the BrightonleSands Amateur Fishermen’s Association Ltd., which has built quite elaborate facilities for its club on the eastern side of
Muddy Creek, which is a tributary of Cooks River. The membership of the club is limited to 500, but it has very valuable real estate in the area. It also has boats harboured in the area and they would be valued, I suppose, at about £50,000. The club obtained a lease of land from the Rockdale Municipal Council a few years ago and on it has built a club house, concrete slipways, launching ramp, wharf, pontoons and a petrol filling bowser with storage tanks and so on. To make Muddy Creek a traffickable waterway, with an. exit into Botany Bay, the club purchased its own dredge two years ago and has deepened Muddy Creek. It used the creek bottom reclaimed from the dredging to fill and level the Council’s parks on both sides of Muddy Creek. In the last couple of years the purchase of facilities, including a dredge, has cost . the club £40,000. As I have said, boats worth at least £50,000 are tied up there. The club is very concerned that all of this work could be seriously endangered by the flooding of Muddy Creek. Cooks River and surrounding areas as a result of silting at the mouth of Cooks River where it enters Botany Bay.
In a letter to the Director of Public Works the President of the BrightonleSands Amateur Fishermen’s Association Ltd., Mr. Studdert, said -
Before the extensions to Mascot runways were commenced by the dredging operations undertaken in Botany Bay it was possible for fishing launches to travel directly out of the mouth of Cooks River into Botany Bay. Since the dredging in the centre of Botany Bay has taken place the entire contour of the seabed has changed and, indeed, even the currents have changed . . .
This is to be noted - and the mouth of Cooks River has silted up to such an alarming degree that at low water it is necessary for launches to clear the southern breakwater and immediately turn south and travel parallel with the beach front in order to gain access to the bay. Already a couple of members’ launches have run aground but in fortunate circumstances which involved no danger to life and only minimal danger to the boats themselves. However, our members are very concerned at the prospect of having to return through the mouth of Cooks River during a strong wind which has blown up while they have been returning from a fishing trip. I do not exaggerate when I say that it is eminently possible and even likely that drownings will occur in this treacherous area of water should there be conditions of a high wind during a low tide.
This is a serious and urgent matter. I ask the Government to look again at it. In answering representations from the Rockdale Municipal Council the Minister said that the evidence was not sufficient for the Commonwealth to accept responsibility. He said the same thing to me. He said -
There is no real evidence that danger could bo caused by or even accentuated by the presence of the runway extensions or excavations. A great deal more evidence would be required before Commonwealth responsibility for any damage could be admitted.
These things did not happen in years gone by. In the past there has been some damage, but nothing like the damage that is being done now. It is obvious to all residents of the area, to fishermen and to the Council - to anybody with an eye to see - that extensive dredging of the bottom of Botany Bay and along the foreshores has changed the currents, set up different wave action and led to considerable damage to the foreshores. There is an urgent need for protection of this area. There is an urgent need to do something about the silting of the entrance of Cooks River into Botany Bay.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to speak briefly about a matter that I believe to be of real consequence to a number of people but particularly to Australian servicemen serving in the South East Asian area. I refer to the sale of land to these servicemen by an Australian company. The company - the Co-Ownership Land Development Pty. Ltd. - has apparently arranged for salesmen from Australia to be in Hong Kong and other places at times when Australian servicemen have been there on leave. It would appear from the information at my disposal that these salesmen have given glowing accounts to Australians of the land that they have for sale. As a result some servicemen have entered into contracts in respect of land offered by the company.
That may be all very well. I suppose this view could be taken: If the servicemen regard the proposition put to them as one of substance, why would they not be interested and why would they not enter into a contract? Unfortunately, those who have been involved in this kind of negotiation have discovered to their subsequent sorrow that when scrutinised carefully the proposition is not very attractive. In the instance that has been brought to my attention - I do not wish to make public the name of the serviceman involved because of the possibility of legal action - the proposition was that if the serviceman entered into an agreement he would ultimately become owner of l/300th of an area of 99 acres of land in the Parish of Currigee in the County of Ward, which is located somewhere in the Stradbroke Island area of Queensland. Upon investigation it transpires that the company was formed as recently as March 1965. The shares in the company are wholly owned by Colin William Steley and Mary Margaret Steley, both of Hunters Hill, New South Wales. It would appear from the information at my disposal that there is not a lot of substance so far as the status of the company is concerned.
I now refer to a most serious aspect of this matter. Part of the proposition offered to the serviceman is that the vendor - the company in other words - will insure the life of the purchaser for liability still outstanding on the land after payment of a deposit. The life so insured will be subject to the payment of monthly instalments on the land. But under scrutiny the insurance policy is seen to contain the usual clause that death as a result of war is excepted from benefit. So at once we see that servicemen are being undoubtedly misled as regards the security offered to them in this kind of proposition. This is something that must affect the interest and welfare of their family and their dependants.
This sort of thing is bad for Australia. It is bad for those who are directly involved in it. I urge upon the Government the importance of taking some action to see that servicemen are warned against this kind of practice. The Government should assist servicemen by letting them know what kinds of propositions are likely to be put to them while they are overseas. I suppose it is impossible to protect everybody who may be serving abroad from the approaches of commercial interests but it occurs to me that in this particular matter there is a need to warn people of the dangers and pitfalls of entering into negotiations of the kind to which I have referred.
What has concerned me particularly in the case that has been brought to my notice is that the holders of the shares in the company - the owners of the company - or their representatives approached the elderly mother of the serviceman concerned and his sister and attempted to persuade them to pay the amount contracted to be paid by the serviceman. Of course, it was impossible for the serviceman’s relatives to be in immediate contact with him because at that time he was serving with the Australian Army training unit in Saigon. The serviceman’s relatives were very worried. I think it is a pretty poor thing if the relatives of servicemen are to be approached in this way by an Australian company. I readily admit that I do not know all the facts in the matter but this is a matter that throws up all kinds of complexities as to the legal position, as well as commercial aspects of it. I am making what further inquiries I can but I raise the matter now because I believe it is urgent. Other servicemen could be implicated. This matter deserves the immediate attention of the Attorney-General, the Minister for the Army and other Ministers who may be able to throw light on what appears to be a very unsatisfactory situation.
– The honorable member is putting up a good argument for a change of Government.
– It occurs to me that this particular matter might not entirely relate to the application of Commonwealth law. The honorable gentleman has referred to a change of Government. I remind him that the company laws of New South Wales were under the control of the Labour Government in New South Wales - the honorable member’s own party, in effect - until a few short months ago. This could be the reason why the kind of thing referred to can operate. However, I leave it to the authorities, who have the opportunity to look fully into this matter, to consider the problem and to take appropriate action.
.- I want to mention two matters, first, the question of an overseas shipping line, secondly, a matter of interest to philatelists in this country and overseas. It is obvious that in the matter of an overseas shipping line for Australia the Federal Government does not let its right hand know what its left hand is doing. A statement was made by the
Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when addressing the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers in Melbourne last week. He said that he hoped to live long enough to see a Commonwealth shipping line carrying Australian goods around the world. It is amazing that 16 years after this Government took office the Treasurer has just decided that he would like to live long enough to see an overseas shipping line, something which we on this side of the Parliament have been pressing for, hammering for and fighting for ever since the Government took office.
Let us consider the history of this. Before the Labour Party left office it passed legislation through this House providing for the establishment of an overseas shipping line. We were defeated on 10th December 1949 before we could implement that legislation and the legislation lapsed after the present Government came to office. In other words, it disappeared. Sixteen years later the Treasurer suddenly discovers that it would be a good idea to have an overseas shipping line. On the other hand, we have the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) saying in this Parliament during this sessional period that the formation of an overseas snipping line has not been discussed by the Government. So we have the Treasurer saying that he would like to see the formation of such a line-
– He did not say that. Be quite fair.
– He said he would like to see it. I have his statement. My colleague the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the Treasurer a question on Tuesday. In reply the Treasurer said -
These are not merely matters which we have studied; they have been canvassed in appropriate quarters with employers, employees and others. We have compared the cost of shipping cargoes from this country, observing Australia’s standards and conditions, with the cost of similar cargoes carried by ships of other countries. The problems are certainly formidable. I made the comment that 1 do not think they are insuperable.
He went on to say in the latter part of his answer, after speaking about what occurred in relation to air services -
We have here an instance of the left hand of the Government not letting the right hand of the Government know what it is doing. It is time the Government made up its mind on this issue and told the nation whether it is doing anything constructive about establishing an overseas shipping line.
The Treasurer said that the establishment of such a line was long overdue and that the practical difficulties were not insuperable. For sixteen long years the Government has strenuously opposed the establishment of an overseas snipping line. In spite of the Government’s spoken denials of any move towards this great project it is interesting to know that only within the last three weeks an official of the Australian National Line is reported to have visited Sydney to consult with, and seek the co-operation of, the Waterside Workers Federation on this very issue. Arising from this meeting it was stated in the press that the Australian National Line planned to build two bulk ore carriers, for a start, for the overseas trade, to operate between Australian ports and Japan. I am glad that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is in the House at present. I should like him to say, later in this sessional period if not today, to the Parliament and the nation, whether or not this conference took place between the Australian National Line and the Waterside Workers Federation. Why this silence and secrecy?
The Treasurer said last week that the establishment of an overseas shipping line was long overdue. This is a classic piece of humbug, because no move has been made in sixteen years - sixteen years of squandered time in which building costs have risen constantly. Furthermore, during these precious lost years the Conference Line ships have entrenched themselves as carriers of our imports and exports. Approximately £280 million is paid by Australia every year in shipping freights to foreign shipping companies to carry our exports and imports. The ludicrous position we are in is emphasised by the fact that Australia - the world’s tenth largest trading nation, and isolated from its main markets by thousands of miles - has not one ship in overseas service, whereas landlocked countries like Switzerland and Czechoslavakia have for years operated overseas shipping lines.
The picture is utterly fantastic, and surely the nation is waiting for the arrival of a Labour Government in office to establish this overseas line, even with two or ‘three ore carriers. It may even be necessary to buy some second hand ships from overseas. We should get them from anywhere in order to get the line started. We could acquire three, four, or five cargo ships and gradually build up year by year. Within ten years we could have ten to fifteen cargo ships operating overseas. The top man of a Greek shipping line who is now in Australia - I have forgotten his name at the moment - said that it was perfectly feasible for Australia to have its own cargo ships operating overseas. Here we have an instance of overseas people saying that it would be a good idea.
I have here two press cuttings. One is from the “Australian” of 10th September this year. It is headed “We need ships of our own “ and is an excellent leading article stating that we should have our own shipping line. The other is from the Hobart “Mercury” of 30th October last year. It is an excellent leading article on the same subject. It is headed “ Overseas ships needed “. There is massive support for this idea all around Australia. It is up to the Minister and the Government to launch this great project and show evidence of statesmanship. However, I doubt very much whether that is possible. The Government has been entrenched in office for so long that it has become quite blase; it does not care any more. It has every hope of being returned to office on the vote of the D.L.P. And so on and on it goes. It is about time there was a change of Government. This would introduce a draught of fresh air through this Parliament.
Finally, I wish to mention a matter which emanates from a letter received yesterday by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) from Mr. F. E. Jacobs, District Postal Officer in Canberra. The letter reads -
Mr. G. W. A. Duthie, M.P., the Opposition Whip, made the following telephonic request on 13th May, 1965: -
That all mail matter posted at Canberra Parliament House Post Office and in both private posting receptacles in Kings Hall, Parliament House, be postmarked with the
Canberra Parliament House, A.C.T. steel hand postmarker or something similar.
Mr. Duthie claimed that he had had several complaints from visitors to Canberra and philatelists that mail matter posted in the three posting boxes concerned were received by the addressees showing an impression of the Canberra A.C.T. postmark when senders expected a Canberra Parliament House A.C.T. postmark to appear on the mail matter.
As you know, all mail matter posted in Canberra is collected by the Transport Branch Motor Drivers and taken to the Canberra Post Office for postmarking and processing.
Then he says this, and I am very grateful to him, his staff and the Department for the decision -
Approval has now been given for all mail matter posted at the Canberra Parliament House Post Office and in both private posting receptacles in Kings Hall Parliament House to be placed in special bags provided for the purpose and conveyed to the Canberra Post Office for hand postmarking by a steel date stamp ‘ Canberra Parliament House A.C.T. Aust.’ Arrangements have been made to introduce Mr. Duthie’s suggestion from 20th September 1965.
It will be a great boon to philatelists all over the world and it will increase the value of stamps to have that postmark on them. I am very grateful to the Department which has done a great service for tourists and philatelists by this historic decision.
.- First I should like to say that 1 was very interested in the proposal initiated by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and supported by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I remember that when I first came into this House after more than 20 years in a State Parliament, I circulated a proposed amendment to a bill. I was told that that sort of thing had not been done by a Government member for 19 years. I said it was about time it was done again.
I feel that there are certain actions that should be taken, and I suggest that the members of this House, on both sides, get together, discuss this question of the rights of members and assistance required to carry out their duties, and then put the results forward in a reasonable straightforward manner to the leaders of their own Parties. I think it is in the interests of democracy that the trend in recent years should be reversed. We should get some assistance as private members, our rights should not be whittled away, andthe Executive should not be allowed to become a dictatorial power in this Parliament.
The main reason I rose was really to tell the final chapter of a long story that started away back in November of last year when cables were sent out from Peking asking certain organisations and firms to protest against the arrest in Brazil of nine members of a Chinese trade delegation who, the Brazilians said, were acting as spies. When it was brought to my notice that the New China News Agency had issued a world Press release on 31st December 1964 stating that, amongst others, the Australian Wool Board had joined in this protest, . I felt that it was the first real example we had had of what would flow from our trade with Communist China. We must always remind ourselves that Communist China does not divorce politics from economics. The Communist Chinese have said this on many occasions. Not only Chou En-lai, but, I think, Chen Yi and others have made that very clear.
I could not believe that the Australian Wool Board had been so foolish, so I rang the secretary of the Board and was told that the Board had not protested. I said: “ Will you give me that in writing as I would like to try and clear the Board’s name as a result of this Press release?” The answer was: “ Yes “. But I was telephoned next day and told that the secretary had discussed the matter with the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn, who had said that the secretary was not to send me that letter because the Wool Board might become involved in a political discussion. Early in May, following on the Wool Board’s refusal, I put a series of questions to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in which I asked whether the Australian Wool Board had received a cable and whether it had sent any reply. The answer was -
On 29th December 1964, the Australian Wool Board received a cable from Peking signed by Chen Cheng-Chung, Director of the China National Textile Import and Export Corporation. The cable sought support for a campaign to protest to Brazilian authorities against the gaoling of nine Chinese nationals.
After considering the cable, the Wool Board decided to take no action on the request from Peking and to refrain from replying.
I emphasise the words, “ and to refrain from replying “. The answer continued -
In making this decision, the Board wished to avoid becoming involved in a controversy of this nature.
I received further information from other sources that a reply had been sent. I was told that the cable was received by the International Wool Secretariat and the reply that was sent was merely an acknowledgment of the cable. So I put another lot of questions on the notice paper after having delved into this question right to the bottom of the pit. I received this reply -
As stated in reply to your earlier question on this subject, the cable from Peking was sent by Cheng-Chung, Director of the China National Textile Import and Export Corporation. It was addressed to ‘“Mister John Hopkins, Auswobo, Melbourne “ -
That is the Wool Board’s cable address -
Although Mr. Hopkins is an officer of the International Wool Secretariat his services were made available to the Australian Wool Board to assist the Board in investigating the prospects of promoting the sale of wool to Mainland China.
Therefore, it was perfectly obvious that the cable was sent to the Australian Wool Board. The authorities in Peking had naturally concluded that as Mr. Hopkins was acting in Red China on behalf of the Australian Wool Board he was a member of the Board. The Minister went on to say that Mr. Hopkins was away when the cable arrived, and that the following reply was sent -
John Hopkins overseas and not available. Not expected to return for at least three weeks. Your cable will be handed to him on his return.
When Mr. Hopkins returned, he referred the cable to the Australian Wool Board. My only complaint about all that is that I cannot see why the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board could not have said at the time what the facts were instead of prevaricating like a silly school boy who had done something that he was ashamed of and who was afraid that he would be caught out. If, when the first request was made, he had said: “ Yes, we received a cable; the cable was merely acknowledged; we did not enter a protest “, it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.
After getting that reply, I asked the Minister if he would endeavour to clear the Australian Wool Board’s name by getting an apology from the New China News Agency and he flatly refused to do so. So 1 decided
I would do it myself. I wrote to the New China News Agency at Suite 16, 6 Queens Road, Melbourne. My letter was referred to Peking. Eventually, I received a reply dated 20th August 196S. It is a rather long reply and I cannot read it all, but, amongst other things it said -
We mistook from oversight the message from the Australian Wool Board to Chen Cheng-Chung, general manager of the China National Textiles Import and Export Corporation, acknowledging receipt of his appeal, for a message of solidarity. This was the cause of the error in our report. Please convey our apology to the Australian Wool Board.
I take this opportunity of conveying that apology, but at the same time, when we have as Chairman of the Australian Wool Board a prevaricator, who is now, I believe, to be the future Leader of the Australian Country Party, all I can say is that it is an insult to the present members of that Party.
Those of us who have been warning about the results of trading with Communist China have been laughed at in the past. Already we have had this incident, which, fortunately, was not what it purported it to be in the first place. Now we have another incident. Immediately after an announcement by the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) that Australian troops would go on leave to Hong Kong, Mr. Chou En-lai told some Japanese business men who were over in Peking that Red China would not buy our wheat if we continued to send troops to Vietnam and that Hong Kong would have to take the consequences of allowing American and Australian troops to be in Hong Kong and of allowing the Hong Kong, Kai Tak airport to be used by American planes. What was the result? Within two days the Minister announced that the troops would not go to Hong Kong. In other words we are being dictated to in Australia by people with whom, as the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) said, we were at war. Those people are now dictating to us where our troops will fight and go on leave. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) put it very correctly, I think, when he said on 19th August in the debate on international affairs -
How does the Government affect the mind of all hesitant people in Asia when it carries out a policy which, frankly, I think means that it values money or trade more than the lives of its own sons?
I was one of those people on the receiving end of the scrap iron policy adopted before World War II. I know what we thought about the policy. I know what the Australian soldiers ordered into the field to protect us think about it at the present time.
.- I listened with great interest to the comment made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I might remind the honorable member that the much maligned waterside workers in my constituency sponsored the campaign which, for the first time, drew to the attention of the Commonwealth Government of the day the danger of exporting scrap iron to Japan. The main purpose of my rising to speak is to refer to one of the great delusions of our age; that is that we live in an affluent society. The President of the United States of America, in his inaugural speech, referred to poverty and the need for a war on poverty. War, poverty and ill-health are the ancient enemies of mankind. In the United States, which is supposed to be the major example of an affluent society, there are today no less than 30 million people living under sub-standard conditions. In our society, according to Dr. Appleyard, a senior lecturer in demography at the Australian National University, there are 600,000 Australians living in substandard conditions. In my constituency poverty is so real that my party has convened a special conference on poverty which will be addressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). It will be attended by our Senate representatives from New South Wales who will be present to hear and in turn to relate to the nation the state of the economic problems of the city of Greater Wollongong.
I represent an area of national importance. We are all proud of the steel industry. In fact that industry produces a torrent of wealth for this nation. In the year 1963-64 the total value of output was £281 million. The total value of production, that is the added value of the raw materials, was of the order of £101 million. That came from 29,000 workers. The average output per worker was £3,412. But what did those workers get in return? They have the lowest standard of wages of any major industrial city in Australia. According to the latest figures the average male wage in New South Wales is £27 a week. At the utmost the maximum wage that an unskilled steelworker can get in my constituency, assuming that he works overtime, receives a bonus and all the other fringe benefits, is no more than £22 a week. The difference of £5 is an amount which is the subject of an application by the metal trade unions to the New South Wales Industrial Commission at the present time for an industry allowance.
Of course, the metal trade unions are dealing with an oligopoly which, in many respects, is above the Government, which can free-wheel and which can dictate its own policy and fix its own prices without competition. It has no criteria and the trade union movement has no criteria for it when it comes to the question of wage fixation. I have been a Commonwealth parliamentary representative for nearly two years but I was profoundly shocked, despite my experience, also as a former State parliamentarian, at the degree and incidence of poverty within this city which is turning out such a torrent of wealth for the nation and where the people are shabbily treated by its major employers.
There is a complete distortion of the economy of the district. A recent survey by a university lecturer in economics at the Wollongong University College showed a female unemployment of 5,600 women and girls. Of this number, no less than 78 per cent, were married women. To make the position even clearer, the great majority of those women were located in the industrial suburbs closest to the steel industry itself. I ask honorable members to consider, not my own observations, but the words of Mr. Steinke, the university lecturer to whom I have referred. I will quote from his report to the Illawarra Regional Development Committee which is dated 5th November 1964. In it he said that Greater Wollongong - . . had relatively less than a normal proportion of its work force engaged in occupations with a low male-female rate ratio such as Finance and Property, Commerce, Community and Business Services, and Manufacturing of Yarns and Textiles. . . .
In summation, Illawarra’s female unemployment tate can be attributed to two causes: The depend ence on metalworking and mining as basic industries; and the extremely rapid growth rate of the region, which has led to an unusually high employment in construction and provision of utility services and to unusually low employment in provision of financial, commercial and other community services.
Later in his report he stated -
Subsidisation of industries-
This concerns the point which is so often raised that by the establishment of light industries alone our problems can be solved - . . will not, in itself, be sufficient to bring Illawarra’s female unemployment rate down to an acceptable level. This is because of the magnitude of the problem. Assuming new manufacturing industries had an average male-female employment ratio of .5 to 1, it would take more than 8,000 new jobs to bring female unemployment down to the Commonwealth level. The amount of investment required is staggering, awesome.
In addition, that very real hardship exists is apparent from data which I have received from one of the benevolent organisations - the major one, perhaps - in my constituency. This indicates that in 1960 the total number of parcels of food relief or clothing distributed or other forms of assistance to necessitous persons was 470. In 1963 it was 1,250 and in 1964 it was 5,400. In the year just ended the total was 8,500. The figures relate to the year ending 30th June in each case.
In addition to that, there are other matters to be considered. A record number of summonses is being issued, as well as writs of execution and garnishee orders. In that regard let me remind honorable members that the present New South Wales Government, which has assumed the role of being a first class debt collector, proposes to introduce a new, a bigger and better system of garnisheeing wages and £11 15s. is the residue which will remain to the average worker under New South Wales law at a time when the Australian Council of Trade Unions advocates a basic wage of £22.
In addition to that, we have the problem of migrants coming into this country. Of our migrants, 70 per cent, arrive in Australia with less than £250. What chance do those people have of acquiring a home from the wages being offered to them? The alternative to owning a home is to live indefinitely in one of the Commonwealth hostels until such time as the Housing Commission, from its limited funds, can provide accommodation for them. As for the
New South Wales Government, its proposals on the question of decentralisation can best be summarised by an election leaflet which was distributed on behalf of the Liberal Party candidate in Wollongong-Port Kembla at the State election in May. In that pamphlet the Liberal Party deplored the growth of the industrial areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. I will quote this document which has the imprimatur of Mr. Carrick, whose association with the Liberal Party in Sydney is well known. The document states -
In the 10 years ending 1963, the factory work force in the country rose by only 576.
– Order! It is now 15 minutes to 1 o’clock and in accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted and I put the question -
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Australian Universities Commission Act 1959 established the Australian Universities Commission and limited its membership to a full time Chairman and not more than four part time members. In 1962 the Act was amended to permit an increase in the number of part time members from four to six. Since then, as all honorable members will be aware, the pressure of the work to be performed by the Commission and its members, either as a whole or in committees, has grown tremendously. The present Bill seeks permission to increase the number of part time members to not more than eight. This represents an addition of two to the existing limit.
I said that the work of the Commission had greatly expanded. Indeed it has. As recently as 1962, when the Commission was last enlarged, there were ten universities, one university college and 63,000 students. This year there are thirteen universities, some of them not yet teaching, but all needing the close collaboration of the Commission in the vital planning stage, two university colleges and 83,000 students. This involves more detailed work, more travelling and the giving of more time by part time members of the Commission, all of whom are persons who have large responsibilities not connected with the Commission and who find it difficult to give more than a certain proportion of their time to the work of the Commission.
An increase in numbers of the kind suggested will enable the Commission to form special committees for special inquiries and will also enable a reasonably high proportion of Commission members to visit any particular university while at the same time relieving the pressure on the time of any individual part time member. Should the Bill be passed, the Government will take the opportunity promptly to appoint two additional part time members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That theBill be now read a second time.
The Australian Honey Board was established by legislation enacted late in 1962 for the twofold purpose of promoting local consumption of honey and stabilising export prices. For the latter purpose the Board was given the power to regulate Australian exports of honey, its main aim being to stamp out price cutting between exporters. It has always been maintained by the leaders of the industry that price cutting between exporters is most prevalent during the period of high production in any year and that the most effective means of combating this problem would be to rationalise exports of honey. However, no one organisation has been able to finance the holding of stocks and the result is that producers and packers alike are forced by lack of finance to sell their honey at low prices to overseas speculators who have traditionally reaped the profits that should rightly belong to the Australian industry.
It has become evident that the Board’s regulatory powers are not sufficient to enable it to stabilise export prices as intended and the Board has, therefore, requested the
Government to extend its powers so that it may borrow from the Reserve Bank of Australia under a Commonwealth guarantee for the purpose of financing the holding of stocks of honey with the object of rationalising exports. The Board’s proposal is supported by the industry and has been accepted by the Government. The purpose of this Bill is, therefore, to give the Board an extension of its powers by enabling it to acquire stocks of honey voluntarily offered, or to make advances against stocks owned by others, for orderly marketing purposes, and to give the Board the facility of borrowing from the Reserve Bank under Commonwealth guarantee on terms and conditions approved by the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry, in accordance with usual practice. The Board is to be given the right to sell or dispose of honey either acquired or placed under its control and when it considers it desirable or necessary, to effect mortgages or other security over any honey under its control in the same manner as if the Board itself were the owner.
It will be noted that borrowings by the Board under the Commonwealth guarantee are to be applied for the purpose of financing the holding to stocks of honey and not for the Board’s promotional functions. I am convinced that the new principles which are introduced in this Bill, and which will enable the Australian Honey Board to obtain finance under Commonwealth guarantee to allow the Board to arrange for the holding of stocks of honey during periods of high production, will greatly benefit the industry. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
Mr. ADERMANN (Fisher- Minister for Primary Industry [2.22]. - I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Levy Act (No. 1) 1962 which imposes a levy on sales of honey in Australia, the proceeds of which are made available to the Australian Honey Board to meet its financial requirements tor administration, promotion and research. Since this levy became operative on 1st March 1963, it has become evident to both the Honey Board and the Department of Primary Industry that it is not economical to apply the machinery of collecting to the many people who keep a small number of hives as a hobby or to provide honey for domestic consumption.
After consultations between my Department, which is responsible for the collection of the levy, and the Honey Board, which represents those persons liable to pay the levy, the Government has accepted a recommendation from the Board that the principal acts be amended to provide exemption of a person from the payment of the levy in any month if the honey that he sold or used in the production of other goods in that month weighed not more than 120 lb. The quantity of 120 lb. of honey represents 5s. at the current rate of levy of id. per lb. and is considered adequate to exempt most amateur beekeepers from the levy. This will lift an onerous obligation from my Department and result in a saving of government expenditure in the collection of the many small levy payments. The amendment also makes provision for the exemption of prescribed classes of persons to cover contingencies which might arise. There are no specific proposals for exemptions at present; otherwise they would have been included in the amending legislation in order to allow the Parliament to consider them fully at this stage. However, in this regard I remind honorable members of their authority to review any regulations which may subsequently be made under the Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Levy Act (No. 2) 1962, which imposes a levy on honey used in the manufacture of other goods. The amendment will enable the inclusion in the Act of the same exemption provisions as those to which I referred in my second reading speech on the Honey Levy Bill (No. 1) 1965. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Bury, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed to extend the period of operation of the Copper Bounty Act 1958- 1963, which expires on 31st December 1965, to 31st December 1966 unless an earlier date of cessation is specified by proclamation.
The bounty ensures that the higher cost producers in Australia achieve a return of £340 per ton for the copper they produce and sell in Australia. No copper bounty has been paid in respect of production from and including 19th August 1964 as local producers have been continually receiving more than £340 per ton since that date. Copper prices have been high due to a world-wide shortage and this has led to an unreal situation of two unrelated world prices for copper. The position has been aggravated in Australia because the largest local producer, Mount Isa, lost production by an industrial dispute forcing our manufacturers to buy at the higher of the two world prices.
Because of this disturbed state of affairs in the copper industry, both at home and overseas, the Government considers that it would be preferable to defer the appropriate Tariff Board inquiry until conditions become more settled. At present the Board could have difficulty in assessing the long term protective needs of the industry. In coming to this decision, the Government has borne in mind the fact that Australian copper mines are located in remote country areas and communities centred in these districts are almost entirely dependent on the mines for their existence. Continuance of the bounty amounts to an assurance of assistance, in the event of a drastic fall in copper prices, to prevent the mines going out of production with grave social consequences to the dependent communities. For this reason alone it is considered that the bounty provision needs to be continued until a proper review can be conducted. In view of the circumstances existing it is obvious that extension of the Copper Bounty Act, until such time as an accurate assessment of assistance to the industry can be made, is indeed necessary. The Bill now before the House is designed to effect the required extension.
In preparing this legislation, the opportunity has been taken to clarify the treatment of the profit limitation provision in those cases where the financial years of the claimants do not coincide exactly with the bounty periods. This is in accordance with present practice followed in bounty legislation. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Bury, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act 1961, to enable action to be taken to counter new forms of dumping which have become evident since the main Act was passed.
The level of any protection granted to economic and efficient Australian industry determined after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board is based on the assumption that goods imported into Australia are sold by the exporter at fair and reasonable prices, i.e., not below normal value. In broad and general terms, this means that export prices should be not less than the prices at which the goods are available in the domestic market of the country of export. It frequently happens, however, that goods are sold for export at prices which, in comparison with their normal values, are not fair and reasonable, but which have been deliberately set at unduly low levels.
This Government has always taken the firm view that dumping in all its forms must be countered whenever it damages or threatens to damage an Australian industry. The principal Act, which this present legislation is designed to strengthen, was drafted to achieve this purpose. In general, the Act has proved to be effective against the usual forms of dumping. However, since it came into operation certain new forms of dumping, apparently designed to circumvent the Act, have been identified. These sophisticated trading practices have been causing damage to Australian industry particularly to the chemical and other capital intensive industries. A complete review has been made of the Act and its shortcomings in relation to the dumping practices which were impairing the protection to Australian industry. The present Bill incorporates the results of this review.
I now propose to outline the main features of the Bill and to define those practices which it is designed to counter. Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill are procedural changes relating to title, citation and date of operation of the Act. Clause 3 vests in the Minister for Customs and Excise the power to determine the export price of goods exported to Australia where, in his opinion, there are reasonable grounds for believing that the documentary export price has been fixed with a view to avoiding dumping duty or other special duties payable in accordance with the provisions of the Act. This is an amendment having a wide effect, and one which introduces into the legislation an element of flexibility necessary to counter all the various practices that have arisen.
The opportunity has been taken to improve the wording of the definition of “ export price “. For example, “ delivery charges” - previously referred to as “free on board charges” - have been precisely defined. The amendments in this clause are designed to enable counter action to be taken against practices known as “ sales dumping “ and “ package deals “. Sales dumping is the export to Australia of goods declared at normal value i.e., at a fair and reasonable price thereby incurring no dumping duty, which are subsequently resold or costed into production in Australia at an amount which is less than normal value plus overseas freight, insurance, exchange, duty and landing charges, plus a normal or reasonable profit. In sales dumping, the element or act of dumping occurs, not between the exporter and importer, but at a point in the chain between the importer and the user in Australia. There have been, for example, instances of goods which have been imported by companies wholly owned by overseas principals (but separate corporate entities) and which have been the subject of sales dumping after importation into Australia. The wider powers would not be exercised, of course, in cases where the goods are imported in good faith and the importer incurs a genuine loss.
Package deals are transactions in which goods not liable to dumping duties are supplied at reduced prices as an inducement for the purchase of other goods at normal or non-dumped prices, thereby avoiding dumping duty that would otherwise be payable on the latter goods. In this instance, the dumping is transferred, so to speak, from goods which are competitive with Australian products to goods which are not competitive but which form part of the one transaction. These powers of flexibility in the determination of export price should allow the practices I have mentioned to be countered. Anti-dumping legislation needs to be flexible enough to allow the determination of a true export price and a true normal value to ensure that people do not evade the anti-dumping law. The proposed amendments to the Act will achieve this objective in regard to export price. The present powers to determine normal value are sufficiently flexible to prevent circumvention of the Act, insofar as this aspect is concerned.
Clause 4 of the Bill incorporates a drafting change consequent upon the amendment to the definition of “ export price “ in clause 3. It also vests in the Minister for Customs and Excise further powers to exempt from payment of dumping duties goods imported under certain circumstances. It is intended that these powers be exercised to exempt goods from the collection of dumping duty in cases where such collection would be contrary to the provisions of international agreements to which Australia is a party. Furthermore, the amendment will allow exemptions in cases where goods are admitted under Customs bylaw on the grounds that suitably equivalent goods, the produce or manufacture of Australia, arc not reasonably available, i.e., exemption is granted on the premise that, if there is no production in Australia, there can be no injury to an Australian producer. For example, certain types of paper and paperboards are not made in Australia but all types are covered by the dumping notice thereby rendering them liable to dumping duty.
Clause 5 of the Bill merely incorporates a drafting change consequent upon the definition of “ export price “ in clause 3. Clause 6 of the Bill is a drafting change made necessary by the format of the Customs Tariff 1965 which was passed by Parliament during the last session. Clause 7 of the Bill is a drafting change to ensure that section 15 of the principal Act authorises both the calculation and imposition of the special duties provided for under the Act. In clause 8 of the Bill the provisions regarding instruments of exemption have been qualified to bring them within section 16 of the Act. This means that the provisions covering the specification of the goods can also be applied to the exemption of goods. Clause 9 provides that the taxing powers incorporated in this Bill do not apply to goods entered for home consumption prior to the commencement of this Act, that is, the taxing powers do not have any retrospective application.
The Government is also becoming increasingly concerned with a trading practice which involves inadequate deletion allowances. Inadequate deletion allowances occur when goods - for example, motor vehicle components - are sold in a pack for assembly into a complete article. Importers of component packs pay the price for a complete pack less an allowance for any components which the importer wishes withdrawn from the pack and which he intends to purchase in Australia. This allowance is known as a “ deletion allowance “. If an offered deletion allowance is less than the real value of a component there is a positive financial disincentive to purchase such a component in Australia. In this way, offers of inadequate deletion allowances nullify the protection given by the Government to Australian component manufacturers.
In the case of the automobile industry, this practice has militated against efforts made by Australian manufacturers and assemblers to increase the Australian content of locally produced vehicles. If not checked, the practice may prevent attainment of the objectives of the Government’s policy of increasing local content of automobiles. The Government is closely examining the practice of inadequate deletion allowances. If it continues the Government will take steps to regard an offered deletion allowance as the export price of the goods, with a view to affording protection under the provisions of the Customs Tariff (Dumping and Subsidies) Act. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, as honorable members know, is the legislative means of implementing the policy determinations announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech a few weeks ago. It is a privilege tor me to be able to present this the first legislation relating to the Department of Social Services since I became responsible for the Department early this year. The extensions of benefits represent a further broadening of the social welfare measures available to the people of Australia.
The social services programme has always figured prominently in this Government’s policy deliberations. For many years flat rate increases in all pension rates for pensioners were the rule. The build up in these rates to a more satisfactory level has enabled the Government, in recent years, to pay particular attention to the relative needs of households, so that pensions, allowances and other payments may be brought into better balance, and the means test rationalised. In framing a more equitable structure of social services the Government has been guided by the general policy of ensuring that the people in the poorest circumstances receive the most assistance. It is in pursuance of this policy that this Bill is introduced to the House. The Bill provides the following variants to existing benefits -
An increase of supplementary assistance by 10s. a week together with a widening of eligibility by extending payment to pensioners whose resources exceed the present limits.
The payment of standard pension rate of £6 a week as well as supplementary assistance, if otherwise eligible, to a married pensioner whose wife receives a wife’s allowance.
The payment of a wife’s allowance where the wife of an age pensioner has the custody, care and control of one or more children under the age of 16 years or, in the case of a student child, under 21 years.
The payment of child’s allowance and additional pension for children where age pensioners have the custody, care and control of one or more children.
An increase in the age limit from 18 to 21 years for student children of pensioners. This also extends the eligibility for widow’s pension where the widow has a student child.
The payment of a guardian’s allowance of £2 a week to unmarried age and invalid pensioners who have the custody, care and control of one or more children.
The payment of a funeral benefit of £20 to a pensioner who is responsible for the funeral expenses of a spouse, a child or another pensioner.
Each of the above measures is intended to remove an area of relative need. The Government has endeavoured each year to determine those sections of the community comparatively less favorably placed than others. Assistance has then been provided toward the improvement of their economic position. These seven measures result from this assessment. Each is therefore now examined in detail. Supplementary assistance was introduced by the present Government in 1958. It is payable at the rate of 10s. a week to single pensioners, or to married pensioners whose partner is not in receipt of a pension or allowance, who pay rent and are entirely dependent on the pension. It is a form of additional assistance available to a clearly defined group of pensioners who have a particular and recognisable need.
Mr. Speaker, the Bill before the House increases supplementary assistance by 10s. a week to 20s. a week. In keeping with this higher rate, it lays down a sliding scale under which the maximum rate of supplementary assistance is reduced by the amount by which a pensioner’s means as assessed exceeds £26. Means as assessed, as honorable members know, is the phrase used to measure a person’s financial resources. It is a composite figure comprising the annual rate of income together with £1 for each complete £10 by which the value of property exceeds £200.
In the administration of the existing law a pensioner is considered entirely dependent on his pension if his income does not exceed 10s. a week or the value of his property is under £210. Thus an income of 10s. a week permits supplementary assistance of 10s. a week to be paid; but an income of 10s. 3d. a week prevents the payment of any supplementary assistance. This is in contrast to the pensions means test which is a “ taper “ in that for every £1 by which means as assessed exceeds £182, £1 a year is deducted from the annual rate of pension. The present means restriction for supplementary assistance is felt to be appropriate for the rate and scope of the existing benefit. With an increase in the rate to 20s. a week, as now proposed, the introduction of a taper is desirable. The Bill provides such a taper. In conformity with the merged means test on pensions it incorporates the principle mentioned, under which each complete £10 of the value of property above £200, or £1,000 in the case of Class A widows with property exceeding £2,250, will be equivalent for means test purposes to £1 per annum of income.
Mr. Speaker, some 105,000 pensioners are currently receiving supplementary assistance. On passage of the present Bill they will all receive the 10s. a week increase. Some 34,000 additional pensioners with means as assessed of less than £78 will be brought into the supplementary assistance field for the first time and will receive increases to their present pension from 20s. down to ls. a week. This means that single pensioners who pay rent will qualify for some supplementary assistance if they own no property and the annual rate of income is less than £78 a year or, on the other hand, if they have no income apart from their pension and the value of their property other than their furniture and personal effects is less than £980. These proposals are estimated to cost £4 million in a full year. It is also proposed to make supplementary assistance available to a married pensioner whose wife is in receipt of a wife’s allowance, if the couple pay rent and satisfy the conditions of the proposed means test. As honorable members will know, in the case of a married couple the income and property of each is deemed to be half the combined income and property of both. This will mean that the limits to the income or property such a couple may have before ceasing to be eligible for some supplementary assistance will be double those mentioned for a single pensioner. Some 5,000 pensioner households are expected to benefit under the previous item by amounts ranging up to 20s. a week.
In addition, the Bill provides for the maximum rate of pension payable to a married man whose wife is in receipt of a wife’s allowance to be increased from £5 10s. a week to the standard rate of £6 a week. Under this proposal some 18,000 pensioner households will receive an immediate increase of 10s. a week. Under the existing provisions of the Social Services Act, and not taking into account any payments for children, the maximum amount which may be paid to such a couple is £8 10s. a week, comprising pension £5 10s. and wife’s allowance £3. Payment of the standard rate of pension in such a case will immedi’ately increase this total amount by 10s. a week to £9. If the couple pay rent, a further increase of up to £1 a week may be payable thus raising the total payments to a maximum of £10, giving an overall increase in some cases of 30s. a week. I am sure all honorable members will agree that this will be a notable contribution to the finances of the households affected - households that are now doubtless in the “ area of relative need “ to which I have referred.
The Bill before us also gives recognition to the special difficulties facing the household of a married pensioner whose wife is ineligible for pension and who has children in her custody, care and control. As most honorable members know the wife of an invalid pensioner or an age pensioner who is permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind, may qualify for a wife’s allowance, the maximum rate of which is £3 a week. Under the Bill the wife of an age pensioner having the custody, care and control of a child or children will also be able to qualify for the wife’s allowance.
To complement the extension of wife’s allowance, provision is also made in the Bill for additional payments to be made in respect of a child or children in the custody, care and control of an age pensioner. As in the case of wife’s allowance, such payments can be made under existing law only in respect of the children of invalid pensioners or age pensioners who are permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind. The effect of the extension of wife’s and child’s allowance in the circumstances mentioned will be to provide, on passage of the Bill, an immediate increase in payments to qualified households of up to £3 a week wife’s allowance plus 15s. a week in respect of each child. These measures will undoubtedly be welcomed not only by all families concerned and by all members of this House but by all those people of good heart throughout the community who recognise the necessity for the preservation of the family as the basis of our civilization.
The next provision relates to the raising of the age limit for student children of pensioners from 18 to 21 years. Honorable members will recall that last year my predecessor in office introduced into the House a bill to extend the provision of child endowment to student children up to the age of 21 years. The benefit payable for children of pensioners was, however, introduced some years before. In 1956 an additional pension of 10s. a week was provided for children after the first. Since then payments have been increased to 15s. a week and extended to include children to the end of the year in which they turned 18 years and where they were receiving full-time education at a school, college or university and were wholly or substantially dependent upon a pensioner. In accordance with the Government’s endeavour to encourage all children to attain the most complete education possible it is now intended to raise the age limit from 18 to 21 years. This will bring the age of students for pension purposes into line with that applying in the case of student endowment. The effect will be to make the additional pension for student children of pensioners and the deductions from pensioners’ income in respect of student children available for a further period of up to three years. In addition, the amendment will preserve the eligibility of a widow for a Class A widow’s pension where the student child aged between 18 and 21 years is the youngest child in the widow’s family. This will enable widow mothers to continue to receive a Class A widow’s pension while their children are receiving tertiary education. In addition to the basic pension of £6 a week the mother will receive mother’s allowance of £2 a week, together with additional pension of 15s. a week. She will also receive student endowment of 15s. a week and, if qualified, supplementary assistance at the new rate of £1 a week.
The total payments that may be made to a widow with one child who is a student will thus be raised to £10 10s. a week. Under the present Act, if the child is over 18 years, the highest payment for which the widow could qualify is the basic Class B pension of £5 7s. 6d. together with an additional 25s. a week made up of endowment and supplementary assistance. However, not all widows can now qualify for a Class B pension when their student child turns 18 years. Some widows therefore who would have received only student endowment when their child began tertiary education will now receive up to £10 10s. a week. The House is well aware of the scholarships now provided for students attending secondary schools and the universities. With the introduction of this additional benefit financial reasons alone should not preclude the children of a widow from receiving tertiary education. The mother will receive the pension and other payments provided in this Bill while the student his, or her, Commonwealth scholarship. In the past many a student has had to deny himself tertiary education because of the necessity to maintain his widowed mother. The situation will now be considerably improved. The total Commonwealth contribution to a household of a widow with one child attending a university where the child is in receipt of a Commonwealth scholarship can be up to £15 10s. a week plus a!.’, associated fees. It is a great satisfaction to me, in introducing this legislation, to know that it will be not only a contribution in the field of social services, but also will facilitate the tertiary training of young Australians to provide them with those skills which are so essential to the continued development of Australia as a modern nation.
In improving the lot of widows with children there has been a tendency to over look the position of the widower who is unable to work and having lost his wife is faced with the task of bringing up a child or children. A grandparent who is an age pensioner is sometimes called upon to bring up an orphaned grandchild and, apart from the additional payment for the child, and the single pension, our present legislation has no provision to assist the guardian in establishing and maintaining the home.
In 1963 my predecessor in office introduced legislation to provide for the payment of a mother’s allowance of £2 a week to class A widows. This has proved invaluable to those widowed mothers. It is now intended to provide a similar allowance for single age and invalid pensioners who have the care, custody and control of one or more children.
The guardian’s allowance of £2 a week will be, in effect, an addition to the pension. It will increase the payment to a single age or invalid pensioner with a child to £8 15s. a week exclusive of endowment. This may be increased by a further £1 a week where the pensioner is qualified to receive supplementary assistance. The extension of this benefit will minimise financial hardship in households where misfortune has struck and a child has to be supported by its invalid father or, where both parents have died, by its grandparent or an invalid relative. The allowance will be payable to any unmarried, age or invalid pensioner who has the custody, care and control of a child or children. It will include those widowed or divorced.
Further clauses in the amending Bill deal with funeral benefit. At present the funeral benefit of £10 is payable to the person who has paid or is liable to pay the funeral expenses of a deceased age or invalid pensioner. For this purpose a deceased age or invalid pensioner includes a claimant for an age or invalid pension or a tuberculosis allowance, who, but for his death, would have qualified to receive such pension. The benefit is payable irrespective of the means of the applicant.
While the Government does not propose to increase the existing funeral benefit or alter the conditions of eligibility when the person responsible for the funeral expenses is not a pensioner, it is proposed to ease the position where pensioners are responsible. Accordingly there is special provision in the
Bill before the House to provide a funeral benefit of £20 where a pensioner has met the cost of the funeral of a spouse, a child or another pensioner.
It is proposed that the £20 be paid where an age, invalid or widow pensioner, including a woman in receipt of a wife’s allowance, has met the cost of the funeral of a spouse, within the previous six months. Therefore a pensioner who has to meet the funeral expenses of a deceased spouse, including a non-pensioner spouse, will be eligible for the new benefit. So too will the person who becomes a pensioner within six months after being required to meet the cost of the funeral of a spouse. This will be of particular benefit to a woman who becomes a widow pensioner after the death of her husband.
At the present time a funeral benefit is not payable to a pensioner who is required to meet the funeral expenses of a child for whom a child’s allowance or additional pension is payable. This situation will also be remedied by the new provisions. The requirement that child’s allowance or additional pension was payable at the time of the death of the child or would have been payable if the child had lived, ensures that the pensioner was responsible for the child at the time of the child’s death. This benefit should lessen the burden on a pensioner household in time of family distress.
The third category to whom the higher rate of benefit will apply is the pensioner who is required to meet the funeral expenses of another pensioner. This provision will be of benefit to a pensioner who is required to meet the funeral expenses of a pensioner parent, brother or sister. It is not confined to a deceased member of the pensioner’s family. It will allow a pensioner to receive assistance where he has met the funeral cost of a pensioner friend. The deceased pensioner in this category includes a deceased widow pensioner in respect of whom funeral benefit is not payable under the present law.
With the passage of this Bill the opportunity is being taken to effect an amendment to section 18 of the principal Act made necessary by an amendment to the repatriation regulations last year. The Department of Social Services has for many years experienced difficulty in adjusting pension rates in sufficient time to avoid an overpayment when a pensioner is granted medical sustenance by the Repatriation Department. Medical sustenance comes within the definition of income under section 18. The problem can be solved by allowing the pension rate to continue undisturbed when a pensioner is granted medical sustenance and to reduce the amount of sustenance payable by the amount the pension would have been reduced if it had been adjusted. The repatriation regulations have been amended and all that remains is for section 18 to be suitably amended’.
Mr. Speaker, this completes the outline of the provisions of the Bill but honorable members will wish to know something of the costs involved. Quite apart from this Bill, expenditure on social services for 1965-66 is estimated to rise by some £9 million over the expenditure for the year 1964-65. This primarily results from the natural increase in the number of pensioners and the full year cost of the pension increases granted last year. The increases in rates of pensions, allowances and benefits now provided will add some £5.7 million to the annual liability of social services. For the year 1965-66 it will add approximately £4.2 million.
Over 150,000 persons will receive immediate benefit. Many persons and households will receive substantial increases in benefits. For example, where an age pensioner has a wife under 60 years who has a child or children, additional payments may include £3 a week wife’s allowance, 15s. a week for each child and in some cases up to £1 a week supplementary assistance. In such a household with two dependent children this could mean total additional payments of £5 10s. a week. In addition, the extension of funeral benefits will benefit all pensioner households where the pensioner is responsible for the payment of funeral expenses.
The total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund on items under the Social Services Act will rise from £335.3 million in 1964-65 to an estimated £348.5 million in 1965-66. The Department of Social Services is presently responsible for the payment of pensions to over 800,000 persons. Endowment is received by nearly 1,700,000 families for over 3,700,000 children. Allowances and additional pension for wives and children are paid for over 70,000 persons. In the year ended 30th June 1965 nearly 230,000 maternity allowances were despatched. The average number of persons receiving unemployment, sickness or special benefit each week was 26,000. The magnitude of these operations is reflected in payments each year exceeding £42,000,000. These figures relate to my own Department only. As the House knows, other depart ments also provide benefits financed from the National Welfare Fund.
Total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund was £445 million in 1964-65 and it is estimated that expenditure will increase by approximately £26 million to £471 million in 1965-66. A table has been compiled to show the number of beneficiaries and the expenditure at the end of each five year period since 30th June 1950. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate the table in “ Hansard “.
An item not included in the National Welfare Fund is expenditure incurred under the Aged Persons Homes Act. When projects under construction are complete this magnificent piece of legislation which is my ministerial responsibility will have been the instrument for providing accommodation for nearly 21,000 aged persons since introduced in 1954. In all, over £25 million has been approved in subsidies to eligible organisations. Grants are on the basis of £2 from the Commonwealth for each £1 provided by the organisation. The House will be pleased to learn that the upper limit of Commonwealth subsidy for the accommodation of each person is now to be increased from £1,667 to £1,800. This will enable expenditure of up to £2,700 for each person provided with accommodation while receiving the maximum of £2 from the Commonwealth for each £1 provided by the organisation. Expenditure under the Act was almost £4 million in 1964-65. It is expected to be £3.7 million in 1965-66. The 1964-65 figures reflected the completion of a large number of major projects. The Aged Persons Homes Act is a constant reminder of the results that can be achieved for the community when Government joins with voluntary bodies in the field of social welfare.
The Disabled Persons Accommodation Act commenced on 25th November 1963 and in the light of the representations received from interested organisations prior to its introduction the response has been less than anticipated. Although a number of organisations have contacted the Department of Social Services to discuss possible projects, to date only one grant for an amount of just on £18,000 has been approved. There are indications that the initial planning of some organisations has reached an advanced stage and it is hoped that this will enable the granting of further subsidies in 1965-66.
Before I conclude 1 would like to say that there is reason to suppose that what has been so successfully accomplished by this Government in the field of social services during its years of office will continue in the future. The development of social services programmes depends ultimately on the ability of the community to meet the cost. The natural growth in Australia’s population means a constant year by year increase in expenditure on the then existing range of benefits. Any extension requires the necessary level of production to rise in order to sustain the cost of such increase and so that those who are able to support themselves in the community may bear a greater measure of responsibility for those less fortunate. However, with the constant growth in the economy and the expansion of national wealth there will still remain the personal responsibility of the individual for at least two aspects of advancing years - the joint family obligation for the general well-being of each member of the family group and the necessity for all of us continually to maintain an interest in the well-being of the community as a whole. In particular, it is essential that personal familyresponsibility for those at either end of the age scale, both the very young and the very old, should continue. The ties of kinship must not be severed with the effluxion of years if Australia as a nation is to retain a soul as well as a favourable credit balance. The Government, for its part, will continue to stimulate and encourage the means of production and the developing national economy so that it may sustain and expand those social service benefits which the Australian people today enjoy. Government economic assistance alone is, however, insufficient to achieve universal well-being. In accordance with the established practice, it is proposed that the increases in the pension and allowance rates provided by the Bill will come into operation on the pay days following the Royal Assent. The increased rates of funeral benefit will become effective on the date of the Royal Assent. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15th September (vide page 947), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Constituents of mine who have advanced to me very strong and reasonable objections against the wool reserve price plan have put forward three particular grounds of criticism. Their first objection has been that the referendum may be rushed - that those who must vote on this very complex issue will not have a proper opportunity to examine all the arguments, for and against. I have asked each objector on what date he suggests the poll should be held and the general answer has been that it should not be held before the end of November at least. I have put that view to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I have had a reply from the Minister which indicates that the poll may not be held before the end of November. I am happy with the answer that he has given me on that point.
The debate on the issues has been proceeding very actively for more than twelve months among wool growers in my electorate. It is a little more than 12 months since the “ Goulburn Evening Post “, the “ Queanbeyan Age “, the “ Cooma Monaro Express “ and the “ Bombala Times “ opened their columns to the controversy for and against the proposal. This argument has proceeded vigorously in those newspapers, all of which, as honorable members will know, are valuable members of the provincial Press. The controversy has proceeded also at meetings of graziers held up and down my electorate. The second objection has been that the case for a reserve price, and not the case against a reserve price, would be sent to the voters. I feel that this was a valid ground of objection and I put this objection also to the Minister. I am glad to know that a democratic principle is to be followed and that the cases for and against will be submitted to every voter.
The third objection - and one which also seems to me to have considerable force - is that the Australian Wool Board is spending wool growers’ money to influence growers to vote for the reserve price proposal. On the face of it, this appears to be a bad practice. I am impressed by the argument that this is an improper course for a statutory body to pursue when the purposes for which it was established do not give it the power or the right to act in this way. However, this is a matter which is not within the realm of the Opposition to rectify. I notice that a number of Government supporters are very troubled about this* matter. I can only say to them that the power to remedy it is in their hands; the power does not lie with the Opposition. Honorable members opposite keep the Government in power. They are the people who have the means to bring the Government into line if what it is doing is wrong. This is the only answer I can give to my constituents who are concerned about this matter.
I wish to say briefly what a number of
Other honorable members have said: That the decision for or against a reserve price is one for the wool growers themselves to make. The prosperity of this nation may be considerably affected by the decision in this matter, but nevertheless the wool is the property of the growers. It is their industry and they are the only people whose voice and vote should be counted in this matter. I find myself strongly influenced by the arguments in favour of the reserve price plan. As honorable members will know, sitting as I do on this side of the House, I am a strong supporter of organised marketing in general terms. But, on this particular proposition, I repeat that, in my view, the decision of the growers themselves, whether for or against, must be loyally accepted.
As the debate on the motion for the second reading will conclude this afternoon I would like briefly to recapitulate some of the main features of the proposal that have tended to become obscure in the torrent of words, but I do not propose to do this at present. I shall do so later if time permits. I feel that my immediate task must be to deal with some of the remarks made by city Liberal backbenchers, who have almost burst their boilers in their opposition to the reserve price plan. I refer particularly to honorable members who spoke yesterday. I shall deal with the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the honor able member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I shall refer also to the conduct of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall). I shall deal with what these gentlemen said; but first I shall deal with what they did not say, and this is very interesting. As far as I am aware, at no stage during the course of this debate has the former Liberal battle cry of freedom - the claim that every farmer has the sole right to decide how his produce shall be disposed of - been raised.
– The honorable member for Moore raised it.
– He may well have raised the general issue, but has he raised the specific issue that no government and no majority of producers has the right to compel an individual to sell his produce in a way in which he does not wish? I have not heard that issue raised.
– The produce of the land belongs to the producer.
– Does the honorable member contend that each individual producer has the sole right to decide how his produce should be sold?
– By referendum.
– No. I realise that that general view has been put very strongly, eloquently and well; but that is not the argument which historically has rung through this House, both here and in Melbourne in former days, when proposals for organised marketing of primary products were being considered. Then the great Liberal battle cry was that no parliament and no majority of producers had a right to override the basic right of the individual farmer to decide how the produce which he himself had grown should be sold or disposed of.
– We have moved on since then.
Mr. ALLAN FRASER__ The honorable gentleman’s party has moved on since then, and I am glad to note it. I am simply reminding the honorable gentleman that this was the principle for which the Liberal Party historically fought ja this Parliament in regard to organised marketing. I am not condemning the honorable gentleman’s party for having moved on. I am pleased that in the long run, as in so many other instances, it has heard, and been convinced by, the arguments raised over the years by the Labour Party, because throughout the whole history of debates on organised marketing by this House since the beginning of Federation the Labour Party has resisted arguments - produced as a rule by city interests - designed to persuade the farmers that they should be without any marketing protection while all other sections of the community have ample protection. I simply remark, on the historical fact that that battle cry is no longer to be heard - that the pass has been won or lost or sold.
Those city Liberal paladins of the wool growers who spoke yesterday afternoon and last night seeking to frighten the growers into rejecting the protection of a reserve price plan deserve, I think, the special consideration of the House. I noted with particular interest that the advice given to the wool growers by the Liberal back benchers from city electorates was directly opposite to the advice given by honorable members who are themselves wool growers and who present wool growers in this Parliament. It caused me to wonder which group are really the false shepherds. A great deal is to be said for these city Liberal back benchers who have no direct interest in wool growing but who nevertheless devote themselves in this Parliament with such fury and force to endeavouring to ensure that the wool growers do not fall into this so called trap of the reserve price plan. These are indeed Galahads whose hearts are pure and whose strength is as the strength of ten - I understand there are ten of them - because it cannot possibly be said that they are seeking the support of wool growers in their electorates. They are giving this disinterested advice to the wool growers, and working themselves into a frenzy in doing so, even though they have no wool growers on their electoral rolls. Even though on their electoral rolls there are wool brokers, wool buyers, wool agents and dealers in wool futures they come forward in this Parliament as the self-appointed champions of wool growers. It is a very interesting situation to say the least.
It is also very interesting that none of those city Liberal back benchers who so strenuously object to the establishment of a reserve price plan for wool, to the establishment of a system under which wool growers will have the protection of a minimum price for their product, has ever been heard in this Parliament to raise objection to the arrangements which city manufacturers, distributors and retailers have made to ensuring minimum fixed prices for their products. I do not accuse these honorable members of inconsistency: I simply say that their conduct appears extraordinarily inconsistent. I would say of them that they show, if they are as disinterested as they appear to be, great nobility of character indeed. They are not even expecting publicity or appreciation for their efforts, except, of course, that they do expect something from that other great city champion of the country wool growers, Sir Frank Packer. He is standing in their corner, cheering them on, patting them on the head and even publicising them quite substantially in his newspapers. They do not expect a reward, and I understand that they are all entirely satisfied with the reward that they are getting from Sir Frank Packer and the interests that he represents.
As for Sir Frank Packer, who has fought so strongly and persistently to defeat the wool reserve price plan, I give him credit also for the noblest of motives. I reject the words of those who say otherwise. I hope that, just as he has already “made” the Committee of the Australian Jockey Club, he will shortly be elected to the Union Club. I think he will feel that membership of the Union Club will be sufficient reward for the efforts he is now making to defeat the reserve price plan.
The honorable member for Mackellar made, as he always does, a very forceful and able speech. I found myself, with some alarm, able to agree with some, although by no means all, the things he said. He was, of course, handicapped in that he did not have full opportunity to use the method of smearing which is his normal method of conducting debates in this House. I do not think that even he found it possible to claim that those who are advocating a reserve price plan are Communists or the tools of Communists.
– He just did not think of it.
– He may have thought of it and have rejected it. Of course, this did not prevent him from doing such smearing as he could. He smeared Sir William Gunn. He made a pretty nice job of it. Then he proceeded to smear the Minister for Primary Industry. He said that the Minister was wrong in allowing his personal and political relationships to dissuade him from his duty. The Minister replied that the honorable member for Mackellar should try to get a little nearer to the truth. I feel some sympathy for this Country Party Minister, sitting at the table with his back to the city Liberal Party back benchers who have taken pleasure in stabbing him in the back although they are part of the coalition Government of which the Minister is a member.
The honorable member for Mackellar proceeded to argue that, rather than use money to finance the growers in the sale of their wool, the money might well be used to finance overseas buyers in the purchase of Australian wool.
– Would not that be a good scheme?
– The honorable member for Mackellar thought it would be a very good scheme. He proceeded to claim that this was already being done in connection with the purchase of Australian wheat by China and that it might, therefore, well be extended to the purchase of Australian wool. I thought that the honorable member for Mackellar recognised China as an enemy of this country. I know that he knows as well as I do that China is having difficulty nowadays in maintaining its purchases of wool in Russia, but I did not expect the honorable member to advance seriously to this House that instead of money being made available to assist the wool growers in the sale of their wool, money should be made available to overseas buyers, who would include the Chinese, to enable them to buy wool cheaply on the Australian market. There was an Australian whose knowledge and love of China were so great that be became known world wide as “ Chinese Morrison “. I doubt whether the honorable member for Mackellar would appreciate or deserve the appellation “Chinese Wentworth”.
The whole of the honorable member’s speech laid emphasis on the fears and dangers, real and imaginary, surrounding this plan. This, of course, is his regular stock in trade. He is known in this Parliament as a bogey man. What he raises on this issue are bogies also. I was glad to find myself in agreement with him in rejecting the contention that the voting rights of small growers should not be restricted. In this I thought he spoke with some appreciation of the democratic tradition of some members of the Wentworth family. At the same time, I am rather glad to say that, as I understand the position, the wives, daughters, sons, nephews and nieces of Eden Monaro graziers are happily acquiring, or have recently acquired, 300 sheep each. All I would say is: “ Good luck to them.” I hope that they retain the sheep after the poll has been held. I would point out, however, that only the large wool grower is in a position to make gifts or sales of 300 sheep to numerous relatives.
The honorable member for Mackellar has said that he will move amendments. Those are fighting words indeed. But how often have we seen our champion from Mackellar rise in his place in this House, gird up his loins, announce that he will take on the Government and move amendments to its legislation, but then, like the Arabs, fold up his tent and silently steal away? No one can have any confidence in him on his record, but I wonder whether he will on this occasion make his word real by actions.
The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) again displayed an independence of spirit in this debate. I give him great credit for the independent attitude that he frequently adopts in this House; but I must warn him. He made reference last night to the possible rewording of the Ten Commandments. That is going a bit too far. That is a Divine prerogative, and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) would take the utmost exception to anyone else in this House thinking that he is God. Let me make one rebuke to the honorable member for Bradfield: He did not serve the purpose of this debate, and he did not serve the cause of Australia by interpolating into his speech detailed criticism of the qualities of wool. This was unworthy of him and would have come better from a representative of Dupont.
– He did not do that.
– But he did.
– No, he did not; he only proved that he could not even wash wool.
– I will let it go at that. I turn now to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). He said this Bill was an extraordinary conglomeration of muddled principles and stark inconsistencies. It may be; the honorable member made out a good case for his statement. But I now ask: What is he going to do about it? He is a member of this Parliament. He will have the power, when the vote is taken on the second reading, and in Committee, to remedy this. What action is he going to take to remedy the faults that he sees in this legislation? With him also we must wait to see whether his actions match his words.
He made indeed a very powerful case, I thought, that the Australian Wool Board had gone outside its statutory powers and was misusing the wool growers’ funds. As I saw his argument, he made a case against both the Minister for Primary Industry and the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden). Once again I put it to him: He is a supporter of the Government. It is within his power not only by his voice but by his vote in the party room and in the Parliament, to have this dreadful state of affairs corrected. If what he believes to be is so, the power is in his hands.
Frequently in his speech, the honorable member for Moreton used the phrase: “ Let me interrupt myself”. I wished that he would interrupt himself; but he did not. He flowed on and on and I came to wonder what he meant by this phrase “ Let me interrupt myself “, which he used repeatedly. Then I remembered, of course, that he came into this Parliament on the preferential choice of the Communists in his electorate and therefore I assumed that what he was referring to was the fact that he was speaking with two voices. The Communists, of course, aim to create chaos and disruption in industry throughout Australia and the speech delivered by the honorable member for Moreton last night might be considered well calculated to bring about disruption and chaos in the wool growing industry of Australia. The Communists believe in violent revolution, and the honorable member’s execrable poetry was such that I felt that if we had to endure any more of it, a violent revolution inside this Parliament would be well justified.
I said I would refer to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall). I see that I have only two or three minutes left, so I will say just this: The House must be shocked by the spectacle of the Minister abasing himself to a group of Merriwa growers by writing a letter in which he dissociates himself from the action of the Government of which he is a member. Where is the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility which is essential to effective parliamentary Government? Where are the obligations that belong to the Liberal Party and Country Party members alike of a coalition Government? Where is the loyalty which Country Party Ministers have a right to expect from their Liberal colleagues? They certainly have a right to expect it because they have given dumb loyalty te the Liberal Party over and over again in this Parliament when the interests of their constituents have been adversely affected. Why has not the Prime Minister made a direct statement to the Parliament on this breach?
In his published letter, the Minister for Supply washed his hands of responsibility for his Government’s decision, declared his dislike for some of the referendum provisions, admitted that he did precious little to have those provisions changed, but expressed the pious hope that the reserve price plan nevertheless will be thrown out. He proceeds that he will, at least, hold on to his Ministerial portfolio.
– That is what he thinks.
– The Minister has been thrown out of the Ministry once before, as honorable members will remember, and has been allowed back. So far as I can see, the honorable Minister is determined that whatever else he does he will not take an independent stand again. I think that if all that he has done passes without action it will indeed create a Parliamentary precedent. I support the Bill.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been most seriously misrepresented.
The honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), in a typical smear, said that I had advocated extending credit to the Chinese Communists for the purchase of Australian wool. I did not say that. If the honorable member would refer to page 906 of Hansard he would see that what I said was -
Why can we not give our friends and allies . . .
The words are there in Hansard. I do not include the Chinese Communists among my friends and allies, whatever the honorable member for Eden Monaro may do in that respect.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, as this debate on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill winds towards its conclusion there is one thing that becomes evident - that there is some risk that the wool referendum may be decided on grounds which are completely irrevelant. lt would be bad for the wool industry and for Australia if the referendum were decided by wool growers, or even by some wool growers, according to whether they liked or disliked Sir William Gunn, according to whether they thought they should have sight of some report of the Wool Marketing Committee which has not been made public, or according to whether they thought the system of voting could be improved. It was put by one honorable member yesterday that a serious consideration for growers was whether the reserve price plan, if adopted, might not be very badly mismanaged. That is a theoretical possibility, but it is >a possibility which is more menacing in argument than it is in real life. A marketing scheme has been managed efficiently in New Zealand and, at least in recent years, in South Africa also. Australia, I venture to say, has greater skills in this field and there is no serious reason to suggest that our scheme will be mismanaged. The probability is entirely the other way. This referendum will be difficult enough for wool growers but I do hope that, whichever way it goes, it will be decided upon its merits.
I have heard it suggested that the wool marketing plan is socialistic but the reverse is the case. This scheme is the opposite to an acquisition scheme. This is a scheme which retains the auction system. It still enables the buyer to inspect and select the wool which will suit his requirements. Furthermore, the attitude of the Government throughout this matter has been that it is one for the industry itself to decide. This is entirely consistent with Liberal Party principles as I understand them.
The wool reserve price plan which the Government is submitting to referendum was formulated by the Australian Wool Industry Conference in consultation with the Government. It was necessary for the Conference to consult the Government because the Government was being asked to lend monies at interest, and to guarantee the scheme. But the scheme itself was formulated by the Conference and the Government does not advocate a “ yes “ vote or a “ no “ vote. The Government takes the attitude that the decision on this plan is entirely a matter for wool growers. I consider that the position of individual members of Parliament is similar. This is a matter for the wool growers to decide and we should not endeavour to interfere, or to try by one means or another to influence the way in which they will vote. I, myself, do not seek to enter that field.
But the question involved is certainly one of great importance to the Australian economy and, as I have said, if this plan is adopted the Government is to be asked to come forward with loan monies and with a guarantee. Therefore it is a matter of considerable interest to honorable members. Surely our concern must be to see that the issues are clearly presented to growers so that they may be objectively considered by them.
The problem which has led to the introduction of this plan is one which has become pressing over the last 10 years or so. It is over this period that the danger to wool has increased rapidly. The danger, of course, is that wool may be supplanted by other textile products, particularly synthetics. The figure for wool consumption in 1952 was 2,336 million lb. In 1962 the figure was 3,310 million lb. That was an increase of something less than 50 per cent, over that 10 year period. The consumption of man made fibres, excluding rayon, in 1952 was 280 million lb. and in 1962 it was 2,376 million lb. That was an increase of something over 800 per cent. Rayon and rayon tyre yarn are treated separately. During this period the figures for both increased by more than 200 per cent.
To state the matter another way, there has been, and still is, an increase in the consumption of wool and of textiles. The consumption of wool is increasing but the rate of increase is 1 per cent, per annum and the rate of increase in the consumption of man made fibres at the present time is about 17 per cent, per annum. The result is that the share of wool in the textile apparel market is falling. It is at present somewhere between 8 per cent, and 9 per cent. These figures show the danger for wool in the market.
What is the answer to this problem? I do not think it is clear that it is a marketing problem. After all, a good or a bad market is the product of other factors. These factors may be grouped for convenience under two headings - the level of demand and the level of costs as they affect the price. If the level of demand and the level of costs are right the market will be good and wool production will be profitable. But, if one of these things is wrong or both are wrong, the market will be bad and wool production may be unprofitable. I think it should be recognised, subject to one matter that 1 shall raise in a moment, that it is possible that the wool industry, by directing its efforts towards improving marketing, may be treating the symptoms, not the disease. At least, I should like to stress the major importance of tackling the level of demand and the level of costs.
In relation to the level of demand, no doubt a great deal is being done. I notice that the document entitled “ Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure” at page 17, shows that in 1965-66 the Commonwealth expenditure on wool promotion will be £10,980,000 and on wool research £1,560,000. These figures, of course, include the wool growers’ contributions. I understand that the figure for promotion includes about £4.5 million of government money and that for research about £1 million. For research, there would be, in addition, moneys available from the Wool Research Trust Fund. These will probably be of the order of £2.5 million in the current financial year. This Fund, as honorable members will recall, includes some moneys from the Joint Organisation wool scheme, but these funds may soon be exhausted.
My point is this, Sir: Man-made fibres are improving all the time. They are winning the market largely on merit. In addition, enormous sums are being spent on advertising them and their uses. Wool, if it is to hold its proper share of the market, must be prepared to compete at this level. The declining use of wool for apparel occurs mainly in the highly developed countries. There are relatively untapped sources of demand in developing countries and, if one is tackling the question of maintaining the level of demand, these appear to be the areas for the major application of effort. As to the level of costs, again there is a great deal that can be done and much that is being done about production, handling and transport. We need to increase yield per acre, and research is directed to this end. We need to provide, for example, training for shearers and to improve classing, as well as to reduce handling and transport costs. If we tackle these things, whatever may be the system of marketing there will be a firm market and the possibility of continued profitability in the industry.
Having entered this caveat about the importance of these factors that affect the market, may I come now to the reserve price plan that is to be put before the wool growers if this Bill is passed by the Parliament. I think it is true to say that there is one aspect of marketing that is affecting the level of demand. This is the impact on manufacturers of the wide fluctuations in the market. The impact on manufacturers of these fluctuations is considerable. Under the auction system as we know it, the fluctuations have been substantial in recent times. If one showed the course of prices on a graph, there would appear high peaks, low troughs and other intermediate peaks and troughs of intermediate range between. The manufacturer who buys at or near a peak may find that his competitor buys at a much lower figure. But even leaving that on one side, it is difficult for a manufacturer to plan his output when he does not know what the price, or even the range of prices, will be. It may be suggested that a manufacturer can to some extent overcome this by buying forward and hedging on the futures market. But not many manufacturers adopt this course, and it is an added expense if it is adopted.
If the reserve price plan would cure this excessive fluctuation, it would undoubtedly have a favorable effect on the maintenance of the level of demand for wool among manufacturers. Will it do this? I have heard it suggested during this debate that it will have this effect. But surely, if the reserve price plan is incorporated in the auction system, as is proposed, the fluctuations will continue. Going back to the graph, we would still have peaks and troughs. But there would be, of course, a floor price, and the effect of this would be to cut off the bottoms of the troughs shown in the graph. According to whether we had a very conservative reserve price or a less conservative reserve price, there would be a small or a large amount cut off the bottoms of these troughs. Will this be sufficient to give the manufacturer confidence and comfort? Probably it will give him some comfort, and it may have a psychological effect. If the average reserve price - I emphasise that I am speaking of the average reserve price - is announced at the beginning of each season, as I understand it will be, and as is done in New Zealand and South Africa, the manufacturer will know what is the range of his risk from time to time. I do not suggest that the reserve prices for all the individual classes of wool will be announced. But, once the proposed Australian Wool Marketing Authority has to come into the market and buy in any particular class of wool, it will be a fairly simple matter for those who are skilled in this trade to work out the reserve price for that particular class of wool.
Suppose a manufacturer buys at 64d. per lb. Suppose he knows that the average reserve price is 54d. He will know that his competitor cannot buy at more than lOd. cheaper than he has bought. He may be content to accept a risk of this order of magnitude. At present, of course, if he buys at 64d. per lb., he does not know for certain whether his competitor may buy at lOd. or even 20d. cheaper. Therefore, it may be said that in the proposed plan there is a tendency to eliminate that aspect of price fluctuations which is troublesome to the manufacturer. However, this is an aspect the full effect of which it is difficult to determine, and any elaboration on this by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) in his reply would be helpful in promoting a full appreciation of this aspect of the scheme.
There are other arguments for and against the proposed plan, Sir. It is not my intention to go through all of them. They appear to me to be of less importance because they do not directly affect demand or costs, which cause the market to move. Furthermore, now that the Government has announced its intention of enclosing with the ballot papers arguments for and against the scheme, all these arguments will be fully and fairly placed before the growers before they cast their votes. I think that most of the arguments for and against this scheme have been known for many years. They were set out as far back as February 1962, when the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, under the chairmanship of Sir Roslyn Philp, presented its report. There is not a great deal of opportunity for anyone interested in the industry to claim ignorance of the arguments for and against the reserve price plan. But there is one major difficulty that I believe runs through most of the arguments in this field, whether they are for the plan or whether they are against the plan. It is this: None of these arguments, standing by itself, is intellectually convincing. In each of these arguments, one reaches a point at which a judgment has to be made. Each argument contains a speculative element. Each contains some problematical factor.
Let me, by way of illustration, analyse the argument about hidden gains and hidden losses. It is argued that when the authority comes in to buy as the price approaches the reserve there is a hidden gain to the man whose wool is being sold at that point of time. The price is held there and does not drop to a lower level, so he receives more than he otherwise would have received. Then it is said that when the authority comes in to sell wool and the price is rising, the grower whose wool would have been sold at that time suffers a hidden loss because the effect of the authority coming in to sell is to depress the market price. Honorable members will no doubt recall that this was one of the reasons given in the Philp report for rejecting a reserve price plan. The Wool Board, however, with the Philp report in front of it and after having further considered the matter with the benefit of access to a great deal of information and advice - the Board itself being composed of persons highly experienced in this field - has decided not to accept that conclusion from the argument with respect to hidden gains and hidden losses.
There is one factor of judgment in this matter which makes it very difficult to determine which way the argument tends, because demand has a different flexibility according to whether the price is falling or rising. Demand on a falling market is fairly rigid while demand on a rising market has a greater degree of flexibility. The argument runs that these hidden gains and hidden losses will not result finally in losses. But whether that is so or not, it is said that the effect of this coming in to buy and later coming in to offload is to damp down the rate of fluctuations, this being an advantage to the manufacturer, and that whether or not there is a net gain of this hidden character to the grower - this would be difficult to determineuntil the system was actually in operation - there are advantages which more than outweigh the disadvantages.
I use this argument to illustrate the difficulty of reading the arguments for and against and arriving at intellectual conclusions. It does seem to be a matter of judgment. I suggest that the judgment in many cases will not be an easy one to make. It is proper that these matters should be referred to those who are most interested and most likely to have knowledge of the subject - the growers themselves.
All I wish to add on this score is that any grower who has difficulty in forming a judgment on this kind of argument would no doubt weigh in the scales the fact that the Wool Board had arrived at its own judgment on the matter. If he is a man who takes the view that the Wool Board consists of honest and competent men who have access to the best information and advice he may go one way; if, on the other hand, he considers that the members of the Wool Board are not honest or competent or do not have good advice he may go the other way. But it appears to me that this is a matter of judgment and it is properly being left to the industry.
In conclusion I would like to express the hope that this referendum will be dealt with objectively and that it will be conducted without resort to personal recrimination. In a matter of this magnitude there can hardly be a second chance. It has taken years to bring the proposed scheme to this stage, whether it is right or whether it is wrong, and it is unlikely that we will go through this process again. But whatever may be the decision arrived at by the growers it is to be hoped that the wool industry will unite in accepting that decision.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
.- I move- [Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 5t).]
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 5 which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff 1965. These amendments are intended to give effect to the Government’s decisions announced last week, following the release of the Tariff Board Report on Crude Oil. A press statement issued at the time by the Minister for Trade and Industry and a copy of the Tariff Board Report were circulated to honorable members.
The Government has adopted the method of valuation of crude oil found in Australia recommended by the Tariff Board. It decided, however, that the additional margin of 25 cents per barrel recommended by the Board to provide an incentive for an expansion of the search for oil in Australia should be increased to 75 cents per barrel. On this basis, the return for Moonie crude oil will amount to $3.50 per barrel delivered at Brisbane. This is made up of the basic crude oil valuation of $2.48 per barrel and a quality differential of 27 cents per barrel for Moonie, as determined by the Tariff
Board, together with the 75 cents per barrel exploration incentive.
The Board has stressed in its report that the size of the incentive margin recommended was a completely arbitrary judgment on its part. The Government believes that the finding of adequate supplies of crude oil would be the most important contribution which could be made to Australia’s future economic growth and security. For this reason, it considers it very important that oil exploration in Australia should be at a high level and that to achieve this, an adequate and significant incentive should be provided. An assured market at a worthwhile price is likely to provide the greatest incentive to oil exploration. The Government believes that the valuation for crude oil it has now adopted will provide that incentive at little cost to Australia so long as local crude oil remains a small part of total demand.
The Government intends that the system of assistance and stimulus outlined above will operate for five years. It will, however, consider reviewing the valuation during this period, if it considers that the incentive to exploration has proved inadequate. The Government, in order to ensure that locally produced oil will find a market in Australia, has adopted the Board’s recommendation that penal import duties of one penny per gallon on crude oil and three pence per gallon on motor spirit should be paid by those companies who do not accept their responsibility for their share of the additional cost of local crude oil. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 5 gives effect to this decision. The shares in relation to local crude oil will be determined by the Minister for Customs and Excise on the basis of the importer’s share of total Australian imports of refinery feedstocks and/ or refined products. Importers who take up their share of the additional cost of local crude oil will not be required to pay the penal duties. Customs bylaws will be prescribed for this purpose.
As an incentive to the industry to adjust their patterns of production so as to eliminate unnecessary imports of motor spirit, the Tariff Board recommended a deferred duty of 3d. per gallon to operate from 1st January 1968 on petroleum products other than crude oil. The Government does not at this stage intend to act on the Board’s recommendations in relation to deferred duties but proposes to give further consideration to measures which will encourage production of a higher proportion of the more valuable products in Australian refineries. I commend the Proposals to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects -
Non-spirituous citrus juices and syrups.
The report on non-spirituous citrus juices and syrups does not call for any legislative action.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed (vide page 992).
.- I think that first of all I should state the Australian Country Party’s opinion of this Bill. The Country Party believes in the orderly marketing of the great primary products, but we believe also that in respect of any particular product the decision as to whether any system of orderly marketing should be introduced should be decided by those who are engaged in that industry and by them alone. We believe that the industry’s representatives should alone decide whether an orderly marketing proposal is desirable and that the industry’s representatives will decide the details of the plan. We believe that the Government should reserve to itself decisions on important aspects of public interest and the protection of the Treasury. Therefore, I support the Bill.
At the very outset I pay a tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). For many years - for as long as I can remember, and for as long as many people perhaps older than I remember - people have been trying to get unity into the wool industry. Although I represent a vast number of primary producers, I must say, in fairness to everyone, that the primary producer is the hardest man to organise. The Australian Labour Party and the trade unions have no trouble in organising members and unionists because they impose penalties which make them come to heel. But the primary producer is an individual; he is a free man and he does not like some kinds of organisation. However, it has become very noticeable over the last few years that any primary industry which is not organised or stabilised is out of focus with reality. With the rise in prices of goods in Australia the primary producer has had to devise means to enable him to continue in production if not, indeed, his existence. The only way in which the Government, which has been favorable all through to primary industry, has been able to achieve this has been by stabilisation and by bringing up to the Australian level the prices of the primary producer’s products, most of which he sells overseas to countries with a low standard of living at lower rates than can be obtained in Australia. This, on occasions, has cost the Government a fair amount of money, but the results have been satisfactory. This action has been approved by the population of Australia because the primary producer makes possible, by building up our overseas credits, the purchase of so many raw materials for secondary industries without which those industries could not continue to operate.
When I pay a tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry I do so for his persistence in bringing together two great wool growing organisations into the Australian Wool Industry Conference. This took some years and meeting after meeting. The patience of the Minister is something that I really marvel at because it must be remembered that the members of the two organisations did not want to come together, and there were all sorts of objections and obstacles in the way of getting the wool industry organised. The industry is finally organised and we now have the Wool Industry Conference. Without speaking about what has happened since the Conference was established, it has brought to the Government a scheme which it believes is necessary to bring about a change in the marketing of wool. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) said in this Parliament a long time ago - perhaps 15 years ago - that no change will be made in the marketing of any primary product unless the Government is satisfied that the great majority of the producers in that industry desire a change. The Government is convinced that at the present time it has evidence enough to warrant a referendum because it has been shown that a vast number of wool growers want a change in the system.
The proposal before the House today is that we should give legislative authority for the conduct of a referendum of wool growers to decide whether they approve or disapprove of the plan that will be set before them when they vote at the referendum. I do not want to speak about the plan at any length, but I want to touch on one or two salient points. I have listened very carefully to the debate. There will be only two more speakers, so we are getting near the end of it. I have noticed that immediately most honorable members have said that the wool growers should decide for themselves they have gone on to say what the wool growers should do and what they should decide. I say that the wool grower must decide the question. Of course he must; he is the only man who has a vote. How can anyone else decide the issue? The wool grower must decide this.
– Which way?
– I do not want to say which way he should decide this; but whichever way it is decided the decision must be accepted as the will of the Australian wool grower because it will be decided by a simple majority. Those who are not lucky enough to have the referendum carried in the way they wish will just have to fall in with the majority, get together with them and do the best they can.
I listened to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Armstrong) who said something which is of paramount importance. He said: “Let us hope that this division of opinion on the wool marketing scheme will not divide permanently the great wool industry. Some people are adamant that we should have the new plan - others are against it. The referendum is to decide what is going to happen “. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber have said in this debate that we should treat this Bill with reservation and that we should treat the proposed referendum, and the establishment of the new marketing scheme if the referendum is carried, wi’th a certain amount of suspicion. If we regarded other Australians always with a sense of suspicion we would not get very far in this country. If this kind of suspicion had existed, we would not have set up any of the great schemes that we now have, whether for the waterside workers, the primary producers or anyone else in Australia. The whole structure of civilisation is based on the confidence that men have in each other - confidence in their ability, their integrity and their honesty. Surely we in Australia must have confidence in the leaders of the wool industry, about whom we can find no grounds at all for suspicion. They have not given the slightest evidence of any grounds for suspecting them. It is all right to be suspicious in certain circumstances, but one should be able to show what are the circumstances upon which that suspicion is based. I say that if we can trust anybody in the community - I do not put the wool growers above anybody else - we can trust the representatives of the wool growers to make a genuine and sincere effort to build up and stabilise an industry which is so important to Australia. About 40 per cent, of our overseas income is derived from wool. This state of affairs must continue, and we must improve it when we can. After all, we export about 90 per cent, of our wool. This brings a tremendous amount of foreign capital into Australia and builds up our overseas reserves, to the benefit not only of the man on the land - the wool grower - but also of every other Australian.
The Labour Party, of course, is in accord with this Bill and there have been no fireworks from members of the Opposition, except in the case of one or two speeches. I am surprised that what once was called the great Australian Labour Party should use this debate to try to foster the idea that there is a split in the Liberal-Country Party coalition. This is ridiculous. If some members of the Liberal Party like to speak against the Bill, that is their right. Why should they not speak against it if they want to? Honorable members opposite say: “ We do not mind their speaking against it “, but immediately object to what they say. Members of this Parliament should be given the right to speak as they like. Of course, honorable members opposite cannot speak as they like; we have had evidence of that before. Two men that I know very well once spoke as they thought, but at the next election they did not get the Labour Party’s endorsement.
Certain members of the Liberal Party are incensed at what Sir William Gunn said about them. I would be incensed also if I were in their position, and I think it is deplorable that he should have made those remarks about members of this Parliament. However, I think they should disregard those remarks altogether. After all, this is a debate on something of great national importance and this kind of bickering is unworthy of any honorable member who speaks here on the subject.
Someone has said: “There is going to be a reserve price for wool, and the wool will be bought in if bids do not reach that price; but the grower can put his own reserve on now. If the bid does not reach the grower’s reserve price he need not sell; he can wait for another market.” That is not quite correct. In many cases the grower cannot put a reserve price on his wool. He is financed by a big wool organisation and the time comes when that organisation says to him: “ You must sell your wool “. He is not the master of his own affairs if the wool organisation can say that he must sell. Therefore, he cannot put a reserve price on his wool. A grower may be able to do so if he is in a very strong financial position, but even then it would not be like having one reserve price throughout the industry. A reserve fixed by an individual grower would not be effective.
One matter of paramount importance which so far has not been mentioned during this debate by any honorable member - there are only two speakers to follow me - is the price that is to be fixed. If it is too low it will be only a calamity price, and if it is too high it may deter buyers from bidding. We must take the greatest care in fixing the price. This is one of the most important matters to be dealt with. We must ensure that the price fixed is not too high or too low. It will take experts, not only in wool but also in commerce and finance, to fix the right price. If we fix a price at which the buyers will bid and buy the wool and a price that will be satisfactory to the wool grower and therefore satisfactory to the economy of this country, one of Australia’s worries will be removed. Therefore, the reserve price plan will assist not only the wool growers but all Australians. On subjects like wheat, dried fruits and wool I prefer to speak of the industry, not of the individual growers. These industries must be kept at a high level because if an industry is prosperous, naturally the growers must be prosperous. I am not trying to build things up for growers in any industry, but for the industry itself. If an industry is prosperous the people engaged in it are automatically prosperous too, and that helps Australia tremendously in many ways.
I think it was the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) who said that there may come a time when, even though we provide a certain amount of money for this scheme, more will be wanted. I believe one of the greatest calamities that could overtake this scheme - I do not believe this will ever come about - would be if a certain amount of wool was bought in at auction and finance then ran out and we could not buy in any more. For that reason, the
Government has said that it will advance more money should that become necessary. The honorable member for Bradfield said that the cost might run to £150 million. He said: “More and more money may be required. What will happen if it runs into a large sum?” That will not happen unless there is a complete collapse of the wool market.
What would happen if there were a complete collapse of the wool market and we did not have this scheme in operation? Wool growers all over the country would go bankrupt and the very basis of our prosperity would disappear. If the scheme is in operation and wool has to be bought in, that will be only an indirect way of giving the wool grower finance to get him over a period of low market prices. If it were not done in this way it would have to be done in some other way. A fall in prices is just as disastrous as a fire or a flood. This situation would not come about unless the price of wool was low, and then we would have to assist the growers. After all, if we did not do that our wool would be purchased at a very low price. That would be to the benefit of overseas interests but it would not be in the best interests of this country. If that happened, the wool industry would take very many years to get back on to the footing on which it is today.
Honorable members opposite and the honorable member for Bradfield have said that the Country Party has given away its great objective of decentralisation. That is highly ridiculous. We have not in any way done that. There is no conflict here between the crowded cities and Australia’s open spaces. The whole of the vote in this instance is on a rural basis, in a rural industry. We have always maintained the principle of decentralisation of political representation, to overcome city crowding. Our objective is to obtain the greatest benefit for the whole of Australia. I cannot understand how anyone can conceive the idea that the Country Party has given up that great objective when it accepts the recommendation of the wool growers to conduct their poll on the basis of one vote for each producer of 10 bales or more of wool. I should like some Labour member to tell me how he works this out, because it is highly inconsistent in every way. It does not bear on the truth of the real argument.
I was most interested to hear the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) say that the Australian Country Party on occasions has sat dumb when legislation was being put through the House to the detriment of the primary producers. This, of course, was completely incorrect The Country Party has always been fighting and vocal and it will continue to be. Look at the fine band of men behind me. Do not forget that every one of them represents a great rural constituency. Not one of them has any affiliation with city interests. That is the strength of the Country Party. However, the Labour Party cannot, as a rule, understand the things of which we speak. If prices go up in metropolitan electorates - despite what the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and other members of the Liberal Party have said - the people whom Labour members represent merely change the price tags. How can the primary producer change a price tag when he sells his goods overseas to low living standard countries at low prices? I cannot understand the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro because he has been in this House for a long time and he has seen the fighting qualities of the Country Party. These qualities must have amazed him at times, and put terror into his heart on occasions.
I should like now to refer to the provision relating to the ten bale qualification. We accept it because the Wool Industry Conference suggested it. The Conference represents Australian wool growers, large and small. One of the questions we have to answer is: Do we believe that the Wool Industry Conference truly represents the wool growers of Australia? If it does not, then all the arguments I put forward fall to the ground, but I believe that it does represent the Australian wool growers. I know that a number of wool growers may claim they are not represented. I think the Australian Primary Producers Union is in that category, but it hopes to get into the Conference in the future. I know also that many members of the A.P.P.U. are also members of growers’ organisations that have representatives in the Wool Industry Conference.
I represent over one-fifth of Victoria, and in my area is a vast number of wool growers, most of whom are not big wool growers. Why should not the small wool grower, who depends largely on wool for his livelihood, have the same chance of saying whether there should be orderly marketing and a reserve price plan as the large woolgrower who also may depend on wool for his living? I admit that there may be many shareholders in companies who depend on wool growing, but it represents the living of the small wool grower so why should his vote in the referendum not have the same value as that of the large grower?
In its wisdom, the Wool Industry Conference has suggested that ten bales be the voting minimum, and the Government has agreed with that. The entire legislation to provide for the referendum is based on that requirement. I believe it is in the best interests of all concerned to get a satisfactory vote whichever way it goes. The wool growers will have to vote for or against the scheme.
– Which side is the honorable member on?
– I hope the plan will be carried, but I am not here to tell the wool grower how he should vote. I have made no attempt to do so. There has been reference to auctions and marketing, and I made notes when I heard members of the Labour Party speak of their great contributions to primary production. I wonder why so few of them represent primary producing electorates if they have been in favour of orderly marketing and have done all they claim. Why is it that the people have not stuck to them? I have frequently heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) say during an election campaign: “We accept the opinion of the voters “. However, within a fortnight he is saying: “ We would win the elections if only we had another chance.” The Labour Party has not many members with knowledge of primary production. It likes to get on the band wagon. It is trying hard to get on this one. If there is a trouble spot - as there was in Mildura some time ago when we were fighting for stabilisation of the dried fruits industry - the Labour Party members get there quickly to try to make it worse.
– We support the Bill in this House and we visited Mildura. Yet the honorable member complains that we went there for some ulterior motive. He is crackers. He wants it both ways.
– The point is this so far as the Labour Party is concerned: The primary producer is quick in his appreciation of what is done for him. If the Labour Party is so strongly minded to help the primary producer and has not done so, the only excuse I can give its members is that they have never stayed in government long enough to implement their views.
– Does the honorable member deny that we introduced wheat stabilisation?
– I do not deny that the Labour Party introduced legislation for wheat stabilisation, but the first bill it introduced did not get through. The Labour Party wanted to get the money from the previous harvest. If one looks at the present wheat stabilisation legislation he would not recognise it as the legislation that a Labour Government introduced. The present Government has improved it magnificently. In the hope of not affecting the blood pressure of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) I want to speak for a short time, not about the New Zealand wheat sale, because he did not arrange that - and I have said in my electorate many times that I support him when he is right-
– When is he right?
– I very seldom support him. The only time that I know of when the Labour Party has been connected with the auction business was disastrous for the people and for the Labour Party. I refer to the time - about the time at which I first came into Parliament - when Labour established a one bid auction. At that time Labour appointed certain men who went to the Newmarket saleyards and valued the sheep and lambs. They said: “These are worth a guinea. These are worth so much “. The moment the price got to that figure, it did not matter whether the lambs were worth 30s., they were knocked down to the bidder. It is a scar on Labour’s primary production achievements which will never be erased. When Mr. McClelland, President of the Newmarket Producers Marketing Committee, came to Canberra to interview the honorable member for Lalor, the honorable member ordered him out of his office and told him that he was not wanted in the office.
– That happens to be a downright lie.
– The honorable member for Lalor is out of order. I ask him to withdraw the word “ lie “.
– I withdraw the word and ask for permission to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member may make a personal explanation when the honorable member for Mallee has finished his speech.
– I do not know when anybody accused me of doing that sort of thing. Mr. McClelland was here. I spoke to him. He said: “ We saw the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Pollard, and he gave us a pretty rough deal. He asked us to leave his office.”
– That is not true.
– That is what I was told and I am telling it now. I support the Bill. 1 hope that the referendum will be carried and that when it is carried, with efficient management the plan will do much to improve wool marketing in Australia and that it will prove of great benefit, not only to the wool growers and the industry but to Australia.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that on an occasion when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I ordered certain people out of my office. He was referring specifically to Mr. McClelland and a gentleman called Field. They were in Canberra with a deputation attempting to justify some of the nefarious practices of the crooked meat merchants in Melbourne just after the war when rationing was being continued to help the unfortunate people of Britain. The fact is that I told them where they got off. The honorable member need make no error about that. But I did not order them out of my office. The end result of some of the things that I said and some that they said was that one gentleman came to me and asked whether I would agree to have the remarks struck out of the shorthand notes. I agreed to his rquest. That is recorded in the files of the Department and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is at the table, will tell the honorable member about it, if he wishes to know any more about it.
-Order! The honorable member is now beginning to debate the matter.
– I recommend that the honorable member for Mallee should read “ Remembered Days “ by Mr. W. S. Kelly and he will see whether I am right or wrong.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) started off in a very calm and collected manner and made some constructive criticisms. However, he went off the line completely towards the finish when he started his old attack on the Australian Labour Party. He said that the Labour Party had very few members representing country areas. For the record, I would like to state some that we represent. They are Kalgoorlie, the Northern Territory, Grey, Lalor, Bendigo, Eden-Monaro, Cunningham, Kennedy, Wide Bay, Leichhardt, Wilmot, Bass, Braddon, Darling and Herbert. Probably there are some that I have not named. They are good, country seats in areas where there is very little closer settlement.
The honorable member also referred to the Labour Party’s approach to this debate. There is no doubt that we are completely unanimous on this issue which has been part of Labour’s policy almost since the honorable member was a boy. We believe that every wool producer should be given a vote on matters affecting his industry. This is true not only of the measure before us, but also of anything else that affects the wool industry.
This is true also of the wool levy. For some time we have been made well aware that a committee totally opposed to stabilisation and a reserve price plan is in operation. In 1951 a committee opposed to the imposition of a wool levy waged an extensive campaign which, no doubt, was extremely costly. The committee was able to obtain considerable finance. From a study of the records of that time it seems to me that the committee received a considerable amount of free publicity. It is not unnatural for history to repeat itself. On the day after the debate on the Bill before us was resumed, quite a lot of publicity was given to it by the “ Australian “. There is a report of the petition presented by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) and a summary of a number of items that had been mentioned by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). If my memory is correct, the honorable member for Parkes was the only honorable member on the previous day to speak against the Bill, but the report goes on to devote one and a half columns to his speech. The report of the Minister’s speech receives about the same space, but does not mention any new facts.
It is interesting to note what is contained in the report of the speech of the honorable member for Parkes. I shall read some extracts from it -
The report then refers to the honorable member’s remarks about what Sir William Gunn had said 18 months ago. At no time during his speech did the honorable member offer any really constructive criticism of the legislation. He gave no facts or figures to back up his remarks and his argument had no foundation whatsoever. In my opinion, his speech was made simply to confuse the issue.
On the same day as the honorable member for Parkes spoke, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) opened the debate for the Labour Party. For 45 minutes he dealt with facts and gave a great deal of information on the proposed scheme but the “ Australian “ accords his speech li inches of space at the bottom of the page.
– I suppose that is from the “ Daily Telegraph “.
– No, it is from the “ Australian “. The next day an editorial in the same newspaper referred to the fact that the Government had consented to circulate a prepared statement setting out the opposing views. I find this very interesting. The editorial stated -
The argument in favor of the scheme will be prepared by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, the parliament of the industry. . . .
The opponents of the case comprise groups representing three woolbroking firms, the exclusive organisations of the biggest graziers in New South Wales and Victoria, .and an ad hoc body called the Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market.
The editorial continued -
So far, the opposition has traded on the natural conservatism of the man on the land. Its case has been compounded of equal parts of suspicion of any change, insubstantial fears of government control, and smears on the personalities of their opponents.
They have not faced the central issues involved: the welfare of individual woolgrowers and the necessity to safeguard the future of wool in international markets.
So we can assume with a great deal of certainty that the opposition to the scheme comes once again, first, from establishments which are not in fact actual growers, secondly from huge grazing enterprises which very often have interests in wool brokerage as well as interests in grazing and an ad hoc component with a foot in both camps. Their campaign against the scheme has been conducted on the same lines of smear as was their previous one and it will be interesting to note when they present their prepared argument against the scheme just how much constructive and authoritative information it contains.
The anti referendum committee of 1951 objected that the scheme then did not take into consideration the cost of production, but at the same time believed that wool was incapable of over production. It objected to government control and created amongst growers a fear that a slight misjudgment in price fixation would throw the whole of the scheme into imbalance and create an unwieldy or impossible stockpile. Another factor leading to the defeat of the referendum was the much advertised plan for the imposition of the 33 per cent, wool export tax. Growers had already become incensed by the prepayment of income tax, which meant a 20 per cent, reduction of their income for 1950-51. Many growers at that time were unaware of the implications of giving support to the anti referendum committee and it is true to say that many of them became aware of only one side of the story. It is true to say also that a big number of wool producers have lived to regret their rejection of the proposed scheme in 1951. No doubt their regret started when they found that the 7± per cent, retained from the proceeds of the 1950-51 season to finance the proposed plan became subject to taxation when it was repaid to them. It is doubtful whether they retained half the money that they received back.
These facts were mentioned by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) in his address on Tuesday. We on this side of the House agree with him that the 1951 referendum could not have been planned for a time more calculated to bring about its defeat. In passing, we must say mat no credit can ever be taken away from the Joint Organisation for the way it handled Australia’s wool clip during the period of its operation. All wool producers of that time must admit that the Joint Organisation assisted both the producer and the Australian economy very materially during our membership of it. The 1951 scheme was proposed to take the place of the Joint Organisation and I believe it is correct to say that the proposed scheme had the approval of both sides of this House. I believe also that the result of the referendum would have been exactly the opposite had it been introduced in more favorable circumstances.
The scheme now proposed runs closely in line with similar schemes which have been in operation in South Africa and New Zealand for varying lengths of time. These schemes have been described as conservative rather than radical. In schemes such as the one we are debating now, many aspects must be considered. Because of the nature of this industry, in which it is freely admitted that fairly steep fluctuations of price take place, there has been a great deal of estimation and assumption as to what can occur in certain circumstances. The anti reserve price committee and its supporters have made use of arguments that cannot be proved by the actual figures. Yet they have made no effort to disprove statements contained in reports and the results of similar schemes in New Zealand and South Africa.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) in his efforts to create a feeling of doubt about the proposed scheme, has stated: “ A doubt is cast on whether the scheme is conservative or something more radical “. I refer the honorable member to the Minister’s second reading speech, in which he will find the criteria that will be taken into account when determining the reserve price. The details given by the Minister were enumerated on Tuesday by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), but I again draw the attention of the House to the Minister’s statement that one of the criteria would be the level of reserve prices fixed by New Zealand and South Africa. I will refer later in some detail to reports on the schemes in both countries in an effort to ascertain whether the schemes can be described as successful or have been proved to be radical or conservative.
Before I do so, I want to refer to the report of the Philp Committee, which in its 186 pages contains a mountain of material that could be used in debating both sides of this question. The Committee consisted of three gentlemen selected by the Government. They were well versed in collating evidence and were provided with secretaries and research officers. They held hearings and took submissions from a great many sources. They visited all the mainland capital cities and Hobart. They visited and held interviews in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Japan, France, Belgium and Italy, lt seems strange, when the interests of this Committee ranged over such a wide field, that it did not see fit to visit, as an organised group, the old Joint Organisation countries of New Zealand and South Africa where the reserve floor price scheme was then in operation. Apparently rather as an afterthought the Philp Committee stated in its report that special inquiries were made by correspondence into the working of the South African and New Zealand reserve price plans. Apparently at a late stage New Zealand was visited by one member of the Committee.
As the Committee’s terms of reference were to inquire into the existing system of marketing, promotion and sale of the Australian wool clip and to report on the merits of any other system or modification of the existing method of the disposal of Australian wool, it would seem natural to me that the Committee should have given a great deal of consideration and study at first hand to schemes then operating in New Zealand and South Africa. However, the Committee did comment further on both schemes and provided some detail of the initial finance required. At page 64 of its report, the Committee said -
It was frequently stated to us that the accounts of the New Zealand authority show that the New Zealand scheme has been profitable but neither the New Zealand nor the South African accounts disclose whether there have been hidden gains or tosses which would affect the profit to growers overall.
On page 164 of the report, the following statement in connection with the initial financing of the New Zealand scheme appears -
When the Commission was established in January 1952, its capital fund amounted to £NZ26,600,000, consisting of £NZ20,200,000 (New Zealand’s share of the profits of Joint Organisation) and £NZ6,400,000, the balance of growers’ contributory charge moneys levied to meet the grower share of expenses of Joint Organisation operations with respect to wools grown in New Zealand.
I quote the following extract from a letter that I received in my office from the New Zealand Trade Commissioner -
It may be of interest to you to note that, although the Wool Commission Act makes provision for a charge to be made on all wool sold or exported in order to cover the administration costs of the Commission, in fact no such charge has ever been levied. The annual interest earnings of the Commission’s investments, together with the profits from the resale of wool bought in at floor price have been sufficient to meet all costs and to increase the original capital to a figure of £NZ30.9 million at 31 March 1963.
On 1st October 1954 the New Zealand Wool Commission commenced to make supplementary payments to the New Zealand Wool Board, equal to the amount of the Board’s levy on growers. In 1954-55 the supplementary payments amounted to £NZ149,131. They have risen progressively. In 1963-64 they amounted to £NZ674,752. The total of the supplementary payments in the 10 seasons from 1954-55 to 1963-64 inclusive was £NZ3,376,761. At 30th June 1964 the Commission’s capital was £NZ35,948,297.
Between 30th June 1954, when the capital of the Commission was fixed at £NZ27,500,000, and at 30th June 1964 the excess of income over the expenses of the Commission amounted to a total of £NZ12,712,926. That sum has been disposed of as follows -
I have quoted those figures, which are taken from factual reports of the New Zealand authorities, not only to show the capital growth and financial stability of the New Zealand scheme over a 10 year period, but also to emphasise that the scheme, because of its financial stability, has brought definite and defined benefits to producers. That cannot be refuted. No charge has been levied on the producers to cover costs of administration and exports, and the capital of the Commission has grown to the point where it can meet all emergencies. In 1951- 52 the number of bales handled in New Zealand was 946,400. In 1962-63 New Zealand disposed of 1,584,521 bales. In that year 20,134 bales were sold privately or through brokers. In 1963-64 New Zealand disposed of 1,567,538 bales. In that year 22,241 bales were sold privately, through brokers or otherwise; in other words, outside the scheme. The rest was under the protection of the floor price.
We believe that there should be a referendum on this reserve price plan and that the growers should have a free choice as to how they vote. I believe it to be the duty of all honorable members - whether they be for or against the proposed plan - to place before this House facts obtained from reliable sources. I do not believe that there is any justification for honorable members casting aspersions or doubt without giving proper justification from reliable sources. I personally have found my study of the New Zealand scheme an intriguing one. I wish to make only one more comment on it. Over the 12 years of its operation it has been proved to have found favour with the growers of that country. in the peak year of private selling only 22,000 bales were sold privately.
Let me refer briefly to the South African scheme. In 1958, when South Africa entered into a floor price scheme, the funds of the South African Commission amounted to £10± million. By June 1963 the Commission had a capital fund of £131 million. From all reports, the South African scheme would appear to be operating in a very efficient, satisfactory and workmanlike manner. I quote the following from a memorandum that I received from the Australian Trade Commissioner in South Africa -
The maximum carry-over from any one season to the following was less than 27,000 bales or 2.S per cent, of the annual clip, due to the fact that practically all wool purchased during any season was re-offered and sold during the same season.
Total wools taken over by the Commission during just over five years amounted to 4.5 per cent, of total offerings during that period.
The Commission was during no season called upon to take over more than 10 per cent, of the total quantity of wool offered during that season and reached that figure only during 1960-61, when the market was at its lowest point in many years.
A further analysis of the operations during 1960-61 reveals that 88 per cent, of total purchases were made during the first five months of the season, when the Commission had to bid on more than 50 per cent, of wools offered. Thereafter, as prices improved, the rate at which wools had to be taken over decreased, and with the stronger market practically all wools purchased were again fed back to the market.
The memorandum from South Africa went on to say that a scheme cannot be judged on the quantity of wool purchased or the final profit on the resale of wools, but rather should be judged on its success or otherwise in holding the market during any temporary recession or short term fluctuations in market prices. The memorandum concluded -
Based on these conservative estimates, it is calculated that during the season 1960-61 producers received in cash just under £1 million more for their wools as a result of the Commission’s operations on the market - and that in spite of the fact that the Commission itself purchased only 10 per cent, of offerings during that season.
– It is a wonderful story.
– It is a splendid story. Whether or not it was purely a decision of the Government that the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation should be the only bodies to represent the wool producers or to have representatives on the Australian Wool Industry Conference is not a matter for debate in this House now. But what does concern a great number of responsible wool producers is the consistent and persistent refusal of the Conference to permit any other longestablished and responsible organisation to be a member of it or to take part in debates, organisation and the many other matters affecting this vital industry. In the debate on legislation affecting the meat industry I referred to the exclusion of the Australian Primary Producers Union from representation on the Australian Wool Industry Conference. I still cannot find any reason why an organisation which represents a membership that produces one-fifth of our wool clip should be barred from having a voice in the affairs of the industry. Surely the most democratic method of operating would be for all wool growers to be given an opportunity to elect all representatives necessary to handle the affairs of this supreme body in their own industry.
When established the scheme will run in conjunction with a similar scheme that operates in New Zealand and South Africa. Then about 80 per cent, of all wool exported will be sold under similar conditions. In South America, which exports about 20 per cent, of the world’s wool, steps have been taken to establish boards along the lines of our Australian Wool Board. When this is done we can expect greater cooperation initially in matters of promotion and research. Later we may hope that South America will join in a stabilised floor price plan.
The proposal is of vital importance not only to the wool grower but to the economy of Australia. I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber trust that those who will have the responsibility of casting a vote at the referendum will study all available information on the subject and will not permit themselves to be misled. I trust that they will sift the chaff from the grain and give careful attention to the factual arguments before casting their votes.
.- It is a pleasure to follow in the debate the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer). I know from experience and from listening to him that he knows a good deal about the wool industry. It is well known that he has separated too many sheep from their wool not to know a good deal about the industry. I remember that when I was campaigning against him I thought that since shearers were so scarce and valuable he might be better employed in that important occupation. I am doing the best I can to reverse that decision.
I have been growing ‘ wool all my life. For years I have taken part - a minor part perhaps - in wool industry matters. I should have had a clear idea of where I stood on the floor price plan. I admit frankly that until recently I have had considerable difficulty in making up my mind how to vote. I am not one of those who would vote for the plan simply because it will put an end to the fluctuation in prices received by the grower. This, I think, would be too high a price to pay. In any case, I know that although I seem consistently to sell my wool in the low market, which causes my bank manager to speak sternly to me, by and large everything evens out in the long run. The argument that will make me support the plan is that the fluctations which occur are, on all the evidence, disadvantageous to the wool user. Obviously, if the wool user does not like the fluctations, we should do f 11 that we properly can to get rid of them. The evidence in this regard is overwhelming. It is well documented in the paper prepared by the Australian Wool Board. There has been a good deal of discussion about what the International Wool Textile Organisation has said on the matter. I would like to quote the Organisation because it is time the record was set straight. In its minutes the Organisation said -
The I.W.T.O. recognises that it is for the wool growers to decide how their wool is to be marketed. However, the I.W.T.O. is of the opinion that should Australia introduce a reserve price within the present auction system on a conservative price basis and administer it wisely and efficiently, this, together with similar systems in New Zealand and South Africa, would reduce the magnitude of raw wool price fluctuations with consequent benefit to the world wool textile industry.
Whatever the voting was - there is a good deal of argument about this - that is the view of the International Wool Textile Organisation. We know that this is an important and responsible body.
The view that fluctuations do matter is supported by Mr. Vines, who is the paid servant of the International Wool Secretariat. He is a well paid servant, and it is proper that he should be. He is one of the best brains that we could hire to help in this job of promotion. He thinks that to make promotion worth while it is essential to have a better system of marketing and to have fluctuations ironed out. What is the use of employing people of the calibr of Mr. Vines and, when you get their opinion, saying: “ We do not agree with you; it is not really so. “?
I do not know enough about the matter to argue. I am prepared to accept the advice of people whose salaries I help to pay and of the International Wool Textil Organisation, who, I consider, know a good deal more about the matter than I do. So I have come down definitely on the side of the plan because of the claim that if the fluctuations are taken out of the market it will be of assistance to the wool user.
I admit that there are hidden dangers in the scheme, and these are the things that worry me. I know that neither side of the Parliament - I am glad of this - has supported the ridiculous cost of production scheme, but there has been a good deal said about this scheme outside the House. The threat is always there. It is always possible that some silly future government - I am not referring to any particular party - may try to introduce a cost of production formula. This is a hidden danger. It may not be important at this stage. I am glad to be able to say that.
There is also the hidden danger that the administration may not be as good as those who are urging the scheme would hope for. This is always so in matters subject to human control. It is a responsibility we accept as soon as we do anything or make any change. We admit that the organisation may not be of the quality needed. All I can say is that we should take comfort from the thought that the kind of effort that has gone into this plan is an indication of the standard of responsibility that the new authority will bring to bear in fixing the floor price. I think it would be silly to be frightened by bugbears of this kind. I admit that they exist, but I do not think they are important enough to worry about, having regard to the advantages of the scheme.
As well as the abolition of fluctuation in prices the scheme will have hidden advantages. The chief advantage is the amount of wool that is bid for and not bought. It is interesting to note that in South Africa in March, which was one of the low levels in the market this year, 124,500 bales were in the market. The Authority in South Africa bid for 32.8 per cent, or 40,800 bales, but it purchased only 5,200 bales or 41 per cent, of the total quantity. That involved an increase of id. for approximately 35,000 bales. That was done without cost to the scheme. It was an administration cost certainly, but it was without immediate cost to the scheme. It must be realised that if we can effect even a small rise in the Australian price, we will make up for the cost of the scheme many times over. We know the old figure, and it still stands. In round figures, a rise of Id. per lb. for the Australian clip means a total rise of £7 million. If my arithmetic is right, it seems to me, after studying all the relevant documents, that a rise of one-seventh of a penny per lb. would more than pay for even the most pessimistic estimate of the cost of the scheme. This is ‘the thing that made me change my mind. I find it difficult to make up my mind about a lot of things, and this is the kind of thing that I have thought about a lot. On balance, I have decided that the proposed scheme ought to be supported.
Let us consider some of the arguments that have been advanced against it. I do not deny to honorable members or other people the right to oppose the scheme. Indeed, it ill becomes me, as one who has swum against the tide in this House and against the opinion of the Parliament particularly in relation to tariff matters, to deny my colleagues the right to oppose the Government or anybody else. I do not say that they have not the right to do so. I do not say that the people who are opposing the scheme are doing so with other than the best motive.
– What is the honorable member saying?
– I am saying that some of the statements that have been made, particularly in this House, have clouded the issue Some speakers have injected into the debate bitterness and personalities, and I do not think that that helps. The first symptom we had of this attitude was a continual attack on Sir William Gunn, the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board. I admit to human failings, and I suppose Sir William does too. I suppose even the Minister for Primary
Industry (Mr. Adermann) has his failings, though they are very difficult to see. No other person whom I know of in the Australian wool industry could have carried this proposal forward as far as it has gone. A lot of courage and determination was required for Sir William to go where he knew he had to go. I do not know whether it is a quality that would get him on in politics, but it is a quality that had to be put into the presentation of the proposed scheme. To rubbish him as he has been rubbished is not worthy of some of my colleagues in this House. I admit that they had provocation; it was ill advised of him to rubbish them.
Let us consider the quality of the man. I say again that no-one else whom I know of could have carried the plan forward as far as it has gone. We and the Australian wool growers should pay tribute to the quality of Sir William Gunn, even though he has human failings. It is important for us to realise that this is not a Gunn plan. Sir William Gunn did not dream it up. He has helped to push it forward, but it is not a Gunn plan; it is an industry plan. It is an Australian Wool Board plan. Let me mention the names of the members of the Australian Wool Board. I have already referred to the Chairman, Sir William Gunn. The other members are Mr. Armstrong, the ex-Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation; Mr. Arthur Beggs; Mr. P. A. McBride, whose name is not unknown in this place and who is the son of a man whom I had the honour to follow here; Mr. D. D. Von Bibra; Mr.
The Australian Wool Board appointed the Wool Marketing Committee, as well as a research committee and a promotion committee. It is interesting to note the names of the members of the Wool Marketing Committee. They are as follows: Mr. S. S. Nevile, who is a top maker; Mr. S. G. Burston, a grower and an ex-buyer; Mr. D. A. S. Campbell, an ex-wool buyer; Mr.
We have heard it said that the recommendation of the Wool Marketing Committee is in direct contradiction with the Philp report. I thought that report was a first class document. The Philp Committee recommended the establishment of a Wool Board and a Wool Industry Conference and that one of the things which the Wool Board should do was to appoint a Wool Marketing Committee to examine the whole problem. The Philp Committee realised, first, that things change and that as the supply or demand changes there ought to be a continuing examination of the needs of the industry. I say with complete respect that the Philp Committee realised that this was a job for technical people. The technical people have had a look at the problem. We have been told that the report of the Australian Wool Board was skimpy. I admit immediately that when I first received it I did not find it to be as full of facts and figures as I should like to have seen. But nobody can say that members of the Wool Marketing Committee simply jumped to a conclusion because Sir William had cracked the whip. First, they are not the kind of people who would do that sort of thing. Secondly, they did their homework. They went overseas, they examined all the evidence that the Philp committee had collected, and they arrived at a decision.
There has been criticism to the effect that the report of the Wool Marketing Committee should not be a confidential document. Well, I do not know. It seems to me that it is a reasonable exercise to appoint a committee to look at a certain problem, just as the Cabinet does. We do not get copies of Cabinet reports. I admit that I would like to set hold of some, particularly on tariff matters. But such reports are not forthcoming. I suppose the Board was quite right in not disclosing the report submitted to it. However, the Board appointed a committee to do a job and then to advise the Board. The Board looked at the recommendations of that committee and then brought forward its own report. I think the report of the Wool Marketing Committee ought to be confidential and that, because of the kind of rubbishing that has gone on during this debate, such reports will be confidential in the future. This is the kind of thing that makes confidential reports essential. I am referring to personal innuendoes, not so much here in this debate but outside. The Australian Wool Board made up its mind about what it ought to do, and it took its recommendation to the Australian Wool Industry Conference. This recommendation is the first fruits, I suppose, of the Philp report. It was an attempt to bring together associations that had been fighting for so long and so bitterly. Perhaps the Conference speaks imperfectly for the industry. I do not claim that it is a perfect body. I should like to see the Australian Primary Producers Union represented on it.
No one knows the position better than the Minister for Primary Industry. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) pay a tribute to the immense patience the Minister has shown in, as it were, fathering the Conference and allowing these people to come together in the way they have done. I admit it is not a perfect organisation, but at least it is a responsible one. After all, it is composed of the people who grow the wool and who pay the levies. Some of them, I suppose, think of nothing else but wool problems and they are living in the industry all the time. It is these people who have decided that this was the proper thing to do. That does not necessarily make them right, but it makes their opinion worth listening to with a tremendous amount of respect.
The Australian Wool Industry Conference submitted its suggestion to the Government. I do not know in what form the suggestion was made but I have sufficient respect for the Minister to know that the Government did not enter into anything lightly. The Government did not say that this was a scheme that ought to be supported, but it did say that it was a reasonable scheme that had a good chance of being successful. I repeat that the Government did not enter into this matter lightly. It accepted the fact that the proposal was a product of reasonable organisations - the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Conference - and decided to give it a go. No one can say that this is a Gunn plan, in the way in which this has been suggested
No one can blame it - if it is to be blamed on somebody - on the Country Party. It is not a Country Party plan. It is not even the Government’s plan; the Government did not originate it. It is the industry’s plan. While the industry is showing the sense of responsibility that it is showing now, I do not think I know enough about the subject to fly in the face of the industry, seeing that it has done its homework as well as it has. Others might. I do not.
So much for the plan. Just briefly I should like to refer to the referendum. 1 will admit that when I first looked at the terms of the referendum I was worried about the question of not having a weighted vote. People will get politically and philosophically angry with me about this and say that it is not truly democratic. I am not greatly concerned. After all principles like these seem to be conveniently twisted at odd times. Last year, the present South Australian Minister of Agriculture, when he was in Opposition, introduced an amendment to the legislation dealing with the egg marketing scheme of hallowed memory. He moved a specific amendment to the effect that a weighted vote be given to owners of more than 1,000 fowls. I suppose that there is, somewhere, a philosophical difference between a fowl and a sheep. I know that fowls have two legs and sheep have four. However, when it comes to a matter of principle, I just cannot see the difference. I admit that I would like to have seen a weighted vote provided for, but when I came to work out what form the weighted vote should take I became bogged down. Whatever solution I came up with did not satisfy me. If it had done so it might not have satisfied a lot of other people. It would have been wrong whatever the solution was. I accept that the Australian Wool Industry Conference has worried about these things and fought many battles over them. It came up with the suggestion of an unweighted vote. Unless I am certain that I have a clear alternative I am prepared to go along with that.
I admit I had other doubts. The partnership clause worried me tremendously. There is provision for one vote for a person who produces ten bales; but four partners who produce 39 bales, but do not have the requisite number of sheep, do not get a vote at all. That looks a bit odd. I find it odd.
However, 1 found it difficult to be precise as to the form of words in which I would frame an alternative. I ask the Minister to have a look at this matter in the Committee stage. If we can work out a form of words as a reasonable alternative, I think this should be done. I will accept the Minister’s decision on this. I am not going to buck the provision after all the work that has been done and after all the consideration that has gone into it.
With regard to companies, a company which produces a thousand bales gets one vote. That looks a bit odd, but how is it to be altered? Should each shareholder be given one vote? If you are going to accept that as a general principle it would be all right in the case of a private company but in the case of a public company, such as one of the big overseas pastoral firms, the results would be rather queer.
I support the referendum as do both sides of the House. I support the idea of a reserve price plan although I have no responsibility to commit myself in that way. However, like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) I think that if we who live at the centre of things cannot make up our minds, and are not prepared to say what we think, there is no hope for the chap who is chasing an old ewe with his shears. This scheme is the product of an industry which has shown an improving standard of responsibility which we ought to appreciate. No one knows better than I the fights that have been fought in the past. No one knows better than I the improving standard of responsibility of the industry. I will admit that it is not yet perfect, but it is doing a vastly improved job compared to what it used to do, and I see no reason why it should not continue that performance in the future. I want to make it clear where I stand. I support the referendum. I support the plan. I commend the Minister, above all things, on the inordinate patience he has shown in all these negotiations. I do not know how the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) would have got on. I am not rubbishing him, but he, like me, is inclined to get angry at things. The Minister for Primary Industry, if he does get angry, hides it behind that saturnine countenance and we do not know whether he is angry or not. It is a great tribute to him to have got where he has. I do not think we should jeopardise the scheme or enter into discussion about it. I do not deny anyone his right to express his views, but I am sorry that some of the things that have been said by some of my colleagues - no one will deny they had the right to speak - were said in the way in which they were said. I think they could have been said in a way which would not have clouded the issue, as I am afraid they have.
– in reply - It is more than 12 months since the Government began negotiations with the wool industry. These discussions began after the industry had approached the Government with a desire to discuss what it termed a “ wool reserve price plan “. Negotiations have continued during that period. First let us look at the picture presented by the wool industry. We find that in earlier years the industry was disunited. It had no united voice to make representations on its behalf. At that stage in the early 1960’s the Government appointed the Philp Committee to report to it. I join with those who have eulogised the work of the late Sir Roslyn Philp and the Committee and the excellent report that was presented.
In that report, the Committee stated that in its opinion there was no need at that time for a reserve price plan. That opinion was expressed after the Committee had looked at a reserve price plan and alternative methods of marketing. The Committee pointed out that the industry was disunited and had no representative voice and recommended that an organisation should be created such as the body which is now known as the Australian Wool Industry Conference. It was recommended that in association with that Conference, the Australian Wool Board should be reorganised. That has been done by legislation. The Wool Industry Conference has been set up and on the recommendation of the Philp Committee, a Wool Marketing Committee was appointed to survey all aspects of marketing associated with the industry. The work of the Wool Marketing Committee was part of the operations of the Australian Wool Board. Through it, inquiries were made into all aspects of marketing and a full report was presented to the Board. Of course, I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr.
Kelly) that the Australian Wool Board, or any organisation, has a perfect right to use whatever method of inquiry it may choose. The Australian Wool Board had at its disposal not only the report of the Wool Marketing Committee but also the minutes of each of the meetings held by its members. The Australian Wool Board made a report to the Wool Industry Conference. In the main, its recommendations were accepted by the Conference and that was the beginning of the industry’s activities in asking the Government for a reserve price plan through the voice of the Wool Industry Conference.
Let us look at the arguments submitted by those who are opposed to the plan although I understand no-one is opposed to a vote of the wool growers on this issue. Let me say at once that all the opposition to the plan that has emanated from this House has been based on opposition to the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board, Sir William Gunn. It has been rightly said that this is not a Gunn plan. Let me add that it is not a Wool Board plan. It is a Wool Industry Conference plan because all my negotiations on behalf of the Government were made as between me and the Wool Industry Conference. At no time was the Australian Wool Board there officially except that Sir William Gunn was co-opted on probably two occasions by the Wool Industry Conference to assist it with the negotiations. He was not present at the concluding conference when everything was tied up.
All the argument against the Australian Wool Board and against Sir William Gunn is falsely based. The conference spoke for the wool growers of Australia through the Wool Industry Conference. So it is a wool industry plan. It is not a Government plan. It is not a party plan. It has been called the Adermann plan. If I had been able to do all that had to be done - and I could not because I would not know enough about the industry to complete the plan myself - I would have been honoured if it had been called the Adermann plan. The position is we have the wool industry asking for these proposals. It is interesting to note the opposition to Sir William Gunn. It is a distinct honour that all the guns of the opposition have been trained on one man.
– The Minister is not referring to the official Opposition in this House?
– No; to the opposition to the plan. Sir William Gunn must be mighty influential for the opposition to have adopted these tactics. It is good political tactics to attack the leader who is the strong man and try to pull him down. One of the Opposition members said that we should not have to subsidise the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board. I want to put this straight; otherwise I would not bring Sir William Gunn into this matter at all. The truth is we are far from subsidising the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board. By virtue of his Public Service status and by regulation, he is entitled to a salary equivalent to that of the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board - £6,600 a year. Sir William Gunn has said that he does not want that and he has never taken more than £2,500 a year for all his work. That is the type of man he is.
I have never heard any opposition to Sir William Gunn’s great work on the Australian Meat Board when he organised the fight with the American importers. He helped us to fight the State legislation in the United States of America by which an attempt was made to take away our rights and discriminate against our mutton trade and later against our meat trade generally with the United States. I did not hear any condemnation of Sir William Gunn over that. Indeed he was eulogised by those who oppose him now for his great work to get wool promotion going. But because it does not suit their interests now, they attack the man. There are many ifs in politics and I do not know whether Sir William Gunn will overcome all of them; but if he ever comes into this place, I say to those who are opposing him now that he will handle them quite well and I will enjoy the controversy between him and his opponents.
This is the position: Through the years the wool growers, of their own accord, have chosen to sell by auction. They have not altered that decision. They still want to sell by auction, but they have seen the weakness of selling by auction when no attempt is made to set a. minimum reserve price or to apply some duress in order to protect the price. Having chosen to continue selling by auction, they have had to look round for ways and means of safeguarding themselves. There has been a full marketing inquiry upon which 50 representatives of the industry with an independent chairman have concentrated. The Wool Industry Conference has come up with a reserve price plan. I know that some friends of mine on the Government side say there is no reserve price about it. Of course there is. When you place a minimum price on an article, that is a reserve and nothing more or less.
Let me state the issues. The wool growers have to vote on a reserve price plan. The attitude of the Government is to let the growers make the decision. The choice is either to have a reserve price plan or to let the situation remain as at present. It is a reserve price plan or nothing. No alternative has been submitted. That is the issue before the growers. The growers will either accept the fluctuations inherent in the present system or they will vote for a minimum reserve with a view to having a minimum price to prevent unnecessary depression of the price of wool. The growers must decide for themselves whether it will be of economic advantage to them to have a predetermined reserve price as a base. That is the issue. The growers must make an objective decision and I hope that the factual statement of the agreement made between the Government and the industry, which will be distributed with the ballot papers, plus the statements of the cases for and against the scheme, will assist them in making that objective decision.
I do not think it would be possible for anyone to assess the pros and cons of the scheme from the confused articles published in the newspapers. Firstly, which newspaper’s opinion would one select? A campaign of verbiage has been conducted to confuse growers and hamper an objective decision. Therefore, in assessing the position, the wool growers have to decide what is best for their own welfare and must not be concerned about the welfare of the newspapers.
This scheme is the industry’s own proposal. It is the industry’s own recommendation to the Government. The Government recognises the worth of the industry and is prepared to give it an opportunity to determine its own approach to marketing. The
Government also recognises that such a proposal as this could not be properly implemented without satisfactory financial provision. Therefore, the Government has come to the party, so to speak. We have stated in the agreement with the industry that we are prepared to see to it that sufficient funds are made available to ensure that the plan can be implemented satisfactorily. The growers need have no worry or hesitation about a possible shortage of funds.
A statement has been sent to the growers by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. It has been accompanied by my second reading speech on the Bill and by other documents. The Department of Primary Industry has examined the statement and found it to be a comprehensive and objective report which clearly sets out the approach made to the plan by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. There is, however, one slight error in relation to the treatment of profits, and I wish to correct it. At page 14, the statement says -
Profits arising from the operations of the authority shall be applied to augmenting the capital fund up to a limit determined from time to time by the Board in consultation with the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
The Conference has agreed that this is an error. The fact is that all profits - if there are any - must be credited tq capital funds. It is not a matter of what the Wool Board and the Australian Wool Industry Conference determine. The agreement is that all profits shall go to build up the capital funds.
Statements have been sent out to the growers by opponents of the scheme and I should like to comment upon one vital matter. These statements argue that this conservative scheme that has been agreed upon can become a radical one and could lead to nationalisation of the industry. They use the word “ acquisition “. Let me say categorically now that neither acquisition nor nationalisation is involved in the proposed scheme. It is no more and no less than a reserve price scheme, drawn up by the people in the industry and negotiated by them with the Government. The Government would look upon acquisition as a fundamental change in wool marketing for which the approval of the producers would be required. I am sure that the Government itself would have to be convinced also that such a radical change in wool marketing was both desirable and feasible. Any suggestion of nationalisation is absurd. In any case, it entirely overlooks the Constitutional position. I make that clear so that growers will not be deceived or misled.
Let me make another point. The Government envisages, as I said in my second reading speech, that if the scheme is approved it will commence to operate as from 1st July 1966 and will be subject to complete review in its fifth year of operation. But that does not necessarily imply that there need be a referendum in that fifth year if the industry is fully satisfied that the scheme should continue in operation. Before any further referendum were taken, we would need to have a request from the industry for a vote to be taken on the ground that it was dissatisfied with the scheme.
For the information of honorable members, I shall now explain the position with relation to rolls. These will, of course, be rolls lodged with the Chief Electoral Officer in each State. In addition, rolls for each State will be distributed to the Electoral Officer in each rural electorate outside the capital cities. For example, in New South Wales, a roll for New South Wales will be distributed in the rural electorates of that State and there will be a comprehensive roll in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer in that State. Growers who are not on the roll will be obliged to apply for the right to vote. The necessary application forms will be readily available at every post office. As voting will be compulsory there will be an obligation on growers who qualify to apply for the right to vote.
I should like now to comment on the attitude of my learned friends.
– The Phillip Street farmers.
– I refer to two of my learned friends. Firstly, let me say that my friend from Moreton (Mr. Killen) stands very highly in my estimation because we have been friends for so long. When you look at his boyish face you can see its innocence. But he said that there has been no proper explanation of the plan and that he could not possibly understand it. If that is his opinion, all I can say to him and to my learned friend from Parkes (Mr. Hughes) is that I am afraid they do not understand the Bill. Their whole argument has been based on something which is outside the BilL
They also complain that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Snedden) did not issue his fiat which would enable them to challenge the Australian Wool Board’s right to use funds to promote this scheme. Let me say at once that when I sought the Attorney-General’s opinion he stated that, according to an act of this Parliament, the Board was quite within its right in using the funds in this way. I wonder who would bear the cost if this matter were taken to court and resulted in lengthy litigation. If there is any merit in the complaint that wool growers’ funds are being used to promote the reserve price plan, obviously the grounds for complaint would be far stronger if considerably greater sums were to be spent in a legal contest to defend the Board’s right to explain the plan to growers.
I want to say this: The position relating to voting qualifications, the majority vote necessary and the arrangements for partnerships and the companies - all the determinations made and agreed to - resulted from the recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which followed the precedent set in the vote taken in 1951. The Government accepted that approach. But it does not matter how much one is determined to be honest and just in this, anomalies may be created. The honorable member for Moreton said that it is a ridiculous position that if a man has 300 sheep and he were to kill an old gummy ewe he could not vote in the referendum because he would have only 299 sheep, one less than the number necessary to qualify him for a vote. If that is absurd, it is just as absurd for a man one day short of 21 years old to be ineligible to vote in a Federal election. The fact is that there has to be a line of demarcation somewhere to be used as a determining factor.
The recommendations touching this matter were made as a result of negotiations between the Australian Wool Growers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. So far as the voting privileges were concerned, the recommendations were supported by the Australian Primary Producers Union. Indeed, the whole reserve price scheme had the official support of the A.P.P.U. as well as the Australian Wool Industry Conference because the A.P.P.U. wrote to me to say so. On all counts we have not only the voice of the Conference but also the voice of the other major organisation in support of this project.
The honorable member for Moreton and others have raised the question of a weighted vote. We do not give the near-millionaire honorable member for Mackellar any more votes in an election than the ordinary working man has. Both he and the ordinary working man have one vote each. We treat all voters alike in that respect. I do not think we could ever arrive at the position where money or the value of assets could buy the success or the defeat of a vital proposal like this. There would be the danger in other circumstances, and that is the proposition I want the House to consider. No doubt the wool growers considered it. From the Government’s point of view, the voting procedure to be followed accords with the recommendation of the Conference to us. It had the support of the Australian Primary Producers Union. The Government accepted the recommendation on all counts.
I think that is all I need to say. This is the issue. It is a vote by the industry, which has the right to decide whether it wants this proposal or not. I agree on one matter with the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) who last night used nearly all of his speaking time in voicing his right to express his opinion. No one fails to concede him that right. He is entitled to it. We ali claim that same right. But, by the same token, I contend that the woolgrowers of Australia should have the same right without the duress that is put upon them by all this creation of confusion and by all the demands for deferment such as those made by the honorable member for Mackellar which were put forward to try to delay and defeat this proposal. Without being subjected to that duress, the wool growers are entitled to express their opinion, in an objective way, of what is good for themselves. I say to this House: What is good for the wool industry and its economy is good for the economy of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Sitting suspended from 6.0 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3. (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ the Australian Wool Industry Conference “ means the organization having that name that is referred to in the Wool Industry Act 1962-1964; “the Chief Electoral Officer” means the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth; “ thePlan “ means the plan for maintaining reserve prices for Australian wool sold at auction that has been formulated in consultation between the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Government of the Commonwealth; “ trustee “ includes an Official Receiver or trustee in Bankruptcy; “wool-grower” means a person who owns sheep that are kept wholly or partly for the purpose of the production of shorn wool.
.- Mr. Chairman, there are two amendments to this clause which I will commend to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and hope that he will accept them. The first relates to the definition of “ the Plan “. I move-
That in the definition of “the Plan” omit all words after “ plan “ (second occurring), insert “ set out in the First Schedule to this Act.”
In moving this amendment I am entirely in accord with the view that this scheme should be put to a referendum. But I think that the wool growers, who are the right and proper people to vote on this scheme, should know exactly what they are voting on. It may be that the wool growers do not want to have before them a detailed plan of the scheme. I would agree with that view because when the Committee deals with clause 4 I shall suggest that a summary of the plan be prepared. It is that summary which should be circulated to wool growers. Of course, I am in agreement with the view expressed by the Minister that wool growers would not necessarily need the complicated and complete plan. But, Sir, they are entitled to know what that plan is.
No wool grower would sign a hire purchase agreement without reading the words in fine print. If he were asked to sign an agreement where the words in fine print were to be inserted by some subsequent hand he would be reluctant to do so. In this proposed referendum the Government is asking the wool growers to approve or disapprove - because it is their decision - a plan which they do not know in detail. It is all very fine to say that they know it in summary form - and we will come to this question of the summary when we deal with clause 4 of this Bill - but they are entitled to know the exact details, and if there are still any areas of uncertainty, if there are things which still have to be negotiated, agreed and arranged, at all events let those areas of uncertainty be shown and delineated now so that they can know at least what their commitments are one way or the other, whether they are voting for or against.
I am not suggesting for one moment that Parliament should do anything to prevent or impede this referendum. It is the right of the wool growers and their privilege to vote one way or the other. All that I am suggesting is that the wool growers should be armed with full information about the marketing scheme before they vote. If they are capable only of reading the summary of the scheme, as the Minister suggests - I do not suggest that, but the Minister does - at any rate their representatives, their lawyers, should have an opportunity of reading the full and exact plan so that they can point out to the wool growers exactly what is the meaning of the clauses in fine print. All I say is that the growers are entitled to this information. They are entitled to have the summary to be circulated under clause 4 of the Bill. That is well and good. But in addition their representatives, their lawyers, are entitled to see the full and complete agreement. Then, if there are areas in which the agreement is incomplete, if there are areas of uncertainty, then before the growers vote they are entitled to know exactly where those areas of uncertainty are.
If the plan has been formulated in consultation between the Australian wool industry and the Government of the Commonwealth there is no reason why it should not be set out. But let it be said, and repeated, that the Government of the Commonwealth does not either oppose or approve this plan.
The Government has assisted in its formulation and drafting, perhaps, although the formulation and drafting are not before us, but the Government of the Commonwealth, as such, puts to the wool growers that it does not support the plan and it does not oppose it. The Government has helped, as a lawyer, in its formulation. Honorable members will say, perhaps, that the plan has been formulated by the Australian Wool Industry Conference. If it has, let the growers know what the Conference has formulated. The Conference is not necessarily representative of the growers.
I remind the Committee of what happened in 1951 when a referendum on a somewhat similar issue was put to the growers. At that time their organised representatives unanimously, I think, approved the plan but when it went to the growers it was thrown out by a three to one majority. So the so called representatives do not necessarily represent correctly the opinions of the growers. We have seen that they did not do so in the past. I am not trying to impede this referendum; I approve it. I support the principle that this matter should go to the growers but I say that in all conscience the growers should be informed of what they are voting on. Under clause 4 of the Bill perhaps the Government will be giving them a summary, but they are entitled to have their legal representatives, their skilled lawyers and so on, read through the actual details of the plan.
So far I have spoken of the wool growers who are to vote. Let me speak now of honorable members of this Parliament. It is not right that members of this Parliament should be asked to approve a referendum on a plan without knowing what the plan is. The Minister has said that he has given some kind of outline of the plan in his second reading speech. If that outline is sufficient then let it be put in the Bill. If it is the proper description of the plan let it be put in the Bill. If it is not the proper description of the plan then let the plan be produced. But it is an affront to the dignity of this House, quite apart from being unfair to every wool grower, that honorable members should be asked to approve the circulation of an official document, almost, of something which we have not seen. The wool growers are being asked to sign a hire purchase agreement without seeing the clauses in fine print. The House is asked to approve of this procedure. I do not think we should allow this kind of trick to be played on the wool growers or even that we should leave open the smallest possibility of misunderstanding. If the Government has a plan, let it produce the plan. If the Government has not a plan, let it tell us so. But do not let it equivocate and permit this kind of fraudulent and nebulous thing to be put in front of the wool growers so as to cozen a vote out of them without letting them know what they are really voting for.
I do not want to delay the matter. If the Minister speaks to this amendment I will take the opportunity, to which I am entitled, to reply. If the Minister is acting in good faith, I ask him in all conscience to accept this simple amendment which is not designed to frustrate the proposal in any way but seeks only to make it fair, square and above board.
– Has the honorable member a copy of the amendment?
– Yes. I produce it now.
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar has moved the following amendment -
That in the definition of “the Plan” omit all words after “ plan “ (second occurring) insert “ set out in the First Schedule to this Act “
The immediate question before the Committee is, “That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause”.
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) seems to doubt my good faith so my reply will be the Government’s reply. This matter has been raised by certain members of the Government parties and Cabinet has considered it fully in view of the representations that have been made. The Government cannot accept this amendment. The decision of Cabinet, taken earlier, is that the plan as agreed to between the Government and the Wool Industry Conference should be submitted, and that it should be submitted in the form of my second reading speech and the later statement which I made because the financial arrangements had not been completed at the earlier time. By leave of the House I explained the arrangements which were made relating to the financial side of the plan. The Government’s attitude is that if the plan were set out in a schedule to the Act it would be expected to be inflexible. If the proposal were carried, the validating act would, of necessity, have to stick word for word to the first statement. The Government feels that it would be better not to make it inflexible so that not even one word could be altered.
But more than that. The honorable member must have misunderstood something I said earlier. He quoted me as saying- that a summary of this would go out. I cannot recall saying that it would be only a summary of the plan. As I indicated in my second reading speech and in the additional statement, the complete plan will go out. I do not know where the honorable member got the idea of a summary. However, I accept it as a misunderstanding between us. The intent was not as he has indicated. The complete proposal will go out.
There is another aspect, and this is probably what I intended to convey. Perhaps I did it in a faulty way. The wool growers will more readily understand the plan if it is put out in the form of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Wool Industry Conference than if it is in the legal form adopted by the Parliamentary Draftsman. How many wool growers would understand it in the legal form? We will put out the proposal as we have agreed on with the Wool Industry Conference. I think that is the commonsense approach. I must give the Government’s decision. The Government has decided not to accept this amendment.
.- -I support the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). 1 notice that clause 4 of the Bill is in these terms -
We are inviting the wool growers to vote upon a plan. This plan is to be lodged with the Chief Electoral Officer. I can see no reason on earth why the plan upon which we are inviting the wool growers to vote should not be annexed to the Bill. As I understood the Minister, he said in effect that some aspects of the plan, particularly in regard to the financial side of it, had not been finally settled. If the Government is to put forward a plan upon which the wool growers are to vote - a plan stated with some precision - I cannot see why that plan should not be available. If there has been delay on the part of the Government in settling all the details, that is a matter for the Government, not something with which the Parliament should be concerned. We are putting a referendum to, the wool growers on a certain plan and 1 think it is proper that we should know precisely what that plan is. I believe also that the plan should be annexed to the Bill. This, to me, seems completely incontestable. Therefore, I support the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Mackellar.
, - I could not follow the Minister. In point of fact, all he said was: “The Government has decided this, so obviously it is right”. If the Government wants to use the steamroller, it will push this through. Apparently the Socialists on the other side of the chamber, who are following their usual tactics of trying to hoodwink the people who have to vote, also will not support the amendment. More shame to them. I shall persist in this amendment even if I am the only one who supports it because I believe that it is right.
The Minister said that there are still some areas of uncertainty particularly in regard to finance, and that some details have not been fixed. These areas are important. I ask honorable members to remember the answer that was given to me earlier this week by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). He told rae that he did not know whether the granting of this finance by the banks to the Wool Board would restrict the ability of the banks to give over. draft limits to other primary producers and to wool growers. I think the Treasurer was perfectly right when he expressed some uncertainty. If there are these areas of uncertainty and the matter is undecided we should at least know what are the areas of uncertainty. We should also know what matters have been decided.
The Minister said: “ I cannot have a plan which would be inflexible “. This is what is covered by the fine print. The wool growers will be asked to sign an agreement in which the clauses in fine print will be lacking, but these can be filled in later. I did not follow the Minister for one moment when he said that under the terms of clause 4 he would give not a summary of the plan but a statement of the plan itself. This, unfortunately, is just plainly untrue. If the Minister were to give a statement of the plan, he could set it out in a definition. But, as he says, he cannot do this because he does not really know what all the details of the plan are. If he does not know the details he can give only a summary. I was being quite fair to the Minister. I consider that he was twisting words in his reply to me.
– The honorable member was not being fair.
– Well, the Minister will have the numbers, but I stand for a fair and square approach to the wool growers. They have rights, even if nobody in this Parliament is willing to stand up for them. The wool growers have the right to know exactly and precisely what they are to vote on. If what they are to vote on has not yet been exactly and precisely determined - and the Minister says it has not - the wool growers are entitled to know exactly how big are these areas of uncertainty.
I shall persist in this amendment, because I believe that this Committee would not be doing its duty to the wool growers if it allowed this uncertain and nebulous proposal to go forward in its present form. Is nobody in this chamber willing to stand up for the rights of wool growers? Is nobody here willing to stand up for the rights of this place - or the duties, rather than the rights of this place? Those duties impose on us an obligation to protect the people who elect us and who send us to represent them in this Parliament. We, Sir, when we vote, have a right to know what we are voting on. That right comes to us because, as members of this place, we are the representatives of the people who sent us here. Our rights come to us only because we are the trustees and the guardians of the people’s rights. I cannot understand why honorable members do not join vehemently in protesting against the proposal to put to a referendum which will result in a binding “ yes “ or “ no “ vote a scheme which is not yet fully formulated and the details of which - the fine print, as it were - are not yet known.
I believe that it would be right to accept the view of the Minister and to circulate a summary of the plan, as he proposes to do under the terms of clause 4. Whether or not he says that is what he proposes to do, it is, in point of fact, what he proposes to do. But we have this paramount and overriding duty to see that the full details of the plan, insofar as they are known, are made available for informed review and criticism. We also have the duty, rather than the right, to see that the areas of uncertainty - the things that the Minister says arc yet undetermined - are delineated and defined before the wool growers are called on to vote on the plan. This is a simple proposition. Will the Government accept it? I believe that the Government should and I hope that it will.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am constrained to make a few remarks because of the grandiloquent utterances of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I remember another occasion when he proposed an amendment - on a social services measure, 1 believe. I recall that on that occasion there was a chance of his amendment being carried. I recall how the deputy leader and the leader of the party to which he belongs came into the chamber and how the honorable member made a declaration similar to the one that he has made tonight. In effect, he said: “If I am the only one to support this, I will stand alone “. But, with his tail between his legs, he walked across the floor of the chamber and voted against the proposition.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member confine his remarks to the clause before the Committee.
– The honorable gentleman, in effect, has said: “ I challenge everybody in this chamber to stand with me on this issue. Even if there is not one other person here who will stand up for the wool growers, I, the member for Mackellar, will do so.” I remind the honorable member that on other occasions he has betrayed the principles for which he pretends to stand. I say that the imputation in his remarks cast an aspersion on the courage and sincerity of the Minister.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman: The member for Potter’s Field is an authority on the betrayal of principles, but he is quite wrong when he refers that type of behaviour to me as he has, and I ask that he withdraw his remark.
- Mr. Temporary Chairman, knowing the principles that the honorable member for Mackellar has supported in this chamber ever since he first sat on the back benches here, I say that he definitely has not betrayed the principles that he has supported down through the years. He is true to them tonight. He is putting on a grandstand play to the detriment of the whole of this Parliament and to the detriment of a proposal that is in the interests of the wool growers of Australia.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I want to say only k very few words. I state at the outset that I oppose the amendment.
– The honorable member was not opposed to it a few minutes ago.
– I did not say that I was not opposed to it. I am conscious of the fact that originally I was publicised in some quarters as having said that it would be a good idea to annex the details of the proposed plan as a schedule to the Bill. However, on reflection, I have reached the conclusion that although the proposal of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) may be theoretically sound, it is, in a practical sense, not necessary. I am prepared to accept the Minister’s assurance that the plan that will go out to the wool growers who are to vote on the scheme will be in substance that which he outlined in his speech at the second reading stage and in his supplementary statement. For these reasons I oppose the amendment.
.- Mr. Chairman, I believe that at this stage I should say just a few words. I want to point out for the benefit of the wool growers, particularly those who intend to vote in the affirmative and those who are wavering between the affirmative and the negative, that the sort of proposition postulated by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) hardly holds water. We have in the history of this Parliament precedents for the kind of proposal that the Government now envisages. One of the precedents, which was set by a notable character, is to be found in the arrangements that were made between the Labour Government and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation in 1948. At that time the Wheatgrowers Federation stood in a position equivalent to that of the Australian Wool Industry Conference today. As Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I put forward a wheat stabilisation scheme for the Wheatgrowers Federation to consider.
I met the executive of that body on several occasions. It made a variety of suggestions, some of which the Government accepted and some of which it rejected. Eventually, we arrived at a common agreement. There was no reference whatsoever to the contents of the bill which would follow the agreement between the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and the Commonwealth Government of the day. The Federation and the wheat growers of Australia showed 100 per cent, good faith in the word of the Commonwealth Government under Mr. Chifley. Likewise, every State Government, without the necessity for an amendment such as that suggested by the honorable member for Mackellar, trusted the Commonwealth Government.
The end result was an overwhelmingly affirmative vote by the wheat growers of this country. The good faith of the Government was never questioned. The honorable member for Mackellar, who normally is a very ardent supporter of this Government, has had access to the meetings of the party at which the Minister for Primary industry (Mr. Adermann) postulated a case for this particular scheme. The Minister has already reached agreement with the representatives of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, a body which, by a majority of 45 votes to 5, accepted the undertaking of the Government. The honorable member for Mackellar has been at the party meetings and has listened to the case put forward by the Minister and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). Now, in effect, he tells the Parliament of Australia that he has no faith in the Minister and the good word of the Government or anybody else, for that matter. The plain fact is that he is a stooge for all those interests in this country which are doing their damnedest to destroy the proposed wool reserve price scheme which will be of benefit to the nation and to the wool growers. I oppose his amendment.
.- As a member of the Australian Country Party - and I hope I am speaking on behalf of all of my colleagues - I resent the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) regarding the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). The Minister is a man who, not only in this Chamber but throughout Australia, has the highest reputation for straight shooting and straight dealing. I know that there are many honorable members, both on the Opposition side and on the Government side, who deal fairly and squarely, but it would be hard to find a man with a better reputation and a better character than the Minister. Reputation is what people think you are, but character is what you really are. The character of the Minister for Primary Industry cannot be questioned. How the honorable member for Mackellar, who has been in this place for a long time and in close association with the Minister for Primary Industry, could make such a statement is beyond comprehension.
.- It is not very often that I agree with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) but on this occasion I do. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has the incorrigible habit of saying nasty things about people. He has such a thick skin. He says these things, he gives us an Ipana smile on that ruggedly handsome face of his and then seems to forget all about them. I do not believe that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) would be dishonest in presenting a bill of this nature. He has stated quite unequivocally that this is not a bill for a floor price scheme at all. Its purpose is to allow the wool growers to decide what they want to do. That is the position. It is quite obvious that more than one honorable member in this House is pushing not his own personal opinion, but that of the Sydney “Daily Telegraph “. That fact is blatantly obvious. Since I represent an industrial area, I would not in any circumstances participate in a debate of this nature. I know very little about the subject matter. But I object to aspersions being cast on people who are trying to do the right thing by giving the wool growers the opportunity to decide at a referendum the scheme that they want.
.- I am a little amazed to find the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) trying to get the Government off the hook in this matter. Several members of his own party have said that they want to see this plan. If it has been formulated, why can we not see it? It is to be sent out to the wool growers. I accept the fact that the people who have to vote in this referendum are to have an opportunity to see exactly what they are voting for. But I object very strongly to being asked to vote on a proposal about which we are not told the precise details. The Government knows at the present time the nature of the plan that has been formulated. There should be no difficulty about letting us see it. I felt I had to say these few words because I would like to support my friend, the honorable member for Mackellar, who is upholding the right of members of this Parliament to see what they are voting on before they actually vote.
.- We have seen a remarkable performance this evening, first from the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and in particular from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). Yesterday he made this proposal in a speech in this House.
– I did not.
– The honorable member made the suggestion.
– - Order! I ask the Committee to come to order; otherwise the Chair will take action.
– I thought that the honorable member for Parkes admitted a few moments ago that he had suggested the proposal that a summary of the plan be annexed to the Bill. This evening he rather apologetically informed his friend, the honorable member for Mackellar, that he could not support him. This is a rather remarkable situation. The honorable member for Mackellar in his second reading speech made much of the point that he was standing up for the rights of the wool growers. I should have thought that his arguments against the scheme - and I do not think he denies that he opposes it - were more in line with the views of people who are opposed to the scheme and are not necessarily wool growers. I refer to the merchants who have been defrauding the wool growers over a number of years. I was rather amused that the honorable member for Mackellar should stand up for the rights of the wool growers.
The scheme, which is set out in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), covers eight foolscap pages. Maybe it is not entirely complete. Perhaps there are still some negotiations being conducted in respect of the financing of the scheme, in respect of the £50 million which the Government is to guarantee to make up the £80 million deemed necessary to finance the scheme. I certainly hope that before the proposition is put to the wool growers at a referendum they will be given an indication of the way in which the money will be raised.
– Can we not be told?
– The wool growers are the people who will decide one way or the other. The Government has given a guarantee, and, as I see it, it is up to the wool growers to determine whether the circumstances under which the money is to be raised are satisfactory to them. They can then vote one way or the other. I hope that while these negotiations are going on the arrangements under which the Australian Wheat Board is financed through the Reserve Bank will be considered, and I hope that the wool growers will get similar terms to those which have been extended to the wheat growers. I hope that it will not be necessary for the Wool Board to go to the private trading banks and raise money at 6 or 6i per cent, or some such rate. I also hope that the Minister will ensure that the summary that goes to the wool growers will contain some indication of how the money will be raised. I think the important thing is that the information shall go to the wool growers, not necessarily that it should be annexed to the plan. The plan covers eight pages. The honorable member for Mackellar makes a great deal about what is missing from the plan, but he has never actually suggested, at least in my hearing, just what additional information he wants.
– He wants to know the plan.
– The plan, as I see the position, is outlined in the second reading speech, and I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Mackellar say that the Minister had made an untrue statement.
– Not at all.
– He did. He said it was an untrue statement. This was a definite accusation against the Minister. I suggest that the honorable member for Mackellar re-think the situation. In my opinion he is not serving the interests of wool growers at all, but rather the interests of merchants and of the people who run that newspaper we fondly term the workers’ friend, the “ Daily Telegraph “.
.- I could not care less what imputations are made against whom, or who resents what. This matter is perfectly plain to me. We are calling upon wool growers to vote upon something. Upon what? In an election we vote according to the preferential system for Smith, Jones, Thomson or whoever it may be. In a constitutional referendum we vote on some clear proposition. Not only the wool growers but we, too, are entitled to know the question upon which the wool growers are to vote. This has to be made precise and, of course, because it is in the nature of the proposition, the Government must make it precise. Indeed, provision is made for this in the very Bill that is before us. Clause 4 says - the Minister shall deliver to the Chief Electoral Officer a document under his hand containing a statement of the Plan.
Of course the plan has to be prepared; of course the wool growers have to know upon what they are to vote, and of course we in this Parliament must know what it is that they are to vote upon. This is in the nature of the thing; it cannot be avoided. Where is the contention? It is simply as to whether we should know now or whether at some subsequent time, after the matter has gone through this Parliament and been decided upon imprecise information, and at some stage before the vote is taken, the plan should be made known in detail. So, all that we are asking - and I entirely support the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), in principle - is that that upon which the wool growers must vote be annexed to the Bill now. The only answer that has been given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is that some of the details have not yet been decided by the Government. These are rather important details as I understand them. They are details of the financial arrangements, and I think the financial arrangements are important not only to this Parliament but also to the wool growers.
Before the Bill leaves this Parliament - we should know what these details are. It is not a case of trusting Uncle Charlie or whoever it is. It is not a case of trusting anybody. It k the plain duty of this Parliament to know, before the Bill leaves it, upon what it is voting and precisely upon what the wool growers are to vote. As far as I am concerned that is all that is involved in this matter. It is the duty of the legislature - unless the legislature chooses to ignore its duty - to say to the Executive: “This we must know before the Bill leaves this Parliament “.
I am not concerned with all the imputations that have been made. These leave me completely unscathed. I am concerned with a question of principle, a question of the duty of this Parliament as a Parliament, and I am not prepared to sit idly by while the duties of this Parliament are ignored. I do not care whether the honorable member for Mackellar and I are the only two members prepared to stand up for these rights. There have been times in the history of the world when one man has been right and the rest of the world wrong. I am prepared to do what I believe is right and what certainly is right.
– I rise to defend the honour of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) against the rather snide and, I thought, unwarranted attacks made on his personal character and integrity by people who claim to be his supporters. Here we have three members sitting behind the honorable gentleman, claiming to be his supporters, gaining election into this honorable Parliament by pretending to be supporters of the Government, who have got up and had the audacity to tell this Parliament and the people that the Minister is a man whose word is not to be trusted and that because he is not to be trusted, because he is a dishonorable man - a man without integrity and a man whose word cannot be believed - we must play safe and put the specific proposal into the schedule to the Bill so that there can be no double-crossing on the part of the Minister. What a shocking thing to say. If the honorable gentlemen felt this way about the Minister why have they not done the decent, consistent and only sensible thing and taken appropriate action to have the Minister removed from office? If a Minister is dishonest, as the three gentlemen who have spoken against him would lead us to believe, he has no right to occupy a position as a Minister in any government.
The Minister is not a dishonest Minister. Whatever one might say about him on the political level no one can truthfully say that the Minister for Primary Industry is a dishonest man or a man whose veracity can be challenged by any member of this place. His word is bis bond. That has been my experience of him. I challenge anybody to get up here and cite one single occasion on which the Minister has broken his word; on which the Minister’s word has not been his bond. I have been closely associated with him for sixteen years. I disagree with his politics and I disagree with the policy of the party to which he belongs, but neither I nor anyone else who has known him can truthfully say that he is a man whose word cannot be trusted or taken for granted. The Minister is required by clause 4 of this Bill to give a statement to the Chief Electoral Officer. Clause 4 says -
For the purposes of this Act, the Minister shall-
– Order! I remind the honorable member that the only clause before the Committee is clause 3.
– I was only making a passing reference to it. Clause 4 provides an absolute assurance that the Minister will give to the Chief Electoral Officer details of the plan. There is no doubt that the honorable member for Parkes has misled our friend from Mackellar. He has been having cups of tea with this gentleman - morning and afternoon tea - regularly now for some weeks. I have fairly big ears, as you can see Sir, and they are also very effective, and I have overheard some of the conversation.
– An eavesdropper.
– Yes, but I could not help it. I have overheard some of the conversation between these two gentlemen, and it does not surprise me that the honorable member for Mackellar went a nasty greyish green colour when the honorable member for Parkes got to his feet and indicated that he was not all for the amendment. I can well understand the honorable member for Mackellar changing to that strange hue when he heard the remarks from his bosom friend who actually - clever Q.C. that he is, typical of his race - seduced the poor gentleman into believing that this was a wonderful thing. It is an old trick. You get a person to do things and then you leave him holding the baby. The honorable member for Mackellar is laughing, but I can assure him that he will get no maintenance. So it is not so funny. He will be left alone. It will be very interesting, when this division is taken, to see whether the honorable member and his two sparring partners, the honorable member for Bradfield and the honorable member for Gippsland are prepared to back up their voices with a vote.
– I take a point of order. I do not mind being mixed up with some people, but I must direct the attention of the honorable member to the fact that he means the honorable member for McMillan - not Gippsland.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– I did not wish to cast any reflection on the honorable member for Gippsland, though I am afraid 1 did so unwittingly. I do apologise and make the correction accordingly. We have known the Minister for Primary Industry in this Parliament long enough to know that the shocking, unprincipled attacks upon his integrity took the debate to probably the lowest standard ever witnessed in this Parliament. It is bad enough to hear this sort of nauseating attack upon a decent, honorable man when it is levelled against an opponent on the other side of the Parliament, but when it is levelled against a Minister who belongs to a party that the honorable members attacking him are supposed to support, it is absolutely beyond my comprehension.
– I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. This has gone far enough. Speaker after speaker from the Opposition side has said that I have been challenging the integrity of the Minister. What I have been doing is not that. What I have said is that the Minister himself says that the details of this plan are not yet formulated. I am saying that the wool growers have a right to know the details of the plan. I have not challenged the personal integrity of the Minister and honorable members on the other side had better realise that.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Wentworth’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 88
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
In the definition of “ woolgrower “, after “ kept “ insert “ by him “.
I give the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) full credit for this amendment. He came to me and discussed it with me, and I have been happy to agree to it.
– I thank the Minister.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
For the purposes of this Act, the Minister shall deliver to the Chief Electoral Officer a document under his hand containing a statement of the Plan, being a statement prepared by the Minister and approved by the Executive Committee of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, and that statement shall, for the purposes of this Act, be taken to be a full and correct statement of the Plan.
– I move -
Omit all words after “ Act “, insert “ there shall be a summary statement of the Plan in the form set out in the First Schedule to this Act “.
I will not repeat the arguments I used in dealing with previous clauses. This is a summary statement of the plan, whatever the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) may say to the contrary. It is not the full plan, but a summary statement of the plan. The Minister has told us that the statement sent out is likely to be the statement included in his second reading speech. If that is so - I take the Minister’s word that that is correct - there is surely no reason why it should not be included, as it should be, in the form of a schedule to this measure. This is the proper parliamentary form. If what the Minister has said is correct - for my part I take it as correct - there can be no reasonable objection to the course that I suggest. There is no reason why the correct parliamentary form should not be followed. If the Minister has the statement prepared, why should it not be put in as a schedule to this measure? I accept the Minister’s word that the statement he has given us will be the statement that is sent out, but I ask him to maintain the dignity of this Parliament. There is no substantial matter in the point I raise if the Minister’s word is to be taken, but there is the matter of form and procedure, and we should be jealous of proper forms and procedures. The clause as it stands at present reads -
For the purposes of this Act, the Minister shall deliver to the Chief Electoral Officer a document under his hand containing a statement of the Plan, being a statement prepared by the Minister and approved by the Executive Committee of the Australian Wool Industry Conference, and that statement shall, for the purposes of this Act, be taken to be a full and correct statement of the Plan.
Obviously it cannot be a full statement of the plan because the Minister has already told us that some parts of the plan are not settled. If these are still not settled there cannot be, in the nature of things, any full statement of the plan. In this regard, the Minister could agree that what he is sending out could properly be described as a “ summary statement “. I accept what the Minister has said. I accept that the statement in his second reading speech will be the statement sent out to wool growers. If this is true - and for my part I would agree that it is utw - what is the objection to following proper parliamentary forms instead of a long rigmarole about some plan to be delivered by the Minister to the Chief Electoral Officer and approved by somebody else? Why not let us have in the schedule to the Act the plan which has been set out by the Minister in his second reading speech? Why should not that be the statement that goes out to wool growers? I can see no objection to the course I suggest and I ask the Minister to accept it.
– This amendment is, in effect, substantially the same in substance as the amendment the Committee has just rejected, with one exception. The honorable member keeps referring to the statement I made in my second reading speech. I do not know whether he heard my addendum to what 1 said then - that the plan would be the one I mentioned in my second reading speech plus a statement of the financial position.
– Has that been fixed yet?
– Yes. We have accepted it and have indicated that if it is approved by the growers the Government will accept financial responsibility at short term bond rate interest. I have not the statement in my hand, but we will provide finance on the short term bond rate, with a minimum of 4i per cent.
– Is this the first £30 million?
– All the money that is required. There are to be further negotiations with the private trading banks and the Commonwealth Trading Bank. It may still be possible for them to participate in the lending if a satisfactory arrangement can be made. However, whether or no, the Government accepts the responsibility for providing the finance at the short term bond rate, with a minimum of 4i per cent. The reason for the minimum stipulation is that the short term bond rate varies at times. I speak subject to correction, but I believe it was £3 10s. per cent, and then increased to £5 10s. per cent, over the years. Because the interest rate on rural credits for other commodities through the Reserve Bank is at present 4± per cent., it is not suggested that the wool growers should get a cheaper rate than is applied to those other commodities. The plan is that which was agreed to by the Commonwealth and the Wool Industry Conference. This clause provides that it shall be agreed to by both parties to the agreement before it is submitted to the wool growers. The financial arrangements that the Commonwealth has guaranteed to provide are part of the plan that will be delivered to the Chief Electoral Officer. That is the factual statement of the position that will go out with the ballot papers. It will set out the contract agreed to between the two parties. Since we have already as a Committee dealt, in effect, with this, I must say that the Government cannot accept the amendment.
.- The question of the rate of interest likely to be charged on any money the wool authority may require should be completely clear.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member need not cheer prematurely. The Minister has given a reasonably good explanation. I seek to supplement that explanation and to ascertain whether my interpretation is correct. I assume that, in the early stages of the operation of the wool reserve plan, the sum of money required by the authority will be exceedingly small.
– I will tell the honorable member why. It can become a larger amount only if the wool authority is confronted with a situation where it has to buy a very large quantity of wool. A lot of wool can be bought for £10 million and it is one million to one, when it is seen by the world’s wool buyers that the authority has already bought £10 million of wool, that the buyers will think it is time they came to the party and kept the prices at a reasonable level. Should it so happen that £.10 million were required temporarily, pending the opportunity to sell some of the stock of wool - and this is the point I want the Minister to elucidate - I assume that finance would come from the Reserve Bank or Rural Bank at 4i per cent, on a daily balance plan.
In effect, interest would be required to be paid only on the exact amount of money outstanding at the particular date; on the current balance, as I think it is called. The Australian Wheat Board is guaranteed by the Minister annually the amount that is required by the Board to make an advance of, say, lis. a bushel for wheat on delivery. After the wheat has been delivered, frequently sales are buoyant. Very little money is required from the Rural Credits Department or the Reserve Bank. The Australian Wheat Board pays interest at 4i per cent, only on the daily balance outstanding. I assume that the financial arrangement for the Wool Marketing Authority will be of a similar character. Some people are inclined to believe that because initially the Government will be guaranteeing a sum up to £25 million, the Authority will be confronted with the necessity to borrow £25 million and pay interest at 41 per cent, on that amount, irrespective of whether it is using it.
In respect of working expenses, levy payments will be coming in all the time to build up a fund. I rose for the purpose of ascertaining from the Minister whether it is a fact that the money required by the Authority for its operations will be available at an interest rate of 41 per cent, payable only on the actual sum owing; on the current daily balance of the authority.
– It will not be borrowed from the Rural Credits Department.
– It will be from the Reserve Bank. I am not interested in whether it is from the Rural Credits Department. I am interested to learn what is the rate of interest and the amount on which it will be payable. Will interest be payable only on the daily balance?
– That is correct, but the present rate of interest payable on short term bonds is 5 per cent.
– I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that at present the Australian Wheat Board is borrowing money at 41 per cent, interest payable on the daily overdraft balance?
– That is correct.
– Why cannot a similar situation apply to the operation of the Wool Marketing Authority? After all, the security offered by the Authority will be as good as that offered by the Australian Wheat Board. In each case the guarantor is the same - the Commonwealth Government.
– If the Chairman will allow me to interpose, may I say that special provisions are applicable to the Rural Credits Department. Repayments must be made within a period of 12 months. This does not necessarily mean that the loan need be paid back within 12 months if it is decided to hold stocks longer. There is that difference.
– It is unlikely that the authority would be required to hold stocks. Even if interest is at the rate of 5 per cent., will it be payable on the daily balance?
– I suggest to the Minister that there is no reason in the wide world why the same interest terms of 41 per cent, available to the Australian Wheat Board should not be available to the Wool Marketing Authority. It is not relevant that the money may be required for a longer period. In the case of wheat, if the money is borrowed for six months and sales are depressed and revenue is not coming in, the loan may be required by the Board for a longer period. The same circumstances might apply to the wool authority. That is a detail.
– The honorable member is trying to mess around with the plan agreed to by the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
– No, I am not. I assume from the Minister’s statement that a few little financial tag ends need to be tidied up. We cannot be satisfied by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I think the wool growers should know that the facilities of the Reserve Bank are to be available on the same terms as are allowed to the Australian Wheat Board and also to the Australian Dairy Produce Board and, I think, to the Peanut Marketing Board. I wanted to know only whether that is so. I am trying to assist the Government and the people who are interested in this plan. I want them to know that they will not be landed with interest charges at an excessive rate on a sum that is guaranteed by the Government but which, from time to time, is not being used. Opponents of the plan are telling wool growers today that interest will be charged to the authority on the Commonwealth Government’s guarantee of £30 million, and in further cases £80 million, irrespective of whether it is used. That would be absurd.
.- A short while ago I commented that I could not understand why the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was trying to get the Government off the hook. He is assuming so many things that, in fact, it is clear that he does not understand what the plan is. He is not aware of its financial provisions and is asking the Government to tell him what is going on. I agree with him completely that the same terms that are given to the wheat industry should be given to the wool industry. Why not? But the honorable member for Lalor has just now indicated that he agrees with the four of us who crossed the floor of the chamber a little while ago and said that we wanted the plan to be set out in precise terms. The honorable member has indicated that he does not understand what the Minister wants and does not understand what the plan is. If the plan has been formulated and is to be sent out with ballot papers within the next two or three weeks so that people can vote on it in October or November, surely the honorable member for Lalor is just as entitled to know what is going on as I am.
– J say to the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) that I understand the situation perfectly. I point out to him that when the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act wai enacted it would have been quite impossible to insert in the Bill a schedule saying that the interest rate should be so much and should not exceed 4i per cent, on money borrowed from the Commonwealth Bank. It would have been quite impracticable. These things have to be negotiated from time to time. I was seeking to ascertain from the Minister whether the point of view I put to him is correct. He has given a pretty good explanation. The honorable member for McMillan cannot quibble with that. I want the people outside the Parliament to know what is correct. The Minister has confirmed that what I have said is absolutely correct.
.- The extraordinary scene which has just occurred between the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is surely evidence of the need to do something about the clause before the Committee. I do not for one moment consider that the honorable member for Lalor has the same intelligence as the average wool grower but he is, of course, better informed on this matter. He has had access to a lot of documents, yet a moment ago he rose to cite a rate of interest which the Minister says is wrong and which, as far as I understand it, is wrong. He cited a figure as the top Government guarantee which, as far as I understand it, is also wrong. Yet the honorable member is supposed to be fully informed on these matters.
I do not want to put it, as I have said, that the honorable member for Lalor is intelligent. That is the last thing I would want to do, but he does have access to figures and information to a degree to which the average wool grower cannot possibly aspire. He has had the inside running, but still he has his facts wrong. The Minister has said this. It is clear that the plan should be set out more clearly.
In the light of the Minister’s explanation and the fact that he wants to make some amendments to his statement - to put in the financial provisions, or at any rate to put in the limits between which the financial provisions must lie - I would think it is clear that the correct thing to do is to see that the amendment is put in another place; that is, when the legislation goes to the Senate. The Minister will then have the weekend to consider whether he should draw up a proper amendment. He will be able to have the amendment put in in the Senate and to see that the Bill is made clear. The wool growers will then know what they are voting on. Before the Bill leaves this House, honorable members have a right and a duty to see that the statement is clear and is free from any of the ambiguities which seemed to have confused and addled the honorable member’s mind - if indeed one can speak of further addling the mind of the honorable member for Lalor.
That is all I have to say. I think that the Minister might take the weekend to look at this matter. I hope that he will see that the requisite amendment is inserted when the Bill is before the Senate so that this Parliament can do what it should do and that is protect the interests of the wool growers and ensure that they get a fair statement of the plan on which they will vote. Whatever my own personal views may be on this - whether I believe that they should vote “Yes” or “No”- I realise that the decision lies with them. They are the proper people to make the decision; not me. My responsibility m this Parliament is simply to see that they have the opportunity to make the decision on the full facts, fairly and squarely, knowing what they are voting on and voting in a proper and fair way.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) may feel that he is not able to accept the statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry. (Mr. Adermann) about interest rates and finance, but I accept it.
– That is not the point.
– As far as I am concerned, the Minister has outlined the terms under which the initial finance will be made available to the Wool Marketing Authority and that is good enough for me and I should think it would be good enough for the wool growers and good enough for this House. There is one point, however, that I would like to have clari fied. We and the wool growers are entitled to this, of course. The Minister has made a statement in which he set the maximum interest rate at 5 per cent, for the initial finance - that is the money that will be required in the first year or two to buy in wool before the wool growers contribute their £30 million over a period of seven years.
– The maximum rate is the short term bond rate.
– Very well. Will these circumstances apply to the finance that is raised over and above the £30 million after the seven years have passed? Will these financial terms apply to any additional loan that the Government may have to give? I think the wool growers and members of the Parliament are entitled to know this. We have cleared up the query about the short term finance that will be available until the wool growers raise the £30 million. But what will happen after that? I think we are entitled to know this.
– Of course we are.
– That is all we are asking.
– Well, I am willing to have the Minister make a statement here and now and I will accept his statement. Apparently the honorable members who are interjecting will not. They want a provision put into the legislation. I am prepared to accept the Minister’s say-so now.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) dealt with a matter I raised when we were debating an earlier amendment. I fail to see why wool growers should be asked to pay a rate of interest that is higher than the rate paid by wheat growers, and the rate the wheat growers have been paying for a long period. The Minister said that the wool growers may require finance for a longer period than 12 months and wheat growers would not. I do not think that suggestion has any bearing on the point. If the wheat growers are able to get money at a low rate of interest from the bank, the wool growers should be able to do so too. Wool production is a matter of national importance, just as wheat production is, and I should think that the Government would arrange finance for both industries on the same basis. I would appreciate the
Minister making a statement so that - we will know what will happen after the wool growers have raised the £30 million over a period of seven years by a 1 per cent, levy. I want to know in what circumstances the guarantee will be given.
– I will read part of the statement I made to the House on Tuesday last. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) does not seem to know anything about it. I do not know whether he was present when I made it. I made this statement before the resumption of the second reading debate on the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill. I said that statements prepared by those who favour the proposed .plan and those who oppose it would be distributed with the ballot papers. I then said -
I would also like to inform the House of the stage which has been reached in finalising the financial arrangements for the proposed reserve price scheme. The Government has decided that it will finance the proposed scheme at the outset when no wool grower funds will be available. The interest charges on Government advances for the buying-in of wool will be the short term bond rate, which is variable, but with a minimum of Ai per cent, per annum. The levy to be paid by wool growers for their capital contribution to the proposed scheme, that is, £30 million over 7 years, will commence from the start of the scheme. As growers’ funds accumulate, the principle will apply that these funds, as available, will be used first before recourse is had to Government finance.
I added -
Further negotiations are to take place with trading banks regarding the possibility of their participation in the financing pf the proposed scheme.
– The present rate is 5 per cent, and not the 4i per cent, that is in the addled mind of the honorable -member for Lalor. We understand this.
– So that there would be no misunderstanding, I went on to say -
I have said that the interest charges on Government advances for the buying-in of wool will be the short term bond rate, but with a minimum of 41 per cent. The short term bond rate at present is 5 per cent.
I did not want to leave the impression with the House that the present rate was 4) per cent.
– The Minister is. quite right, but the honorable member for Lalor did not understand that
– I said further-
It is not suggested that the present rate will be 4i per cent. That rate will be the minimum. The rate will vary, as it has varied in the past from time to time between £3 10s. and £5 10s. per cent, per annum.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr.
Pollard) asked me -
Will the money be available at the same rate as currently applies in the case of the Australian Wheat Board?
I replied -
It will be available at the short term bond rate, which at present is S per cent.
The honorable member for Lalor said -
The Wheat Board is getting finance at 4 per cent.
I said -
Under the rural credits scheme.
My friend said -
No, from the Reserve Bank.
I replied -
Advances under the rural credits scheme are made through the Reserve Bank. The Government will provide finance at the short term bond rate, which is variable.
.- I think I can understand the problem that confronts the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) on this question of finance. The problem is created entirely by the Minister’s desire to do the very best that can be done for the wool industry, within the limitations of the availability of finance with which the Government and all of us must live. Some confusion apparently exists because the Reserve Bank, through its Rural Credits Department, makes money available to the wheat industry at 4i per cent. Some honorable members seem to think that this rate should apply to the finance that is provided for the buying-in of wool. The problem, of course, is that money made available through the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank is for a term of 12 months only. Although the Australian Wheat Board has not run into any difficulties because of this, concern has been caused in years gone by. This concern has not been evident in recent years because the Board has been selling its stocks quickly.
The whole success of this reserve price plan depends tremendously on the ability of the Wool Marketing Authority to firmly hold stocks of bought-in wool. That is fundamental to the success of this plan. Not only must the Authority have the ability to hold the wool, but it must be common knowledge throughout the world that the Authority can hold the wool for a long period of time. There may well be circumstances that we are unable to foresee at this time and that we are unable to state precisely. None of us has the great advantage of having a crystal ball into which he can look and see the future. So it is necessary that the finance to back the Wool Marketing Authority, should it be necessary for the Authority to borrow money apart from the funds accumulated from the growers’ contributions, should be made available not for a limited period of time as in the case of the money that is made available to the Australian Wheat Board. It may be necessary for the Authority to hold wool for a longer period than 12 months, which is the limitation set by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank.
I understand that an assurance has been given that the Minister for Primary Industry and the Cabinet are presently sorting out this problem. The Government has given an assurance in the meantime that finance will be found for the Wool Marketing Authority, if necessary, at an interest rate not exceeding the short term bond rate ruling at the time when the money is required. That explanation should be satisfactory to anybody who has a general goodwill towards the implementation of the wishes of the wool growers. I point out, however, that if I were a person who wanted to see this proposal defeated and were anxious to create as much doubt, as much suspicion and as much uncertainty as I possibly could in the minds of the wool growers, I would hammer this question as much as I possibly could. But I am not such a person.
I am prepared to accept the assurances, as I understand them, that this money will be made available on the best possible terms and that the terms will be made known to the growers and to the Chief Electoral Officer before one ballot paper goes to a grower. When a grower receives his ballot paper he will know exactly what the financial arrangements are, including what rate of interest will be paid. As so many people have said so often during the last three days, the growers are the people who have to decide this matter and who have the right to decide this matter. The growers will have that information long before they ever get to the point where they need to mark ballot papers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Referendum).
– I should like some elucidation by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) of a question in regard to sub-clause (6.) of this clause, which refers to the date of the close of the poll or referendum. None of us wants to have this matter spun out or delayed. But surely we want the wool growers to have a reasonable time in which to consider the matter after they have received the statement of the plan, after they have seen the details of it and after they have seen the cases prepared for and against it. I understand that those cases will not be prepared until the end of this month and that it will take two or three weeks after that to have them printed and despatched to the growers. So the growers will not start to receive their ballot papers until, at the earliest, some time towards the second half of October. I am not certain of the exact dates. Perhaps the Minister could tell me something about the timetable. I believe that it is essential that the growers have a few weeks - I do not ask for any length of time that would delay their decision on this matter, but a reasonable time - in which to consider the implications of what they are doing, whether they are voting yes or no.
– How long?
– A few weeks would be enough. I proposed to ask the Minister what he thought was a reasonable timetable. If he can give us a satisfactory assurance about the timetable then I will have nothing further to say. If he is not in a position to do that, I think we should put into sub-clause (6.) a provision that the prescribed date shall not be earlier than, say, 30th November 1965. I am willing to listen to arguments that the prescribed date should be a little later or a little earlier. All I am concerned with is that the growers should have a few weeks - not a long time - in which to consider the implications of what they are doing, after they have received their ballot papers and the cases for and against the plan, and be able to cast their votes in the full assurance that they have before them as many of the facts as are available. Of course, I am sorry that they will not have before them the full plan and the fine print. That is of the nature of things. But, within the limited knowledge of the real nature of the proposal that the Government is allowing them, let them at least know what they are doing, whether they are voting yes or no, and let them have a reasonable amount of time in which to consider the matter. I do not say that they should have a great deal of time. A few weeks would be sufficient.
– The position is that if this Bill is passed without amendment of the dates and times involved the cases to be prepared by both sides have to be returned to the Minister for Primary Industry by 1st October. Then we will need to get the cases printed so that we can deliver them to the Chief Electoral Officer for him to send out with the ballot papers. I cannot see that happening in under a fortnight. So, 15 th or 16th October is possibly the earliest date on which they would go out. Then, under clause 13 the voters must have at least 30 days before the poll closes. So the growers will receive their ballot papers, together with the cases for and against the plan and the factual statement that will be sent out, and then will have a full 30 days in which to consider the matter and return their ballot papers.
– That timetable is not too bad, but it might be reasonable to give them another fortnight.
– I do not want to rush anybody. I have not sought to rush anybody. The people who are preparing the “ No “ case asked for an extra week and I granted that request. I have tried to meet the position on all sides.
.- I wish to make a few remarks on the matter raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It is a matter of concern to members of the Parliament to see such important legislation introduced evidently without full and proper discussion among the members of the Government parties. The fact that this question has been raised again by the honorable member for Mackellar - who undoubtedly is seeking to delay the passage of this Bill and the holding of the referendum, for reasons known only to himself and the few honorable members who support him - indicates that on every issue, including the one that is now under discussion, he and his colleagues who doubt the wisdom of the legislation refuse to accept the assurances given by Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann).
It must be a matter of grave concern to the people of this country that the Minister is not trusted by the honorable member for Mackellar and other honorable members who sit behind the Minister. They doubt everything in this Bill, and particularly the clause that is now under discussion, unless chapter and verse are written into the Bill. The Committee is entitled to know whether the honorable member for Mackellar raised this issue in his party room when this matter was discussed. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has said that this legislation was introduced without any back bench Government supporter knowing about it. Today we have the spectacle of certain Government supporters endeavouring to delay this legislation which is so vital to the wool industry. They have cast doubts on the political integrity of the Minister for Primary Industry. They have refused to accept his assurances. In every possible way they have endeavoured to create doubts in the minds of the wool growers as to the soundness and integrity of the Minister’s intentions. This is not good for the industry or for the country.
I would like to know why the honorable member for Mackellar did not raise these matters in his party room. If the honorable member raised this matter in the party room, then, having regard to the paucity of support that he has from his side of the chamber, he should behave in a democratic manner and accept the will of the majority instead of indulging in limelighting tactics in this place. The Minister has said that the ballot papers and the cases for and against the plan will be distributed by 30th October, but this assurance is not satisfactory to the honorable member. I am in agreement with the statement of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey) - we certainly have some queer political bed mates in this debate - that if you wish to delay the measure, to create doubt and uncertainty in the minds of wool growers and to confuse them, you go about it in the way the honorable member for Mackellar and others have acted tonight. lt is awful to see the unity of the Government parties destroyed over this issue of the reserve price. I say that more in sorrow than in anger. We have been led to believe that the Government parties formed one big happy family, walking arm in arm through the political world, but we find that there are a few black sheep in the fold.
– What about getting back to the clause under discussion?
– Honorable members will notice how Government supporters want me to get back quickly to the clause under discussion as soon as I begin to refer to the rift that exists within their ranks. I am entitled to remind the people of Australia that this legislation evidently was not discussed in detail in the party room and that the appearance of unity given by the Government parties in the Parliament does not exist in fact. The Minister should be grateful to members of the Labour Party for defending him in the face of bitter attacks by men pledged to give him their loyal support but who have walked out on him.
– Mr. Chairman, I raise a point of order. Have the honorable member’s remarks anything to do with the clause under discussion?
– I would say that the honorable member’s remarks are as relevant to the clause under discussion as most of the other remarks passed during the course of the debate tonight.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your wise ruling. I would not like it to be thought that members of the Opposition doubt the integrity, political or otherwise, of the Minister. When all is said and done, he is the uncle of Dr. Rex Patterson, who will be the Labour candidate for a northern Queensland electorate at the next election. I do not say that the Minister’s judgment is always good or that he is the best Minister ever to handle matters relating to primary industry. That honour is reserved for the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). But on an issue that means so much to the wool industry we on this side of the chamber will not sit idly by and allow a few people to snipe from the back benches - people who, when the chips are down, are not prepared to stand and be counted.
Tonight we have seen the honorable member for Mackellar vote to gag the Opposition. He will do so again on this clause. If this matter is so vital to the wool industry, why did the honorable member for Mackellar vote to gag members of the Opposition who wanted to put a case for the growers? This is sham fighting, as the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) earlier described it. This is a sham fight designed not only to destroy the political integrity of the Minister, who happens to be a Country Party Minister, but also a delay and if necessary defeat this legislation. If I may say so, it is a pity that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) is not here tonight to put his point of view behind that of the Government as to why this legislation has been introduced. I have made those brief comments because I could not allow to pass unnoticed the attack by Government supporters on the Minister for Primary Industry, the attempts that have been made to delay this measure, and the efforts by a few members of the Liberal Party, for reasons best known to themselves, to prevent this very sound legislation from going to the people concerned.
– If there is one thing more than any other that is calculated to confuse the wool growers, it is the extraordinary attitude of the Opposition. The Opposition has spent many years - indeed, ever since I came into the Parliament - endeavouring to impugn and to attack every member of the Ministry. That has been its general attitude. Now suddenly, for very confusing reasons, Opposition members give the impression that butter would not melt in the mouths of the Ministers. I do not doubt the integrity of the Minister for Primary Industry, and I have never done so. But I do say that the wool growers are entitled to know the facts and to have time to digest them. For that reason, it seems to me that the Minister has made a very reasonable statement. He has told us that the case will not be received before 1st October, that it will not be printed and sent out until the middle of October, and that from that time 30 days must elapse before the close of the poll. I would have preferred another fortnight. But this is a matter of some kind of choice. The Minister may well find that another fortnight is desirable. If the time lapse is to be only 30 days, I think it will be a little short.
– The mechanics may make it desirable.
– That may be so. The Minister’s statement, which is clear and relates only to one ballot and not to a complicated procedure, is satisfactory and sufficient.
I have not sought for one moment to delay the holding of this referendum. I believe only that the referendum should be put in clear terms, that the wool growers should know what it is about, and that they should have a reasonable period of a few weeks, which I understand the Minister is now going to accord them, in which to digest the issues upon which they are called upon to vote. For the Opposition to say that I am deliberately trying to delay the referendum is quite silly and quite contrary to the facts. I believe the referendum should be held and that it should be held at the earliest possible moment, consonant with its being fair and square. I believe that the decision rightly should be made by the wool growers who will vote at this referendum.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 5a.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “5a.- (1.) If, on or before the first day of October, 1965, there is received by the Minister either or both of the following: -
an argument in favour of the Plan, consisting of not more than two thousand words, authorized by the Executive Committee of the Australian Wool Industry Conference;
an argument against the Plan, consisting of not more than two thousand words, authorised by the organisations and companies specified in the next succeeding sub-section, or by a majority of those organisations and companies, the Minister shall cause a pamphlet to be printed containing the argument or arguments, and each ballot paper sent or delivered to an enrolled person shall be accompanied by a copy of the pamphlet. “ (2.) The organisations and companies referred to in the last preceding’ sub-section are the following: -
The Committee for the Retention and Improvement of the Free Wool Market;
The Graziers’ Association of New South Wales;
The Graziers’ Association of Victoria;
The Graziers’ Association of Riverina;
The Stockowners’ Association of South Australia;
The Pastoralists’ Association of West Darling;
Australian Mercantile, Land and Finance Company Limited;
Pitt Son and Badgery Limited; and
Winchcombe Carson Limited.”.
Clause 6. (1.) Subject to this section, a person is entitled to vote at the referendum if, at the time of voting, he is enrolled on the roll for a State prepared under this Act and is a wool-grower who -
– I move-
Omit paragraph (b), insert the following paragraph - “ (b) has owned not less than 300 sheep at alltimes from and including the sixteenth day of September One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five.”
The new paragraph will clarify the position. As it stands, the paragraph is somewhat vague.
– I thank the Minister for Primary Industry very much for accepting this amendment, which I put forward to him. In conjunction with the amendment of the definition of “ wool grower “, which I also put forward, it closes one of the loopholes of the Bill. There was a very serious defect in the drafting of the Bill and I thank the Minister for accepting the proposal I have put forward which, in point of fact, closes up one of the loopholes. I would have hoped that the Minister would have accepted rather more of the proposals I put forward, but I do thank him for what he has done.
– I thank the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for
Wakefield (Mr. Kelly). They are the honorable members who made the submissions to me on this matter andI give them the credit.
– What is the date?
– The words proposed to be inserted are -
Has owned not less than 300 sheep at all times from and including the 16th day of September 1965.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9. (1.) Subject to this section, a person who is not enrolled in accordance with the last preceding section is entitled to apply for enrolment on the roll for a State if he is ordinarily resident in the State and is a wool-grower who -
– I move -
In sub-clause (1.) omit paragraph (b), insert the following paragraph - “ (b) has owned not less than 300 sheep at all times from and including the 16th day of September 1965.
This is a similar amendment to the one that has just been agreed to. It is moved in order to keep the legislation consistent.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- I refer to clause 13, sub-clause (2.) which reads -
As far as practicable, ballot-papers shall be transmitted under this section at least thirty days before the date on which the poll closes.
I want to suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) that he give consideration to moving, in another place, an amendment along the following lines: Insert after the word “ section “ in sub-clause (2.), and before the word “at” in the same line, the words “ to reach the wool grower”. This would mean that the sub-clause would read -
As far as practicable, ballot papers shall be transmitted under this section to reach the wool grower at least thirty days before the date on which the poll closes.
My reason for putting this suggestion forward is that in many of the far-flung areas of Australia there are places where there is a mail delivery only once every two weeks. This particular section ties up with subclause (6.) of clause 5 which states that only those votes received by a deputy returning officer before the prescribed time shall be counted. As clause 13 stands at present, the ballot paper could be transmitted 30 days before the date on which the poll would close, but it might not reach the wool grower who has to vote for three weeks after it is transmitted. As a result, the wool grower’s vote would not be counted because it would not get back to the deputy returning officer in time. The position must be clear to the Minister and I ask him to give consideration to my suggestion.
– I think that there is some merit in what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) has said. I appreciate his suggestion but I do not think it is a practical proposition to expect the chief electoral officer to determine just how long it will take every ballot paper to reach its destination, and I do not know what legal implications there might be if he did not comply strictly with the Act. I assure the House that I will not be niggardly about the 30 days. I would rather allow a couple of extra days so as to ensure that there is adequate time for the ballot papers to be returned by the date on which the poll closes.
– There is one matter related to clause 12 to which I wish to direct the attention of the Committee. It is not of the same order of importance as the matters we discussed earlier, and involves a small detail which might be corrected when the Bill is in the Senate. Honorable members will note that under clause 12, partners are each credited with a proportionate share of the profits of the partnership as determining their share in the assets or the number of sheep which will qualify them for a vote. It is not a matter of great importance because it affects only a few people but even a small injustice should be removed if possible. It may be that a small partnership produces- 19 bales. If there are two partners, neither of them will be able to vote. It may be that a partnership produces 27 bales and because there are three partners, none of them will be able to vote. In some cases quite big partnerships might be deprived of a vote altogether. That would be a rare case. It would not be commonplace but it might happen and even a minor injustice is worth amending. I suggest that we might add a provision to clause 12 along lines I shall read to the Committee and then perhaps the drafting could be improved a little and the necessary amendment made in the Senate. I suggest that clause 12 be amended by adding the words -
Provided that any two or more partners may elect to be jointly enrolled and if their total proportionate share of the profits of the partnership so qualify them, they may be jointly enrolled and cast a joint vote.
This would remove the slight but perhaps significant injustice which resides in the present drafting of clause 12. In general, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has given an assurance that the rolls will be on exhibition. I know the rolls will be shown in each electorate but will they be on exhibition in time and under conditions so that people may have a chance to know that they are on the rolls, if they are entitled to vote, and also will have a chance to see that people who are not entitled to vote are removed from the rolls? I know the Minister has given an assurance about the exhibition of the rolls and I would like to know if they are to be exhibited in time for these checks to be made.
I am a little worried also about the provisions, which I know are not without precedent, under which the rolls are to remain open - they are to be open ended rolls - until the end of the vote. Honorable members will know that after a Parliamentary election we close the roll before the voting takes place. I am not going to press this but the Minister might have a look at it and see whether appropriate amendments could be made because in the present very loose arrangement regarding the rolls, there is a good deal of elasticity and perhaps even scope for error or something of a little more consequence than error. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether this might be arranged later. I am merely concerned that the rolls be as complete and as fair as possible.
.- As we are dealing with the remainder of the Bill, I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry about a matter which does not appear to be mentioned in the Bill. Under the referendum system there is generally a provision that the issue is decided by a majority of the votes cast in a majority of the States. Will a majority of the valid votes cast decide the issue in this referendum?
.- I shall deal with the last question first. If the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will look at the bottom of the first page of the Bill he will see the answer. I refer to the passage which reads - it is the intention of the Government to regard the plan as having been approved by the wool-growers of Australia if a majority of the wool-growers who vote at the referendum held under this Act approve the plan.
As to the question raised by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), let me point out that we have arranged for a contract printer to print and supply the rolls. I am advised that the lists will be available for inspection as from the date when the ballot papers are distributed.
– They will need to be sent out early.
– They will need to be sent out a few days earlier in order to ensure that they reach the electoral officers in time. The question of partnerships was given a great deal of consideration by the Australian Wool Industry Conference, and discussions were held with the Australian Primary Producers Union. The decision arrived at is that partners shall vote as individuals and not as a unit. If we went further than that, it would mean that we would be letting them have it both ways, I have a list of considered objections but suffice it to say that I cannot accept the proposals because it is contrary to the agreement made with the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
The matter evoked considerable discussion in the Conference and the Government has accepted this recommendation.
.- I am very sorry to have to repeat something which has been said before but I am prompted to do so by the fact that the Minister has just said that partners should be allowed to have separate votes just because they happen to be partners. I remind him that there are many partnerships, particularly on small holdings, although not entirely on small holdings, in which the members of the family, whether the wife or the children, have been cut in purely and simply for income tax purposes. They are not wool growers. This means that people on such holdings will have the benefit of being able to cast perhaps two, three or four votes, and probably they will vote as the principal member of the family instructs them. However if a family decides to form not a partnership but a company, only one vote can be cast. To my mind, this is completely unjust.
I believe this is done for the purpose of enabling the vote to be weighted. It may be argued that the vote could be weighted either way. But those who favour the wool reserve prices plan apparently think that these smaller growers will vote in favour of the plan because they will think that as the plan is to have Government backing of £50 million they might as well be in it. That is a common thing in primary industry. However, I feel that the provision relating to partnerships is an unfair weighting of the vote either for the plan or against it. How this can be overcome, I would not like to be asked to say. But if companies are to be limited to one vote, partnerships should be limited to one vote too.
– Mr. Chairman, speaking finally to these clauses, might I say that my attitude in regard to them is the same as my attitude to the rest of the Bill, namely, that I have been endeavouring to see only that the wool grower gets a fair vote. I have been subjected during this debate to a great many smears, to misrepresentations and to abuse from the members of’ the Opposition. I have succeeded in having three amendments made to the Bill. I hoped that one or two of the other amendments which I was pressing would have been accepted. I hope that when the Bill comes up for mature consideration in another place the force of the arguments that I have been putting forward will be properly appreciated, in a perhaps calmer atmosphere. I have been endeavouring to uphold the duties of this House, which are to represent the electors and to see that every section of the electorate gets a fair go.
I do not accept the smears which have been put on me unworthily and by some unworthy people. I do not accept the misrepresentation that I have been concerned in a personal attack on the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). Instead, I have taken the Minister’s words and I have endeavoured to draw out from them a logical and rational conclusion. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I think it was, said that we on this side should always vote as a united body in this Parliament. Sir, the party to which I belong is not a caucus party. It does not require that its members should slavishly give their vote in the way that a caucus decides. We in the Liberal Party have some pride in our freedom of action in this House. Honorable members will know that I have never abused that freedom. I have always endeavoured to cast my vote in the way in which I thought was best having regard to all the circumstances of the situation.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows -
s asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What information has he with regard to subsidies, maintenance or taxation allowances, or other forms of assistance paid or allowed by other countries to assist their shipbuilding and shipping industries?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
This question is identical with one previously asked by the honorable member and answered on 23rd May 1963, by the then Minister for Shipping and Transport. Since it does not relate to the administration of a Commonwealth department it is respectfully suggested the honorable member might seek any additional information he requires on this matter from the same sources as would be available to departmental officers.
b asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information -
Trans-Australia Airlines has applied for a licence to operate a Perth-Darwin airline service. The application is still being considered, but the complicating factor is that the route forms part of the total developmental network operated, necessarily under subsidy, by MacRoberson Miller Airlines. Competition for the trunk route traffic would very obviously increase the overall subsidy requirement, so that this is one of the matters that will have to be taken to account in considering the T.A.A. licence application.
Importation of Machinery from Japan. (Question No. 1210.)
b asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The State quota represents the number of two year full-time awards. However, in some States technical scholarships are awarded for part-time or full-time courses and in either circumstance the course may be longer or shorter than the equivalent of two years full-time study. Therefore, the actual number of scholarships awarded in a State may vary from the quota. For example, a three year full-time course is counted as li scholarships and a four year part-time course is counted as 1 scholarship. Courses approved in a particular State and the method of selection of scholarship winners were decided after consultation with and in agreement with the State education authorities. In most States the approved courses are at the certificate or technician level.
In New South Wales, because the background of students entering approved courses varied widely, and because provision was made for students to be considered after they had completed the first year (Stage 1) of an approved technical course, selection was based on a number of examinations. The selection examinations were - (0 Leaving Certificate;
In South Australia, two examinations were used for selection purposes - the Public Examinations Board Intermediate Examination and the Intermediate Technical Examination conducted by the Education Department. This was done in order to enable students from either stream to sit for a scholarship in the other stream.
In New South Wales no specified number of scholarships was allocated to each of the examination categories listed above. A marginal mark for each examination category was determined and candidates with marks above this were offered scholarships. This marginal mark was recommended either by the Director of Technical Education or by the Director-General of Agriculture. Quotas of scholarships for various types of courses were determined on the basis of the estimated number of eligible candidates in the courses concerned. In South Australia there was one coordinated list and no separate allocation of awards on each of the two examination categories.
The same arrangement is being adopted for the scholarships to be awarded for 1966. The information statements have been distributed in three States already and the statements for the remaining States will be distributed in the near future to tie in with the closing dates for scholarship applications in those States. An example of the way in which the availability of these scholarships is brought to the notice of interested persons was the advertisement for the New South Wales quota of scholarships which was inserted in the Sydney newspapers on 25th August by the New South Wales Technical Education authorities. The details given in the advertisement were a summary of the information provided in the information statement prepared by the Commonwealth.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are as follows -
The honorable member will know that in place of the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme there will be in future, two schemes - the Commonwealth University Scholarship Scheme and the Commonwealth Advanced Education Scheme. Some courses not given at universities were previously approved under the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme but, in future will be provided for under the scheme of Commonwealth Advanced Education Scholarships. Teachers’ college courses are included among these courses. 1 and 3. As far as the Commonwealth University Scholarships Scheme is concerned the conditions which applied under the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme will continue to apply in future - i.e. a student who has completed an approved university course can only be considered for a scholarship to complete another university course in special circumstances.
It is not the intention of the Government however, that students who have completed a course now approved under the Commonwealth Advanced Education Scholarship Scheme should be excluded from applying for Commonwealth University Scholarships. Therefore, a teacher who has completed a teachers’ college course will not in future be. ineligible for that reason to apply for a university scholarship. Nor will a student who has completed any other course approved under the Commonwealth Advanced Education Scholarship Scheme be ineligible on that acount to apply for a Commonwealth University Scholarship. Some other consideration, such as a bond to a State Education Department, might prevent such students from taking up university scholarships.
Under the Commonwealth Scholarships Scheme, as a general rule, students who completed an approved course with or without a scholarship were not eligible to receive a scholarship for another approved course.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Statement I below shows the date of commencement of operation of Commonwealth bounties and subsidies payable to Australian industries. Statement II shows the annual expenditure on each of these bounties and subsidies during the years 1949- 50 to 1964-65 inclusive, and estimated expenditure during 1965-66.
b asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
I understand the intention behind this condition to be that students should not take part in public argument about the policies of any other Colombo Plan government. It does not limit their freedom of discussion among their associates and, indeed, one of the benefits received both by visiting students and Australian students from the Colombo Plan is the opportunity they have for the exchange of views as friends on any matter of interest to them. The condition, to which they and their own governments have subscribed, applies only to public argument of -a kind that could be regarded as “ engaging in political activities “.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650916_reps_25_hor47/>.