9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator, the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister tell me -
– Negotiations in regard to the dockyard atWilli amst own are not yet completed, and as the questions submitted by the honorable senator depend upon their completion, I ask him to submit them at a later date.
Land Purchase at Seymour.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: - l.The acquisition price stated, of £700, Covers only one block, whereas two blocks were purchased at a total cost of £975. The cost of the land at 30th June, 1923, was £1,041 4s. l1d., which sum includes interest on purchase price, survey, and incidental charges; and it is at this price that the area is being allotted to applicants,the prices placed on the blocks ranging from £33 to £75.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13th July, (vide page 1,101), on motion by Senator Crawford -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is another small Bill which requires close attention. I thought we should have no further proposals by the Government to spend public money in order to help private enterprise. The Ministry has boasted that they would no longer dabble in this class of business, and only the other day, on this ground, they gave away, for a very small consideration, woollen mills at Geelong which were making a handsome profit. Yet now we have a Bill before us in which they propose to spend public money in assisting private enterprise, with the possibility of nothing more than an indirect return to the community in general.
– And beef is1s. 3d. per pound.
– They propose to ask the community, for whom they would not work woollen mills at a profit, to give up a portion of their earnings so that pastoralists who export beef, and retailers and wholesalers, as well as growers of beef, may profiteer at the expense of the workers by charging the exorbitant prices prevailing at the present time.
– I do not think that the growers are profiteering; they have not done too well.
– The production of beef is mostly in the hands of a few big companies, such as Dalgety and Co. Ltd., Goldsbrough, Mort and Co., the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Ltd., and various banking institutions, which, by means of their investments, have secured control of thousands of square miles of the grazing country of Australia. Another remarkable feature about this proposal is that it is to help Queensland,which has the richest beef-growing country in Australia.
– I suppose the proposal would be all right if it were to help some other State.
– It would be splendid if the other States were in the independent position of the northern State to-day, but unfortunately, although beef is more easily produced in Queensland than in any other part of Australia, as is proved by the fact that it has 56 per cent. of the beef production of Australia, the fruit-growers of Tasmania, the cabbage-growers of Victoria, the wheat-growers of South Australia and New South Wales, and the miners, wheat-growers, and artisans of Western Australia, have to come to the rescue of the big firms I have mentioned to enable them to export their beef profitably. I am not opposed to the proposal because it mainly affects Queensland. I never permit myself as an Australian to be prejudiced against any State. The principle I always follow is that it is unfair to take from one man to help another. I apply that principle when dealing with Tariff matters, and therefore I object to Tasmania being given a monopoly of the manufacture of carbide, thus compelling the people of New South Wales to pay twice as much as they ought to pay for carbide. It is absolutely wrong to call upon the whole community to assist a business run by a few people for their own profit. When the Government participate in enterprises and make profits for the whole community they are adhering to a sound principle, but we have to-day the spectacle of a Government that declares that it is unsound for the State to conduct a business with the aid of public money - although in doing so it may earn profits for the whole community - proposing to devote public money for the purpose of making it more profitable for private people to export beef.
– The proposal is to make it possible - not profitable - to export beef.
– If the people who hold the most suitable portions of Australia for the growing of beef cannot send it across the water at a profit, I advise them to make it profitable to sell their beef to the Australian people.
– If the honorable senator would induce Victoria and New South Wales to remove those restrictions which prohibit the cattle coming down from Queensland, they could do. so.
– New South Wales imposes no restrictions against the entry of cattle unless they may be the very necessary restrictions to prevent the spread of disease. Would any sane man talk of removing such restrictions?
– Queensland is producing more beef than can be consumed in Australia.
– Yet I am charged1s. 6d. per pound for rump steak.
– I have always been told that the law of supply and demand fixes prices, yet while Senator Crawford tells us that there is a surplus of beef in Australia, Senator McDougall says he is paying1s. 6d. per pound for rump steak.
SenatorElliott. - That is quite right. The supplies are in Queensland, but the demand is in Camberwell.
-That may be so, but the suburban man who pays1s. 6d. per pound for his rump steak is obliged to do so in order to enable Queenslanders to secure another market for their beef, while at the same time they refuse to avail themselves of the local market.
– We are anxious to send our beef to the southern market.
– But the southern market is closed to the Queenslanders.
– I am not aware that the southern market is closed to Queensland.
– The importation of live cattle from Queensland is absolutely prohibited in the southern States.
– I am not aware that it is prohibited in New South Wales.
– As the southern portion of Queensland is clear of tick, cattle produced there can pass into New South Wales. Cattle from the northern tick areas must be depastured on the southern downs of Queensland for two months before they are allowed to proceed into New South Wales.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has supplied the facts.
– But the southern part of Queensland is not the cattle country of that State.
– No doubt, but it comprises an area as large as Tasmania, and I should imagine that there is nothing to prevent cattle off that country being grazed down through New South Wales to Victoria. The point is, and we should not attempt to evade it, that combines, encouraged by this Government and their supporters, have got hold of the meat trade of Australia and are prepared to take the last farthing from the wage earners of this country. The butchers are not reaping any benefit from the present high prices, so I am advised by a retail butcher.
– Does the honorable senator know what the grower gets for beef in Queensland?
– I have no doubt whatever that the monopolists will fleece the growers in Queensland, as in other parts of the Commonwealth, until the growers become sufficiently intelligent to link up with the Labour party to enable them to apply the remedy.
– The trouble is not due to high prices received by the growers.
– Perhaps not, but I put it to honorable senators that these people who are responsible for the high prices of meat in Australia are imperilling the vigour of our race. It is almost impossible for some of our people to get meat. No one will claim that it is cheap.
– But I can tell the honorable senator why it is dear. The grower is not getting the increased price.
– I agree with the honorable senator that in many cases the grower is not reaping any advantage at the present time, unless he happens to be linked up with some of the combines that are controlling” the market’.
– I am referring to the high cost of distribution in the southern States.
– I know the honorable senator is in a position to speak authoritatively on this subject, and I shall be glad to hear his explanation why it is that in a country like Queensland the people cannot produce beef at a price to place it within the reach of consumers in the southern States. What would be our position if, in addition to assistance to the Queensland sugar and banana growers, we agreed also to help the apple-growers of Tasmania, the butter producers of Victoria, as well as the wheat-growers of South Australia and Western Australia to export their products? We are paying an excessive price for sugar to help the Queensland sugar-grower on the richest land in the Commonwealth.
– If the honorable senator knew anything about the sugar position he would know that his statement is not correct.
– If, as the honorable senator suggests, we cannot get cheaper sugar elsewhere, why is he, together with other honorable senators from Queensland, asking for a duty of £9 per ton ?
– To protect us against sugar grown by black labour.
- Senator Reid talks about the evil of coloured labour competition, yet, if I am not mistaken, the honorable senator at this moment is wearing a. Japanese silk tie and perhaps also a Japanese collar. It is extraordinary that the general community should be called on to pay exorbitant prices for Australian primary products, simply to enable some one else to send our beef to other countries, where people may buy it at prices below Australian retail rates. I have here an interesting statement, showing the average predominant retail prices in Australia on 15 th March, 1923-
If private enterprise cannot profitably growbeef for export under existing conditions, surely it should be possible to grow it profitably and make it available to the Australian consumers at reasonable rates. If we are to continue the bounties system, we should adopt the sliding scale that was operative in connexion with the British Corn Laws. We could fix, say, 3d. per pound as a starting point, and provide that if the Australian wholesale price for beef fell below that level, the bounty system should come into operation, and whenever it rose above 3d. per pound the bounty should cease.
– It costs 6d. per pound to distribute the beef in this city.
– Well, the honorable senator should seek to apply the remedy. We should not expect the Australian consumer to pay for extravagant methods of distribution. This proposal to pay a bounty on the export of meat, in view of the prices being charged to the Australian consumers, is absurd in the extreme, but we know that this composite Government must do something to help the people with the strongest political pull. I understand that Australian retail prices have advanced since 15th March, and that in Sydney, the price for rump steak, for example, is nearer1s. 6d. per pound than the1s. 3d. quoted as being the ruling rate at that date.
– There must be a great demand for rump steak in Sydney if the people are prepared to pay that price for it.
– Yes. The working classes in my State are rapidly waking up. They have discarded the idea that the choice cuts of beef belong to the people with money, and they want to enjoy some of the good things now.
– They are the people with money nowadays.
– And I am sure the honorable senator does not begrudge it to them. To me it is extraordinary that private enterprise, engaged in business where cattle are easily grown, should come along and ask for an export bounty on beef at a time when the consumers in other parts of Australia are paying such outrageous prices.
– The honorable senator seems to think that the Government should not encourage primary industry, that protection should be confined wholly to secondary industries.
– It is just as great a fallacy to endeavour to protect even secondary industries, but in this view, my party is entirely out of step with me. The point I always try to make is that absolute freedom of trade results in better development than when we try to build up particular industries by a system of bounties or duties. The primary producers should not be called upon to help in the development of a secondary industry. The alert and active representatives of Queensland are always early in the field for their share of Government assistance. I do not say that they are unfair in their methods, bub if any State receives more favours than another in the distribution of national benefits, it is Queensland.
– On the . honorable senator’s own showing, Queensland has only a half interest in this matter.
– The remaining five States have the other halfinterest between them, so that one sees that Queensland has a very fairproportion. States less adapted for cattle-growing than Queensland is will have to help to pay the bounty. I hope that the Queensland representatives will not support legislation of this nature. The northern State is rich and great enough to be above accepting special favours at the hands of the Federal Government. If the Queensland cattle-growers, with their great advantages, are making a failure of the industry there, letthem retire from it, and it will soon be taken up by men who are quite capable of carrying it on profitably without Government assistance. The National Parliament was not called into existence to deal with such matters as a beef bonus. They should be left to the States.
– The Premier of Queensland made an offer to the industry just prior to the recent elections, but it was regarded as contrary to the Constitution.
– I propose to tender some good advice to the growers of beef, so that they will not need to “ send the hat around.” I hope that my remark will not be regarded as offensive. Instead of asking the people of Australia to pay a bonus from their scantily filled purses, in order to make the exportation of beef possible and profitable, let the growers and the wholesale people engaged in the meat business combine and open retail shops in the various cities in the Old World, where there is a market for the beef. Let the shops be opened and conducted by Australians, and let Australian beef be popularized, so that it will not have the bad name that the wicked combines overseas have attached to it. Let the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce)- tell the British Government that we in Australia do not regard it as fair that Australian beef should grow poor on the hoof while the Argentine receives the military contracts. If such shops were established, and the public could purchase meat at a retail price that would be profitable to the growers, it would be of advantage to everybody concerned. If these shops were open the whole year round, it would put an end to the depredations of the octopuslike combine that collects more in a few minutes for handling the meat than the grower receives over a period of a few years for raising stock’. I do not favour a patched up, piecemeal system of legislation such as the present proposal embodies. When industries in my own State ask for similar assistance, I adopt precisely the same attitude. The handfeeding of industries does not come within the province of the Federal Parliament. How can we in justice differentiate between beef, wheat, butter, fruit, and every other primary product? I oppose the Bill because I strongly object to the principle underlying it, and I cannot understand why this Government and its supporters persist in legislation of such a nature, which can end only in failure.
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW (Queensland) [11.38]. - I ‘do not often address myself to questions under the consideration of the Senate when I find that there are other senators who have a better acquaintance with them than I have, and who in the course of their remarks frequently advance the views that I hold. On the subject of the cattle industry, however, I think I am specially entitled to speak. Senator Gardiner stated that the Queensland growers were keeping their cattle back, and preventing consumers in the southern States from obtaining meat; but that is not a fact. Every year at this season there is a shortage of beef throughout Australia, because in winter the cattle go off. It is essential for a cattle producer to market his stock when the beasts are prime. That is the only reason why the whole of the cattle iri Queensland are killed during a short season. It is necessary to harvest beef, just as in the case of every other product, when it is in a prime condition. When there is a dry autumn, such as was experienced in Victoria this year, there will always be a shortage of beef. There has been a dearth of mutton, too, and very little is being supplied to either the Melbourne or Sydney markets, owing to the very dry autumn experienced in Victoria and New South Wales. Senator Gardiner expressed the view that cattle producers, apparently, had been getting more than was reasonable for their product; but that is not so. Although at the commencement of the war, Queensland was the only State which had a meat surplus, the growers had to sell meat to the British Government for 4Jd. per pound, whereas every other country was able to obtain double that price. On top of that the Federal Government stepped in and subjected the profits of the growers in Queensland to the war profits tax, and they were mulcted to the tune of 80 per cent, of their excess profits. The British Government continued to store beef, thinking that there would be a famine after the war, and there was ultimately such an accumulation of stocks in London that it was found that they could not take any more meat. When all that beef was released the market was flattened out, and the meat producers in Australia found themselves with no market at all. I differentiate between the grower and the fattener.of stock. The latter had to sustain enormous losses last year because the stores were bought on high markets, and the cattle had to be sold at a low price. Had it not. been for the action of the Federal Government last year there would have been no export of meat. All the runs having been heavily stocked, there would have been an enormous loss through drought. There was a fair number of cattle killed for export, and the paddocks were relieved considerably; but over a great portion of the State the drought was very bad, and there were large losses of stock. It was mentioned by Senator Gardiner that the consumer in a city such as Melbourne does not have a fair deal. I quite agree with him in that respect. He stated that, in March last, beef was selling here at an average price of somewhere about10d. or l1d. per lb., whereas atthat time meat was being sold in the Melbourne market on the hoof at 3d. per lb. wholesale. Although it took the cattle-raiser four years to produce stock for which he received 3d. per lb., the butcher in Melbourne, within twenty-four hours of its sale, was retailing it at an average price of, say, 9d. per lb. If Senator Gardiner wishes to remove the grievance of the consumer, let him set about bringing down the cost of handling and distribution. The butcher replies to complaints as to his prices, “ Look how my costs have gone up. I have to pay increased wages and rents.” Have not the costs of the growers also increased? These costs are double what they were before the war.
– Why not make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before?
– I wish the honorable senator would try the experiment. The cattle industry is undoubtedly in a parlous position. Were it not for the fact that the Federal Government have come to the assistance of the cattle-growers of Queensland, the industry would be in a much worse condition. It is essential that the surplus cattle should be disposed of in order to make room on the runs for the young cattle.
– Why are cattle being exported from New Zealand to Victoria?
– The people of Victoria insist on having fresh beef. They will not havefrozen or chilled meat. If cattle were brought here from a tick-infested country, there would be a danger of introducing tick. I would not ask the stock-raisers of Vic toria to take that risk. I have had experience of tick being brought to Victoria, and the trouble it subsequently caused. My regiment shipped horses in Queensland. Owing to thepresence of enemy ships in the Indian Ocean, we had to wait at Melbourne for three weeks until a proper escort was provided. Our horses were taken to the show-grounds, where a few ticks were discovered on some of them. This caused tremendous concern to the Agricultural Department. The whole of the horses were washed with a tick dip mixture, and every atom of refuse from the stalls was burnt. The whole place was disinfected. No one denies the danger of bringing tick to Victoria. As a cattle-raiser, I would not ask Victorian cattle-growers to run that risk. If tick were brought here, it would affect not only beef cattle, but dairy cattle. I am inclined to. agree with Senator Gardiner, that the Government should not always assist industries, but in this case there are special circum- , stances. The Governments of Queensland, the Commonwealth, and Great Britain are more or less responsible for the present deplorable condition of the industry, and it is only right that they should now help to tide it over a difficult period. After all, the meat industry has been a very important one for Australia. Some time before the war, cattle-raising provided a bare existence, but just prior to the outbreak of hostilities, prices rose, and the industry became quite profitable. During the war the market was destroyed owing to the accumulation of large stocks.
– For how long will assistance be required by the Queensland cattle-growers ?
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW.The Government are granting the bounty for this year. The growers themselves are doing their best to overcome their difficulties. They propose to acquire meat works at Brisbane, and to dispose of meat by means of co-operation. There are grave difficulties ahead, and it will take some little time to formulate a profitable and equitable scheme. The grading of meat is quite a different proposition from that of grading butter. There are a number of circumstances that would affect the proper distribution of meat and the creation of an equitable arrangement, in order to give a fair deal to the growers. The growers insist that they should have control of any meat works that are established. There is another proposal to erect a small meat works at Normanton for canning purposes. If this venture is successful, freezing works will be established. At Warwick the other day there was a meeting, not so much of cattle-raisers as of sheep-raisers, to provide freezing works for the treatment of fat lambs. In that way, the growers, who up to now have been able to get only a market for their stock, propose to provide for the future disposal of their surplus stock. The Bill is an attempt to help an industry which is now in a very bad way. Only last night, Senator Lynch, and other senators, approached the Prime Minister asking for Government assistance for the gold mining industry. But that industry had far better treatment than had the cattle industry. The cattle-growers received for their products half the price ruling in the world’s markets. They were charged a war profits tax. The market in London was destroyed owing to a glut of beef supplies, and in many cases the meat was badly handled. Large quantities were jammed into small spaces, and the meat put in last was taken out first; consequently a certain portion was left undisturbed for two years or more. Naturally, when that meat was placed on the market, it had the effect of destroying the value of the Australian beef production. Honorable senators must realize that the meat industry has been badly treated, and it is only fair that some assistance should be given to the cattlegrowers in order to tide them over their difficulties.
– This Bill is the second attempt on the part of the Federal Government to assist, by means of a subsidy, the cattleraising industry of Queensland. I fully realize that the Federal Government must exercise its many functions to secure what we daily supplicate - the accomplish ment of the true welfare of Australia. Out of those functions has emerged this Bill, which is intended, in a measure, to relieve the distressing conditions of the meat industry, upon which a number of people are dependent for a livelihood. To use the words of Senator Gardiner, the hat is to be taken round to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth to try, by means of a bounty, to establish the sol vency of this industry and place it on its feet in order to prevent a further addition to the list of unemployed. That is all very well. We know, in actual life, that a cause frequently exists because of preceding causes. To remedy the distressing condition of the cattle-raisers in Queensland, we must look to the true causeor causes that have produced the effect to be witnessed to-day in that State. I mention Queensland, although, perhaps, in doing so I am not strictly within the compass of the Standing Orders. Under this measure the cattlegrowers of Queensland will benefit by almost 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of the amount of the bounty. The sum of £100,000 will be placed inside the borders of that State. If I discuss Queensland lengthily, it is for the purpose of examining the causes which have brought about the existing condition of the cattle . industry. There is not an honorable senator who is not thoroughly convinced of the genuineness of Senator Glasgow’s story. There is not one who is not conversant with the ill-effects that followed the action taken by the Queensland Government to compel cattle-growers to sell their beef at prices far below those ruling on the open market. Wool-raisers, side by side with cattle-raisers, were put in no such plight, nor were the wheat-growers. It is quite true that during the war’ two industries, gold production and cattle raising, were singled out to pay special penalty and to make special sacrifice. During war time the price of beef was fixed at 47/8d. perlb. by arrangement between the Queensland and Imperial Governments. The outstanding fact glares at us that the Queensland beef producers were the victims of that arrangement.
– The price was so fixed as to provide1/4d. per lb. profit on every lb. sold.
– I am aware of that. That is the reason why we should examine the previous causes which produced the present effect. I want to get at the root of things in the most fair-minded manner possible, so that those roots will not spread as they have previously, will not have the same result, and will not again necessitate this Parliament remedying a grievance that should never have existed. Let us eradicate causes that are wrong, so that they may never more take root and germinate. The Minister reminded me of what every man knows, that the Queensland Government sold the beef supplies to the general public at a lower price than that paid by the British Government. They traded upon that margin in order to give cheap meat to the people of Queensland. At this time, comparatively speaking, New South Wales was hungry for beef; and what did the Queensland Government do ? They placed a prohibition on the export of cattle from Queensland in order to keep meat cheap in that State. They did not trouble about their comrades in other States, and did not care whether or not they were paying famine prices. Now this Government comes to us. With all the .earnestness I can command, I say, let Queensland puzzle its own way out of its difficulty and consume its own smoke. I do not know how I shall vote on this Bill. I made up my mind when it was introduced to vote against it. I agree with Senator Gardiner up to a certain point, but for vastly different reasons. I am trying to dig round the root cause of present cattle-raising conditions in Queensland, and, if it is a wrong cause, it must not be further encouraged by a temporary remedy. During the war the cattle-raisers of Queensland . were certainly called upon to make a national sacrifice. It was made by no other Australian producers, with the exception of the gold producers. Although in some respects I agree with Senator Gardiner, I now come to a definite parting of the ways; What happened ? The cattle-raisers of Queensland, as everybody knows, were in a comparatively prosperous condition, and Queensland was regarded as a rich State. From the agronomic, mineral, pastoral, and climatic points of view, Queensland is a rich State. There is none richer in the Commonwealth. Certainly, as far as the cattle production is concerned, no State is richer. Yet we have the ludicrous paradox and the inexplicable anomaly of the cattle-raisers of the richest State of the Commonwealth approaching the custodians of the welfare of the poor citizens of Australia for help. I spoke much in the same strain when a similar Bill was previously before the House. No one will accuse me of. blowing my own horn if I repeat my previous statements, because they are not out of place. This is what I then said -
The present position will teach Queensland that it is no use taxing people in order to make them prosperous. . . . Now the hat has to be passed round in other parts of the Commonwealth to make good the deficiency in that rich State– Queensland. … If this Bill would only write a lesson in burning letters across the sky that would be a guide to the people of Queensland, it would be a cheap thing at any valuation.
That has a bearing up’ to a point on what I shall have to say concerning the cattleraisers of Queensland, whose position we are now considering, and who, at one time, were comparatively prosperous. But what happened ? The Government of that State in its wisdom considered that the cattle-raisers were doing well and should pay more into .the Treasury. What were the means employed ? They passed a Bill which violated a contract entered into by those lessees, and, according to the papers I have before me,, which include Queensland publications, the Auditor-General’s report, and Ilansard, the cattle-raisers of Queensland were compelled to pay into the State Treasury a sum no less than £340,000. Revenue from that source has since been fairly buoyant. I am making no allowance for the returns received as a result of development in agricultural and other settlements in the meantime. But the Act passed in Queensland - commonly known as the Repudiation Act - has been largely responsible for producing the distressing conditions which confront the cattle-raisers of Queensland today. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) and the members of his party will, if they are > candid, admit that what I am saying is the truth, even if it is against them. The hon Arable member for Capricornia in another place (Mr. Forde), who comes right from the heart of the cattle country in Queensland, said-
– The honorable senator will not be in order in refering to a debate which occurred in another place.
– Perhaps I will not be in order, Mr. President, in quoting a speech of an honorable member in another Chamber; but it was stated in another place that the Queensland cattle-raisers had not been making expenses for the last three years.
– That is quite right.
– I know it is. That honorable member also said that the cattle-raisers were in such desperate straits that some of them were engaging in opossum hunting in a vain endeavour to . derive a small income from the sale of the skins.
– Could not that also be said concerning those engaged in other primary industries ?
– Perhaps SO ; but I am endeavouring to ascertain who is responsible. I am trying to destroy the pernicious tap-root of egregious folly so that it will never produce again. Who is responsible for the condition under which these men are labouring? The Queensland pastoralists are impoverished largely in consequence of the action of the Queensland Government, and I should like to know if it is not true that the authority responsible for their impoverishment by this very, shall I say, questionable method, has made it necessary - to use the words of Senator Gardiner - for the hat to be passed round to assist them in overcoming their difficulties. Who is being asked to assist? If the industry in that opulent State of Queeusland is in such a parlous position, and the beef barons, who are supposed to be so rich and powerful, and are said to have so much capital in reserve, are in the impoverished state that the independent witness from Queensland, Mr. Forde, described, who is to help them ? If the people steeped in poverty to whom Senator McDougall referred have to assist these alleged beef barons, one naturally asks, what has become of the money ? The chickens are now coming home to roost, and one naturally asks who is to, feed them. Their money has been stolen - that is actually what happened - and they are now compelled to catch opossums in order to earn a livelihood. So says Mr. Forde. According to statements made by the honorable member for Capricornia, the money filched from them has been diverted to another purpose, which is well known to honorable senators, and employed in such a way that it is not returning 5s. in the £1. These publications with which I am surrounded disclose a very sad story, and prove conclusively that the hundreds of thousands of pounds taken from the Queensland pastoralists have been invested in various State, enterprises, of which the hotel at Babinda and the Bailway Refreshment Rooms are the only ones which have shown a .profit. Apparently, Queensland’s only hope is to drink itself back to solvency and prosperity. Apparently, if State enterprises have to be relied upon, it cannot do it by any other means. The . money filched from the Queensland, pastoralists might just as well have been thrown into the Brisbane. Those men for whom the plate is now being handed round have been further impoverished and punished because, after fixing the price of their product at 4£d. per lb., the Queensland Government retained the difference between that figure and the price at which they sold it to the Queensland electors or their own supporters. We recognise the position of these unfortunate men in Queensland - these so-called “ beef barons,” for whom Senator Gardiner said we are passing round the hat. The- men in the Rockhampton Meat Works and elsewhere should recognise that these men who are now looking for a dole are not beef barons, but beef beggars. Does not Senator Needham realize that the men working in the Kalgoorlie gold mines at 15s. a day have as much right to consideration as the men in the Rockhampton Meat Works? The Kalgoorlie miners and other sections of the community are as much entitled to assistance as the operatives in the meat works in Queensland. I can give the other side of the picture. The economic position now arises. A Government commences to ingratiate itself in the eyes of the multitude, and it requires .only a word or two to prove that those who were considered the Dives of yesterday are the Lazaruses of. to-day. The story is right, otherwise the Premier of Queensland would, not have favoured a subsidy of 10s. per head on cattle for export to assist the “ beef barons” of Queensland. It is utter “ hog-wash “ to tell the people of Queensland what he is telling them. I know the Queensland people, and I do not see why they should be compelled to go round in this mendicant fashion. And to whom? Why are not the people of Queesnland able to carry on in the same straightforward manner as they did in the days when I was there? Able-bodied men there are now standing on the door-mat of police stations seeking ‘doles when they should be working. What have we to say in submitting the other side of the picture? What is the cause?
– I am wondering what is the cause.
– We know what is responsible; it is right before us. I appeal on behalf of the proletariat, and I ask Senator Hoare, who is the most superfine example of the proletariat that has appeared in this Chamber for a long time, what he intends doing 1 Will Senator Hoare be prepared to appear before the men engaged in the smelters at Port Pirie, or those working in the mines at Broken Hill, and in a fair and rational way justify his action if he supports this measure ? The so-called beef barons of Queensland are in a bad way, but’ it would take Senator Hoare all his time to resist the outbursts with which he would be confronted. Senator Needham, in appearing before the miners of Kalgoorlie, and his constituents in other parts of the State, will also be unfortunately placed if he votes for this Bill.
– The honorable senator need not worry about me. Let him mind his own business.
– Senator Needham knows that the best way to mind one’s own business sometimes is to attend to. the business of some one else. I am giving a little friendly advice. We are down to this ; we know the cause. It is patent. It is as broad to the view as the noonday sun. The tarpaulin is to be spread before the proletariat outside Queensland so that the meat works may not be closed and hundreds of men put out of employment, and so that the Labour Government of that State may not be put in a bad way. If that Government wants to indulge in any fantastic political folly, let it pay the price, and not call on innocent people to do so. I am in a desperate position. I have to ‘ choose between Scylla and’ Charybdis. I do not know whether I ought to be lured into one stream that will inevitably lead me to destruction through an attempt to remedy the grievance of those people whom this Bill proposes to aid, or whether I should choose the channel that flows by Charybdis, and thus deprive men of employment and compel them to return foodless to their cold and empty homes. I am in a dilemma. I do not know what to do ; but being inclined to be guilty of fault of heart rather than of fault of head, very reluctantly on this, the last occasion, I choose to vote for the passage of this Bill, in the hope that it will result, as I said before, in awakening the people of Quensland to a sense of their national duty - to a sense of their lost manhood - and in creating in them again the spirit of independence which they formerly displayed. If that end be achieved some good will be done by this Bill.
– Would you help the cattle people of Kimberley?
– I would not give one brass farthing to the cattle men of Kimberley. I have come across those men. That is to say, they have come across me, or rather have run across me in the streeet with their Rolls-Royce motor cars, hardly giving me time to get out of the way. They are doing better, on the whole, > than any one else in Western Australia, and had better not ask me to help them to get a dole. They are so prosperous that quite recently one pastoralist who enjoyed a huge income sold” out at an enormous price, and stipulated that the cash was to be paid’ to him in Melbourne, in a State which is the least taxed of all. Just as I am unwillingly and grudgingly disposed towards removing this grievance in Queensland, because it is a mismanaged State, I am equally unwilling to render any assistance to an industry in such an untaxed part of the Commonwealth as is Victoria to-day. I would say to a Victorian industry that asks for assistance, “ Remedy your own grievances ; tax yourselves.” The case of a Queensland industry is different, because the people of Queensland are misgoverned and overtaxed ; but I would call upon Victorians to levy taxes upon themselves, as other people do, and to see to their own troubles without asking the hard-working citizen outside to come to their assistance. . I appear for the proletariat. At the same time, I must pay some regard to the poor beef -growers in Queensland. They are poor, so the Queensland Premier now says; so say the meat workers, who are willing to accept a reduction in their wages, and so says Mr. Forde. On this occasion, therefore, I give the State the benefit of the doubt, in the hope that it will not indulge in any further pranks, but will usher in a new era - not one that is gained only at the expense of others.
At present Queensland calls the tune and expects others to pay the piper. It is not right. The position is ill-balanced. When I was in Queensland there were men there who set an example to Australia. They would not have sent round the hat amongst other hard struggling wretches whose hair is pushing through their own hats because they cannot buy new ones. They would Have spurned the very thought of doing so. They would have felt that their manhood had left them if the suggestion had been made that they should take round the hat for the sake of an industry that can thrive in Queensland better than it can in any other State, with the’ exception, perhaps, of the northern portion of Western Australia. Queensland is the only State of Australia where the cattle industry can live and show the largest amount of profit, and it is painful to find that the people engaged in that industry are driven to such an expedient. I object to it, but on this occasion I shall give them one more chance. I shall vote for the measure, in the fond belief that they will behave themselves in future and turn over a new leaf, realizing that the people should not be taxed to make them prosperous, and that if one element in the community is injured all other elements likewise suffer. That is the case to-day, and is admitted to be so by the very men who inflicted the injury. Instead of remedying their own grievances, consuming their own smoke, applying a cure for the manufactured malady from their own resources, the people of Queensland are going beyond their borders and asking others to supply the remedy. Such a principle is manifestly wrong; but, as I have said, on this occasion I shall give them the benefit of the doubt, and vote for the Bill, in the hope that the people of Queensland will take to heart the lesson that if ever they misgovern their country again they cannot expect any vote of mine to help to pull them through.
– I had no intention of speaking on this Bill, but it is almost necessary for one to stand up in his own defence after the ravings of the “ stormy petrel “ opposite. Not understanding his language, I could not grasp what Senator Lynch was saying about me. I simply heard mention of my name, and saw him point his finger at me. However, a few words of sanity may very well follow that honorable senator’s outburst. Senator Glasgow has let us into the whole secret of the trouble in the beef industry. It is about to establish meat works in different parts of Queensland, and to that end has had to seek financial assistance. The secret of the trouble is that for. rendering that assistance the usurer will absorb the honorable senator’s profit for the next twenty years. The part the usurer plays is a canker, not only in Australia, but all over the world. In fact, it was the cause of the last war. The usurers will see to it that no further war will take place during our lifetime. It will not pay them to have one. There will be no further disruption until once again they get the world by the throat. In the cities of Australia huge buildings are being erected by banking institutions who do not know how otherwise they can spend their money. I realize that banking institutions are necessary, but banking should be a national concern, and the earnings that are now wrung from the producers should become the property of the people. The private institutions are to-day employing labour in erecting great edifices in the cities instead of in building the factories and meat works referred to by Senator Glasgow. The latter would add to the wealth of the nation, whereas the former add nothing to it. We shall not make progress in this part of the world until we bring about that social reform that will rectify these matters. To make progress we must not have men coming to the National Government for a few paltry thousands as a bounty on this thing or that. We must make the country selfsustaining, and thus secure to our producers the full value of their produce instead of the one-fourth of it, which they are getting to-day. Why should there be an imaginary line drawn across this continent, enabling a man living on one side of it to buy food at half the price paid by a man on the other side? When that riddle is solved many of our present difficulties in regard to food supplies will be solved. A paltry bounty is merely a palliative, and will do nothing towards founding a great nation. I shall vote against this Bill. Senator Lynch, in his ravings against the “ beef barons,” told us that he would vote for it; but I shall vote against it, because I believe that the producers willnot benefit by it.
– Yes, they will.
– The benefit will go into the pockets of the usurers, who, through their system of bleeding the people, which has been a curse in all times, get the very best out of the country without paying anything for it. Senator Glasgow tells us that people will not eat chilled meat, but they must have it, because they can get no other. Where I live1s. 6d. a pound is paid for it, and 1s.1d. a pound for chilled mutton. I am told practically every time I go home that there has been another rise of1d. a pound. Why should that be the case when in Queensland, only a short distanceaway, meat is half the price? When the Queensland footballers, who were recently in Sydney, went into an Italian shop for a “steak and de oyst,” they were surprised to find that they were asked to pay3s. 3d. for what cost them only 1s. 9d. in Brisbane. As the same class of people are, engaged in the retail trade in either city they cannot be the profiteers. My butcher tells me that he cannot afford to buy fresh mutton at 9d. a pound. Senator Glasgow tells us that the trouble lies in the restrictions between the grower and the middleman. If the butcher has to pay the middleman 9d. a pound for mutton, surely the grower gets his share of that.
– I was referring to beef. In March last beef was 3d. a pound on thehoof in Victoria, whereas the average price to the consumer was 9d. a pound. The cost of distribution was, therefore, 200 per cent.
– If we could do something to prevent that we should be doing something sensible.
– Senator Glasgow attributes the increased price to the stock restrictions imposed by the States, but they have nothing to do with it. The high price of meat is brought about by the great Meat Combine, . which control the prices paid by everybody. If the housewives of Australia followed the example set by the housewives of the United States of America not so long ago, and refused to buy meat for one month, the people who are controlling meat prices in Australia would soon come to their senses. Within a month the price of meat in America dropped 50 per cent. as the result of the housewives’ boycott. A commodity, has. value only in proportion to the demand for it. If the demand ceases, even for a short time, it loses its value. The bounty should be paid upon the production of meat, not for export, but for home consumption. This would enable the. working classes of this country to obtain a good supply of meat at a reasonable price. If we want to get good work out of a man, he must be able to get good food. To insure a stalwart race, the children must be properly fed. If the beef barons and combines can deny cheap meat to the working classes the race must inevitably deteriorate. Put a man in a favorable position - and by this I mean give him good living conditions and good food - and he will beget good progeny. Put him on scanty herbage, and by this I mean deny him the chance of getting good food, and his progeny will be weaklings. It is scandalous that the workers of Australia should be deprived of Nature’s gifts - the best of Australia’s primary products. The land and its products belong to the nation. God gave the land to the people, and for His people. If, by the application of science to production, we are able to increase its wealth - to make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before - to double the weight of the fleece on a sheep’s back, and to make our cattle twice as heavy, we should insist on our means of distribution being efficient, and not bolster up an industry by a paltry bounty for export purposes. All such proposals are mere palliatives. Not so long ago, the Government assisted the producers to export a large quantity of Australian butter. After it had been in cold storage in London for about twelve months, the combine brought it back to Australia, and sold this rancid product to the people here at an enhanced price. The bounty system is defective, and for that reason I intend to vote against the Bill. If the Government proposed to pay a bounty on the production of meat for consumption in Australia, they would have my support where our food supplies are concerned. I believe in Australia first, Australia last, and Australia all the time. When we make this country a happy hunting ground for its people, and make available to them all that they have a right to expect, we shall have done something worth while. The people who will benefit by this legislation live in palatial homes and fiats [in all our cities, and devote their lives to pleasure and sport. The “blank Page” Government up to the present has done very little to justify its existence. In the recess that is at hand it should endeavour to get closer to a realization of the desires of the people, and make an earnest attempt to solve these great social problems that are responsible for so much unrest among our people. The greed of the usurer is at the bottom of all the people’s troubles, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world.
– I am astonished at the opposition to this measure on the part of honorable senators opposite, since the meat workers and drovers of Queensland will benefit just as much as the cattle-growers from the payment of the bounty. Unless the meat works re-open this year, hundreds of meat workers throughout Queensland will be idle. That they realize the gravity of the situation is shown by the fact that they have voluntarily accepted a reduction of wages corresponding to the reduction in handling charges required of the meat works as one of the conditions to the payment of the bounty. Despite the fact that Queensland is admirably suited to the cattle industry, growers there at the present time find it unprofitable to sell to the meat works, although there is a small margin in connexion with the trade for home consumption. The bounty is only a temporary expedient to tide the growers over an exceedingly difficult time. I I trust there will be no occasion to again adopt this course. As there is so much unemployment throughout Australia, including Queensland, despite the protestations of the Labour Government there, I am surprised that honorable senators opposite should oppose the Bill. Queensland undoubtedly is a rich State, and all who have any knowledge of the cattle industry there know that the pioneers are extremely reluctant to seek help in their troubles. If they could possibly get through, they would not apply to the Government. Their attitude during the war was most magnanimous.
They agreed to supply large quantities of beef to Great Britain at a price below that which the British Government paid to other countries. That was their contribution to the nation in its time of trial. All those who are making such a noise about cheap meat in Queensland know quite well that profits were stolen from the cattle-growers, who had to place a certain quantity of meat at the disposal of the Government, otherwise the Imperial contract would not have been signed. Meat in the southern States is dear because regulations passed by the New South Wales and Victorian Governments prevent the introduction of any cattle from tick-infeeted areas in Queensland.
– The regulations would not prevent meat from being brought to the southern States.
– The people here will not take chilled meat. If they would, the Queensland meat works could easily supply the whole of Australia’s requirements. It is impossible to meet the demand by grazing cattle on the southern areas of Queensland which are free of tick because the agistment country there is limited in extent, and, if occupied by stock for any length of time, would be bare of feed. There is not sufficient country there to keep in good condition all the fat stock that could be placed on the market in the southern States. The cattle-growers of Queensland are extremely reluctant to ask for this bonus. Queensland has had to fight against a big American Combine that is doing its utmost to keep our meat out of the English market, and that is the reason for the glut in Australia.
– Why do the British Government show preference to the Argentine ?
– I cannot say; but I think the British Government made a great mistake in not going out of its way to give preference to Australian meat.
– The Argentine price was lower; there was no preference shown.
– The Argentine is doing its best to keep Australian meat out of the market. It is estimated by those concerned in the industry that they would make nothing out of the proposed bonus, but would manage merely to cover expenses, because they would be able to get rid of their fat cattle.
– There would be no profit.
– For that reasonI think the Bill should be supported. Unless something is done to tide the industry over its present crisis, cattle-raising throughout Australia will receive a big check.
– If there is a surplus of wheat in New South Wales next year, will the honorable senator vote for a bounty to farmers in respect of wheat for export?
– I have always voted for the pooling of wheat, and I shall be prepared to do so again. It was because the Government advanced money to the growers that the wheat industry of Australia was saved from disaster. Similar assistance was given to the fruitgrowers in a temporary difficulty, and the Commonwealth lost thousands of pounds over the transaction. A bonus on beef would keep up the price of fat stock and indirectly benefit every cattlegrower in the Commonwealth. There is an inexhaustible market for Australian meat in the Old Country and in Europe, and it behoves Parliament to see that the cattle industry is fostered. I shall vote for the Bill if only to keep in employment the hundreds of drovers engaged in the industry. If it were not for the tick regulations, Queensland meat would flood the markets of Australia.
– Is it not possible to eradicate the tick?
SenatorREID. - For many years attempts have been made in that direction, but without success. No one who has seen the effects of its ravages in cattle country would like to see the disease spread any further, so that no complaint can be made concerning the regulations themselves. Combines are not entirely responsible for the high price of meat; it is due to the scarcity of stock, which is shown by the fact that fat cattle can be landed here from New Zealand in competition with Australian meat. The meatworks are full of chilled beef at present, and if the public would only eat it the scarcity would be relieved. While the people in Melbourne are paying up to1s. 6d. a lb. for beef, it is obtainable in Queensland for half that price, not be cause a Labour Government is in power in my State, but because the whole country is glutted with fat stock. I hope that honorable senators opposite, if only for the sake of the men employed in the meatworks and on the cattle stations, will support the Bill, which is only a temporary expedient. Another matter to be remembered is that the high wages now paid to butchers and carters in the retail trade - I do not complain about those wages - have doubled the cost of distribution. It must be recognised, therefore, that the high price of beef is not due entirely to the “ beef barons “ and the combines.
– The price over the counter is very high.
– The shops are the distributing centres, and it is expensive to conduct them.
SenatorREID. - In Queensland, more than half the butchers have given up house-to-house distribution because of the cost involved.
– The State shops do not distribute at all.
– That is so. The good that will result from the passage of the Bill is worth all the expenditure involved.
– I can understand honorable senators from Queensland being anxious to secure the passage of the Bill.. But why are those engaged in the cattle industry in Queensland asking for a bounty to tide them over what they say is only a temporary difficulty? Some time ago, when high prices were being charged for meat, facts and figures were presented to prove that the increased cost was due to a shortage of cattle. We are now told that the reason for asking for Government assistance is that there are too many fat cattle in Australia. It is said that the overseas markets are not open to Australian meat. We were informed that the late war was fought to end war, and to bring about a higher civilization. But those engaged in thecattle and other industries now realize to the full that war does not pay, and that the vanquished is really the victor.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– In different countries to-day, so we are reliably informed, there are countless armies in misery and want. Throughout Great Britain there are millions of people who are unemployed, or only partly employed. Never in the history of man, so it has been stated, was trade so bad in Britain as it was tip to the last few months. Europe, to-day, is more or less a madhouse, and’ is on the verge of bankruptcy. The Bill, if carried, will probably give some little relief to the cattle-growers of Australia, particularly those of Queensland. But it will be a mere drop in the ocean, because not until the restoration of credit will there be any substantial relief to the cattle-growers and the primary producers of Australia. The world is as hungry to-day as ever it was, hungrier, in fact, for those commodities which we produce in abundance. But the world is top poor to purchase those commodities. Europe’s prosperity, therefore, means our prosperity. With the restoration of credit, there will be a revival of trade and less unemployment, especially among those who are engaged in the marketing of Australian beef and other produce. It is now proposed to give the cattle-growers of Australia a bounty to tide them over their ‘present difficulties. It is really to be given to the cattle-growers of Queensland. We were told by the Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford), when introducing this measure, that 90 per cent, of the bounty would go to Queensland, and the remaining 10 per .cent, to the cattlegrowers in the north-west of Western Australia. The last bounty gave to the cattlegrowers of Australia, roughly, £121,000. We were told to-day that unless the cattle-growers of Queensland had received that amount by way of bounty they would have been ruined. I decline to believe that statement. This year, because of plentiful rains, it is anticipated that the bounty will amount to £150,000, to be paid principally to Queensland cattlemen. If this measure were not passed, in what way would the cattlegrowers of Western Australia be affected? The previous bounty paid to them by the Commonwealth was of very little benefit.
– There are meat works at Wyndham, and a bounty of 10s. per head is paid on all live cattle exported.
– That is a mere bagatelle. The Minister stated that 7,600 live cattle were exported from Western Australia, so that at ‘ 10s. per head the cattle-growers there received a bounty of about £3,800. When the people of Australia paid famine prices for their meat, including beef, we were informed that there was an acute shortage of .cattle, that the price was governed by the law of supply and demand, and that in a time of scarcity the primary producers were entitled to the best market and the highest prices. If that was a good principle then, it ought to be so to-day.
– The Queensland growers were not paid the highest prices during the war. Their commodity was sold at the fixed price of 4£d.
– That was during a special period. We know the circumstances that governed the price at that time, and there was justification for such an action.
– The cattle-grower did not get the highest price.
– During a period previous to the war he did obtain the highest price. He claimed that he was entitled to the ruling price, and he endeavoured to get it.
– The cost of producing beef to-day is twice as much as it was before the war.
– That is no argument in favour of the bounty.
– It was regarded as a valid argument in favour of placing protective duties on secondary industries.
– We have never yet said that cattle-growing should be considered from a fiscal point of view. Protection does not enter into the question at all.
– It does in this way, that the cattle-grower has to pay a higher price for all his necessaries.
– If he gets a good season, good grass, and plenty of water, what protection would help him under those circumstances? Because the world’s markets are closed against the cattle-growers of Australia, which, when we get down to bedrock, really means those of Queensland, they approach the people of Australia for assistance. As a rule, the primary producers object to Government interference with any line of business. According to statements made to-day, the cattleraising industry of Queensland is not in a flourishing condition. The growers are handicapped because the doors of the overseas markets are closed against them. But the doors of the home market are not closed. Why should the people of this State pay famine prices for meat, and, at the same time, be called upon to grant the cattle-growers of Queensland a bounty to enable them to send meat overseas? It is a paradox beyond my understanding, and their request cannot have my support. It is stated that even if frozen meat were sent to Victoria and the other States, the people would refuse to consume it. That statement is not correct. I know that the people of Victoria will not buy frozen meat at the price charged for fresh meat if they can obtain the latter. But they would not object to pay a less price for frozen meat if it could be brought here in large quantities. Frozen meat is on the market today, some of it being sold as fresh meat.
– The people do not know that frozen meat is better than drought-starved fresh meat.
– Frozen meat from Queensland must be good, because it undergoes strict supervision. It is picked meat.
– It must be up to standard; otherwise it could not be exported.
– That is so. It is the best of Australian beef. Why does not frozen meat come to Victoria in any quantity? It is said that there is not sufficient shipping space. We have our Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, and there is nothing to prevent those ships which are not in commission from being fitted with refrigerating plant to enable them to bring large quantities of Queensland beef to this and other States.
– Has the honorable senator any idea what it would cost to install a refrigerating plant in one of the Commonwealth vessels?
– It would be more than the cost of a new vessel.
– What would it cost to fit up one vessel?
– I understand that it would cost more to install refrigerating machinery in one of the existing ships than it would cost to build a new vessel fitted with that plant.
– A vessel could be fitted with a refrigerating plant at a cost of £5,000. I have seen the work carried out within a fortnight.
– The Minister stated that the proposed bounty will amount to £15 0,000 for one year. Would it not be better to fit up one or two vessels by using the money we propose to grant as a bounty to cattle-growers ? If that were done, the cattle-growers would receive a greater measure of relief than they would from the proposed bounty to assist them to find a market overseas.
– In what way would the honorable senator’s suggestion give them relief?
– There is a shortage of meat in this and other States.
– The shortage is only temporary.
– We are told that the Bill will give only temporary relief.
– We have to dispose of a surplus of one-quarter of a million head of cattle.
– I believe that a number of cattle could be disposed of within a reasonable period if vessels were available to bring supplies from Queensland to this and other States.
– As soon as the warm weather arrives there will be plenty of southern cattle available.
– Meat was never so dear in this State as it is at present.
– It is due to temporary conditions.
– The conditions are probably temporary. Unless, however, credit is restored in Europe the difficulty will not be of a temporary nature.
– A bounty will assist the industry to adjust itself to the new conditions.
– The Minister is very optimistic. To what new conditions can the industry adjust itself if the credit of Europe is not restored? The difficulties of to-day will be multiplied unless a substantial change occurs in other parts of the world. Meat has never been more costly than it is to-day, and, when thousands cannot buy even the cheapest meat, we are being asked to tax the people to the extent provided in this measure in order to afford relief to those more favorably circumstanced. Meat is so dear and the shortage so acute that a syndicate formed some time ago brought two shipments of cattle to Melbourne from New Zealand. It must have cost a good deal to fit up a vessel to carry cattle, and the freight must have been heavy. Long voyages do not improve fat cattle, and, according to a statement published in the press, about 1,000 head were lost on the first trip. Notwithstanding that setback, a second shipment were offered at auction at Newmarket, where they sold very readily.
– Queensland cattle brought here in the same way would not be admitted into Victoria.
– I admit that it would be dangerous to introduce live cattle from Queensland into Victoria owing to the possibility of the tick pest becoming prevalent.
– As a Queensland grower, I would not be in favour of Queensland cattle coming to Victoria, and I can quite understand the growers in Victoria, or in any other State, being nervous.
– I am not suggesting that it should be done. On the contrary, I think it very wise to prevent their importation, because there would be a possibility of tick spreading all over the Commonwealth, and eventually ruining the industry. I am, however, in favour of Queensland frozen meat being shipped to the different States.
– Does the honorable senator think that the people would eat it?
– No special invitation would be required.
– They do not understand the proper method of thawing frozen meat down here.
– I was eating frozen beef and mutton for a long time without knowing it, but, when I found that it was not what the butcher alleged, I discontinued, because I objected to pay the same price for frozen meat as was being charged for fresh meat.
– Frozen beef is coming from Queensland to-day, and it has not had any effect upon prices.
– A gentleman interested in the meat industry in this State said, some time back, that fresh meat and frozen meat were offered for sale in butchers’ shops, and that the disparity in price was 2d. or 3d. per lb., but the consumers would not purchase excellent frozen meat, although it was cheaper, and when he made that statement, he must have been aware that frozen meat was being extensively consumed in Melbourne and suburbs. The Government should arrange for shipments of Queensland frozen meat to be despatched, to those States where there is a great demand and where fresh meat is being sold at famine prices.
– Space is provided, and as much frozen beef as there is a market for is being shipped to the south; but that will not assist in disposing of the surplus cattle in Australia.
– We were told a little while ago that the people will not consume frozen meat, andwe are now informed that it is coming to Victoria.
– Only a small quantity is consumed.
– Because the people have not had a proper opportunity of sampling the quality. I do not want the Minister to listen to all the tales told to the effect that people will not eat frozen meat. They should be sold samples at a reasonable price.
– We have been told that it can be purchased to-day.
– Yes, but the people are charged the price asked for fresh meat. If it came to Victoria in large quantities and was sold at a reasonable price, the demand created would provide a market for the surplus meat available in Queensland.
– It could be sold at a substantial reduction and still show a handsome profit.
– If the people would eat it freely, why should cattle be imported from New Zealand?
– Queensland meat is not coming here in large quantities. Consumers overseas have been using frozen meat for many years. Our soldiers were fed on frozen, and not fresh, meat, and no serious complaints were received concerning its quality. They would, of course, have preferred fresh meat had it been available.
– They had to take what was available.
– Yes. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Australia who cannot pay the price demanded for fresh beef. There is a shortage in the southern States and an abundant supply in Queensland. The overseas markets are closed against the producers,’ and we are asked to give them relief when our first duty should be to ourselves.
– The honorable senator is prepared to assist the people in this State, but not in any other.
– This is a proposal which will benefit only Queensland.
– Nonsense !
– The Minister stated that 90 per cent. of the bonus will go to the Queensland growers, and approximately 10 per cent. to those on the north-west coast of Western Australia. I decline to believe that this bounty is likely to save the industry from ruin. It would take a long time to convince me that the Queensland cattle raisers would have been ruined if they had not received a bounty last year, and I fail to believe that they will be placed in a hopeless position if this measure does not become law. In the interests of the people of Australia, and particularly those engaged in the hard, workaday world, we should hesitate before we subsidize a section of the community which has done very well in Australia for a long time. No one can deny that some of the richest men in Australia are pastoralists.
– Some of the richest men in Victoria are boot manufacturers, but the honorable senator would not suggest that the duty on imported boots should be removed.
– There is no analogy between a duty on imported boots and a bounty on beef.This Parliament is not responsible for the closing of the overseas markets against the cattle producers, and the people of Australia should not be taxed in order to tide them over what the Minister has said is a temporary difficulty. Many pastoralists have amassed fortunes, and surely they are in a position to stand up against a bad season or two. But no; the taxpayers of Australia are now asked to come to their aid, and, if they do not, we are informed that they will,be ruined. I do not believe anything of the kind. I am convinced, however, that unless the credit ofEurope is restored, many of them will be practically ruined, because the markets in which they formerly sold will not be open to them. The payment of a bounty will not be the means of providing extensive markets; it will only provide a temporary measure of relief. Those entitled to the greatest consideration are the consumers, who have suffered most during the last few years, but they are the people who will have to paythe bounty.
– What of the thousands of employees engaged in the industry ?
– Notwithstanding the fact that a bounty was paid last year, there was a considerable number of men unemployed in the meat industry, and the wheels were not kept going in the way it was said the payment of the bounty would, keep them going. If this bounty is paid, will all the works be set going? I venture to say that they will not until the market which they formerly enjoyed is restored to them.
– As the result of this bounty a quarter of a million cattle will be treated which would otherwise not be slaughtered.
– But that fact will not provide an immediate market for the canned meat.
– There is a market for it at a price.
– We are informed that the price at which it could be sold would not return a profit to the cattlegrowers. Surely the Minister does not believe what he is saying when he tells us that this is merely a temporary adjustment, and that later on things will right themselves ? It may be that if the measure does not pass, a few will be inconvenienced; but, in my opinion, the inconvenience suffered by the few will be the gain of the many in different parts of Australia. By voting for this Bill we shall practically say, “ Meat is dear, and we shall make it dearer by giving a bounty to the meat-growers to enable them to ship their beef out of Australia and thus allow the price to get higher and higher in the local markets.” I shall do anything I can do to cheapen meat in Victoria; and as I believe that the rejection of this Bill will enable the people of Victoria to secure the best class of meat at a reduced price I shall vote against it.
– This Bill is of great importance to the people in the hinterland of Rockhampton - the town from which .1 come - where a great number of cattle are bred. Although I am not in accord with the payment of a bounty as provided for in this measure, except as a form of temporary relief, I think that a case can be made out for the bounty proposed to be paid iri this case by regarding it as a form of Protection for the meat industry. Bounties have been given to other producing industries. A large sum of money has been allotted to help the fruit-growers, and, no doubt, they will require further assistance. Last night some honorable senators opposite joined in a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to ask that relief should be given to the gold-mining industry. If gold is entitled to consideration, surely cattle should be. Although it has been said that the bounty proposed to be paid will be an advantage to Queensland only, as a matter of fact, every man who owns a hoof will benefit by it, because it will help to stabilize the industry. The cattleowners have not asked for this bounty. The late Government promised them that further assistance would be afforded in the next session of Parliament, and the present Government are now giving effect to that promise. But the cattle-owners are not remaining idle, and simply relying on this help. They are making efforts to open up fresh markets for the sale of their’ stock. The Queensland Government are assisting in the establishment of meat works in the Gulf country, and a suggestion has been put forward ‘to form a Pool to work other meat-producing centres between Townsville and Brisbane. A proposition has been made that more refrigerating space should be secured on steamers that will bring carcasses down to the southern capitals. When the Commonwealth Shipping Bill was before the Senate J made a suggestion that arrangements should be made to install refrigerating machinery in some of the Commonwealth vessels now lying idle, and that the vessels so fitted up should be utilized to bring carcasses from Queensland to the southern capitals. It is not correct to say -that all that should be done in this direction is beingdone. I have just received a letter from the manager of the Central Queensland Meat Export Company, in which he informs me that his company is sending a few carcasses to Sydney, but none to Melbourne, because of the scarcity of steamers with refrigerating space. I hope that sufficient space will soon be made available to bring frozen meat from the north to the south. A suggestion has been put forward to-day that cattle might be slaughtered oh board ship on the way down south. I have not the practical knowledge to say whether or not that scheme would be practicable. However, all these avenues are being followed up by the people of Queensland in their desire to get the meat industry out of its present impasse. Senator Gardiner was wrong in saying that the cattle runs in Queensland are owned by large firms such as Goldsborough, Mort, and Company Limited, Dalgety and Company Limited, the New Zealand Loan anil Mercantile Agency Company, and others. These firms may have small interests in cattle stations in Queensland, but they are certainly not largely ‘interested in the industry. They may own sheep stations, but they do not own cattle stations to any extent. It is true that’ the banks are considerably interested incattle stations, but that is because of theadvances they have made, without which it would be impossible for the industry to be carried on. Another argument in favour of regarding the Bill as a protective measure is the fact that the Australian frozen meat has to face the competition of Argentine chilled meat. Our frozen meat is much better than the Argentine frozen meat; but it cannot compete with the chilled meat which Argentine, being so much nearer toEngland than Australia is, can supply tothe London market. Until we can recapture that market it is highly desirablethat the meat industry should’ receiveassistance. Another factor to be con- sidered is that the recent slump in values coincided with the demand for retrospective rents under the recent Queensland legislation, which we describe as the Repudiation Act. The Commonwealth War-time Profits Act is a further factor to be taken into account. In some instances the assessments under this Act have just been issued in respect of returns for the year ending 30th June, 1919. The slump in the price of cattle has been so precipitate that the pastoralists have not had time to recover. Some say that it is merely a normal set-back, and that the industry should recover of its own volition; but when we realize that the price of fat cattle in theRockhampton district has fallen from £16 to £5 and even £3 per head, we must admit that it is an abnormal set-back. I know a man who bought about 3,000 head of cattle at £10 a head, and was obliged to sell them at £3 a head. Fortunately he could stand the loss. There are many others who are on the brink of ruin, and will never be able to recover. It is useless to describe these people as belonging to the leisured class, who have not borne the heat and burden of the day. I know one man who was a shepherd and afterwards became the owner of two cattle stations. Three years ago he had wealth beyond his wildest dreams. To-day he is in a parlous financial position. When the Queensland Government fixed a rate of 47/8d. for meat supplied to the Imperial Government during the war, they commandeered it for their own requirements in the State butchers’ shops at 31/2d. per lb.
– That was a good thing for the consumers.
– But it was a bad thing for the cattle-owners. If anything happens to the cattle industry it will make a tremendous difference to the number of unemployed. Senator Findley has said that the assistance given last year did not mean much to the unemployed; but, from my own personal observation, I know that it meant a great deal to them. For instance, some employees at Lake’s Creek who could not obtain work during the interregnum were able, by reason of the good wages, to wait until the works restarted. There is a great factor of employment arising out of the cattle industry that should not be lost sight of, although for party purposes my honorable friends opposite prefer not to take cognisance of it. If we could capture the southern markets and bring about an increase in our population - because our export trade represents only 20 per cent. of our meat production - our troubles about foreign parity should be at an end. Something has been said with regard to the distribution costs. I can speak with some authority on this subject, because in private life I am a merchant, and my business brings me in touch with other activities. At one time I was a partner in a station running about 12,000 head of cattle, and at the same time I was chairman of directors of the biggest butchering business in my home town. I therefore had an opportunity of studying the position from the view-point of both the grower and the distributor, and without going into detail, I can assure honorable senators that I found the cost of distribution was very heavy indeed. We had to provide the wages of slaughtermen, carters, men behind shop counters, clerks, and a large number of others engaged in various avenues of the business. I hope I have said enough to induce honorable senators to vote for the Bill, and afford some relief to the cattle industry of the Commonwealth.
.- The remarks of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Thompson) have confirmed me in my intention to vote against the Bill. I am satisfied that the beef barons, beef kings, or beef pirates - call them what you will - form rings for the purpose of keeping up the price of meat.
– The honorable senator does not include the growers, I hope.
– In my State we are hit harder than are people elsewhere in the Commonwealth. If refrigerating machinery were installed in a number of the Commonwealth ships that are lying idle, they could be placed in the trade on the north-west coast of Western Australia, and could bring meat down to the people in the more settled portions of that State. All the space on vessels now engaged in that run is controlled by such firms as Connor, Doherty and Durack, with the result that the small stationholders such as those mentioned by Senator Thompson are completely shut out and the people are at the mercy of the “vulture.” Something should be done to force these people to disgorge some of the immense profits they made prior to, and have made also since, the war. We have heard a great deal about the losses they have sustained, and now we have a measure to pay a bounty on the export of beef. Nothing is said about the immense profits they have made in recent times. Not long ago an attempt was made to get meat sent from South Australia to Western Australia, but the bogey of pleuro was raised, and. it failed. Senator Glasgow has informed us that the south-western portion of Queensland is free of the cattle tick, but that relief from high prices need not be expected from that quarter, because the number of fat stock on agistment there is limited. A couple of months ago we were paying1s. , 6d. per lb. for rump steak in Perth, and at about the same time the British consumer was able to get it at 71/2d. per lb., notwithstanding that it had been transported 12,000 miles in refrigerating chamber’s. The people of Australia are being penalized for the benefit of consumers abroad. If the local market were fully supplied, there would be no objection to beef exporters shipping the surplus supplies and getting the highest price possible for it. I agree with Senator Glasgow that every precaution should be taken to prevent the spread of the tick pest into the southern States, but I notice that this bogey has always been raised to keep up the price of meat.
– There has been an increase in the price of meat, but in Brisbane cattle can be bought at 22s. 6d. per 100 lbs., so the grower is not getting it.
– I do not say that the honorable senator is participating in the extraordinary profits indicated by the disparity between what the grower gets and what the consumer has to pay. The wholesale firms fix the price, and the retailer passes it on to the worker, who is the sufferer, because wages are stationary. Not many years ago the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) advised growers to keep bullocks on the hoof so that prices should not decline. He also told the fruit-growers of Tasmania that as there was no chance then of getting refrigerated space for the export of their apple crop, they should cut their trees back and limit production. If the Government would install refrigerating space on some of the Commonwealth vessels now lying idle, and utilize them for the transport of frozen meat from Queensland and the north-western portion of Western Australia, they would confer a boon on the people.
– vessels with refrigerated space are on the Queensland run now, but they are not fully loaded. The people will not buy the chilled meat.
– If it is the intention of the Government to continue this bounty system, they should also pay a similar bonus to other producers. Only a little over twelve months ago, it was almost impossible to procure butter in Kalgoorlie, and the people had to be content with margarine, which, I contend, is no fit substitute, especially in the case of young children. When the retailers were allowed to charge the increased price of 3s. per lb., adequate supplies were available within forty-eight hours. This conclusively proved the existence of a ring. The Government, whilst combines are in existence, should decline to pay a subsidy to the beef industry in the form of export bounties whilst wages remain stationary and so many people are unable to make both ends meet.
– The fact that Australia is producing infinitely more meat than the local market can absorb has apparently been overlooked during the debate. If the cattle industry is to continue, it is essential that satisfactory arrangements should be made for the export of all surplus production. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) and other honorable senators of the Labour party object to the bounty system as a means to encourage the export trade. They tell us that it is an entirely wrong principle. I have not heard any honorable senator suggest the discontinuance of another form of bonus, which appears to appeal to very many people, namely, the baby bonus.
– And the honorable senator’s opposition to that bonus is because the working-class people benefit by it.
– There is no opposition to that bonus from this side of the chamber at all. We stand for the bounty
– Most of the butchers’ shops in Sydney belong to the combines.
– My honorable friends opposite say that they would crush the butchers out of existence. That would only result in more men being thrown out of employment. The salvation of the meat producers, both large and small, and even of the retail traders, is dependent on this bounty. It is inconsistent to talk about industry standing “four-square to all the winds that blow,” and meeting competition of all sorts in a noble and independent manner. It is rather curious that the present proposal should be assailed bitterly by honorable senators from Victoria, who ‘have always been foremost in insisting that the cattle producers in the other States should pay high prices for ordinary commodities to enable protected industries in Victoria to be kept going. If Protection is good for one State, it should be applied to all, and the Protectionists of Victoria should be prepared to assist those employed in other industries, even though they be primary producers. Our cattle producers labour under very great disadvantages, because Australia cannot consume more than a small percentage of the meat it produces. Even with the most scientific marketing methods, and if the people could be persuaded to live almost entirely on beef, there would still need to be an export trade in beef. It is necessary, therefore, for the growers to compete with cattle producers in countries where there is cheaper labour, and where lower freights to the world’s markets rule. In many instances Australian producers must pay exorbitant freights ; but this fact has not been overlooked by the Government. A condition precedent to the granting of the proposed bounty was that the shipping companies should reduce their freights. It was only because the Government induced the shipping companies to agree to such a reduction that the payment of the bounty became possible.
– The meat industry must stand on its own merits, as far as I am concerned.
– “Would my honorable friend from Tasmania suggest that the carbide industry in Tasmania should stand on its own merits? .Senator Ogden. - Tasmania cannot get support of any kind, but Queensland is able to obtain all the assistance it demands.
– The honorable senator desires the carbide industry to be given every possible assistance. How would he like it if Parliament suggested that Tasmania should no longer receive the direct payment by the Commonwealth of £85,000 per annum? That State has received more direct assistance than any other State. I realize that the protective Tariff does not benefit Tasmania in the same degree that it assists the other States, but Tasmania has received financial assistance almost from the inception of Federation. Where an industry or a State is in need of help, assistance should, if possible, be rendered.
– Why did the honorable senator refer to Tasmania as a- povertystricken State?
– Although I may have done so in a jocular way, I fully realize that there is no Australian State that possesses, in proportion to its size, the resources or potentialities of Tasmania.
– On the Addressin.Reply debate, the honorable senator said that my State was poverty-stricken.
– I may have said that the poverty-stricken attitude assumed on its behalf by some honorable senators from that State would lead one to believe that to be the case. I thought that I should raise a storm when I applied the argument used by my honorable friends opposite to their own case.
– The honorable senator should not object to the workers having some advocates.
– I am delighted to find that they have advocates, and I am even more pleased to know that the true advocates of the workers are on this side of the chamber. Senator Findley stated that the people of this State should not be asked to contribute their share to – proposed bounty because it would be of no advantage to them. The export of our surplus cattle to other countries is certainly an advantage to the people of Victoria and the other States. If it were suggested by the Labour party that no assistance should be given to those engaged in the wheat industry, in order to insure the removal of their exportable surplus of wheat, they would reap the punishment for that attitude at the next election. In another place. Labour members, a few weeks ago, said that a guarantee should be given to the wheat-growers of Australia, and I agree with them. If it is a fair thing to guarantee the wheat-grower a fair price for his product, it is just as reasonable to give a similar guarantee to the cattle raisers of not only Queensland, but also the other States. This Bill is to insure to the cattle raiser a fair return for his labour. We shall thus help, not only those engaged in the cattle industry, but also the people of Australia as a whole, by preserving an industry which means so much to this country. It must not be forgotten that attached to the cattle industry are valuable and utilitarian byproducts such as hides, tallow, &c. I support the Bill.
.- The question of granting the cattle raisers of Australia a bounty should, be considered from the broadest point of view. The conditions existing in Queensland are very different from those obtaining in the major portion of Australia. I am not generally in favour of the bounty system, but I realize that, since the inception of the war, extraordinary conditions have been imposed upon the producers of Australia. Wherever possible, we should assist to maintain industries which were established before the war. The cattle raising industry is very important to Australia. Last year, I had the opportunity of inspecting Central and Northern Queensland, and I know that a very large portion of that State cannot be utilized effectively except for cattle raising. If this industry should go to the wall because of lack of reasonable consideration on the part of the Federal Parliament, a very’ large portion of that State would immediately be thrown out of productive use. We were told to-day that, until the credit of the world, and especially that of the
European countries, is re-established, we cannot hope for a reasonable demand for oursurplus beef. If we wait until credit is re-established in Europe, our industries will languish, and probably die out altogether. We have to deal with industries as we find them. If under present conditions, it is impossible for the meat industry to be carried on effectively, it must be given reasonable assistance. The same applies to any industry. It has been stated that the Queensland growers should Bend meat to Victoria, where highprices rule at present. I do not think that proper attention has been given to this suggestion, even by the Queensland people themselves. A scheme to send meat to Victoria from Queensland should be given a fair trial. Chilled meat should he brought from the northern States whenever there is a scarcity of cattle in the southern States. By this means the consumers would obtain meat at a reasonable price. The cattle industry of Queensland has been brought to a deplorable condition, mainly through the action of the State Government; but no matter what the cause, when any section of the community is in distress, it is our duty to consider the circumstances, and, if necessary, to lend assistance.
– The honorable senatoris not stupid enough to believe that?
– The State taxation in Queensland is very High. A short time ago an Act was passed by that Parliament providing for a retrospective reappraisement of the rents of pastoral leases covering a period of four years. That Statute brought many graziers to the verge of ruin. Considering the returns that the cattle raisers have obtained for their products during the last year or two, it is marvellous how the industry has survived. I was at Townsville in August of last year, and I have here an account of a transaction which took place in that town, when fifty-one fat bullocks were trucked from Cloncurry to the meat works at Townsville. This case will prove that some of the statements made concerning the big returns that are obtained by thecattle-grower are altogether without foundation. It must be remembered that many people who are in a com paratively small way earn their living by grazing. These are the particulars: -
The first quality bullocks returned21,186 lbs.at9s. 8d per 100, £102 8s. The second quality bullocks returned 12,000lbs. at 7s. 2d., £43 0s.8d. The third quality bullocks relumed 2,718 lbs. at3s. 6d per 100, £415s.1d. Theworks subsidy paid on 27,890 lbs. of meat at1s. 8d. per lb. was £1410s.6d., which totalled £164 14s. 3d. From this was deducted for railage on thefifty-one head, £52 10s. 4d., which left £1123s. 4d. for the collector, or an average of £2 4s.10d. for bullocks averaging 718lbs. per head. The Governmentsubsidy of 1/4d . perlb. is yet to be paid on exportable beef, which will probably amount to £28 l1s., which would give a return for the fifty-one head of £216s. 3d. each.
I quote that case as an instance of exceptionally high prices. In many hundreds of cases nothing like so favorable a return was received by the grazier. How could such returns enable an industry to be carried on. It is a typical example of present-day conditions, and for that reason favorable consideration should be given to the proposal of the Government. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date. ,
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 3.68 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1923/19230727_senate_9_104/>.