27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species, is now so low that they may become extinct; there are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist; as a tourist attraction the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; and it is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Comonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Petition received and read.
Mr BRYANT presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials have been depleted by the effects of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes; their numbers have dropped to a numerical level which leaves their survival in doubt; no laws are adequate to protect these animals, in such a vast country. Only a uniform law, and a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes, can assure the survival of the kangaroo. The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in this urgent matter.
-Order! Any remarks by an honourable member after he has presented a petition are distinctly out of order.
The honourable member for Wills knows that.
Mr WENTWORTH presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy; none of the Australian States have sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each State, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem; it is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
Mr BENNETT presented from certain citizens of Western Australia a petition showing that the recent increase in the interest rate on Government bonds has caused hardship to the thousands of home buyers throughout the State due to the subsequent increase in interest rates on mortgage contracts by home lending institutions.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter.
Petition received and read.
Mr REYNOLDS presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community. The shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force; in advanced countries pre-school and after-school education are recognised as essential aspects of education for alt children.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable State Education Departments and local government authorities to establish preschool centres; after-school centres; and facilities for training the staff for such centres.
Petition received and read.
Mr KEOGH presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that (a) the Comonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; (b) a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; (c) more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; (d) Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; (e) only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; and (f) nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the - finance for improvement come from the National Government.
The petitioners pray that the House make legal provision for a joint CommonwealthState inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants. Aborigines, rural and inner suberban dwellers and handicapped children; the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
– In addressing a question to the Treasurer I refer to 2 matters arising from the Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner recently tabled in this House. The first is an unsatisfactory aspect of superannuation business, namely the high rate of surrender of sums insured which amounted to S338m last year and to SI, 000m over the last 4 recorded years. The second aspect is the development of what is called investment linked life insurance. Does not the high surrender rate of superannuation policies point to the need to do something about portability on a national basis? Further, what are the supposed virtues of investment linked life insurance? Are these policies being written by local or overseas companies?
– Whether portability of pensions should be extended is a matter of considerable controversy and difference of opinion. What might be called the enlightened - if that is the word - movement is towards making pensions more portable and for individuals to be able to carry their rights from job to job during their working lives and either collect benefits in separate funds which are actually assessed and which will support them eventually in their old age, or to move from one pension fund to another. This is a matter of opinion. A good many people, particularly some employing groups which offer superannuation schemes as an inducement to staff to spend a long time with them rather than to move continually, would feel against it. On the other hand, there is a need for certain flexibility and movement in the labour field and this, of course, is promoted and helped by growing portability of pensions.
As far as the growth funds linked with life policies are concerned, this again is a matter of considerable controversy. In Britain, for instance, and many other countries this is regarded as a wonderful hedge against inflation so that as this amount is accumulated during life it will be used in an effective way to increase the benefits. Others see it as a very risky form of investment. But these are 2 questions that I do not feel I could resolve.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the last answer by the Treasurer could he advise the House of the position of the portability of pensions scheme proposed to be introduced by his Government?
– The Treasury is still working out the details of the portability of pensions scheme insofar as my information goes. But perhaps the honourable member might like to ask the Treasurer, whose Department has the carriage of this Bill, just what particular stage has been reached.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. I ask: Was the granting of a supplementary pension to the surviving partner of a married pensioner couple a year or two ago designed to allow the surviving pensioner to adjust his or her mode of living as a single pensioner? Was it ever intended that the money should fall into the hands of other authorities such as the Registrar of Coal Mine Workers Superannuation in New South Wales, to offset his liability to recipients of mine superannuation? If such was not the case will the Minister take the necessary action to restrain the Registrar from continuing to take from such pensioners amounts he deems to be his, as in the case I now have where the Registrar is asking one aged widow pensioner to refund to him S93.60 said to be owing for overpayment of pension.
-Order! The honourable member is now giving information.
– I have to give it, Mr Speaker, in explanation of my question.
– As the House will well appreciate I am not familiar with the case mentioned by the honourable member. I shall be very glad, of course, to have a look at it if the honourable member would do me the courtesy of referring the papers to me. He correctly described the motives behind the Government’s introduction some time ago of this amending legislation. The action taken by other people, particularly by States, does not seem to me to be within the power of this Government to control. The Government pays this money in this hope and with this intention but the legal rights in respect of the surviving partner are not determined by this Government and are not under its control, 1 will, however, have a look not only at the particular case mentioned by the honourable member but at the principle involved and although I do not think any legal action is available to me, I will see what can be done, without a great hope of being able to accomplish anything.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the stated opposition of most overseas purchasers of wool to the etsablishment of a single wool marketing authority and the abolition of the auction system? ls he aware that experience has taught that interference with the free marketing and sale of primary products reacts against the producer? is it not desirable to do everything possible to attract buyers rather than discourage them?
– I am aware of statements emanating in the last few days from the International Wool Textile Organisation to the effect that it opposes very strongly any alteration to the present auction system. I do not think it is quite right, however, to interpret a proposal for a single marketing authority as abandoning the auction system. The details of what is meant by the industry in referring to a Single marketing authority have not been spelt out. I would not think that the industry interprets this as altering the present auction system. The single marketing authority may supplement or strengthen the present system but at this stage 1 certainly would nol think that that means abandoning the auction system. I am very conscious of the importance of harmonising with the wishes of wool users. They are the customers and their wishes must be given very important consideration. However, when examining their expressions of opinion and those of others one must bear in mind that they are arguing from the viewpoint of their own interest and one must try to make a decision which is to the overall good of the industry, taking all sections of it into consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. In view of the disastrous collapse of our canned pea export market in the United Kingdom and the consequent pile-up of canned peas in Australia, will the Government investigate the possibility of extending devaluation payments to the Australian canned pea industry, the depressed state of which is due largely to the devaluation of sterling? This is an important matter to Australian growers, particularly those in Tasmania, where 65% of our peas are grown.
– I am conscious of the concern being expressed by pea producers in Tasmania. The honourable member recently led a deputation of Tasmanian Labor Party members to me to explain the serious situation in the pea industry in that State. He has asked whether the Government will consider extending devaluation compensation to help to alleviate the problem in the pea industry. All I can say is that such a step would set a precedent which might lead to other industries seeking similar consideration on the grounds that their situations were brought about by devaluation of sterling. The principle which the Government has accepted and followed is that compensation payments will be made to industries which can demonstrate that their plight is the unavoidable result of devaluation. But I would think that if an industry has a serious problem it must be looked at in some way other than the provision of devaluation compensation.
– I ask the Minister foi Primary Industry a question which relates to the answer given bv him yesterday to a question asked by the honourable member for Paterson about the first advance payments on readily saleable over-quota wheat. Will the Minister assure the House that this privilege will be extended to the growers of over-quota wheat from the next harvest in Western Australia by requesting the Australian Wheat Board to permit the People’s Republic of China unrestricted access to the wheat of that State, thus bringing this wheat into the category of being readily saleable? Finally, does the Minister recognise that the limitations, in the context of the present position of excess production, placed on Western Australian loadings under all past and existing contracts with the Chinese now constitute a flagrant differentiation between State and State by a Commonwealth instrumentality, to wit, the Australian Wheat Board?
– I can well understand the honourable member for Moore suggesting that wheat in Western Australia is readily saleable and particularly to this market. However. I th;-1- producers in all other States could equally argue that their wheat was readily saleable if it was not sold from other States also. It would be quite unfair for me to ask the Australian Wheat Board to consider Western Australian wheat in this light. The provisions for over-quota readily saleable wheat were in relation to special types of wheat such as high protein or special biscuit type wheats where there was insufficient production to meet the market demand. If people had this overquota wheat on their farms or had delivered it without payment and it was called up by the Wheat Board and sold and paid for within that period then they would get a first advance and it would be taken into that year’s quota pool. In the case of readily saleable Western Australian wheat and the sales to Mainland China, mentioned by the honourable member, these sales are made on terms over a period of 12 months and in that case it would not be fully payable within the season. Therefore, I do not think it would be so important because it would then have to be taken into consideration in the individual quotas for the ensuing season.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act expires this month? Has the Government yet made a decision on the proposals which the State Health Ministers have made at their last 4 conferences with the Minister for the progressive introduction of hospital benefits for patients in mental health institutions following the termination of the Commonwealth’s present form of assistance?
– Answering the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question first, I wish to inform him that the Government has made a decision on that particular proposal and I conveyed this decision to the State Health Ministers at their conference as long ago as March. The Government rejected the application by the States on the long standing policy ground of the Government that responsibility for mental health is a responsibility for the States. In relation to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, the Government is currently giving consideration to what, if anything, will replace the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act on its expiration at the end of this month and when the Government has made a decision an announcement will be made.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. It has been suggested by the new South Australian Premier that detailed planning for the Dartmouth Dam can and should proceed before the South Australian Government agrees to its construction. 1 ask whether or not it is our responsibility to protect taxpayers’ funds or whether we are prepared to spend these large amounts before the Government of South Australia has ratified decisions previously made.
– The new Government in South Australia obviously would not have had time to study the background document”! relating to the Dartmouth proposal. At the present time 1 think any statement which the Premier would make there or which [ would make here would he premature. As President of the River Murray Commission. I would suggest that the new Government in South Australia should very carefully study the whole background of the proposal. I believe that it would not have had the opportunity of studying the papers previous1)’ but they would have been studied bv the previous Government. I would say that it is in the interests of South Australia principally that this proposal he proceeded with. I think that when the new Government do?s carefully examine the information which will now he available to it it can only come to that conclusion.
An; further work either in relation to the detailed planning or to the early stages of design work, of course, cannot be proceded wilh as is clearly understood, unless it has the approval of the 4 governments that arc parties to the agreement. The Commonwealth Government, th’ Victorian Government and th? New South Wales Government have already ratified the agreement through their Parliaments. As we well know owing to the political situation in South Australia, the South Australian Parliament did not ratify the agreement al the time. However. 1 nm sure that the new Government, with the interests of South Australia at heart. w:11 carefully study the full details of the matter before it makes a decision lt should he clear to it that this work should proceed in the interests principally of South Australia, and it can proceed only if the 4 governments have decided through their parliaments to ratify the agreement.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Bearing in mind the considerable industrial unrest which exists today and in order to show a conciliatory attitude to this problem, will the Minister revoke his decision insisting upon the payment of outstanding fines by a number of trade unions’? If he will not. can he indicate why he chose to provoke further unrest by his decision?
– There has been no recent decision taken in relation to this matter. The Government’s attitude has b.-en consistent over a long period of time. The attitude of the Government is that in our arbitration system it is necessary to have sanctions. Thos.: sanctions are necessary to apply against employers when employers are in breach o!” the award.
Opposition Members - Oh!
-Order! A question has been asked by the honourable member for Chifley, who is an Opposition member. 1 suggest that honourable members should hear the Minister’s reply in silence
– Those sanctions are also necessary to apply against unions when they are in breach of ari award. There have been a numb r of unions in breach of enjoining orders of the court and they have been fined for contempt. The great majority of the fines imposed have been paid. Then, as the honourable gentlemen and the House will recall, there was an event which intervened about May of last year when the Secretary of the Australian Tramways and Motor Omnibus Employees Association, Mr O’Shea, as a result of his refusal to answer questions before the court, was committed to gaol. Following that committal to gaol there was very widespread industrial dislocation.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions asked the Government to arrange for Ministers to speak with its representatives for the purpose of rinding a way in which the penal clauses could be altered. Those discussions were carried out by my colleagues the present Treasurer and the present Minister for Education and Science. The Ministers asked employers to restrain their actions in the court while the discussions went on. There was a selfimposed moratorium by the employers by and large and they have not resorted to the use of penal clauses for about a year. I must say that this was an act of great responsibility on the part of the employers especially, as the honourable member acknowledged in his question, as there is considerable industrial unrest at the moment. The employers’ action in maintaining their attitude has enabled discussions to go ahead in order to achieve the settlement of dispute procedures. It has enabled me to conclude my thinking and to make recommendations to the Government on what should be done about alterations to the sanctions provisions, commonly called iac penal clauses. The legislation should be introduced this week.
The Government for its part, through the Industrial Registrar, has been asking the unions to make payment of those outstanding fines. The Government naturally enough sees the issue nol merely as one of $36,000 but as one of principle as to whether or not there is credibility in the sanctions provisions of the legislation. That credibility operates in 2 ways: Credibility of employers in the belief that there are sanctions, when they return to the use of them; secondly, credibility on the part of other unions who have already paid the fines that there are sanctions. I might add that there are a great number of unionists in Australia who would welcome sanctions in the legislation as a catalyst to break a dispute when it seems unbreakable.
So far as the collection of fines is concerned, it is important that this be proceeded with. 1 hope that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the unions concerned will adopt a responsible attitude regarding what the Industrial Registrar asks them to do - that is, payment of the fines. Whether the fines may be paid over a period could be a matter for negotiation with the Industrial Registrar.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he can advise me on the position of the pensions portability scheme which was announced in the Government’s policy speech. When does he expect to be able to introduce the legislation in this House?
– It is really a question of how long and how late the House is prepared to sit. The honourable member will appreciate readily that this proposal involves a great deal of actuarial calculation, lt has been worked on pretty hard and consistently. I would hope to bring the legislation in shortly. In view of the length of the current session and the desire of most honourable members to bring it to a close - at least I trust that that is the desire of most honourable members - I would not guarantee that I could introduce it this week or next week.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry: Is the total cotton crop in Australia likely to show a marked increase in the next few years? If so, will he take action to ensure that there is no surplus of cotton in Australia by providing adequate protection to manufacturers in Australia against cotton goods from low wage countries?
– I do not carry in my mind the actual statistical position of the cotton crop but I believe we now are selfsufficient in most types of raw cotton that we need. If I prove to be inaccurate in that statement I will correct myself later. I believe there is still some importation of types of cotton which we are not producing in sufficient quantity. The circumstances of the textile industry are dealt with by the provisions of the tariff. I have no knowledge that the textile industry is in any jeopardy at the present time through inadequate tariff protection.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I refer to the critical problem of low world prices for dairy produce and in particular for butter. What progress has been made in bringing about an international agreement on butter and processed milk products?
– Australia has been participating with other countries over a period of years in an endeavour to get a world commodity agreement covering dairy products. Negotiations have been taking place between the interested countries that are panics to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Some few months ago. the negotiations having concentrated at that time on skimmed milk powder, an agreement was reached in the GAIT. As is customary when that point is reached, the agreement then went to the governments concerned for ratification. Unhappily because the Government of Ireland was unwilling to ratify the agreement, there was a considerable hiatus before any further step was taken. More recently, all the other parties to the GATT which are principal exporters an.] importers of skimmed milk powder, other than Ireland. Austria and the United Slates, agreed to subscribe lo the agreement and to bring it into operation. There have been discussions with the 3 countries I have named, and the expectation is that those countries, while not subscribing in formal terms to the agreement, will not, as far as possible, trade in such a manner as to make the agreement unworkable. On those terms it is in operation at the present time, with the happy result that the world price of skimmed milk powder has increased by S3 1 a ton. which is a very useful advantage to the Australian dairy industry. Negotiations have now moved to a more difficult but more important area. An attempt is being made to negotiate a world commodity agreement on butterfat. This will cover, I think, 2 items of trade - butter itself and butter oil. 1 am sure I am right in stating that it is judged that it would be more feasible in the first step to perhaps seek a world agreement in respect of butter oil before turning to the problem of butter itself. Australia will continue to participate quite actively in this regard. We are heartened by the measure of success of the skimmed milk powder commodity arrangement. We will lose no opportunity, particularly co-operating with our sister country, New Zealand, to try to bring about a butter oil agreement and subsequently a butter agreement.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the statement on national service been delayed? ls it true that his proposed scheme for an alternative to military service is to be scrapped? Further, is the Government reluctant to enter into a full scale debate in this House on the National Service Aci?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has disclosed by his question that he has been reading the public news media and that he believes the speculation he has seen there. The facts are these: 1 did. as I have said in this House, review the operation of the national service scheme and I then made recommendations to Cabinet. Within that paper 1 discussed the possibilities of a civilian alternative. Cabinet considered my paper and after that consideration 1 made a statement which was very short indeed. I said that Cabinet had considered the matter, that I would be explaining it to my colleagues in I he Party i«nd thai after that I hoped to make a statement. The day before yesterday I had discussions with certain of the Parly committees. Yesterday there was discussion in the joint Party meeting and. there not being loo much time in the morning, there was a Party meeting last night The discussion was approached by all people in the Party in a most constructive way.
– Did you say constructive or destructive?
– I repeat that thc discussion in the Party room was most constructive. There are still members of the Party who have views to express and. in consequence, the discussion will he resumed at the next Party meeting. After that discussion I will be able to consider what the next step should be.
– Has the Minister for Education and Science seen the reported comments in recent days of 2 visiting educationists advocating the abolition of system? ls the Minister aware of the utter external examinations from our education impracticality of the English visitor’s assertion - he is here on a government fellowship - that the teacher’s job is to find out what the child requires for his growth and to provide it rather than to teach to a denned body of knowledge usually known as a syllabus? Has the Minister considered the destructive absurdity of the Americanbased educationist’s remarks that real life, supported by television and films, is far in advance of systematic learning as a means of educating the young? Will the Minister take whatever steps he can within the jurisdiction of his Department to ensure that any removal of external examinations will result not from the acceptance of irresponsible criticism of our imperfect but firmly founded methods but rather from the development of alternatives whose superiority is demonstrable?
-I did read these particular statements; in fact, I have become a compulsive reader of any statement on education. But I have noticed that there is as much variety of opinion amongst educationists as there is amongst lawyers and scientists, and some of them assert their views just as dogmatically as do the members of other professions. The 6 State governments which are responsible very largely in this field and the Commonwealth Government are not likely to be stampeded by Press reports of the views of transient visitors from different educational systems. On the other hand I would say that there is no closed mind either of my colleagues in the States or of myself on the issues which have been raised by these men. One of the difficulties in this field is that there has not been enough basic research giving us the facts on which sound judgments can be based about changes of this type. When the Prime Minister, in his policy speech last year, announced the establishment of an advisory committee on development and research in education this gap was seen as capable, we hoped, of being filled, and I am currently working on the establishment of this committee which will be recommending the initiation or support of basic research. I can assure the honourable member that if steps are taken to change the system they will be taken on the basis of research and proper informal, on.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories a question. The honourable gentleman will appreciate the crucial importance of an institution like the Administrative College in Port Moresby if the Territory is to have a competent independent, effective and respected Public Service. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that over half of the members of the staff at the College have indicated an intention to resign? Has their morale been affected by a series of incidents, namely, the reaction to a student demonstration at the College last year, the change of name to the Public Service Training Centre, anomalies in the reclassification of staff, the removal of the Principal and the replacement of the council of the College by an advisory group? What steps are being taken to ensure that the College is not destroyed as an effective tertiary institution?
– Yes, problems have arisen in the Administrative College. I would agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this is a most important institution. We want to preserve it in that sphere in which it plays a part in training the future public service administrators of Papua and New Guinea. Yes, there have been troubles there caused, I gather, by a number of factors. But, nevertheless, we are determined to get to the root of these troubles so that this College may continue as a most valuable institution. At present, I have nothing to add to those remarks.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to a previous question asked of the Minister concerning an air service from Sydney to Perth via Alice Springs. I ask: Has the Minister seen a recent report in the Press that TransAustralia Airlines believes that a service between Sydney and Port Hedland via Alice Springs is distinctly feasible? Will he ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to look seriously at the possibility of upgrading the Port Hedland airport or taking other steps to assist the inauguration of such an important air service?
– The report referred to by the honourable member has attracted some attention, although 1 have not seen it myself. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place, has taken the matter up with the Australian National Airlines Commission. The Commission has indicated, 1 believe, that it did not make such a statement and, therefore, the statement really is without foundation. However, I think it should be pointed out too that Trans-Australia Airlines at the moment does not have a licence to operate intrastate services in Western Australia. The only application that is before the Government or the Department of Civil Aviation for consideration is, I believe, an application by TAA to operate a service between Perth and Darwin.
The same situation applies now as I indicated in this House last year when J was administering the Civil Aviation portfolio. That is that when the present contract wilh MacRobertson-Miller Airlines Ltd is terminated, consideration will be given to the application by TAA. However, having said that, I can assure the House that the importance of Alice Springs is recognised fully by the 2 airlines not only for the part that it is playing in the development of the Centre but also for the tremendous potential that it has in the tourist field. This has been recognised by the new jet services that have been commenced there and the additional services that are being provided. I certainly will draw to the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, the observations made by the honourable member to see whether these services can be improved.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. I refer to the extremely grave imputations which the PostmasterGeneral made in this Parliament this week against the character and integrity of senior administrative officials in the Australian Broadcasting Commission - imputations which were quickly and bluntly rebutted by the Chairman of the Commission. I ask: In view of the way in which every senior administrative official of the ABC now finds his character and integrity in question, will the Postmaster-General not leave the situation rest there but rather conduct an inquiry to follow up his general allegations about a leak of confidential information so that this matter may be cleared up and innocent people may have their character established clearly? If he does carry out such an inquiry, will the Postmaster-General take steps to include some of his colleagues in Cabinet who equally had access to the document about which he has spoken?
– I do not think that what the honourable member suggests was in fact said or indicated by me in this House. I think it is acknowledged within the Australian community today that leakages do occur in many areas, and in relation to this particular matter that has been under discussion in the public area I said that there was a leakage. No doubt I did reflect on the integrity of a person, a person unknown to anyone but himself, and in that respect those who were not responsible for the leakage would not in any way regard my comments as reflecting on them.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. The Minister will recall that some time ago I introduced to him a deputation representing the Australian Dried Fruits Association which was specifically concerned with the taxation aspect of the Dried Vine Fruits Hail Damage Fund. Can he supply any information further to that given to the deputation to which I have referred?
– Some months ago the honourable member brought to me a deputation of Mildura dried vine fruit growers whose colleagues had been troubled by storm and hail damage, which they were unable to insure against with any commercial insurance company. As I recall the position those gentlemen had in a most admirable manner formed themselves into a voluntary association and they subscribed from their yearly earnings to a fund which would be drawn upon to give them some recompense in the event of damage through hail or storm. The problem which confronted them was taxation - whether their voluntary contributions to their co-operative association would be regarded as tax deductible and whether any recompense drawn from the fund would be regarded as taxable income.I assured the honourable member and the deputation that upon this proposal being converted to a qui te explicit proposition I would ask my colleague, the Treasurer, at the time of preparing the Budget to consider what attitude the Government might properly take to the proposition in respect of taxation. The proposition having now been converted to an explicit proposal I undertake to bring it before my colleague, the Treasurer, and to get a decision of the Government when the Budget is under consideration.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In a circular letter under the hand of George Romeyko and distributed.I understand, to all members of the Commonwealth Parliament, allegations have been made against me regarding an alleged association with Mrs Romeyko, a former storekeper of Moonan Flats, and as such a constituent of mine. Reference is made in the circular to matrimonial proceedings Romeyko v. Romeyko. This case was in fact a child custody case and not divorce proceedings, and I was in no way associated with nor aware of the litigation. The allegations are completely scurrilous and false in that they reflect not only on my personal integrity but also on that of His Honour Mr Justice Selby and the court.
The statutory declaration of Miss Luba Marianne Romeyko is also completely untrue. The suggestion of visits to the Rose Bay property and a personal association with Mrs Romeyko is entirely false.
-I bring up the report of the Standing Orders Committee.
– I move:
That the report be printed.
Mr Speaker, I wish to explain to the House that this motion is purely a formal one. If the House will agree to it I will immediately move that consideration of the report be made an order of the day for a future day, and that will give all honourable members an opportunity to study the report.
Question resolved by the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That consideration of the report he made an order of the day for the next clay of sitting.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Archives Repository at Villawood, New South Wales.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Bill presented by Mr Whitlam, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will give the rights to marry and to vote at 18 years of age. It is the same Bill of which I gave notice in August 1968 and which came on for debate on 21st November that year. I gave notice of it again on 25th November last year, having promised to bring in such a Bill in the event of my Party securing a majority of members in this place. I gave notice of it again on the first sitting day this year.
Back in 1968 similar legislation was introduced by the leaders of the Australian Labor Party in each of the State Parliaments. At that time there was only one State Labor Government - that in Tasmania. The argument was put in this place at that time that the Commonwealth Parliament would be out of step with the other Parliaments in Australia if votes were introduced for 18-year-olds. Since that time things have moved. Events have shown the inevitability of votes being given to 18-year-olds in at least 3 State lower Houses.
The Premier of New South Wales, whose Party had opposed the proposition when my Party brought it up in 1968, is now proposing to introduce such legislation. Similarly, the Premier of Victoria and the then Premier of South Australia, whose Parties had opposed the legislation when the leaders of my Part) had proposed it in 1968, each said that if he won the State election last Saturday he would introduce such legislation. Accordingly, we may anticipate that there will soon be Bills introduced into the Parliaments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, to give votes to 18-year-olds at least for the lower Houses. The onus therefore is on those in this place who want to delay this reform to say why in the 2 larger States and in 1 other State votes should be available for 18-year-olds in State elections and not in Federal elections. The onus is on them to say why this Bill should not now go through this chamber.
Furthermore, the United States Administration is still of the mind that votes at 18 years of age should apply to the United States Congress. Mr Trudeau has announced a similar policy for Canada. The forthcoming British elections will see votes for all of 18 years of age. In New Guinea the previous constitutional committee - that presided over by the present Speaker of the House of Assembly. Mr Guise - and the present committee have recommended votes at 18 years of age for residents of the Territory. If, therefore, there is to be uniformity on the part of the Commonwealth with our principal States and with comparable countries this legislation should go through. It is not the States that are now lagging; it is not other common law countries that are lagging; it is the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia that is lagging.
Consent to marry at 18 years of age is no longer required in Britain, from which all our laws in regard to marriage and matrimonial causes stem. Perhaps I should repeat the principal arguments I put to the House on 21st November 1968. I believe they are still valid. I would be very happy if the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes), who I take it will follow me in this debate, because his predecessor followed me on the earlier occasion, were to repeat the speech that he made on that occasion. I have never heard him to better advantage. I may have my own views as to the validity of all his arguments on matters of law and order. On order they are deplorable; on law they are admirable. I say nothing of his views on law and order in Papua-New Guinea. He is probably more mortified than anybody for having rushed in on this subject in a state of primeval innocence 3 months ago, but he may get the opportunity in the few months remaining before Papua-New Guinea gets independence to appoint magistrates in the Territory as well as judges as he does in the Australian Capital Territory. Things will be better for law and order and justice during those few months when Australia retains control over the administration of law in the Territory if he is given that responsibility.
Very clearly, many matters which are involved with the age of majority or adulthood fall primarily within State powers. The whole range of the laws of property and contract and succession is within State jurisdiction. True, the States now have a report advocating 18 as the age of adulthood in all those matters. The Bill which I have introduced does not purport to touch any of those matters, even where they would fall within Federal power, as in the Territories or the Services. The Bill deals solely with matters which are within this Parliament’s power. The first head is marriage. Under the Constitution this is entrusted to this Parliament. The Commonwealth Parliament has passed laws covering the whole of that field. State parliaments can no longer pass laws on the subject of marriage. Accordingly it is appropriate to propose a Bill on this subject in this Parliament. It will not prejudice the deliberations of the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General in the report on adulthood which the State governments are now considering.
Then there is the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Clearly electoral legislation is within the province of the States as well as that of the Commonwealth. There have been many occasions over the years when qualifications for enrolment have differed as between the Commonwealth and the States. In fact, in some of the State parliaments the qualification for enrolment differs as between the 2 Houses. The Commonwealth Electoral Office maintains the electoral rolls for every State as well as the rolls for elections to both Houses of this
Parliament. It is appropriate, therefore, that this Parliament, which has the primary responsibility for electoral matters, should deal with this legislation. If it does not it will have to produce separate rolls for the great majority of elections in Australia, because the 2 larger States and South Australia are legislating for votes at 18 years of age.
Majority at 21 years of age has no validity other than an historical one. It flows from the theory that a man was not fully capable of bearingarmsuntil he was 21. If one visits the cathedrals erected in Britain and throughout western Europe in mediaeval times one can well understand from the effigies and sarcophagi that formerly men took longer to develop and when developed were smaller than men are now. In these graphic sculptured terms we can see that in the course of 5 centuries mankind has been physically transformed. And in cold figures - as well as in cold stone in mediaevaltimes - the statistics demontrate quite clearly that over the last 100 years men and women have been maturing at a younger age. By any standards men and women are as mature at 18 years now as they were at 21 only a generation ago. They are more mature intellectually, physically, socially and economically. They are better educated. They stay at school longer. They go on to tertiary and technical education in much greater numbers. They are physcally bigger, stronger and healthier. They are more active. They conduct themselves with greater aplomb. Their consumption in all respects is greater. They make their presence felt and their ideas known much more readily. They appear in the massmedia and respond to them. They attend the theatre and perform in it. They practise a knowledge of the performing andplastic arts at a much younger age than men and women did a generation ago.
There are many legal criteria for the steps we propose. Young people can drink. They can drive. They can and sometimes must, bear arms. They qualify for the payment of taxes and they have to pay them much younger and in much greater numbers than was previously the case. The number of people under 21 years of age who were income earners in Australia at the time of the 1966 census was 819,475. One would assume that almost any income earner would pay tax. The Commonwealth Statisti cian has been good enough to supply me this morning with details of the number of potential voters in the 18 to 21 years age group this year. They would number approximately 650,000. He has also given me the latest figures available of marriages in this age group. In 1968 approximately 52,000 of this age - 15,000 males and 37,000 women - entered into matrimony.
The first part of the Bill deals with a person’s right to marry without consent at 18 years of age. The former AttorneyGeneral gave me an answer to a question on this subject on 10th October 1968 and the present Attorney-General gave me an answer on the subject on 19th May last, the latter being recorded at page 2376 of Hansard. Honourable members will see from those answers that in Bri tain consent of parents, courts or public officials is no longer required by persons over the age of 18 years who wish to marry. This is also the position in 4 Provinces of Canada. It is the position in 18 States of the Ameri can Union. It applies for males in 4 States of the American Union and for females in 37 States. In 3 States of the American Union consent is not required for males age 19 and in 2 States for females age 19. In the Soviet Union, the Attorney-General tells me - and I have always found that anything the honourable gentleman says about the Soviet Union must be consummately sound - consent is not required for marriage after 18. It is quite clear that it is becoming very common for people to marry under 21 and it is not difficult for them to get consent in Australia.
Now I deal with the situation in regard to the voting age. The Minister for the Interior(Mr Nixon) gave me an answer on 24th Sepiember 1968, which appears in Hansard at page 1436. and another this year on 14th April at page 1105. It will be noticed from the second answer that votes are now given in 3 of the Canadian provinces al 18; in another 3 at19, and in New Zealand the vote is given at 20. The Netherlands has also given the vote at 18. It is not only my own Party which has had the policy of votes at 18 for quite some time. I notice in the deliberations of theL iberal Party this idea is getting increasing support. I know that there can always be arguments for saving that it is not appropriate or not proper to give women the vote, to give negroes the vote or to give Aboriginals the vote. All these arguments have been used in the past but we have discarded them all. Quite clearly sooner or later 18- year-olds will have the vote.
There is one very real reason why a vote should be given at a younger age than it is at the present time in this country. The great problem areas in Australia, geographically and socially, are those areas in which there is the largest percentage of people in those age groups - 18, 19 and 20 years. The expanding parts of Australia, the outer suburbs of the great cities, the new developmental areas, are the areas in which young people are living or working. In my own electorate, largely because of the age distribution and partly because there are people who are not yet naturalised, only 43% of the residents are enrolled. It is not at all uncommon, however, in other parts of Australia to find that two-thirds of the residents are on the roll. It is quite clear that the difference is due, as the censuses show but at less frequent intervals than municipal and electoral records, to the fact that young people are in these outer suburbs and in the new areas such as Wollongong, Whyalla and Mount Isa. I believe that if people were given the vote at 18 years of age one would not only remove a great number of the causes of discontent symbolised by student power but one would also remove a great number of the causes of discontent which one finds in the developing areas of the capital cities and in the provincial areas - the development areas of this continent. It is in these areas that it is difficult to get a large range of employment, accommodation and recreation. These matters affect people in the 18, 19 and 20 years age group - the people who want to train themselves for life and who want to get married and settle down in these areas. I believe it is very clear that we would remove the causes of discontent in this country to a more marked extent than in any other way if we were to give the vote to people who are involved in this respect, if we were to involve them in the political, democratic process.
I appreciate that there is a deal of resistance to this Bill on the other side of the chamber and among people who support honourable members there, because of the manifest unrest among people in this age group, particularly at the universities. I am aiming to speak on this occasion in a persuasive and not a polemical way. Nevertheless, we would all acknowledge that it is because of the 2 issues of Vietnam and conscription that people in this age group are alienated. I do not want to canvass the validity of Government policy on Vietnam and on conscription - my own views are well enough known, I trust - but it is sufficient to say that it is because people in these age groups are inevitably involved in these 2 issues that they are stirred up. Whether we think that they are right or wrong, the fact is that the young people, men and women of 18, 19 and 20, are much more critical these days. They do not accept facts given to them by their masters, their law makers and their seniors if they believe that those facts are false. They do not support their attitudes if they believe that those attitudes are evil. It would be a very bold person among us who would assert that this generation in Australia is less informed or less idealistic than the same agc group at any period in our past or in any other country.
I think, therefore, we must acknowledge that the resistance to votes at 18 is due to the fear among a great number of conservative persons in this country that their interests and their supporters would be diminished if votes were given at 18. This is particularly the case in universities because everybody at a university lives with these 2 problems of Vietnam and conscription. Having said that and not wanting to canvass the merits of those 2 matters, I do believe that I should identify what I feel is the only ground for resisting votes at 18 for this national Parliament. I have heard no other reason given which can explain this reluctance. The State parliaments, of course, are not faced with this reluctance because they are not involved, except marginally through police action, with the questions of Vietnam and national service. The last time I spoke on this matter, which was in November 1968, I was supported by one other speaker on my own side and by 2 out of the 3 speakers on the other side. The 2 speakers on that side are now the Attorney-General and the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock). I would have very little doubt indeed that on a free vote in this place this Bill would be passed.
L am speaking for much less than the time allotted to me on this because 1 am anxious’ for other honourable members to speak on it and I am anxious that the House should vote on it. 1 think it is fair to say that on the last occasion the tactic was to spin out the debate for so long that no vote could be taken. I obviously am not under any such temptation. I believe the arguments that were put on my side and by the present Attorney-General and the present Minister for the Army in November 1968 are still valid. 1 believe the number of countries which are now giving votes at 18. the number of countries which are allowing marriage without consent at 1 8 and the number of Australians who will now get the vote at 18 for their State parliaments, now make this Bill a matter of urgency. I believe we- in this Parliament must now catch up. Australia at one stage was in the vanguard in electoral and social matters. We should get there once again. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
– ls the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later.
-The question is that the Bill be now read a second time. Standing order 218 requires that the debate on this question shall be adjourned to a future day. If this debate is to continue, leave must be obtained. Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– -The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has raised for the second time in 19 months, the last time having been in November 1968, 2 questions which are of undoubted importance. I do not say for one minute that they do not deserve the attention of the House. He has with every justification reminded me of my recent past and has drawn the attention of the House to the fact that when I took part in the same sort of debate in November 1968 1 expressed a view which was favourable to the granting of a vote to people of 18 years of age. I suppose that this is not the first time in the history of the career of a person who occupies the office of Minister of the Crown that some spectre of his freewheeling past has come out of the fog to haunt him. I accept in completely good part, if I may say this, the quite agreeable and justifiable flick of the whip that my honourable and learned friend has given me today. As my friend, the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) reminds me, politics is in part the art of being flexible and of adjusting to changed circumstances.
– That does not mean you should wriggle.
– I shall not try to wriggle. I shall endeavour to explain to the House the Government’s attitude to this present Bill. I say at once, speaking purely personally, that I see no reason to depart from the view 1 expressed in November 1968, but 1 hasten to say that my personal views on a measure such as this - it is a very important measure - ought to be subservient to another principle which I regard as a very important principle too. If one is a member of a government one must be prepared in particular circumstances to allow one’s own views, which may have been expressed quite forthrightly in different circumstances, to be conditioned by the views of others. Government under the Cabinet system consists basically of a measured consensus. Let me say next, if I may, that the Government’s attitude to this Bill, which J now express, is that it ought not to be given a second reading at this stage.
The Government’s attitude is founded upon no deliberate decision that the Bill in either of its major respects ought to be opposed in terms of principle. Rather is the Government’s attitude simply that the question of reducing the age at which marriage may be contracted without consent and the question of whether the age of eligibility to vote should be reduced are questions of great importance. Because of other questions that attend them and surround them, they ought to be decided only after the fullest investigation and consideration. While the Government for which I now speak has taken steps to investigate and to see considered these important questions and the attendant questions, to which I shall refer later, it has not yet considered or come to a decision on the question of principle involved. I think that the House will agree with me, that, whatever our political differences may be on a great number of issues, this Government in the 6 months since it attained office - I suppose it is now getting on for 7 months - has been a very busy government in the sense that it has put before the Parliament through the Cabinet mill a very large volume of legislation. That is one of the factors that has militated against the Government being able to give consideration to the important questions of principle that are involved in the Bill which has been presented by the Leader of the Opposition.
I think that in considering this measure it may be helpful to the House if I deal with it in historical perspective. The question of the reduction of the voting age, if I may take that part of the Bill first, was considered at a Premiers’ Conference held in June 1968. At that Conference the then Premier of Tasmania, Mr Reece, raised for the consideration of his fellow Premiers and of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) the question of whether the voting age should be reduced from 21 to 18 years. As a result of discussions at that Conference the question was referred to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. In the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General the question of the reduction of the voting age received consideration on 2 separate occasions.
The first occasion was in November 1968 at a meeting held in Perth at which the Standing Committee reached a consensual view that any reduction of the voting age ought to be approached on a uniform basis - that is, uniform as between the Commonwealth and each of the States. Then in December 1969 this question came up for consideration again at a meeting of the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral held in Adelaide. This was the first meeting that I attended in my present capacity. It was announced in the Press communique released at the end of the meeting that the Standing Committee had formed the opinion that legislation to effect a uniform - I think it is important to emphasise the word ‘uniform’ - reduction in the voting age would present no legal or constitutional problems.
However, the Standing Committee was of the view - and this view was recorded in the Press release from a copy of which I am reading - that the question of a reduction in the voting age was ultimately a matter of Government policy and not one to be decided by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. As one of the Ministers at that meeting who reached that concensus on this point, I now reiterate that view. I think that when one reflects upon the problem much difficulty will be avoided if those who are in favour of promoting legislation to reduce the voting age seek to achieve their objective by uniform Commonwealth-State action.
There are various considerations which predispose the Government - certainly myself, speaking for the Government - towards that view. Firstly there is the matter referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. Some States - I think 4 of the 6 States - have rolls of electors which are common for both Federal and State elections but 2 States do not have common rolls. Unless we are to have uniformity in the voting age throughout the Commonwealth for the purposes of both Commonwealth and State elections, I can see considerable confusion and great administrative difficulty in relation to the voting rolls. If a State which is now one of the 4 States using the common voting roll were to reduce the age of voting for the purposes of its State election, then the necessity would arise to compile a completely new roll for each electorate of the State concerned. That is one reason why we should endeavour to strive for uniformity.
I do not think the question of the reduction of the voting age ought to be looked at in isolation from other very serious questions which arise in relation to the reduction of the age of majority for other gur.poses. The report of the Committer on the Age of Majority - the Latey Committee - in the United Kingdom, which is a most impressive and illuminating document, did not touch on the question of whether the voting age ought to be reduced. There is one passage in that report which it may be useful to read to the House. The majority report referred at page 17 of the Command publication to the question of what was called the civic field - ‘the question of jury service, whether 18-year-olds should serve on juries, and so forth. This part of the report states:
But it does not seem to us that changes in the civic field are at all likely to follow changes in the private field even if we wish that they should. It is a very different thing to cope adequately with one’s personal and private affairs and to measure up to public and civic responsibilities. Not every sound taxpayer is equipped to be Prime Minister and in the United Suites of America the President must be over 35.
I do not want the House to think that I necessarily adopt those views as my own. My purpose in citing that excerpt from the report is to underline what I regard as the undoubted fact that this is an area on which views can genuinely differ and therefore an area in which, in the long term, the public could well be best served in a Federal Commonwealth if we first endeavour to travel along the path of uniformity.
My honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition referred today to the attitude of the some of the States to a proposal that the voting age should bc reduced from 21 to 18 years. I thought 1 heard him say that the 2 largest States had decided to reduce the voting agc to 18. 1 think that one qualification ought to be put on that statement. Certainly in New South Wales Mr Askin’s Government, following receipt and consideration of the report of the Law Reform Commission of that State on the age of legal majority, took ils own decision to reduce the voting age. lt is the fact, however that so far no legislation has yet Come forward. [ have no doubt we may anticipate that legisltaion will be forthcoming. That is a factor which must be taken into account, of course, by the Commonwealth Government, I had not understood that there had been a firm decision by the Victorian Government.
– Sir Henry Bolte put it in h’s policy speech.
– 1 may be in error on this point and I do not want to assert it positively in contradiction to what the Leader of the Opposition has said. May I put very tentatively a possible qualification upon what he sa;d. I have taken steps to check, not out of any disrespect to my friend but because J wanted to find out whether this information, which took me slightly by surprise, was correct. In the time I have had to make inquiries I have been told that Sir Arthur Rylah said during the election campaign that his Party would reduce the State voting age to 18 but that it would not move independently of the Commonwealth. 1 think that is the true position.
– I do not remember. I thought Sir Henry put it in his policy speech.
– I am bound to say - this bears upon the topic generally - that in Victoria the age for voting in municipal elections has been reduced to 18.
– That has already been done.
– Yes, that has already happened.
– Order! The Minister and the Leader of the Opposition would do better to conduct their discussion through the Chair.
– I accept your rebuke, Mr Deputy Speaker, and 1 apologise for conducting a polite conversation with the Leader of the Opposition across the table. These occasions sometimes are thought to be so rare that other people might welcome them. But you, Sir, are in the Chair and I bow to your ruling. I would put this qualification upon what the Leader of the Opposit on said: The Victorian Government has made no hard and fast decision to reduce the voting age. One of Victoria’s senior Ministers expressed a view during the course of the Victorian election campaign but he qualified that view by stating expressly that the implementation of that decision would, to bis mind, need to depend upon uniformity of approach.
Referring now to another State, Tasmania, it is quite plain that the Liberal Government, Mr Bethune’s Government, is committed to reducing the voting age. [ have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition was quite correct in forecasting that in South Australia, under the new Administration, legislation to reduce the voting age is likely to be introduced.
– Mr Hall promised it too.
– That is so. To sum up, the position would appear to be that in 3 States the respective governments are firmly committed to the proposition that the voting age should be reduced. There is no such commitment, as J understand the position at present, in 2 other Slates, namely Queensland and Western Australia. That is a factor which ought to be taken into account in deciding whether to give this Bill a second reading at this stage.
I want to mention if I may what steps have been taken since 1 took office to look into this question of the reduction of the age of majority not only for electoral purposes but for other purposes which are relevant to the Commonwealth’s sphere of constitutional competence. Before the last meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General it became borne in upon me that any reduction by legislation of the age of legal responsibility in any field of activity - for instance, the field of contractual activity or the field of proprietary rights - would give rise inevitably to pressures for similar action in other fields in which the Commonwealth Government has a vital interest, for example, the voting age, the operation of industrial awards with the consequential effect of such operation on the economy, and the age for marrying without parental consent.
The debate today is really a repetition of one that took place rather less than a year previous to my taking office. When J took office it seemed to me that it would bc desirable to examine in depth the implications, from the Commonwealth Government’s viewpoint, of the moves which had been made and were being continued towards achieving an earlier age of legal responsibility. 1 look the view that this was a matter that ought to be looked at not only in detail but as a total picture, lt therefore appeared to mc to bc a good idea that an interdepartmental committee of Commonwealth officers should be established to examine the matter in depth and in detail. Accordingly, as a result of a recommendation which I made, which was agreed to by the Prime Minister, an interdepartmental committee was set up late last year. It consists of representatives of the Prime Minister’s Department, the Treasury, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of the Interior and my own Department. That committee has mct and is at work.
Honourable members will, 1 am sure, perceive when they come to consider the problem in the broad that each one of the departments of state which 1 have mentioned has a degree of responsibility and a very vital administrative interest in relation to any proposal for lowering in any respect the age of legal majority. The Go vernment’s view, therefore, is that the work of this interdepartmental committee should proceed so that in due course its findings and recommendations will bc available for consideration by the Cabinet. It is the Government’s view that the Cabinet or the Government will be better able to reach a decision which, as I have mentioned and as I wish to emphasise, will have far reaching consequences not only politically but in the field of proprietary rights and contractual rights and in relation to marriage. The consequences will be so far reaching that the decisions to be made ought to be made on full consideration of all the best available material from the people who are expert in this field. So - and I emphasise this - the Government’s opposition to a second reading for this Bill is nol Founded upon any spirit of Abstractiveness. It is founded rather upon a desire thai the fullest consideration of all facets of this very big problem should be given before a decision is finally made at Government level.
We must not overlook - this is a point that was adverted to in the 1968 debate - the implications of section 41 of the Commonwealth Constitution. That slates in substance that no adult who has a right to vote under the law of a State shall be deprived, having that right, of a vote in a Commonwealth election. This section raises a nice question as to the meaning of the word adult’ in a document that has in .some measure to be construed in the light of the meaning of its language as understood by the people who framed it in 1901. However, there is a countervailing consideration to which ] referred when I made my speech in the debate on the second reading of the Leader of the Opposition’s Bill in 1968, which is that when one is endeavouring to construe a written constitution one is permitted, consistent with the authorities to regard it as to some extent being ambulatory in relation to the meaning of its terms, lt is not easy to determine what is the meaning of the word ‘adult’ in this section of the Constitution. The difficulty of interpretation that arises would in turn give rise to very grave practical and administrative difficulties if we cannot achieve consistency and uniformity in the voting age on the level of all parliamentary elections in the Commonwealth.
The matters to which I have adverted are the main points I wish to make. I would emphasise that in considering whether a piece of legislation should go through at a particular time it is important to consider whether enough thought has been given to all the problems involved. It is also relevant to ask oneself whether the measure - and here I refer to the proposals in the Bill relating to marriage - is of urgency in the sense that authority to implement it at this time is likely to give rise to substantial or, indeed, any hardship. As far as I am aware, and so far as my inquiries have been able to carry me, the provisions of the Marriage Act which prevent marriage being contracted by people who are under the age of 18 years except with the consent of their parents or guardians or of the court are not causing any hardship.
The fact - if it be the fact, as I believe it is - that no hardship is being caused in individual cases is a point we ought to bear in mind in considering whether or not the House should give this Bill a passage without first looking at every ramification, so far as it is humanly possible to do so, of the problems which I have endeavoured to outline to the House. So I repeat, the Government opposes the Bill not in order to be obstructive but rather for the reason that a little more time in which to make up one’s mind, one’s collective mind, on a question of such importance as each of the questions raised in the Bill, would be better on a balance of all the considerations involved.
– I listened with great interest to the remarks of the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). While this Government holds office the spirit of Fabius Cunctator - Fabius the delayer - will never die. By the inevitability of gradualness, sometime, somewhere, somehow we will ultimately get legislation in both of these fields; but in the meantime the question of section 41 of the Constitution seems to crop up like King Charles’s head whenever there is a debate. I should like to quote the words of the AttorneyGeneral himself in this House on 21st November 1968, when he said:
In constitutional matters - I am speaking now of section 41 - the modern tendency, which I think is hallowed by authority, is to regard a written constitution as a living, organic document which is allowed, as it were, to some extent - albeit a limited extent - to grow with the times. Referring particularly to the use of the world ‘adult’ in section 41 of the Constitution I would venture very tentatively to suggest that it would be difficult today to deny to the word ‘adult’ appearing in section 41 a construction which would include 18-year-old people. After all, we allow them to drink, we allow them to drive. We make them do various things in the nature of duties that are consistent only with the concept that they are adult. If one adopts that interpretation of section 41 as a possible view - it is sufficient for my purpose to regard it only as a possible view - there is a strong argument for the Commonwealth leading in this field and leading now by giving the vote to 18-year-old people.
It is precisely the need for a direct and a positive national lead that we ask for it today, and that is precisely the reason why this legislation has been introduced. The Government has always had as its objective to draft into military service young men at the age of 20. The Opposition has as its paramount objective to draft into citizen rights and responsibilities young men and young women at the age of 18. Our objective has been written into our party platform for many years and we press it today and will continue to press it. It is only obstinacy on the part of the Government, or dilatoriness or sloth which is responsible for the delay.
This Bill deals with 2 distinct issues - the question of marriageable age and the question of a voting age. The age of marriage, the age of voting and the age of majority are all closely linked, but in the field of marriage Commonwealth legislation is paramount and no-one but the Commonwealth can legislate in that field and no-one but the Commonwealth can give the necessary lead. Everything else - the question of proprietary rights, the rights of inheritance and other matters that have been detailed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) are ancillary to it and a positive and firm lead is necessary, particularly when there is a growing climate of public opinion in support of the long overdue change of the law. As a matter of fact, what we are asking for is this: That a legal anachronism, a feudal anachronism, some 900 years old should be removed for all time as a permanent insult to the young men and young women of this country.
If the right to marry and vote is conferred, of course the full right of contract and of proprietorship must follow. There will, of course, be the need for complementary State legislation, but it is only the Commonwealth Government which can give the lead on the question of marriage, and complementary State legislation would follow. The Commonwealth would still have the added responsibility, in respect of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, of providing for a similar civil code. About 52.000 young Australians now marry annually between the ages of 18 and 21. We give them the right to produce children and to accept the responsibilities of family maintenance. Are we to deny them the right of full citizenship? Are they to remain in civic limbo? Are they to reman infants at law and adults in procreation and economic responsibility? According to the latest available figures 43% of the brides and 50% of the bridegrooms last year were minors. At present 52% of our population is under the age of 30 and it is estimated that in 1976 at least 64% of the population will be under the age of 30. lt is necessary for us to expedite their entry into their civic heritage and responsibilities.
On the question of con form ty and the activities of other nations, may I remind the House that when this matter was last raised in 1968 there were then only 15 major countries which had reduced the voting age to 18. That figure has now increased to 24 and it includes the United Kingdom, West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, Yugoslavia, the United Arab Republic, Canada, Brazil, Japan and parts of the United States of America. The Dominion of New Zealand has reduced the age to 20 years. There is a world movement amongst the English speaking countries, with the notable exception of Australia, towards reduction of the age of the franchise and the marriage age. Of course, we are the last in the field as usual, lt is worth noting also that in the colder countries, in what we might term the sub-frigid zone, there has been quite a uniformity of reduction in the voting age, and notoriously maturity reduces with proximity to the equator. It is a well known fact that young people in Australia mature even more quickly than those in the United Kingdom. Therefore it is worth while to consider the comment of the British Medical Association which, in a memorandum to the Latey Committee on the Age of Majority, said:
Oxer the past 100 years girls and boys have been maturing at a progressively earlier agc in England and several European countries.
Intellectual ability and maturity are also closely tied. Professor Tanner, who also made a submission to that Committee, said that in England the sexes complete their growth at the average age of I7J years for boys and I6J years for girls w th standard deviations of about 10 months and 13 months respectively. Why do we insist on the antiquated concept of full citizenship at the age of 21?
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent (a) the debate on the second reading of the Adulthood Bill 1970 being continued until 12.25 p.m.; and (b) the culling on of Government Business at that time.
- Sir, in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. 15 was considered to be the age of majority in Britain and many European countries. But, with the Norman Conquest came a new concept and the feudal system. The age of the Cataphractos arrived with the armoured horseman, the heavily armoured war horse, the need to maintain and to carry arms and the concept of service in knighthood. There was a dichotomy for many years in English law where a tenant in socage reached adulthood at 15 and a tenant in knight service did not reach maturity until the age of 21 . There were important property considerations too. Military tenants could be kept in ward, and, their feudal lord could control their property until the age of 21. Knighthood service was abolished in 1660. What was once the concept of law applicable only to the gentry was applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. We have perpetuated that concept. Today this Government in this House through its chosen speakers will be advocating something which was introduced some 900 years ago.
The Latey Committee received also a report, which is worth quoting, from the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility. It put the matter very forcibly. lt said:
That is the concept of the majority at 21: is one of properly rights in and power over children, as much as of a duty to protect them.
The preoccupation of the English statute law and common law right through the 19th century was to be concerned with the accumulation of capital and who should control it. For that reason, there was every encouragement for that concept to be continued. The quotation continues:
If the law has never matched the needs of the young very exactly, we do not feel that we need necessarily prove that the young have changed before we recommend a change in the law.
Even the British Medical Association which is by no means a revolutionary body has said that physical maturity and emotional maturity in fact are going together with the young today.
Again, if I may, I will inflict on the House a further quotation from the report of the Latey Committee. It is worth noting very carefully. I refer to the submissions by the Chancery judges who stated:
Any legal system must lay down some age at which people who are not mentally defective are free to live their own lives at their own risk; free, for instance, to associate with whom they please, to live where they please, and, subject to the sanctions of criminal law, to live how they please. Whatever age is fixed there will inevitably be numbers of people over the age who many of their fellow citizens will consider to be unfit to enjoy such freedom. The law must, however, choose the age which accords best with the needs of the great majority. Moreover, the age which is appropriate to the conditions obtaining at one period may not be fitted to the conditions at another … we think that 18 should be substituted for 21 as the age at which a marriage can be contracted without consent and the Wardship jurisdiction end.
There would be no more experienced group in England than the judges in Chancery.
Let us look at the situation in Australia today. Let us look at the young and their approach to the world today. Old men create wars and send young men to fight them. There is a liability for military service today at the age of 18. Are we to deny these young men or any young man who could conceivably be liable to military service the right to full citizenship?Today, the youth as never before are separate and distinct in their approach. We live in an age of technology. We live in an age of materialism. I speak as one of the older members of this House of the need for a compassionate viewpoint of the youth revolt today.
We need these young men and young women to be inducted into full citizenship. They are entitled to express their views and to express them not outside Parliament but inside it and to have their representatives here because there is a definite younging of the population in Australia. There is a definite change in Australia’s outlook. A definite need exists today for the young to be able to enter this Parliament and to express freely their grievances. They are receiving answers to them where their grievances are of no account. They equally are entitled to have appropriate remedies passed by legislation. The day has passed when people can insist that young, mature, physically capable, mentally alert Australians should be treated as infants at law until the age of 21. They are entitled to come here. They are entitled to enter into their civic inheritance.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the debate on the Adulthood Bill 1970 again shows the complexity of the issue and the points that are made in regard to the reduction of the voting age and the marriage age. The position is that in certain instances - I refer to those young people who are serving overseas and to those who apply for special consideration - young people automatically are entitled to vote in an election. They are given this right because they are accepting a greater responsibility.
I think that this is a debate that is of value to this House and to this country. I would agree with the remarks of the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) when he said that this was a matter that the Government felt should not be voted upon and that a final decision should not be made at this stage. I accept, if I may say this, what the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) said, that this may be taken to mean sometime in the near future or sometime never. The lowering of the voting age is something that will have serious repercussions in this Commonwealth. These repercusions will be felt not only in relation to the 2 matters that were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), namely, the reduction of the voting age to 18 years and the age at which con.sent automatically is given for marriage being set at 18 years. The effects of this change will also flow into so many areas with which we are connected in our community life. It is for this reason that I say that this is a matter that needs very careful consideration.
There is a danger, which I appreciate and accept, of condemning young people in general terms because of certain attitudes that are adopted by some groups. Because these groups get publicity we tend sometimes to think that their behaviour is the behaviour of all voting people, lt has been argued by those who suggest that the voting age should be reduced that young people mature at an earlier age now than they did. say, 40 or 50 years ago. I think we would agree with that. Our world has become more closely integrated today because of advances in means of transport. Young people are considering things that in our lime we did not understand because we did not have the close associations that are now common. People are travelling abroad at ages younger than people did in our time. This, as I say, is principally due to the development of transport facilities, lt s also due to improved financial circumstances.
There are many complex questions related to this issue. One concerns the economic factor involved in giving young people additional responsibility. I speak not so much of the reduction in voting age but more of the ability to marry at 18 years of age without obtaining special permission. lt is accepted. I think, that young people today slay at school and at universlies for much longer periods. The school leaving age has been increased in recent years. In my own Slate of New South Wales I know that young people are frequently at high school until the agc of 18 and even 19. Ali of these factors show the complex issues that confront the Government when con sidering the Bill that has been presented by the Leader of the Opposition. J do not speak in any disparaging sense when I say that an Opposition always has the opportunity to discuss matters without having to accept the responsibility of putting those matters into legislative effect. This, of course, increases the responsibility of the Government when it is deciding whether to agree to a proposition put forward by the Opposition or to accept legislation covering that proposition.
I spoke earlier about young people accepting responsibility in this 20th century. Young people these days associate with other people in circumstances far different from those prevailing 30 or 40 years ago. I want to read something that was said in this House by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who is now the Minister for the Army, when this subject was being debated in 196K. lt highlights a factor that should be given deep consideration by all people who think about this subject. He was commenting on the Latey report that was presented in the United Kingdom and he gave this quotation from that report:
II is easy for those not closely in touch with young people to Kel an entirely wrong idea of what they arc like. The very word ‘teenager’ conjures up horror images, of pop fans screaming at air ports, gangs roaming the streets ami longhaired rebels being rude to their headmasters; and some of the older generation react to them wilh an automatic shudder.
We think this is Hie result of two thing:.. First, the Press. ‘Dog bites man’ is not news, ‘Man biles dog’ is. Five-hundred thugs vandalise a seaside town and the public gels front page headlines on it; scores of thousands lend normal, decent lives and little is written about it - if only for die simple reason that, when it is, nobody takes any notice.
Wc found this impression cropping up again ami again in the evidence. One quotation will perhaps suffice to stand for the rest:
The report went on with a quotation crf some of the remarks of a person who was opposing any reduction in the age of people who may vote, and also young people accepting responsibility. This is what that person said:
I look to the contemporary scene for signs of increased responsibility among the young and I see the hooliganism of ‘mods’ and ‘rockers’, the hysterical behaviour of pop fans, (he growing number of unmarried mothers and (he higher proportion of pregnant brides under 21, the increase ‘of drug taking, purple hearts and pep-pills, and the increase of venereal disease among the young, and I do not feel that this suggests any grounds for assuming that ‘they Mature so much earlier nowadays’.
The report went on to say:
It is a point of view. And those who bold it are, like this witness, inclined consistently to be against any lowering in the age of majority. They say, as she does, that hire purchase and mortgage agreements are ‘a rock -on which many adults come to grief. Youthful optimism at the mercy of high pressure salesmanship can only end in disaster.’ She regards very young marriages as peculiarly likely to turn into a brake on a young man’s career and an end to a young gill’s dream. The Committee discussed the reasons why people put these propositions forward.
I quoted that report and comment because of something which appeared in one of our Victorian newspapers. It referred to a number of ratbags at a basketball game in Victoria, lt read:
Oil thrown at race riot.
Anti-apartheid demonstrators tried to wreck the women’s basketball game between South Africa and Victoria at Royal Park last night.
That group of young people would never be responsible enough to vote if they lived to bc 221 or 218. But the point that is emphasised by that newspaper report is thai the hundreds of people who acted normally got no publicity whatsoever because normal behaviour is not news. Let me give another illustration in regard to this. If a piece of legislation passes through this House with the Opposition voting against it and the Government in favour of it, this event is just recorded as an item of news. But if legislation passes through this House after some supporters of the Government have crossed the floor to oppose it, that is headline news because it is a little out of the ordinary. Yet, basically our Parliament is able to function smoothly and effectively only because of the acceptance of the principle of majority rule and a majority decision.
Of our young people today I think it is completely true to say that the majority accept their responsibilities and are playing their part as citizens in the community. If this were not so, our society just could not function. If this were not so, our universities would not be able to achieve any progress or any development. The majority of the young people who go to universities will be contributing to the progress and development of this country because they are placing themselves in the position where, by gaining knowledge and advancing themselves in the academic field, they can accept the responsibilities of citizenship. If there is any doubt about this I would point to the fact that within our community we have Apex clubs in which young people are doing something within the community. They form the group that helps charitable organisations. Young people constitute a very high percentage of the members of charitable organisations. Young people are associated with charitable groups such as the Smith Family which engage in collecting food and clothes for needy people at Christmas time and on other occasions. We should realise that the majority of young people are accepting responsibility as did their forefathers and are making a contribution to the community life of this nation.
We do not want to get a wrong impression, as I have said, as a result of the publicity that is given to particular groups. One can understand that this is only publicity and that the great majority of young people working normally and behaving normally in community life are not news. Because of all the publicity given to a minority we should not feel that all our young people are not facing up to and accepting their responsibilities. Because of this, I believe that the subject we are discussing is worthy of debate in this Federal Parliament. It is a subject that should be given very, very serious consideration and is not one that can be passed off lightly. I believe that we should not come to a point were no change is ever made. I accept the criticism that this decision to make further investigations and further studies can be used as an excuse to delay bringing in legislation; but I come back to the point I mentioned earlier that, because of al’l the complexities of the matter, because this subject in itself is not just an isolated question of whether a certain age group should be given the vote or be allowed to marry at the age of 18 years and because of all the other factors that flow from this I. believe that this is a measure that should be given very serious consideration. It is to the value-
Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired. The honourable member for Lyne will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting. The House will proceed with Government Business.
– Mr Speaker. I present the report by the Tariff Board on potatoes. This report does not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr Speaker. I ask for leave to make a statement on this report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Following representations from potato growers and processors towards the end of 1968. the Tariff Board was asked to conduct an inquiry into the frozen potato products industry. At that time growers were experiencing glut conditions and low prices, and were concerned that imports of frozen potato products could damage the Australian industry.
The Tariff Board has recommended that the present duties on frozen potato products be not changed. The Board found that the local industry is expanding and considered that economic and efficient growers and processors, such as those operating in northwest Tasmania, need have no fears that competition from imports at current duty levels will seriously affect their ability to compete on the Australian market.
In its report, the Board stated that most recent imports have been at dumped prices and that such competition has contributed to the marketing problems of Australian processors. The Board added that dumping by overseas exporters constitutes a threat of injury to the Australian frozen potato industry.
As honourable members will know, the Government has a policy protecting Australian industries against damage from overseas competition at dumped prices. Accordingly, the Government has accepted the Board’s finding on dumping and 1 have arranged the publication of a dumping notice in today’s Commonwealth Gazette. This action will empower the Government to apply anti-dumping duties on further shipments of potato products at dumped prices.
– by leave - I rise in my place briefly to say that I am pleased that this inquiry into the effect of dumping on the potato industry has taken place and that the Government, which properly has the right and responsibility to dictate policy in these matters, has seen fit to adopt the report of the Tariff Board. It will be quite clear to honourable members that some of the vegetable industries in Tasmania have been under some pressure from time to time. Sometimes the reports emanating from industry sources in the producing areas may be a trifle exaggerated and sometimes, as is so in this case, there is obvious merit in what the Tariff Board has suggested and what the Government has accepted as policy on the matter. It is very important that the House should look at the methods adopted when dumping occurs and recognise this procedure as an effective check to dumping and a measure to take care of the primary industry concerned.
Dumping affects not only the Tasmanian industry but also the industry in various areas of South Australia of which I am aware, and quite probably in other areas. I am not so sure of. my facts about Victoria or New South Wales but I do know that in South Australia the pattern of potato availability is very different from that which applies in Tasmania. By and large over the years the pattern of the Tasmanian crop has been one of great variation due to seasonal conditions There have been years of big surpluses and years when, due to poor climatic conditions, the crop has been able to do little more than meet local demand, leaving no surplus for export or processing. In South Australia there is a greater continuity of supply, and I would think that this would be mirrored fairly well in Victoria. In South Australia we do not have variations in the crop due to seasonal conditions as exist in Tasmania. This is due largely to the use of irrigation. But dumping by countries which export to Australia does affect potato growers in South Australia. The action taken by the Government against dumping will be vital to the industry, particularly in Tasmania because of the seasonal variations which can affect the total supply of potatoes.
If I were to continue my remarks outside the context of the Tariff Board’s report I might be out of order. So I content myself by thanking the House for its generosity in allowing me to make these general remarks which I feel have some relevance to this matter.
– by leave- This is a matter of vital importance to Tasmania. It is always pleasing to be able to thank the Government for having done something constructive and helpful. On behalf of Tasmanian potato growers - there are a few left - I thank the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) for bringing down anti-dumping regulations to slow down the importation of processed potatoes. The countries that have been engaging in dumping are Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and our old friend the United States of America, which gives us such a rough spin with our exports of wool by imposing a duty of 25%, thus making it virtually impossible for us to export wool to that country.
I would stress that the potato industry is in a depressed state. I know that a lot of our rural industries are in this condition, but the potato industry is particularly depressed, especially in Tasmania. When an industry is facing disastrously low prices for its product the dumping of imported products could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Lifting tariffs on imported processed potatoes could reduce imports of potato products which are competing with local products and thus help the industry in some way. I congratulate local processors for the quality of their product. It is unfair that they should be pushed further into depression by the importation of overseas potato products. The industry in Tasmania has been in a state of gradual decline because of the difficulty in getting economic prices for its product, mainly on the Sydney market. Growers have been greatly disadvantaged by increasing freight rates. There is now no profit in the growing of potatoes in Tasmania. Growers are not always receiving even the cost of production. They continue to plant potatoes only because potatoes are not their main source of income. They are mixed farmers. Because of this they can carry losses on potatoes. Many of them work on the principle that they will plant 10 acres of potatoes a year irrespective of whether they get a good price or a low price. They feel that over a period of 5 years the average price obtained will repay their efforts. This is how they are carrying on with potato growing now.
The Tasmanian Labor Party Rural Committee, of which I am secretary - it is the only one of its kind in the Commonwealth, with 20 active farmers on it - meets every 2 months as a research committee. We are in the process of working out a stabilisation plan for the potato industry not only ;n Tasmania but in Australia. We feel that the industry has to be stabilised, underwritten and underpinned by the Commonwealth if it is to survive as a viable industry. As potatoes are often a cash crop for farmers it is important that prices keep at least ahead of costs. I support what the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) so graciously said about Tasmanian growers. On behalf of Tasmanian potato growers and the Tasmanian Potato Marketing Board I again thank the Minister and the Government for the bringing down of the regulations to reduce dumping of processed potatoes.
Mr ALLAN FRASER (EdenMonaro)by leave - This matter is of very great concern to the electorate of Eden-Monaro and particularly to potato growers in the Crookwell d strict. The plight of potato growers in that area is parlous. For many of them it has not been possible even to attempt to market their crop. They have been forced simply to dig it in. For a long time I have striven to obtain some effective action against the dump ng of imported potatoes, particularly processed potatoes. I am glad that the Government is at last acting in this direction. I hope that its efforts will be effective in protecting potato growers.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase the monetary benefits provided by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-69. As honourable members know provisions to increase the monetary benefits were included in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1970 that I introduced on 19th March last. That Bill which dealt with other matters as well as monetary benefits was withdrawn yesterday to make way for this Bill and will be reintroduced at a later time suitably varied to take account of the situation that has emerged. Honourable members will recall that at the conclusion of my second reading speech on the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1970 on 19th March I said that the Government’s mind was not closed so far as that Bill was concerned and that we stood prepared to consider on their merits suggestions for amendment during its passage. We already have under consideration at this time a number of suggestions from the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations and we also expect to receive suggestions from other sources such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Because consideration of the various suggestions will preclude the passage of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill before the end of the current session, the Government has decided to introduce this rates Bill now with a view to its being passed this session so that payment of compensation at the increased rates already announced can be commenced at an early date.
Under the Bill the basic lump sum benefit is being increased from 810,000 to $12,000 and the minimum payment for a dependent child of a deceased employee from $200 to $280. The minimum payment of $1,650, below which the basic lump sum death benefit may not be reduced if an. employee received a lump sum payment before his death, is increased to $2,000. The Bill provides for the weekly payment in incapacity cases to be increased from $28.15 to $31.80 for an adult employee without dependants and the weekly dependant supplements pf $6.80 and $2.50 for a dependent wife and each dependent child under 16 years of age to be increased to $7.70 and $2.80 respectively. The weekly payment for an employee who is a minor is increased from $21.10 to $23.85. The present maximum lump sum payment for the more serious specified injuries is increased by the Bill from SI 0,000 to $12,000. The benefits for the less serious specified injuries will automatically increase in the same proportion. The maximum amount of compensation that may be paid in respect of any one accident to an employee who is not totally and permanently incapacitated is also increased from $10,000 to $12,000 in line with the increases in the basic lump sum death benefit and the maximum payment for a specified injury. I commend the Bill to the House and express the hope that it will be given a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
(12.45] - by leave - 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust has been engaged for some time in a review of the parliamentary retiring allowances scheme and last year invited suggestions from members of that scheme. Earlier this year the Trust considered the various suggestions put forward by members and reached conclusions on some of them. Examination of others is proceeding. As well, the Trust considered other aspects of the parliamentary and ministerial schemes that have been the subject of representations and suggestions in recent years. The amendments being made to the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act by this Bill result in the main from the Government’s consideration of the proposals that have so far come forward from the Trust. The Bill removes those provisions in section 21 of the Act that require the reduction of pension when the person in receipt of pension is receiving remuneration as the holder of an office under, or from employment by, the Commonwealth or a State or an authority of the Commonwealth or a State. This change will bring the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act more into line with the Superannuation and the Defence Forces
Retirement Benefits Acts from which corresponding re-employment provisions were removed in 1965 and has been the subject of representations by members of the Parliament over a long period.
The provisions requiring reduction of pension if the pensioner receives salary or pension as a member or former member of a State parliament or as a State Minister, or cancellation of pension if he is re-elected to the Commonwealth Parliament are, however, retained. Under both the parliamentary and ministerial schemes male and female members contribute at the same rate. Whereas the widow of a male contributor or pensioner may at her option receive either a pension or a lump sum payment, the widower of a married female contributor or pensioner is not so entitled, the only benefit being a lump sum payment not to the widower but to the estate of the deceased. The Bill provides for the benefits for a widower in future to be the same as for a widow. Under the ministerial scheme, unless the 3 occasions rule applies, 8 years service as a Minister, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives is necessary to qualify for pension. In the case of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives who contribute atone half the Ministers’ rate. 16 years service is necessary to qualify for pension while the qualifying period for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, who contributes at one quarter of the Ministers’ rate is 32 years. In future these other officeholders, while continuing to contribute at a reduced rale will qualify for pension from the Ministerial Fund after 8 years service. However, for the purpose of ascertaining the rate of pension payable, service as Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives will be placed in the same position as are the contributions of those office-holders. For example, a member who has completed 8 years service as Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives will qualify for a 4-year pension under the expanded pension scale provided in the Bill. The Bill also extends the 3 occasions rule to these other office-holders.
At present a person who ceases to be an office-holder and does not qualify for pension is not entitled to a refund of his contributions to the Ministerial Fund until such time as he leaves the Parliament. The Bill modifies this provision so that the Trust may, on the written application of a former office-holder still serving in the Parliament, determine that there are special circumstances that justify an immediate payment of a refund.
Investigations as to the state and sufficiency of both the Parliamentary and Ministerial Funds are required to bc made at intervals of not more than 7 years. The first investigation of the Ministerial Fund is not due until 30th June 1972 and the next investigation of the Parliamentary Fund need not bc made until 30th June 1973. In view of the nature of the funds it has been decided that investigations should be made concurrently and at more frequent intervals. The Bill accordingly provides for investigations of both funds to be made as at 30th June 1970 and thereafter at intervals of not more than three years. The remaining provisions of the Bill are concerned with machinery and drafting amendments. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first: time.
12.53 - by leave - ] move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks parliamentary approval to borrowings by the Commonwealth of up to $ US 100m for the purchase of general defence equipment in the United Slates. Under the Loan (Defence) Act 1966. the Commonwealth arranged borrowings of $US450m to assist in the purchase of defence equipment in the United States. Those borrowings were almost completely committed by orders placed up to last December, and the Government wishes to make provision under the present Bill for further borrowings to finance orders placed from the beginning of this year for additional purchases of defence equipment in the United States. The loans arranged under the 1966 Act were all with the ExportImport Bank of the United States. They were used for the purchase of general defence equipment and for some payments on the F111 aircraft.
The Loan (Defence) Act 1968 provided for the boro wing by the Commonwealth of a further $US75m to assist in financing the purchase of F111 aircraft. No drawings have yet been made against that loan and the borrowings to be made under the new proposed Act will therefore not be used to finance any payments on the F1 1 1 aircraft. It is expected that the Export-Import Bank of the United States will provide the loan funds to be raised under this legislation. We are at present negotiating with the Bank for this purpose, and the Bill has been drafted to provide authority for the Commonwealth to accept the usual provisions of Export-Import Bank loan agreements. Since the borrowing is for defence purposes the approval of the Australian Loan Council is not required. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.56 to 2 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill should be read in conjunction with the States Receipts Duty Bill (No. 1) 1970, the States Receipts Duty Bill (No. 2) 1970, the States Receipts Duty Bill (No. 3) 1970 and the States Grants (Receipts Duty) Bill 1970 which I shall be introducing shortly. The purpose of the group of 5 Bills is to provide the legislative framework for the imposition by the Commonwealth, at the request of the States and for their benefit, of a duty on business receipts so as to achieve the general result that the States do not lose revenue as a consequence of the High Court decisions invalidating the receipts duty legislation of the States in its application to certain types of receipts.
The Commonwealth has long accepted that, when the States are faced with large abnormal budgetary difficulties through circumstances beyond their control, it may be necessary for the Commonwealth to consider special measures of assistance. Accordingly, when the High Court decision in the Hamersley case cast doubt on the constitutional validity of the receipts duty legislation of the States in its application to certain types of receipts, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) indicated last September that the Commonwealth would see that the States did not lose revenue in 1969-70 in the event that this doubt was confirmed. At a special Premiers Conference held an 18th November 1969 to consider the position, the Premiers said that the States had expected to receive a total of about $70m in 1969-70 from their receipts duties. About $40m of this revenue was estimated to come from duty on the proceeds of sale of goods - the area that was considered most likely to be held invalid. The Premiers estimated that, if the States’ receipts duties were discontinued altogether, the loss of revenue to the States in 1969-70 would be up to $50m. It was recognised that, if there were a substantial revenue loss and no replacement tax were introduced, the inflationary effects on the economy would be severe. The outcome of the Conference was a request by the Premiers, to which the Commonwealth agreed, that in the event of the receipts duty of the States being found invalid in some or all respects, the Commonwealth should introduce legislation, with operation retrospectively to 18th November 1969, to impose a like tax for the benefit of the States.
At a further Premiers Conference held on 26th February 1970 following the High Court decisions given on the previous day, the Premiers requested, and the Commonwealth agreed, that the Commonwealth legislation should have continuing operation beyond 30th June 1970. It was also agreed that the Commonwealth legislation should apply only to business receipts, which are the receipts in respect of which the great bulk of the invalid area of the existing receipts duty legislation of the States falls.
The 5 Bills give effect to the arrangements I have outlined. The legislation is being introduced at the request of the States and for their benefit, with the proceeds of duty collections under the legislation being payable to the States as section 96 grants. Before proceeding to outline the contents of the legislation, I feel I must strongly emphasise the importance, particularly in view of existing demand pressures in the economy, of ensuring that there is not at this stage any substantial loss in budgeted revenue collections such as would occur if the Commonwealth did not legislate on the basis requested by the States. In this connection I might mention that the Premiers have indcated that, in the absence of Commonwealth legislation to impose receipts duty where it is in the nature of an excise, the States would be unlikely to be able to impose receipts duty where it is not in the nature of an excise. in these circumstances, it would clearly be dangerously irresponsible to allow a retrospective reduction in tax revenues at the rate of some $70m per annum.
The legislation will, in accordance with the arrangements I have outlined, have retrospective applicaton to 18th November 1969. However, provision is made for an exemption from liability to duly under Commonwealth law if State duty - whether or not validly imposed - has been paid, .or within a specified t me is paid, under State law in respect of receipts during a transitional period from 18th November 1969 until a date to be proclaimed under the Commonwealth legislation. Receipts specifically exempted under thc provis’ons of existing State Acts - or to which these Acts do not. validly or invalidly. extend - will also not be liable to duty under the Commonwealth legislation during the transitional period.
The effect of this in the case of Queensland warrants special mention. The rate of duty under the Commonwealth legislation will be lc in SIO, or 0.1%. This is the rate applying under the State legislation at present in operation in all States other than Queensland. In Queensland, the rate at present in operation is 2c in $100, or 0.02%. A practical effect of the provision I have referred to is that, for receipts in Queensland during the transitional period, there will be no liability for duty under the Commonwealth law if duty is paid to Queensland at the lower rate or if the receipt is under $20 and for that reason not subject to Queensland duty. From the end of the transitional period the combined effect of the Commonwealth legislation and legislation already passed by the Queensland Parliament will be that the rate on receipts dutiable under either law will be the same its in other States - that is, lc in $10.
The Commonwealth’s approach to the legislation before the House has been that, as it is being introduced at the request of the States and for their benefit, with the Commonwealth acting in a sense as agent for the States for the purpose, it has been essentially for the States collectively to say what detailed provisions should be included in the Commonwealth legislation within the framework of the agreed arrangements. Accordingly, the detailed provisions have been agreed collectively with the Slate governments. This has necessitated a large amount of give and take as between the various States because the Commonwealth legislation must of course apply uniformly in all States and there are innumerable differences in the detailed provisions of the existing legislation of each of the Stales. To a large degree it has been a matter of achieving an amalgam, acceptable to the States collectively, of the varying provisions of the existing State legislation.
After the Commonwealth legislation conies into effect the States will continue to impose receipts duty on those receipts that remain validly taxable under their own legislation and to the extent that they are not subject to duty under the Commonwealth legislation. Queensland is so far the only State to have taken legislative action for its receipts duty to conform to this pattern. The other States intend to do so when they can. Until they do, they will take the administrative steps necessary to ensure that no double duty arises after the date when the Commonwealth legislation comes into effect. 1 understand that State governments that have not already made this clear will be making announcements on this point. The numerous differences - many of detail but some of substance - between the provisions of existing legislation of the individual Stales have made it unavoidable that the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation do not in all respects coincide with those of any of the States. Within the practical limits, however, the endeavour of the Commonwealth and the States has been, so far as taxpayers are concerned, to restore as nearly as possible the position that would have applied if receipts duty had continued to be imposed wholly under State legislation.
This has been the aim both as to liability for duty and to arrangements for its payment. While the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation will be responsible for the general administration of the Commonwealth legislation, the day to day administration will continue to be carried out by State officers in conjunction with their administration of the State legislation. Duty under the Commonwealth legislation will be payable only through the lodgment of periodical returns and not through the stamping of receipts. The returns, accompanied by payments of duty, will be lodged with State officers who, for the purposes of the Commonwealth legislation, will be appointed as collectors of receipts duties for their respective States. In practice, the return period for each taxpayer will generally be the period applicable for purposes of State law. For a business that has not been lodging State returns, the return period will be 1 month or such other period as is determined on a basis appropriate to the particular case.
Where a taxpayer during a return period receives money that is subject to duty under Commonwealth law and also receives money that is subject to duty under State law or - and I would expect there to be few cases of this kind - receives money part of which is subject to Commonwealth duty and part of which ls subject to State duty, the taxpayer will be able to furnish to the appropriate collector of receipts duties the one return showing separately the amounts subject to duty under Commonwealth and State laws. Payment of the one amount in satisfaction of the total liability to the duty under the two laws will be accepted.
As I have already indicated, the application of the Commonwealth legislation will be limited to the taxation of what I have broadly referred to as business receipts. Subject to specified exemptions, duty will be payable under Commonwealth law in respect of money received, or deemed to have been received, in Australia by a person in the course of carrying on a business in a State. Carrying on a business will, for the purpose of the legislation, have its ordinary general meaning and will include engagement in a trade or profession, but not as an employee.
All money received - or deemed by the legislation to be received - by a company residing, or carrying on a business, in a State, will be regarded as being received in the course of carrying on business. This rule will also apply to partnerships, although there will be no liability to duty on amounts received by a partner from a partnership in his capacity of partner nor by a partnership from a partner in that capacity. A company is defined by the legislation to include incorporated and unincorporated bodies, but exemptions are provided for the receipts of a wide range of organisations such as unlicensed clubs, charitable institutions, prescribed marketing authorities and prescribed public authorities. Provision is also made for rebates of duty where the duty has been paid on moneys received but subsequently repaid. This may occur where, for example, repayments are made of money that has been paid as a tender deposit or for goods that are later returned to the seller.
The legislation contains special provisions relating to principals and agents, including solicitors and their clients. The broad purpose of these provisions is to ensure that the interposition of an agent in arrangements for payment of money by one person to another does not cause any greater liability to arise than would accrue if the payments were made directly. As is the case under the receipts duty legislation of the majority of the States, the primary liability for duty will fall on the agent rather than the principal. There are, however, likely to be cases where it will be more convenient to the parties for the principal, and not the agent, to pay duty on amounts received by the agent on behalf of the principal. Provision is made in the legislation for the principal to arrange that, subject to administrative approval, the primary liability for the duty may be transferred to him in these cases.
Under the Commonwealth legislation duty will be imposed on money received in Australia in the course of carrying on a business in a State, and the amount of section 96 grants payable to each State will be the amount of duty collected in respect of money received in that State. However, one arrangement included at the request of the States is that, where goods or services are supplied in one State but payment for them is received in another State or in an internal or external territory or overseas, the receipts are to be included in a return lodged, and duty is to be payable, in the State in which the goods or services are supplied. Goods will be regarded as being supplied at the place where the property in them passes. One effect of these provisions is that, while duty is not being imposed in the territories, avoidance of duty by arrangements designed to take advantage of that fact should substantially be prevented.
A person will be regarded as having received money irrespective of whether the receipt is in the form of cash, or of cheques, other bills of exchange or promissory notes. However, a transaction that is merely an equal exchange of money for money - for example, the cashing of a cheque or the exchange of notes for coins - will not be treated as a receipt of money by either party. Payments by a person into his current or savings bank account and withdrawals by him from such an account are also exempt.
There are circumstances in which a person will be regarded as havi ng received money for the purposes of the legislation, although in a strict sense he may not have done so. A deposit by a person to the bank account of another person, or a debit of an amount against a person’s bank account transferred to the credit of another person, will be treated as a receipt of money by the other person. So too will the receipt by a creditor of a consideration other than money in the settlement of a debt or part of a debt. Money will also be deemed to have been received by a creditor where his debtor does not pay him in cash but instead, with his authority, credits him with the amount of the debt or part of it.
In common with other Commonwealth taxing legislation, the legislation provides the machinery for a taxpayer dissatisfied with his liability as determined under the legislation to object against the liability assessed. If the objection is not allowed, the taxpayer may request a hearing by a taxation board of review and may appeal to the Hi gh
Court from a decision of such a board as to any question of law involved. The legislation is so drafted that a person who wishes to dispute liability in this way may request the Commissioner to issue an assessment of duty so that he may have the matter with which he is dissatisfied considered by an independent tribunal. The enforcement provisions in the Bill are modelled on comparable provisions in other Commonwealth taxation laws.
I have, in this introductory speech, explained the general background to and framework of the Commonwealth legislation, and in addition have attempted to indicate in brief and broad terms the main technical provisions embodied in the legislation. However, particularly in view of the complex nature of the legislation, I am having circulated to honourable members an explanatory memorandum setting out more detailed informati on on technical and procedural matters. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first lime.
1 2.23] - I move:
Under section 55 of the Constitution, duties of customs, duties of excise and other duties are required to be imposed by separate laws. The purpose of the States Receipts Duty Bill (No.1) is to impose, for the benefit of the States, duty on certain receipts of money, to the extent that it is a duty of excise, at the rate of 0.1% of the money received. I explained the background and effect of the Bill, and the other Bills with which it is associated, in my second reading speech when introducing the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) 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 impose, for the benefit of the States, duty on certain receipts of money, to the extent that it may be a duty of customs, at the rate of 0.1% of the money received. I explained the background and effect of the Bill, and the other Bills with which it is associated, in my second reading speech when introducing the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to impose, for the benefit of the States, duty on certain receipts of money, to the extent that it is not a duty of excise or a duty of customs, at the rate of 0.1% of the money received. I explained the background and effect of the Bill, and the other Bills with which it is associated, in my second reading speech when introducing the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) 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 provide for the making of section 96 grants to the States of the amounts of receipts duties collected under the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970, the States Receipts Duty Bill (No. 1) 1970, the States Receipts Duty Bill (No. 2) 1970 and the States Receipts Duty Bill (No. 3) 1970. I explained the general effect of all 5 Bills, taken together, in my second reading speech when introducing the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970. There is not much more to be said in explanation of the Bill now before the House. The amounts to be paid as section 96 grants to each State will be the amounts of duty paid to the collector of receipts duties for that State in accordance with the provisions of the administration Bill. Payment of the grants to the States will be made at convenient regular intervals as agreed between the Commonwealth and the States. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 4 March (vide page 75), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1970 is intended to amend the parent Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act in 2 major respects. The first is in relation to quotas which are a form of restriction on wheat production in Australia. The second is to give discretionary authority to the Australian Wheat Board to sell in Australia wheat for purposes other than human consumption at prices lower than the price for human consumption - in other words, lower than the price set within the terms of the stabilisation scheme itself for wheat for home consumption.
As is well known now, a record production of wheat has occurred in Australia. This has caused very serious problems regarding not only storages for that wheat but also the disposal of it. It has been necessary for the wheat industry to restrict production or to accept a lower price for its products. The wheat industry has agreed to reduce production voluntarily by a form of quotas - this being the responsibility of the States - and the Commonwealth has agreed to pay the same first advance payment of $1.10 per bushel. The State governments have accepted the proposal to reduce production.
The Bill before the House will enable the Australian Wheat Board to operate on a quota pool basis. In the 1969-70 season, for example, wheat delivered within a grower’s quota will become part of the quota pool. Wheat delivered in excess of his quota will be received as over quota wheat. It will not be taken in the 1969-70 pool unless, and to the extent that, it is sold and paid for in full during the season.
With respect to the prices, as outlined in this Bill which amends the principal Act, the change proposed again is the result of further recommendations by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. The Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act. 1968 provides for a home consumption price to apply to all domestic sales of wheal whether as stock feed, for products for human consumption or for industrial use. In September of last year, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) points out in his second reading speech, the Federation asked for some amending provisions to be introduced with respect to the price of wheat in Australia. The complementary legislation was altered to give the Australian Wheat Board discretionary authority to sell wheat for slock feed and for industrial uses at a price below the going home consumption price of $1.71 per bushel for f.a.q. wheat in bulk f.o.r. ports but not less than the equivalent of the guaranteed price which for that season was §1.45 per bushel for f.a.q. wheat f.o.b.
On 22nd May 1969 I suggested proposals designed to allow surplus wheat to be sold for stock feed in Australia at prices below the high domestic price then operating. That price was $1.71 per bushel. I made the point that owners of starving stock in Australia were discriminated against blatantly because they were forced to pay a price based on $1.7) per bushel while, at the same time, the Australian Government, through the Australian Wheat Board, was selling wheat to overseas countries, including China, at prices well below the domestic price. On the one hand, for example, owners of starving stock in western Queensland were required to pay the domestic price based on $1.71 per bushel while, on the other hand, wheat of the same quality was being sold to overseas markets at $ 1 .45 per bushel. In some cases, the price could be less.
When this proposal, based on a No. I pool and a No. 2 pool system for wheat apart from wheat for human consumption, was suggested to the Parliament, the Government said that it could not be clone, that such a proposal if adopted would wreck the whole wheat stabilisation scheme, lt could not be considered. It was said in fact that it would wreck the very solid foundations on which the whole of the wheat stabilisation scheme had been built. This appeared to be the official view of the Government. Now, the Government has performed a somersault. It has changed its mind. This has been known for some lime. Legislation complementary to this Bill has been introduced in all State parliaments wilh the exception, 1 believe, of Queensland. I am not certain whether complementary legislation has been introduced into the Queensland Parliament yet because serious drought has affected quota levels.
We see that, in this Bill, the Government has introduced what was suggested here a long time ago. 1 think that this is a good system. Naturally, the Opposition is supporting it. The only basic difference between, us is on the subject of price. The only basic difference between the Government’s view on this wheat for stock feed or industrial use and the altitude adopted by the Opposition is that we believe that the Australian Wheat Board should be given flexibility regarding the price at which the wheat is sold, even if that price is below the guaranteed price. 1 will be moving an amendment during the Committee stage to give effect lo that attitude.
In many instances, in times of severe drought, if stocks of wheat are built up it may be good economics to sell that wheat at a price below SI. 45 per bushel. Certainly it is recognised thai this could have a serious effect on the coarse grains market in some periods. As a person who is in favour of stabilistaion und orderly marketing in all major industries, I think the time will come before very long when the coarse grains industry, as far as exports are concerned, will have to be stabilised in terms of controlled marketing in the same way as stabilisation has taken place in relation to practically every major produce industry which has been in trouble. We are seeing this happening today even perhaps in relation to the dairying industry. The need for flexibility is recognised. Prices on the coarse grains market could drop. This fact is recognised by me. However, in the long term, it would be most advantageous to have a flexible price for what is called unsaleable wheat, rather than to permit it to be stored indefinitely, and then to try to solve the problems of the ancillary effects on the coarse grains market in some areas.
I propose to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. This amendment is identical to the amendment which 1 moved at the time when the legislation establishing the wheat stabilisation scheme was before the Parliament. I argued here that only I price should be agreed upon. Thai is to say, ] argued that we should not have a price of SI. 7 1 per bushel for all wheat sold domestically and a price of Si. 45 per bushel for wheat that was exported. This was a radical change in the whole system of wheat stabilisation since the inception of the scheme. The burden of additional costs has been borne by the low income earner - that is, the family which eats bread and eggs - instead of the Australian taxpayer making up any difference that is needed out of Consolidated Revenue. I move:
That all words after ‘Thai’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Bill bc withdrawn and redrafted to provide for a one-price scheme for home consumption and export wheat, being a price which will return to the grower $1.48 f.o.r. per bushel which is equivalent to a guaranteed price of $1,511 f.o.b. per bushel for exports up to a maximum of 200 million bushels from the crop of any season, to apply from the commencement of the current stabilisation scheme’.
-Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment and reserve my right to speak at a later stage.
– The effect of the amendment is the same as that which I put forward on behalf of the Opposition on 23rd October 1968. There arc some additional words which cover any increase in the home consumption price. The principal reason for the amendment is that under the two-price system that exists today the subsidy burden is thrown on to the consumers of wheat. Some might argue that is as it should be, but we have never argued in that way previously in respect to wheat. We have argued that the general taxpayer should pay the subsidy. The shifting of the subsidy burden to the lower income groups is deliberately penalising the bread consuming section of our nation. As we know, those in this section are the lower income earners, the men with low incomes who have to provide for large families. However, this whole matter was fully debated some time ago. From memory 1 think the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) at that time supported our proposition. lt is accepted, of course, that complementary legislation has been introduced and that if we accepted this amendment it would mean going right back to the beginning of stabilisation. That is accepted, but this is the Opposition’s expression of its disapproval of the two-price system which is operating today under the stabilisation scheme. I believe, and I think events have shown, that the artificially high price, particularly for feed wheat - as this amendment demonstrates - is not in the best interests of the wheat industry. In fact the amendment introduced by the Government has for its purpose the reduction of that high price. So T think that the Opposition and those Government supporters who vote with the Opposition on this matter are fully justified because we see in this amending legislation an actual reduction of stock feed prices, which of course reduces the average domestic price. However, I will say no more about that because it was explained earlier in full.
What is going 10 happen this year? Th:st is the important thing in respect to the wheat industry. I would like to hear the views of the Minister for Primary Industry on this because I think this goes to the crux of the seriousness of the situation. What is going to happen this year, firstly in terms of quotas? I suppose one can always argue that quotas are domestic arrangements of the States themselves. But it is important to find out what is going to happen in the forthcoming season. What are the estimate-:?
As at 1st December 1969 there was a carryover of 266 million bushels. I have some figures here based on the best estimates that 1 could obtain. I have said that I wanted the views of the Minister for Primary Industry because he may have some better figures than the ones I have been able to get. On these figures it would seem that this year there may be a crop of about 420 million bushels. New South Wales will have a reasonably good average season with 7 million acres under crop. Victoria will have a pretty good season with about 2.75 million acres. South Australia will have a good average season with 2.75 million acres. Western Australia also will have a reasonably good season with 6.25 million acres. Queensland will have a disastrous season with a little over 1 million acres.
All this will give a total of about 20 million acres. To estimate the yield is like pulling something out of a hat, but one can look at the projections of the agronomists and others working in this field. Their projections in the past have been pretty accurate. On that basis one can assume an average of 20 bushels an acre which would give about 420 million bushels. I think this is a reasonably conservative figure. If we allow for seed wheat retained on the farms and for the sale of 250 million bushels in 1970 we arrive at a figure of about 400 million bushels at the end of the 1970 harvest. This means we will be about 130 million to 140 million bushels worse off than we were at the start of the season, say at 1st December 1969. As I have said, these figures are based on the best estimates I was able to obtain. What they show is that there is a continually deteriorating condition as far as wheat stocks are concerned. This gives one cause for alarm because we must solve this problem of surpluses.
I want to speak briefly on the quota system because, after all, it is .something that is inherent in this legislation. I have always argued in this House that there are 2 great deficiencies in the quota system. It is not equitable and it is inefficient in terms of resource use. I cannot accept the proposition, and nobody should accept it, that the flat reduction which has been employed by some States is equitable.
– It is inequitable.
– I cannot accept the argument that a 10% reduction on a crop of 50,000 bushels carries the same burden as a 10% reduction on a crop of 8,000 bushels. This is the system that has been adopted today and it is completely wrong in any moral or economic sense. A small producer of, say, 8,000 bushels might suffer a reduction of, say, 20% and he would finish up with a quota of 6,400 bushels. Despite his efficiency he could be bankrupt because he simply is not big enough in terms of his gross income and net income to survive over a period of time. There should be introduced in all States a differential or a sliding system of quotas as far as production is concerned giving preference to the small producer. In other words, there should be a minimum level. We should not go, for example, below a figure of say, 10,000 bushels. This should be the bedrock. Surely there should be some minimum quota limit here which pays some respect to the small traditional farmer or the small new farmer. Under the quota system many small farms must go bankrupt. They are just not big enough in terms of the quota and net income. This is wrong in every sense of the word.
The second prong of the criticism of the quota system is that it does not allow the most efficient use of resources. If there are 2 farms, 1 may have distinct comparative economic advantage in the production of wheat over the other in respect to alternatives. A flat rate reduction of, say, 10% does not give the same burden. In fact, what has happened is that we are getting a more inefficient use of resources by a fixed percentage reduction because it might pay the one farmer to sell his quota or part of his quota and produce another crop and the better farm could produce more at lower cost. There is no need for me to point this out because it has been pointed out time and time again by people who have made specific studies on it.
Another point on the quotas should be considered. I believe there should be some provision for the transferring of quotas in some circumstances because a nontransferable quota actually fixes a frozen base and from that frozen base, irrespective of efficiency, that is where quotas are formulated. It could easily be that by the transference of quotas from the inefficient use of resources to the more efficient use of resources the wheat industry itself will gain because the average cost of production overall is reduced. This has been pointed out frequently by people who have made specific studies of the subject.
One of the main principles behind this amending legislation to allow a reduction in the domestic price of wheat for stock feed and industrial use is to put wheat sold to the owner of starving stock on a more equitable footing, in Australia anyhow, with the same type of wheat being sold overseas. As I have said, I think this is a very sound move because supply and demand will soon determine the correct level for feed wheat. lt could be that in many seasons to come this price could be well above the guaranteed price or that in some seasons it could be below the guaranteed price. This is where the basic difference between the Opposition and the Government is - the scheme should be flexible in that if it goes beyond the guaranteed price, and this is the market price, then this is the price at which it should bc sold if it cannot be stored. We should not just stop at $1.45 and then have to store the wheat.
In the prolonged drought which is still affecting Queensland silos in the Clermont area were choc-a-bloc with wheat. Within miles of them thousands of sheep were starving and dying and the -farmers were cutting the throats of lambs because they could not get at this wheat because it was too dear for them to buy. Whether they could afford to pay $1.45 1 do not know. But certainly there was a reasonable economic price they could afford to pay. The point I make is that, under the Stabilisation Act, they could not get at this wheat. This situation is being altered. The surpluses of grain - whether wheat or coarse grain - is a pretty vital matter in respect to drought. I have said in this House - and I have said it pretty strongly I suppose - that the Government has adopted a negative attitude with respect to trying to put forward a national drought plan based on these periods of great surpluses. I suppose one could say, with some exceptions, that most of the Cabinet Ministers live in areas in which they very rarely ever see or experience a drought.
– Ha, ha.
– How many droughts, has the honourable member for Wakefield had in the last 25 years?
– You have had one. You do not call the drought you get in your area a real drought. Victoria has had 1 real drought in 25 years.
– That is wrong.
Dr PATTERSON Well, how many have you had?
– Three droughts in the last 25 years.
– Three real droughts. I do not know where these droughts were.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Daw.son direct his remarks to the Chair and that other honourable gentlemen refrain from interjecting.
– Certainly, Mr Speaker. The honourable member for Mallee says that he has had J droughts in his area in the last 25 years. I know of I major drought but the other 2 droughts he talks about were not droughts by any stretch of the imagination. He should go to western Queensland or Western Australia and see the droughts in those areas. They are what I call droughts.
In Queensland today there is just as big a drought in some of the wheat growing districts as there is in pastoral areas. When huge surpluses are generated the Government should give serious consideration to the establishment of drought reserve banks based principally on 2 things - surplus grains and molasses. Molasses is a product of sugar cane and can be used on the same basis as grains. But there are 2 elements of tremendous importance in the feeding of starving stock, and we have (hem periodically in surplus supplies. Some areas of Queensland are highly susceptible to drought. I suppose we could say that in the post war period there have been 2 serious droughts in major areas every 5 years. This is about the average.
– Rain there is abnormal, is it not?
– There are people now in Queensland who are beginning to wonder whether this is the average pattern of seasons. But how can farmers survive under these conditions?
I am putting forward the suggestion, using Queensland as an example, that this State has a magnificent system of decentralised railways. I am not saying that the railways are magnificent, but the geographical location of them in relation to the drought areas is such that by utilisation of the large surpluses from time to time, instead of letting them degenerate in the paddocks, and the excess capacity of rolling stock there is a case for consideration of the establishment of these drought banks in areas such as in the western railways system, the south west railway system and so forth. Losses alone of national income and export income in the areas of western Queensland and central Queensland due to drought - and this is a correct way to evaluate the situation - would more than ‘justify in many instances the establishment of the insurance banks or drought reserve banks to take advantage of when we have periods of drought. I do not believe that they would pay in southern Australia because I do not think we would get, under known conditions anyhow, the high degree of susceptibility of drought that is experienced in northern New South Wales and large parts of Queensland, principally in the sheep areas. I put that idea forward - I have given it some thought and have done some work on it. The more work I do the more I am swinging to the conclusion that it is feasible - feasible in terms of economic justification. These drought banks, if I may so describe them, would be strategically located. We know the areas that are highly susceptible to drought. It is safe to say that the past pattern of drought in this country will be repeated in the next 50 years with some degree of consistency. One could be selfish and say that it is the turn of southern Australia to have drought, but we do not want to speak that way. Let us hope that we do not have droughts in the future but, having regard to the facts of life, we know that there will be serious droughts in Queensland.
The quota system has caused some hardship to small producers. There is an inequitable distribution of quotas in terms of net income. Also, the delay in paying the second advance on f.a.q. wheat held in the 1968-69 pool is causing some concern to the small grower who is desperately in need of cash. The bigger grower may be able to hang on but the small grower wants more cash in his hand from that pool. Under the Act the Australian Wheat Board borrows from the reserve Bank sufficient funds to pay the first advance of $1.10 a bushel less freight. Until the overdraft is fully liquidated there can be no second advance. This system works when the industry is reasonably economic or self-sufficient in terms of net income but because the quota system has reduced the small farmer in many instances to the bread line, he wants every cent he can get his hands on. I would like to hear the Minister express an opinion on this matter. In these circumstances some consideration should be given to paying the second advance more quickly to those who need it. After all, it will be their money at some time.
– Do you mean the second payment?
– Yes. Under the present system the debt due for the 1968-69 pool is about $200,000. It is anticipated that this debt will not be repaid until early next year. So the second advance for the 1968-69 pool will not be paid until perhaps May or June 1971. This may not worry the bigger producer. If he has had a good season he may have enough fat to carry him through, but the small traditional producer, who has not had room to expand in the last 10 years, although he may have had a comfortable living, suddenly finds that his production is cut. He is the one whom the Government should bs considering by standing up to the big chiefs in the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I say nothing against their integrity but they are on the side of the big producer, not the small producer.
More and more in this Parliament we have witnessed sniping against primary industries. It is becoming rather common in every debate on primary production for members of the Liberal Party to snipe at the primary producers. Only the Country Party and the Labor Party have been consistent in their attitude of concern for primary industries. I would not mind if those members of the Liberal Party who engaged in this practice - not all of them are guilty - argued rationally or on the facts. For example, they make emotional speeches in the House condemning irrigation. According to them every irrigation system in Australia is uneconomic, lt would follow, I suppose, that every irrigation system in the world, according to the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), is uneconomic.
-Order! 1 cannot see the relevance of the honourable member’s last remarks. I suggest that he return to (he Bill.
– 1 was making the point in passing. There is too much sniping by members of the Liberal Party at primary producers. There is more and more sniping at the wheat grower. I make it clear that there is a complete misapprehension about the financial assistance that has been given to the wheat grower by the Commonwealth. Because the first advance payment is made people think that hundreds of millions of dollars are being given to the wheat grower. The latest official survey of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics shows that only % of the average gross income of the wheat grower can be classed as a subsidy. The subsidy element in the gross income of §22,500 of the average farm, according to that survey, amounted to S300. So let nobody say that the wheat industry is highly protected. II is nonsense m make such a claim. In the years following the war the domestic price of wheat was deliberately kept at a level that would ensure that not all of our production was sold overseas, but today the wheat industry is in credit to the tune of a little less than 5400m. Do not take my word for this: take the word of people who have made a study of the matter, such as Mr McKay, former Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry. He has no axe to grind. He has publicly given these figures of the wheat industry’s credit position.
– When was that?
– About 4 years ago. I am pointing out that in the survey conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, taking the last 3 years, lbc average subsidy paid in the case of a farm with an income of $22,500 was only $300.
That amounts to 11% on gross income or 3c a bushel. I do not want to get onto the matter of tariffs again, but I will say-
– We afford 100% protection to the manufacture of babies’ nappies.
– Order! The honourable member for Moore will not make his speech by interjection. He is scheduled to speak in the debate and will then have an opportunity to say all that he wishes.
– I was letting the honourable member go because he was making a most valuable contribution to the debate.
– Somebody needs to.
– I have never heard the honourable member for Wannon make a speech about primary industry, yet he sets himself up as one of the great liberal leaders in primary industry.
– You have just got here.
– I may have just gol here but you could have been-
-Order! 1 have already asked the honourable member for Dawson to direct his remarks to the Chair. I again ask him to come back to the matter before the House.
- Mr Speaker, I will come back to the Bill. [Quorum formed.! I was pointing out that there are misconceptions about the level of financial assistance, commonly called a subsidy, which has been given to the wheat industry. I hope I established the fact once and for all that the wheat industry is one of the most unprotected industries in Australia. I moved on to compare it, for example, with the total cash equivalent that is paid to the manufacturing industries of Australia. Just to prove the point - these are the best estimates that one can get - the cash equivalent of the tariff of the manufacturing sector of Australia runs at somewhere in the vicinity of SI. 500m per annum. The total cash equivalent of all bounties or embargoes with respect lo primary industry in Australia is a figure around S280m. lt shows quite clearly that there is some degree of imbalance. But how often do we see the trouble shooters in the Liberal Party have a go at the tariffs? That is why I was sorry the honourable member for Bradfield was not here.
– I have criticised the tariff.
– Not to the same extent as primary industry. When one considers the contribution which the wheat, wool, beef, dairy and sugar industries have made to this nation’s economy in terms of export income and in terms of decentralisation it is always necessary to understand that, despite the great potential of mineral development, for a very long time we will have to rely on rural exports to balance the books, taking into account current account and invisibles, to allow a high level of imports to be maintained. As I said before, there is a stimulating influence which seems to have crept into the Parliament in this session in relation to free traders - laissez-faire-ites. I am not one of them. 1 believe in protectionism and anybody who does not believe in protectionism should take a basic course in economics. That applies particularly to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). Let me make it very clear in the last few words I have to say that the Labor Party is implacable in its belief in protection for our primary and secondary industries, provided that resources are used efficiently. That is the measurement - provided that resources are used efficiently. That does not mean we cannot have a high tariff. Resources can be used efficiently. Of course, if one takes defence aspects, that is a qualitative matter that does not come into the argument.
– Do you mean defence does not matter?
– No. As far as the tariff is concerned the argument is not relevant to defence. If you want to manufacture Fills in Australia it would be very relevant in terms of economics. This Bill allows us to debate stabilisation at some length. I have attempted to range over a pretty wide field. I put forward this amendment to the 1 -price scheme and I will be making another amendment with respect to the flexible price. I will leave it at that.
– Before calling the honourable member for Warringah, I would remind the House that this is the honourable member’s maiden speech and the House should extend the usual courtesy.
– As this is my initial contribution to debate in this chamber I would like to start by thanking the electors of Warringah for giving me the responsibility of being their representative in this place. I would also like to thank all those people who worked so hard to ensure I did have that responsibility. As we know, the situation obtaining in Australia’s wheat industry over the past years has given rise to an immense amount of discussion, both objective and the complete reverse. In assessing the proposed legislation before the House 1 think it is fair to review the objectives and the mechanisms proposed to achieve these objectives as they affect not only the non-human problems of disposing of massive wheat surpluses in this country but just as importantly, as they affect the very human problems facing Australia’s primary producers. In our pursuit of a realistic trading situation we must not forget our pursuit of a fair deal for those engaged in primary production, and vice versa.
Looking very briefly at the development of Australia’s wheat industry since the Second World War, we have a primary industry in which steps were taken to stabilise the price received by the producer and to control the internal and external marketing of wheat by a central authority. A minimum guaranteed price for wheat consumed in Australia and for a significant proportion of the wheat exported was agreed upon. A stabilisation fund was established by means of a tax on wheat exported when the export price was higher than the guaranteed price. But if the revenue accumulated in this way proved to be inadequate, the Government agreed to underwrite the cost of the scheme. Looking at the price guarantee agreed upon, to my mind it is of great significance that this price was related to a cost of production which was to vary according to an index of production costs for each season. I hope the House will excuse this necessarily brief excursion into history but I believe it is essential if we are to fully appreciate the current situation. Broadly, the aim was to ensure economic security for wheat growers and a No to stabilise export earnings. More importantly, perhaps, comes the next question: What has been the effect of the legislation?
Initially the plan produced a situation where home consumption prices and guarantees were less than export prices. This had the effect of allowing industry surpluses to be paid into the stabilisation fund. But it also had the effect of discouraging new entrants into the industry and of discouraging those already growing wheat from growing additional quantities. This situation was added to during the early 1930s with land being set aside for wool production. However, since the early 1950s woo] prices have been dropping as has the export price of wheat. At the same time home consumption prices have been moving steadily upwards as the guaranteed prices have risen in reaction to increased production costs. In this situation the scheme clearly gave no warning to growers to grow less wheat. In fact, it encouraged wheat production regardless of whether a market existed or would continue to exist. This incentive to grow more wheat has been accentuated by such factors as low wool prices, improved technology both in machinery and through improved varieties and cultural methods, development of pasture improvement methods allowing conversion of grazing lands to arable lands, and the drought of the mid-1960s which encouraged land owners to grow a quick cash crop with a guaranteed price to alleviate their urgent financial problems. The combination of these factors produced a situation where wheat acreages grew from less than 10 million in 1956-57 to 26.7 million acres in 1968-69.
To add to the total amount of wheat being produced, the average yield per acre has been rising. Despite the seasonal fluctuations which have occurred, production, as we know, reached 540 million bushels in 1968-69. Although 1 believe there are certain important aspects of the stabilisation plan which are open to a deal of question, obviously the situation produced by the combination of factors which I have mentioned since the mid-1950s was capable of being resolved so long as the export markets for wheat continued to grow. The efforts of the Australian Wheat Board in securing additional markets during this period of greatly increased home supply must be recognised and applauded. However, it is in the context of world supply and demand patterns of wheat that I believe we must look at the present situation existing in Australia.
While wheat growers can justifiably argue that the level of protection or subsidy which they have been granted has been reasonable - particularly when one bears in mind the levels of protection given to certain secondary industries, some of whose products primary producers must use of necessity, and also keeping in mind the real economic problems confronting the man on the land - the fact that wheat surpluses have reached a level not before envisaged, and most importantly do not look like readily being disposed of, has of course given rise to a great deal of alarm. 1n making any statements about fu true markets we should look, as I have said, at the total world situation. Firstly, let its look at the wheat production situation. No. 32 of the ‘Wheat Situation1 published by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in late 1969 has this to say:
World wheal production in 1964 h climated to have continued at a very high level, only slightly below the 1968 record of 328 million metric Ions. The appreciable declines expected in output in the United Stales. Australia ami’ Argentine will be largely affected by increased harvests n other countries, including Canada. l-rance, India anil Pakistan. All main producing regions shared in the increase of 25’iv- iti world wheat production thai occurred between 1 963-1968. but the United States, Canada and Australia have taken steps aimed at containing the level of production. The expansionary trend thai has occurred in the other main producing regions, however, seems likely lo continue, although annual harvests will be affected by unpredictable variations in seasonal conditions. The USSR. India, and Pakistan are placing considerable emphasis on ibc expansion of agricultural production and. at present, this expansion is centred mainly on cereal crops.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in its publication ‘Agricultural Projections for 1975 and 1985’ deals with the production and consumption of major foodstuffs in Europe, North America, Japan and Oceania and predicts that grain production in the OECD area will rise substantially by 1975 and again by 1985. The survey additionally predicts that North America will substantially increase its exports and that production will rise in Western Europe, the United
Kingdom and Australia. Total world production is estimated to rise from approximately 112 million metric tons in 1961-63 to approximately 150 million metric tons in 1975 and a massive 170 million metric tons in 1985.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it is most important too for us to be aware of, and to assess the effect of, the so-called ‘Green Revolution’ in Asia. It is plain to see that the acreage of high yielding grain varieties in Asia is rising rapidly. It has risen from 200 acres in 1964-65 to 20 million acres in 1967-68, and this acreage will continue to rise. In addition, wheat yields are rising. India’s yield rose from an average of 13.6 bushels per acre in 1964-65 to 17.5 bushels per acre in 1967-68 with similar climatic conditions prevailing. Grain production in India rose 35% for wheat, 26% for rice and 40% for maize over the same period. During this time, despite tremendous obstacles, the acceptance of improved agricultural technology by the farmers has been marked. To my mind, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is of particular importance because it has always been promulgated that peasant farmers would not accept improved agricultural technology, and in fact they are. Ceylon, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia also report increased home production. We should try to assess the probable world demand for wheat. The publication of the BAE, to which I have already referred, states:
World trade in wheat and flour fell in 1968-69 continuing the trend”* evident in the previous 2 years. Marked reductions in imports into India and Pakistan and also in those by Mainland China and the Soviet Union were the main cause of the decline in world trade in 1963-69.
However, the review suggested:
No further decline in world trade of wheat and flour is expected in 1969-70 and Australia’s exports should at least be maintained at the 1968-69 level.
The review, in its summarised outlook, states:
While some countries in the traditional major importing regions of Western Europe are expected to import more wheat in 1969-70 compared with the previous year, the trend in imports is likely to be influenced both by the slow growth in demand and increasing availability of supplies from domestic crops.
The OECD projections, to which I previously referred, make the prediction that per capita human consumption of grains is tending to decline in almost all countries as incomes rise, so that total human consumption in the OECD area barely increases up to 1975 and again up to 1985. It goes on to state:
On the other hand, the consumption of grains by livestock is rising sharply as a result of increased output of livestock products.
Mr Deputy Speaker, other authorities have similar points of view, and we can find numerous considered warnings of persistent surpluses during the next 10 years if the present trends are allowed to continue.
In addition, we should especially be aware of the situation in China, which is a large and reasonably consistent buyer of our wheat. It has been suggested that China has purchased wheat from Western countries in order to accumulate locally produced rice for export. During the 1960s China was able to import low priced wheat and export more highly priced rice. With the export prices for Chinese rice now noticeably lower and the increasing selfsufficiency in rice production amongst its Asian clients, this source of revenue for the Chinese could be greatly affected. The implications for Western exporters of wheat to China are obvious. In Australia, with increased acreages, better technology and good seasons in 3 successive years, carryover stocks were 80.5 million bushels in 1967, 51.8 million bushels in 1968 and approximately 340 million bushels at 1st December 1969.
Whilst 1 would be the first to argue that Australia should maintain some surplus of wheat in stock, both to take advantage of any international market opportunities which may occur and also for domestic feed requirements in times of drought, obviously the levels of surplus, with attendant storage costs and amounts of interest foregone, have reached alarming proportions. Briefly then it would seem that the major exporting countries have the ability to supply enormous quantities of wheat to a market which is continually endeavouring to become self-sufficient, and showing every evidence of the capability to do so. Obviously any responsible government must take action to ameliorate the difficulties which at present bedevil the wheat industry in Australia. There is no doubt that the action taken to reduce supply was not only responsible but a brave and necessary decision.
That the Governments decided to adopt a quota system is now a matter of history but with the long term outlook in mind I think the action taken needs careful attention. Whilst there is no doubt that the imposition of quotas will have the effect of reducing the supply of wheat, I believe that the long term outlook of the industry could be jeopardised if the present system were retained for too long. I would be reluctant to see a situation arise where efficient producers were penalised in order to keep inefficient producers in production, or where those growing readily saleable wheat were penalised in order to retain in production those growing a type of wheat more difficult to sell. At the same time 1 think we must recognise, as the Government has recognised, that a very real human problem exists for those people on the land who have invested large sums, in both capital and human endeavour, in their properties.
We need a system whereby the harsh effect of economic reality is slowed down to give people affected by industry overproduction of their product time to adjust to the changed circumstances. At the same time, the necessity for this adjustment must not be masked or excessively slowed by over-protective legislation. To avoid potentially harmful effects on the future of the wheat industry in Australia I believe that there is a strong case to be made for making quotas transferable. Nontransferable quotas have the effect of inhibiting the industry from adjusting to technical and economic changes, with the consequent effect of inefficient production and misallocation of resources. Non-transferable quotas ignore the fact that some producers have readily available alternatives to wheat growing whilst others have not.
On the human level, those more dependent on wheat for their income would be less affected by the system if quotas were made transferable. They would be less restricted in the amount of wheat they could grow as they would have the opportunity to acquire additional quota allotments. Both economically and in welfare terms then I think transferable quotas would be beneficial. At the same time 1 believe the problem of surplus wheat could be more effec tively tackled if a more realistic price were agreed upon in allowing the Wheat Board to sell denatured wheat for stock feed and industrial purposes. To my mind the minimum prices are unrealistically high and serve to perpetuate the ‘unofficial’ wheat market at present operating across State borders.
In the long term 1 believe that we should not be perpetually wedded to a quota system for wheat production. For one thing the costs of administration by the States of the quotas are known to be heavy. The main areas of extra costs have been brought about by transference of senior staff from their normal duties to quota administration duties; extra hiring of the Wheat Board computer; extra staff hires, both on a full time and a part time basis; and printing and stationery to maintain the extra records necessary. The Bill before the House recognises that these costs should be borne by the industry’. This is an extra cost that the industry could well do without.
After the urgent, immediate problems of over-supply have been ameliorated, I believe the initial payment made to growers should be re-assessed with a view to its reduction. If it were reduced, the incentive to grow wheat, particularly to those who were the least efficient producers, would be greatly weakened. In addition, a more realistic price in comparison to world prices could be arrived at and a total production, without restraint, more closely attuned to demand would result. In other words the unwanted property of the scheme - that propensity to generate surpluses - would be curbed. Finally, I believe an urgent investigation should be undertaken to arrive at a system of grading which encourages the growing of readily saleable wheat whilst discouraging the production of those types facing a lesser demand.
I also would like to mention briefly the concept that we should give our wheat away to those countries with ill fed people, both as a humanitarian gesture and as a means of ridding ourselves of our surpluses. Although weil intentioned this suggestion ignores some overriding facts. Firstly, while there are many semi-starving people in the world, in the main their dietary lack is protein and increased amounts of carbohydrate as supplied by wheat does little to alleviate their condition. Secondly, even if the wheat was given free of charge to such countries the freight charges alone would make the wheat more expensive to the final consumer than would be the cost if the wheat was grown in the country itself, particularly as the off-loading facilities and internal transportation networks of most underdeveloped countries are such that the physical problems of moving the wheat in any worthwhile quantity are insurmountable.
In any discussion on wheat we should keep in mind always that it is - as with most of our agricultural production - a commodity which mostly has to be sold on the export market and therefore the amounts sold and the price received depend on factors largely beyond our control. In all our actions, therefore, the overall objective must be the healthy continuation of an industry capable of competing on world markets; an industry which has contributed, and will continue to contribute, provided sound and realistic policies are pursued, to the nation’s economic welfare.
– I extend the warmest congratulations to the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) for his eloquent and scholarly exposition on the wheat industry at this time. He could not have applied himself to a more important issue for the national Parliament and he did so particularly well. Being the first speaker to follow him I. would like, on behalf of all honourable members, to extend warmest congratulations, f also want to commend his concern for the economic security of the wool grower. I thought he put his finger very much on the problems that confront us in this debate in relation to the future of wheat. He recognised in his address that wheat growers had been encouraged to grow more wheat. He referred in specific terms to the fact that they had doubled acreages in general terms over a period of 10 years, that yields had doubled in that time and that this was a tribute to the Increasing efficiency of this- important rural industry.
Everything had been going particularly well with the wheat industry for a very long time. It might be said that there had been a combination of fortuitous circumstances. But let us be quite blunt. There always has been pretty good competition in the sale of wheat throughout the world and Australia, through the Australian Wheat Board, generally has done quite well. The Austraiian Wheat Board, shackled as it often has been by inadequate backing, particularly at the monetary and guarantee level, has done an extraordinarily good trading job over the years despite the disadvantages. The growers had improved their efficiency and our sellers had done a particularly good job when they were able to do so. This occurred against the disadvantages imposed on them and to which 1 have referred. All was going well.
But then suddenly came the moment of panic which followed an extraordinarily big harvest. I think the moment of panic was recognised by the honourable member for Warringah when he said that the industry had been encouraged to expand. What have we now at present, perhaps 3 years later, after a time of active encouragement? We now have an active period of discouragement following the decisions made in relation to the 1969-70 season. What were the decisions? The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) said on many occasions: Of course I issued warnings. Everybody knew in general terms what was going to happen’. I do not want to over-stress what he said or to paraphase it but I think he said on many occasions: ‘I warned that we would be unable to take in all of the crop and pay for it in 1969-70 as we had done in the past’. But he had in mind a harvest of something like SOO million bushels, which became eventually 400 million bushels, and the actual harvest amounted to about 340 million bushels. Nevertheless the Commonwealth Government and the Minister, in their wisdom or their panic - and honourable members have a choice - decided that steps should be taken to curb what had been the accepted scheme for a whole generation. In fact growers had already expended money in establishing crops and putting the wheat in the ground. When all this had been done they were told that there would be quotas.
It has been said that 1 have confused the issue by saying in this House of Representatives that the quotas are a matter for the States. I want to sum up the position by saying that the quotas were initiated here and they were implemented in the State*.
I would repeat that, so that there may be no doubt about the thought that most people have in their minds.
– The honourable member is wrong again.
– It has been said that I am wrong. I am amazed. 1 find it rather shocking that people who purport to represent wheat growers should accept a situation which has brought about hardship without one word not only of protest but of suggestion for its amelioration. This is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility on their part. Let us be quite clear. The decision was made by this Government in Canberra, whether it was by the Treasurer of the diem, Mr McMahon, or whether it was the Minister for Primary Industry. It does not matter who made the decision. It was made by the central government. It would not go along with what had been done for a generation. It said: ‘There will be a ceiling this year. You can do what you like in terms of the ceiling but we are imposing the national quota.’ That is what it amounted to and that is how it has been.
Then it was necessary to implement that decision. I know that a lot of attempts have been made to use growers’ organisations as whipping boys for this decision. But the growers were told very clearly by the holder of the purse strings: ‘This will have to be done, otherwise there might not be any stabilisation scheme at all’. This financial stick is a big stick. It is the supreme one. Whether the growers’ organisations agreed or whether the States fell into line, let me be quite clear and repeat that the central and i 11 i t i al decision was made by the Government here and was agreed to by the States. The scheme was put forward by the Minister for Primary Industry, so he must take the responsibility. I am not saying that he did not do it in good faith. He did it because he felt it had to be done. I am not quarrelling on those issues. But I am saying that this decision was made and we should now look in retrospect at what happened.
At the time the quotas were introduced an extraordinarily large harvest was feared. It is extraordinary that we had to fear it. but there was this fear. At the time people in public office and government were going to bed at night praying that we would not have a large production so that they would not have the resultant headache. This was an abdication of their responsibilities and also an indication that they had pushed the panic button. I say that now, and I have said it consistently over the whole of the period in which this has been an issue. 1 am saying nothing new at this time, so I am consistent in my submissions on this matter.
– The honourable member is not being fair.
– I will be fair now. I thought I was being fair when I said that the decision was obviously made in panic. But let us accept that it was made in good faith. I do not question this. The panic was there, so the Government said: ‘We have to do something. This is what we will do: The growers had better fall into line or else. The States had better come into this or else.’ So everybody fell into line. Let us go forward from there, accepting that the decision that was made was an error but that it was made in good faith. I would like to enter a plea at this stage that the error be recognised, that we recognise that we did not get 500 million or 400 million bushels. In fact, we may get 340 million bushels. Let us not go back in bitterness over what was done. Let us look now at the present situation and let us see what we can do to ameliorate the effects of a decision made in panic even if it was made in good faith.
I want to draw attention to what the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture has said about the present situation. If members of the Government who speak on behalf of the Government, and who undoubtedly will follow me, wish to argue these matters I am putting forward, I hope they will also deal with the submissions that were made only recently in the Riverina district by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr Crawford. He said that he recognised that quotas are having a disastrous effect on all sections of the rural community. He went on:
It is only natural that people and country towns are going to be hurt . . . some severely hurt.
I respect the sincerity of the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, as I respect the sincerity of the Minister for Primary Industry. What the New South Wales Minister said is that the countryside at the present time is suffering from a severe hurt. In the statements he has made he attributes most of that hurt to the wheat quota system. He was questioned by many growers, who said: ‘How does this come about? ls the system well founded? Can we accept that what is being done at the present time is the best possible system?’ Mr Crawford said that the basic blunder of the whole quota system was the original declarations. He agreed that they were ill founded and rotten to the core. This is the measure of the acceptance by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture of the quota system declarations on which the whole of the superstructure of rationing is based in the State in which I happen to live.
What is the answer to a situation in which thousands of growers and many country towns are suffering from a rationing system which was introduced in the middle of a season? Every aspect of rural life is suffering as a result of this. 1 refer again to the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture. He said: ‘How does this come about? How could it be that the Commonwealth would do this?’ The Commonwealth Government and New South Wales Government are of the same political colour; yet the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales has said that the reason for the hardship in this scheme which he admits was founded on something that he described as rotten to the core and that the reason is also to be found in the panic with which it was introduced. He said:
If we had had 12 months to plan the introduction of wheat quotas then everything would have been all right.
This is not the criticism of the honourable member for Riverina but the criticism by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, who introduced these quotas, I am sure, with tremendous reluctance. I seem to remember taking part in the debates in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. 1 seem to remember saying that because there had been this panic, because it was impossible to have an equitable system in the time that had been given following the Federal decision, we should not in fact have had quotas for the 1969-70 season. The Minister in that State stood firmly. He said: ‘We must do this. If we do not, the Commonwealth will destroy stabilisation’. This was the full implication of his remarks. 1 accept what has been said by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture. After all. he was talking, as a responsible Minister, of the details of a rationing system. He was talking to growers in the towns in the wheat area which had been hard hit. He said: ‘Yes, the present system is wrong. lt is not good. I recognise (his. We did not have adequate time in bringing it in’. That is what he said. In this House, in one of those graveyard debates - because after midnight surely that is what they are, and few bodies are alive here at midnight - I have quoted, and 1 repeat it in the context of this debate, a statement by Mr L. M. Ridd, a grower member of the Grain Elevators Board, who said that under the present rationing system the growers who are the most dishonest have received the biggest quotas for last season. He tended to support the view of the Minister for Agriculture that what was done in panic must be repented.
– What did Mr Ridd say about you?
– If the problems of the countryside are to be discussed on the basis of personalities, it is rather tragic. I refer the honourable member to the statements that have been made, published and accepted. I would ask him to address him-, self to those statements and to the issues with which they deal. Towards the end of last year T felt a deep and continuing concern that this hastily, ill-advised and inequitable system that hud been introduced would lead to some breakdown in orderly marketing. After all, we are concerned to preserve orderly marketing. Because of my concern I got in touch with the Minister for Primary Industry and with tho Treasurer (Mr Bury). I do not want to do any injustice to anyone so this afternoon I will quote from the Treasurer’s response to my request that additional money be made available. That is what T asked him to do. I said: “After all, the harvest is going to be below the national quota so let us have some additional finance - not very much finance but some additional finance - ‘to take in the whole of the 1969-70 crop, and let us pay the $1.10 for it.’ I might say that the Treasurer did not agree, but one thing that he did say was that he had made the money available or, to be more precise, had agreed to the guarantee of finance and this was what he would keep to. 1 refer the House to his reply to me in which he said:
The Commonwealth has agreed to give practical support to the scheme by guaranteeing finance to be advanced by the Reserve Bank to the Australian Wheat Board to enable the Board to meet its expenses and to pay to growers a first advance of SI. 10 per bushel, less freight. The amounts guaranteed by the Commonwealth for these purposes in recent years have been very substantial. . . The ceiling of $440m for the 1969-70 pool is a generous one having regard to all the circumstances. It has been exceeded only twice and the funds will be made available at a time when the Wheat Board will still be very heavily indebted in respect of last season’s wheat . . . In these circumstances I could not recommend to my colleagues that the agreed proposals for financing the 1969-70 wheat pool should be varied.
That was signed ‘Leslie Bury, Treasurer’. We must accept this. He said: ‘I am not willing to make any more money available. I will not make any additional money available’. However, he indicated that he would stand by the arrangements that had already been made regarding the crop. What were the arrangements? The Government made $440m available to pay a first advance on the 1969-70 crop and to meet pool expenses. The marketable crop will not be more than perhaps 345 million bushels. In fact, I doubt whether it will be more than 340 million bushels and the amount of quota wheat is only about 308 million bushels. If the situation remained constant the Government would be able to avoid finding credit with the Reserve Bank to the extent of $53.9m, plus pool expenses of about 17c to 18c a bushel. I know that that figure will be subject to adjustment because an announcement has been made, and I welcome it very warmly, that there will be a payment of perhaps 20% or 40% - it does not seem very clear and I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry might indicate exactly what percentage is going to be paid before the end of this calendar year - on the over quota wheat that has been delivered. Undoubtedly there will be, according to his announcement, some payment there, but my submission was then and is now that in view of the fact that the national allotment of finance and the national shortfall are such that without finding any more money from the Reserve Bank - any more credit, because it is only credit, and I stress that we are talking about credit and not actual funds; not actual taxpayers’ money, because Government guarantees are not taxpayers’ money-
– They can be. ‘
– That is true, but they very rarely are in respect of primary industry. The taxpayers have done extraordinarily well out of a stabilisation scheme which, on balance, still owes the growers, if we want to express it in these terms, something like $300m. What I was saying was that in view of the fact that there has already been a softening of the Government’s attitude in relation to the payments that are to be made for the 1969-70 season - and whether it is to be 20% or 40% I am not clear and I ask the Minister in all sincerity to clarify that point - would it not be reasonable, in view of the crisis in the countryside, to use the credit which the Treasurer has made available to him to pay the $1.10 on the 1969-70 pool and start off afresh? I put that forward as a reasonable way of keeping a great many people in this industry in a viable position. We have said this consistently.
I know that there have been arguments about what is to be done with State shortfalls and that sort of thing, but when the Minister for Agriculture of the largest State in the Commonwealth points out that because of the inadequacy of the notice - in effect, because of the panic decisions that had been made - he was not able, nor was his government able, to come up with something that was sound, solid and equitable, surely that is a devastating criticism. All right, honourable members opposite can say: ‘We acted in good faith and did our best’, but is this not the time to clear it up for the 1969-70 season? Honourable members opposite may say: ‘We are not going to do this for various reasons that we have in mind’. I am sure that there is a pigeon hole chock full of reasons for not doing anything very much at all. It is the biggest pigeon hole in government. If the Government does not do anything at all and simply says: ‘Well, we will take a percentage, but we will let the rest swing’ we have to recognise the existence of a black market. I realise that in drawing attention to this I will draw continuing criticism for many reasons, but I put it to the House that a person does not solve a problem by putting his head in the sand and just refusing to recognise it. In relation to the black market I quote from a Press report which appeared yesterday and which stated:
Black market wheat sales could force oats and barley prices down even lower than they are now . . Falling export demand has already forced prices to their lowest levels in years. The secretary of the union’s grain section, Mr R. C. Edwards, said that black market sales had already affected prices in New South Wales.
The effect of the added hazard of black marketing would be felt when growers found their stocks of oats and barley piling up in the coming months.
Mr Peter Bushell, Temora branch manager for the New South Wales Farmers and Graziers Cooperative Co. Ltd, said the low prices for wheat had caused a slump in the coarse grain market with oats bringing only 35c a bushel and barley 45c a bushel.
Wheat from farmers’ stockpiles was being sold at 60c to 70c a bushel compared with the Australian Wheat Board retail price of $1.43 to $1.52.
Mr Bushell added: These are the lowest prices in many years.’
It is no use running away from this problem or saying that it does not exist. It is no use turning our backs on it and saying: ‘No, we must not acknowledge this at all’. Whenever I have referred to the volume of trade outside the Board, I have quoted the prices which has been paid already. I have quoted the volume that has been put on the road.
– Did the honourable member quote 50 million bushels?
– I find that it is necessary for me to reiterate what I said on a previous occasion. I said that estimates of outside the Board trading had put the figure as high as 50 million bushels. Certainly, it would lie somewhere between 30 million bushels and 50 million bushels. What the figure is, I do not know. I have never claimed to know and I never said so. What I did say was that it was certainly more than had been claimed by some interested members of the Government who had said that it was 6 million bushels. Let us have a little reality about this matter. The volume is there. Because I knew that this debate was coming off, and because I know how important the subject is, I arranged to have an investigation carried out. That investigation was carried out in the hours of darkness over a 72 hour period. In that period-
– The honourable member would quite like that
– I like to have some facts to bring to you, Mr Minister.
– How many people did the honourable member report?
– Well now-
– Come on.
– That is a pretty sad remark for a man who purports to be a representative of a rural community to make - ‘how many people did the honourable member report?’. I have made it very clear, when his administration was talking about prosecuting and gaoling people, that I would stand with them. If he finds the same courage he will be worthy of his people. That disposes of it, Mr Deputy Speaker. I suggest that he goes outside and communes with himself. He has something to answer for.
– Talk to his friends.
– That is right. I am going to say this-
– The honourable member is running away from it.
– Running away from what? If the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt), who is also interjecting, wishes to follow me in this debate and has any particular challenge to issue, I will be delighted to listen to it. I am always delighted to listen. I have listened to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) for some considerable time but I think that he has had his share of attention. I do not mind interjections.
In relation to this matter I was giving a report of what happened in a 72-hour period in the hours of darkness. The investigation touched on more than a dozen centres in south-west New South Wales. For the very reason that I do not intend that anybody on the Government side should exploit the information, I refuse to identify either the centres or the people. But I am going to say that 22,000 bushels of wheat were moved in that short time. I wonder whether there is anyone prepared to deny that this is a volume of considerable dimension or whether anyone is prepared to deny that this is a matter of considerable concern.
I put it to this House that this should be the crux of government decision at this time.
In the countryside at the moment, a great deal of complaint has been made about the state of the rural economy. But the state of the rural economy and, of course, the hardships being suffered are attributable directly to the decisions of government. I am suggesting that the Government can catch up on a decision that was made in error and in panic by doing the one thing that is open to it clearly and simply at this time in relation to the 1969-70 crop. That is to take all the wheat in. I would think that almost all of the wheat is in at this time, but not all of it has been delivered. Quantities of wheat are being held on farms because the mcn concerned are not game to deliver that wheat. These men are not game to deliver because they are not sure what they will get for it. These men are not game to deliver their wheat because they do not know whether they should give it to the Board. If these men do not receive money for what they deliver, they will be out of business.
Do not blame the wheat grower. Most of the expansion that was undertaken was undertaken in conjunction with banks, stock firms and other people who are in the business of lending money across the nation. They were all part of this expansion. The New South Wales Minister for Agriculture used the term that there were no guilty men among the wheat growers. Well, let me say that if there were no guilty men among the wheat growers we must recognise the fact that whatever operations they undertook they undertook with the support of banking institutions, public and private, and private enterprises which operate to service them with money.
This is the situation that we face at the present time. I wish to make a plea to the Government. I think that my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who moved his amendment on behalf of the Opposition did so in good faith as a solution to the problem that we face at the present time. I come back to the point in relation to the 1969-70 crop. My plea to the Government is that it should undo the harm that was caused by its panic decision and should put some collateral and some confidence back into the countryside where they are needed at this time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1970, which is now before the House, is designed to serve 2 main purposes. It will complement legislative action by the States, firstly, to implement a quota scheme for wheat deliveries and, secondly, to give discretionary authority to the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat in Australia for purposes other than human consumption at prices lower than the price for human consumption. I wish to refer to some of the remarks made by previous speakers. Firstly, I offer my very warm congratulations to the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) on his maiden speech. It showed that he had made a very keen study of the wheat situation. I am sure that his speech represents only the beginning of many very valuable contributions to debates in this. House.
I wish to touch on a few comments made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He criticised the quota system. He, above all people, should know that the implementation of the quota system, which was recommended by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and which was accepted by this Government, was a matter for the States. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in answering a question in this House recently said that he was sick and tired of constantly explaining this to the people. Yet, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) came back with the same old story about the quotas and what this Government should have done about them. He said that the quotas were initiated here and were implemented by the States. The quotas were given the legality that only this Government could give them. But the detailed implementation of them was a matter for the States.
If the honourable member does not know that now, all I can say is that it is nearly time that he did. His speech did not indicate that he does understand fully even at this time that this is the case. Whether or not the honourable member intended to convey a misleading interpretation, I do not know. What he did say was that it was one administration. How can anyone possible claim that in all reasonable fairness? The fact that the governments concerned are all of the same political colour does not make them one administration. Each government has separate responsibilities. This has been demonstrated constantly and clearly to be the case with regard to the wheat quota and the legislation that had to be brought down by the States to implement the quota in detail.
– There is a different constitution.
– What the honourable member for Mallee said is quite right. I wish to reply to one or two points made by the honourable member for Riverina. He referred to the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture. He said that if 12 months had been available in which to plan the quotas a better job would have been done. But what would have happened to the wheat industry in the 12 months that would be taken to do something about the quotas? What would have happened in the interim? What amount of wheat would have been lying around this country? What would have been the cost to the wheat growers to provide storage Ibr that wheat? While it would probably have been easier for all if this quota system could have been implemented earlier, I point out that it was implemented at the time that was suggested by the growers themselves through their own Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. That was the key to this situation. 1 say that had an attempt been made to try to implement the quota system earlier than it was introduced tremendous resistance would have come from Australian wheat growers.
If anyone who thinks that it is an easy matter to try to predict the future - and anyone who makes a study of world markets should know that it is tremendously difficult to do so - let me quote a few figures to indicate how difficult it is. We have a responsibility not only to control production so as to maintain a reasonable price but also to ensure that the amount of wheat that can be produced and sold in Australia and at a reasonable price overseas is produced here. We cannot cut production ad lib just because we feel that it would protect some wheat growers. We have to try to find a happy medium or a sound balance. The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation has aimed at this objective.
Let me return to the difficulty of trying to forecast world wheat markets. The volume of world wheat trade in 1958-59 was 36 million tons, or 1,320 mill on bushels. Seven years later, in 1965-66, it was 62 million tons. Three years later it was back to 45 million tons. Does anyone suggest that any person was capable of forecasting this change, or that the movements would have been along those lines? Let me give another example to show the difficulty involved in forecasting. End of season stocks in the 5 major exporting countries - the United States of America, Australia, Canada, the European Economic Community and Argentina - fell from 60 million tons in 1958-59 to about 33 n, 11ion tons in 1965-66, but they were back to 62 million Ions in 1968-69. Surely there is no need for any further evidence to indicate the tremendous difficulty of anticipating future wheat stocks, or, for that matter, any other world market stocks. They have a record of very quick changes, very distinct changes and very large changes.
The honourable member for Dawson referred to a minimum quota. 1 realise that there are benefits in a minimum quota but 1 assure honourable members that there is no doubt at all that the States, before implementing quotas, would have given very full consideration to this matter, as would the members of the wheat growers associations throughout Australia. I know that in Queensland meeting after meeting was called to discuss quotas and to get (he opinions of the growers in that State. The honourable member for Dawson referred to a drought plan. Again I can see some merit in this but T suggest that it is not as simple as he suggests. We have to look at a cost benefit analysis. We have heard a great deal about this recently. I believe it is necessary to have a cost benefit analysis because we have to look at the benefits - and there are benefits to be had in such a plan - and we also have to look at the cost involved and at who will pay that cost, lt could mean a pretty heavy charge and someone will have to pay it. Of course we have been told that the wheat industry is regarded to be in credit. The honourable member for Dawson quoted a figure of about $400m and the honourable member for Riverina said about $300m. There is a slight difference between the honourable members but they are closer than they often are in their views on rural matters.
Another point i would like to make about the speech of the honourable member for Riverina-
– He ha.* left the chamber.
– J cannot be worried about thai. He said that Mr Ridd had stated that dishonest growers received the biggest quotas. What on earth does he think this Government can do about that? It is true that if a person puts in incorrect figures, he will get a quota according to those figures, unless of course he is found out. If you put wrong figures in for taxation purposes you will nol be taxed as much until of course you are caught. I do hope that those people who put in dishonest figures are found out and brought to book. But this has nothing al all to do with the Government or this Bill. The honourable member reiterated his concern for the wheat growers. I assure lbc House that I will take second place to no-one, the honourable member for Riverina or anyone else in this House, in my concern for the wheat growers, and I do not have to say this every time I stand up’ in this place and speak about wheat because actions speak louder than words and the Government has done a great deal towards trying to cope with the tremendous difficulties confronting wheat growers in Australia today.
With regard to hardship. I do point out that wheat growers are .suffering hardship. ] do not underestimate this hardship. It is faced by wheat growers in any part of Australia. But if there is one section of the wheal growing community in this country that is suffering grave hardship as a result of the position in which I hey are placed today, it is the people . in the drought striken areas of my State. The people with a problem of over-supply have a problem which is not nearly as great as the people suffering from under-supply. The honourable member for Riverina made the suggestion of paying $1.10 a bushel for all wheat produced. This is a good vote catching proposition. No doubt people who are looking for all the benefits they can get would be inclined to grab at such a plan. But in my opinion this is an irresponsible suggestion and if such a proposal- were implemented it would be to the detriment of the wheat growers of this nation. How would we be able to implement quotas if we were to continue to pay SI. 10 on all wheat produced? If such a plan were introduced it would certainly be very disadvantageous to the wheat growers.
With regard to what the Australian Labor Party can do in this matter ( want to refer to a leading article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of Tuesday 26tb May 1970. The article is headed: ‘Lucky Escape from ALP’, ft reads:
Australian taxpayer:, should be grateful lim I the Australian Labor Pty has been denied the opportunity over the past two decades to devise notional rural ‘ policies.
That .statement is quite correct. This publication is nol one which is partial to the Australian Country Party. I have not sufficient time lo quote the whole of the article but it is available for anyone who wishes to read it. lt also states:
Some nf the new Labor MP’s, openly concerned at the amount of time their Party devotes to rural matters both in the House and iti Caucus, staged a show of strength last Friday when they forced Dr Rex Patterson, Labor’s shadow Minister for Primary Industry, lo defer putting hi« new wool programme to a Caucus vote until he produced a detailed report on its costs and benefits. lt went on to say:
The rebels have received quite encouragement from the ALP Federal Executive where there have been reported gripes thai the Parliamentary brunch was spending too much lime on rural issues and neglecting the urban sector where the future strength of the Parly lies.
I said quite recently, and 1 repeal, that the Labor Parly’s shadow Minister for Primary Industry would, if ever he became the Minister, have the utmost difficulty in implementing the programme he has proposed here, because priority would be given to urban areas. There is no question about that and 1 have quoted the article in the ‘Austraiian Financial Review’ in support of that argument. Let me go a little further and say something about the success of stabilisation in overcoming the problems that are existing at the moment. The present scheme is the last of 5 successive stabilisation schemes of 5 years each, lt has met the problem of unprecedented production in Australia and overseas. There has been an explosion of production in Australia. That is admitted. It has been caused in part by low wool prices, ls this Government responsible for the world price of wool? Nobody could possibly suggest that that is likely. Yet honourable members opposite blame the Government They say that the expansion was encouraged by the Government. If I remember rightly the honourable member for Riverina said that this expansion took place in conjunction with the banks. If that is so - and for the sake of argument we will take his word for it - then the banks evidently did not think that the present situation was going to develop. They did not think it or they certainly would not have gone on with this expansion in production. I have mentioned before, and I do not want to repeat it, the difficulty of trying to assess that. But the industry in Australia has been faced with unprecedented problems of disposal and storage and the future policy was not easy to settle. I give great credit to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation for the courage it showed in bringing down this policy of quotas to restrict production. An endeavour was made to implement these quotas as fairly as possible. There are anomalies, and they will be ironed out. I know that anomalies exist, but they would exist whoever was trying to handle this matter. This was an honest attempt by the Federation to deal with the situation as fairly and reasonably as possible.
I want also to congratulate the Government and the Minister for Primary Industry on showing the same courage in taking what were no doubt in some quarters - and this has been proved - unpopular decisions, but they were the right decisions for the welfare of the Australian wheat grower and the Australian community. It takes courage to do this and the Australian wheat growers showed that courage, which was matched by the Ministers and the Government in accepting the advice that they got from them.
We have been told that there was a lack of warning. The Minister for Primary Industry as far back as March 1968 gave some warning when talking to the Victorian Wheat and Woolgrowers Association, which is now the Victorian Farmers Union. He warned the organisation that the Australian Wheat Board’s marketing success did not provide anyone with grounds for complacency. He said - and this is worth repeating:
World markets were neither adequately remunerative nor unlimited in capacity. Those who had taken a view that there were ready markets should have been brought back to earth by the decline in the world prices in the preceding 8 or 9 months.
Did anyone take any notice of that warning? No-one took notice of the warning. Growers kept on producing until a quota system was implemented.
I want to refer now to the criticism of quotas. I want to say to those who have made the criticism that I have never yet heard of a reasonable alternative to the quota system. They criticise the system but offer nothing in its place. Another angle that I think should be noted is that one of the great needs of the wheat industry and the future of the wheat industry is that world stocks have to be controlled. We would have no hope of getting any sort of agreement on this vital matter for the future of the Australian wheat growing industry unless we were prepared to participate in a reduction of stocks. The Minister for Trade and Industry has done a grand job in endeavouring to get a worthwhile system, through the International Grains Arrangement, for the control of world production. Despite the tremendous strain and stress that have been placed on the system it is still operating and in it lies the hope of a sane and sound reasonable world wheat policy. We have not been able to get as many people as we would like to come into such an arrangement. Nevertheless it is there that it lies. Australia must work in conjunction with other countriesin placing restrictions on production to have a chance of getting a reasonable acceptance of a world quota, if one likes to call it that, or a world production of wheat.
I do not want to take all the time that is available to me because there are other very competent and very experienced wheat growers in my Party who will have something to say about this subject. But I want to say something about the stockpile of wheat that has been mentioned. I want to commend the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation again because this body realised that there was a shortfall in the amount of prime hard wheat which might have been able to be exported this year. As a result of that, there is an increased stockpile of that type of what. I believe that this is the type of wheat which should in the main be stockpiled more than wheat which is not so saleable. I am referring to prime hard high protein quality wheat which is grown in
Queensland. While Queensland has seasonal disadvantages it has the advantage of being able to grow this type of wheal and it is necessary that we should be able to fulfill the orders that come for this wheat. There has been some criticism of this position, but it was a very reasonable dec sion to try to improve the amount of wheat that was held under stockpiling.
While we have had some problems. I for one - and I am sure there are very many other people with me - am very grateful that we have at this lime, and this will be in retrospect without the slightest shadow of doubt, a Government and a Minister who that have an understanding of and sympathy for primary producers and that encouraged them 10 go on in spite of the criticism received. I have great sympathy for the Minister for Primary Industry who has suffered criticisms and constant hammerings over the years he has been in office. He has come through with flying colours. He handled one of the most difficult jobs that ever a Minister has had to handle in this Parliament. He has done so with great credit to himself and to the Government. This is acknowledged noi only in the Austral ail Country Party but across the broad spectrum of the Australian community. It was a good thing also that we had in the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation men of similar calibre. I am very proud that the President of the Federation, Mr Les Price, is a fellow Queenslander. As Senior Vice-Pres dent he contributed very considerably to the sound policy that was recommended lo the Government by the Federation.
Mr Speaker, I have left unsaid so much that would be so worthy of mention on this occasion, but if what I have said has served to convey to this House and to the people of Australia something of the problems and something of the very courageous and effective way in which they have been handled by this Government and by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, these remarks will have served their purpose as well perhaps as a longer oration might have done.
Mr DALY (Grayndler) J.4.27J - I join in this debate for sentimental reasons because with due respect to the Australian Country
Part) I suppose my background in the wheat industry is more outstanding - this is quite evident from the speeches that have been made - than the background of those sitting in the Country Party corner. I was horn in Currabubula and that, as honourable members know, is the centre of a great wheat growing area. I lived there in a time of Country Party governments when wheat was ls lOd a bushel, yet the Country Party talks of those days as the good old days. So I am stirred to rise in this debate because of the crisis in the wheat industry caused by the extraordinary, strange and outrageous policies of the present Liberal-Country Party Government. Mr E. J. Donath, Senior Lecturer in Economic Geography at the Melbourne University, writing in the ‘Australian’ of 10th April, had this lo say on the wheal industry:
The world when! situation has never looked as grim for Australia as it does now.
For the first time in history, Canada, wilh 960 million bushels has a higher carry-over than the United States which itself, with 916 million bushels, holds the largest stocks for inure than a decade.
The slocks of the main wheat exporting countries are large enough to satisfy dIe world’s wheat importing countries for at least 18 months.
If no wheat v.ns grown at all in Austraia in 1971. we could satisfy all our local and overseas requirements, and there would still be a carry-over of 100 million bushels al the end of 1972.
Without any reservations whatever 1 can well understand how sensitive Country Party members, particularly the last speaker, are at this slate of affairs, because this situation has been brought about in Australia as a result of the policies that they have followed. Why. Mr Deputy Speaker. I remember seeing advertisements urging the farmers to grow more wheat. They were urged to do so even by slogans on postage stamps. They were asked: ‘Please grow more wheat’. This was urging them to go along their way to bankruptcy. Now Government supporters - particularly Country Party members - arc extremely sensitive on this question. When we put a cat amongst the pigeons wc get a reaction and we are getting it today on this issue. It is no wonder the Country Party members are very sensitive to the criticisms of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby).
No wonder members of the Country Party are sensitive to the penetrating accusations of shortcomings made by the honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Riverina, who continually remind members of the Country Party of these things. I do not worry about members of the Liberal Party. They have no rural’ policy. They leave rural matters to those who sit in the corner of this chamber. That is why the Government is in such a hell of a mess with wheat today.
Those 2 notable representatives of the primary producers.the honorable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Dawson, have got under the skin of honourable members opposite. There is no doubt that the policies expounded by the honourable member for Dawson on behalf of the Opposition are endorsed by the vast majority of wheat growers. Let me remind honourable members opposite that it was a Labor government which introduced the first wheat stabilisation scheme in Australia. It was a Labor government, after the Liberal-Country Party Government which was in office until the early war years, which first stabilised the wheat industry and gave a guaranteed price. It was not until Labor come to office in 1941 that primary producers were able to get out of bankruptcy. Instead of owing the banks money they were then in a position to lend money to the banks. This Government has completely destroyed that stability in the industry with wildcat schemes to encourage primary profiteers to grow products for which not only the Australian producer but producers in other countries cannot find markets.
Do not think I am talking idly. To get farmers to march in their thousands must be a most difficult task, yet in Melbourne 10,000 farmers marched. They refused to accept assurances given by a couple of Country Party Ministers. It was a rebellion against the policies of the Liberal-Country Party Government and its destruction of the security that should be the right of all wheat growers in Australia. If they had been 10,000 unionists marching they would have been branded as Communists. They were farmers fighting for justice and decent representation by honourable members opposite. At a Country Party conference held in Warrnambool recently blame was laid at the door of the Liberals. This was an easy way out. It was suggested that the Country Party should withdraw from the coalition. The conference also told Country Party members in this place: ‘Stand up and do your job for the wheat growers and other primary producers because we are not satisfied with our rural representation in the national Parliament.’ So when honourable members opposite seek to criticise the policies put forward by the honourable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Dawson let them remember that their own organisations have condemned members of the Government Parties for their incompetence and their inability to save farmers from bankruptcy.
I noticed that the farmers marched even in Perth. They were led by a woman. She had a good deal to say about rural matters and her remarks are worth reading. I know that what I say hurts members of the Country Party. They say that only trade unionists demonstrate and that they are Communists. Those farmers who marched are not Communists. They were fighting for justice; fighting to save themselves from bankruptcy; fighting to save their families - all because of the policies adopted by this Government. Do not take my word alone for all this. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) said that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and State Ministers for Agriculture were responsible for the present plight of rural industries. I hope that the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) reads the speech made some time ago by his colleague from Moore, because of all members of the Country Party the honourable member for Moore is most knowledgeable about wheat. He understands the subject. It was he who, when chairman of the Wheat Board, sold our first consignment of wheat to Red China. That sale saved the Country Party, notwithstanding that it did not like China’s policies.
The lady who led the march of the farmers in Western Australia said:
We sell sheep for the price you pay for liver. We get 2c per lb. What do you pay?
Order! I ask the honourable member to confine his remarks to the Bill.
– I am merely adverting to the demonstrations against the Government’s wheat policies. The demonstrations in Perth and Melbourne were not solely against the Government’s wool policies; they were about wheat and all other primary products. The. demonstrations indicate what the honourable member for Dawson, the honourable member for Riverina and other members of the Opposition have said, namely that wheat growers are in the position in which they find themselves because of the policies followed by this Government. lt is no use honourable members opposite denying my claims. We all agree that there is a surplus of wheat. There is no market for it. In these circumstances, what policy should be adopted? Labor’s policy, as always, is designed to protect the family farmer and the small farmers - those who depend entirely on wheat for their income. The Labor Party thinks that the farmer should be treated no differently from other members of the community. He is entitled to a reasonable and just return for his efforts’. Under a Labor government those proposals would be put into effect.
The Government claims that it is not reasonable for the current state of affairs. Let us face facts: The Government dictated to the grower organisations and the States, telling them what should be done about wheat. The Government did not bring down a plan prior to the sowing season; it did it in the middle of the wheat season. Nobody has ever done that before. The Government brought down its plan in the middle of the season when all the crops were in. No matter what honourable members opposite might say. the Government was unprepared for the crisis that occurred in the industry. It was caught unawares notwithstanding its claim that a number of its supporters represent exclusively country interests. It is no use begging the question, because the situation is without doubt as I have described it. As the Australian Financial Review’ reported on 13th March, the trouble stems from the method by which the Country Party accepts its policies. The report read:
All our rural problems, in the main, hark back to the philosophy of the Country Party that farm organisations should be the originators of policy affecting their produce.
The Party Leader, Mr McEwen, has frequently told groups that they should devise the policies and leave it to his Party lo fight for them in Cabinet.
On Mr McEwen’s criteria a policy is .sound if the majority of farmers support it.
Even by one vote I suppose:
This maximizes the electoral payoff hut also the financial drain on the Treasury.
If Mr McEwen needs an example of the fallacy of his Party’s back-seat attitude to rural policy it exists within the wool industry itself. . . .
The farm organisations have every right to be heard on policy but the making of it should be up 10 the Government in the interests of Australia as a whole.
The Country Party has no thoughts of its own. lt is dictated to by these organisations. It cannot bring forward plans that are in the general interest of the Australian people, lt is sometimes dictated to by minority groups and organisations and suddenly it has to change its policy in the middle of a season in an effort to get an industry out of the plight in which it finds itself, lt is unfortunately true that the tragic plight not only of the wheat industry hut also the wool industry and other primary industries stems from the false policies of this Government. It is significant that only one section of the Government is interested in rural production, particularly wheat. At the moment there is id the chamber only one member of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party recently produced a different policy on wheat and wool to that produced by the Country Party. Which Party’s policy is the Minister now putting? ls it the Country Parry’s policy, the Liberal Party’s policy or an admixture of the two?
Looking at the Government benches and noting only one minister reading a few papers and relaxing, one is led to the conclusion that a big section of the Liberal Party has no interest in the plight of the wheat grower. The farmers have had foisted on them policies that have proved detrimental. They offer no long term solution to the problems of the wheat industry.
I would like to see the Country Party members opposite rise in their places later and indicate, if they will, their approach to the farmers that have been bankrupted by that Party’s present policies. What relief does the Government intend to give them? Does it intend that they should close down their farms and walk off as was done under previous Liberal-Country Party Governments in days gone by? I would like to hear the Minister say in practical terms what will come out of the policy he has enunciated in respect of the wheat growing industry. It is said that the Minister talks very frankly on these matters. He certainly does. But sympathy is not much good when you are going broke. What you want to know is what those responsible intend to do and that has not been shown by this Government yet.
I have listened right through this debate and I have not heard any Country Party member - and certainly no Liberal Party members because they are not in the House - say what will ultimately be the salvation of the industry. AH they have endeavoured to do is defend their ill fated policies and praise the Minister whom one of their own members said was responsible for the parlous state of the industry today. I see the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) picking up his pen. Although he lost the debate on the banks of the Murray the other day let him say today, if he can, in this Parliament what he thinks of the wheat industry. What would the honourable member for Mallee think of the wheat industry if the state of the industry had been caused by a Labor government? The old roaring lion would have revived on this side of the Parliament if that had happened. But he will sit there as silent as the grave no doubt and all he will do is praise the Minister whose responsibility it is for sending the farmers broke across the length and breadth of Australia today. The honourable member for Mallee cannot escape the responsibility
Order! I ask the honourable member for Grayndler to confine his remarks to the Bill. The Bill deals mainly with the sale of wheat in Australia.
– I accept your rebuke, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is a remarkable coincidence that every time there is a rural debate the Country Party arranges to have somebody in the Chair. I will get back to the Bill.
– I raise a point of order. This is a reflection on the Chair. The honourable member for Grayndler said that when there is a rural debate on the Country Party always sees that there is a Country Party member in the Chair. This should be withdrawn, lt is against all the decent rules of Parliament.
– There is no point of order. I will ask the honourable member for Grayndler again to confine his remarks to the Bill.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was- only complimenting the Country Party on having a knowledgeable man in the Chair who knows about the subject of the debate. I come back to the Bill. The honourable member for Mallee comes from a big wheat growing electorate, if I am not mistaken. At least, from the way he speaks on the sale of wheat in Australia and on the allied problems 1 assume he comes from a wheat growing area. He is on record as having said that the Minister for Primary Industry is only a messenger boy and no-one takes any notice of him. He said in the Parliament - and consequently today when I blame the Minister for the failure of the wheat industry in this country - the words of their own Minister being quoted in support - he is inclined to scoff at the proposition. Any government that has had the primary production ministry under its control for the time that the Country Party has had it must bear the brunt of the responsibility for the failure of the wheat industry and the wheat position today. No interjection and no approach from the Country Party can deny the fact that the wheat industry today is in a parlous state. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) has indicated the men who are going broke in his electorate. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and others - even Country Party members - know it is not droughts that are sending some of them broke. It is the failure to sell the wheat they have produced at the instigation and with the support of and with the incentives given by this Government to increase wheat production.
Let me finalise my remarks by saying that I am here today to sheet home the blame where it really belongs - on the backs of the Country Party members in this Parliament for the policies they have followed in the wheat growing industry. If they do not believe me. any collection of farmers will tell them that that is the position, and apologies and praise for the Minister and talk of what went on in days gone by in the wheat industry and talk of sales will not suffice and will not solve the problem as far as their own responsibilities are concerned. Having said so much I conclude by expressing the hope that the farmers when the next opportunity offers will take full advantage of it and elect a government led by Mr Whitlam which would have the honourable member for Dawson as the Minister in charge of this important industry and in that way have some hope of salvation which is not apparent at this rime.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Grayndler said - I wrote it down - that the member for Mallee had said that the Minister for Primary Industry was a messenger boy that no-one could take any notice of. Then he said: ‘He said in the Parliament*. Hansard will have that down. If the rest of what he is saying is as far wrong as that one cannot take any notice of it at all. Let me explain. I did not say that in the Parliament on any occasion at any time in any way.
– Where did you say it?
– I did not say it. This was not said anywhere. I will explain what was said, lt was at the big wheat growers’ meeting at Bendigo. This is the way that the honourable member for Grayndler twists things. What was happening then was that I. was explaining that when a deputation-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)The honourable member for Mallee cannot debate the question.
– Can I not explain how this was said?
– I rise to order. As the honourable member for Mallee is a new member will you give him a little latitude?
– Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 cannot hear you for the noise. If I should be sitting down instead of standing do not blame me because I cannot hear you. Can I explain what happened?
-The honourable member cannot debate the question. He will have an opportunity to make an explanation later.
Mr KING (Wimmera) (4.46]- After listening to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) this afternoon talking about the various problems within the wheat industry, I would like to make one simple suggestion and that is that he sticks to aircraft noise. That is about all he knows of the wheat industry. He talked about an economist by the name of Mr Donath and quoted what he said. If the honourable member would speak to the wheat industry and ask the industry what its views are on Mr Donath I do not think he would be so vocal in referring to Mr Donath in this House. If it was not for the fact thai < have taken a fairly close interest in the wheat industry over a long time I would be very confused after listening to 2 or 3 speeches this afternoon by the honourable member for Grayndler, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) anil previous remarks by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr Cairns). I wish to make a brief reference to what the honourable member for Lalor said, lt goes back a little while but nevertheless he is on record in Hansard at page 2243 as having said on 25th October 1967:
Wheal is the business of the Australian Country Party. 1 have no objection, not one scrap of objection, to die way the Australian Country Party has handled Australia’s wheat in recent years through its Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and his assistant.
I presume his assistant was the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). He went on to say:
I have nol one word of objection to offer about it.
T have listened to some of the other stories we have heard from time to time and I wish to quote some of those too. The honourable member for Dawson on 10th March - and this can be found in Hansard at page 207 - said:
Parliament must take note of the very serious problem of the consequence of making large advances to anyone when that money has been spent and the product for which it has been advanced has not been sold.
On this occasion the honourable member was referring to the huge amount of money arranged by the Commonwealth to pay the first advance on the wheat harvest. He continued:
The Opposition gives warning that if this state of affairs arises next year very serious consideration must be given to it.
How does this tie up with what the honourable member for Riverina said? He is trying to get more money for the wheat industry. Strange as it may seem, the honourable member for Dawson in his remarks this afternoon said, if my memory serves me correctly, that it is time that the Government arranged an early second advance on last year’s harvest. Is that correct?
– For the small farmer.
– In other words, the honourable member would upset the whole of the Wheat Board by differentiation?
– No. Do you not agree with that?
– There are big wheat growers, there are medium wheat growers, and there are small wheat growers. How do you differentiate? These things are all very confusing. If I had plenty of time I could go on and quote many more of these remarks. I want to know just what is the policy of present Opposition members in relation to wheat. I think it is pretty fair to say that they are so confused amongst themselves they do not know where they are going. They make conflicting remarks. Consequently the wheat industry as such certainly has no confidence in them. The honourable member for Riverina this afternoon made some reference to the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture. He quoted from a Press statement. I presume he quoted the Minister in context. I cannot dispute this because I do not have the Press statement in front of me. He said that the introduction of quotas will hurt. Of course it will hurt those wheat growers who are being affected. It hurts them because they are not growing the quantity of wheat that they wanted to grow. Of course it will hurt them. But it would hurt them much more in the long term if we did not have some form of quota and we just gave them an open go. What would the position then be?
The honourable member for Dawson agrees that we must limit the amount of advance that we can give the wheat industry. If we were permitted to grow 500 million or 600 million bushels each year and we were able to sell only half of it, what would happen? We would have a storage problem. We would be spending millions of dollars on storage. As I said, the honourable member for Dawson, if he were in office, would not permit an advance from the Reserve Bank to cover it. What would happen? There would be no advance at all after a few years. So I think that it is about time that Opposition members brought themselves up to date. The honourable member for Riverina also said that quotas were initiated from Canberra but implemented by the States, or words to that effect. I want to quote from a statement attributed to a Mr K. McDougall, the then president of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. It was published in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 6th May 1969. The first 2 sentences of that report stated:
On 13th March, the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation decided to restrict the production of wheat in Australia. The initiative was taken without prompting by the Commonwealth or State Governments.
– That is not true.
– The honourable member for Riverina says it is not true. I think he should do a little more homework. Of course the initiative was taken by the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation, which is a very responsible body. The Minister for Primary Industry has said on numerous occasions that the initiative was taken by the Federation. Yet the honourable member for Riverina says it is not true. To my mind this is another occasion on which he is completely wrong, completely out of step with the legislation and completely out of step with the views of the people. Let me return to the Bill. Of course, we all realise that this Bill is rather simple and is confined to two issues. It is confined on the one hand to the question of implementing virtually complementary legislation as a result of the introduction of quotas by the State governments, and on the other hand giving the Australian Wheat Board permission to dispose of wheat other than for human consumption within Australia at a price below 171c per bushel, which was originally set out in the stabilisation plan, down to a guaranteed price of not less than 145c per bushel. They are the fundamental purposes of this Bill.
As I said, the quota system is a very contentious issue in the minds of some people, particularly those people who try to ridicule the Minister for Primary Industry, the Government and the industry for which we are trying to implement something that it believes to be worth while. The Government’s position is perfectly clear and always has been. While the Liberal-Country Party coalition remains in office it will certainly continue to be clear. We recognise the views of the industry. In this instance, of course, it is the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation. It put forward the plans to introduce quotas and it laid down the guidelines. It even went as far as to suggest to the various State Ministers for Agriculture and the Minister for Primary Industry the quotas for each State. It is entirely up to the States to implement the suggestion. 1 believe they have done a reasonable job in this regard. As a Victorian, naturally I am not satisfied with the quantity of wheat that the Federation allocated to Victoria. But that is history and I will leave it as such.
I think the next question we have to ask is: Why do we have quotas? It appears that honourable members such as the honourable member for Grayndler do not have a clue as to why we introduced a form of restriction. They seem to forget that in years gone by the average production of wheat in Australia ranged between 200 million and 300 million bushels. It was just over 2 years ago that we reached a level of about 540 million bushels. However, we could dispose of only approximately half this amount. Yet some of these people seem to think that we can just go on continually increasing production. This of course is completely impracticable. That roughly is the situation.
The next question we must ask is: Why did the industry expand? This was brought about by 3 factors. The first, naturally, was the general development programme brought about not by the Commonwealth Government saying: ‘You will grow more wheat’, as the honourable member for
Grayndler tried to suggest a few minutes ago, but simply because of the economic policy of this country. People have been encouraged to develop land and produce wheat and other commodities. The second reason is that certain States had rather bad seasonal conditions. We had severe droughts and when the seasons came good the people who had been affected endeavoured to get a quick cash crop and they grew a bit more wheat. Of course, the third reason is very simple, and that is the low wool prices. Many honourable members opposite, of course, would blame the Government entirely for this. They forget that we are working under a free auction system.
The next question we should ask is: What will be the results of this curbing? It will affect many wheat growers financially, particularly the younger grower, the new grower, the small grower and the grower who has no alternative but to grow wheat or cereal. I am fully conscious of this, particularly in the State of Victoria. There is a huge tract of country in Victoria for which there is literally no alternative but cereal growing. Many of these properties have now become uneconomical because the quantity of wheat that they are permitted to sell is restricted. We must remember that in many instances the newer and younger growers have very large overdrafts. They also have to continue to pay rates. Even though the income may not be there, the rates still have to be paid. Consequently they are finding themselves in a rather difficult financial position.
I have any amount of correspondence in my files to prove this. Many growers are in real financial difficulty. One fact that proves this is that land values in the wheat area in Victoria have fallen by about 50%. I know of cases where values have fallen not quite 50% and others where they have fallen below 50% of the value of a few years ago. Perhaps indirectly this is a good thing but we must consider the liquidity of a property. A person may have paid $100 an acre for a property now worth S50 an acre. He finds it pretty difficult to borrow or to retain his overdraft at a rate that may be higher or equivalent to the present sale value. This concerns a lot of people. It does not apply to most of the trading banks, because they were very conservative in their allocations of overdrafts some years ago when people were purchasing properties. But there are many wheat growers who borrowed finance privately. Unfortunately many borrowed in excess of the present day value of their properties. In many cases the equity in these properties has almost disappeared. In some cases it has completely disappeared and the wheat growers concerned are in real trouble.
Coupled with this is the fact that many wheal growers have the added expenditure of storing the wheat until such lime as the Grain Elevators Board or the receiving authority in the various Stales can receive it. I have with me a letter from a very reliable constituent of mine in which he has set out the extra cost he faced through having 10 store wheat for only a very limited period. This matter relates to a request that the former honourable member for Riverina, other honourable members of my Parly and I made to the powers that be in an endeavour to get them to erect more community wheat storages. We believed, and we still believe, thai this is the most economic way of storing wheat. I can prove this. It cost the constituent to whom I have referred $2,450 to store 5,500 bushels of wheat. He has se. out the various rates and expenditures in his letter. The Minister for Primary Industry is well aware of these additional costs because I have presented details to him. So also is the Treasurer (Mr Bury). That letter is only a sample of others I have put away in my liles.
The question is: What alternative faces these people? Either they have to gradually go broke or they have lo try to dispose of their wheat in the best way they can. I do nol dispute the statement by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) that there have been over the border sales. We know there have been over the border sales. But I do dispute his statement thai some 50,000.000 bushels of wheal has been traded over the border, lt is expected that many wheat growers will do this sort of thing because they have little or no alternative. The burning question is: Whit is the danger of this practice? The first thing is that they will kill the principle of trying to reduce wheat production in Australia. Naturally producers who do this avoid the contributions being made by the remaining wheat growers to the various research programmes within the wheal industry. Far more important than either of those things is the breaking down of uV principle of wheat stabilisation. That is the point that concerns me and, 1 am sure, the wheat industry as a whole.
I have mentioned just those 3 anomalies created by over the border sales. Naturally we have to do everything possible to prevent such sales. However, section 92 of the Constitution prevents interference with over the border sales of any commodity, but we still have to try to find a solution to this problem. The canned fruits industry created a precedent some time ago by introducing a levy on the production of cann a) i’m l: All the canned fruits people were issued with licences before they could operate I am informed thai this system is running satisfactorily. What I want to know is w.iv this same principle cannot be applied to the wheat industry. A proposal at present being discussed within the wheal industry is the introduction of a levy or a duly - call it what you like - of up to about 50c a bushel on ali wheat sold. Only licensed receivers could purchase wheat. Persons would have to register as licensed receivers and they would be responsible for the payment of thai 50c par bushel. Consequently, if receivers had to pay 50c per bushel to the Australian Wheat Board they would not be able to pay a very high figure to the grower. That is the broad principle involved. I will not spell it out. Suffice to say that the return from the levy would go to the Australian Wheat Board which would then in turn pass it to the wheat pool for that season. Eventually it would b. paid back lo the individual grower. I believe (hat this method could well succeed provided that we gel round any constitutional problems that may be involved. Naturally I want the Minister to have a very close look at this proposition when he has the opportunity.
The second and final proposal involved in this legislation deals wilh the authority of the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat for purposes other than human consumption in Australia at a Lower price than that for wheal sold for human consumption. I agree that this is essential. This wheat would be used mainly for stock feeding, lt would bc impossible lo compete with other products, such as the coarse grains, if this wheat had lo be sold at the old price of $1.71. However I issue a warning. There must be a minimum price. I think all honourable members agree that to a large degree the price of coarse grains is based on the price at which you can purchase wheat. I think it was the honourable member for Grayndler who suggested on behalf of the Opposition that we reduce the price of wheat. This sounds very good in theory. We would be able to get rid of some wheat, but the principle would be a disaster to the industry. The price could eventually become as low as 50c for a bushel of wheat. Consequently oats and barley would be selling at a very much lower price than they are being sold today. I issue that warning. My interpretation of the Bill is that it will allow the Australian Wheat Board to bring the price down to $1.45 as a minimum. The honourable member for Dawson indicated that he would move an amendment at the Committee stage. He said that he wanted to have no minimum. If there is no minimum the principle will bring down the price of coarse grain so far as to ruin the whole industry. If we can sell half our commodity at a reasonable price surely that must be better than selling it all at half of a reasonable price, lt is as simple as that. I have much pleasure in supporting this legislation.
Mr KELLY (Wakefield) [5. 12 J- 1 find myself in some difficulty in this debate. Mine is a rural electorate and most of the people I represent are wheat growers. I was uncertain whether 1 should set out to get more votes from my electorate or to tell the people of my electorate and the House what I think. With some difficulty I weighed up this matter. I have decided that my electorate and the House, being of the quality they are. deserve to hear what I think and rot just something that will make me more popular. It is true that the wheat industry is in what might be called a mess. The signs of the mess are that we are growing more wheat than we can sell. There are 2 fundamental or recognised ways of stopping people growing more than they can sell. One is to lower the price and the other is to have some kind of government quota or control to prevent more wheat, for instance, being grown.
T am glad that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) paid a tribute to the industry for its courage and for taking the unpopular step of applying quotas. I would like to add my congratulations for the courage that the Minister has shown in doing something which was unpleasant and inevitable. But the fundamental fact we have to realise is that the actions of the past made the actions of the present inevitable.
There has been a lot of buck passing during this debate. Everybody has been blaming everybody else for the situation in the wheat industry. I guess that people get some satisfaction from this. The one I blame is myself. 1 think that 5, 6 or 7 years ago I should have shown more wisdom and more courage in pointing out to the industry that it was heading on a disaster course. I tried this on some occasions. One occasion was a meeting of wheat growers in my electorate. There was a discussion on whether the stabilisation plan should be increased. I remember Mr Tommy Stott, who is no mean performer at these meetings, saying: ‘If I can find a Federal member of Parliament who is not supporting this application I shall deal with him’. I remember getting up mildly in the back of the hall and saying: ‘There is no need to get into a state, lt is me. I think you are making a fundamental mistake. If you continue on the course you are on it will inevitably lead to increased quantities of wheat and wheat being grown in areas where it has never been grown before, and it will become increasingly difficult to sell the crop’. There was a painful pause in the meeting. Then everybody with one accord devoted the rest of the meeting to knocking me into shape. If I had continued on that course and convinced the industry at that stage that it was doing something fundamentally wrong 1 would have been able today to turn round to everybody in the House here and blame them. But just because I did not continue on that course, 1 cannot do that.
I will just look at the problem as I sec it now. Everybody in this House pays lip service - and means it - to orderly marketing. But it is worth remembering that orderly marketing should be divided into 2 components. We have the orderly marketing component of single authority selling by the Australian Wheat Board. I would like to pay a tribute to the Board for the amount of work it has done and for the difficult job it has done and how it has done il in recent years. But there is the other component, the stabilisation component, which is a different matter. I heard the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) claiming credit for the stabilisation scheme for the Labor Party. It is true that we have all supported it. I above all should have perhaps been more critical in the past. There is in this stabilsation plan, despite all its advantages to the industry and its political advantages, the inevitable problems that stabilisation plans always have unless they are governed with more courage than usually have. The first component in the stabilisation plan is the cost of production. This is a figure to which we have all paid lip service. All or us in the industry have known that it has been a wrong figure. I knew it and I think everyone else in the industry did. But we have become so used lo beating the cost of production drum that we do not know how to stop.
We have the stabilisation plan with all its advantages of continuity and certainty of income. But it has within it certain basic problems, lt encourages people to keep on growing wheat as the market falls and as the demand falls. Because there is a stabilisation component there is a certainly that the grower will be paid for his wheat. When h’s component of stabilisation is fixed to a cos; of production which is higher than the true cost of production there is a green light for increasing the production of wheat. lt is true that the wheat industry, possibly more than any other industry, has a right to demand to have its cost of production covered. Secondary industry demands it and gets it through tariff protection. We say that we have an equal right to that.
There is in the public relations credit balance, if we can call it. that, a considerable amount of money which the farmers have contributed to the economy in the past. There is some disagreement about how much it is. lt is hard to measure how much it is. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that it is $400m. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) said that il is S300m. I do not know what it is. But I know there is plenty of money in the public relations credit balance, lt is true that equity demands that we ge: assistance, that we get stabilisation and th.il we gel a subsidy. But the fundamental fact is that it does not help us in the end. It does us harm in the end. Let me tell the story of a chap being rushed to hospital in an ambulance after an accident and saying in a muffled voice through his bandages: ‘I was in the right anyway’. But he was still going to hospital. He was in the right, maybe, but it did not help in the end.
What is wrong with the wheal industry? One of the problems is that the home consumption price is too high. I should like to see it come down. I realise that what I am saying is not going to be popular in my electorate but the home consumption price is too high and we have inbuilt in it an incentive for black marketing. People say: Farmers ought not to be like that; they ought not to black market: they ought to be a different kind of people”. I am a farmer and 1 have the same kind of cunning that a lot of my farming friends have. When I am on a tractor at night sowing a crop r have a big start on any civil servant who is sitting in an office trying to work out some way of stopping black marketing, because nothing fertilises the mind quite so much as being out in the middle of a paddock at night alone sowing wheat and not being quite sure how you can sell il.
There is another illustration of this aspect. There is something inevitable about difficulties when governments are involved. Honourable members probably remember the story of 2 doctors who were exchanging experiences during the war. One doctor said to the o.her: ‘I have 3 cases of meningitis in my area’ and a chap sitting behind him tapped him on the shoulder and said: Look, I’ll take the lot*. There is this kind of inevitable pressure once we fix a difference between prices, so I should like to see the home consumption price come down to some extent. Quotas now have become inevitable. I should have made the point earlier that it is not true, as some people say. and as some people have tried to pin on me, that stabilisation is the only component that has led to (he production of increasing quantities of wheat which we have increasing difficulties in selling. Certainly the fall in the price of wool is a large component but it is also true that stabilisation encouraged us to continue to increase wheat production at the very time when we ought to be cutting it hack. This is a fundamental thing that we did wrong that
I, perhaps above all, did wrong. I am not trying to make political capital by blaming someone else. Now we have quotas, how do we make them work?
The easy way to get votes out of this exercise is to say, firstly, that we are going to protect the small farmer, because obviously there are more small farmers than big farmers and so there are more votes in the exercise. So, let us protect the small farmers they say. Let me give another illustration. I have a friend in England who is a big farmer. He comes out to Australia fairly regularly to avoid - I think that is the word he uses - income tax. Every time we exchange our figures and when he shows me great swags of subsidy components in his figures I say to him: ‘Look, you cannot justify this kind of assistance from the government’ and he always replies: Look, Bert, if there are enough small struggling farmers around me I should be all right.’ We cannot solve the social problem of the small farmers unless we are terribly careful, cunning and capable, without encouraging the big farmers unnecessarily.
The other way to get votes is to say that we are going to help safeguard the position of the traditional wheat grower. The argument runs something like this: He has subsidised the economy in the past, therefore it is he who should receive most of the subsidy from the Government in the future. That sounds convincing, except that we will probably find that he has died in the meantime and someone else is running his farm. More important than this, an industry like wheat growing has to change continually. It is an efficient industry which is producing the cheapest wheat in the world because it has changed to meet changing demands and to meet different kinds of tractors, different kinds of fertilisers and different kinds of farming techniques. One of the great dangers in the quota system is that it may not be sufficiently flexible. Goodness knows, the quota system will be difficult and unpopular, but we have to make it flexible and we must not set out to safeguard, at any price, the position of the traditional wheat farmer, because the traditional wheat farmer has always changed in the past and if he does not change in the future it will be the kiss of death for the industry.
All of the things that I have said will bc unpopular but I think it has been necessary to say them. I have been glad to hear many people say. and I echo their statement, that we must evolve a system of transferable quotas. As an industry we must stop asking the Government to supply us with storage at Government expense. I know my farmers, and I know myself. If storage is provided we will fill it. So we have to stand firm against pressure for additional storage. There is almost nothing in what I have said that will help me win votes in my electorate. The one thing I hope will come out of what I have said is that the House and the industry will learn that there are dangers in the way we have acted in the past, so that the next time we come to an industry such as this we will look a little more clear eyed at it and not be so quick to seek popularity. Here again I blame myself before anybody else because I should have warned the industry 5 years ago that it was heading for trouble. In the meantime we have got ourselves in a mess and the industry and the Minister have set about getting us out of it. I wish them the best of luck i a very difficult assignment and I can assure them, particularly the Minister, of my support. The Minister has my understanding, sympathy and admiration for the job he is doing.
Debate (on motion by Mr Pettitt) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.28 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, the House will know that in the course of the last 2 weeks we have learned of the tragic events in 2 countries on the opposite side of the world to us - Rumania and Peru. In Rumania, flooding has caused loss of life and extensive property damage. On Wednesday I announced that a grant of $5,000 would be made to assist in the relief of the effects of these floods. Shortly afterwards we heard of the earthquake in Peru. Reports from the press and from our Embassy in Lima have informed us that there has been a catastrophe of major proportions. The Embassy has reported this morning thai danger continues from landslides and Hooding of ruptured dams. All of us will have been deeply moved in reading the reports of human suffering and loss of life. The Government has made a grant of $15,000 to the Government of Peru. In Australia we are geographically distant from both of these tragedies. But 1 am sure the Australian people would wish to make a gesture of sympathy to those who, in the last few weeks, have been the victims of these two natura! disasters.
– Hear, hear!
-I have received the following message from the Senate:
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for ‘An Act to amend the “National Health Act 1U52-I969’: ‘. and requests the House to amend the Bill as set out in Schedule A annexed. The Senate desires to inform the House that the-
– This is another Schedule.
-Order! The honourable member well knows that when the Speaker is addressing the House and is on his feet he sh jil speak without interruption. The message from the Senate continues:
The Senate desires to inform the House that the amendments set out in Schedule R annexed have been made by the Senate in the Bill.
Motion (by .Mr McMahon) agreed to:
Thai the message bc taken into consideration in Committee of the whole House at the next silting. [Quorum formed.
Wl EAT INDUSTRY STABILISATION BILL 1970
Debate resumed (vide page 2995).
- Mr Speaker, 1 am very grateful to my friend, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), for directing your attention to the state of the House. In rising to support [he passage of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1970, 1 wish to draw attention first to the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). The Minister said:
This Bill is intended to amend the Wheal Industry Stabilisation Act in 2 respects, lt will complement legislative action by the State:.: First. to implement a quota scheme tor wheat deliveries; and, second, to give discretionary power to the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat in Australia for purposes other than human consumption at prices lower than the price for human consumption.
This Bill proposes a pretty straightforward amendment to the Act. I know that discussion today has ranged widely although the Bill is a fairly straightforward one. I propose to be brief and to the point.
The Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act 1968 provided for the fifth consecutive 5-year stabilisation plan for the wheat industry. In 1968-69, wheat production exceeded 540 million bushels. Over 515 million bushels were delivered to the Austraiian. Wheat Board. This was at a time when there was gross over-world production. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) refuses to accept that such a position of gross over-world productionexisted. He bases the whole of his argument on the theme that over-production occurred in Australia and that this was the cause of the introduction of the quota system. He ought to know better than that.
Wheat growers face a tremendous problem because of this over-production regarding the provision of storage facilities and marketing. Those of us who are wheat growers and who arc engaged in the wheat industry know that wheat growers acted very responsibly in backing their leaders in introducing a quota scheme. Criticism came from many people. Most of the critics were not wheat growers. Criticism came today from the honourable member for Riverina and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), neither of whom is a wheat grower. Despite this criticism the scheme has been accepted and supported by a great majority of the wheat growers themselves. Surely nobody knows better than the leaders of the industry what the problems are and what is the best procedure to take to deal with those problems.
Members of the Opposition, notably the honourable member for Riverina, have criticised continually the leaders of the wheat growers. I must pay tribute to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who has been much more rational than most honourable members on the Opposition side. He at least does know something about primary industry. He at least is a theorist as far as agriculture is concerned even if he is not a practical farmer. It is very obvious that no honourable member opposite is a practical farmer. One has only to look at the 3 speakers put up in this debate by the Opposition. The honourable member for Riverina is not a practical farmer. While the honourable member for Grayndler always provides comic relief, we know that he is not and never has been a farmer.
– Bom in Currabubula.
– As my honourable friend from Gwydir says, he was born at Currabubula. Somebody suggests that he was born in a stable; I am very sure that it was not a manger.
Like all Socialists who wish to take over primary industry as a whole, honourable members on the Opposition side would like to see a left wing dictatorship.
– That is not right.
– They support the socialisation of all means of production, distribution and exchange.
– That is the pledge they have to sign. What does socialisation mean?
– What about the farmers who-
– Look, you may be a school teacher-
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting.
– Put him out.
– That will not be long either.
– Mr Speaker, that is not a proper way to address an honourable member.
-Order.’ The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting.
– As far as the wheat grower is concerned, the socialisation of the wheat growing industry would mean, first of all, the socialisation of farms and land - production - secondly, socialisation of the Wheat Board - the means of distribution - and, thirdly, the socialisation of banks - the means of exchange. That is what the honourable member for Riverina, the honourable member for Bendigo and all those other honourable members on the Opposition side who would like to get their hands on the wheat industry would do. According to an article in the ‘Riverina Daily News’ of 4th October 1967 the honourable member for Riverina said:
The problem wilh Australian wheat is noi overproduction but under-selling.
If any statement proves that the honourable member does not know much about the wheat industry that statement surely proves it. I agree with the Minister that such a statement was stupid and untrue. Australia’s share of the international wheat market has risen. One of the great problems we have had to face is that the Australian Wheat Board has been too effective and too efficient in selling its wheat. It has been a most aggressive selling organisation - so much so that when it sold a particularly large parcel of wheat to South America, one of the main markets of the United States and Canada, the Americans said to the Wheat Board: ‘Put another consignment of wheat like that into our market and we will break you. We will cut the price down even if we have to give the wheat away.’ The Wheat Board then called the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) into conference and asked him to go to Washington and try to persuade the wheat growing countries to stand by the International Grains Arrangement. This has very largely now been achieved, and today we see, probably due to the efforts of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) that the International Grains Arrangement price has been held at pretty near the original level, despite the tremendous surpluses. All that would have been achieved by reducing the price is that we would not have sold any more wheat and the farmers would have got a great deal less for their wheat.
The honourable member for Riverina and other honourable members who do not know very much about the practical side of this matter have urged that there should be no restriction on production. How ridiculous can they be! We heard the shadow Minister for Primary Industry issue a warning recently in this House to the wheat growers that they could not expect this Government again to stand behind the guaranteed price as it has done previously.
He issued a very fair warning that if a Socialist government came to power it would not stand behind the agreement to provide the money - alone, mind you - to maintain the payments to the growers. I also remind the House, as the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) did earlier, that it was the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) who said that he was happy to leave the handling of the wheat problem to the Country Party because it had done an excellent job. This is rather typical of honourable members opposite. They know very little about wheat because there are no practical farmers on the Opposition benches. They therefore have about half a dozen different wheat policies.
The second provision of the Bill is to give the Wheat Board power to sell wheat for food purposes at a lower price. This is something that will help the meat industry and the coarse grains industry. The meat market is a very promising one indeed. It will also bc helpful in preventing a black market. There has been a certain amount of black market trading going on, but nothing like the volume that we have been told about.
– You said there has not been any.
– I did not. We all know it has been going on.
-Order! The honourable member for Riverina has already spoken in this debate, lt is usual for honourable members who have spoken in a debate to refrain from interjecting thereafter and I suggest that the honourable member do so.
– The honourable member for Riverina has been screaming about the black market for some time, even to the point where 1 maintain that he has been aiding and abetting the black market by making out that it is easy to operate on the black market. He has thus encouraged people to deal on the black market. He was responsible for the tremendous fall in the price of oats and barley when he started to scream about the black market.
– I rise lo a point of order. The honourable member has grossly misrepresented me in this debate.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. After the honourable member for Hume has concluded his speech 1 will call the honourable member for Riverina to make his personal explanation.
– I say again that after the honourable member for Riverina was heard screaming all over the country - and he made headlines because that sort of ridiculous statement always makes headlines - the price of oats and barley in my district dropped dramatically. He created a feeling of uncertainty by claiming that there was a tremendous black market. He was grossly exaggerating. We have heard him in this House telling us how he went out at night and did a little bit of private detective work to find out what sort of black marketing was going on. I hope he did not wear his bullfighters outfit or even the waistcoat that he is wearing tonight, for he certainly would not have got away with it. But what did he do when he found that there was a black market going on? He did not tell the police, the Wheat Board or anybody. He wanted to use his knowledge for political advantage because if there was no black market half of his argument would fall to the ground. I challenge him to give the Wheat Board the evidence of what he claims to have found and to do as I have done. 1 have made a public statement in the newspapers that if anybody gives me evidence of black marketing taking place I will convey the information to the Wheat Board, because this is very serious indeed. It affects every wheat grower. Anybody who trades in wheat on the black market is trading on his fellow wheal growers. I challenge the honourable member to give these names, if he has them, to the Wheat Board.
-Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member for Hume come back to the Bill instead of dealing in personalities.
– I am dealing with a very serious question.
-I suggest that the honourable member come hack to the Bill and cease dealing in personalities.
– I will come back to the Bill, Mr Speaker. I say that the black market in wheat has very serious repercussions for the wheat industry. It affects the price of wheat and also the price of other grains. Anybody who has evidence of black marketing - and particularly a member of Parliament - has a bounden duty to do something about it. I challenge the honourable member to do his job as an honourable member and as a friend of the farmer, as he claims to be. There are people on the opposite side of this House who consistently oppose the farmers’ organisations at every opportunity. They have opposed the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and the Australian Wheat Board and they have opposed the Grain Elevator Boards in each State. These people are not working in the interests of the wheat growers. The people on the opposite side of the House who claim to be the friends of the wheat growers are supporting a 35-hour week. Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has said that he does not give a damn about the effect on primary industry and he will pursue his objective of introducing a 35-hour week. This, of course, would increase the costs of the wheat growers and all primary producers beyond all bounds.
I support the Bill very strongly. I support the Minister in what he has achieved in spite of the opposition that he has experienced from many of those who purport to be friends of primary producers but who have merely sought political gain and have done nothing to help primary producers in any way whatsoever.
– I call the honourable member for Riverina.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Hume-
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker, grossly misrepresented. The honourable member for Hume said in the course of his remarks that I had encouraged wheat selling on the black market or outside the legal system - outside the Australian Wheat Board. I want to say that this is a most grave charge. If one sells wheat outside the law he is liable to a fine or to a gaol sentence, or both. I have never at any time, publicly or privately, suggested to any persons at any place at any time they should sell wheat in contravention of orderly marketing and of the law. The only thing 1 have ever said on this subject is that people have been forced by Government policy to do this.
Mr MAISEY (Moore) £8.19] - The Bill before the House is intended to amend the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act in 2 respects; firstly, by throwing a cloak of legality over a scheme already in operation to restrict deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board and secondly, by giving legality to a discretionary power already being exercised by the Board in respect of the price of wheat used within Australia for other than home consumption purposes. The Parliament quite recently dealt with a Bill to enable the Commonwealth to meet its obligations under a Commonwealth guarantee of repayment of certain borrowings by the Australian Wheat Board from the Reserve Bank of Australia in respect of wheat from the 1968-69 crop. As that Bill as well as the Bill presently before the House form part of measures to deal with the present plight of the wheat industry and as both can fairly be described as measures designed to alleviate past ministerial mistakes, it is a great pity that they could not have been debated together. This would have permitted a total examination in depth of those mistakes and perhaps some more effective and lasting relief could have been afforded to this important baste industry.
For the Minister for primary Industry (Mr Anthony) to describe the present proposal of restricted deliveries to (he Australian Wheat Board as ‘positive remedial action’, and this reaction as ‘courageous and responsible’ is an assessment of the present crisis which must surely go down in the varied and changing history of this industry as the greatest piece of selfdeception ever perpetrated. The injustices and anomalies flowing from the quota p.’an call for a greater sacrifice from the traditional wheat grower than from the speculator - a greater sacrifice from the grower who over the years has maintained steady and stable production consistent with sound soil conservation practices and has given a handsome premium to tax dodgers, speculators and disenchanted graziers who, while refusing to have anything to do with wool marketing reform, climbed on the wheat industry bandwagon of organised marketing and stabilisation to the extent that that vehicle is now broken and hopelessly bogged down with unmarketable production.
The need for the Bill to extend the repayment period of loans to the Wheat Board for the purpose of paying a first advance of 110c per bushel on the 1968-69 harvest was a direct result of paying this first advance on a crop of more than SOO million bushels, associated with a downturn in international trade in wheat following the drastic increase in the minimum price of wheat under the International Grains Arrangement. To increase the base price of wheat by the equivalent of US19c per bushel in the light of the then global stock position and crop prospects was an act of irresponsibility equalled only by the refusal of the governments, Federal and State, to come to grips with the crisis now facing the industry. To attempt to sidestep this problem by inviting industrial organisations to deal with it when they have neither the skilled personnel nor the legislative authority to do so is an attitude of weakness inconsistent with every principle of responsible government. The Government, under the former Minister for Primary Industry, Charles Adermann, earned for itself the greatest respect for its willingness at all times to consult with the industry on all matters affecting it and gave the views of the industrial organisations the most careful consideration. Never before has a government said to the industry: ‘You provide the answer to a problem of this magnitude and take the responsibility, and we shall legislate’. I make that statement against the background of 15 years association with wheat industry organisation at a national level and 20 years at a State level.
Let me pause briefly here to furnish the House with details of world wheat stocks and crop prospects for 1967 and 1968 - the time of negotiation of the price structure of the International Grains Arrangement. Wheat stocks in the principal exporting countries at 1st July 1967 were 1,353,600,000 bushels or 36,840,000 metric tons. At 1st July 1968 they were 1,656,000,000 bushels or 42,592,000 metric tons. Stocks of wheat in the. United States at 1st July 1969 were up to 30% on the previous season. They were up by 23% in Canada, and were 16% above the previous record in that country in 1967. Australia’s wheat stocks were also more than 2i times higher than last year’s level and nearly twice the figure in 1967. Argentina’s wheat stocks were lower by 30%. The estimate of the 1967-68 season’s wheat production in the world as at 31st March 1968 was 10,575 million bushels. This excluded production in the Soviet Union and China. World production in 1966-67 was 6,990 million bushels, again excluding China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The drastic increase of US 19c per bushel under the International Grains Arrangement, which became operative on 1st July 1968, against the background of these known stockpiles of unsold wheat and bumper crop prospects, produced a wave of resentment in consuming countries which reverberated around the world. It also afforded an opportunity for countries with exportable wheat surpluses, not signatories to the International Grains Arrangement or bound by its much higher minimum price provisions, to invade the markets of the traditional exporters at prices below the International Grains Arrangement but above what they would have been able to command prior to the new Arrangement coming into force. It also undoubtedly prejudiced the goodwill of traditional exporters and added to the inducement of importers to become, as far as possible if not entirely, self-sufficient in wheat, no matter at what cost. Is it any wonder that end of season stocks in the 5 major exporting countries or areas - the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Economic Community - which had fallen under the old International Wheat Agreement price structure from 60 million tons in 1958-59 to about 33 million tons in 1965-66 climbed back again to 62 million tons in 1968-69? These 5 exporters were in fact holding stocks at the end of last season well above the level of the year’s world trade in wheat.
Now let us look a little closer home. Let us look at what happened in Australia. Exports of wheat and flour from Australia for the 1966-67 season amounted to 312.4 million bushels. Exports for the season 1967- 68 amounted to only 206.3 million bushels out of a total for marketing of 327.7 million bushels. Export sales for the 1968-69 season showed an improvement on the previous year amounting to about 242 million bushels but still 70 million bushels below the 1966-67 figure. The improved 1968-69 figure reflected the vigorous and aggressive sales tactics being employed by the marketing officers of the Australian Wheat Board and it is not hard to understand their feelings of frustration when, on his return from North America and Canada in early April 1969, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that those 2 countries had dropped their prices below the minimum under the International Grains Arrangement. He modestly admitted that Australia may be interpreting freight differentials in a way lo give it a more competitive price advantage over other exporters.
In the middle of April 1969 the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) staled, in answer to a question asked in the House, that he did not intend to have Australia even suspected of breaking the rules. In July 1969 he announced that the Wheal Board hud agreed to abate its competitive activities in the international grain market in the interests of the United States and Canada increasing their sales, ls it any wonder that the Australian Wheal Board failed to sell sufficient wheat from the 1968- 69 harvest lo liquidate the overdraft raised from the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank in the time limit imposed on the loan?
During 1968 the problem of negotiating a new and continuing stabilisation and marketing plan was superimposed on the difficul ties being encountered at an international level with the negotiations for a new and continuing International Wheat Agreement. Under the pressure of rising prices and wages behind the protection of a high tariff wall, wheat growers’ costs were calculated to have increased by approximately 22c per bushel during the 5 years of the concluding plan. This resulted in heavy calls on the Treasury for price support and embarrassed the Government at 1st December each year by directing the attention of taxpayers and other exporting industries, notably wool, to the degree of failure on the part of the Minister to check inflationary pressure and to protect the legitimate interests of exporting industry. As the internal cost structure rose so did the measure of price support to the wheat industry increase. At the same time costs in the woof industry increased at a similar rate but the price of wool failed lo increase to a commensurate extent and it is not surprising that wherever possible wool growers turned their attention to wheat production and new farmers devoted the whole of their attention to wheat and ignored other cereals and wool.
As the quantity of wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board increased so did the relativity of the quantity guaranteed under the stabilisation plan diminish. Thus the Government was confronted with a (wo-headed monster by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation when discussions began in earnest at the beginning of 1968 for the new and continuing stabilisation plan. The Federation asked for a more realistic and upward revision of a number of important elements in the industry’s cost regimen as welt as an increase in the quantity of the export guarantee to restore the relativity of this most important element of previous plans, lt came as no surprise that the Government started to look around for a way out of this dilemma, and even less surprise that when the trap was finally sei the Federation - with ali the gullibility in the world - walked straight into it. As was the usual custom prior to the renewal of stabilisation plans, Cabinet had authorised the Minister for Primary Industry to direct the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to conduct a survey of the industry’s costs. Using the information from this survey and absurdly high valuations of the farms surveyed provided by the Commonwealth Bank valuers, discussions began with the Federation for a new base price.
The Federation, at the same time, assisted by its economic adviser, had been examining items in the former cost regimen and made representations to the Minister for a review of these items. And so again. Mr Speaker, the stage was set to say to the Federation: ‘Well, let us take the figures derived from the BAE survey the capital valuations of the farms as supplied by the Commonwealth Bank valuers, your ideas as to what should constitute such imputed items as owners-operators’ allowance and deductions for sideline income, together with what you believe should be the yield divisor, and let the Bureau of Agricultural Economics bring up a cost of production price’. The price projected exceeded $2 per bushel, a price the industry had never received, one which no government could ever be expected to cover, even to the tune of 150 million bushels - ‘.et alone the 200 million bushels the Federation was seeking - and a figure which, if it was a true cost, must have meant that every wheat grower should have been bankrupt.
The absurdity of the situation thus created knocked the wind out of the Federation, and while it was gasping for breath the Government delivered the king hit by discarding the whole concept of a stabilisation plan based on a cost of production figure, and offered the Federation - on a take it or leave it basis - a plan based on 170c for home consumption wheat and 145c for up to 200 million bushels of exports. The substitute proposal also contained modified provisions for annual movements on the basis of a restricted cost regimen. No useful purpose will be served by traversing the course of the negotiations which followed this offer by the Government, nor anything gained by reviewing the unedifying performance of the Federation at this time. Suffice it to say that the Federation later asked the Minister, and received his acquiescence, to a face saving proposal that it should design a cost formula which added up to 170c. but only on the strict understanding that neither the Minister nor the Department had anything to do with the idea that the cost of producing a bushel of wheat was 170c.
Obviously the Minister could not agree that it cost 170c to produce a bushel of wheat as the industry, again, had never received this return and yet it had expanded production to the present unmanageable proportions. Furthermore, the Minister could never afford to acknowledge that he had offered the industry a guaranteed return for the 200 million bushels of export wheat at a price which was 25c per bushel below what he agreed was the cost of production. In the meantime negotiations at an international level had proceeded to the point where agreement, subject to normal ratification, had been reached on a base price for wheat which was then calculated to return approximately 140c per bushel f.o.b. Australian ports, or about 5c per bushel below the export guaranteed price of the 200 million bushels covered by the Government offer to the Federation With the export minimum price for Australian wheat artificially set at a level which destroyed its competitive position in world markets, with the home consumption price arbitrarily raised to a record high level and well out of line with the price of other cereal grains, and with enormous carryover stocks on hand and a record acreage being cropped, the Government, with the concurrence of the Federation, had again set the stage for the present farce.
It was painfully apparent by the second half of 1968 that the industry was heading for real trouble, if not for complete disaster, and grain handling authorities were joining the ranks of the difficult people who had the temerity to question the wisdom of what the growers’ experts were recommending. They were asking how they were expected to provide storage for the big harvest forecast when their storages were full of unsold wheat. It was interesting at this time to note that of the 10 growers’ representatives sitting around the Australian Wheat Board, 6 were directors of State handling organisations and 1 a chairman of directors, and at that time president of the Federation. It is not hard to understand how the proposal to deal with the mounting crisis offered 100% protection to only one group - the State handling authorities. These 10 grower members of the Board were also the most influential people at the State industrial organisational level and in most instances were serving a number of masters, with the grower in the paddock running a very bad last. This was the situation when the Minister invited the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation to submit a proposal to cope with the pending crisis. After some preliminary discussion the Federation finally got down to the business of meeting the Minister’s request, and what is now known as the Quota Delivery Plan emerged from the annual meeting of the Federation held in Perth at the middle of March 1969.
The official reports of the Federation meeting, as well as the statements subsequently issued by the Minister as part of his acceptance of the Federation plan, reveal quite clearly that the proposal was to restrict deliveries and first advance payments on the basis of the average deliveries to the Australian Wheat Board for the years 1963 to 1968 inclusive, rounded to the next million bushels, but to reduce the average entitlement of the Slates of Western Australia. Victoria and South Australia in order that an above-average entitlement could be given to New South Wales and Queensland because of the ability of these latter 2 States to produce what has been described as a readily marketable type of wheat. Quite obviously, if one or more States were to receive more than their contribution to the 5-year average figure, some States must receive less, in the case of Western Australia, ils contribution to the accepted 5-year average figure of almost 357 million bushels was 91.15 million bushels. Yet, to make possible the over-entitlement to New South Wales and Queensland, Western Australia had to accept a base quota delivery an. I first advance payment figure of only 86 million bushels, a loss to Western Australia of over $5. 5m of first advance money in the first year.
The rank injustice of this proposal becomes immediately apparent when it is recognised that the distribution of a quota within a State is the prerogative of that Stale. If New Sou, h Wales has an ability to produce a readily marketable type of wheat in a part of that Stale then it could allocate as much of its fair Stale entitlement lo growers in thai area as if .saw fit. ‘I he same thing is true of Queensland. But it is completely unjust and inequitable to reduce the 5-year entitlement earned by a grower in Western Australia in order that a grower in one part of New South Wales can receive his full 5-year average entitlement and another grower in New South Wales can receive above his 5-vear entitlement as well as a quality premium on his wheat. This grave injustice i.s further aggravated when it is recognised that the better quality wheat grown in New South Wales and Queensland is due entirely lo the type of soil and climatic conditions under which it is grown and in no way reflects a greater efficiency on the part of the grower. In other words, it is a geographic advantage which is being recognised.
But the Federation steadfastly turned its back on the geographic advantage of Western Australia in respect of its proximity to major markets, particularly China, lt is common knowledge that the Chinese would load most of their ships at Western Australian ports if the Wheat Board would permit them to do so. There are always spec iiic clauses included in every contract made with the Chinese which limit their Western Australian loadings to a fraction of what the Chinese desire. The rank injustice of this quota plan as between State and State as well as between grower and grower within a State could be discussed ad infinitum. The introduction of the quota plan in Western Australia called for a reduction straight across the board of 1 7 In of a grower’s deliveries in the first year of its operation and a further reduction of 20Co on this year’s production. The Minister, of course, has foreshadowed another further drastic reduction net year. “I here i.s no equality of sacrifice in this over-simplified method of reducing production between the grower of, say, 10,000 bushels and the grower of 100.000 bushels. The latter will carry on with a minimum of sacrifice and adjustment but the former will in almost every instance have his economic viability destroyed. In any case, he i.s nos the person responsible for creating the present position of over-production.
The inequity of this over-simplified rule of thumb method of dispensing justice is further highlighted when an examination i.s made of the schedule of deliveries to the Wheat Board since its inception. New South Wales did not deliver over 100 million bushels to the Board prior to 1963-64. the first year on which the 5-year average is calculated. Of all the States which have contributed most to the present cri- is New South Wales is by far the biggest offender. Yet it not only receives a quota based on the best years of its performance out of which this over-production crisis grew, hut it demands and receives a share from he 1 less fortunate Slates as well. An examination of he delivery history of individual growers within a State will reveal the same anomaly. The crisis of over production began after 1°.63. yet it is the hig growers who created this crisis who are now receiving the lion’s share of a State entitlement. If the quota plan is to prevail then common justice demands that the principle of a minimum wage accorded the worker should be extended to the wheat grower. If the criteria for a right to stay in the wheat industry is simply to be who can produce a bushel of wheat at the lowest cost, then let us go straight out for collective farms on the Russian pattern or communes on the Chinese pattern or huge state farms and be done once and for all with this hypocrisy of pretence for the rights of the common man. For my part let me conclude by stating now in the clearest and most categorical terms that 1 am not prepared to sacrifice one traditional family farm or farmer to make a Roman holiday for a person who speculates in wheat growing during this time of over production.
– I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) on his maiden speech here this afternoon, i feel sure that he will make a very useful contribution to the national Parliament; in fact, a far more useful contribution than some of the honourable members opposite who seem to enjoy interjecting at a time when we are discussing such a serious and important matter. I have risen lo speak on this Bill because I regard the importance of the great Australian wheat industry very highly indeed and because I represent the electorate of Gwydir which is one of the largest wheat growing electorates in New South Wales, producing some of the best milling quality wheats in Australia. We do not have a problem so much of over production at the present time because n the last season we cleared all but 8 million bushels from our silos. This is because the wheat from northern New South Wales and Queensland has met a very ready market in the world and also in Australia. Owing to seasons, however - we do have fluctuating seasons in northern New South Wales - we have had a problem so far as the income of wheat growers is concerned. The seasonal factors, such as frosts and heavy rain, last year were the cause of more problems for the wheat growers in my area than the quota system itself. I regard it as important to ensure that the delivery quota system does not unduly restrict the production of readily saleable wheats. The New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr G. R. Crawford, has endeavoured to write this into the wheat quota system for New South Wales. 1 want to congratulate the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation for writing into its submissions to the Government a provision to ensure that an additional 10 million bushels of prime hard wheat were made available in this year’s quota. I think it is essential that we continue to regard this question of saleability as a very important aspect of this scheme. There is a further important factor to take into consideration both for Queensland and northern New South Wales and that is the question of the growers producing over quota saleable wheat that is sold and paid for before a cut-off date, which is currently recognised as 30th September, into the next season. The wheat growers are paid for it and it is not carried forward into next year’s quota. Before go’ng on to the Bill I want to deal with some of the complaints raised by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), the shadow Minister for Primary Industry from the Opposition. He complains that the delivery quota system does not take into account the problems of the small traditional growers. This is what the whole quota system ;s about, to protect the small growers in this country from ruination.
– Rubbish, he says. If we had not introduced a delivery quota system we would have seen chaos in the wheat industry and the first ones to go to the wall would have been the small growers. This is what we have attempted to do - protect the small growers. This is what the Wheatgrowers Federation has attempted to do. Honourable members opposite should talk about coal. They should not talk about wheat. The delivery quota system has protected the small growers of this country. It has assured them of a small payment of SI. 10 per bushel for a quota delivery. The honourable member for Dawson said in this House some time ago:
The Government has used the quota system to reduce production. This, in my opinion and in the opinion of thinking people, is not only unjust but is also inequitable.
That is a totally misleading statement on 2 accounts. It was the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, the supreme body of wheat growers in this country, which in its wisdom decided on the quota proposals and the way in which the quota system is to be administered rests with the State governments which have undertaken to apply it to the individuals. That is typical of the type of statements that we have come to live with because of the political opportunities that honourable members opposite see in capitalising on a problem that we wheat growers have to face at this present lime. In March we heard the honourable member for Dawson make this statement in the House: lt is obvious than the Government has lulled lo warn the wheal grower.-, the public ami the taxpavers in sufficient time of the crisis that has arisen.
On 20th March 1968 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) said:
There surely ure few growers who would not agree that the Wheat Boa id has done a magnificent job foi them in finding markets for the bigger and bigger crops that have been produced. That does not mean there is any ground for complacency World markets are neither unlimited in capacity nor unreservedly remunerative. In the last eight or nine months prices have weakened lo an extern that surely msut bring back to earth those who have held the view that there Ls a ready market for all we can product.
So let nobody come in here again and say that the Minister for Primary Industry is the guilty man in the piece.
– But your own member said th:,t
– The Minister for Primary Industry works wilh the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, with the Wheat Board-
– I will proceed to show how shallow the arguments of Opposition members have been right throughout the crisis within the wheat industry. We have the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) coming in here on numerous occasions to cry all sorts of sad songs and stories about the wheat industry, but never once putting forward a constructive suggestion. He usually advances a policy which is diametrically opposed to that of the Opposition’s shadow Minister for Primary Industry. I am starting to wonder, as I am sure all honourable members arc. v. ho is the spokesman for the Opposition. The Opposition has 4 wheal policies and 3 wool policies. I am sure that before it is finished it will have a lot more.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! A few moments ago I asked the House to hear the honourable member iii silence. There are still too many interjections. If the House does not come to order I will have to lake some action.
– I rise to a point of order: Would you direct the honourable member for Gwydir to address the Chair and leave us alone?
– All remarks will be made through the Chair. I was not aware that the honourable member was not making his remarks through the Chair.
– I will of course direct my remarks to the Chair. The honourable member for Riverina claimed that the Federal Government had forced the question of the delivery quota system on the wheat industry. I submit this is another wild, reckless, shameful and irresponsible statement. I refer the House to what Mr L. V. Price, who is Senior Vice-President of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, had to say on i his question on 2nd July 1969.
– He is now the President.
– The honourable member for Wimmera rightly notes that he is now the President. This is what he said:
I would strongly refute that there has been any political pressure exerted on the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, whether before the implementation of, quotas or since their introduction. Should any politician or political puny endeavour to m:,ke adverse capital out of the introduction of wheal quotas, they will be responsible for the greatest disservice ever to the wheal industry of Australia.
I ask honourable members to pause and consider that statement by a very responsible leader of the wheat industry in Australia. We saw the spectacle today of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) being called upon to speak on the problems of the wheat industry. We heard the honourable member for Dawson, the honourable member for Riverina, and then into the fight came this great old warrior smelling blood, looking for some political capital, and saying nothing. The closest he has ever been to wheat was when he was born at Currabubula. He is a great old warrior but he knows nothing about wheat; he certainty knows more about aircraft noise. He knows how to win his .seat by playing this up. But why does he not leave the question of wheat to those who know something about the very real problems of the wheat industry? It comes to a poor pass when we have to listen to such drivel from honourable members who represent metropolitan seats and who probably do not eat bread. But the truth of the matter is that we have a serious problem in the wheat industry because of world over-production. We know that there is a very serious economic situation in the rural sector. We know that it is in poor shape because of low world prices for wool and other products, because of world overproduction and market problems, because of drought and because of the rural indebtedness that has occurred as a result of these factors. We know that the Minister is working day and night to try to overcome the problems and to try to ease the pressures on the farmers throughout Australia.
Because of the difficulties in the rural sector we have seen this mad scramble by the Australian Labor Party to get on the band wagon. 1 will take honourable members back to 1968 when we had the debate on the wheat stabilisation scheme. Opposition members did not smell blood at that time, and only one honourable member from the Opposition side spoke on it, and that was the honourable member for Dawson. Of course, when they saw that there was some political capita] to bc made out of this situation, in they came. Suddenly they realised that the farmers were in trouble and. like the bie bad wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood fable, they attempted to woo the farmers. Let me warn the farmers of this country that if the Opposition is elected to power and it implements the 1 vote 1 value policy, as was announced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), we will see the elimination of at least 2 wheat seats in this country, thereby reducing the voice of the fanner further and putting him further into the wilderness. There is all the evidence in the world to prove that the policy of the Australian Labor Party is to cut the throat of the rural voter.
– They cannot deny that.
– They cannot deny it. I have the evidence here. Now I would like to address my remarks to the Bill. It complements legislative action taken by the State governments to implement a quota scheme for wheat deliveries and to give discretionary authority to the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat in Australia for purposes other than human consumption at prices lower than the price for human consumption. This Bill also will enable the Wheat Board to sell weather affected wheat, off-grade wheat, for stock feed at appropriate prices for this purpose. Owing to adverse seasonal conditions over a wide area of New South Wales during the recent harvest an enormous quantity of wheat was rain damaged It had to be classified as offgrade wheat unfit for millable purposes. Obviously wheat of this quality is better out of the Grain Elevators Board system. This Bill will enable that wheat to flow into the stock feed area at appropriate prices.
This Bill amending the 1968 Wheat Stabilisation Act demonstrates once again the degree to which the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government are prepared to work with the Australian wheat industry to help it through a difficult time. In the 1968 Act provision was made for the fifth 5-year stabilisation plan for the wheat industry. In the first year of the current plan production exceeded 540 million bushels, resulting in the delivery of a record 515 million bushels to the Australian Wheat Board. This occurred concurrently with world over-production and shrinking world trade. We saw a huge build-up of stocks in Australia - indeed, in most wheat producing countries - and a rapid decline from the record world trade levels for wheat during 1965-66. This caused enormous storage and marketing problems for the Australian wheat industry. I do not think there is any rural industry in Australia better organised than the wheat industry to cope with such problems. Industry leaders were quick to realise the seriousness of the situation. They acted in a most responsible manner to devise what is now known as the delivery quota system to help lower production levels and at the same time take into account the very real problems of the small farmer.
In 1968 the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act provided for a guaranteed return to growers of at least S2,000m over 5 years. This is S400m more than the guarantee given under the previous plan. The 1968 Act guaranteed a price of approximately Si. 45 p?r bushel for exports totalling 200 million bushels. That guarantee means that for every lc fall in the world market the cost to the Australian Government, and therefore the taxpayer, is an extra SI Om over the 5-year period. Nobody can deny that the Government has not attempted to do its best to tide this industry over a difficult period.
The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) went overseas to negotiate the International Grains Arrangement as part of the Kennedy Round discussions. If we had not had the Minister’s foresight and shrewd assessment of the situation we would have seen great chaos on the international scene. Since 1967 there has been a reduction in world wheat prices but they fell in an orderly way. After the discussions had taken place in Washington, a committee was set up to ensure that prices were cut in order to compete with non-member wheat producing countries. That action helped create price stability on the world markets despite the enormous carry-over of stocks. Had we not had this factor operating in the world wheat trade and had we not had the wheat stabilisation scheme we would have seen absolute disaster facing Australian wheat growers.
– You can thank the Labor Party for that. Why do you not be fair?
– If the honourable member for Wilmot says that the Labor Party did it, very well. Good luck to it. I am sure that had we not had the stabilisation scheme wheat prices would have collapsed. There would have been disastrously low prices in this country. Australia has been in the forefront in trying to bring about the orderly marketing of wheat and other primary products on the world scene. Against this background the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation made a most responsible move to meet the situation by devising a delivery quota plan based on a first payment of SI. 10 per bushel. The Commonwealth Government announced its support for this proposal after it had been assured by the
Federation that all State grower organisations agreed to it. The State government accepted the responsibility of implementing the scheme. Once again the Minister for Primary Industry had the most important job of calling together the Australian Agricultural Council and getting its cooperation. At recent meetings in November and January the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation reaffirmed its support of the quota system and rejected the suggestion that an advance should be paid on overquota wheat. The Federation feared that unless this was done the stabilisation plan as we know it could be completely wrecked.
This is the answer to the suggestions made by the would-be spokesman of the Australian Labor Party, the knockers, the political opportunists, who have tried to capitalise on the difficult situation in the wheat industry. I refer to people who make such wild statements as that there has been a black market trade involving 50 million bushels of wheat when in fact the home consumption never has exceeded much more than 68 million bushels. What a shocking statement.
– Who said that?
– The honourable member for Riverina. Where is he now? Throughout this crisis the Government has stretched every muscle to help the wheat industry. It has done so since the devaluation compensation in 1966. [Quorum formed]
This of course is a means to try to stop me from getting the true message across to the wheat growers of this country, and it is typical of the almost dreadful tactics of the Opposition to try to cloud the issue confronting the great wheat industry of Australia. Let me finish. I want to finish on this note. Where is the honourable member for Riverina now? He is not here. Throughout this crisis the Government has stretched every muscle to help the wheat industry. It acted to help the industry when sterling was devalued in 1966 by providing compensation; it introduced the new 5-year stabilisation agreement in 1968 and it made the SI. 10 per bushel first payment for the record 514 million bushel crop in 1968-69. Then there were the agreement for the delivery quota scheme and the financial guarantee by the Commonwealth, the S7.7m, so far, for research, the 50% increase in the bounty for superphosphate, the negotiations for additional funds to store over-quota wheat this season and the recent announcement that the full cost of permanent and temporary on-farm storage for over-quota wheat would be an eligible taxation deduction in the year of expenditure.
We cannot, as 1 said earlier, look back on the problem on our farms in isolation from the problem which exists throughout the world. In 1965-66 we saw the world trade in wheat rise to 62.5 million tons, and yet in 1968-69 it had fallen to 47 million tons. This is due to several factors, the first being that the Soviet Union was a big importer in the mid 1960s but today is an exporter. Pakistan, once an importer, is now an exporter. As the honourable member for Warringah so rightly said today, we have seen the green revolution in South East Asia. New high yielding wheat varieties are spreading throughout South East Asia and Asia. Only 200 acres were being sown in 1964-65 but today it is 20 million acres. It has been against this background that we have seen a very responsible stance taken by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, with the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government straining every sinew and muscle to try to help the industry lo meet the situation. 1 believe this Bill is further proof of the Government’s desire to work with the industry for the common good for the small and traditional wheat growers. Some do not like quotas. We have heard al] this talk from the Opposition. What is the alternative? Chaos, ls that what the Opposition wants in the wheat industry? I leave that question with it.
– 1 always like to make some contribution to any debate that deals with the wheat industry because it is an industry that is near and dear to me, I having for a long time been close to the industry and having worked on farms. Although a lot of people may not believe it, I was reared in a rural atmosphere, first On a dairy farm and later on another dairy farm which tried to grow wheat and to produce eggs and porkers as well. I know only too well of the tragic circumstances that sometimes hit the farming community. Indeed, I believe that my memory of the farming industry is much better than the memory of members of the Australian Country Party concerning the wheat industry and rural industries generally.
The trouble with the members of the Country Party generally is that they come into this place, get on to the soft, plush cushions in the House of Representatives, visit their very elaborately furnished club room on the other side of the building where they pat each other on the back most of the time they are here, telling each other what wonderful chaps they are and how terribly prosperous the industry is as a consequence of their direct contribution to it. They mesmerise themselves into believing that all is well. It is very amusing to see how the Liberals thoroughly enjoy a member of the Opposition giving the Country Party the roasting I propose to give it tonight. The Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is so tickled by what he hopes I will say that he has decided to go out into his room and laugh his head off where nobody can see him.
– Order! The remarks of the honourable member for Hindmarsh are not relevant to the Bill. Nobody will be laughing his head off and nobody will be listening. The honourable member has been in this House long enough to know what is relevant to a Bill and what is not.
– Sir, I want to congratulate your colleague, the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) on a very excellent contribution. I was deeply touched by some of the remarks he made about the plight of the farmers in Western Australia and how he was able to prove beyond all doubt that the farmers in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria have been sacrificed to give to the farmers of New South Wales and Queensland, where the Country Party has deeper interests than it has in the other 3 States, a special advantage over those in the other 3 States. He was able to expose the Country Party and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in a way that nobody else has ever succeeded in doing before in this place. Even the Labor Party has not succeeded to the extent to which the honourable member for Moore, who is a member of the Country Party, was able to succeed today. This is easily understood because he is in a position to hear their conversations and what goes on behind the scenes. Tonight we heard from him a most excellent addressin which he exposed the Country Party, much to the ill content of his colleagues and to the great delight of the members of the Liberal Party. Sir, forgive me for saying that once again, but I did notice it. So it went on.
I was very impressed by one point he made, that the wealthy wheat growing companies in Australia, which are able to produce enormous quantities of wheat because of the tremendous holdings they have, are virtually not affected by the quota system. I was impressed by how he was able to prove that the quota system is really knocking the small farmers, of whom there are so many, and that the big wheat growing interests, small in number but very powerful within the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and within the Australian Country Party, have been able to force the spread of quota reductions over the whole industry so that the little man, the man whose capacity to grow wheat even if he were given the right to grow all he could, would not give him a handsome income, has now been forced to reduce the capacity of his farm.
– That is up to the State governments.
– The Minister for Repatriation says that is up to the State governments. It is very funny how the Country Party here always blames the State governments for anything that goes wrong. Yet the fact remains that no matter how much the Minister might like to shift the blame on to the State governments it is the Commonwealth Government that is in control of overseas marketing, not the State governments. The Commonwealth Government is the one responsible for setting up commercial attaches and trade attaches in other countries which may become potential buyers of our wheat. But what has it done?
The best potential market is China and when China is unable to get wheat elsewhere she comes to us for it. Wc sell it to her, but we never set out to try to get markets in China. We wait until China comes to us, and for a good number of years China did come to us and helped to get us out of our difficulties. When other countries which had surplus wheat to sell - Canada and France are examples - they could see the great value of the Chinese market to their wheat industries and they set up de facto diplomatic relations with that Communist country. They had a distinct advantage over us. Let mc tell the Parliament this: The Chinese know more about our wheat surpluses than we know about its wheat needs. I pause a while to let that sink in. This is because we have no diplomatic relations established with Communist China and therefore no opportunities to set up commercial or trade attaches in Peking as the other countries have done. When those other countries are trying to discover what Chinese wheat needs will be they get out and get the sales before we even discover that China is buying wheat.
– We are the biggest seller to China.
– I thought that the Minister did not believe in supplying Communist countries with wheat and wool. How does he know but that the wheat he now so proudly sends to Communist China may not be used to feed the Red hordes as they march down towards us? The Government cannot have it both ways. What alternative has the poor wheat farmer now that the Government has cut his quota? I am talking about the small wheat farmers. They are the ones nearest and dearest to my heart - the small wheat farmers of whom there are so many. I am not interested in the big wheat farmer at all; he can look after himself. What are we going to do for the poor little man who, together with his family, works from daylight to dark and gets little more than the basic wage for himself and his family when all is said and done? What can he do now? Can he produce butter in order to supplement his income as a consequence of losing his quota of wheat? Of course not, because there is a surplus of butter. The Government has not bothered to find a market for our butter and we have a surplus of it and the small wheat farmer cannot go in for butter production. Can he go in for wool? Of course not! The Country Party now admits that wool production is a dismal failure and that wool is reaching an all time low because of the cartel buying system of the Japanese and other wool buyers. The Government is doing nothing to attempt to deal with the pie buying system in the wool industry, and it has no intention of doing anything about it. Members opposite cry crocodile tears about the poor old wheat farmer and the poor old wool farmer, but they take no action.
On my way home the other morning I was driving through Balranald and I turned on my radio to listen to the news session. J was listening to the Deniliquin station and when I got sick of listening to that I turned to the Shepparton station but got the same announcement - an angry deputation of Edenhope farmers had just visited the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the only advice he could give them, according to the radio broadcast, was to walk off their farms-
– It was me they quoted, and it was quite inaccurate.
-It was the
Minister for Primary Industry. The only advice the Minister could give, according to the radio-
– It was inaccurate.
– The radio does not tell lies. I listened to the radio hour after hour with regular monotony. I got tired of it.
– It must have been the ABC.
-It was not; it was the local commercial station from Shepparton and the commercial station from Deniliquin. Every hour, during the news broadcast, they said that the Minister received an angry deputation of farmers from Edenhope and that the only advice that he could give them concerning their problems over wheat production was: ‘Walk off your farms and go on social services’.
– That is completely inaccurate.
-It was said over the radio station and the Minister has not denied it publicly.
– I have.
– Well I have noi seen it.
– I will send you a copy of it.
– All right. Apparently they cannot even get social services so what are they to do? Should they look around and try to get into the poultry business?
– Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh, as I mentioned to him earlier, that he has been in this House long enough to know what is relevant to a Bill under discussion in the House. Many of the subjects that he has been covering lately are completely wide of the Bill and I would ask him to come back to it.
– 1 thank you for your guidance, Sir, but I was following some of the points made by previous speakers. 1 was impressed by the remarkable speech made by the honourable member for Moore. He set mc thinking. 1 am glad to say that he was heard in silence without interruption by anybody. I thought he made an excellent contribution. As a consequence of what is happening in the great wheat industry of ours, it is no wonder that the farmers are crying out for a new kind of political representation. This is why the Country Party is beating the pants off the Liberals in South Australia, lt will not be long before the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) will be exercising his right under the Liberal-Country League rules to sit in the Country Party corner in order to hold his seat because at the rate the Country Party is improving its vote in South Australia this is precisely what will happen very soon.
The poor old farmer becomes the butt of everybody’s greed and avarice and he is helpless lo defend himself. He has no effective voice in the Parliament 01her than through the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), the honourable and very learned member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) and myself, who. occasionally put his case. There is nobody on the Government side to speak up for the farmers and so they are helpless and hopeless. They have nol a political voice inside the Government and they are crying out for somebody else who will put their case for them. Is it any wonder that they are going broke? Petrol - a commodity that is vital now that the horse has gone from the industry - kerosense and diesel fuel prices have reached astronomical heights and rich overseas oil cartels have become fabulously rich.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I will ask the honourable member for Hindmarsh to resume his seat if he keeps getting away from the subject matter that the House is discussing. I have suggested on three of four occasions that the honourable member should keep to the matter under discussion. 1 do not intend to do it again. If the honourable member transgresses again J will direct him to resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you have hurt my feelings. I will sit down.
– At the very start 1, like other honourable members, should like to congratulate the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar) on his excellent maiden speech. Next I want to say - and I want this to underlie anything I say - that I congratulate the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. The members of that organsation have played a major part in assisting in the best possible way the wheat industry in the present crisis. 1 am of the opinion that the men in the Wheatgrowers Federation are dedicated to the proposition that wheat growers should get the best deal that this country can give them. Anything I say from now on will not stop me from believing that, because I have watched the situation very closely over the years and I know exactly what has happened. Members of the Australian Labor Party have sa d what a wonderful speech was made by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) and have said that the rest of the members of the Country Party do not know anything, but it appears that the Labor Party is pretty low on intelligence in respect of wheat. Why do not members opposite get up and speak? If we were discussing some industrial problem and members of the Country Party did not rise to speak the first thing honourable members opposite would do would be to taunt them and say: ‘Why does the Country Party not speak on these things?” The Country Party is a specialist primary producers party. Every member of the Country Party represents a rural constituency I was amazed to see the men who were put up by the
Australian . Labor Party to speak on the subject of wheat. I am more amazed tonight to note the honourable members opposite who are interjecting. They have not the courage to get up to attempt to make a speech on this great wheat growing industry.
Let me examine those who spoke for the Opposition. First of all, we had the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He is an academic. He has never worked on a wheat farm or any other type of farm. The honourable member has a great urge to show his book learned skill. But men up and down this country-
– I rise to take a point of order. I do not think that the honourable member for Mallee has spoken on the subject matter of this Bill at all since he commenced his speech. Mr Deputy Speaker, you asked the honourable member for Hindmarsh, a short time ago, to get back to the Bill. I think that you should do the same with the honourable member for Mallee.
– Order! No point of order arises. I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– I will be on to the Bil] shortly. Let me repeat that the honourable member for Dawson is always anxious in this House to show his book learned skill. I think the poet said: ‘He still had hopes his book learned skill to show’. We have had a practical demonstration of this. I will be on to the subject matter of the Bill shortly. 1 wish to say something about the Opposition speakers on this Bill. After all, we on this side of the House have been examined in this way. The honourable member for Dawson was the first speaker on the Opposition side. He is, as I have said, an academic. He was followed by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). The honourable member for Riverina does represent a vast wheat growing area. I take notice of what he says. I met him at Barham in a debate on Tuesday of last week.
– How did you go?
– How did I go? I thank the honourable member for Shortland for his interjection.
– Order! Merely because a member of the Opposition has interjected, it does not mean that the honourable member for Mallee can discuss a matter that also has no relevance to the Bill.
– 1 would like to answer the question, Sir.
– No. The honourable member for Mallee can answer the question raised by the honourable member for Shortland outside the House any time he likes but not inside the House during the discussion on this Bill.
– All right. Regarding the Bill, I think that 1 should not go into the fine detail of this legislation because every other honourable member who has spoken has done this. Such speeches become what is objected to by the Chair, as a rule, as tedious repetition. This is the debate on the second reading of the Bill. Perhaps honourable members have forgotten what the intention of the Bill really is. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) plainly said:
This Bill is intended to amend the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act in 2 respects, lt will complement legislative action by the States: First, to implement a quota scheme for wheat deliveries; and, second, to give discretionary authority to the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat in Australia for purposes other than human consumption at prices lower than the price for human consumption
In a nutshell, 1 have read what some honourable members have tried to explain in speeches lasting half an hour.
I listened to the speeches tonight. Much has been said about the speech made by the honourable member for Moore and other speeches. Look, the honourable member for Moore spoke of what happened years and years ago. We all know off by heart what he spoke about. Then he put in one or two references to the other country. If he wants to do that, it is all right. But bow would he get on if he was in the Australian Labor Party and did this? How did Cyril Chambers get on when he tried only mildly to do this sort of thing? He did not receive his endorsement and he was out of this House. Yet we are told that Labor never does these things. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr
Clyde Cameron) would be better tonight if he was on some other job where he has been appointed, I understand, in a high executive position by the Labor Party. i wish to refer now to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) - I am not going against your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker - who claimed that he had some knowledge of wheat because he was horn at some place called Currabubula. I had a look to see how big his electorate is. It is 9 square miles. Because he was born at Currabubula the honourable member thinks he is a primary producer. 1 know of a baby who was born in a hospital. But that baby, when it grew up, did not become a doctor or a nurse. Things do not work out that way.
Let me refer to what has been happening in the debate with which we are dealing now. I wish to answer some of the allegations that have been made, lt has been said that the decision on quotas was made in panic. Well, I cannot see the members of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation panicking. They are men who have been up against droughts, floods, bad seasons, surpluses in good seasons and these sorts of things. Just because an extra good crop is achieved for which no market can be found overseas or in Australia, I cannot see them panicking. If anybody wishes to say that they have panicked, he can say it; but it is completely wrong to say this. 1 turn to the talks at Ottawa. The Minister for Primary Industry went to Ottawa recently. Wheat talks were held there. Five major wheat exporting countries were involved in those discussions. Those countries were Australia, Canada, the United States of America, Argentine and the European Economic Community. I have here Hansard of 13th May 1970. I am always pleased to quote from Hansard because we have in Hansard the proof of what honourable members say. Some honourable members speak in an airy fairy way about things that they cannot substantiate. Sometimes I am chided for using Hansard, as 1 was the other day in the debate that I bad with the honourable member for Riverina. The honourable member for Riverina said: ‘Hansard may be all right, but I would rather read the Bible’.
– -Who said that?
– The honourable member for Riverina said that in the debate that 1 had with him. I am satisfied when we are talking about the wheat industry and other matters of importance to the economy of Australia to refer to what is reported in the Hansard of the Commonwealth Parliament. This is what the Minister for Primary Industry is reported in Hansard as saying about the Ottawa discussions:
At talks in Ottawa involving the S major wheat exporting countries - Australia. Canada, the United States of America, Argentine and the European Economic Community - figures showed that last year stock holdings of wheat went up by about 900 million bushells, an increase of almost 50%, to well over 2,000 million bushels. The forecasts for this year are that the increase will be only about 200 million bushels. It is anticipated that in 1971 we may see, for the first time since 1965, a decline in world stockpiles of wheat.
That is what we are aiming for.
Let us suppose that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation did not worry about the quotas which have been fixed by the Federation in conjunction with the State governments which have given the quotas legislative authority. What would be the position? This great stockpile would be growing all the time. We must have cooperation. We have had valuable cooperation with other wheat growing countries. Opposition members in this House have said often: ‘Why worry about the other countries? If you have an agreement, why not sell our wheat outside that agreement?’ If our wheat was sold outside our agreement, the countries which have much greater wheat production than we have could undersell us on world markets. Those countries could accept lower prices. They are richer countries than Australia is. Our wheat industry would be defeated as far as production is concerned and as far as the sale of the product is concerned for the next 15 years, 20 years or even longer. These suggestions do not carry any weight as far as I am concerned.
I turn to the subject of quotas. 1 wish to mention the honourable member for Riverina. I do not like to say that he is not in the House at the moment; but every time I walk out of the House the honourable member for Riverina says: ‘The honourable member for Mallee is missing’.
Anyway, he may have some reason for being out of the chamber. The honourable member for Riverina all the time asks: Why not pay SI. 10 per bushel for all the wheat that is over-quota wheat?’ Nothing would please me more than to be able to do this. I know the plight of the wheat growers. I have represented the Mallee electorate for over 24 years. I have been in the Mallee for 40 years. I know what is happening.
– Too long.
– lt is too long for the honourable member, of course. It is far too long for him. All the time that I have represented the Mallee I have known what has been happening. I would be tremendously happy if it was economically practicable to pay $1.10 per bushel. The honourable member for Riverina is saying these things around his and my electorates. By the way, the honourable member went into the Mallee to help 2 Labor men in the recent Victorian State elections. Both men were soundly thrashed. He had some of these very men at Barham to ask me questions. They were my political opponents in the election. He had them lined up there.
My point is this: The honourable member for Riverina says: ‘Pay $1.10 per bushel. This is good.’ But what does the Australian Labor Party think about paying $1.10 per bushel for over quota wheat? That is the question. Let us look at Hansard to see what the Labor Party thinks. I have here a speech by the honourable member for Dawson who is the shadow Minister for Primary Industry in the Labor Party. He is the man who leads for the Labor Party on primary industry matters. Hansard reports the honourable member for Dawson as saying:
It was obvious to everybody, to the industry and to the Government, that last year there would be large sums of money un repaid in respect of the 1968-69 harvest. The Government then made another advance of $440m. Looking at it in perspective now, in March 1970, we see a total of $440m as the first advance for last year’s crop and approximately $250m in unsold- wheat or the equivalent still on hand. This amounts to a loan of from $650m to $700m having been made. The disturbing thing of which Parliament must take note is the very serious economic problem of the consequence of making large advances to anyone when that money has been spent and the product for which it has been advanced has not been sold.
He goes on with that theme throughout a large part of that speech. I want honourable members to listen to the remainder of this and when doing so to exercise a little logic, lt shows what the v/heat growers would get if the Labor Party got into office. Listen to this - it is a gem:
The Government has now been warned about what can happen by being a guarantor for large proportions of wheal that cannot bc sold at this point of time.
– Who said that?
– The Labor Party’s shadow Minister for Primary Industry. What is the use of the honourable member for Riverina saying that a certain thing should be done when the Labor Party would not support it in any circumstance, as is apparent from these remarks which are recorded in Hansard and were made by the Labor shadow Minister for Primary Industry? It would appear that if he had his way the wheat growers would not get an advance at all. The advance for next year has been already announced, 6 months before the time at which it is normally announced. The payment for next season will be $1.10 a bushel. We know that there has been a quota cut of about 20% on last year’s intake, but wheat growers now know that they will get $1.10 for all the wheat that they will grow within their quota. In every other year except, I think, last year no announcement was made until the 1st November at the earliest. It is an excellent thing for the wheat growers to know exactly what the first payment will be from the Australian Wheat Board.
The honourable member for Riverina has gone around talking about this $1.10 a bushel. But let me tell the House that in the 1968-69 pool deliveries of 515 million bushels necessitated a drawing limit of $624m, of which $566m was required for the. payment of a first advance of $1.10. This is the figure that everybody is quoting. But do honourable members opposite think that the Wheat Board runs on fresh -air? Does it not need an advance so that it can carry on this year? In 1968-69 the actual advance was $1.18 which included the Wheat Board’s expenses. The next year is 1969-70. I will not read all the figures but the actual advance, with expenses, was $1.18 and not $1.10. Next year the advance to meet the payment of Si. 10 a bushel to the grower will be Si. 28 a bushel.
This is what should be kept in mind when talking about $1.10 all the time. The Government has done a magnificent job in providing money for the wheat industry.
Throughout this debate I have heard no-one put forward anything which would be more advantageous to the wheat growers than what is being done by the Federation and the Australia Wheat Board. Some people say that we should not have quotas. lt is a well known fact that if there were no quotas the man who would get it in the neck would be the small grower. Do not think for a moment (hat I am saying tonight that all quotas are fair. However, as far as Victoria is concerned 1 am informed that the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Chandler, will, during the 1-day sitting of the Victorian Government next week or the week after, bring forward some amendments that will improve the quota system as it affects the small grower. These amendments are to be introduced after some experience of what has been happening. This Bill shows very plainly that the Commonwealth Government has really nothing whatever to do with the quotas.
The honourable member for Riverina has, of course, quoted me out of context. If I had said what he has made out I said I would not ever dare to come back into this Parliament. I have found in my experience of this House that if a man makes an incorrect statement on a certain subject any member affected by the misrepresentation may rise and make a personal explanation. But here we have an instance of a man, the honourable member for Riverina, taking various parts out of a speech, putting those parts into a document and sending them throughout my electorate for people to read. He has taken one part from a certain section of my speech and another part from another section. That anybody should do this is something beyond my comprehension. It is against all the principles of Parliamentary procedure and Parliamentary conduct. I have always given members of the Labor Party credit for being fair when they were on a subject that they understood. They understand what has happened and I say that it should never have occurred. I have proved my contention up to the hilt and I have called for a public apology but it has not been forthcoming.
Let me say this to the Labor Party: If there were no quotas, if there was no bulk wheat all over the country, if we had been able to make sales in the normal way there would still have been trouble in this country because the great problem is that of rising costs.
– A 35-hour week.
– Now Labor is going for a 30-hour week. Get up to date. I have never heard a Labor man complain about a strike preventing people from loading wheat or wool. However. I now want lo speak about marketing which is the subject of this Bill. If the Australian wheat growers or the Australian producers of any other kind of primary product could sell all their production in this country, obviously primary industry would not want any assistance at ali.
– I am sure they would.
– None at all. There is a lot of money in this country but it is in the wrong places, lt is a great and rich country I have put up a proposition lo a farmer’s union but unfortunately no notice was taken of it. lt was said today that 1 had. in thi* Parliament, called Mr Anthony a messenger boy. The statement I made was delivered at a big wheal growers meeting. lt was alleged that I said that he was a messenger boy of whom you could not take any notice. That is completely wrong. I attended the big wheal growers meeting in Bendigo - and I can say this tonight because the debate is on the subject of wheal - and I suggested thai it was of no use sending men to see the Minister for Primary Industry, the Treasurer (Mr Bury) or the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) separately. I said that I had been able to bring deputations of representatives of lnc dried vines fruit industry to see the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Primary Industry, and what I did say was that so far as the Minister for Primary Industry was concerned when the deputation came he had to go to the Cabinet and run backwards and forwards like a messenger bo>. I did not say at any time (hat you could nol take any notice of him. If I were lo draw up a list of members of Parliament for whom I have great admiration and regard al the highest possible level. Doug Anthony’s name would be on it. 1 was going on to say that a market is a place where you buy and sell. If you buy in it and sell most of your goods somewhere else it is only half a market. That is what is happening in this country. We buy in our market everything that we need for production. But we have such a large surplus of almost all primary products that we must endeavour to sell them overseas lo low standard countries which usually cannot afford to pay the Australian home market price. Secondary industry in Australia is prelected by tariffs from imports from those low standard countries. If the low standard countries could export freely to Australia they would put our secondary industries out of business. Secondary industry in this country has been built up to provide employment for Australians so that they may help to build this nation and strengthen the home market. I have suggested - this should meet with the approval of the Labor Party - that by a system of price support - I will not call it subsidy - primary producers should be able to export their surpluses and enjoy the financial advantage thai is enjoyed by secondary industries through the tariff system.
– That is Socialism.
– No. Socialism is the socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange.
– How do you know?
– I have been here a long time, lt would bc very strange if I had not learned something from the Labor Party in that time. Going back a little, it was suggested thai we sell wheat to China. At some times of the year we hear daily from members of the Opposition that sales should not be made to China. I and others have pointed out that if we do not sell wheat to China somebody else will. In the Senate the Labor Party sought to call before the bar of the Senate officers of the Australian Wheat Board to divulge trade secrets regarding the price at which we were selling wheat. If the move had been successful it would have been ruinous to our markets. Labor has done everything in its power to try to spoil the markets for the wheat grower. Labor depends on strikes and such things.
I want to tell a story about a young man who enlisted during the last war. I told him that he should get busy and do something.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the honourable member for Mallee to rejoice in sales of wheat to Red China when at the same time he is conscripting boys to fight against the Chinese?
– There is ho substance in the point taken.
– On a point of order, you did not allow the honourable member for Hindmarsh to get away from the Bill. Now the honourable member for Mallee is starting to tell stories.
– There is no substance in the point taken.
– I will link the story with the Bill. The young man served his country well. I told him that if he did not get away and do something in the war and if Hitler won he would find himself working in a chain gang on the wharves or in the country. He said that the unions would not stand for it. This is Labor thinking.
The Labor Party is so imbued with the idea of unions, socialisation and nationalisation that it cannot think straight. If we have a big surplus of wheat which cannot be sold overseas to earn the money to repay the Australian Wheat Board and ultimately the Reserve Bank would it not be a fair proposition to wipe the slate clean and allow this great industry to start afresh? Would this not be to our national advantage? What people forget is that the wool industry and the wheat industry are Australia’s great national assets. The bottom could drop out of the minerals market at any time, but the primary industries built this country and they maintain it In the 24 years that I have been in this Parliament I have defended primary industries and advocated the best possible deal for them more than has any man since federation.
– You can be sure of that. I have been chided for asking questions I have been accused of being parochial. I have been told that I have as constituents sheep, cattle and even rabbits. Well, sheep and cattle are the things that keep this country solvent,
– They get a vote in your electorate.
– You only just won Bendigo. Look what happened to Mr Trethewey. He may sound your death knell. The debate at Barham was very interesting. Might I say something about it?
-Order! I have told the honourable member that that subject is not under discussion here. If he wants to speak about it he may do so outside the House.
– All I will say is that the Press said that tension hung over the town like mallee bull dust. This debate has been worth while if only to prove to the Opposition that the Commonwealth has no power to restrict production. This is one of the honoured functions of the States. This Parliament has no say in quotas. I hope that any anomalies in the quota system will be rectified. I again pay a tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry and to those people in the wheat industry who have been courageous enough to bring about quotas. Let me express the fervent hope that we soon will be able to sell more wheat overseas and that the quota system and the general depression in the wheat industry will pass away like a bad dream.
– Three thousand million people in the world and we have to draw the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). It is the astonishing conceit of honourable members opposite that they think they are the only ones who can speak for the farmer; the only people who are concerned with wheat. 1 represent 120,000 people. True they live in only 11 square miles. True they rally there so that they can get decent representation. It is also true that the honourable member for Mallee and his farming fraternity could not survive for 1 week without the work, research and skills of the people who make up the industrial areas of Australia. They are the people who carry the wheat to market, the people who conduct research, the people who mill the wheat into flour, the people who load it onto the ships - the people about whom the honourable member for Mallee is continually abusive. They are the people who buy the flour and eat it.
Who speaks for the wheat farmers in this House? The old worn out auctioneer. the storekeeper from indi, the lawyer from New England, the political chameleon from Kennedy, who has been a member of every political party. Who is the Minister for Primary Industry? He is a retired banana bender from Richmond. No wonder the Country Party cannot find any answers to our questions. I have listened to the debate this afternoon and follow similar debates year after year and nol one answer have we had from the Country Party, lt is no longer relevant to the Australian political scene as it applies to primary industry. I stand here briefly tonight to record in Hansard the fact that nol one answer has come from the total membership of the Country Party today. ‘I Throughout the afternoon they were consumed with mistrust of the Labor Party and spent their lime denigrating the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). Nol one answer have we found in their speeches. We have just listened for 30 minutes to a catalogue of cliches from the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). We heard the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), a man who came in to this place with a fanfare of trumpets, with a high position in the Country Party but wilh a very small majority. Not one thing did he have to offer. That has been the pattern of the speeches of Country Party members. Very few people on this side of the House have participated in this debate because we admit that it is not our principal interest, concerned as we are with the economics of Australia. Il is from people such as members of the Country Part> thai we ask for answers. This evening we have listened in vain for them.
Tonight a thousand million people in various parts of the world will go to bed hungry. Tonight we have heard people in one of the wealthiest countries talking about the over-production of wheat and not one answer have they attempted to find or pose. I do not think they are even aware of the problem. This evening we witnessed another act of great disgrace. There is a terrible tragedy being enacted in South America. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) came into this House and told us that we have $15,000 to spend for 30,000 lives. Yet, we have hundreds of millions of bushels of wheal with which we do not know what to du, and not one member of the Country Party poses an answer. I hope that the people of Australia will note the simple fact that with people going to bed hungry all over the world and hundreds of thousands suffering, homeless and starving across the Pacific, not one of the members of th Country Party thought that Australia ought to find an economic answer. All they arc worried about is over-production. The lack of drive and dynamics in the way that honourable members opposite have approached this matter will cripple the wheat industry, lt is not that the world has too much wheat but that honourable members of the Country Party have not enough notts to find the answer.
– If the principle of wind sorting chaff from grain applies, we have certainly seen it in the last 5 minutes where the chaff is on that side of the House and the grain is on this side. We have bad a wide ranging debate this afternoon and tonight on 2 minor amendments to the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill. I recall that when there was a really important Bill before this House 2- years ago which was to re-introduce the wheat industry stabilisation scheme for a further 5 years and introduce new principles - it was quite a momentous Bill for the Australian wheat industry - we had only one speaker from the Opposition. Today because there are great difficulties in the wheat industry and great strains and stresses on all those involved with il. the Australian Labor Party now thinks it had better get on the band wagon and start expressing a point of view. That is about all I can say for it. lt is a point of view hut certainly nothing very constructive has come out of it.
At the beginning I would like to also extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) who took the opportunity to make this Bill the occasion for his maiden speech. It was a very good speech. It was well prepared and deeply considered. I appreciated the fact that although the honourable member comes from a metropolitan seat and did noi have to get involved in wheat industry affairs he decided to apply his mind to the subject and I thought he made a very constructive speech. I look forward to him adding to the debates on the wheat industry problems in this House.
The wheat industry is going through an extremely distressing period - a period of production surplus to what we can dispose of. It is a problem that is not unique to Australia. This problem is facing all the major grain producing countries. It is a problem that has been brought on because of improved technology and better management of wheat and other grain production in the world.
It is easy for people to come in now, in some cases with hindsight, and try to be wise and criticise what people might have done. I certainly receive my share of criticism but it is my lot to have to try to do what I can. But I do not mind criticism. I think one of the elements of democracy is that everyone has to be criticised. But I find it rather unfortunate when criticism is levelled at the men in the wheat industry who have battled to try to find answers to their problems. The most fortunate thing that every wheat grower in this country can say is that he belongs to an industry which is well organised and well united. The wheat industry has leaders of capacity who are prepared to get out and give leadership although in many cases this is most unpalatable and most unpleasant for them to have to do. But just at this time of crisis the wheat industry has been able to produce men of great substance to give this sort of leadership. I sometimes feel very sad that the wool industry is not as united as the wheat industry in the moments of crisis that it is going through at the moment. If there had not been the co-operation of the Australian wheat industry we would never have been able to introduce a new stabilisation scheme and we would never have been able to introduce some form of discipline over production. If we have a disunited industry, industry divided by States there would be little likelihood of getting the support of the 6 State governments which is absolutely vital if we are to have a stabilisation scheme or some form of quota deliveries. We could not even maintain an Australian wheat board without the unanimous co-operation of the State governments. But if the industry is divided the States will go with those sections of the industry which express a point of view. So I say that it is to the great credit of the wheat industry that it has been able to come to terms with itself and resolve issues which are extremely difficult because circumstances vary from State to State; and in coming to a compromise solution it means that wheat industry leaders and sections of the wheat industry have to recognise the problems of each other. I take this opportunity of paying my tribute-
– There is not a Liberal in the House.
– I wish the honourable member would not interrupt me when I am talking about the Australian Wheat Board. I am not delving into Labor Party politics. The honourable member can save that for afterwards. I want to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and the Australian Wheat Board which have done a magnificent management job in helping to organise the supplies and the sales of Australian wheat overseas. There is no wheat organisation in the world that can compare with the Australian Wheat Board for its orderly method of management and disposal of wheat. It is keeping up to date with the latest facilities for handling and disposing of wheat.
I mentioned earlier that there has to be co-operation within the industry and between States if we are to achieve any sort of national marketing body or national stabilisation scheme. I recall 2 years ago when I had the responsibility of negotiating a new stabilisation scheme. It fell at a time when the formula which had been used for determining the cost of production produced a rather distorted figure, which put undue burdens on the consumer and on the Commonwealth Government to meet the guaranteed part which is exported. It was distorted mainly because of the rapid increase in land values during the survey period. In the course of negotiations - we had to abandon the old cost of production formula - the price for the guarantee was reduced by 22c which naturally caused a lot of concern for sections of the Australian wheat industry.
The greatest concern and opposition were: expressed by those in Victoria who felt that the Commonwealth Government was acting rather meanly and unreasonably. I went there and explained that the basis of our guaranteed price was determined on the new International Grains Arrangement price which offered a guarantee of about SI. 40 per bushel. This imposed only a slight obligation on the Commonwealth Government in the first ear but as costs went up in this country the burden would increase. In the first year of the stabilisation scheme, as then proposed, and on the figures on which we were calculating, it would impose a burden of S2m and the total obligation during the 5-year period would be $68m Of course, the International Grains Arrangement prices have not held. They have declined and for the first year of the new stabilisation scheme the Commonwealth will have to find no’ S2m but over S30m. The contingent liability as we see it if the present pries continues for the 5-year period will he SI 70m as against an initial commitment of S68m. If the price should deteriorate lower than the eve rage price for this season then the comitment will hecome even greater. Surely nobody san say that the Commonwealth has been unreasonable or niggardly in i s approach to helping stabilise the returns and in giving a .secure return to producers in this country.
Fortunately the Victorian Government accepted the stabilisation proposals and Bills could be introduced into this Parliament and Stale parliaments to ensure a continuation of it. Following the negotiation of the stabilisation scheme it became perfectly obvious thai we were heading for a major crisis because we were producing more than wc could dispose of and putting an abnormal strain on our storage facilities. Carrying larger stocks meant a greater burden was being placed on the industry through storage costs and interest charges. So the industry again of its own volition, recognising the danger signals, came forward wilh a quota delivery scheme, lt was a scheme in which the growers asked the Commonwealth to underwrite the determined amount which they suggested should be delivered for that season - thai was 357 million bushels - requiring a Commonwealth guarantee to the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of $440m in the first year. The Commonwealth accepted it in total; there was no equivocation whatsoever. But it accepted it on the condition that the scheme would work and to make the scheme work would need the support of the wheat industry organisations throughout Austra.ia and the support of all State governments, they having the responsibility of implementing the quota scheme. The Commonwealth had no jurisdiction in this field whatsoever. The Constitution does no: give the Commonwealth any power in this area and it remains one of the sovereign rights of the States to control production and to determine prices.
Within a period of 6 weeks we had the acceptance of the entire industry, all State governments and the Commonwealth Government, to the largest orderly marketing arrangement that this country had ever seen, which imposed a discipline on wheat growers right across the country. Nobody likes a discipline, lt means that a ce, lain amount of hardship or lowering of incomes affects everybody. But the industry faced up to it. particularly the leaders who went out and sold the story to the industry, attending meeting after meeting, being lampooned, bashed and criticise.!. They kept diligently at their job. realising the importance of having the arrangement accepted because without it there would have been ultimately absolute chaos and ruin in the industry. These men accepted the calf. They had the dedication and sense of responsibility to see that this just had ;o be done and they took action and did it. That is why I do not accept anybody criticising them.
They did an outstanding job. There may be small areas of criticism; nothing is ever perfect in this world. One can always be wiser with a little hindsight and experience in matters. Surely, there will bc anomalies and distortions in a quota delivery scheme which endeavours to determine a just and fair apportionment lo growers, lt is almost an impossible task, but the industry laid down a formula as to how it should he done and the Slate governments generally accepted the formula of each industry organisation in the various States. With the first year’s experience I hope they can overcome these difficulties but one can have no wide ranging principle because the circumstances of every individual vary so much. There can be 2 people with small production whose economic circumstances are completely different. One might have diversified farming interests of which wheat might only be a small part. He could have cattle or sheep producing a major part of his income. Of course, production efficiency varies very much from area to area in Australia. Some areas are high yielding while others are low yielding. In many parts of Australia seasonal circumstances vary enormously and we have to take a production average over years to determine what a grower’s quota is. To take it on a previous set period does not necessarily produce a just calculation. These are difficulties that must be accepted and we must try to iron them out.
It is all right for people to get on an emotional issue and say that not enough is being done for the small man or the traditional wheat grower. The whole object of this exercise was to try to protect the small man, to try to protect the traditional wheat grower, the man who year in and year out over decades has been nothing more than a wheat grower. There are areas in Australia such as the Mallee and Wimmera districts and parts of Western Australia where farmers do nothing else but grow wheat. They have not the opportunity to diversify into other types of production and that is why we say the traditional grower needs a degree of protection.
Certainly the small man needs protection. If economic forces are permitted to run wild only the strong will survive and the small men many of whom are traditional producers will be crushed out of business. These are the people we are trying to protect. I believe we can now see daylight in our wheat situation which seemed almost hopeless 12 months ago. With the restraints that are now being applied in other major wheat producing countries such as Canada and the United States of America the calculations are that in 2 years time we will see the world’s stockpiles being reduced. I am optimistic enough to believe we will not need much more cut back of Australia’s present quota. If we can continue to sell the quantity of wheat the Wheat Board is expected to sell this season I think we can stabilise on a good sound industry in this country. The industry is important to this country because it earns export income but especially because it has decentralising features and provides income for many rural centres of Australia.
I mentioned that the Commonwealth had an obligation to provide S440m in the first year. This has meant an advance of $1.18 to the wheat industry, the additional 8c being for Wheat Board charges. This year the quota was reviewed again in the light of stock holding and in the light of our market potential. The Wheat Board decided that the quota figure ought to be 318 million bushels, requiring a Commonwealth guarantee of $407m. We again guaranteed that amount but we guaranteed it against the background that there was still an outstanding debt from the previous season of $250m. Special legislation had to be brought into this House last season to allow carryon finance to the central bank so that the wheat industry could continue to get this advance money. But the $407m that we are offering for the next season is an advance of $1.28 a bushel. In this case 18c goes towards the Wheat Board’s management expenses. The 10c increase is mainly brought about because of the interest charges on that wheat and the high cost of storing and handling it and keeping it free from rodents and insects. So people who think that this Government has not been sympathetic and understanding to the problems of the wheat industry should look at the financial implications for the Commonwealth to understand clearly the contribution that we have made.
There has been some mention here today of black market wheat. That is the common name given to wheat which is being traded across borders under the protection of section 92. Wheat sold within a State is completely illegal and action can be taken and will be taken by the Australian Wheat Board against anybody who does this. I cannot help replying to the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) who keeps harping on this subject and claiming that extravagant amounts are being traded across borders. He quoted figures of 30 million to 50 million bushels. In answer to a question asked by him or one of his colleagues in this House, I said that the domestic consumption of stock feed wheat ranged between 16 million and 28 million bushels. I was not quite right in those figures. Actually, 16 million bushels is the average; it ranges from 9 million to 28 million. But never did I suggest that 28 million bushels of wheat was likely to be traded across the border. I said that his figures were stupid, and 1 still say they are stupid. The facts are tha: last year before »c introduced the quota scheme there were approximate!) 9.7 million bushels of wheat sold through the Wheal Board for stock feed purposes. This was before there was the great temptation to dispose of overquota wheat by selling il across the border. This year for the first 5) months the Wheat’ Board is only 400.000 bushels behind the amount il sold the previous year, and it ex per ti within this 12-month period to sell between 8 million and 9 million bushels. The actual sales of wheat to millers this year are up on last year. So anybody who says thai the trading across the border, unprincipled as i: is. i.s ruining our stabilisation scheme is not facing the facts. lt is easy for the honourable member for Riverina to keep saying that there should be a payment on over-quota wheat, but he says this against the wishes of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation which has firmly laid down the principle that there should be no payment on over-quota wheat. lt is quite elementary rh.it if a payment is made i: sabotages the whole objective of the quota scheme. The second point I would like to make is that what the honourable member for Riverina said, and I really find it difficult to understand why he said it, is also against the principles of the Australian Labor Party which were enunciated bv the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I do not know why he wants to continue harping on this subject. He is opposing and defying his own Party’s principles, and he is treating the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation with contempt.
The Australian Labor Party has moved an amentment, and I would like to speak to it for a few moments. The amendment is as follows: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for a one-price scheme for home consumption and export wheat, being a price which will return to the grower SI. 48 f.o.r. per bushel which is equivalent to a guaranteed price nf $1.51) f.o.b. per bushel for exports up to a maximum of 200 million bushels . . .
I believe this amendment is similar to the amendment which was introduced by the honourable member for Dawson at the time of the debate on the wheat stabilisation scheme. So my argument against this amendment will be much the same as .fiat which applied at the time of that discussion. The first thing I want to say i.s (hat this amendment is contrary to what the wheat industry has put up to the Government, lt again shows that the Labor Party is saying to the wheat industry that it knows how to manage its affairs better than the members of the industry do. What this really means i.s that there will be a much heavier obligation on the Commonwealth Treasury to provide money and a lessee obligation on the consumer. Il has been one of the principles of stabilisation schemes in Australia that the consumer of Australian goods should pay a higher price or at least a price hearing a relationship to the domestic cost. We have a butter stabilisation scheme. We have a sugar industry stabilisation scheme. Without the high domestic price contained in the dairy industry for butter and cheese, or in the sugar industry for sugar sold here, they would be absolutely disastrous, lt is the money received from the high domestic prices that really supports these industries.
In the dairy industry there is an enormous taxpayer contribution through the Treasury, bill (here is also a very large consumer contribution. What we have done in this stabilisation scheme is to make the consumer pay a small amount. The amount is insignificant as far as the consumer is concerned. The price was raised as against the previous stabilisation scheme by 54 c. That is an increase of .2 cents on a 2 lb loaf of bread. The price would have to he increased by 33c lo make a lc difference on a loaf of bread. Reducing the price would mean that the wheat industry would get S8.5m per annum less or S42.5ni less over a 5-year period, lt means that the taxpayer’s contribution will go up by S(>5m over the 5-year period and the taxpayers will be obliged lo pay §240m in this 5- year period instead of SI 75m. So is there any reason for the Opposition’s complaint as to the obligation on the Treasury to pay these funds, or is it just hoping and expecting a rebellion from the taxpayers of Australia against increasing contributions to the wheat industry? I am afraid that I have to reject the Opposition’s amendment because it is against the wishes of the industry and it would place an extra strain on the Australian Treasury.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr Patterson’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 6
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I refer to clause 8 which reads in part:
After section 27 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 27a. - (1.) Notwithstanding the last preceding section, the Board may, in a Territory, sell wheat for use in Australia otherwise than in the manufacture of substances for human consumption al such prices as the Board determines, being prices less than the prices that would be applicable under that section, but no such sale shall be made at a price less than the minimum price applicable in accordance with this section. “ (2.) The minimum price in respect of a wholesale sale of bulk wheat of fair average quality free on rails at a port of export is the price per bushel for such a sale that corresponds with a free on board price equal to the guaranteed price of wheat of the season that was current at the beginning of the year in which the sale is made. “ (3.) The minimum price in respect of a sale other than a sale referred to in the last preceding sub-section is a price per bushel ascertained by adding to or deducting from the minimum price per bushel referred to in that sub-section an amount that makes a proper allowance for the quality of the wheat, the conditions of sale and the place of delivery.
This amendment relates to the main provisions of the Bill dealing with the differential price to be charged for wheat. It is in respect of this point that there is a basic difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition. The Government believes that the price of wheat for industrial purposes or for stock feed should not fall below the guaranteed price of SI. 45 per bushel. The Opposition on the other hand believes that this should be a flexible price. I admitted this afternoon that this will have some effect on coarse grains prices. But on the other hand the scheme is being administered by the Australian Wheat Board, a body which has been lauded this evening in this House as being responsible in every sense of the word. Surely the Wheat Board is not going to be irresponsible with respect to the sale of this particular wheat. It is going to sell this wheat al the best possible price it can gel in accordance with its responsibility.
There may be plenty of circumstances in which the Wheat Board is stymied by setting a price of $1.45. We might have a serious drought and there might be a shortage of coarse grains when the owner of starving stock wants wheat urgently. Then here is this wheat surplus, but because of this legislation it cannot be sold below $1.45 a bushel. I think that the S1.45 is far too high in such circumstances. The price should be flexible to take account of special shortage conditions. There may be a desperate shortage of both coarse grains and wheat in some areas. The Wheat Board should then be able to sell Ibis wheat at a price of, say, 51 even. A price of $SI will cover the wheat farmer’s variable costs and some of the fixed costs. It will be of advantage to the wheat industry.
The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) this afternoon said that he believed that the domestic price of $1.71 a bushel was too high. So do I. That is the purpose of the amendment - to reduce the price to a more realistic figure. As far as I am concerned the guaranteed price of $1.45 a bushel is far too high for stock feed when we are selling wheat at less than this figure overseas. I have submitted that the Wheat Board should be given some flexibility and should be able to sell this surplus otherwise unsaleable wheat, if necessary, in times when circumstances warrant it. If we are to adhere to the $1.45 as the minimum below which the Wheat Board cannot sell the wheat, the Board could lose valuable markets at certain times. That is the main purpose of this amendment.
I have to say a few words about the differential between the guaranteed price and the domestic price. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has made the point that the Australian Labor Party believes that the cost of this subsidy should be shared by the taxpayers as a whole. We make no apology for that. The difference between the Government and the Opposition is basically this: The Government believes that the burden of the subsidy element should fall on the low income group, on the man with the big family whose children eat the bread and the eggs. The
ALP does not. We believe that the subsidy should fall in terms of assessable income on all taxpayers. We believe that the burden should be spread over the whole community and should not fall entirely on the people who cannot afford to pay this subsidy. The domestic price of $1.71 is too high by world standards or by any other standards for the price of wheat today. The lower income group, the man on a small income, is in fact subsidising the wheat producer at present. We believe this is wrong. If the Government is to subsidise the wheat producer under stabilisation, the Federal Treasury or the taxpayer should be the one paying the subsidy and not the low income family man. That is the basic difference between what the Opposition believes and what the Government believes. I think I have made the point clear that I believe that a minimum of $1.45 a bushel could be a hindrance to the Australian Wheat Board, under specific circumstances of demand for feed grain.
Debate resumed from 22 April (vide page 1469), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure before the debate on this Bill is resumed. 1 would like to suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Dairying Industry Levy Collection Bill, the Dairying Industry Equalisation Bill, the Dairying Industry Equalisation Legislation Referendum Bill, the Dairying Industry Bill and the Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each Bill at the conclusion of the debate. Therefore, I suggest, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 6 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) [10.481- - The Opposition supports the 6 Bills.
These Bills are principally a combination of machinery and policy measures. The proposition which has been advanced is badly needed in the dairying industry today in view, firstly, of over-production and its effect on equalisation and, secondly, of what one might term big businesses starting to enter the dairying industry. The equalisation scheme, which has been in operation since 1934, is based on a system of voluntary agreements between those manufacturers who participate in the equalisation scheme and the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Ltd. Apparently the voluntary principle of the equalisation scheme has worked well. One of the main weaknesses in the equalisation scheme is the dependence on its being voluntary. As a layman, one can interpret the term ‘voluntary’ to mean that by law there is nothing to stop the manufacturers pulling out of the scheme al any time they like. Although this might be an extreme point it is, nevertheless, the usual definition of the term voluntary’ as opposed to the term compulsory’.
The equalisation principle has been the backbone of the dairy pricing system for a long time, lt is becoming obvious that the rapid increase in dairy production in Australia is causing some equalisation pressures. It is not difficult to understand the actual pricing system itself. In simple terms it is a weighting between the export realisations and the domestic realisations and if one is greater than the other in terms of a proportion or a weight that particular one must influence the average price. If the export percentage is higher than the domestic percentage and the export price is lower than the domestic price then, of course, there will be a downward trend in the actual realisations paid to the grower as production increases. This, in fact, is what is happening, and happening at an alarming rate.
The production estimates, as given to us by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), for the level of production in 1970-71 indicate that it could be as high as 230,000 tons. If this happens, every additional pound of butter has to be either sold on the export market or stored. Stocks are increasing. The level of stocks is estimated at 5,000 tons in this season and 15,000 tons if the level of production reaches 230,000 tons, giving a total in almost 12 months time of something like 20,000 ions.
There is a wide gap between the domestic price and the export price and this is the basis of the equalisation price. With the domestic price on a basis of approximately 47c per lb and an average export price of 20c per lb it is clear that when the average is weighted we will get a decided bias in favour of the lower export price. If this export proportion continues and the Government honours the undertaking to underwrite the returns for commercial butter to 34c per lb this, as has been explained, could involve the Australian taxpayer in something like $20m on top of the S27m per annum under the stabilisation plan. This is getting into the realms of big finance.
I said last night, and it might be worth repeating, that there are only 2 answers to this problem - either we have to find more markets at satisfactory prices or we have to reduce production. It is obvious that the dairy industry itself and others have not been successful in finding markets at satisfactory prices to take account of the increased production which is threatening, one might say, the industry today. The only alternative is to reduce dairy production in order that the equalised price will be higher simply because there is a reduction in the total amount of butter sold for export. But the main point is: How are we to reduce production when most of the increase is coming from Victoria? I point out that 80% of butter exports today are from Victoria and 64% or 65% of total production is from Victoria. It seems to me that the attitude of the Victorian Government towards the dairy industry is that it could not care less. At least that seems to be the attitude of the Premier of Victoria, even if it is not necessarily the attitude of all his Ministers. All that is being achieved by the Victorian Premier encouraging more land to be cleared and more water to be used for the dairying industry, despite its efficiency, is an average equalised price throughout the rest of Australia, including of course Victoria. But the burden is falling more on other States. This is a situation which cannot be tolerated. On the other hand, the policy with regard to production levels is entirely a matter within the sovereign right of the State.
Because I made most of my points last night in the debate on the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Bill I wish to refer only to a tendency which is developing in Australia today of big business entering into fields which previously were foreign to it. I have seen this trend in America with respect to meat. The supermarkets have come into the beef industry as big buyers and have had a tremendous influence on the cattle sales and the final price of beef. In Australia there would be nothing to stop chain stores, monopolies or oligopolies deciding to enter the field of butter manufacture or dairy products manufacture and to tie up dairy farmers by offering specialised prices, in the end having the producers at the mercy of big business. This is the sort of thing against which this Bill will safeguard.
The Labor Opposition has always subscribed to orderly marketing and has always subscribed to stability. If there is one way to wreck the stability of any industry it is to allow an instance like this - big business suddenly to come in and take control of manufacturing processes such as butter factories and then to dangle the carrot before the dairy farmer as we know has happened in other industries. Before long this brings about a breakdown of equalisation or stabilisation. The main purpose of this Bill is, if events like this happen, to allow the Government to have the power, or the various statutory committees to have the power, to be able to counter the situation immediately. This compulsory scheme will stop practices of this type. As I have said before, it is essential that this type of practice be stopped. I instance the case of what could happen in the beef industry in Australia and I warn the industry to watch its step because of the growing power of chain stores like G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd and Woolworths Ltd. Once the chain stores get power it will be the end of the little butcher shops, particularly in provincial cities where already they are finding the situation quite difficult. If the chain store can send a representative to the saleyards and buy, say, 500 or 1,000 bullocks at a time, day in and day out, week in and week out, it will not be long before it has a very sizable grip on the market. This has happened in the United States.
The great power of monopolies and oligopolies has reached right into the cattle market and eventually has forced down prices. Eventually it is the farmer who pays. He is the one who suffers. Big firms like these work on the principle of turnover. Their profit margin is small, whether they are dealing with beef or dairy products. While working on a small profit margin they are out to cut the price so that before long cut throat competition is entering into the business.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 1 6th April, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Mr Speaker, I require that the question be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
– In conclusion, as I said before, these Bills are interrelated. They are machinery and policy Bills. The principles behind them are sound. One could argue perhaps that the Government should have introduced them some time ago. But, still, under the voluntary system, the scheme is working. The danger signals are there. The industry has acted. The Government has acted. The Opposition supports these Bills.
- Mr Speaker, the Opposition is supporting these 6 Bills. It seems unnecessary to speak to the Bills because under certain rules of debate in certain places if nobody objects to a motion it is passed without any argument. As 6 Bills dealing with the dairying industry are before the House, it is proper that one should explain why they are necessary. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has said: ‘Well, this is equalisation’. What it really means is that if 1 lb of butter is sold in Australia at 47c, the price given by the Minister for Primary Industry, and overseas 1 lb of Australian butter is sold for 20c the Australian farmer receives the average or equalised price for each 1 lb of butter he produces. He receives the average of 47c and 20c. If we add those prices together we get 67c, and the price that a farmer would receive would be 33.5c. The honourable member for Calare (Mr England) has okayed my arithmetic. I am trying to make it easy for the new young players. Instead of getting the home price of 47c for each 1 lb of butter sold in Australia or receiving the overseas price of 20c for each 1 lb of butter sold, the Australian farmer receives 33.5c per I lb of butter sold. That is the equalised price for butter. The price for cheese is much more depressing.
Now, we have this situation: We mustsell slightly more than I lb of butter overseas for every I lb of butter sold . here - that is, provided we sell it. We have heard these most unhappy tales about Britain entering the Common Market. Of a total butter production for export of 110,000 tons. Britain takes 60,000 tons. This is just over half of our production. The remaining 50.000 tons goes lo Japan or meets competition in Singapore, etc.
A general election is to take place in Britain shortly. Everybody is hedging a bit on their bets on the outcome of that election. Every Britisher knows that it is madn:ss for Britain lo enter the Common Market. I will explain why in a minute. If Britain does enter the Common Market it will phase out our 60,000 tons of butter. We are in the same position as the European Economic Community. Because of its agricultural policy, I have been told that it might be cheaper to throw 450,000 tons of its butter into the North Sea. There is nothing else to do with it. We have heard this dreaded word ‘pollution’. If that butter was given lo the herrings, it might make a mess of the fisheries in that wonderful shallow sea between the British Isles and Europe.
The situation is most depressing. If Britain does not enter the Common Market, if it s:ill lakes 60.000 tons of our butter and if we can sell another 50.000 tons elsewhere, we can continue with a home price of 47c per lb and an export price of 20c per I lb which, when equalised, gives lo the farmer a price of 33.5c per lb. As has been stated, this equalisation scheme has operated under a voluntary agreement, and the factories have already signed their agreements for the forthcoming year. In other words, the voluntary equalisation agreement by the factory is now operating without legislative backing. This has been done by the factories quite sensibly and rationally to prevent some big factories in, say, New South Wales, from sending butter into Victoria or some other State and swamping the market with butter. In other words, New South Wales factories are paying Victorian factories to send their butter away and the price is equalised in the capital city. Factories on the North Coast of New South Wales, in the Minister’s electorate, still pay freight on butter sent to Brisbane or Sydney, and in Sydney the price is equalised between the home price and the overseas price. This might be a bil unfair. This matter has to be considered because various factories pay different freights. They incur different costs and there is a lower return to the farmers. If these unfair conditions apply it means that one factory cannot compete with the next factory.
At the present time, as Britain has not yet entered the Common Market, these Bills are designed to give legislative backing to the voluntary equalisation agreement which has worked ever since the Paterson scheme was introduced in about 1933 or 1934. I forget the exact dale; the Minister may remember it, but it does not matter. When Paterson introduced his scheme we consumed 3 lb of butler in Australia to every I lb of buller we sold in London. It meant a very neat little result. The price for the butter consumed in Australia was ls 4d per lb while the price for I lb of butter sold on the London market was ls. lt was a simple matter of adding the 4s received for the 3 lb of butter sold in Australia to the ls received for the I lb of hut er sold in London, and divided bv 4: this gave a neat average of ls 3d a lb overall. It worked beautifully.
– Have you checked your arithmetic?
– The arithmetic is all right. This ‘s what happened when the Paterson scheme commenced. So long as that kind of situation continued everything was .sweet. We consumed 3 lb of buller in Australia to every I lb of butter consumed in London. But now we are sending overseas - or we look like doing so - more than I lb of butter for every I lb consumed in Australia, and there s a very grave doubt about the sale of butter overseas. There is another factor that might be very interesting. The Government has decreed in these Bills that this compulsory equalisation scheme will not be introduced unless the producers agree to it in a referendum. This is a departure from what happened when we were dealing with the legislation concerning the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities, when no referendum was held on the question of imposing a hen tax. Those honourable members who were here at the time will remember that the then Min ster for Primary Industry said: ‘We want 70c a bird, bat we want authority to charge Si a bird. We hope we will not have to charge $1.’ But very quickly the levy was increased to Si a bird.
In this instance the Government has brought down 6 Bills and it has said: ‘We are going to give legislative authority to the Equalisation Committee. We are going to impose a duty on the home consumption of butter and cheese to pay for losses incurred in the sale of butter and cheese overseas.’ This is actually an excise or a duty. It is a tax. Once these Bills become law, I submit that the charge will be a tax. I have not had advice from the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) or from the Chief Justice or anybody else, but as 1 see it, if you impose a levy, as it is called in these Bills, on a commodity, it then becomes an excise or duty. This duty is being imposed on butter and cheese consumed in Australia in order to meet the loss incurred in the export of butter and cheese. Normally duty is imposed on imports, but the reverse situation applies here. We are charging a duty on butter and cheese consumed in Australia to pay for the losses incurred on exports of butter and cheese. But before we do this - for some reason there has been a departure - there will have to be a referendum. I can imagine the honourable member for Dawson travelling through the huge area of Queensland, including the drought areas, explaining to the fanners why he voted for these 6 Bills because the farmers will have to vote in the referendum. The honourable member for Dawson will be asked questions about this in the beautiful Hunter Valley. I imagine that this will be terribly interesting at a time when the industry is in agony, and there is no other word for it. I have listened to speeches made by members on the other side of the House and I heard the honourable member for Dawson and others talking about bankruptcies, droughts and horror upon horror. In the middle of this horror, terror and agony there will be a referendum to give authority under those 6 Bills to collect this levy, duty or excise. If it is carried this will be done in a very tidy way and it will stay there. Before it is carried a lot of things will happen. This is my feeling about it. When a referendum is held in a voluntary way very few people escape. This referendum has been requested by the dairy industry and, as 1 understand it, sought by the States and agreed to by the Australian Agricultural Council will now be given legislative authority.
If 1 heard correctly the words of the honourable member for Dawson he said that the Opposition agrees with this and that it should be done. There are 2 steps. First of all, the matter is taken out of the voluntary category which I as an antiSocialist agree with; it will be made a Socialistic measure. Before this takes place there will be a referendum. One of these Bills which we are discussing is called the Dairying Industry Equalisation Legislation Referendum Bill. When members of the dairy industry are asked to vote on this measure arguments will be put forward in favour of the proposal. We do not know of anybody who is going to put up an argument against it.
– You are for it, are you not?
– J am interested in some of the things which the honourable member said and I am debating and replying to some of them. I think that this House should know from the people who work in the dairying industry what happens within the industry itself. We should find out what happens from those people who milk the cows and have to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning when it is still pitch dark, without a dog to assist them in herding the cows because the dog has been frightened off by driving rain, wind and thunder. Those people have to get the milk to the factory and try to sell it under those conditions. If you talk about the chain stores you must bear in mind that the corner store - the small grocer - has more than half disappeared. Surveys which have been conducted indicate that the corner stores are going out of existence and the chain stores arc now selling butter and cheese. The chain stores have large packaging machines for packing pieces of 8 oz cheese. I understand that there is a problem with mould in the use of these packaging machines and they are in some sort of trouble.
The retailing revolution has mechanised this type of packaging. This type of packaging results in the goods being placed in small refrigerated bars and the people go along to pick out what they want. The impulse buying goes on. This is the revolution in retailing which has made a great difference to farmers. The honourable member for Dawson has said. “Look out for the chain stores’. I. do not know what his supporters think. They probably go into the chain stores themselves because they think that the price is more reasonable. When William Lever started at Port Sunlight he used to get a handful of soap from a tin, put in on a scale to get about 1 lb in weight and then wrap it. Then he thought that it would be better if it were prepackaged. That was the start of the prepackaging revolution and this is what has happened with dairy products. There is a revolution in this. But there are a lot of pitfalls and a lot of people have got into trouble with it. I am not so sure that these packing machines are being properly supported.
But here we are now intervening in the industry. We are going to have a referendum. We will make legislative backing for the old voluntary equalisation scheme which was run by the industry itself under the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Ltd. This is embarking on, I think, a perilous course and I think the Minister has no doubt that any day now we face a situation where the markets overseas will fold up. There is a glut of produce. There are most unfair commercial practices going on and it is very hard to sell this material. The number of dairy farms is going down but the production is holding or even going up because of high producing cows, more cows and better efficiency in the industry. So the Government has decided to do this at the request of the industry. The industry is represented by the Australian Dairy Industry Council, the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation and the Australian Dairy Produce Board which does the exporting. Here is a set-up whereby, if the shadow Minister for Pri mary Industry takes over, he has the marketing of dairy products in his hand, ft is all set up for him and he can say to me: ‘Look, you stop dairying’, because he will be in charge. Perhaps it will be a good thing if he does tell me to stop dairying, because things are extremely difficult in this industry. But there remains the fight to hold the industry together, to get the best deal for it and to look for markets. Japan is becoming a good outlet for our dairy products, thank goodness, but we have to keep the social fabric, we have to keep this farming fabric going, because these farmers are the men who have for 200 years supported our export income and have produced the character that is Australian.
We seem to be embarked on a scheme to make the big cities bigger and the people in the country fewer. We are even putting urban arterial roads into the cities so that we can suck more people in, so that we can get more pollution, so that we can get more sewage running off from Sydney and so that the area is fouled with car and aeroplane smog and all the rest of it. We seem determined to build up the cities, to make them more uneconomic than they are and to make it impossible for young people to buy a block of land under $7,500 or $8,000. We seem intent on building up the cities and cutting down the size of the smaller towns in the country and on cutting down the number of farmers. This is going on throughout the world; it is going on in Australia. Surely the Australian Country Party should be concerned about this situation. But here are the Bills from a Country Party Minister to bring into law the Dairying Industry Equalisation Legislation Referendum Bill, the Dairying Industry Bill, the Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill and the rest of the 6 Bills; so the marketing of dairy products goes further and further into the hands of Government, into the hands of the Department of Primary Industry which will be having some of the headaches, and into the hands of the Dairy Industry Authority of New South Wales. More authorities like this will probably be coming in to other States. We understand that our cheques will be paid by the Government. We understand we will have our factories closed. All this kind of thing is happening.
– By this legislation?
– There is some complementary legislation in New South Wales which refers to this dairy industry authority. I think it is called the single dairy authority and it is setting up a bureau where they will pay farmers cheques if there is anything to pay. There will be a lot less to pay to dairy farmers if the trend that is taking place continues and if these huge surpluses are to be dumped on world markets and got rid of. One has only to go to the European Common Market countries to see this. Unfortunately for me, 1 saw it. A couple of Labor men were there. The shadow Minister for Primary Industry, the former honourable member for Bendigo, was there; Senator Bishop was there: the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) was there. I am not sure that they understood what they saw but to me it was terrifying. It must have been much worse for the people of Europe. The distinguished honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) saw all of this and I do nol think he has any illusions about what will happen with our markets. It is most depressing that the Government has had to bring in these Bills now and for us to have to support them.
In the very few minutes remaining to me I hope that I can make the House understand that here is another of the rural industries in Australia which is facing a terrible time. I regret that the present time was chosen to introduce this legislation. I will vote for the Bills because the industry wants what is called orderly or organised marketing. Without the equalisation system there would be utter chaos in Australia, but even with it I am afraid that in view of the fall in sales overseas and the dreadful surpluses which face us there will be chaos in a year or two. I do not know what the position will be in 5 years. I think the Minister should ask the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to do a feasibility study on it. The economists would have to be almost prophets to do it but I think we are entitled to have the study done. Any firm commencing operations in iron ore, alumina or nickel production has to make projections about what will happen on the world’s markets. The dairy industry is talking about 1970 and 1971 but after that there is silence - nothing. I think we are entitled to know what will happen in 5 years.
Dairying is not like wheat farming or cropping in which a farmer crops for 1 year. This is a 5 year projection. After a dairy cow is conceived it is years before she starts to produce and a farmer has to make his plans years ahead. No-one is telling us what will happen so I ask the Minister to request the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to do for us a feasibility study, a cost benefit analysis or whatever it is called, on what will happen to the dairy industry in the next 5 years. I support these Bills reluctantly.
– I should like to make a couple of comments on the remarks made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate). First of all, he said that the equalisation scheme was a voluntary scheme. I do not think it is entirely a voluntary scheme because most of the manufacturers of dairy products in this country are, with one or two exceptions, signatories to the scheme. I have no desire to name the factories - the one in Queensland and the one or two which operate in Victoria - but 1 will say that they are cheese manufacturing concerns which are not signatories to the equalisation scheme. I am sorry that the honourable member is leaving the chamber because I was anxious to direct these remarks to him. The signatories to the equalisation scheme are part and parcel of it. Before signatories can withdraw they must give 6 months notice. As I have said, I disagree with the honourable member when he says that this is an entirely voluntary scheme.
The purpose of the industry Bills that we are discussing tonight is to tighten and bolster the equalisation scheme. The honourable member referred to the referendum and cast gloom and doubts about it, but J would remind him that there was a referendum 35 years ago when the equalisation scheme got off the ground. On that occasion 49,000 producers voted for the equalisation scheme and 1,000 voted against it. In other words, 98% of the producers at that time voted in favour of equalisation. The honourable member pointed to my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who led for the Opposition in this debate, and referred to the dictatorial powers that could possibly be exercised under this legislation should the Opposition come to power. Of course, there are no dictatorial powers under this legislation that any government could use. The legislation is simply an attempt to buttress up the industry and for that reason we on this side of the House give the legislation our entire blessing. We are very pleased indeed to see it brought in.
In effect the purposes of the Bills introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) is to give statutory support to the Australian dairy industry’s equalisation plan that has operated, as I indicated, from 1934. Under this plan all factories receive lbc same value for their butter and cheese irrespective of whether these products are sold in Australia or exported. The lower prices received on the export market are pooled with the higher returns from the home market :n Australia and a figure is struck by the Equalisation Committee. Then this is made available to the factories producing butter and cheese in this country. This equalisation plan is the greatest stabilising influence that we have in the industry.
I do not intend al this hour of the night to go into the benefits of this great industry. It has a great decentralising influence on this country; a tremendous number of people in country towns depend upon it both directly and indirectly for a living; and has been of great benefit to the economy of this country in earning income from exports. For the $27m we spend on the industry we get over SI 00m in return by way of export earnings. In bookmakers language this is equivalent to odds of 3 to 1 . If a punter could lay out money on a horse knowing he could get these odds it certainly would be a good investment for h’m. As a national Parliament we should be happy to lay out money on a proposition like this. I am always pleased to support a bounty payment of some S27m because 1 know that this will result, as I indicated a moment ago, in a return of some 3 to 1 in export earnings for this country.
Reference has been made to the plan submitted by the Council of Egg Marketing Author’ ties of Australia. 1 understand that some 10 years ago an attempt was made by the industry leaders to bring some more stability to the industry by buttressing the equalisation plan that was introduced some 35 years ago. lt was only after the industry leaders had considered the implications of the CEMA plan and had’ waited until they had seen the effects of the High Court challenges to CEMA that they realised that here was an opportunity to convince the Government that it had some opportunity for legislative machinery to carry out a scheme for the great dairy industry of this country. The success of the plan depends upon the I009f co-operation and particpalion of the manufacturers of dairy products throughout this country. As I indicated in reply to the honourable member for Macarthur who spoke before me in the debate, there are some sections which have not signed the plan. I also indicated that a provision allows a manufacturer to terminate his agreement by giving 6 months notice of his intention of withdrawing from the scheme. The matter at issue boils down to this: If any of the large manufacturers were to withdraw and to concentrate only on the home market to get the benefit of the h ‘grier prices chaos would result in the industry. There can be no doubt that the incentive to break away from the present marketing arrangements for dairying products is now more pronounced than it has been at any other time in the history of the industry.
The pool price for this year is S3S per cwt. The bounty is $5.58 per cwt and this will return $43.58 per cwt. The cost of production to factories will be subject lo a Commonwealth guarantee of 34c per lb. The simple fact is this: The poo! price has been falling over recent years because of the low prices being received overseas, lt has fallen from as much as $42 per cwt a few years ago to $38 per cwt this year. 1 refer the House to the thirty-fifth annual report and balance sheet of the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Ltd for the year ended 30th June 1969. The equalisation rate for butter for past years is set out at page 6 of the report. In 1965 the rate per cwt was about S42. In 1966 it dropped to $40: in 1967 to S39; in 1968 to $39; in 1969 to $39; and in 1970 to $38, the lowest figure since 1952.
This situation has been brought about by competition from the European Common Market countries and difficulties experienced in recent years in trying to sell butter overseas. I remember indicating in this chamber why in recent years there has been a tremendous increase in butter stocks held in
Common Market countries, from about 100,000 tons in 1962 to about 300,000 tons now in cold storage. An estimate has been made that by 1975 the Common Market countries will hold a surplus of about 500.000 tons of butter in cold storage. This position has come about simply because the dairy industry in Common Market countries is heavily subsidised, lt has been able to increase production tremendously since 1961-62 to the extent that those countries now engage in dumping practices in most countries in the world. In the Middle East they have been offering commercial butter for 21 c per lb. This is well below the cost of production in Common Market countries and of course no Australian manufacturer could produce butter at that price. The Common Market countries have also been dumping butter in countries into which the Australian Dairy Produce Board has attempted to gain entry for our products.
I pay a tribute to the Australian Dairy Produce Board and to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. CSIRO developed a process for reconstituted milk by mixing butler oil wilh sweetened condensed milk. The Australian Dairy Produce Board has been using that formula. Through use of old acquisition payments from World War II it has been able to sei up factories in South East Asia. For a while they were very profitable ventures for the Australian dairy industry. But nothing succeeds like success and imitation is lbc greatest form of flattery. The dairy industry in the Common Market countries has certainly imitated our advances in this field, lt was nol long before they made inroads into the South East Asian countries’ dairy produce markets. They have now set up reconstituted milk factories in South East Asia and the buller oil they are using is one of the base ingredients for reconstituted milk. This is sent to South Fast As:in countries al give away prices. The ultimate product that comes from the milk powder and (he butter oil - the sweetened condensed milk - is very popular and a great money spinner in South East Asia. We find now thai the main constituent, hillier oil. is being pui into South East Asia by thc countries from the Common Market at prices wilh which we cannot compete.
So this indicates the reason why the equalisation rule for butler has been falling rapidly. It is because we have been unable to keep up the price of overseas butter in export markets. As has been pointed out already, we have to take the price we get overseas and pool this with the price we get on the home market and this has resulted in an ever decreasing rate for the full price. The bounty rate also has fallen and from the report of the Equalisation Committee we find that in 1952 the bounty rate on butter was a little over bil 2 per cwt. In 1953-54 it dropped to some SS and then S7 and for many years was running at S6. In 1970 the bounty rule for butler is S5.58 per cwt. The simple reason for this is thai we are over producing in this country. The production rate this year is some 220,000 tons of butter which has to be divided into the S27m bounty. This substantially reduces the amount of bounty available.
As against this, the hulk home price for butter has been rather stationary and this year it is $53 per cwt. lt is almost SIO per cwt more than the pool and the bounty rate combined, lt must be pointed out that the bounty rate is only applicable to those who are prepared to participate in the equalisation pool and in years gone by this was an incentive to all manufacturers lo participate in equalisation. But as I have indicated. the fall in the full price because of the low prices overseas and in the bounty rate because of the increased production in this country has meant that the gup between the combined pool and bounty prices and the bulk home price has be.-n getting wider each year. Herein lies the difficulty with the industry, lt would only want one large manufacturer to break away and to take advantage of the higher home price and the whole structure of the industry would collapse. These Bills give the acquisition plan the necessary statutory hacking to provide for a stabilised industry. Any manufacturer who attempts to break away would now be brought hack in.o the scheme and would be required to pay any surplus over the full price back into the fund. lt has been called an excise: il has been called a tax. I do not care what il is called. I entirely support [he Government and I entirely .support the dairying industry in this matter. I know of a large chain store that has a great financial interest in a butler manufacturing plant and in a milk producing plant. If any of these large concerns attempt to break away now to take advantage of the home price market and say: We will forget about equalisation and we will embark on the home market entirely,* then the Government must be entirely backed up and the industry must be backed up to bring these people back into equalisation and to have the right of entry into these places and to be able to say to these concerns: ‘You are forced back into equalisation and any money you have gained must come back into the pool.’ 1 do not care whether the Government gives assistance by way of a bounty or by way of an excise, but it must do something or before long other large manufacturers will break away. This will result in a price cutting war throughout the country, which will cause absolute chaos in the industry. Before we know where we are the many people to whom I have referred in the towns and in the country - who are employed directly or indirectly in this great industry - will find themselves back to bedrock and the days prior to the time when the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, Mr Reg Pollard, was able to implement a dairy plan in 1947. The industry needs this stabilisation. With the supermarkets engaging in all kinds of price cutting and price war activities and attempting to hoodwink the people on all occasions, this statutory backing is required if the industry is to be protected.
Ever since the disastrous local and export prices received for skimmed milk powder a couple of years ago, I have been an ardent advocate for an equalisation scheme for this dairy product. I was pleased to be advised by the industry leaders who were here this week that as from 1st July the major producers in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia will enter such a scheme for skimmed milk powder. I think the manufacturers have learnt the lesson of a couple of years ago when there was a surplus. Victorian producers were peddling their skimmed milk powder in New South Wales and Queensland at about $10 a ton below the price prevailing for the local product in the northern States. The price for skimmed milk powder on world markets fell from $180 to $60 a ton. Even South
American countries were dumping it in the United States at fantastically low prices. It is good to see that the price for skimmed milk powder on the Australian market and on the overseas market has taken an upward trend, lt is even more pleasing to see that while these high prices are being received the industry and the manufacturers are prepared to join an equalisation plan.
These Bills will provide greater stability for a very important primary industry which is going through difficult times. I hope the farmers will carry the referendum to implement these measures. The Dairying Industry Equalisation Legislation Referendum Bill makes legislative arrangements for the referendum to be held to decide whether the various dairying industry Acts should be brought into operation. As I indicated when I replied to the honourable member for Macarthur, a similar referendum was last held 35 years ago when the equalisation plan was introduced. At that time 49,331 producers voted in favour of and 1,416 voted against equalisation as a buttress for the industry. That vote represented 97% in favour of equalisation. The referendum provided for in this Bill is important because the associated Bills cannot be implemented unless a simple majority of the votes cast at a poll of producers is in favour of giving statutory backing to the equalisation plan. Under the provisions of the Bills, an opportunity is provided for farmers to be provided with a properly documented case for and against the proposals. It does not matter how much scorn is heaped on this democratic process. If some group or organisation wants to put up another plan, I think it is entitled to do so. The Government has provided for this to be done. The pamphlets for and against the proposal will be sent out with each of the voting papers. From memory, the pamphlets are restricted to 2,000 words, presenting the case either for or against. Clause 8 (c) of the Referendum Bill states that a person is entitled to vote if he: is the owner or one of the owners of cows that are kept wholly or partly for the purpose of the production of milk for supply to a butter factory, or to a cheese factory, in Australia.
Butter and cheese factories throughout Australia will be required to supply details of suppliers during the past season who would bc eligible to vote.
I was very interested to hear the arguments advanced earlier today by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) when he introduced his Bill to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18 years. I am very disappointed to note that the Dairying Industry Equalisation Legislation Referendum Bill provides that suppliers of dairy products who are under 21 years of agc will not be able to exercise a vote. We have had the area or farm school system of education in country areas in Tasmania now for some 40 years. I know from experience that in many cases senior boys have commenced to gather up the nucleus of a dairy herd long before they have left school to take up farming. They have become established producers in their own right before reaching the age of 21. I think it is a shame that this stupid and archaic age bar of 21 years should be adhered to. After all, any person should be able to vote on a matter affecting his livelihood, providing of course he is a bona fide producer.
It is obvious from the Government’s attitude this morning that we have no hope at present of getting a reduction in the voting age to 18 years. So any result gained at the proposed referendum will of course not represent the views of all the producers in this country. However, I am confident that there will be overwhelming support from the farmers for these proposals. They have enjoyed the benefits of equalisation long enough to realise that any breakdown would be disastrous to them because without equalisation their financial returns would be substantially reduced. The importance of the dairy industry to decentralisation is something of which dairy farmers are keenly aware. They want orderly marketing and they want statutory backing for the equalisation proposals that have been in operation now for some 35 years.
T want to say in conclusion that this legislation does nothing at all to reduce production. This is another matter which the Government must take up very soon, lt was referred to last night in the discussion on the $25m plan for restriction of the dairy industry. It has been referred to again tonight. I point out that these Bills do nothing at all to reduce production. If the Government now wants to do anything at all it must take steps to look after production, as it is doing in the wheal industry, in some form of equitable distribution so that the industry is protected on this side. too. All I say is that these Bills simply give statutory authority to the equalisation scheme which has been of tremendous benefit to the industry. I commend the dairy industry leaders who have promoted the proposals which are embodied in the legislation, and I warmly support the measures introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry.
Mr ROBINSON (Cowper) fi l.49 - I rise lo support the Bill. I believe it is in the best interests of the Australian wheat industry. lt has been very fully debated and 1 do not propose to traverse the ground that has been so adequately covered thus far. Suffice it for me to say that it is a precautionary measure, so far as New South Wales producers are concerned. They would have reason perhaps to imagine that given freedom to sell their production they could capture the more lucrative market. But the dangers of this are well known and well understood by the industry in New South Wales. In the very wide ranging debate both on this measure and on the farms amalgamation proposals which were dealt with yesterday the many problems of the industry have been well canvassed. I do not propose to reiterate them. It is clear that there is a need for this precautionary action because of the trend that is in evidence in some sections of the dairy industry. The possibility exists that substantial commercial interests could take control of a dairy factory and, as a consequence, break the agreements which at this stage are voluntary so far as equalisation is concerned. This is the reason for the legislation with which we are now dealing. Of necessity the industry has been protected. There is justification for the continuation of a situation where butter is not imported into this country.
Many suggestions have been put forward from time to time that consumers would benefit if butter were allowed in, for example, from New Zealand. But this would spell doom for the Australian dairy industry and, in exactly the same way, if equalisation were to break down there could be a serious rift in the orderly marketing of Australian dairy produce in this country. I support the measure because not only is it logica and proper that this action should be taken, but also it is the view of the Australian Dairy Industry Council, the body which is recognised as the focal point of leadership of the Australian dairy industry. On behalf of the many dairy farmers in my electorate I express the view that this is a safeguard in the light of the possibilities that we foresee and in the light of the difficulties which we will encounter in the months ahead. I strongly support the measure and I hope the House will carry it with little further debate.
– I wholeheartedly support the statutory backing which this Bill proposes to give to the equalisation scheme. The equalisation scheme provides a basis for further enterprise by the dairy industry. At the present time there is a suggestion that we consider if not pegging then perhaps a cut-back in production. Tonight I put forward very sincerely some of the suggestions which have been thought about in connection with the development of marketing, particularly the development and maintenance of overseas market outlets for Australian dairy products. Surely there is a need at this time to expand the existing work of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I heard the terrible tolling of the bell by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate). If we are to take him at his word we are all going to vanish in a terrible way in a sea of butter before too long. I thought that his tolling of the bell was most uncalled for. In fact 1° thought that he made a speech which was completely defeatist. I do not share his defeatism at all. What I do put forward on behalf of an industry which not only has dairy farmers but also factory workers and which is the basis of whole town developments is the thought that perhaps there should be further market development.
I think it is generally recognised that the great difficulty in supplying Asia with a whole range of products is the return which is received for them. The markets in Asia, as I have just said, require a wide range of milk products such as ghee, other concentrated butters, condensed milk, infants’ food, and a whole range of food with a protein base. It has been put rather dramatically that Australia should try lo bring the stomachs of Asia closer to the need of Australia to fmd more stomachs. Perhaps that is not a very good way of putting it, but I know the thought behind it. In this connection 1 want to draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) to the fact that New Zealand, which I think is the world’s biggest butter exporter and the second biggest seller of cheese, has embarked on a course of penetrating the China market. I understand New Zealand has sold about 20,000 tons of butter to China. This is a major figure when one considers that all of our concern at the moment - in fact our panic - is with a possible surplus of between 5,000 tons and 8,000 tons of butter. In this connection there was a most important fair in Canton the other day. According to the information I have it seems that the Australian dairy industry was not represented there. I understand that New Zealand was represented. Surely this is a matter of concern if equalisation is to be used effectively. Australian business and industry generally are showing a lively new interest in the huge markets of China, which has a population many times greater than that of Japan. Whatever the regime in China there is no doubt that there will be a continuing demand in that country for products such as wheat - which this Government has taken great pride in selling to it over a considerable time.
While we are talking about surpluses, Australia’s biggest dairy manufacturer, the Murray Goulburn complex, has been described as screaming out for more raw materials. Again we come to this paradox: Major manufacturers who have insatiable markets and are happy to take the material, process it and export it, are doing quite well. I think they made S3m profit last year. At the other end of the scale, the producer is not doing too well. The returns to him are too low to enable him to participate in what is an unlimited market for the future.
Surely the time has come for us to look at the whole structure of support for the industry, its future and the basis on which it should operate. Irrespective of whether Britain goes into Europe or Europe drowns in its own butter, we will still be in Asia.
We have a tremendous potential on our own doorstep if we can organise ourselves, our services, exports, prices and returns in a way that will enable us to meet a need and also fulfil our destiny as a food arsenal for South East Asia. Not only should we be exploring what is being done now by New Zealand in China; surely it is time that the Commonwealth made a study of the existing factories and their equipment and the existing basis of payment for supplies so that we can get what is desired for export, so that the grower - the producer in this instance - will receive a return that will keep him in business not only for his sake but as an essential unit in a great export enterprise which could be, as far as I am concerned and as far as many other people with confidence in the future are concerned, quite unlimited, lt seems to me that this is a matter of organisation. I recognise that the organisation would have to be very thorough and would have to operate at all levels of industry and in conjunction wilh industry
I have put these points forward in relation to this measure for the mature consideration of the Minister and the Government and those concerned with our exports. I do not share the defeatist attitude we heard of tonight from honourable members on the Government side like the honourable member for Macarthur.
– You do not have to sell it.
– I have done some practical selling and if I have to go back lo that occupation I think I will do it quite successfully. I will take the honourable member for Macarthur with me in the hope that he can put some of his talents to better use on that occasion. I do not share the defeatist attitude he showed this evening. 1 support this Bill. ( ask the Minister and the Government to look at my suggestions for the exploration and investigation of the Asian trade. I put them forward in, 1 hope, a constructive way.
Friday, 5 June 1970
-! do not altogether share the undue optimism of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr
Grassby), who has just resumed his seat, but I do take note of the fact that he suggests - 1 am not aware whether on behalf of his Party or not - that we should try to sell dairy produce to Communist China. The list of major countries to which we export butter - the butter sector of the dairy industry is the one with the terrifying prospect - still shows a very great dependence on Great Britain, namely, to the tune of 85%. That situation has not altered from 1956 to 1969. The countries in respect of which there is a more favourable trend are Japan and Hong Kong. The Singapore market is approximately the same. The Ceylon market is approximately the same, lt is very small. Germany and Italy were once markets but are no longer markets.
What 1 want to do tonight is carry on from what I said on the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Bill last night. If my memory serves me rightly, I referred lo that Bill as one factor in the reconstruction of the dairy industry. Most of my suggestions tonight will fall directly under the legislation dealing with equalisation. I start by pointing out the different patterns in production between some States and others in order to see whether there is something the Federal Government can do to encourage certain trends. We have known for very many years now that we must do something to discourage the manufacture of buller, lt is quite apparent, from figures that I will read in a minute, that per capita consumption is falling. The reason is not all due to the increased price of butter; nor is it all due to any intrusion into the market by margarine. There are other factors.
We are faced with this position: In South Australia we are producing 17,000 tons of cheese a year and only 7,000 tons of butter. In Victoria the pattern is precisely the opposite. lt is producing 29,000 tons of cheese a year and 136,000 tons of butter. It does not take much of a genius to realise 1 ha on those production figures South Australia is a net importer of butter. If the position of every State approximated the South Australian position, we would not be faced wilh the terrifying prospect in terms of surplus production to which other honourable members have referred tonight. That is the first point that I would like to make. The pattern is probably traditional. South Australia has always been a State that has produced a lot of cheese, but the comparisons are quite ridiculous. South Australia produces about 2i times as much cheese as butter, and Victoria produces about 5 times as much butter as cheese. I wish to give a few more statistics in respect of butter because I believe that they are important. Australian butter production in 1969-70 was in the region of 220,000 tons. The average production over the previous 5 years was 200,000 tons. The expectation for 1970-71 is 230,000 tons. The return to the producers on that production is estimated to be in the region of 30c per lb of commercial butter. Earlier I referred to the per capital consumption of butter. I believe that the following figures have some importance: In 19SS-S9 the per capita consumption was 27.2 lb; in 1965-66, 21.7 lb; in 1966-67, 21.8 lb; in 1967-68, 21.6 lb; in 1968-69, 21.1 lb; and in 1969-70, 20.6 lb. That pattern shows the inability of the home market to absorb the estimated increased production of butter.
This is not the pattern wilh city milk. I will not produce any figures on this matter because I think all honourable members have probably absorbed to one degree or another the facts. Two separate projections show that on the average there has been a fairly healthy increase in the production of milk- But even this commodity is subject to competition from alternative types of production. We do not know, for instance, whether in 20 years time the commodity that is sold at the back door as milk today may be constituted of something quite different. Already one can see the problems that are being created by reconstituted milk and its variations. Some of those dairy farmers who are in economic areas at current prices are being deprived of the livelihood that they used to have. I am referring of course to city milk areas.
I look on the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreement Bill, which we debated last night, as a very important factor in dairy reconstruction. The second point I have mentioned is whether dairy reconstruction in the States can be encouraged along the lines of what is happening in South Australia. I believe that in the short term we will have to register dairy farms. I believe that in the short term we will have to strike some form of equality. If we do it will overcome a temporary situation. There are valid reasons, which I will not discuss now, why this Bill should not be setting the status quo with probably a misallocation of resources in the long term. The third point I would refer to is a long term one. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) mentioned this in his very detailed and very lengthy speech which he concluded a few minutes ago. He referred to the fact that there was nothing in the Government’s Bills at this stage or in any other action that tended to limit production. I suggest that there is, and that is that in time sheer returns to dairy farmers will probably limit production. They are doing so in at least 2 States now. I agree with this point and I think that something needs to be done.
I intended tonight to go very fully into the 2 tier system. I would suggest if 1 may, with respect to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), that he and his officials should have a very careful look at a long term scheme such as this and if necessary introduce transferable quotas that will cause some limitation of production over the years whilst ensuring that at least some proportion of the farmer’s income is based on firm sales on a home market. The next point I would like to mention is the one of merchandising and other processing and distributing sector problems. In 1968 the Australian Dairy Industry Council held a seminar. Apart from 11 papers on technological subjects many papers were presented on marketing and promotional problems. Not one of these papers, some of them of great importance to the dairy industry, has seen the light of day. I suspect that the answer is not that they give information to competitors such as the margarine industry. I suspect that there is reason to suppose that some of these reports would be too worrying and too costly for the manufacturing -sector of the industry to put into practice. I regret saying that, but I have a strong suspicion that I am correct in so saying.
My next point is a major one. I think governments, members of parliament and dairy farmers need to be aware of it. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard the following table which compares manufacturing costs per ton of butter fat in Australia and New Zealand:
Factory Statistics Related to Above
The factory costs in Australia are derived from a sample (22) of Australian butter factories, with an average production of 2,287 tons annually, the aggregate production or the 22 factories in the sample being equal to 26.09% of total factory output in Australia. Although it is not officially admitted, the above cost figures are significantly inflated above a true average owing to the refusal of large, and hence low-cost, factories to participate in the costing sample. In 1964-65 the 40 factories in the sample produced 40.45% of total Australian output.
The factory costs in New Zealand are the average costs of all butler factories in the Dominion, with an average production of 3,304 tons annually.
The implication of these figures, if we ignore the breakdown of them, is that in New Zealand manufacturing costs per lb of butter are 2.8c. The manufacturing cost in Australia is 4.91c. The difference is not due entirely to the fact that dense cattle populations surround the factories in New Zealand. I would suggest to the House that these figures are borne out by a look at the details. The difference is not due entirely to the fact that lower wages are paid to employees in New Zealand, either. I suggest to the House that in Australia - and I refer to the north coast of New South Wales and areas of South Australia in particular - there is no room today for factories which do not have enough volume of through-put ever to be viable. We are up against the fact that ail sorts of parochial and loyal interests are maintaining these factories in their present uneconomic condition. Some of them exist purely for parochial reasons.
The dried fruit industry and the apple industry in my electorate are quite similar in that so many small towns have, for better or for worse, a factory which they loyally support regardless of the cost of production and, naturally, regardless of the effect that the use of that factory has on the total cost of production. I do not believe that the dairy industry is at a stage where it can afford to support factories which are uneconomic. I can think of one area where every 2 or 3 miles there is a dairy factory. Not one of these factories is economic. Not one utilises its plant to the fullest extent. Several of them have siro-type cheddar masters working a minimum number of hours a day although these are designed for continuous process. This is the general pattern which applies throughout these factories. I can think of cartoning plants in some areas which are not utilised.
I am in a quandry in regard to this legislation. I support the Bills which are before the House. I think we have to support them if we are to give the dairy industry any chance of climbing out of the rut it is in. But I do suspect that hidden in the equalisation figures is the fact that many of the processing and manufacturing plants on which the dairy industry depends have lost track of competition and are not competing against each other. Co-operatives, which operate at a great advantage because of the taxation benefits which accrue to them, are not proving to be the competitive forces that they should be to other proprietary firms. I am horrified at their lack of ability to meet the changing conditions. I think that this is a problem of which honourable members should be made well aware. Honourable members on both sides of the House should be prepared to go to the people in these areas and point out that every time there is an increase in the price of butter by far the majority of it goes to the manufacturing sector. Nobody would mind an increase in the price if an efficient job were being done, but I very much suspect that this is not true. I do not think that the industry is getting the productivity that it should be getting for the number of reasons I have tried to explain to the House tonight. I make these suggestions because they form part of the contructive changes which are necessary in the dairy industry. I believe that we have to face up to the fact that we must get tough with the industry itself in our negotiations.
I have in front of me a paper which, I think it is true to say, has been presented by the Minister for Primary Industry on behalf of the Australian Dairy Industry Council. Some of the conditions and some of the requests to which it refers are, to my mind, quite stupid. I am speaking as a man who has had experience in the dairy industry. Somehow or other we have to prevail on the industry to meet the changing conditions, not to be frightened to do a bit of experimenting and to use some imagination in the production of new products and the marketing of them. I am very serious about this matter. I would like to take a lot more time to develop my suggestions in depth, but as the hour is late I shall resume my seat. 1 support the Bills which are before the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second lime.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Anthony) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent (a) Orders of the Day Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 for the resumption on the debate on the second reading of the Dairying Industry Levy Collection Bill 1970, the Dairying Industry Equalisation Bill 1970, the Dairying Industry Equalisation Legislation Referendum Bill 1970, the Dairying Industry Bill 1970 and the Processed Milk Products Bounty Bill 1970 being called on and read together, (b) a motion being moved that the Bills be now passed, and (c) messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations for 2 of the Bills being then announced together.
Consideraton resumed from 22 April (vide pages 1470, 1471 and 1472), on motions by Mr Anthony:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Bills (on motion by Mr Anthony) passed.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations in respect of the Dairying Industry Equalisation Bill 1970 and the Processed Milk Products Bounty B ill 1970 announced.
-I wish to inform the House of the following appointments of members tobe members of the Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation: Mr Bonnett, Mr Calder, Mr Fox and Mr MacKellar have been appointed by the Prime Minster and Mr Collard, Dr Jenkins and Mr Sherry have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister has appointed Mr Fox to be Chairman of theC ommittee.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the Mouse do now adjourn.
Last Tuesday morning I delivered to the Parliament petitions bearing the signatures of 1,000 Western Australians who wanted to register their protest at current Government policies of increasing interest rates. Today I was informed that another 5,500 to 6,000 signatures are already available for presentation next week. I want to stress the spontaniety of the protest which has taken this form and may do so by indicating that the body which has collected these signatures, the Housing Loans Reform Movement, only came into existence a fortnight ago, and it came into existence without any organisational background or backing at all. Today thousands of Australians are being advised by the building societies that existing loans on home mortgages are subject to an automatic and compulsory increase in interest rates. I know that there is a point of view which holds that building societies should be prevented from imposing an increase in interest during the term of a mortgage, but I think that to be practical one cannot support that view, nor does it indicate where the real source of the problem lies.
If we are to limit building societies to lending on long term only and at fixed rates only we will concurrently be restricting them to borrowing at long term and at a fixed rate only and the result can only be a diminution of their capacity to lend for houses. As I will indicate as I proceed, that is a policy that we can hardly afford to adopt at this stage. Throughout the present session of the Parliament 2 consistent themes have been advanced by the Government on increased housing interest rates. Firstly, the Government has insisted that there is no question of a direct attack on housing or the housing industry as such and that the present difficulties in this area are merely a by-product, so to speak, of overall economic policies. Secondly, the Government has said that in any case, although it might hurt a little in the meantime, it is in our own long term interests to grin and bear it because current measures are necessary to control inflationary trends. We have heard these propositions advanced time and again by the Treasurer (Mr Bury). The question is how well do they relate to reality. As to the Treasurer’s first comment, it is surely reasonable to point out that whether or not the present economic policy is aimed at housing, that is where it is hitting hardest. It is hitting buyers and it is hitting builders, and there are serious consequences for both. I understand that my colleague the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) will be discussing the position as it affects builders. At this stage I want to look at the buyers’ position.
In a debate as recently as 15th April the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) complained of the effect of increased interest rates on home purchasers. He complained that between 1964 and 1969 permanent building society rates increased from 5i% to 7%. He went on to insist that a rate of 7% was too high. I am sure, at the same time, that today he would be happy to have back that 7% rate because in the last couple of weeks the rate has again jumped, this time to a minimum of 81%. The largest building society in Western Australia, the Perth Building Society, is now charging 8i%, having increased to that figure from 7%. I understand that other smaller building societies are in fact charging more. 1 ask the House to look at the position of home purchasers as a result. On a $12,000 loan over 25 years the home purchaser was liable to pay in 1964 interest of $10,105; in April this year he was liable to pay $13,445; and today he is liable to pay no less than $16,385. There has been an increase in interest alone over the 6 year period of $6,280 - more than 50% of the original amount borrowed. Monthly repayments have gone from $73.68 to $84.82 and now to $94.62. In those 6 years there has been an increase in repayments of almost $21 per month.
The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) last, week was reported as making the incredible statement that the monthly increase should not be of any real concern because in the last year average weekly earnings had increased by $6. The mind boggles at that sort of oversimplification, especially coming as it does from one holding ministerial responsibility. I wonder why the Minister thinks wages went up. What does she imagine is left once earlier increases in the cost of living are absorbed, not to mention the new tax account to which the extra $6 gives rise. There is only one source out of which home purchasers can pay these increases and that is out of their standard of living. It is intolerable that they should be expected to do so.
There is another aspect of this problem of equal concern. The position is bad enough for those who are already in a home and who are trying to pay it off. It is even worse for those who have not a home yet and who are looking forward to buying one in the near future. They find that credit has been turned off like a tap. Their hopes for a home in the future have been deferred indefinitely. This is especially serious in a State such as Western Australia. The Chairman of the Housing Industry Association of Australia reported last week that building approvals were down 25% on average throughout Australia compared with the same period of last year. But please note this: They were down by 45% in Western Australia. For builders and building tradesmen in Western Australia the position is very serious indeed: for potential home purchasers it is disastrous. I have had occasion already this session to refer to the serious house shortage in the West. Our State Housing Commission has a backlog of over 15,000 homes and a wailing period of up to 4 years and 10 months for State Housing Commission purchase homes.
Only yesterday, the Minister for Housing who, by an ironical coincidence, currently is acting also as Minister for Immigration, was good enough to send to me a circular advising - to use her own words ‘with pleasure’ - that Australia was set this year to exceed the migrant intake target of 175,000. She might have noted also that Western Australia consistently is absorbing far more than its proportionate share of migrants. For example, Western Australia in the past 4 years has had an average 7.5% of the Australian population but an average migrant intake of 13.18.% In this situation, already strained for accommodation and already subject to the heavy disproportionate migrant intake, comes this crunch on the activity of the building industry in Western Australia and a drop in construction of approvals of 45.%
Something has to be done. If it was good enough to make special provision for rural interest rates at the beginning of the current credit squeeze it should be good enough to make some special provision in this field as well. The problem is not a technical one. It is a matter of policy. The current policy is hitting too hard and in the wrong place. The Treasurer has over-reacted to whatever problems of pressure there were in the building industry earlier this year. In the discussion on housing interest rates, which was raised for debate as a matter of public importance on 12th March, the Treasurer said that the building rate in the last December quarter was 12% above the figure for the same quarter in 1968 and that was too much. Even if that was so - and it is open to argument - a cut back of 25% overall and of 45% in Western Australia is just too much, lt is another case of the cure being worse than the complaint.
With respect, the value anyway of these measures as a brake on inflation is doubtful. The Perth Building Society has assets of $100m. Most of these assets are out on long term loans. Borrowers have been offered an increase in the repayment period rather than an increase in current amounts of repayment. What will be the effect of this? The effect will be that there will be no alteration to the level of liquidity or the levels of demand for other materials and services about which the Treasurer has indicated he is concerned. In other words, over this whole important major area no effect occurs in relation to inflation but a serious effect results for home purchases. I am not an economist, but I cannot believe that our economic measures must be so crude.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of the House to a very urgent problem that has occurred in my electorate. 1 represent a large number of people who are located near a major airport, lt. has been brought to my attention that now, because of what might be termed the actions of the Department of Civil Aviation in conjunction with the State instrumentality known as the State Planning Authority, the value of the properties of these people along with their future prospects of development is affected seriously, lt highlights the problem of bureaucracy. We are elected here and have no say as to how this Department might intrude into people’s lives.
The point that I wish to make is this: The Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport is a problem. You will notice, Mr Speaker, that over a short period I have asked the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) whether he will conduct a social survey as to the ……. - of any damage that the people arc suffering from noise from jet aircraft which were introduced into service in the 1960s. He said that this is a matter for the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. Of course, it is not. It is not within the function of the Committee; nor has the Committee any power to recommend in relation to this matter. Again, when it was suggested by the Opposition that the Committee could have powers to consider where an alternative airport might be located, the motion to this effect was rejected by division in this House.
We now have the spectacle of my people - many thousands of them - being told that because of a noise exposure forecast issued by the Department of Civil Aviation they will be unable to re-develop their properties. This is the most sensational aspect of the whole problem of aircraft noise. A Select Committee of this House is still investigating the matter. Without any by-your-leave of that Committee, the Department of Civil Aviation has issued a noise exposure forecast saying that it would be a good idea for the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport if, virtually within a 5-mile radius of that airport, no residential development whatsoever took place. In other words, top priority is given to the airport which only came there after the people. The attitude is: Get rid of the people. This is an incredible result.
From the point of view of what this problem means, I refer to the spectacle of people who own a property at No. 22 Tunbridge Street, Mascot, who are fully entitled to redevelop their property with a high density housing proposition in accordance with all the principles of town planning and in accordance with the provisions of the local government scheme. They have been told in recent weeks by the State Planning Authority that an examination of the application reveals that it may bc affected by a noise forecast issued by the Department of Civil Aviation. For that reason the Authority is not prepared to grant approval. It means that the whole of the area in the eastern suburbs cannot be redeveloped.
I have now seen a chart issued by the Department of Civil Aviation which strikes with sterility the whole of the area of my electorate and also a good section of your electorate, Mr Speaker. The unimproved capital value of a portion of the area that I represent is SI 02m and the improved value is S230m. One can see the extensive number of properties involved and the great number of people who will be penalised because of this bureaucratic action. Noise itself is a problem, but it is not the only problem. It is certainly no solution for the Department of Civil Aviation to say: ‘We will be able to solve the problem at Sydney
Airport by preventing any redevelopment around it*. That is an incredible result at any time. But if we look at the question of noise itself, we find there are many other problems associated with that area. In fact, noise becomes relevant from a problem point of view at certain hours of the day or night. I can go on record and say that while the people whom I represent deplore the fact that the airport is now so busy, they recognise the fact that they have to put up with some inconvenience. But they merely plead that the curfew will be maintained at night time so that their sleep will not be interrupted. But now they have the problem that irrespective of whether they are interrupted in the day or night, they are going to lose their homes. In the particular case that I mentioned, the loss to these people would be at least $30,000.
This problem of noise is not limited only to the area which 1 represent. Honourable members must be amazed to realise that Sydney Airport, like an octopus, is now to extend its tentacles in all directions. It is preventing the development of the area which I represent, it is destroying the area potential, it is reducing the value of the area and it is penalising the people there. The same thing will happen in 4 other areas. For example, Hunters Hill, Sutherland, Hurstville and Kogarah are affected. It does not matter where one goes. It is amazing to think that the Department of Civil Aviation could produce a report which has caused so much inconvenience for the people of Sydney. Virtually, it is wiping out, from the point of view of effective redevelopment, the rights of at least 500,000 people. If the Department thinks that it can get away with adopting that sort of attitude, it must be seriously mistaken. Protest meetings have already been organised. The Department will bring down on its head the whole wrath of these people who would be fully entitled to say: By all means move Sydney Airport.’ The Airport has been described as a capital blunder of the greatest magnitude by a supporter of the Government, and T support him. The amount of taxpayers’ money which has gone into this development, which is substandard at any time, is to be deplored.
If we look al the noise exposure forecast issued, we find it is merely an American prototype. That has been indicated in it.
It may not be altogether suitable for Australian conditions. It is merely something that ought to be tested. But now it has been introduced as being mandatory, absolute; it must be carried out. Admittedly, the Department of Civil Aviation has said that it regards it only as a guide, but the Department has influenced the State Planning Authority to adopt the guide. If that planning Authority is so naive, so worldly unwise as to adopt it, then it needs sevcie castigation. My plea to the appropriate Minister here this evening is to instruct the Department of Civil Aviation immediately to withdraw the noise exposure forecast and not to implement it in any planning scheme. At the same time, I ask the Minister to request the State Planning Authority of New South Wales, which has on it no representative from the area I represent, lo say that it has made an error and to rescind the type of decision that has already been made in respect of the premises in Tunbridge Street, Mascot, lt is incredible that with all the resources and planners that we have nobody has really looked at the problem from the point of view of the people I represent, which is this: They will immediately lose all me rights that they now have from the point of view of value. They have no opportunity to appeal in this circumstance As wc ali know in this House, repeated requests have been made regarding a second airport for Sydney or whether there should be other means of alleviating the noise nuisance. The committee in which I am interested is making recommendations in that field, but let mc make this point clear: The noise exposure forecast which was issued by the Department of Civil Aviation said that the noise values should not be overstated as there might well be satisfactory retrofit devices which would lessen engine noise. In other words, this is only a view on a small problem in relation to noise generally. lt should not bc considered that because the Department of Civil Aviation, a specialist body in this field, can say that a jet aircraft passing in a certain line is going to create noise therefore all development under the flight path adjacent to ,’; and extending for a 5-mile radius is to be prevented. I would think that the people affected would be fully entitled to commence litigation from the point of view of the damage they sustained through this sort of action. But from this point of view 1 am entitled to say on their behalf, as their representative, that they have never been consulted nor was any elected representative of theirs ever consulted on this matter. The action taken was instigated by the Department of Civil Aviation without any consultation with the people concerned, though in fairness to the Department it was indicated to be a guideline only.
The greatest caution should be used in these circumstances at any time, but to have the position now that the whole of the Sydney metropolitan area could well be denied its opportunities to redevelop because of a plane causing noise is incredible. lt has been said on the greatest of authority that we could well get more noise from a main road when a semi-trailer or a government bus is passing by. It could even be more intense and more damaging from the point of view of inconvenience to the people. It should not be thought that the noise is any greater if it is high density or low density. The noise is no different from that point of view. So I again emphasise the need as a matter of urgency to revoke the noise exposure forecast as issued to planners and request the State Planning Authority of New South Wales to have another look at the problem and not to implement the decision as mandatory.
Mr Speaker, a number of petitions have been presented to this Parliament by Western Australian members of all Parties, including myself and the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson), in support of the Housing Loans Reform Movement of Western Australia. They request this Parliament to reduce the interest rates on Government bonds to 6% so as to correct the situation created by the Government’s recent increase in the bond rate, which has produced an increase in interest rates on housing loans which, in turn, has affected almost all home purchasers in Western Australia, particularly those obtaining homes through building societies. It has resulted in an increase of 5 or 6 years in the period for the repayment of home loans. A home loan repayment period of 30 years will now become a repayment period of 35 to 36 years. The only way in which the buyers can keep the repayment period down to its former length is to increase substantially their monthly repayments. However, as most of the people concerned are not in a position to do this it is obvious that they will be burdened by another 5 or 6 years of repayments. That is to say, they will pay rent for that extra period at the whim of this Government because of its failure to maintain economic stability.
Most home purchasers did not realise that a clause in their agreements permitted increase of the rate of interest they had to pay. I suspect that many members of this House did not know of the existence of such a clause in home purchase agreements. But what about the person who is intending to purchase a home. He also is affected. A letter I received from a prospective home buyer states:
We wish to express our dissatisfaction at the increase in interest rates for housing loans and the general unavailability of housing loan finance. This recent setback in housing finance will prevent us from acquiring a house for approximately 2 years more. It will take this length of time to save the additional finance towards a house as we can now only afford to borrow a smaller loan.
So people in that position must continue to pay rent for two or more years because of this Government’s action, and the rents are being increased because of the flow-on of interest rates. Even the State Housing Commission has to increase rents because of these factors. Every sector of the community is being affected, which is causing hardship and distress. The scandalous situation is that many young people who looked to this Governments recent homes savings grant scheme to help them now find any benefit absorbed by this increase in the rate of interest and because of high land prices and high building costs. The homes savings grant scheme has been of little benefit in Western Australia to date. The situation is made even worse by increased interest rates.
To their credit home owners are not letting the matter rest there. They realise that the notices issued to them by the building societies in the main give only 21 days in which to accept the increased interest rate and increased repayment on their housing loan or face losing their homes. They have acted by forming themselves into a self protection organisation and they hope, as I do, that people throughout Australia will take up the call for self defence in this matter and form other organisations in other States to help themselves, firstly by collecting signatures for a petition to Parliament and secondly by taking what other necessary action may be required. Th.s is one petition people queue to sign. In fact, in what we call the better suburbs with bigger homes and bigger mortgages to repay people are even more enthusiastic to sign and more indignant about the increase of half of 1% in interest rates which approximates 8c per week increase per $1,000 borrowed. As it is extremely likely that there will be a general 1 % increase ail round most people will have to pay 16c per week per SI, 000.
This is not the end of the cost to the home owner, however, for the Australian Loan Council has notified that as from 1st May 1970 the rate of interest charged to shire councils for loan money will be increased by I % where the borrowing is from private sources, the situation being that they will now borrow in the private sector at a minimum of 7.1% for a 4-6 year term or a maximum of 7.4% for a 15 year or longer repayment period, lt is in this higher field that shire councils do most of their borrowing. No doubt the costs will be passed on to the home owner in increased land rates. The overall result of this indiscriminate increase of interest rates to the home owner is higher home costs, higher repayments, longer periods of repayment and higher rates and service costs. But this is not the end of it for it is reported by the ‘Independent’ newspaper of Sunday last that the home building slump that has resulted in Western Australia because of the increase in the rate of interest will continue and the industry will remain in the doldrums until 1971 because of the prospective shortage of skilled tradesmen and other factors.
The State’s rapid recovery to pre-slump levels - even if Government financial restrictions are eased - will be sabotaged by a loss of tradesmen to other industries and other States and a cut-back in the migrant worker flow. Building companies are collapsing and sub-contractors are going bankrupt. Supply companies are carrying large irrecoverable debts. Only last week the Western Australian Clay Brick Manufacturers’ Association instructed the Department of Immigration to defer the movement of new bricklayer applicants. A major sponsor of migrant bricklayers, the Association has told the Department that there was lit* lc work for recent arrivals and some were unemployed. A building industry spokesman is reported to have said: “After this finance trouble here, it could take years to instil confidence in prospective migrants.’ This is disastrous, for the restricted money available and the higher interest rates will not create a buyer’s market for the young people. The National President of the Housing Industry Association stated:
Skilled staff and tradesmen are being dismissed and many of these will not return to the industry.
He complained that excessive if not usurous interest rates had caused great hardship to families seeking homes. The authoritative economic bulletin ‘Building Outlook’ last week added strength to the black outlook for home building in Western Australia, lt stated: lt is now expected that the remaining 8 months of 1970 will see continued falls in the number of dwellings commenced, taking the level to around 2,500 units for the December quarter. 1 1 forecasts an even greater downswing in the building of va flats because of the more speculative nature of this activity. This will mean an even greater shortage of homes and home units to our young people. lt is still not too late to take some definite action to give relief, lt is still not too late to remove the increase in interest rates before new agreements to purchase are entered into, before building society loans are revised, before further building companies collapse to add to the number which already have gone into bankruptcy and before the building industry slows up lo such a degree that it will take a major collapse to bring action by the Government for relief. The National President of the Housing Industry Association, one of the top men representing the industry, had this to say:
Mousing commencements in all Slates are now at least 25% below normal levels. The fall in some States is much greater and in WA will exceed 45%. Confidence has been shaken, and with secondary effects appearing the level of activity in the housing industry will fall even further unless corrective action is quickly taken
The Association presented the following proposals to correct the situation: Firstly, remove or modify the regulations requiring savings banks to invest 65% of any increase in deposits in Government securities. This would leave more funds available for housing loans. Secondly, make an immediate grant of from $50m to $100m under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement at special rates of interest. This would help to provide much needed housing loans for the lower income earner. Thirdly, release cash to the trading banks from the special reserve deposits for housing loans and advances to building societies. Fourthly, the Reserve Bank should take action to restore the liquidity of the financial system, and fifthly, the Government bond rate should be reduced immediately.
Even as late as today it was reported in the ‘West Australian’ that the Federal Government had received a recommendation from the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research which was contained in its latest quarterly review. The newspaper report went on in this way: lt suggested some relaxation of interest rates, matched if necessary in :he Federal Budget by a slight taxation increase or lower Government spending, rather than an increase in overall restraint.
Having regard to all of those recommendations I believe that the situation should be looked at wilh a v ew to affording relief urgently to the people concerned.
-On Wednesday, 18th March 1970, I mentioned to the House that I had received information that preliminary land surveys had been carried out by the Department of the Interior for a north-south runway as an adjunct lo the existing east-west runway at Richmond air base. I referred also to rumours that were circulating lo the effect that this new runway would be used for civil aviation purposes as part, possibly, of the next major airport to be built in New South Wales. Those were the rumours that were circulating. The following morning, 19th March, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) directed a question to the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who in this place represents the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). He referred to the statement that I had made the night before about the Richmond air base. In his reply the Minister stated:
No ground surveys for an additional major commercial
Note the word ‘commercial’ - airport in the Richmond area have been carried out by the Department of Civil Aviation, although in the first quarter of last year the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise new over that region and examined the noise level there.
I do no; know how one examines from the air the noise levels on the ground. I still have noi worked out the Minister’s logic there. However the point is that he said that there had been no ground surveys for an additional major commercial airport. Unless one looked at that answer very carefully one would gain the impression that no ground surveys had been carried out for any type of airport. That night the honourable member for Mitchell took part in the adjournment debate and referred to the Minister’s reply to the question that he had directed to him that morning. On this occasion he was more specific because I think it will be realised that the Minister’s reply had been couched very carefully. As I have said, unless one looked at it very carefully one could be misled. That night the honourable member for Mitchell said:
A survey was made last year. I was brought into it because many of the property owners involved got in touch with mc and wanted to know what was going on. lt was simply a survey by the Department of Air in relation to the identification of blocks of land that the air base at Richmond had controlled for many years. There was nothing in the suggestion about the establishment of an aerodrome in the area.
I was not satisfied because I had quite definite information that a survey had been carried out. Because I was not satisfied I wrote :o a number of departments all of which had representatives on the interdepartmental committee to investigate where the next major airport should be. I had in mind that Richmond had been one of the 5 sites mentioned in evidence before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. Accordingly most of these departments that 1 had written to should have been aware whether or not Richmond was being considered. I started to get the run-around when I wrote to these various departments. This is where the evasion came in. I wrote to the Department of Supply and 1 was told to go to the Department of Civil Aviation. I went to the Department of Civil Aviation and it said that nothing had been initiated by that Department, lt suggested 1 go to the Department of Air. I went to the Department of the Interior with 6 questions and it said that some surveys had been conducted. When I wrote again and asked what sort of surveys were conducted the Department would not elucidate. In each instance it referred me to the Department of Air who would know what these surveys were all about.
I wrote to the Department of Works and that is where 1 got the break-through. This Department was specific that a survey had been carried out. 1 received this answer from the Department of Works only on 27th May, just over a week ago, after 2i months of going from department to department, of ringing up departments and asking when I would receive a reply. There was evasion. As I have said, 1 went lo the Department of Works and it eventually replied and said: Yes, a survey had been conducted. The Department gave full details of the survey, pointing out that it is an 11,500-feet runway with 1,000 feet overruns at each end, making 13,500 feet in all. This is a very big runway indeed, able to take any of the really large planes that land in this country. Only yesterday I received a reply from the Department of Air to all the questions I had directed to that Department. The Department answered my individual questions as well as the various letters that had been referred to it. In its letter dated 3rd June the Department stated:
The Department admits again that a survey was conducted. Now the cat is out of the bag. The letter continued: relating to a northsouth runway was for the purpose of locating boundaries of all properties which would be affected if a runway of 11.500 feel length, running from about 400 feet south of the western end of the existing eastwest runway and on a magnetic bearing of 197 degrees, was to be developed.
The Department went on to give all the details of this runway, lt made the point that it does not intend to develop it at this stage; it is part of an overall survey that is being carried out in respect of all air bases throughout Australia. The letter from the Minister for Air is rather lengthy, but I think it is quite an important one. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate it in Hansard.
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA MINISTER FOR AIR
Parliament Mouse, 3 June 1970
Dear Mr Armitage.
I refer lo your letter of 24th April 1970 concerning preliminary land surveys carried out by the Department of the Interior in respect of runways associated with the existing airport at Richmond and lo my reply of 4th May 1970.
I also refer to your letter to my colleague the Minister for the Interior about the surveys carried out at Richmond during 1.969 and to his letter dated 13th May 1970 which advised you tha your letter had been referred to me for advice lo you direct.
My colleague the Minister for Civil Aviation has also forwarded to me a copy of your letter dated the 1st May 1970 on the same subject together with a copy of his reply to you dated 2 1st May 1970.
The matters raised in the above letters are of a similar nature and 1 propose that this reply will provide an answer to all three letters.
Surveys were carried out al Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond by the Department of the interior at the request of my Department. These were a survey at each end of the existing east-west runway to determine obstructions to a 1 in 50 approach clearance plane and the other in connection with the feasibility of siting a runway in a north-south direction. These surveys did not cover any proposal for an east-west runway parallel to the existing runway
The survey relating lo a north-south runway was for the purpose of locating boundaries of all properties which would be affected if a runway of 11,500 feet length, running from about 400 feet south of the western end of the existing eastwest runway and on a magnetic bearing of 197 degrees, was lo be developed. Such a run wa would involve 1,000 feel over-runs at each end and 750 feet clearances from the end of the overrun to the property boundary, over a total width of 1,500 feci. The Department of the Interior was also asked lo determine obstructions to a I in 50 approach clearance plane at the ends of this possible runway.
There is al present no proposal to construct a new runway al R.A.A.F. Base Richmond or lo expand the present runway. These surveys were carried nui in connection wilh R.A.A.F. future planning for R.A.A.F. Base Richmond and lo allow consideration of the feasibility of a runway of 11,500 feel being conducted at that base if this were decided at some future dale. This is in accordance wilh the practice of the R.A.A.F. in relation lo all major R.A.A.F. Bases in case there should be an operational requirement in Hie fi t s s re for new or extended runways.
There arc no proposals at this lime for the R.A.A.F. Base al Richmond lo be transferred lo the Department of Civil Aviation. This base has been d’ eloped specifically for the use of the R.A.A.F. and if any proposal lo transfer the base to Civil Aviation was made, il must necessarily lake into account the considerable expense in providing the R.A.A.F. wilh another base from which lo conduct the operations now carried out al Richmond. Consideration would al-o need to bc given to the loss of R.A.A.F. operational efficiency which would follow such a move having in mind the transport rule of the Richmond Base in the overall concept of iiic air defence of the Newcastle/Sydney/ Wollongong industrial complex.
The Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ is said to be the official organ of the Liberal Party and the paper you can trust. Yesterday it published some details of this matterand pointed out that 2 approaches were made bv that newspaper to the Department of Air. On each occasion the Department denied that any surveys had been carried out or that it had requested them. I again emphasise the extent of this evasion andI cannot help but suspect that we have not yet heard the whole story. I ask honourable members to note that the letter from the Department of Air does not exclude the possibility of the transfer of the base finally to the Department of Civil Aviation.
I have not the slightest doubt that the honourable member for Mitchell believed what he said in the House that night. He was categorical in his denial andI am quite satisfied that he believed what he said. But I believe that he was misled by the Government. Had a Labor government been in office and hadI made approaches as the local member on an issue like this I would have expected to be taken into the confidence of the Government. I think the honourable member for Mitchell should have been taken into the confidence of the Government. I do not think it matters whether the airport is to be used for civil aviation or by the RAAF. It can take very large planes on a runway of 13,500 feet.
The basic issue is that which I raised the first time I mentioned the subject and that is the question of aircraft noise. Largeareas of my electorate can be affected - Mount Druitt, a huge housing area, Cambridge Park, Werrington and St Mary’s, not to mention Windsor, Richmond, Penrith in other electorates. A great many homes are located in this area and obviously there is a very great need for a standing committee to be appointed to select sites and to inquire into this matter so that there will be proper planning. It would ensure that any future air base is not built in a position where it will affect existing homes and the residents. In view of the evasion which has taken place I cannot help but think we still have not heard the whole story and that it could be used as an airport in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.58 a.m. (f riday)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 June 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700604_reps_27_hor68/>.