12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bounty on Gold Production.
Senator McLACHLAN presented a petition signed by 163 citizens and business men in the neighbourhood of Port Lincoln, South Australia, on the subject of the relief of unemployment by means of a revival of the gold-mining industry and the encouragement of the development of Australia’s potential wealth by the payment of a bounty on the production of gold, and moved -
That the petition be received.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, without notice -
Mr. Rawson has expressed the wish that returned soldiers should encourage voluntary enlistment in the 17th Light Horse Regiment. He did not endorse that wish, and he sincerely hoped that the regiment would never reach its full strength-
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether the question, as submitted by the honorable senator, is in order? The honorable senator purports to be reading a statement made by some one who is neither a member of the Commonwealth Government, to a representative of which the question is addressed, nor an honorable senator. It is the statement of some one over whom this Government has no jurisdiction and for whom it is in no way responsible. I realize that the privileges of honorable senators are such that they are entitled to ask questions; but when questions are placed on the notice-paper, you, Mr. President, decide whether they are in order or not, and I submit that what would be ruled out of order in a question of which notice is given, ought to be ruled out of order in a question without notice. Is Senator H. E. Elliott to be permitted to continue asking a question containing a statement about a matter which on the face of it does not affect this Government?
– Any honorable senator may make a statement to sufficiently elucidate a question which he desires to ask, but I. think it would be preferable for the honorable senator to give notice of his question without first reading it. It will then be for me to decide what portion of it, if any, is out of order.
-I give notice of my question for to-morrow.
– by leave - I desire to report to the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has sent the following cablegram to Squadron-Leader Kingsford Smith:-
The Government has decided, in recognition of your wonderful outstanding achievement in crossing the Atlantic, to promote you to the honorary rank of Wing-Commander in the Air Forces of this country.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– Is it proposed to recommend the officer referred to for a knighthood ?
– The honorable senator has been a member of this Parliament long enough to know that-
– The honorable senator is out of order in making a statement regarding another honorable senator who is submitting a question.
– The conferring of honours is a matter that is left entirely in the hands of His Majesty the King.
Trawlerfor Investigation WorkFishing on North- Western Coast.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, without notice -
– It is not the intention of the Government to build a trawler as the nucleus of a trawling fleet. The vessel referred to by the honorable senator has been sanctioned by Cabinet on the recommendation of two fisheries conferences convened by the previous Government. In view of the absence of knowledge of the essential facts necessary to place the trawling industry on a proper footing, the conferences recommended that a trawler should be procured, and that scientific investigations should be made. The matter is now in the hands of the consultative committee, consisting of Sir George Julius, Mr. Gepp, and Mr. Gunn, who will furnish a report to the Government. When their report has been received the matter will be referred to the Public Works Committee for further investigation and report. The vessel is not to form portion of a trawling fleet. It is purely to continue investigation work at the stage reached prior to the loss of the trawler Endeavour.
– Can the Minister say whether the Government has been approached by a company which contemplates investing a good deal of capital in the establishment of the fishing industry in the tropical waters of NorthWestern Australia?
– I should like the honorable senator to give notice of that question, because if any such request has been made it must have come to the Development Department, and has not yet reached me.
Senator DOOLEY brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed construction of a steamer for lighthouse service.
Activities of Senators H. E. Elliott and Sampson
– On the 26th June Senator H. E. Elliott asked the following questions, upon notice -
In view of the statement of the Minister for Defence in the House of Representatives recently -
Has not the 3rd Division, under General Elliott’s command, the highest percentage of enlistments in the State of Victoria?
Is it a fact that General Elliott has attended recruiting meetings at Essendon, Preston, and elsewhere, and strongly urged enlistment in the forces?
Is it a fact that numerous invitations have been issued to the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin); the honorable the Attor ney-General (Mr. Brennan), the Honorable Frank Anstey, the Honorable James E. Fenton, and other supporters of the Government to address recruiting meetings, and that they have invariably been declined?
Has any member or supporter of the Government in Parliament addressed any meetings to encourage recruiting; if so, in what localities ?
Is it a fact that General Elliott’s son joined as a cadet under the voluntary scheme as soon as it was announced, and became a. private on attaining the age of eighteen years? (f) Has the son of any member of the Government or any member of Parliament supporting the Government joined the forces of the Commonwealth ?
Is it a fact that General Elliott has repeatedly represented to General Dodds that the greatest obstacle to recruiting is his (General Dodds’) repeated optimistic statements in the press to the effect that the recruiting campaign is producing better results than could be expected ?
Will the Minister suggest what (if any) further steps may be taken by General Elliott to stimulate recruiting in the 3rd Division?
Assuming that the scheme qf defence meets all the present requirements for the defence of the Commonwealth, and that answers satisfactory to the people of the Commonwealth can be given to the questionnaire referred to by the Minister, will the Minister authorize the officers referred to to answer the question therein set forth?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
– On the 26th June Senator Payne asked the following questions, upon notice - .
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
In order to perpetuate the names of Australian aviators who have rendered such great and distinguished service to the progress of aviation by their historic pioneering flights throughout the world, will the Minister consider the question of naming Air Force and civilian aerodromes after these airmen?
– Aerodromes in the capital cities are now so widely known by the names of the municipality or shire in which they are located that great inconvenience would be occasioned if the gesture recommended by the right honorable senator were made. Opportunities will, however, betaken to perpetuate the names of many distinguished Australian aviators when sufficiently imposing constructions are, in the course of time, erected on the aerodromes and can be dedicated to their lasting memory.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the unique and gallant performances of the Australian aviator, Mr. Kingsford Smith, in his famous aeroplane, “ The Southern Cross,” in being the first aviator in the world to successfully cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Tasman sea between Australia and New Zealand, will the Government officially congratulate Mr. Kingsford Smith and take steps to secure “ The Southern Cross “ for Australia ?
– The Government has already officially congratulated SquadronLeader Kingsford Smith upon his splendid achievement, and I would also refer the honorable senator to the statement made by me to-day on the subject. I am not in a position to indicate what further action, if any, the Government proposes to take, but the suggestion of the honorable senator will be borne in. mind.
Profits and Prices
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
It was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation containing comprehensive amendments to the existing bankruptcy legislation but it was felt that the urgent matters referred to in this bill should not be postponed until the measure to which I have alluded had been prepared. The Government, therefore, requests the Senate to regard this bill as urgent in order that the judge to be appointed may commence work that is at present being held up, and the Government be permitted to appoint such other judges as may be found necessary. As honorable senators will recall, when the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act came into operation, jurisdiction in bankruptcy was conferred on certain State courts. The act provided, in addition, for the exercise of bankruptcy jurisdiction by such federal courts as Parliament might create, but no federal courts were constituted at the time, as it was anticipated that the existing State courts could carry out the work satisfactorily. The Commonwealth Government has no complaint whatever to make regarding the manner in which the State courts have discharged their functions under the act. Owing to circumstances over which the States have no control, the position at the present time is not satisfactory from either the Commonwealth’s standpoint, or from that of certain States.
The volume of bankruptcy business has been very great during the last two years. Within a few months after the commencement of the act, the New South Wales Government brought under notice the serious congestion of work occurring in the Supreme Court of that State because the justice dealing with bankruptcy matters had been almost exclusively occupied in the discharge of his duties under the Bankruptcy Act. It was then suggested that the Commonwealth should either appoint its own bankruptcy judges or agree to the appointment of an additional Supreme Court judge to deal with bankruptcy work, the salary of such judge to be paid by the Commonwealth. The New South Wales Government has repeatedly urged that the Commonwealth Government should remedy the existing unsatisfactory state of affairs. Another cause of increase in the work of the bankruptcy judges was the decision of the courts in Le Mesurier’s case and other cases. Under the State acts, the registrar exercised certain functions and jurisdiction, and it was anticipated that under the Commonwealth act the registrar would continue to exercise that jurisdiction. The High Court, however, held in Le Mesurier’s case that the judges had not in law power to delegate functions to the registrar. To a certain extent, the effect of this decision has been overcome by legislation; but constitutional difficulties remain. Thus in Edgely’s case, following the decision of the High Court in Alexander’s case, the Supreme Court of New South Wales held that, under the Constitution, judicial powers could not be given to a registrar. As much of the bankruptcy work partakes more or less of a judicial character, this means a very large proportion of it is thrown upon the judge.
The position in Victoria is equally as unsatisfactory as it is in New South Wales. His Honor Judge Moule has worked unsparingly to keep the bankruptcy work up to date. Owing to the other judicial duties he is called upon to perform, he is, during 1930, unable to deal with bankruptcy matters, except during every alternate month. The Inspector-General in Bankruptcy has reported that the proposed sittings will be insufficient to cope with the requirements for the year. Unless His Honor receives assistance serious arrears of work will occur.
It is intended that the salary of any judge appointed to that court shall be the same as he received as a judge of a federal court, and he shall also be entitled to the same pension which he would have received if his services as Bankruptcy Judge were a continuation of his services as judge of that federal court. It is proposed to appoint one judge immediately, his head-quarters will be in Sydney, and he will, as occasion requires, sit in Melbourne. By this means, it is hoped that delays will be obviated and that the bankruptcy work in New South Wales and Victoria will be so apportioned that interference with the work of the State courts will be reduced to a minimum. In view of the extremely limited nature of the amendments contained in this bill, and in viewalso of the assurance which I have given to the Senate that the Government is considering comprehensive amendments to the existing law, I hope honorable senators will not seek to include in this bill amendments which they feel should be made to the bankruptcy law, but will pass it in its present form, thus enabling the Government to make the necessary appointments to relieve the congestion which exists in the States in question.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLachlan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th June (vide page 3299) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I think it is doubtful whether we all realize the importance of this measure from the point of view, not so much of the proposal contained in it as the need for some form of assistance to our primary producers. This, to my mind, is the most serious aspect of the matter. The proposed guarantee of 4s. a bushel to wheat-producers is neither more nor less than a bounty to be paid by the Governments of Australia to the wheat-producing industry.
– The Governments may not be called upon to pay anything.
– I am aware of that, but the bill is, in essence, a contingent liability upon the Federal and State Governments to give financial assistance to wheat-growers in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, the payment of bounties is not uncommon in Australia. Only the other day, honorable senators were called upon to consider a bill providing for the payment of a bounty on cotton, and from all I can learn, several similar measures will come before this chamber shortly. I do not know where the money will come from. Perhaps Senator Dunn can enlighten us, because one day last week he informed honorable senators that when this Government came into office it found an empty treasury, yet it managed to extract from it £1,000,000 as a grant to State Governments for the relief of unemployment.
Theoretically, the payment of a bounty is intended to assist infant industries and providing those industries are likely to prove of benefit to Australia, there might be justification for it. I suggest, however, that by no stretch of the imagination can wheat-growing be regarded as an infant industry, because it is practically contemporaneous with the settlement of Australia. It is difficult to say, with exactness, when Australia first became a wheat-exporting country. I have made inquiries, and I find that in 1862 Victoria exported 109,916 bushels of wheat to the United Kingdom. Of that quantity, 29,337 bushels were the product of Victoria, and the balance, 80,579 bushels, presumably the product of the other colonies which was sent to Melbourne for shipment. But when we glance at the production and population figures of an even earlier date we find that there must have been a considerable surplus. It is quite possible there may have been earlier shipments than the one quoted for we find that in 1860, the population of Australia was 1,146,000, and the area cultivated for wheat was 643,983 acres, which yielded 10,245,496 bushels. Allowing for a much greater per capita consumption than that now obtaining in Australia, there must have been a considerable quantity of wheat available for export. Whatever the date of our first export of wheat, the fact emerges that Australia has been exporting that grain for approximately 70 years. During this period the industry has received a great deal of encouragement from different State Governments, yet, in spite of that fact, it has reached such a precarious position that the Commonwealth Government feels called upon to provide further support for it. Whatever, conflict of opinion there may be as to the merits or demerits of the bill, I do not think that anybody who has given the subject consideration can come to any other conclusion than that our wheat industry is now in dire distress.
It may be worth while examining the position more closely. We have in Australia all the natural conditions that are necessary for the successful growing of wheat, conditions equalling any to be found elsewhere in the world. A good deal has been said about the quality of the Canadian No. 1 northern wheat. Yet even Canadians themselves admit that their best grain contains 14 per cent, moisture, whereas the average moisture of Australian wheat is 7 per cent. In that respect we produce the best wheat in the world, and in a great many ways we produce it more cheaply than can be done elsewhere. Because of our genial climatic conditions our wheat is more easily harvested than that grown abroad, and no one can justifiably cavil at the cost of its transport to the seaboard. In an endeavour to assist this great national industry the State Governments have uniformly charged a low rate of rail freight from the point of entrainment to the port of shipment. I do not think that any of the States have transgressed in that direction. As a matter of fact, it has been frequently said that it does not pay to carry wheat in Australia at the freight rates that are charged. Yet I notice that every year when we have a poor crop our railways show a greater deficit than they ordinarily do.
The two great pillars upon which the prosperity of the Australian Commonwealth has rested have been wool and wheat. Now we find one of those pillars tottering. I can come to no other conclusion than that the poor, blind, political Sampsons of Australia - I do not refer to the honorable senator representing Tasmania who bears that name - have set to work to tear down the pillars of our prosperity. After just about succeeding, they have realized the mischief that they have wrought, and have endeavoured to take some steps to remedy the evil. To put the matter in another way, it may be said that these industries have been the beasts of burden for the whole of Australia, and they have been loaded to such an extent that this one poor unfortunate beast has eventually sunk to the earth, crushed with the load that it has to carry. The authorities have thereupon called in a veterinary surgeon to diagnose the trouble, and, on examination, he has prescribed a stimulant to revitalize the beast of burden in order that it may continue to carry the load under which it has staggered.
We are setting out to provide some relief for the industry. At such a stage it might have been profitable for us to discuss what would be the best means of relieving the industry from some of the burdens that it is bearing, in order to give it a chance to right itself and so continue, as in the past, to be a great bulwark of the national prosperity of Australia. Unfortunately the bill before us precludes such a discussion. For the moment we are confined to examining this specific means for the relief of the wheat industry. It consists of an Australianwide compulsory wheat pool, with divided management and responsibility. So far as I am aware, this is the only occasion on which any Australian government has brought down a proposal to assist an industry which provides for divided financial responsibility. The Commonwealth Government is asking the States to come in and assist it to bear any financial burden that may be involved in the proposal now before the Senate. I believe that if this project for an Australianwide wheat pool were put before the farmers of Australia without an accompanying guarantee it would be overwhelmingly rejected; in fact it would be abhorrent to every wheat-grower in Australia. Neither do I think that it would commend itself to any other section of the community, particularly the consumers, who would not regard it with very much favour, even in its present form. I make it clear that if the proposal is agreed to by Parliament, and endorsed by the farmers of Australia, that cannot be taken to be an endorsement of the principle of compulsory pooling. It will be nothing more or less than an agreement to accept a guaranteed price, that, in my opinion, will be considerably above the world’s market price for wheat. It is very unwise to prophesy, but so far as human judgment can foretell, it seems apparent that the guaranteed price mentioned in the bill will be higher than the world’s market price for wheat during the next twelve months.
It is rather a pity that the project was not brought down in two separate sections. That would have enabled us to see whether a compulsory wheat pool is favoured, and whether the whole project is merely a bait to induce the farmers to support a proposal that would otherwise be rejected.
– The honorable senator would ask a man to work without wages.
– I can hardly describe as wise the honorable senator’s interjection, for no one would ask the farmers to part with their wheat without receiving any payment for it as the interjection suggests. If the farmers of Australia agree to the Government’s proposal, they will receive a guaranteed price for their wheat for one year; but they will bind themselves for three years.
– What will they receive for their wheat during the other two years?
– They will certainly not get less for it than if they sell it to the merchants.
– They will not have control of their own wheat. Nor will they have any guarantee as to the price they will get for it. Indeed, it is conceivable that under the control system, without a guarantee, they will get less for their wheat than if there was no control. If they agree to this proposal, the farmers will part with their liberty of action. For the remainder of the term of the pool, they will be as defenceless as oysters on the half shell..
– Is it not possible that the scheme will extend beyond three years ?
– There is no guarantee that it will, or will not. It is possible that when the results of one harvest are seen, and the people of Australia realize the difference between the price obtained in the world’s market for their wheat and the guaranteed price for it as set out in this bill, they will demand that the pool be terminated. I do not say that that will happen; but it is a possibility.
So far as I am aware, the Labour party, when appealing to the electors last October, did not intimate that a bill for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool would be introduced if it came into power, although I know that in a general way the nationalization of industries is a part of that party’s platform. That, however, is not the point. Although I have listened carefully to the debate, I have not heard any evidence of the success of pools in other countries, with the possible exception of Canada. As evidence of the success of the Canadian pool, various statements and newspaper articles have been quoted by Government supporters. While I say nothing against newspapers as such, we all know that two newspapers, equally reputable in the eyes of the public, will draw entirely different conclusions from the same set of facts.
– The honorable senator will find the truth in the Labor Daily. .
– The Labor Daily and the Melbourne Age draw the same conclusions from certain facts; ‘but other newspapers, equally reputable, arrive at different conclusions. Most of the arguments advanced by honorable senators regarding the Canadian pool have been gained from newspaper paragraphs.
– Would the honorable senator take any notice of the opinions of State Premiers?
– For a time I was a member of a State Parliament, and, naturally, I have a great respect for State legislators. They do a tremendous amount of useful work in this country; but, unfortunately, their depleted treasuries sometimes force them to conclusions which would be entirely different were the state of their finances otherwise. I desire to quote from Technical Bulletin, No. 3, dated January, 1928, on the cooperative marketing of grain in Western Canada, by Mr. J. F. Booth, agricultural economist of the Division of Co-operative Marketing of the Bureau of Agriculture and Economics, in the Department of Agriculture of the United States of America, at Washington. Before doing so, however, I would point out that the farmers of Canada are in an entirely different position with respect to the wholesale and bulk handling of their wheat from that of the farmers of Australia, because the elevator companies, which are owned by organizations of farmers, have been in existence in Canada for twenty years. When pools were first proposed in Canada, they had the personnel of these elevator companies from which to draw many of the officials necessary for the conduct of the pools. These men were accustomed to the handling of wheat on an extensive scale, and, moreover, were sympathetic with the farmersWe speak of the pooling system in operation in Canada, but actually, there is no such thing as a Canadian wheat pool in the sense in which the term is used in this bill. Although, we refer to Canada as a wheat-producing country, only three provinces - Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba - are exporters of wheat. It is true that small quantities of wheat are also grown in Ontario; but the production there is not sufficient to meet the home market. The three provinces mentioned are those whose wheat has to compete iri the world’s market with that of other countries. Each of those provinces has its own wheat pool, and whether or not those pools have been successful, the fact remains that they are entirely voluntary.. Under peace conditions in Canada, there never has been a compulsory pool. Honorable senators will, therefore, see that the position in Canada is entirely different from that in Australia. From the bulletin which I have mentioned I now quote the following extract: -
A knowledge of conditions immediately preceding tlie formation of the wheat pools is necessary to an adequate understanding of these organizations and their accomplishments. Some consideration will therefore be given to this side of the question before proceeding to an analysis of the pools and their methods of operation.
The Canadian wheat crops of 1917 and 1918 were marketed through a governmental agency known -as the board of grain supervisors. During this time the British Government, through, its representative in Canada, the Wheat Export Co., working in conjunction with the board of grain supervisors, handled the Canadian exportable surplus sent to the United Kingdom, France, and Italy. The
Canadian company was one of the many purchasing agencies which the royal commission on wheat supplies, an agency created by the British Government, set up in exporting countries. During this time the price of wheat was set and guaranteed by the Canadian Government. . - For a time after the signing of the armistice in November, 1918, there was no centralized purchasing by the allied governments. During this period the royal commission on wheat supplies purchased for Great Britain alone. Following the peace conference at Versailles, the former allies again undertook the purchase of wheat through the British agency. Since most of the other. European importing countries also had government control of wheat purchases, the Canadian producer was faced with the prospect of selling his 1919 crop in a market one side ‘ of which was open and competitive, the other under Government control.
In July, 1919, the Canadian Council of Agriculture asked the. Government to create a body similar to the United States Grain Corporation. After careful consideration the Government set up a wheat board to take complete control of the marketing’ of Canadian wheat and to pay to producers the amount received from the sale of the crop less the necessary costs of operation.
Some farmers opposed the establishment of the wheat board and opposed the part played by the council of agriculture in obtaining it, believing that the price of wheat under competitive trading would go higher than the price which could be obtained under controlled purchase and sale. For the same reason many farmers had also opposed the activities of the board of grain supervisors which handled the crops of 1917 and 1918.
During the operation of the wheat board the future market for wheat on the Winnipeg Grain Exchange was closed, but the trade was not seriously interfered with otherwise. Grain was received from farmers, graded, and forwarded just as it had been in pre-war days. The wheat board made full use of existing agencies, including elevator and forwarding companies. Producers were paid an advance of ¥2.15 per bushel, basis “No. 1 Northern in store Fort William,”-
Whenever we read of the price of Canadian wheat it is always, unless otherwise definitely stated, the price of No. 1 Northern in the silos at Fort William, and not at Winnipeg, or anywhere else. Other grades of wheat fall away in price sometimes to the extent of 7 cents a bushel - and were given participation certificates entitling them to share in any further payments that might be made. Complete returns for the crop enabled the board to pay $2.63 per bushel for No. 1 Northern which permitted additional payments of 48 cents per bushel On the above basis upon surrender of participation certificates by growers.
In its dealings with the producer the wheat board’s operations were - similar to those of a pooling agency. Grain was graded and pooled according to grade. Thus all producers <of like grade received the same basic price. The making of an advance payment and the use of participation certificates familiarized producers with two of the fundamentals of pooling, and doubtless made easier the adoption of these practices by the wheat pools several years later. . . .
After cessation of the wheat board’s activities in August, 1920, and with the resumption of future trading, the price of wheat “increased for several weeks to a point about 20 cents per bushel higher than the base price »f $2.03 paid by the board on the 1919 crop. Prices then declined rapidly during October, November, and December, 1920 (Table 15), the total decline amounting to about SI per bushel (Fig. 7). This decline brought an agitation in some quarters for the reestablishment of the wheat board and in others for the organization of wheat pools. During the years 1920 to 1923, inclusive, public attention in western Canada was centered upon first one and then the other of these two methods of marketing. …
In January, 1921, the Saskatchewan Legislature appointed a commission composed of the former chairman and vice chairman of the Canada Wheat Board of 1919 to inquire into the possibilities of voluntary pooling. The commission, in its report, held that a board endowed with powers such as were given the wheat board of 1919 could accomplish more than could a wheat pool which controlled only a part of the crop. As between different kinds of pools the commission favored a voluntary pool without a contract. . . .
When it became apparent that sentiment in Saskatchewan (where approximately half of the Canadian wheat crop has been produced) was in favor of a Government wheat board, agricultural leaders turned their attention to the reestablishment of such an agency in time to handle the 1922 crop. In this they were aided by the “ progressive “ or farmer representatives elected to the Dominion Parliament in 1.921. Strengthened by resolutions passed at the annual conventions of the provincial farmers’ associations and agricultural leaders, the progressive members in the House of Commons pressed for reestablishment of the wheat board. Legal authorities, however, pointed out that the passage of legislation creating such an organization in peace time would be unconstitutional unless concurrent legislation were enacted by the provincial governments of the Provinces concerned. This put the matter up to the Provinces. Special sessions of the legislatures of Saskatchewan and Alberta were called, and enabling legislation was passed, but Manitoba was unable to take similar action because of the political situation in the Province at that time. Because of the failure of Manitoba to indorse the scheme, the other Provinces decided not to take further action for the time being.
In January, 1923, the Premier of Manitoba stated at a convention of the United Farmers of Manitoba that his government would introduce legislation similar to that of the other Provinces for the reestablishment of the wheat board to handle the 1923 crop, provided the farmers would agree to create a voluntary wheat marketing association to handle subsequent crops. The Manitoba association, and later the farmers’ associations of Saskatchewan and Alberta, accepted the proposal.
The whole thing was, therefore, abandoned for the time being. Later on, in 1923, and at the beginning of 1924, a voluntary pool was formed in the three provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. They started out with the objective of getting 50 per cent, of the acreage in the pool. The Alberta pool was the first to get going, and handled a small portion of the 1923 crop. Later on pools were formed in the other provinces and they handled the 1924 crop. From that day to this the three pools have handled 52 per cent, of the grain in the three provinces. In 1928 they marketed 253,000,000 bushels. The next step was to establish a central selling agency to deal with overseas sales. The three pools each worked independently, but they coordinated for the sale of their products overseas, and a board known as the Canadian Wheat Farmers Limited was elected by the boards of the provincial pools to act as a central agency for overseas sales. That is briefly the official position in regard to the pools as they exist in Canada.
A good deal has been said about the price of wheat in Canada and about the advantages of the pooling system there. Senator O’Halloran quoted some figures to show that prior to the inauguration of the pools in Canada Canadian wheat realized an average of 4s. 3d. a bushel. I do not know what period the figures covered, but I’ know that they did not extend beyond 1924. I have the figures giving the prices for No. 1 northern wheat in silos at Fort William from 1913 to 1924, inclusive, s’tarting off at .882 dollars in 1913 and rising to 2.511 dollars in 1920, and falling again to 1.274 dollars in 1924. The average worked out at about 5s. 7d. a bushel taking exchange at par. I am not quite sure what the price was in the United States of America at the time. With the object of getting the latest figures I visited the Canadian Trade Commissioner’s office yesterday, and found that from 1925 to 1928 No. 1 northern in silos at Fort William averaged 1.53 dollars, about 6s. 4½d a bushel. I think Senator O’Halloran said that in Canada after the establishment of the pools the price of wheat rose to 6s. lid. a bushel against 6s. 6d. in the United States of America. The average I have given is official. I think that in dealing with a matter of this kind we should try to get accurate figures.
– Hear, hear ! They should not be taken from the one centre only as the honorable senator has done.
– My figure is for No. 1 northern at Fort William, which is the standard quotation for wheat in Canada. That is the highest price paid. Any variation is on a downward tendency. In all wheat cables, unless it is definitely stated that it is at Vancouver or elsewhere, the price quoted is recognized to be that of No. 1 northern in the elevators at Fort William. When Senator O’Halloran was speaking he gave one general figure for Canada and did not differentiate between the provinces as he is now asking me to do.
Two facts that emerge clearly from the pooling operations in Canada are that the Canadian Governments, union and provincial, declared that they would only assist the wheat industry for one year on condition that thereafter the farmers formed a voluntary system of their own, and that the pooling system in operation there is entirely a voluntary one, and has not attached to it any government control or guarantee as to price. There is no doubt that the pooling system is now meeting with considerable opposition. This may be due to the fact that certain pools have endeavoured to hold up supplies of wheat in order to force up prices beyond what the consumers are prepared to pay, so that their customers have been compelled to seek supplies from other sources. I should like to read the following paragraph which is pertinent to the question raised in the Senate as to the failure of the voluntary pooling system : -
Because of the success of their business activities, the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Company Limited, and the United Grain Growers Limited, have achieved other results of even greater importance. They have unquestionably removed many of the abuses which prevailed in the grain business twenty years ago. They have improved the facilities at country points by the addition of 850 uptodate elevators, most of which are provided with cleaning machinery and facilities for special binning of grain. These services were not commonly provided by . private agencies before the advent of the farmers’ companies. In addition to these advantages, the farmers’ companies have been a factor in obtaining better prices for farmers’ grain than what would have been possible had there been no such agencies.
That supports views contrary to those which I have been expressing; but in stating the case I wish to he fair. The paragraph continues -
Evidence presented by the royal commission when it was investigating grain marketing in 1923-24 supports this statement. The report of the commission (12) states that it was shown at certain of its hearings that the price committee of the North-West Grain Dealers’ Association, during certain periods of the year, sent out two price lists as bases for the purchase of grain by local agents; one to elevators at points where the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Company Limited was represented, the other to elevators at points where the farmers’ company was not a competitor.
That may have some bearing on the question of why the voluntary pooling system is losing support.
I wish now to refer to the price of bread in relation to the price of wheat. It has been stated that if the wheat used for * local consumption is increased in price, the price of bread must necessarily increase. I am not going to say that it will not; but I contend that with wheat at its present price, the cost of bread should not be increased. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the effect of the price of wheat on the price of bread cannot be definitely determined. Recently I had an opportunity of perusing a paper prepared by the late Mr. William Farrer, who undoubtedly did more to assist wheat production in Australia than any one else, and whose services to Australia have not received that recognition to which they are entitled. In a paper read before the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, in January, 1898, Mr. Farrer dealt with types of wheat. He stated that a 200-lb. sack of flour from wheat known as Saxon Fife, which, I believe, was a sort of father of the variety known as Marquis, grown in Canada, would produce 309.8 lb. of bread. Calculated on a tonnage basis that would be equivalent to 3,090 lb. of bread from 1 ton of flour, or roughly speaking, 1,500 2-lb. loaves of bread. On the other hand with the Purple Straw variety, which was very popular in Australia at that time, and which I believe originated in this country, only 278 lb. of bread could be produced from the same quantity of flour. In these circumstances it is very difficult to determine the exact percentage of wheat in a loaf of bread. “We may, however, say that it takes approximately 48 bushels of Australian wheat to produce 1 ton of flour, and that with wheat at its present price, this quantity would cost about ?10 4s. From 48 bushels of wheat approximately 40 bushels of bran and pollard would be obtained, which at the market rate of about ?8 a ton would be ?3 3s. 4d. When allowance is made for the bran and pollard the quantity of wheat necessary to make a ton of flour would be worth approximately ?7 0s. 8d. In view of the figures given by Mr. Farrer it is difficult to definitely state how many loaves of bread can be manufactured from a given quantity of flour; but we may say that approximately 1,400 2-lb. loaves of bread would be obtained, which, at an average of lOd. a 4-lb. loaf, would cost about ?28. The difference between the ?7 0s. 8d. and the ?28 is used to cover the cost of milling the wheat and baking and delivering the bread. In this connexion I should like to read the following from the reports of the debates in the British House of Commons of Tuesday, 13th November, 1928 :-
Sir Basil Peto asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention had been called to the withholding of supplies of flour to a Newport retailer on account of his having supplied bread over the counter at 7Jd. for a 4-lb. loaf; whether he is aware that the Merthyr Tydvil bread was sold at the same time at OM. a loaf, whereas in Somersetshire and North Devon retail prices have been 8d. and 9d. on the same date; and whether it is proposed to give the Food Council any powers to deal with retail prices of necessaries where excessive prices are charged?
Mr. N. Williams, who was then the secretary to the Board of Trade, and who accompanied the Empire Delegation to Canada, replied as follows: -
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, my information is that, whilst certain stores have sold bread at Merthyr Tydvil at a. price of 6?d per loaf, the general price was 7id. over the counter, and 8d. delivered. As regards the last part of thi question, my right honorable friend’s view is that the remedy lies in publicity. The ease referred to in the first part of the question has received considerable publicity at the instance of the Food Council, and the retailer concerned has stated that his sales have increased as a result of the action of the local press.
So far as I have been able to ascertain wheat was then selling at 5s. 8d. a bushel in Liverpool while in Australia it was 4s. 8d. a bushel. The average price of bread in Australia was 10?d a 4-lb. loaf over the counter, and from lid. to ls. when booked and delivered. Lord Beaverbrook, in speaking at Canterbury on the 1st February of this year said -
Some one has asked me: What about the price of bread? That is the crux. I make this statement - 1 have made it over and over again and it has never been challenged, except by a bald denial - The present price of the 4-lb. loaf is, roughly, 9d. Bread at 9d. a 4-lb. loaf represents wheat at 55s. a quarter; at 55s. the price of the 4-lb. loaf could be maintained at 9d.
The price of wheat in Great Britain at that time was 40s. a quarter. If this measure is passed and the price of wheat is increased the price of bread should not be increased.
One of my strongest objections to the bill ‘ is that it imposes certain financial responsibilities upon the States in the event of any -loss which may be incurred in consequence of the guaranteed price being in excess of that actually obtained. As this is the first time that such a proposal has been made, it should receive very serious consideration. The financial position in some of the States is such that it would be absolutely impossible for the State Governments to meet any loss that might be incurred under this scheme. It is my responsibility to consider this measure as it affects Western Australia, which is a large wheat-producing State, and I am naturally interested to know to what extent the States may have to contribute towards any loss. A good deal of speculation was indulged in some days ago as to how the loss, if any, is to be made up. When speaking the other day, Senator Sir Hal Colebatch asked where the money was coming from, and the Leader of the Opposition suggested that it must be coming from the air. It must come from somewhere. So far as. I have been able to ascertain the Government has not made any definite pronouncement as to how such losses are to be met. I have before me the official report of the compulsory wheat pool conference, convened by the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) and held at Canberra on the 18th and 19th of February of this year. That conference was attended by delegates from all wheat-producing States, including State Ministers and representatives of wheat-handling organizations, all of whom were of the opinion that the deficiency, if any, between the guaranteed and the export price of wheat would have to be made up by increasing the cost of wheat sold for local consumption. That was frankly admitted by the Minister for Markets in opening the conference, and his contention was supported by the other delegates. The following is the summary of the proposals laid down at that gathering by the Minister : -
The official report of the conference shows clearly that the intention was to have a ballot of the wheat-growers in each State, so naturally we should expect to find a provision to this effect in the bill. I assume also that if the majority of growers in any State vote against the scheme a wheat board will not be established in that State, and the wheatgrowers in it will be outside the Commonwealth pool.
I find no provision in the bill to give effect to the Minister’s proposal, as outlined at the conference, to have a ballot of the growers.It is true that the schedule provides that State representatives on the Australian Wheat Board shall be elected by the wheat-growers, but that does not cover the omission in the bill itself to provide for a ballot of wheat-growers to determine whether or not they are in favour of the proposal, although, as I have stated, the discussion at the conference hinged on the question that there should be a ballot.
– A provision for the taking of a ballot could not be inserted in the bill. Surely the honorable senator knows that we have to recognize the sovereignty of the States.
– I am extremely pleased to hear that statement from the Minister, and I take advantage of this opportunity to remind him that the sovereignty of the States has not always been recognized by Commonwealth Governments. I am glad to know that this Government is waking up to its obligations in that respect.
But let me return to a consideration of the financial aspect of the scheme. Western Australia has a population of about 420,000 people. If the seasonal conditions continue to be as favorable as at present, we should have in the neighbourhood of 40,000,000 bushels of wheat for export. Only about 2,000,000 bushels will be required for home consumption. If world’s parity falls1s. a bushel below the amount of the proposed guarantee, the handful of people in Western Australia will be called upon to find £1,000,000 to pay the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel to its growers. I say without hesitation that, no matter how willing the people might be, they will be utterly unable to pay that amount.
– How much more will the farmers of Western Australia lose owing to lower prices ruling if the Commonwealth wheat pool is not established ?
– Whether or not they will lose is problematical. But it will be very difficult to persuade the farmers of Western Australia or the Government that Western Australia will be in a better position if it joins the pool than if it stands out. I wish to emphasize that all through the discussion at the Canberra conference, the representatives of the various States considered the possibility of having to make up a loss of1s. a bushel. Mr. Todd,the chairman of the Queensland Wheat Board, definitely stated that that amount was the limit to which his Government could go. [Extension of time granted.] Even at this late hour I appeal to the Minister to act constitutionally and bring forward a proposal to pay a bonus on the export of wheat, because the area under cultivation for grain has been largely increased as a result of the appeal made by the Prime Minister to the wheat-growers of Australia to help the Commonwealth out of its financial difficulties.
– The area under cultivation has also been increased because of the probability of higher prices being realized as a result of the establishment of the pool.
– On that point I am sceptical. I cannot see how the operations of the pool will materially increase the price of wheat to our farmers. I am a firm believer in the principle of wheat pooling, if the business is controlled by the farmers themselves. I know the views of the farmers on this subject. I was brought up on a farm in the Wimmera district of Victoria, and I have had considerable farming experience in Western Australia. I am convinced that the inajority would prefer to eat a dry crust with liberty of action than to be in a position of comfort with liberty of action taken away from them. I say this because the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) the other day referred to the regimentation of the wheat-growers that would be possible under this scheme.
– They may get regimentation without the guarantee under this proposal.
– Without wishing to charge this Government with following the lead of Russia, I feel it is necessary to state the position as I see it. In 1921, the Soviet Government abolished all private property and personal rights, and at the same time, urged the Russian farmers to grow more wheat. But as wheat was no longer a marketable product, and as the farmers could get no money for it - they had to accept tickets which entitled them to so much food and clothing - they reduced the acreage under cultivation to sufficient to provide for their own needs. Consequently there was a disastrous famine in the industrial areas of that country. Later the restrictions were relaxed, but in 1927, the Soviet Government launched a socialistic offensive, the objective being the more rapid socialization of industry, collectivism in agriculture, and a general tightening up of control in the economic life of the country. The aim of the Government was declared to be the coordination of the means of production, so that private agriculture would work with socialized industry. The instruments decided upon for effecting such coordination were the distribution services of transport and credit. The control of agricultural supplies became the focal point in the struggle, because an exportable surplus had to be obtained in order to pay for the imported equivalent.
To my mind we are getting very close to the Russian ideal. Our farmers have been urged to grow more wheat, so that we may have an exportable surplus to correct our adverse trade balance, and the inducement to our farmers is a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel. The constitutional validity of the Government’s proposal may be challenged. The provision in clause 3 seems to suggest this possibility. I, therefore, urge the Government to assist the industry in a constitutional manner. The Governments in all the States have done their best to foster wheat-growing, but unfortunately the industry has been hampered by Commonwealth governmental interference, and by high tariffs. These burdens imposed by the Commonwealth have brought the industry to its knees, and now we find it at the door of this Parliament asking for a dole to carry on. This is a humiliating position for those engaged in the industry. I invite the attention of honorable senators to an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 26th June. As that journal has unhesitatingly supported this Government since it came into power, its comments concerning this scheme are worthy of attention. The Age stated -
A full exposure of the dangers and coercive features of the Wheat Marketing Bill, providing for establishment of a compulsory pool and the destruction of the open-market system for wheal, was made during the passage of the measure through the House of Representatives. Opponents of the obnoxious principle of compulsion are looking to the Senate to preserve the farmer’s freedom of choice in disposing of his property to the highest bidder, and to save both him and other taxpaying citizens from a course of Socialistic folly that has elsewhere proved disastrous.
– Who would be the highest bidder?
– I am quoting the opinion of the Melbourne Age, not my own. That is a newspaper that has unhesitatingly supported the present Government in a great many matters, therefore its attitude on this subject is all the more remarkable and worthy of serious consideration. The article continues -
Any relief to the wheat industry from present difficulties must be given without wrecking marketing channels that have been proved efficient. It is impossible to apply a fixed guarantee of 4s. without disrupting the present system and exposing taxpayers to unlimited liabilities.
It proceeds to deal with Professor Copland’s suggestion of a conditional bounty, and then states -
Another suggestion is a straight-out bounty of 3d. a bushel. The bounty system is open to weighty objections, but it limits the liability, is consistent with present marketing efficiency, and avoids the huge borrowings that will be required by the guarantee. A bounty can be withdrawn when conditions justify the step; it eliminates the need for a costly and tyrannical bureaucracy, while leaving the growers free to market wheat at their discretion.
A most significant omission from the bill is the failure to provide for a ballot of farmers. Strenuous but unavailing efforts were made in the House of Representatives to provide that the Commonwealth would enter into an agreement only with States which undertake to hold a ballot of wheat-growers and all sorts of weak excuses were made by the Minister for resisting this motion.
I have here a letter that I should like to quote. It is not one of the numerous epistles referred to by Senator O’Halloran, emanating from a writer probably imbued with the thought that a letter a day would keep this bill away, but from a lady in the Western Australian farming district of Korrelocking. In the course of her remarks, the lady says, speaking of wheat pooling’ -
I do hope that the Senate will not let Western Australia go in for it’. I believe that with one exception the farmers in this- district of Wyalkatchem, Korrelocking and Nembudding are against it. The one exception is a Labour supporter who in any circumstances would support it. The pre sent competition is all that is necessary and to the farmers’ benefit. ‘ The whole of our wheat marketing is done most economically and under the keenest competition between private buyers and the voluntary pool. There is no waste … I have never seen the farmers around here so concerned over anything. They are usually so apathetic, but on this occasion they are all in arms about it.
She adds that she sincerely hopes that the bill will not become law.
Senator Dunn made some ungracious references to Senator Lynch’s alleged change of opinion on this matter. I have looked up Hansard for August, 1919, and find that, in moving that a bounty he paid on wheat, Senator Lynch did so knowing full well that the wheat industry had been supporting every other industry; that bounties had been paid on coal, cotton, dried fruits, flax, iron, shipbuilding, and even pearling. The honorable senator merely wished those engaged in the wheat-growing industry to get back a little of their own. He has not changed his views on the subject. I sincerely regret that Senator Lynch is not with us to-day. If he were, I am confident that he would make a very valuable contribution to the debate; he would regale us with the cream of his ideas skimmed from the milk of his meditations on this important subject.
A very wise and cynical old gentleman once said that there is nothing new under the sun. This is another instance of history repeating itself; it re-enacts what took place when Joseph was Prime Minister of Egypt long, long ago.
– What did the “country party” have to say to Joseph?
– The “country party “ was foolish enough to be taken in by his proposals, but they deeply regretted their gullibility afterwards. After being appointed Prime Minister of Egypt by Pharaoh, Joseph placed a levy upon the whole of the wheat of that land during the seven plenteous years of which we are told. He gathered up a fifth part of the wheat that was grown in Egypt, and placed it in the equivalent of our modern silos. Then came seven years of famine, and Joseph did not give back to the farmers any portion of the wheat that he had commandeered. He sold it to them. We read that in the second year of the famine Joseph gathered up all the money in the land of Egypt in exchange for wheat, and stored it in the house of Pharaoh. Then, when money failed iu the land of Egypt, and people came along for more of their wheat, Joseph said, “ Give your cattle ; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.” And they did. The next year they again came to Joseph, and said that they had nothing left but their bodies and their lands, and he bought their bodies and their land’s for Pharaoh and gave the people wheat in exchange. “ And J oseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part” of their wheat. That is w hat the “ country party “ were reduced to by their ill-advised action.
– Where did “Mrs.” Potiphar come in?
– The unpleasant episode with Mrs. Potiphar occurred some time prior to the incident that I have narrated. It was as a result of that happening that poor Joseph was brought out of gaol to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. The people in the cities got wheat for nothing. The farmers were compelled to give the. products of their soil, their money, their stock, their land, and even to pledge their own bodies in return for a portion of the wheat that they placed in Joseph’s compulsory pool. That which looked good to them in prospect proved a sad illusion in practice. History is about to repeat itself, and the farmers of Australia will very much regret having entered into this proposal - if they accept it. I sincerely hope that the Minister will re-consider the position and give that assistance which is constitutionally at the disposal of the Government. We are all certain that the wheat industry is in need of assistance, and if the Leader of the Government in this chamber takes the action suggested he will have the solid support of every honorable senator.
– I listened with a very great deal of interest to the speech of Senator Carroll. We all realize that the honorable senator has a wide experience. He has told us that he has grown wheat. Senator Carroll possesses an additional advantage that others of us do not. The honorable senator has been to Canada, and has had an opportunity to acquire first-hand information about the wheatgrowing industry in that dominion. Nevertheless, I feel that in his concluding remarks, when he told us that he was opposed to the measure and lead us to infer that he will vote against the bill-
– I said that I would not vote against the bill, provided certain conditions that I enumerated were complied with.
– Right until the end of the honorable senator’s remarks I was wondering whether he intended to support or to oppose the bill. It is evident that there is a certain measure of good intention on the part of the Government in the matter, and that the application of certain of the principles contained in the bill will be of advantage to our primary producers. But Senator Carroll, in the light of his experience and in the light of what the bill promises to effect, realizes with other honorable senators that a compulsory wheat pool may place our farmers in a thraldom from which it would be extremely difficult for them to extricate themselves when they wanted to do so. I realize that by supporting the bill we are taking certain risks, particularly from a financial aspect, but it is necessary to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. The financial aspect that was so fully stressed by Senator Colebatch is no doubt a most serious one, meriting our gravest consideration. It is upon that point only that I have any doubt as to the wisdom of the measure and as to its successful application in the future. We all know the financial difficulties with which Australia is now confronted. We also know that many projects need financing; industry, essential services, and the development of the country, and that the necessary capital is lacking. All the indications of the moment are that it will be even more difficult in the near future to obtain capital to carry on the country than it has been Nevertheless, I cannot agree that the entire responsibility for deciding as to the feasibility of financing this proposal must be accepted by the members of this Parliament. Honorable senators are not so familiar with the financial resources at the disposal of the Government as is the Government itself. I take it that the Government knows how far, and in what direction,’ it can go. It may have in mind schemes for the raising of revenue, and may know just what is waiting round the corner.
– To what schemes does the honorable senator refer ?
– I do not know. I only know that whatever schemes the Government brings forward, they will have to run the gamut of this Senate before they can be put into operation.
– Not the most dangerous of them.
– No doubt the honorable senator refers to note inflation. To any one who has a knowledge of finance, the inflation of the note issue is abhorrent. I do not believe that the Government would take such a hideous risk as to indulge in note inflation. Hut even if it did, the Senate would be in a position to exercise some control in the matter. I am not fearful that the Government will launch out along such lines. I give it credit for knowing what it is doing, and for having a proper conception of the resources at its disposal. In a measure of this kind, which deals with a matter of vital interest to Australia, we can afford to trust the Government to act fairly.
– Some Government supporters in another place favour «n increase of the note issue.
– The party forming the Government, like all other political parties, has some queer supporters. I do not think that any party should be held responsible for every statement made by its individual supporters, irrespective of the circumstances in which it is made. The Government must accept the full responsibility for the proposal now before us. Should the scheme fail, the ignominy will rest on the Government. If the failure of the pool is as complete as some honorable senators predict, the Government will receive the censure of the people.
– So shall we if we support this proposal.
– I do not think so. The proposal before us is an atterr.pt by the Government to help an important primary industry which is in need of assistance. In tackling the problems which confront it, the Government is faced with serious difficulties. I sympathize with it in its efforts to overcome those difficulties. Before we can deal with the marketing of our wheat, we must organize in order to secure the co-operation of the wheat-growers throughout the Commonwealth. That is a stiff hurdle to surmount, because it involves the more effective organization of the wheat-growers. This, however, is an age of organization.
– Blessed word!
– The term “ organization” covers a multitude of things, both good and evil. But only by organization can successful results be achieved in many industries. We have already conceded to employers and employees the right to organize. Surely the wheatgrowers of Australia are not to be denied that right?
– No one objects to their organizing.
– By legislative enactment we have made it possible for different sections of the people to perfect their organizations. This measure applies an accepted principle to the producers of wheat in this country. In order to secure the full benefits of this measure it will be incumbent on them to organize. It may be that, for a time, they will have to submit to a measure of governmental control before their, organization is completed.
Because those engaged in the production of wheat are to be given a measure of assistance, .vested interests in the community have raised an outcry.
– We cannot ignore the opposition of the wheat-growers themselves.
– It is only natural that those persons who for many years have controlled the marketing of wheat should protest against the provisions of this bill. It may be that some of them who have made fortunes because of their business acumen, fear that the passing of this measure will seriously reduce their incomes in the future. Generally, these merchants have acted in accordance with the law. Some of them have done well out of the industry, while others have not.
There is no need to blame them for what they have done. Indeed, in many instances, they have rendered valuable assistance to the wheat-growers. Now that their strong position is being attacked, and their long-established privileges endangered, they have directed a stream of protest against the bill which will rob them of those privileges.
The opposition to this measure is of two kinds. First, there is that section represented by Senator Carroll, which is opposed to compulsory pools, although in favour of voluntary pools. The other section comprises merchants, wheat buyers, and others, who are opposed to pools of any kind. I submit that we can dismiss from our consideration of this measure, all thoughts of its effect on vested interests - I do not use that term disparagingly. Senator Colebatch, in an excellent speech, said that the wheat buyers throughout Australia had rendered the country magnificent service. I do not dispute his contention ; but if a better system from’ the point of . view of .the community generally can be evolved, we should adopt it, regardless of its effect on a few individuals.
Although we may well disregard the opposition of the wheat merchants, we cannot ignore the protests made by those growers who fear a compulsory pool. In considering their opposition to a compulsory pool, we must endeavour to ascertain whether it is based on solid grounds, or is the result of their having been stampeded by others. If the protests received from growers represent any considerable proportion of those engaged in the industry, we must give them due consideration.
– Even minorities have rights.
– Let us- consider the nature of the protests that have been made. When we reflect that urgent appeals have been broadcast among wheat-growers to circularize members of this Parliament in opposition to this bill, we must consider whether any protest received as a result of that appeal represents the true opinions of those who make them.
– How does the honorable senator account for the fact that, so far as Western Australia is concerned, various organizations have unanimously expressed opposition to the bill?
– I am more acquainted with the position in New South Wales. I have received eleven telegrams and three letters from organizations and individuals in that State in opposition to this bill. It is a curious fact that most of the telegrams are couched in almost identical terms. Tha* is not the case with the three letters to which I have referred. They put up a case against the measure in a commonsense way and with moderation. One of them almost shifted me from a point upon which I had nearly made up my mind. Of course, in a matter of this sort, in which we have no direct personal interest, we know from hearsay only, and not from practical experience, of the condition of wheat-growing and what is actually required at the present moment. Although there are a good many honorable senators, including myself, who have had practical experience in wheatgrowing, I am prepared to take the experience of those outside who are at present engaged in the industry; and here I find in the great State of New South Wales, when men have been urged to make their protests to me, that I have received only eleven protests by telegram and three by letter. If it can be reasoned that these protests indicate a strong measure of feeling against the bill in the country, it can equally be reasoned that the fact that the great majority of the growers have not protested must be taken as indicating that they are, if not entirely in favour of the bill, at any rate, not strongly opposed to it. Otherwise, we should have heard from them long ago.
– The honorable senator knows ‘that a lot of people do not give expression to their opinions one way or another.
– I am making allowance for that. We have to recognize, I take it, that the .whole of the Government’s scheme is not contained in this bill. We have been told of promises given that must be honored, and we know that the success of the scheme is dependent on other authorities than the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament. I refer to the
States. If it had been proposed in this measure to thrust a compulsory pool upon the farmers whether they liked it or not, or whether a majority of them was against it or not, I should have been, found very enthusiastically opposing it.
– The bill does not say that it will not do so.
– But the bill must be taken in combination with repeated statements made by Ministers, and I am prepared to believe from those statements that the growers are to be consulted by the State Governments or by somebody, and that the scheme will operate only upon their acceptance of it by a majority vote.
– Could it not have been set out in the bill that a compulsory pool is contingent upon a vote being taken by the States ?
– I quite agree with the honorable senator that perhaps it would have been better had that been incorporated in the bill, but it is not, and I am prepared to take the word of the Government that unless a majority of the growers want this compulsory pool it will not be forced upon them. I think common sense must lead us to believe that that is the intention of the Government.
– That is not contained in any provision of the bill. The bill provides that a majority in any three States can force the pool on the whole of Australia.
– I know, but we have to give the Government credit for possessing some common sense. It is not anxious to lose its position on the treasury bench. What would be the position of any Government that deliberately set out to outrage the feelings of a considerable section of the people? We know from hard experience what its fate would be. If the present Government, in spite of the fact that a great majority of the wheat-growers were against a pool, attempted to force one upon them, it would go out of office at the succeeding election.
– Under this bill it is possible for that to be done.
– It is possible for many things to happen under measures put before Parliament. We cannot make every statute absolutely fool-proof. I am prepared to believe that the present Government will not act as fools, and therefore we do not need, perhaps, to make this bill as fool-proof as we might see fit to do in other circumstances.
– The honorable senator is very trusting.
– It is not a matter of trusting; it is a matter of possibilities. This Government, unlike another government that preceded it, is not prepared to run its head into the lion’s jaw. It is not looking for trouble; nor is it anxious to outrage the opinions of a great section of the people. When the Government tells us that this matter is to be “remitted to the growers, I do not consider that we would be justified in any circumstances in refusing so to remit it. Provision for that may not be incorporated in the measure, but it may be possible for us to put it in. I am voting for the second reading in the hope that it will be possible for us to amend the bill in one or two directions; for one thing to make it a little tighter, and to clearly indicate what is evidently the opinion of the Government, and particularly that of the Minister who is primarily responsible for this measure.
In the first analysis, the wheat belongs to the grower, and he must be given a voice as to its disposal. He has had to face all kinds of difficulties, problems, and, very often, hardships, that other people are not prepared to face, and, in the first analysis, must be given a voice as to the disposal of his particular product.
– Once he comes under this bill, he will have no voice as to the disposal of his wheat.
– But in the final analysis the rights of the individual grower must become submerged in the rights of the general community of growers, just as the general welfare of the whole community must be paramount over the rights of the individual. This bill does not confer upon us, of course, as representatives of the whole of the people, the right to impose our will upon the growers. In regard to the control of their product, they, themselves, must, by a majority, determine the matter, and that, I think, is in accord with a great many things that have been done in this Parliament and in other Parliaments of Australia. The growers themselves may impose, in this direction, almost any conditions upon themselves by means of a majority vote, and it is incumbent upon us, so far as possible, having regard to the rights of the community, and general principles of equity, to pass legislation giving them an opportunity to do what they propose to do. If the growers want a compulsory pool, let them have it and vice versa.
– Suppose a State Government cannot afford to join in the guarantee?
– “We shall have to come to the consideration of that in a few minutes, but if the farmers want a compulsory pool, we ought to let them have it. What we are asked to do by those who oppose the second reading of the bill is to refuse to give the growers a right to say what they want in this matter of a compulsory pool. The question of a voluntary pool versus the compulsory pool should not arise at this stage, and should not come before us for our consideration, because it is a matter for the determination of the growers themselves. If they want a compulsory pool, let them have one. If they want a voluntary pool, let them have one.
– Does not the honorable senator think that that decision should have preceded the introduction of this bill?
– Some authority must accept the responsibility for ascertaining the views of the growers.
– The growers themselves would have taken the initiative if they wanted a compulsory pool.
– As I have pointed out earlier in my remarks, the growers do not seem- to have attained that pitch of perfection of organization . by which it would be possible to secure from the great majority of them an expression of opinion. We know that some farmers are in favour of one thing, and some in favour of another. But I say that that issue need not arise at this stage provided the opportunity to consult the growers in a fair way is given. If we give them all an opportunity to vote, no harm is done in providing in this bill for either a compulsory pool or a voluntary pool, but it is far better that it should be put in the form of a compulsory pool because then the growers will know exactly what they are voting for or against. If they vote against it I take it that they can- go on with a form of voluntary pool, and the assistance it will be possible for the Commonwealth to give them in forming such a pool will be a matter for consideration by the Government and Parliament.
It is interesting to follow the change that has taken place in the opinion of large numbers of wheat-growers and their Parliamentary representatives in regard to compulsory pooling. It has been stated before in this debate, and I want to state it again in perhaps another way, that the system was originated by the Hughes Government in 1915. The action taken in that year saved, not only the growers, but also Australia from ruin. The shipping difficulty, as pointed out by Senator Pearce, was most acute. The buyers and agents found it impossible even if they bought the wheat to get rid of it. At any rate, it was almost impossible for them to secure bottoms for the shipping of their cargo. They were only offering at the time from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a bushel, and then only for very limited quantities. One can understand why those quantities were limited. As a result of the pool formed by the Government the whole of the 1915-16 crop was sold at an average price, I understand, of 4s. 6d. a bushel, which was at least ls. 6d. a bushel higher than was offered by the private buyers. It represented an enormous increased value which went into the pockets of the producers. The estimated crop for the season 1930-31 is 180,000,000 bushels. Although the conditions to-day are entirely different from what they were in 1915, it is a perfectly fair analogy to draw to say that on the same basis the increased price which could be obtained by pooling would represent £13,500,000 to the growers. If we secured for the growers a half or even a quarter of that enormous amount by reason of the fact that we had assisted in the institution of a pool, we should do very good service, not merely to the growers, but to Australia as a whole. We should bring into this country millions of new capital which could not be got otherwise than through this organization.
– Does the honorable senator think that the pool will get a better price than any one else ?
– It will pay a better price.
– Where is it coming from?
– I am reasoning, of course, from the experience of the previous pool. The honorable senator knows that private buyers will not pay a price that will not return them a profit.
– They will pay the world’s parity.
– They may or may not. It all depends upon circumstances and upon any arrangements they may make with each other.
– Under the compulsory pool of 1915 the wheatgrowers did not get more than the world’s parity.
– Yes. But they could not have got it out of the private buyers. What they offered was1s. 6d. less than the world’s parity.
– That was because the Government controlled the ships.
– I am merely stating facts. Although the growers benefited enormously as a result of the inauguration of these pools they were not very enthusiastically received at their inception, even by those who were most likely to benefit. The Government, which introduced the pooling system, was assailed on every hand, more particularly by the direct representatives of the growers.
– Why were the pools abandoned?
– I have a very good idea why they were abandoned.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said at the time that he would never force any grower to become associated with a pooling system if he honestly desired to stand out.
– That may be so. The representatives of the primary producers in this chamber, and in another place, are enthusiastically supporting this proposal, although at the time to which I have referred their representatives were totally opposed to a compulsory pooling system.
– Only a few of the representatives of the primary producers are in favour of the compulsory pool.
– I believe that a majority of the members of the Country party are supporting the Government’s proposal, and they are not likely to do anything detrimental to the interests of the farmers whom they represent. For instance, Senator Chapman, who made a most effective speech in support of the bill, must be credited with knowing the opinion of a majority of the wheatfarmers in South Australia.
– If the guarantee of 4s. a bushel were to be removed would the farmers support the proposal ?
– The guaranteed price is only one-half of the proposition. If we removed the walls of a building, the roof could not remain in position. The pool system is contingent upon a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel at railway sidings. What have we to offer the farmers unless we can promise them a guaranteed price? So far as one is able to judge, a majority of the wheat-growers in South Australia. Victoria, and New South Wales are in favour of a compulsory pool; but I cannot speak with authority concerning the position of those in Western Australia.
– Would the senator support a compulsory pool in the absence of a guaranteed price ?
– I shall have to say, as the Scotsman said, “ I should like to give that matter further consideration “.
– Senator, do you believe
– Order! I must again remind Senator Dunn that he must address the Chair. He is not in order in addressing a question directly to an honorable senator.
– With due respect to you, sir, I should like to say that I am not the only honorable senator in the chamber.
– If the honorable senator wishes to disagree with my ruling he must do so at once and in writing.
– I am confident that a majority of the growers, particularly in New South Wales, on behalf of a large number of whom I am entitled to speak, are in favour of the bill, and if I thought that I was not correctly interpreting their opinion I should not be supporting this measure. Not only have the wheat-growers to be considered, but the flour millers, who are vitally interested, are also in favour of the Government’s proposals. Representations have been made to me from different quarters to the effect that the flour millers are opposed to this scheme; but representations have also been made to me by their representatives who assure me that they are in favour of the bill.
– Who has given the honorable senator that assurance ?
– The representative of R. L. Scrutton and Co. is one.
– Are there any others?
– Yes; but that is the only firm which I can recall at the moment. When Senator Colebatch hears what I have to say on this aspect of the subject, he will realize that the flour millers are on safe ground in supporting the bill. I have been informed that a regulation of wheat prices will result in a stabilization of the price of flour for export, and thus make it much easier for the flour millers to find and maintain overseas markets.
– We cannot stabilize the price of export flour any more than we can stabilize the price of wheat for export.
– If the price of wheat is stabilized, a good deal of the competition and under-cutting in connexion with the price for export flour will be dispensed with. The representative of the firm which I have mentioned informs me that Australia has practically lost her extensive trade of flour with Egypt in consequence of constant variation in prices.
– That is not due to a variation in prices, but to the fact that the Egyptian Government imposed a tariff against Australian flour.
– That is not the only reason. The loss of our flour trade with Egypt is due to the continual variation in the price of wheat and the consequent alteration in the price of flour which has led to undercutting in prices, and has made it practically impossible for Australian flour-millers to sell their product in Egypt. If the price of export flour could be stabilized, it should be possible for Australian flour-millers to export larger quantities, which would be of advantage not only to the manufacturers of that commodity, but to the whole community. One could continue giving reasons why this bill should be carried.
– Thehonorable senator has not given one reason.
– I have given quite a number; but there should be no necessity to repeat the statements which other honorable senators have already made in support of the bill.
I should now like to examine some of the arguments adduced in opposition to this proposal. Some of them are not only unworthy of the measure, but also of those who submitted them.For instance, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that the bill provided for a form of soviet control in that the wheat of Australian farmers is to be handled under a scheme of socialization. He went even further and said that this measure is brought forward by the Government merely to give effect to one of the planks of the Labour party’s platform, which provides for the socialization of all means of production, distribution and exchange. The right honorable senator also quoted a report relating to the collectivism of farms and farm produce in Russia. I do not see how it can be claimed that this measure in any way relates to sovietism or to the proposals of the Russian Government with respect to the system of collectivism. There is nothing in the bill which prevents the farmers from retaining control of their land or their produce. Moreover it is not within the power of this Parliament, even if it so desired, to control the land or the produce of the farmers under the soviet system. The statement that this measure constitutes an attempt by the Government to introduce the socialization of industry is so extreme that one can assume that it was made merely because the right honorable senator found it difficult to adduce sound reasons for opposing the bill. He should realize that in uttering such statements he is making a serious charge against those honorable senators who are supporting the measure. If this is the socialization of industry, as the right honorable senator suggests, what have Senator Chapman and others on that side of the chamber who are supporting the measure to say? If the Leader of the Opposition is right they must be condemned, and if he is wrong they will not thank him for placing them in such an invidious position. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition are an insult to the farmers. In making the charge to which I have referred - a charge which cannot be substantiated - he is underestimating the mentality of our producers, and those supporting the bill. Such statements have been made with the intention of influencing the farmers’ votes when a ballot is taken. The suggestion that the measure provides for the socialization of industry should be anathema to every right-thinking person in this community, and in making it the right honorable gentleman shows that he has a very low opinion of the intelligence of the wheatgrowers. There is nothing in the measure or in the statements of those who have supported it to justify such conclusions; on the contrary there is clear evidence, particularly in the speeches of the members of the Country party, that the bill is in the interests of the wheat-producers. It is not fair to place in this position those who are supporters of the Government, and who wish to see the farmers get a fair deal. The right honorable gentleman has supported pools in the past. He was a member of a government which, during the war, inaugurated a compulsory wheat pool. If government action then was right, it is right now. It is possible, of course, that the Government at that time had a clear vision. Probably, the right honorable gentleman himself then had a clearer vision of what was best in the interests of the people.
– During the war the Constitution was suspended by the
War Precautions Act, and the honorable senator knows it.
– That has nothing to do with the views of the Leader of the Opposition on this subject. I do not condemn the right honorable gentleman for the action which he took as a member of the government that inaugurated the compulsory wheat pool during the war. I consider it was the right thing to do in the circumstances. It is also the right thing to do now, because principles do not change from time to time.
– Men may change their views, but principles never change.
– I agree with the honorable senator. I am afraid that at times party prejudice determines the attitude of some honorable senators rather than their own clear judgment as to what is best in the interests of those whom they are elected to serve. The party which I have the honour to represent in this chamber has no such prejudices. It is prepared to support a good thing, no matter where it comes from. We believe that the Government, in introducing this bill, has submitted a good scheme, and we are prepared to help the Government so far as it is possible for us to do so. We consider this proposal is in the interests of the farmers. At least it will give them the opportunity to say what they want.
– Does the bill do that?
– I believe it does. For my part I shall never be a party to any proposal that withholds from the farmers the opportunity to determine for themselves what they want to do.
The question of finance must necessarily be the Government’s responsibility. It will have to bring down further proposals at the right time to finance the scheme. If money is not available the project will fail, and there will be no need for honorable senators to worry further about it. On many former occasions legislative proposals have had to be abandoned because of the difficulty of securing finance. Lately, Senator H. E. Elliott has had his heartstrings torn almost to ribbons by the action of the Government with respect to defence. I have no doubt that the honorable senator would willingly spend £50,000,000 on defence - and that might not Joe too much - but if the Government has difficulty in finding even £5,000,000, it is useless to contemplate spending £50,000,000 on defence or any other project. We may map out great programmes in many directions, but if the money is not available, they have to be abandoned, and the national outlook with regard to them changed. This Government has outlined a certain course of action which it believes to be in the interests of the wheatgrowing industry. Everything depends upon finance. If the money can be obtained the scheme may be put into operation; if not, it must fall to the ground. For the time being I am prepared to vote for the second reading of the bill, leaving the question of finance to be considered when the Government brings forward its proposals to raise the amount of the guarantee.
– For the time being and for all time I shall oppose the second reading of this measure. It is just as well to clarify the position at once. I do this because I believe that in this discussion on the Government’s proposal we are up against principles with which we shall have to deal on broad lines. This project is of great moment to me because it asks me to forfeit the political principles of a lifetime. I have always sternly set my face against compulsion in any shape or form, and I have told the people of South Australia that I shall never be a party to imposing it upon the wheatgrowers of that State. The other objection which I have to the bill is that in the event of any loss on the operations of the pool, one-half of that loss will be borne by the States, or the difference between the price realized and the amount of the guarantee may be made up by the imposition of an extra levy on the people of Australia.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) in moving the second reading of the bill; also to the speeches of other honorable senators who supported him, and I could not help feeling that the main purpose of the bill, namely, to assist the wheat-farmers of this country, had been entirely ignored. Fully 90 -per cent, of the Minister’s remarks had to do with the advantages of compulsory pooling, which, he must know, conflicts with, principles for which a large section of honorable senators on this side stand. I can only deduce from this that the Government is attempting to impose compulsory pooling upon the farmers of Australia in complete disregard of thefact, to which Senator Colebatch directed attention, that the constitutional validity of its action may be questioned. Afterall, the road is easy and the way simple. The Government could assist the wheatfarmers by paying a bounty of 6d. or 9d. a bushel upon their production. This policy would involve the Ministry in noconstitutional difficulties, as Senator Carroll has pointed out. However, the Government has chosen the devious way,, which will bring it into political conflict with members of the party to which I belong. When I was preparing my file of notes for the discussion on this scheme, I unconsciously put up the heading “ Political Wheat Pool.” That, I suggest, apparently ‘ describes the Government’s proposal. It appears to me that a great deal more consideration has been given to the political side of the project than to the method best calculated to assist our wheat-growers. If more attention had been given to the serious plight in which our unfortunate farmers how find themselves, we should have had the Minister directing his remarks more to their struggle against droughts and adverse seasons than to the advantages to be derived by them from the joining of a compulsory wheat pool.
– I never state the obvious.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly), with his characteristic agility, gets out of a difficulty only to become involved .in another, from which he cannot escape. The Minister, I am sure, realizes that the constitutional validity of the Government’s proposal is open to question. If it is successfully challenged, the wheat-farmers in those States which join the pool may get nothing in the way of a guarantee at all. I am surprised that, when the way was so easy, the Government did not take it. Members of this Parliament some time ago were invited by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to meet together as an economic conference and consider the problems that confront the Commonwealth. We were asked to meet in harmony - the Labour lion and the Nationalist lamb - to take counsel together for the good of the nation. Now we are called upon to consider and pass this proposal to constitute a compulsory wheat pool which involves the payment by the Commonwealth of a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel. If the Government were really desirous of assisting our farmers without the possibility of any constitutional complications, it could have brought forward a proposal to pay a bounty for every bushel of f.a.q. wheat produced within the Commonwealth. Instead, it adopted this tortuous method which is contrary to the principles for which honorable senators on this side stand, and which we believe is not in the best interests of the farmers themselves.
Senator O’Halloran said we should consider this compulsory wheat pool scheme from three points of view. In the first place we should ask ourselves will it improve the position of the wheat-, farmers? In the second place, is it the best method to assist our farmers; and in the third place, will it act beneficially to the nation? I venture to suggest that an improvement in the position of our wheat-growers, as Senator Lynch has so eloquently shown on other occasions, is absolutely essential to the welfare of the nation. I would do anything in my power to help the Government to that end. But it is obvious that this scheme is not the best method. Behind it lies the platform of the Labour party. One cannot blame the Government for seeking to give effect to that platform, in the framing . of which certain members of the present Ministry took a prominent part. I do not think that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) went a step too far when he suggested that this was an attempt to impose upon this branch of industry the Government’s policy of socialization. In Melbourne, in June, 1921, the following preamble was adopted by the party that is now in office in this Parliament : - .
Mr. Scullin, the present Prime Minister, participated in the debate that followed and, after supporting that fine revolutionary preamble, contended that provision should be made for a supreme economic council. He, Messrs. Blakeley and Barnes, distinguished members of the present Labour Government, Mr. E. J. Holloway, a supporter of the Government, and Mr. J. Curtin, a prominent representative of Western Australia in * another place, were five of the thirteen persons appointed by the congress to constitute a council of action. It was pointed out then, as I have pointed out here, that the “means of production “ includes the wheat-growing industry. Mr. Scullin took some pains to elaborate the party’s objective in October, 1921, and said -
Nationalization was but State capitalism under which they would still have the wage system.
Mr. Theodore. Would there be a wage system under socialization?
Mr. Scullin. No. … It was proposed to nationalize industries and give the workers a say in the agreement. As the scheme progressed, so the system of socialization would spread until there would be representatives of each industry elected to a supreme economic council which … . would take the place of Parliament.
Mr. Gr. E. Yates, M.H.R. (member Public Accounts Committee). - They might as well say straight out that they were fighting for the abolition of profit and for production for use, not profit. He himself was out at all times to abolish the present system under which, they lived.
Then that gentleman explained his own views on the matter. The report continues -
Mr. Theodore. How would the socialization of industry apply to agriculture? How would the farmer get on?
Mr. Yates. He would be no worse off than any one else.
Mr. Harper. You do not want farmers to make a profit?
Mr. Birrell. We want production for use and not for profit.
The outstanding fact is that the present Prime Minister, some distinguished members of his Cabinet, and a number of his supporters clearly indicated the objective that they had in mind, in connexion with farming and every other industry. It is by no means straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel as was suggested by Senator Duncan, to claim that this Wheat Marketing Bill is the first step towards that objective by the party now in power.
Several distinguished members of the Labour party, one of whom is a senator in this chamber, have spoken with regard to the result of the Russian revolution. The Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) whose common sense, at. most times, we all appreciate so much, is reported to have said that he was looking with hope to the bolshevik revolution in Russia; that the bolshevik movement had his sympathy. I remind the honorable senator that it ruined the wheat industry in that country. Russia was at one time the world’s greatest exporter, of wheat. Under the system imposed upon that country by the Soviet, its export trade was cut off. As the Prime Minister of Australia said not very long ago, it will be many years before Russia can supply her own people with wheat. Clearly that admission is condemnatory of the activities of socialization.
– It is not a matter of increasing production, as the Minister well knows. Under the Soviet system Russia ceased to export wheat, and on one occasion had to import wheat in order to keep its people supplied with the staff of life. And that is the system that this Government desires to impose upon the agrarian population of Australia as a step in the direction of socialization. It is in pursuance of that policy rather than from any desire to assist the farmers that the Government has approached the subject. It is obvious from the methods adopted in presenting the case to us, that stress has been laid upon the value of compulsory pooling to the farmer rather than upon his present plight. And why? As Senator Colebatch pointed out, why did not the Government adopt the simple and clearly constitutional way rather than this round about sinister method? I ask honorable senators to ponder the matter for themselves. Was it not for the express purpose of getting the thin end of the socialistic wedge into the agrarian industries of Australia?
I -am opposed to socialization, with all its attendant evils, and to compulsory pooling when applied to our primary producers. The present policy of the Government, as illustrated by this bill, is in keeping with the objective to which I have referred, and is in absolute contradiction of the policy of the party represented by Senator Duncan in this chamber. I remember that in 1921, when it was proposed to institute compulsory pools similar to those that existed during the war, the right honorable W. M. Hughes, who was then Prime Minister, stated that he would not have compulsion imposed on any body of wheat-growers so long as one man stood out, or words to that effect.
We are asked to swallow this scheme with all its imperfections and, as Senator Colebatch pointed out, they are many. I, for one, will never accept it while it contains the objectionable features to which I have referred. As Senator Carroll said, there is no provision in the bill for a poll of the farmers to be taken. I ask honorable senators to bear with me for a few minutes while I put before them a contrast and show, from an economic point of view, what will happen under a system of compulsory pooling. The Government says that it will hand over to the wheat boards the control of the product of these thousands of farmers. It seeks to replace the judgment of wheat-farmers of Australia with that of a small coterie that will control the individual pools in the different States, and the general pool of the Commonwealth. I shall pin my faith, as could well have been done before that huge blunder was made by the growers’ representatives some years ago, to the judgment of the collective farmers rather than to that of the selected representatives constituting a pool of the minority. We have as an example the occasion when the growers’ representatives on the wheat pool forced the right honorable W. M. Hughes to sell the whole of our wheat for 5s. a bushel.
– They did not ask the Prime Minister to sell.
– I know that he was asked to sell at that price, but I am unable to say whether political control was exerted or not. That action was taken by the pool executive. Whether the pool was a growers’ pool or a compulsory pool, it cost this country millions of pounds. I shall put the whole of the details of the transaction before the Senate and allow honorable senators to judge whether we should take out of the control of the individual farmer the right to market his own wheat, where and when he desires.
– The farmers would not have obtained 3s. 6d. a bushel at that time, had they acted upon their own judgment.
– The Senate is asked to substitute the judgment of the collective farmers of Australia for the judgment of the few who will control the pools in various centres.
There is no precedent for this legislation. The elimination of everything else but the compulsory pool, the prevention of the farmer from making it a voluntary pool, selling his grain to his chosen merchant or doing anything else that he chooses, is. without precedent. The farmer puts his wheat in the control of the pool, and then he is finished with it. True, he is guaranteed 4s. a bushel, but his individuality is taken away. The bill proposes to eliminate the handling of the wheat by farmers, and to eliminate the activities of merchants in various centres who previously disposed of the wheat. I venture to think that, because of the extravagant promises made by some of its followers, the Government has been driven into adopting a principle that cannot appeal to honorable senators on this side. Because the gentleman who. represents Calare in another place promised the wheat-growers 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, the Government has been compelled to guarantee 4s. a bushel. The farmers will have to pay their portion of that price, as also will the States, if the pool fails to realize the guaranteed sum overseas.
People might imagine that I am opposed entirely to pooling. It is the principle of compulsion to which
I am opposed. I put it to those who have the interests of the farmers at heart - and I believe there are many in this chamber - that a voluntary pool is the intensification of the competitive system ; it is the corollary that helps that system and the farmer to obtain the very best price from the merchant. What happens in many cases in Australia to-day? While a large number of farmers send the whole of their wheat to the voluntary pool, others dispose of a portion of it to the pool and either sell to the merchants or store the balance. They are thus able to keep a check on prices from time to time. The principle is the same as that adopted in connexion with the totalisator; it keeps a check on the odds offered by bookmakers.
– The agent takes 12½ per cent.
– In this case the agent is the wheat pool. Before I conclude I shall show that the extravagance and corruption associated with the pooling of wheat during the war are without parallel in Australia.
– What governments were in power at that time?
– The pools operated independently of governments. Evils are almost inseparable from these socialistic schemes.
In the interests of the wheat-farmers both the voluntary pool and the wheat merchants should be allowed to operate side by side, for in that way competition is increased. As Senator Lynch pointed out on a previous occasion, all competition disappears so soon as either the voluntary pool or the merchant is eliminated. If it is known that any difference between the price received for the wheat and the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel will be made up by the people of Australia, there will be no incentive to obtain the best price. Even if the guarantee were 5s. a bushel, I should hesitate to vote in favour of the bill in view of its vital effect on the wheat-growers as well as on the finances of the country.
The possible effect of a compulsory pool on the country’s finances has been mentioned. Senator Duncan cheerfully responded that it did not matter what happened because in the event of failure the ignominy and blame would reston the Government. I was astounded to bear such a statement from a responsible member of this Parliament. I cannot let it pass without repudiating it on my own behalf, andI believe also on behalf of the rightthinking section of the community. We cannot escape our responsibility in this matter. If I vote against the bill, and events prove that I am wrong, then I must accept the responsibility for my action. Similarly, if I voted for the bill on the ground that if the scheme fails the Government must accept the blame, I should regard myself as a craven. Such an action on my part would be Machiavellian. It would be inconsistent with both sound politics and honest reasoning. If honorable senators believe that this bill has been designed along political lines, and is a step towards the socialization of industry, they ought to vote against it. If they feel that its passing would endanger the financial stability of the country, they should be failing in their duty if they did not raise their voices and record their votes against it. In a matter of such grave importancewe cannot shelter behind the Government. It may be that the failure of the scheme would end the Government’s reign; but that does not absolve honorable senators from their individual responsibility. In the event of the failure of the scheme, could honorable senators rightly lay the blame on the Government if they, who foresaw the dangers of this legislation, failed to vote according to the dictates of reason and conscience? I, for one, cannot subscribe to the view that, because the Government would have to bear the ignominy associated with the failure of its scheme, honorable senators have no responsibility in the matter.
It has been contended in support of the bill that the establishment of a compulsory pool would result in the orderly marketing of our wheat. The millions referred to by Senator O’Halloran the other day are not nearly so mythical as is the orderly marketing of wheat. The price of wheat does not depend upon its flow into a particular quarter of the globe ; it is settled on a world-wide basis. It does not matter to the merchants whether the wheat is in Egypt or on shipboard at Port Said, Marseilles, or Naples, awaiting orders; it isthe existence of the wheat that counts.From day to day wheat merchants throughout the world receive advices from such organizations as Broomhall’s as to the movements in wheat. Similar organizations exist in connexion with wool. The prices of all commodities which have a world-wide market depend upon the existence of certain quantities of such commodities at specified times. It is ridiculous to suggest that the shipping, or the withholding, of a few cargoes of wheat will affect world prices.
– Then what necessity is there for competition?
– The competition is between the merchants who gamble from day to day on the price of wheat. Eliminate those merchants and one of the greatest factors for profit that exists is eliminated.
– Will the honorable senator tell us how the wheat merchants fleece the farmers?
– When Senator Hoare speaks about the enormous profits made by the wheat merchants he forgets that there are in Australia - particularly in South Australia - well organized co-operative concerns, managed by highly intelligent men, which deal with large quantities of wheat, in the interests of the farmers themselves.
– The South Australian Earmers Co-operative Union joined the merchants “honorable understanding
– The “honorable understanding “ is more ancient history than Mr. Scullin’s socialization scheme. It is something that occurred over 22 years ago. The South Australian Farmers Co-operative Union, referred to by Senator O’Halloran as having assisted the wheat merchants to fleece the farmers, made less than one-eighth of a penny a bushel profit on its wheat transactions.
– How much did the late Mr. John Darling leave ?
– Money provided by the wheat-growers of this country is being expended in the issue of propaganda in favour of a compulsory pool. I leave it to honorable senators to imagine the object of that propaganda. What can be the object of a man in receipt of £1,000 or £1,500 a year, who does not grow a bushel of wheat, in advocating a compulsory wheat pool ? One must get behind the scenes to find out.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– During the dinner adjournment I had placed in my hands information as to the result of the implication of orderly marketing which I term a myth. It is a result which may be achieved in reference to all food products. The Sydney press announces that the Government of Brazil has decided to destroy 4,500,000 bags of coffee in order to stabilize the market for coffee. It is a clear indication that the world’s market price really depends on the quantity required by the world ; at any rate, to within a small fraction of that.
– It depends on quality as well as quantity.
– One objection to the pooling system is that the man who devotes his energies to the production of a quality of wheat which is above the fair average quality is compelled to pool it with the man whose wheat is only fair average quality. In that way, the urge to improve the quality of a product is removed. Under the free marketing system, the man who chooses to hold his wheat in store or sell it to a merchant, can get the advantage of his industry.
– He gets no such advantage from the merchant.
SenatorMcLACHLAN. - My friend talks as if wheat were something that is not a world’s commodity, or for which there is not a world’s market, but I claim that orderly marketing is a myth. If it is attempted the Government must answer Senator Colebatch’s challenge as to how it is going to finance matters. If it proposes to pay 4s. and hold the wheat as has been done in other pools, great difficulty will be experienced when it comes to the matter of finance. That point was never reached in any previous pool.
– Who is financing the anti-pool propaganda?
– Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind. According to honorable senators on the Government side, this propaganda has been issued by the merchants, but in South Australia it is the propaganda of the farmers. I defy contradiction on that point. It may hurt some honorable senators a little to know that the farming community in South Australia, which is supposed to be benefiting by this proposal, is in. rebellion against it, and if ever it sees the light of day, it will be humiliatingly turned down by the farmers of that State, unless of course, there is an intrusion of prejudice. According to the Adelaide Advertiser of the 28th June last, Mr. Hill, the Premier of South Australia, said on the previous day -
The only tiling I have to say in reply to Mr.Parker Moloney is that it is all a question of finance. However much we may wish to go on with the scheme it will be impossible to do so if finances will not permit.
Honorable senators opposite seem to think that some tremendous advantage is to be gained for the Commonwealth by pooling this wheat. I believe that the thought at the back of the Ministers’ minds is that the pool can be used as a means to stabilize our exchange position overseas, but if, in doing so, a crisis is produced in Australia, what benefit is to be derived by Australia? It is quite competent for those who believe that the pool would be a splendid thing for Australia to suggest that propaganda issued against a pool is supplied by the merchants, but I deny it emphatically so far as South Australia is concerned. Exception has been taken to the pool in most unmeasured terms iu a circular sent to me by the president of the Farmers Association in that State. Even if the merchants of South Australia have fomented opposition to the pool and issued certain propaganda, surely those whose business is likely to be taken away from them, whose livelihood is at stake, and whose immense capital may be driven out of the country, to the disadvantage of the country, are entitled to put up a fight in their own interests. The movement in South Australia, however, is widespread. There are 100 branches of the Farmers Freedom League, stretching from Moonta over the new areas in the Peninsula, and right down through YorkePeninsula and the Mallee country. What an appropriate name it is for this organization, having regard to the provisions of this bill, which destroys the freedom of the farmer to market his wheat where he likes. If the merchants have issued propaganda it is no more than the people who are iu favour of the compulsory pool have done.
It is obvious that there is an element in Australia desirous of having a compulsory pool, because it thinks some advantage is likely to be got out of it. Senator Duncan has pointed out that we are here to judge between the two sides, and I am entitled to express my opinion as to what effect a compulsory pool is likely to have on Australia. Reference has been made to a royal commission on wheat marketing which submitted a report in South Australia. That report was issued in 1908, just 22 years ago, and the “ honorable understanding” of 1907, referred to in that report, applied to one season only.
– It applied to two.
– Well, I will give that in. One of the wheat firms mentioned in that report is no longer a wheat-trader. It has gone out of existence. Honorable senators are asked to draw the inference that there was some arrangement between firms under which not more than a certain price was to be paid for wheat. Personally, I have always regarded this royal commission as one which was scarcely competent to deal with the question of marketing wheat. At any rate, its report was not taken seriously by any one in South Australia. The merchants admitted quite frankly that they had an understanding between themselves in regard to a limit of price, but that it was not to be suggested that there was no competition among them for the farmers’ wheat. They simply said that they would not pay more than a certain price from time to time. The extraordinary thing is that while all this was going on, the South Australian Farmers Co-operative Union, one of the largest buyers of wheat, was a party to this “honorable understanding”. Do honorable senators suggest that an organization managed by farmers and composed of farmers was likely to be a party to something which would injure the farmers? The greatest propagandist in South Australia to-day for compulsory pooling is the chairman of directors of that organization. If the Farmers Cooperative Union had kept aloof from the “ honorable understanding “ it could have got all the wheat in South Australia by offering an additional price. There is no foundation for the suggestion that this “honorable understanding” was bent on robbing the wheat-growers. I have already mentioned that in its 25 years of trading prior to the war the South Australian Farmers Co-operative Union did not average1/8d. per bushel profit.
– Because it used to sell its wheat to the other merchants and did not ship any.
– If it was not to the advantage to the farmers to do so, it would not have adopted that course. Does Senator O’Halloran suggest that the Co-operative Union was out to rob the farmers ?
– I suggest it was not genuine.
– That is a very grave charge. I suggest that the directors of the society were quite honest in their endeavours to assist the farmers, and I do not think that any suggestion should be made to the contrary. The fact that during all the period of this hullabaloo the Co-operative Union was participating in the “honorable understanding” is evidence that there was nothing to the detriment of the farmers in that arrangement.
In July, 1921, on the termination of the compulsory war pool the South Australian Co-operative Union announced -
So far as the Farmers Union is concerned we are prepared for the reversion to pre-war days. Whether under the pooling or the old system, we can handle the crop equally, as well as, if not better than, any other firm or company. We will be just as keen buyers in the open market with unrestricted trade, as we were when only acting as agents for the Government under the pooling system.
The directors of this Co-operative Union were not asked to give evidence before the royal commission in 1908. I ask honorable senators before they come to a conclusion on these matters to take into consideration the fact that the f.o.b. parity price at Melbourne differs from that at Adelaide for several reasons. For instance, the wharfage rates in Melbourne are a shade lower than they are in Adelaide. These reasons account for a difference of1d. or½d. a bushel. Since the termination of the war pools there has never been the slightest suggestion of any arrangement between the merchants in regard to prices, and notwithstanding the statements that have been made here, the merchants have consistently returned to their customers higher prices than the voluntary pools have returned to the farmers. A voluntary pool may benefit the farmers.
– Could they obtain 4s. a bushel if they adhered to the present system?
– Perhaps not. I doubt whether the Government gave serious consideration to the position of the world’s wheat market before submitting this proposal to Parliament. Possibly the Government has now gone so far with its scheme that it finds it practically impossible to alter its policy, although, if it were to do so, it would be of advantage, not only to the farmers, but to the whole community. There is no foundation for the statement that the wheat merchants of Australia have not dealt fairly with the farmers. Although they conduct their undertakings on a business basis, they have always treated the wheat producers in a reasonable way, particularly in the matter of advances, which at times represent very large amounts. It may, however, be said that the existence of voluntary pools is a check upon the wheat merchants. There is no compulsion on a wheat producer, who is able to place his produce under the control of a voluntary pool or dispose of it to a wheat merchant. The wheat farmer is, as I have said, in a similar position to a bettor, who can either place his money with the totalizator or with a bookmaker. He usually deposits it where he can get the best return ; but in each case a percentage has to be deducted. Voluntary pools possess certain advantages, inasmuch as they keep the wheat merchants up to the collar. The variation in prices which sometimes obtains is due, not to the desire of the merchants to extract too much from the growers, but to the world’s parity, which is governed by the stocks of wheat held in the Argentine, the United States of America, Canada, or possibly by developments in Russia. The stabilization of wheat prices is all moonshine. The only way in which prices can be increased is by disposing of the product in some way other than selling, and thus reduce stocks, which necessarily results in higher prices. Reference has been made to the operations of the Canadian wheat pool; but it cannot be truthfully denied that that pool has now been brought to its knees, and is seeking financial assistance to the extent of £6,000,000.
– That has been contradicted.
– It may have been ; but the fact remains that financial assistance is being sought. The position in Australia is so acute that Mr. Hill, the Labour Premier of South Australia, who would, in ordinary circumstances, recommend his Government to support this proposal, is experiencing grave doubt as to the extent to which that State may be involved in the event of the price realized being below that guaranteed by the Government. Moreover, considerable doubt exists concerning the carry-over wheat, the quantity of which in New South Wales, and which is held by the farmers, is between 16,000,000 and 17,000,000 bushels. The large quantities held in South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria are due largely to the activities of the Canadian pool in witholding stocks in the belief that better prices would be obtained.
The advocates of the pooling system believe that under some such arrangement as that proposed the costs to farmers will be reduced, but they ignore the fact that very heavy expenditure will necessarily be incurred in conducting a pool which in the end will be controlled by the Government. Although we have been informed that the control will be exercised by an Australian wheat board on which the farmers will have a majority of the representatives, it is safe to assume that the Government which is to guarantee 4s. a bushel, and consequently will have to shoulder the financial responsibility, will wish to exercise a good deal of authority. It is not my intention to refer in detail to what occurred in connexion with compulsory pools which were in operation during the war period ; suffice it to say that, particularly in New South “Wales, serious corruption, mismanagement and theft occurred, not only in connexion with the handling of the wheat, but with respect to the supply of sacks and other requirements. The work of the pool was investigated by a royal commission, the findings of which were so startling that there is no need for me to quote them. Had it not been for the friendly act of the British Government in purchasing our wheat during the war period it is difficult to imagine what would have happened. Serious difficulties were encountered in consequence of the plague of mice and weevil.
– “What would have been the position in the absence of a pool?
– I do not think it could have been much worse than it was under a compulsory pooling system. Possibly the farmers would have been forced to sell their wheat at 2s. 6d. a bushel, but they might- have been better off even had they been compelled to do so. At that time South Australian farmers were so alarmed that they implored the then Prime Minister to come to their assistance. On that occasion Mr. Hughes said he would never impose a compulsory pooling system upon the wheat-farmers if only one wished to operate in the open market. The only occasion on which I have ever, advocated compulsion was in connexion with military service overseas, but that was at a time of great national crisis. In normal times, the people, and particularly the farmers, who are doing so much to develop this country, should be allowed to exercise their own judgment. They are-
– Easily pleased.
– Not at all. They are the most astute men in the State which the Minister and I represent. Those supporting the pooling system are obsessed with the idea that this measure embodies some marvellous system for giving the producers a value greater than their product is worth.
The Farmers Freedom Association is opposed to the scheme, and I could mention other organizations, including three corn exchanges, and the chambers of commerce in the different States, which are also against it. [Extension of time granted.] I have received a letter from the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, dated 18th June, a portion of which reads -
I shall not quote the opinions of all the various farmers’ organizations from which I have received communications. The farmers who signed the circular which I have received from South Australia are not small wheat producers, but men who in an ordinary season would benefit by a guaranteed price of 4s. They have taken upon themselves to denounce in the strongest terms possible the principles underlying this measure. The case against the pool was well put in a letter from the wheat merchants in South Australia to the Prime Minister and the Premier of that State following on the announcement that the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) was convening a conference at Canberra to discuss the formation of the compulsory pool. The letter was dated 7th. February, 1930, and was in the following terms : -
Dear Sir, - It was. reported in the press on 6th instant that the Federal Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) was calling a conference on 18th February with the Ministers of Agriculture of all the chief wheat-producing States to discuss the formation of a compulsory wheat pool.
We,, the undersigned wheat merchants trading in South Australia, beg to place before you the disadvantage which would result by the formation of a compulsory pool in Australia.
As you are aware, the wheat market overseas has slumped during the last month, which is causing very great concern to all those interested in the wheat trade. There must be some reason or cause why prices have receded so rapidly recently, and we now wish to set out, in our opinion, the reason for such.
For some time now both America and Canada have endeavoured to dictate prices to buyers in Europe. Europe, especially Continental countries, viewed this dictatorial attitude by America and Canada with great alarm and made a special appeal to the farmers to sow more wheat, so as to be more independent as regards importing large quantities of foreign wheat as hithertofore. In addition, most of the large Continental countries enacted laws whereby extra duties were imposed on imported wheat, so as to render more assistance and encourage farmers to plant more wheat.
This appeal by the large Continental countries has been most successful, and instead of these countries importing large quantities of foreign wheat, they have so increased their acreage this season that some of them are absolutely independent, and will not require to purchase any foreign wheat whatever, whereas others have to import a much smaller quantity than customary.
In effect it means that by exporting countries demanding a high price for their wheat, it has thrown the incentive on to European countries to grow more wheat for themselves. This changed policy by the European countries has thrown the whole equilibrium between exporter and importer out of balance, and to-day we find that there are many sellers, but practically no buyers.
Exporting countries can usually produce wheat cheaper than importing countries, but it now seems inevitable that the price of wheat must be low until Europe abandons some of her acreage. But now farmers on the Continent enjoy the privilege of protection by high tariffs, probably the reduction of acreage will t ike some time. In the meantime, exporting countries must suffer and the economical position will take much longer to adjust whilst there is interference in the normal supply and demand of wheat.
At the present time Europe is going through a period of deflation, and whilst this lasts we cannot expect high prices in any commodity. We might say that maize, barley and oats are now back to pre-war prices. Europe is in an impoverished state, and, therefore, has not the purchasing power to lift prices. If Canada and America had marketed their harvests last ear in a proper manner, there would not ave been the surplus of wheat in the world as exists to-day. By the control of so much wheat by the Canadian Pool and Farm Relief Board in America it has acted detrimentally to the interests of the farmers in those countries, and has given the wrong impression to farmers that their products are worth more than what they really are.
One of the worst features in tlie wheat trade since pooling has come into operation has been the gradual elimination of competition in Europe. Whereas there were twelve big buyers formerly, there are only two operating to-day, and this has been brought about by the pools controlling so much wheat that they become a menace to the trade by selling so heavily at times, that buyers could not use their judgment, with the . result that they gradually became limited and more limited. To meet the pools’ tactics the big milling groups in England have now combined in making their purchases so that competition is now practically eliminated in that country.
We are giving you all this information so as to elucidate what effect pooling has had on the wheat trade in Europe. We maintain that this set of circumstances would have never arisen had it not been that pools were in existence.
Now, as far as Australia is concerned, there was a compulsory pool during the war years, and it continued for two years after the termination of the war. This was entirely a war measure, and it was criticized very much from the administration side, showing that more efficient service can be given to the farmer’ b)’ private trading concerns. When trading became normal again after the war voluntary pools wore formed. They acquire wheat from the farmers, sell it and return an average price, less charges. The net return is published each year, which is compared with the prices paid by wheat merchants, and in the aggregate the wheat merchants have sold more advantageously than the pools, and the farmers who sold to tlie merchants received a higher price than that the pools returned.
We would like to draw your special attention to a very important matter which is of vital interest to Australia. Wheat merchants over a number of years have built up a most efficient organization, trained large staffs in every branch of tlie business, who have become most competent, so that if a compulsory wheat pool is formed and later proves a failure, the whole of this organization is lost to the country, and. further, on the introduction of a compulsory pool, two of the largest wheat houses operating in Australia who have their head offices on the Continent, would probably relinquish business and never to return again.
Another important matter we would like to bring before your notice is the financing of a compulsory pool. Assuming that the harvest in Australia next season is one hundred and seventy million bushels, farmers would require at least three shillings per bushel advance on delivery of their wheat, and to pay this advance twenty-five and one half million pounds would be required to meet this obligation. Owing to Australia’s economical position we would say this money would have to be raised overseas, and with such a big loan, probably, tlie rate of interest would be high. Wheat merchants at the present time are making advances to farmers on stored wheat, and the rate of interest charged is only 5 per cent.
In conclusion we maintain that no advantages whatsoever will accrue by the introduction of a compulsory pool ; in fact, on the contrary, the farmers will not get the same efficient service as they do now.
If there is no political interference in the wheat trade, and the law of supply and demand is permitted to function, all commodities will then find their proper price level, but with any political interference and suggested palliatives, it will only prolong the unsound economical position and will ultimately result in chaos to all those interested in the production of wheat. .
Our own personal observations are that we are now about to go through an era of low prices for all primary products unless there is a big curtailment in the acreage of the world or severe droughts, and as our markets are becoming limited year by year, Australia should concentrate on lowering the cost of production, so as to be more competitive with other exporting countries. We view the position very seriously from the Australian farmers’ standpoint, as, if we are correct in our contention that we are about to pass through a period of low prices, Australian farmers will be unable to produce wheat at a profit, and, unless the cost of production falls correspondingly with the export value, many farmers in Australia will be unable to continue their farming pursuits, and will then drift to the towns, which will mean more unemployment.
We understand there will be no compulsory pool unless all States are in accordance with the scheme, and we have placed before you our reasons, showing that in our opinion no advantages will accrue by compelling farmers to market their wheat in this way.
We feel sure the majority of the farmers in this State would be quite adverse to the formation of a compulsory pool. Permit us to say that in New South Wales ballots amongst the farmers were held during the last two seasons, and in Victoria last season, and on every occasion the farmers recorded their votes against a compulsory pool.
We respectfully request that you will carefully peruse all we have written herein, and that you will strongly oppose the idea of asking the farmers in this State to market their wheat through a compulsory pool.
I read the whole of that letter because it expresses in concrete form the view of the wheat merchants in South Australia.
I do not intend to refer in detail to the financial aspect of the scheme. That has been dealt with by other honorable senators. I would point out, however, that we have had no answer up to the present to the inquiry by Senator Colebatch as to how the pool is to be financed.
– The Government has had an assurance from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
– The honorable senator appears to think that the supply of money, in the Commonwealth Bank is inexhaustible. I need ‘ only remind him that, during the last few days, a financial matter of very grave importance has been brought under our notice. It refers particularly to the financial position in his and my State and I suggest that this is not the time for the Commonwealth to embark upon any hazardous enterprise such as the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool.
– Will the honorable senator accept the assurance of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank that it can finance the scheme?
– I do not think that, at a time like this, the Senate should approve any scheme unless it believes it is capable of accomplishment. This is a proposal to secure the orderly marketing of our wheat. If there is anything in that phrase, surely it connotes that the surplus Australian wheat may be held off the market for a certain period, although the growers will be paid 4s. a bushel upon delivery at railway stations. Honorable senators can see for themselves what this will mean, and they may he in a position to assess the ability of the Commonwealth Bank to finance the scheme. Up to the present, the Minister has not told us where the Government will get the money, and I venture to think it will have to consider this aspect of the proposal very seriously before it commits itself. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Hill, as I have already indicated, has misgivings about the project. States like Western Australia and South Australia are not in a position to pay one-half of any loss that might be incurred in the working of the pool. If the Government wishes to be generous and assist our wheat-growers, it may do it in a way that will be free from all complications. All it need do is to give an undertaking to pay a bounty or bonus of a stated amount per bushel. We shall then know where we stand. This scheme is merely a blind gamble. Information which I received only on Saturday evening, indicates beyond all doubt that the risk is too great. The following extract from Broomhall’s Review of the wheat trade in 1929-30, deals with the state of the world’s wheat market during the last week in June. Broomhall,
I remind honorable senators, is no mean authority on wheat. The concluding remarks are as follow : -
For the past few years the world has grown too much wheat to meet the ordinary consumptive requirements. Under a system of open trading prices would come down and the acreage adjust itself to international needs. But wheat-growing is rapidly becoming the most highly sophisticated trade in the world. With the exception of Argentina, there is no country producing a large crop of wheat that is not taking special measures to protect its growers from the effect of low prices. A mint of public money is being spent in preventing a decline of the national wheat production and in maintaining prices to growers. This indicates a continuance of world overproduction. A bad weather season would solve the problem temporarily, but only to adjust their acreage to suit importers’ requirements. But if, as seems likely, governments are prepared to go on using public funds for the purpose of maintaining their agricultural position, then whatever temporary success they may have in raising prices to their own farmers the necessity of marketing their subsidized surpluses in Europe can lead to only one end - an increased plethora.
In the face of such a review we cannot agree blindly to involve the people of Australia in the obligation proposed by the Government. It will be a bad thing for the farmer and for the community generally. We may not reach the deplorable position of the Brazilian coffee planters, who decided to destroy 4,500,000 bags of coffee, because of the impossibility of securing a satisfactory market, but I remind honorable senators of
Our own position after the war. We were unable to market the whole of our wool clip and the prices slumped, and the suggestion was to dump the surplus into the sea. I am also reminded of the tragedy, that occurred in connexion with the cultivation of a certain class of grape. Parliament encouraged our returned men - I am glad that I was not a party to it - to grow a certain type of grape and promised them all sorts of profits. Now the Government has been compelled to go to the aid of those men with a bounty. Political interference in the wheatgrowing industry will not achieve any good, but will be attended by grave financial difficulties to the farmers and to the country. The farmers are asked to sacrifice their freedom for a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel for one year. My own State and that of Western Australia strongly oppose a compulsory pool, and do not intend to be dragged at the heels of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Queensland does not produce enough wheat to provide for its home consumption. Neither by a vote of the farmers nor by act of Parliament will South Australia or Western Australia come into line with the other States in this matter. I urge the Government .to have regard to the attendant dangers to the scheme, both from a financial and a moral point of view, dangers that will eventually place our wheat farmers in a far worse position than they are in to-day.
To summarize my objection to the measure, I object to the application of compulsion in any shape or form to the farmers. I put it that the average farmer is a better judge of what he should get for his wheat than is a selected body of individuals that will be gathered together for the purpose. ‘I suggest that the elimination of competition in the form of voluntary pools and wheat merchants will not make for progress and efficiency.” I am for maintaining competition. My honorable friend, Senator Lynch, whose absence we all regret, stressed that phase in dealing with the subject on one occasion. This bill seeks to eliminate all competition. The farmer will have nothing to do but drag his wheat to a body that knows that it has behind it a guarantee of 4s. for one year, and that has no incentive to obtain more than the 3s. 2d. or 3s. 6d. that may be offering overseas. The whole thing is highly dangerous. If this bill should be carried, and I hope it will not be, and a pool of the farmers results in the country being saddled with a compulsory pool, the people of South Australia and Western Australia will be dragged behind the chariot wheels of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. It would not be quite so bad if the farmers were certain of receiving 4s. a bushel for their product. But that is the very point of danger with the bill. The constitutional provision to which Senator Colebatch referred must have aroused doubts in the minds of the Attorney-General and the Government. The guarantee may be found to be unconstitutional. Then the farmers will be saddled with a compulsory pool minus the bait, which will have been withdrawn by the High Court.
The Government should recast the measure and substitute a bounty for it. If it cannot afford 6d. a bushel then let it tell us what it can afford. In no circumstances will I vote for a pool that compels a farmer to yield his wheat to the control of some one else. I regard the judgment of our 80,000 to 90,000 wheat-farmers as being on a higher plane than that of the representatives that the Government will select for these pools.
– I listened with rapt attention to Senator McLachlan while he painted a picture depicting the awful fate that will befall Australia if the wheat marketing proposal of the Government is accepted. According to the honorable senator there is not an atom of good in the project. Everything is bad. Any one would imagine that this was an innovation designed purposely to bring calamity, to the- farmers and the people of Australia generally. One would think that it had nothing to recommend it. But it is not a new proposal. From 1915 to 1920 Australia had a compulsory wheat pool, and, in spite of adverse criticism, it conferred great benefits on the country. Senator McLachlan referred to the robbery and confiscation that occurred under the aegis of that pool. I quite agree that some of those concerned with it should have been in gaol.
– They should never have been out of gaol.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. During the years 1 have mentioned that pool handled and disposed of record crops. Its success was second only to that of the BritishAustralian “Wool Realization Association. The first Australian wheat pool sold £189,000,000 worth of Australian wheat during the five years of its existence, overseas shipments accounting for £127,000,000. Wheat prices improved from 4s. lOd. a bushel in 1915-1916 to 7s. lOd. in 1920-1921. Why was not Senator McLachlan fair to the proposal of the Government? Why did he not point out the good as well as the evils of pooling? Notwithstanding the difficult circumstances that then existed, the scarcity of shipping and the adverse criticism* levelled at the scheme, that wheat pool .proved to be the salvation of our wheat-farming community.
The honorable senator referred to the bill as a socialistic measure, introduced by the Government to give effect to a plank of its platform rather, than to benefit the wheat-farmers. Why did be not tell the Senate that for the past fifteen years Queensland has had a wheat pool, and that it has .conferred tremendous advantages on the wheat-farmers of that State?
– Queensland consumes all the wheat that it produces and has no export trade.
– The success of that pool should give us confidence in connexion with the scheme put forward by the Commonwealth Government. For the information of honorable senators I shall read the following report on the Queensland Wheat Pool:-
Prior to the inauguration of the pooling system in Queensland the price paid by the millers was based on export parity minus the cost of railage to Sydney; but since the pool has been operating they have been charged Sydney prices plus the freight from Sydney to Brisbane. That is a most important point. lt represents an advantage to Queensland wheat-growers of ls. (id. a bushel, less the cost of the pool. That is an outstanding example of what the pooling system has done for Queensland, and furnishes a reason for the insistence of the growers on compulsory pools, and their support of these proposals that we are considering to-night.
That is ample proof that the wheatfarming community of Queensland has benefited by the operation of the pool, which is a compulsory one. Senator McLachlan also claimed that the Canadian wheat pools have been a failure, and stated that the Canadian Government may be involved in a loss of £6,000,000 as a result of their activities. Yesterday the Farmers’ Wheat Pool of Victoria cabled .the Canadian Government asking for some information about the guarantee that it has given in connexion with its wheat pools, and the following reply was received to-day: -
Absolutely no truth in that report.
– What report ?
– The report quoted by Senator McLachlan. It reads -
On Thursday last .there was a private conference here of the Premiers of the three prairie provinces whose Governments several months ago guaranteed the Canadian Wheat Pool’s debt to the banks.’
No statement on the result of the conference has been issued, but it is understood that the banks are now demanding payment of £0,000,000 cash on the basis of the guarantee.
I have given a complete answer to Senator McLachlan and any others who may quote that report. Let me deal a little more fully with the Canadian wheat pools. I have a cablegram received by Mr. Hill, a representative in another place, which reads -
Evans is the only member of three provincial legislatures to oppose the pool bill. No word of truth in his contention that pool is beaten. It is sound financial condition. The morale and membership are the best in the history of the organization. Many new members every day. Only relying upon provincial governments for moral support. Guarantee solely precautionary measure to avoid any possibility forced liquidation in case our collateral with hanks, which is still valued in excess of 15 per cent. over and above amount of bank loans, should temporarily fall below 15 per cent. surplus security required by banks.
Senator Carroll said thatthe Canadian wheat pool had proved a failure.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator had a good deal to say about the Canadian pool; but it was as difficult to know his opinion of it as to determine whether or not he is in favour of the bill. The Melbourne Herald recently contained the following opinion of Mr. Henry Wood, of Winnipeg, in relation to the Canadian wheat pool: -
World-wide co-operation among farmers in wheat production is a certainty in the future. Undoubtedly the time will come when farmers the world over will sell their wheat intelligently and regulate production just as intelligently. There may not be a world pool, necessarily, but Canada, the United States of America, Australia, and the Argentine will some day work in unison selling with the intelligence requisite in profitable business.
Those who have had experience of the wheat pooling system are not afraid of this scheme of socialization ; but are prepared to allow it to continue because they realize that it will benefit the farmers. In 1924 a deputation of Victorian wheatgrowers waited upon the then Premier of that State, Mr. Allan,to ask for the establishment of a voluntary wheat pool. Mr. Allan told the deputation that the establishment of a pool was a matter for the Commonwealth rather than the State. Later, when the deputationists waited on. the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, with a similar request, they were told that the establishment of wheat pools was a matter for the State. Things remained in that condition until the present Minister for Markets (Mr. . Parker Moloney) introduced this bill. In this connexion the Minister has been consistent, for throughout his parliamentary career he has advocated a compulsory wheat pool. I trust that his ambitions will be realized, and that, despite the gloomy predictions of honorable senators opposite, this pool will prove a success.
I do not blame the wheat merchants for opposing this bill. They are not philanthropic institutions which buy wheat from fanners in order to assist them; they buy it to make profits for themselves. Those profits are their bread and butter. It is only natural that they should fight a measure of this kind. In their campaign against this bill they have circularized the farmers of Australia. I propose now to read one of such circulars which has been issued in South Australia -
Room No. 7, Third Floor, Darling Building, 28-30 Franklin-street, City.
The association set up its office in the right place when it chose Darling Building - a building which commemorates the name of John Darling, who farmed the farmers and died leaving £1,700,000.
– The honorable senator should know something about this matter, for he was a member of a committee which inquired into the “honorable understanding” among wheat merchants in South Australia. The honorable senator knows how the price of wheat was fixed over the telephone, by the merchants, with an utter disregard of London parity. The circular continues - suggestions for convening a meeting of Farmers and for the Formation of a Local Branch of the Freedom Association.
I suppose that the name of the association was decided on because its promoters felt that the farmers should have freedom to sell their wheat to merchants who would give them for it whatever price they liked. In the following terms the circular , sets out how meetings of the association should be convened: -
Convening the Meeting.
It is essential that the active interest of a key man in the district should be secured, who is known to be opposed to the compulsory pool, and the meeting should be convened in his name. He will act as chairman of this meeting, with the object of assisting in the discussion, and if so capable, to address the meeting.
In addition, canvass should be made of three or four other well-known antagonists to the bill to assure their attendance at the meeting with the object of assisting in the discussion, and if so capable, to address the meeting. These gentlemen could also move and second the resolutions that are set out hereunder.
– A cut-and-dried affair.
– The instructions proceed -
As soon as date and place of meeting have been determined, notices of such meeting should beadvertised in such districts us have local papers circulating therein, and also a paragraph in the general news column directing attention to this meeting. Fosters are also supplied, which after having been filled in with necessary details can be exhibited in prominent positions in the different towns that come within compass of the place of meeting.
An agenda should be drawn up for the chairman.
It will be seen that the chairman is not even allowed to draw up his own agenda. Other instructions are -
The chairman should indicate the objects for. which the meeting is called, which are -
To discuss the compulsory pool;
To set out the aims and objects of the association.
He will then call upon the speakers selected for the meeting, and in this connexion points for speakers are nnw being dr afted and they are attached hereto.
Speakers are not required to prepare their own addresses; they are manufactured for them in Darling Building. Dealing further with the conduct of meetings, the circular states -
The meeting will then be thrown open for discussion, and the chairman should take every step to keep the discussion within proper bounds, and not allow the introduction of any matter that is foreign to the purpose for which the meeting is called.
Honorable senators will see that the chairman is instructed to deal effectively with any person who expresses views in opposi tion to those of the promoters of the meeting. Continuing, the circular states -
At this juncture the men selected will move the resolutions, copies of which should be handed to them.
Resolution No. 1. - “That a local branch of the South Australian Wheat Producers’ Freedom Association be formed.” After this has been seconded and carried, the chairman will then call for nominations for the following officers : - President, vice-president, secretary, committee.
It cannot be too strongly stressed that men with strong personalities and directive ability should be selected for these positions, especially so is this the case in the appointing of president and secretary. If it is not possible to secure a farmer for the position of secretary, then some well-known man who is in close touch, personally, with the whole of the wheatgrowers in the district should be selected for (this office.
In many instances the gentlemen present form themselves into a committee, that is, of course, those opposed to the pool. Otherwise, form a committee of men who represent the different parts of your district.
Resolution No.2. - “That we pledge ourselves to do everything within our power to defeat the Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool proposal, and that we will vote against the proposed compulsory pool immediately the ballot papers are obtainable.”
This should be seconded and carried.
– They have gone back on that.
– Further instructions are set out in the following terms : -
Members of the committee should undertake to secure the signatures of farmers unable to attend the meeting, on forms provided for the purpose. These should be filled in and returned to the local secretary.
In important centres it can be arranged with the local correspondents of The Advertiser to send telegraphic reports to that paper, and for which that paper will pay this end. The telegram can be sent “collect” and as a “ press telegram.”
Of course, if there is a local paper the editor should be invited to be present to make up his own report, or arrangements made to supply him with one.
Important. - It should be urged upon every member to use his influence to the utmost within his own neigbourhood to induce every farmer with whom he comes in contact to link up with the association, and no stone should be left unturned to make a thorough canvass of the whole of their district. There is no man like the farmer whose appeal carries greater force to another farmer. This is entirely the farmers’ own association.
The association is in urgent need of speakers, demands are pouring in from all parts of the state and it is impossible to meet them satisfactorily in view of the big distances to be covered. Please enlist the services of any farmer who is competent to address a meeting of farmers, and send their names and addresses, also their telephone numbers, to the general secretary immediately. Where possible, the association will arrange transport. Please treat this matter as urgent.
Please post to Box 543e, G.P.O. Adelaide, addressed to the secretary, South Australian Wheat Producers’ Freedom Association, particulars of the meeting - the number present, members enrolled, the feeling of the meeting, and names and addresses of officers appointed.
Go in and win!
Apparently, the association has enormous sums of money to spend. So far the services of about 40 speakers have been enlisted. I do- not know whether they will be paid for their services, or whether they will act in a voluntary capacity ; but, in any case, a great deal of money is being spent in propaganda, apart from the salaries of secretaries and others. It is clear that the membership fee of 5s. per annum received from the few farmers who have linked up with the association is not sufficient to pay expenses. We can only assume, therefore, that the association is in receipt of funds from other sources, and that those who contribute to its funds are men who have nothing to gain, but much to lose, if this bill becomes law. The merchants know that on the passing of this measure their control of the wheat business, will pass from them, although they might still act as buying agents. The profits of the pool over and above the guarantee of 4s. a bushel, instead of going to them will go to the farmers.
Let me analyse the position and give honorable senators some idea of the amount of money the farmers have lost in the past. According to the figures of the South Australian pools, in existence from 1921 to 1927, the increase in the weight of the wheat amounted to 116,268 bushels of wheat, which was worth to the pools £30,769. Consequently/ when wheat is sold to the merchant, that goes to augment his profits, but when wheat is put into a pool it goes to the advantage of the farmer. As regards administration costs, the figures supplied by the wheat pools operating in South Australia are as follows: -
In 1921-22 the administration cost to the pool was £3,069 14s. 2d., and the value of the wheat handled by the pool was £2,114,000. For the next year the administration cost was £4,826, and the value of the wheat handled £2,555,000 In 1923-24 the administration cose was £4,553, and the value of the wheat handled by the pool was £2,466,000. In the following year the figures were £3,34S and £1,028,000. In 1925-20 the administration cost was £5,743, and the value of the wheat handled £1,675,000, and for the last year, 1926-27, the administration cost wai; £7,534, and the value of the wheat handled by the pool, £2,458,000.
The administration costs for the six years totalled £29,075, the value of the wheat which the pool handled during the same time being £12,297,000, and the gain which the pools got in the same six years by the increase in the weight of the wheat was £30,769. The ‘ administration costs were, therefore, actually paid in the six years by the increase in the weight in the pool’s stacks. Then there is an amount for commission, freights, and advances and despatch money which for the six years totalled £75,145. Ordinarily all of that would have gone into the pockets of the merchants, but in this case it went into the pockets of the producers who marketed their wheat through the pools. The figures I have given should be sufficient to show the beneficial results the farmers of South Australia derived from their pool.
This bill is an endeavour to get for the farmer everything that is due to him. If the middleman is cut out, so much the better for the farmer. The profits that generally go to the merchant - and they are considerable - will go to the farmer; the latter will be better off, and the merchant worse off. Labour, in its wisdom, thinks that the plan proposed in the bill best suits the farmer, and is not afraid of the bogeys trotted out by opponents of the pool. It is said by some to he an attempt at socialism. What’s in a name? “A .rose by any other name would smell as sweet “. No government in an endeavour to socialize anything would dream of starting with the farming community To do so would only lead to calamity. No one in the world is more suspicious of innovations than the farmer. No body of producers is less organized than the farmer?. A government anxious to socialize anything would start with an organized section of the community, and not a disunited one, like the , farmers. Under the proposed pool, the farmers will control their own business. The onus will be thown upon them; and it is a reflection on their ability to say that they cannot make a success of a pool. I do not know that any serious step has yet been taken to organize wheat-growers, but I do know that there is no body more difficult to organize than they are. In the past, they have been steadily exploited, but they have never learned the lesson of proper organization to avoid this exploitation. If the bill becomes law, it will at least serve the purpose of organizing the farming community. The only thing I can see wrong about the proposal is that it will hurt the wheat merchants. Nothing could be fairer than the proposal to pay a flat rate of 4s. a bushel whether a man is growing wheat far inland or close to the sea-hoard, and I should say that there is something wrong with the farming community if the farmer does not hug this proposal to. his bosom.
We hope that this bill will bring in its train the results that have been achieved in Canada. Let me quote the following : -
Winnipeg, from being a mere collection of huts and log buildings In 1870, lias become a substantial city. From this small beginning Winnipeg is now the largest wheat exporting centre on the American continent, as shown by recent, figures. They are: Duluth-Superior, 42,400.023 bushels; Chicago, 37.949,053 bushels ; Winnipeg, 51,833,000 bushels. Millions of trees have also been planted on the prairie, and boulevards constructed at the public expense; and so marked has been the transformation of Winnipeg that it is now proposed to change the name from Prairie City to Elm City.
I trust that we can bring about a similar result in Australia. It is truly said that the fanning community is the back-bone of the country, although a year or t wo ago it was freely said that the sheep was carrying Australia on its back. The farming community is the most important section and it is the duty of the Government to help it in every possible way.
As Senator Pearce has mentioned a number of people who are opposed to a wheat pool, I think I am entitled to mention a number who are in favour of having one. We have, for example, the conference which met in Canberra on the 19th February, 1930. The majority of those present were, I understand, in favour of establishing a compulsory pooh< The. following were present or represented at that gathering: -
New South Wales. - Minister for Agriculture; Primary Producers Union; Chamber of Agriculture; Agricultural Bureau; Farmers and Settlers Association of Kew South Wales; Australian Farmers Federal Organization; and Wheat-growers Association.
Victoria-. - Minister for Agriculture; Victorian Wheat-growers Association; Chamber of Agriculture ; Victorian Wheat-growers Corporation Limited; Victorian Farmers Union; Victorian Producers Co-operative Company Limited; and Ouyen Wheat-growers Association.
South Australia. - Director of Agriculture; South Australian Co-operative Wheat Pools; and Wheat-growers Protection Association.
Western Australia. - Primary Producers Association and Co-operative Wheat Pool of Western Australia.
The only complaints we have heard are those that come from the wheat merchants. When a ballot is taken it will show who are behind the farming community.
Some honorable senators want to know why the bill does not provide for the holding of a ballot. Apparently it has been left to the State Parliaments to arrange for the taking of ballots and we can rest assured as to the honesty of the State Governments. Some doubt has been raised as to the declaration by the Minister for Markets /and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) that the 4s. a bushel payment to the farmers would be assured. Personally I have no doubt on the subject, because behind the Commonwealth Bank is the credit of the nation. What better security could the wheat-growers have than the credit of the nation?
Senator Pearce spoke at great length about Russia. Although I do not know that that country has anything to do with the present proposal, I understand that the right honorable senator talked of the great numbers of harvesters and tractors it had recently imported. . One would naturally expect that Russia would recover its position as a wheat-producer. Prior to the war it was the greatest exporter of wheat in the world, and in all probability it will again become a great exporter of wheat. It must be borne in mind, however, that before the war the bread eaten by 90 per cent, of the Russian people was made of rye, and that it is possible that under the Soviet control they are now consuming wheaten bread, which of course, would have the effect of considerably reducing the surplus of wheat for export. Senator McLachlan said that this measure will not assist in stabilizing the wheat industry because prices are governed by the quantity of the product offering. He further contended that if this measure proves unconstitutional difficulties may arise; but in such circumstances the wheat-growers of Australia would not be in a worse position than they are to-day. The Commonwealth Government would keep its promise and find some way of overcoming the difficulty, and they would in any event at least be able to export their product under a voluntary pooling system, and receive the benefits which the wheat merchants now obtain. Senator McLachlan also said that in purchasing the farmers’ product, the wheat merchants paid on London parity; but I should like to know how they can purchase on that basis. In order to show how prices fluctuate and the impossibility of Australian wheat merchants buying at London parity, I may explain that on 1st July last, the London quotation was 44s. a quarter and the freight was 10s. a ton. The value on trucks in South Australia according to the pool figures worked out at 4s. 8d. a bushel. The Advertiser quotation on that day was 4s. 5d. per bushel, 3d. below what the London market could afford on trucks at Port Adelaide. Next day the London price jumped up 6d. a quarter, leaving a price here, on trucks, of 4s. 9d., but the market quotation according to the Advertiser was still 4s. 5d. On 3rd July the London price had advanced to 45s. 3d., an increase of over Id. per bushel, making it 4s. 10£d. here, and the local price was advanced by a halfpenny, a discrepancy of 5d. a bushel. The next day the London price had- gone up another 9d. a quarter, and the local price should have been over 4s. Hid., but the Advertiser quotation was 4s. 6d. On 5th July the price was the same in London, but the local price as published in the
Advertiser went up a halfpenny, leaving a discrepancy of 5d. between it and the London parity. These are the conditions under which wheat is sold.
– There is no voluntary pool of any importance in that State. In endeavouring to institute & comparison between the present method of marketing wheat and a compulsory pooling system, Senator Carroll attempted to show how Joseph dealt with the farmers in Egypt. According to Senator Carroll Joseph was a conservative whose business it was to farm the farmers. It is not the desire of this Government to introduce some modern Joseph to represent the farmers, but to establish a pooling system under which they will derive some benefit. The aim of wheat merchants is to make a profit on the business they handle. -
– Are they a bad lot?
– I will not say that. They are out to make all they can under the present marketing system, and considering the palatial residences and business premises they occupy their profits must be enormous. Senator Carroll quoted an extract from the Melbourne Age to the effect that the farmers should be allowed to sell their wheat to the highest bidder; but we contend that under a compulsory pooling system they will be able to obtain better returns because the wheat merchants always allow a wide margin on which to operate. A wheat merchant on taking control of a farmer’s produce is able to benefit by any increase in price, which, I contend, belongs to the producers. The merchants also have the advantage of any increase in the weight of wheat in the stacks, and also when it is on the water, the value of which at times is equivalent to the cost of the freight. Senator McLachlan said he was opposed to the bill because it is a form of compulsion, and that the only compulsion which he had ever favoured was in connexion with military service overseas. The honorable senator believes in compulsory military service, compulsory voting, and. other forms of compulsion, but he does not think the- farmers
Should be compelled to place their wheat in a pool even if it is to their advantage to do so. Under a pooling system the farmers would obtain direct benefit in the matter of truck accommodation, and in freights. The Australian Wheat Board will be the one authority to order trucks, to negotiate all charters, and, in the absence of competition, should obtain better freight rates. A majority of the Australian farmers are looking to the Commonwealth Parliament and to the State Parliaments to give them some relief from the present system of marketing. For four years the farmers in many parts of South Australia have experienced a severe drought, and they are now hoping that under an improved system they will be able to recoup some of the losses they have incurred. They are hoping to be lifted out of the mire of despair in which they have been plunged during the last few seasons. The forthcoming harvest is promising, and it will mean much to our wheat-farmers if they receive 4s. a bushel on delivery at railway sidings. My heart goes out to those wheat-growers in the back-blocks of South Australia and the mallee district of Victoria. They and their womenfolk have laboured long in the hope that a favorable harvest would put them on their feet again. They must be endowed with great courage to face the difficulties which have beset them in recent years. It is the duty of this Government, and of the people generally, to help our primary producers in the way now proposed by the Government. Given a good harvest this guaranteed price will be like a ray of sunshine to many farmers, and it will be the first they have seen for four or five years. If, by mismanagement, the pool proves a failure - I do not see how that is possible - responsibility will be upon the management, and since representatives of the farming community will be in control, they should be in a position to ensure its success. I feel confident that the farmers will make no mistake; that they will elect to the management of the pool men ripe in experience and sound in judgment. I sincerely hope that the compulsory pool will be established, and that it will bring great good to the farming community of Australia.
– I listened with interest to the speeches of honorable senators who are supporting the measure; as well as of those who are opposed to it. It is gratifying to know that, in the main, they discussed the Government’s proposal from a nonparty stand-point. The present price of wheat in the markets of the world is at a very low level, and indicates the great need for definite action on .the part of the Government to assist our growers. This need is the greater in view of the recommendation of the Federal Farm Board in the United States of America to all wheat-growers in that country- to reduce the acreage under cultivation so as to ensure a better price for wheat purchased for local consumption. Since the United States of America has an exceedingly large population, a satisfactory price in the home market means much to its wheat-producers. The secondary industries in that country employ many millions of workers, who constitute a valuable home market for all primary products. Active competition for the products of the land has the effect of stabilizing and maintaining prices at a fairly high level. Unfortunately, Australia is in a different position. We export approximately two-thirds of our wheat production, so our growers depend for their prosperity upon a satisfactory price in the world’s markets. Our primary and secondary industries each have to face an entirely different problem in relation to the marketing of their output, and not unfrequently there is conflict in interest between the two sections of industry. The home market absorbs but a limited proportion of our total primary production. Consequently our producers have to go further’ afield. In other words they have to compete in the markets of the world, and to do this they must produce on a competitive “basis. At the present time world’s prices offer a very narrow margin of profit. If at any time prices are too low, our distance from the overseas markets is so great that any thought of returning production to Australia for consumption in the home market is impracticable, because of the high cost of transport. Our secondary industries unfortunately have very little interest in overseas markets, beyond an anxiety on the part of our manfacturers that the home market may be flooded with overseas products at a price which they are not in a position to meet. Our secondary industries cannot produce for export. As a matter of fact their very existence depends entirely upon capturing and holding the home market. Naturally our manufacturers take advantage of the incidence of the tariff. I have considered the underlying purpose of this bill from the standpoint of our primary and secondary industries, because their interests are interwoven in the commerce of this country. Our wheat-farmers and producers of other primary commodities being obliged to market their surplus products overseas, have no opportunity to regulate prices in the way open to employers in our secondary industries. In this respect they are at a distinct disadvantage. Not until our secondary industries are fully developed and are employing large numbers of workers will our primary industries receive any appreciable advantage from the incidence of the tariff.
– The Government’s proposal will help the wheat farmers.
– I am attempting to show that our primary producers, and especially in this case our wheat-farmers, deserve the same measure of assistance that is given to our secondary industries. To some extent I consider that this bill will be a means to that end.
I gather from the utterances of honorable senators who have already spoken, that wheat-farmers and organizations in the different States are at variance with reference to certain aspects of. the Government’s scheme. Although the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) informed us that there was complete unanimity at the conference of wheat-farmers held at Canberra on the 17th February last, I doubt that the majority of wheat-growers are in favour of the compulsory pooling system. Different honorable senators who have spoken to-night have suggested that the bill will interfere unduly with the free right of marketing. Some even went so far as to claim that the measure is an attempt to nationalize the wheat industry of Australia, one of our largest primary industries. I do not say that the bill goes as far as that, but I do think that unless it has the complete approval of the majority of our farmers it will interfere greatly with, the rights and privileges of wheat-growers in Australia. One aspect of the industry that is of outstanding importance both to the Government and to the people of Australia is the assistance to our financial stability that will be effected if we can encourage the export of large quantities of our wheat. The Government’s inauguration of the “Grow more wheat” slogan is a .tacit appreciation of that fact.
I have previously pointed out that from its inception our wheat industry has had to depend for its existence mainly upon the quantity of wheat exported and sold abroad at world’s parity. Our product has to be grown in one of the most highly protected countries in the world, and that has been a large contributing factor towards increasing its cost of production. Because of that I agree with the general principles of the bill. I believe that our wheat-farmers should be granted some measure of assistance to enable them to take advantage of our high protective policy. Numerous arguments have been advanced for and against the pooling system. I do’ not intend to recapitulate them. I maintain that if the majority of the farmers in this nation-wide industry desire to organize in their own interests it is the duty of the Government to help them to do so. The Minister who is in charge of the bill in the Senate has indicated that the proposed compulsory pool will be controlled by farmers’ representatives from each State, and that the Australian board will not come into operation until three or more of the large wheat-growing States have agreed to the bill. Although I cannot see that definitely stated in any clause of the measure, I am of the opinion that it is essential to have a vote of the farmers in the different States to ascertain their views on the subject. I should like the Government to state its intention more definitely in this respect. If the wheat-growers, by ballot, desire a pool, it should be granted to them. It would then be our duty to establish one and make it as efficient as possible. I realize that we have but four wheat-growing States of any magnitude, “Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, and I believe that any majority of the States asking for a pool should include at least three of those that I have enumerated. The States that will have to bear the greatest loss should the guaranteed price not be realized should have the final say as to whether a pool should be established or otherwise. I should like to see incorporated in the bill a provision similar to that regarding referendum proposals, to the effect that there must be a majority of the States, and a majority of the farmers of the Commonwealth, voting in favour of a pool.
One thing that has tended to bring into disfavour the private handling of wheat is the enormous amount of speculation that has taken place in this great national commodity, particularly on the New York and Chicago exchanges. Actual sales of wheat have been made amounting in the aggregate to more than 40 times the quantity of that commodity available for sale at the time. It may be claimed that such speculation tends to increase prices,’ but I am of the opinion that unreal price fluctuations caused by speculation of that type are disadvantageous to the farmer. I do not think that the bill will entirely eliminatesuch speculation, as Australia exports only oneeleventh of the world’s wheat; but it should obviate wild-cat speculation in at least a proportion of the world’s wheat.
I do not believe that the bill will give the very best assistance to the farmer. Personally I should prefer to see the industry encouraged by a bounty. That would not materially interfere with the present system of financing and marketing wheat that has been built up over a number of years, and at a considerable cost by private enterprise. Surely it would be to our advantage to continue to utilize the facilities at our disposal for the purpose. We should content ourselves with granting a bounty and concentrating on the growing side of the industry, leaving the selling side to be managed in its present efficient way. For the past twelve months Germany, France and Italy have granted bounties on wheat grown in their respective territories. In this bill the Government guarantees 4s. a bushel for all wheat delivered at country sidings. That guarantee will, however, operate for only one year, although the compulsory pool itself will continue for three years. The farmer is rather in the dark as to what will happen after the first year. A bounty would have been preferable to the system proposed in this bill, for, at the end of the first year, a bounty could be withdrawn if necessary, and the industry left in the position in which it was previously. But once our marketing arrangements have been upset for a term of three years, it will be difficult to re-establish them in the event of the pool being disbanded. There is also the objection that any loss must be borne equally by the States and the Commonwealth; but, as that is a matter more for consideration in committee, I shall not deal with it now. I agree with the general principles underlying the bill, and, therefore, I shall support the second reading, while reserving the right to discuss amendments when the bill has reached the committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator E. B. Johnston) adjourned.
Senator H. E. Elliott and the Minister for Defence - Naturalization Papers: Payment of Fee.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I regret that I must again take up the time of the Senate with a personal matter. In connexion with certain statements made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) and the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Daly), I endeavoured to define my position in the Military Forces by asking a series of questions. To-day, Senator Barnes replied to those questions, but his answers were a clever evasion of the issue. I, therefore, propose to place before the Senate some figures which will show how little reliance can be placed on the answers supplied to questions. It would appear that in replying to questions, the Ministry is attempting to treat the Senate with contumely and contempt. I have here a return showing the strength of the second, third and fourth cavalry divisions in Victoria on the 31st May, 1930. Another return is now due, but will not be ready for a few days. The return shows that the Third Division comprises 406 officers, 803 warrant and non-commissioned officers, and 2,464 privates, or a total of 3,673. The addition of 1,526 senior cadets makes a grand total of 5,199. The Fourth Division comprises 255 officers, 443 warrant and non-commissioned officers, and 1,736 privates - a total of 2,434. The Fourth Division also has 533 cadets, making a grand total of 2,967 for cadets and militia forces. The Second Cavalry Division has 144 officers, and 1,433 other ranks, or a total of 1,577 for the militia. The addition of 103 senior cadets makes the grand total 1,680. The grand totals for the Third and Fourth Divisions and the Second Cavalry Division are 5,199, 2,967, and 1,680 respectively. On a percentage basis, those figures represent 84.7 per cent. for the Third Division, which is under my command; 67.1 per cent, for the Fourth Division, “and 79 per cent, for the Second Cavalry Division. Despite those figures, the official answer to my question stated that recruiting was less successful in the Third Division than in any other division. I propose to ask to-morrow whether the returns which I now supply are correct, and, if the reply is in the affirmative, how the answers supplied by the department can be reconciled with the true figures.
This public denial, for political .reasons, of the recognition of the work of the officers under my command cannot fail to dishearten those who have so loyally and ungrudgingly laboured to carry out the policy of the Government.
Other questions were asked with a view to eliciting the true position and to show the difficulties under which officers of the militia are labouring. I asked for instance, what assistance had been given by the Minister for Defence and other members of the Cabinet towards recruiting, and was informed that no information was available. That is not so; the information is available. On two occasions the Minister for Defence refused invitations from the 46th Battalion to address recruiting meetings. The 59th Battalion asked the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Anstey) to attend meetings, the object of which was to gain recruits, but on two occasions he replied that he was_unable to do so. The
Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) was invited to attend similar meetings arranged by the 57th Battalion, but he wrote saying that while he could not be present he wished them luck. On another occasion when he was invited to attend a meeting at Preston he replied that owing to his having to visit Adelaide, he could not do so. In connexion with a recruiting meeting for the 58th Battalion, Mr. Scullin was asked, by the Mayor to attend; but he sent an apology, and said he could not do so. I have been obliged to take some steps in this matter because of a recent incident at Kyneton, in Victoria. We pay recruiting officers to spend their time raising recruits. Major Rawson, one of these officers, went to a smoke social at the Returned Soldiers League at Kyneton, and addressed the gathering. He said -
He would like the returned soldiers to assist in the recruiting of nien for the Light Horse Regiment, as it was necessary for encouragement to be given now that the Government had scrapped compulsory training in favor of a voluntary force.
Immediately afterwards Mr. .Pollard, Assistant Minister for Agriculture in the Hogan Government, addressed the meeting. He said -
Mr. Rawson had expressed the wish that returned soldiers should encourage voluntary enlistments in the 17th Light Horse Regiment. He did not endorse that wish and hoped the regiment would never reach its full strength. His hope and desire was for peace and for that end he worked. He believed that preparation for war meant war and therefore was against recruiting, voluntary or compul sory.
As a prominent member of the party to which the Minister for Defence belongs had apparently opposed the Government’s policy, and remained unrebuked, I felt it imperative on my part to draw the attention of the Minister to the difficulties we were encountering. He immediately retorted that I - -
– “Had done everything possible to discourage recruiting.”
– That is so. I have asked the Minister to suggest any way in which I can do more than I have already done to assist in recruiting.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should correspond withthe Minister instead of bringing the matter up here every night on the adjournment.
– I have taken the only course open to me lest any question should arise hereafter. Senator Daly has asked me pointedly to resign, and Mr. Green has practically threatened my dismissal as if I were of no value to the Service. I propose to place on record some of the doings of those under my command. Last year, the units under my command distinguished themselves in many competitions, as is shown by the following statement -
CUPS WON IN OPEN COMPETITIONBY UNITS OF 3rd DIVISION.
Daughters of the Empire Cup - Teams, Senior Cadets, 59th Battalion, 1930.
In the last District Sports the following shows the results: -
Number of events . . . . 13
Units of 3rd Division won 11.
Number of events 21
Units of 3rd Division won 13.
At the last Citizen Forces’ rifle meeting, out of twelve events, six were won outright by units of the 3rd Division, and one of those units tied in a seventh. I hope we shall hear the last of these suggestions of my inefficiency.
I notice that during my absence last week a series of questions was asked by Senator Rae, with a distinct implication of dishonesty or something of that sort on my part.
– The honorable senator asked -
I draw, as stated, £250 a year; but no one knows better than the Minister that it is no more salary than is the allowance paid to the mayor of a municipality, who has to exercise the greatest economy if he is not to spend a great deal more than he is allowed. The other day, we saw a picture of John Brown, miner, who represents His Majesty theKing as High Commissioner of Scotland, wearing a gold-laced uniform and a cocked hat with flamingo feathers. I do not aspire to flamingo feathers, but, in my humble way, I have to dress my part. I object to the style of the honorable senator’s attack. It reminds me of a story current just after motor cars were first introduced into Melbourne when the noise and fumes from the exhaust were still peculiarly objectionable. One morning an elderly citizen was almost knocked down by a lusty youth who was pushing by in a contraption on wheels, and as he turned to look after the youth, a small boy charged into him. He caught hold of the boy, who blurted out, “ Let me go ; you are spoiling our game.” “ What game are you playing?” said the citizen. The boy said, “ We’re playing motor cars. Bill is the motor car and I am the stink.” In this case the Minister is the youth in the motor car with Senator Rae playing the stink. It is my duty to superintend the training of the troops under my command, and they are spread over half Victoria from Benalla to Dandenong. The department does not allow me theuse of a motor car. If I owned a car it would make me a small allowance for petrol; but, for my own reasons, I prefer to hire a car when I travel. At Christmas, when the 39th Battalion was in the old barracks at Portsea to carry on voluntary training, it was my responsibility to pay a visit to the camp. There is no railway to Portsea, and if I had travelled by boat I should have got there after the training was over for the day, and should have had to wait 24 hours for the next day’s boat. Consequently, I hired a car, and my bill for the day was £6 5s. It. is 125 miles from Melbourne to Portsea and back. On my allowance of £5 a week, I. was thus £1 5s. to the bad for that week. When the men go into camp at Seymour, I travel there by car in order to save my own time. Each trip to Seymour costs me from £8 to £10, according to the time I spend at the camp. During the years I have had the command, I have made no claim against the Defence Department for allowance for petrol or anything of that sort. Then again it is my duty and privilege to return hospitality. The mayors and councillors provide entertainments to raise money to pay for these wonderful sports trophies that are given to us, and when there is a militia ball it is my duty to make such return as I think fit. I hate to be talking about these things, but one ball cost me for invitations between £40 and £50, and on another occasion it cost £39.
– Does that money come out of the honorable senator’s own pocket ?
– I try to confine it to the £250 allowance that I receive. It is not to be regarded as a salary but a recoupment of expenses necessarily incurred. Let me illustrate that point. The. income tax collector tried to charge income taxation against an officer in respect of his allowance. The case was fought out, and the officer concerned had no difficulty in showing that he had to pay out rather more than his allowance in order to carry out his job properly. Another item is in respect of books. My efforts, particularly since the war, have been in. the direction of buying the latest war books.
I do not believe, as many honorable senators supporting the Government do, that if a man is given a rifle he is able to go out and fight or direct a battle on his own natural resources without learning or instruction. Sir John Monash, who was, during the war, recognized as one of the leading Commanders, had other ideas, and has accumulated a library unequalled elsewhere in Australia from the study of which he fitted himself for command. I am endeavouring to follow his lead. I have a standing order with Mullens for any new books dealing with the war. They are sent to me on approval.
– Has the honorable senator All Quiet on the Western Front?
– I did have that book, but I gave it away. It is quite useless for any good purpose. Last year military books purchased for my library, from Mullens alone, cost over £30. In addition I am subscribing to Captain Bean’s official history at £1 a volume. I have now ten volumes, and also a similar: number of volumes of the British official history, costing about 25s. eaeh.
I come now to the question of uniforms - John Brown with a feather in his hat. The Government makes the magnificent allowance of £10 over four years towards a uniform. I have never drawn that allowance since I was a subaltern some years before the war. It covers clothes, but not boots or cap. An officer in my position is expected to attend Government levees as a representative of His Majesty. In that case I must wear a scarlet mess dress costing about £30. Inaddition, when an officer has distinguished himself in any way, His Majesty confers upon him certain decorations. The actual decorations are valuable but verycumbrous, and, therefore, when one goes to Government House, onewears miniature medals only. Those are small, but cost £5 each, which each officer must pay for himself.
– Could not the honorable senator attend that functionwithout the decorations? .
-In that case I should be improperly dressed and my action would be contrary to regulations. On one occasion someperson helped himself to. some of my decorations, and I had to replace them. Then, I am expected to attend Government House garden parties and levees in my official dress. On such an occasion I wear a blue frock coat and trousers, “Wellington boots and so on. In addition, I must provide, at my own expense, a gold embroidered belt costing £12, and a sword with a gold and ivory hilt costing about the same. I am giving these particulars so that honorable senators will rid themselves of the idea that military officers are making a fortune out of their allowances. The following is a list of uniforms : Levee dress of frock coat and so on, complete with sword and sash, £50; mess outfit, £30; miniature medals, £30; khaki outfit, including top boots and overcoat, £25; cotton drill uniform for working in the dust, £4; blue undress, £8; total, £157. In addition, I had the honour to be appointed aidedecamp to the Governor-General. I found, on inquiry, that under the dress regulation it was necessary for me to provide a gold cord running from one shoulder to the other, costing ten guineas. The prices that I have quoted are spot cash at the clothing factory. If an officer has not the money available, he has to go to a tailor, whose prices are considerably higher. In addition, I have the privilege of being president and patron of a rifle club ; as such, it is usual for me to give a prize every year. I give a silver teapot for the best shot. Then, in regard to military sports clubs to which I have referred, occasionally the officers in control make a loss and in one case I had to pay £5 so that these young officers should not have a personal loss. I look upon the allowance of £250 as a fund from which I can draw to enable me to meet expenses which otherwise I could not bear. All these details were well known to the Minister, and I cannot understand why he did not make them known, in justice to myself.
I have been asked whether I am on the rationed list. I should like to point out that I spent my youth in a very good school, and I thought that the best way in which I could, assist my returned comrades, who were in indigent circumstances, was to pay for the instruction of some of their children at that school. Therefore, every year since the war I have paid a fee on behalf of a son of a returned soldier. That has cost me £25 a’ year. On one occasion the father of the boy could not afford to keep him and the head master recommended the boy as worthy. Accordingly I paid for his board at his own home. That cost me another £25. There were three sons in our family, two of whom volunteered for Service abroad. One was a medical practitioner, who held the rank of captain, and lost his life after winning the military cross. His widow, who has one child, receives a pension of 40s. for herself and 12s. 6d. for her child; but although the pension of privates’ widows was raised from 20s. to £2 2s. a week, with an additional allowance of 10s. for each child, the pension of the captain’s widow remained unaltered. Under the present system the widows of privates or captains receive a flat rate of £2 2s., with an additional 10s. for each child. In these circumstances it became necessary for my brother and I to make up the widow’s pension to £6 a week to enable the child to be properly educated.
Sinister references have also been made concerning my private business, which apparently the Minister for Defence would like me to discontinue. I employed six clerks; but recently I have had to dispense with the services of one of them. When my employees read the remarks of the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes), he or the candidates supporting the party to which he belongs are not likely to receive any of their votes, particularly as he suggests that I should close up my office, which would mean throwing them out of employment.
– I did not suggest anything of the kind.
– Perhaps not; but others did. I do not intend to close up my office. I understand from the utterances of the Minister for Defence that he proposes to dismiss me from my position as soon as possible. He is quite free to do so if he desires, as I hold it only during the Government’s pleasure. I have never said anything as drastic concerning the ‘ Government’s defence policy as Mr. Pollard, a member of the Victorian State Parliament. I have already announced that I shall b’e satisfied if the authorities will allow Sir John Monash to reply to my questionnaire, and if that gentleman bears out the Minister’s statement I am prepared to hand in my resignation within 24 hours. I do not know Sir John Monash’s views on this subject, as I have not consulted him; but I am so confident that this scheme does not represent his views or advice that I have every confidence in making my resignation conditional upon his support of the Minister’s assertion.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has asked certain questions concerning my position. That honorable member was a member of Parliament when he enlisted at Ballarat. At his own request he joined the Army Service Corps, and left Australia as a warrant officer with the 3rd Division. “When in England he came under the command of Sir John Monash. Mr. McGrath has represented that, when holding a position at Horseferry-road, he daily besieged his officers for permission to go to the front. But what the people really want to know is how he was appointed to a position at Horseferry-road, when- that staff was supposed to consist of men who had been wounded, and who. were no longer fit for service at the front. I understand that Sir John Monash was never consulted as to his transfer from his command. If so his transfer was unique. It is, however, significant that both Mr. McGrath and Mr. Ozanne, a fellow Labour member of Parliament, left the camp of the 3rd Division without their commander’s permission and went to London when their unit was under orders to go to the front. I venture to suggest that if these two men had not been members of Parliament they would both have faced a serious charge. It is said that Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes adjusted matters, and that Mr. Ozanne took his discharge rather than go to the front. Mr. McGrath was provided with a “cushy” job at Horseferry-road. When Mr. Ozanne returned to Australia he received a very cold reception and Mr. McGrath then began an agitation to get across to France. This was at a time when we had brought the offensive to an end. Was it merely a coincidence that this transfer took place just when the winter brought all military effort to a standstill ? After three months of service and when matters were getting really lively, he was able to return to England. I make no implication whatever as to his courage or desire for service, but to the less fortunate ones he seemed to have had some fairy godmother who, with a wave of her magic wand, was able to transfer - him backwards and forwards just as he desired, and in a way that no one else whom I have heard of was able to do. I shall let it go at that, but if he should trouble me again I may be tempted to speak more plainly on the subject.
Some time ago Senator Dunn made an attack upon me, and, after commending the promotions of Generals Chauvel and Monash, stated that I was reported as being “too stupid and too bombastic to receive promotion.” It is well that I should put this right. I am quite aware that there is a black mark upon my files. It reads -
The Military Board happens to be aware of the circumstances under which this officer was superseded in the Australian Imperial Force. His bravery and capacity to command cannot be questioned, but he is lacking in the restraint and judgment necessary for high command.
I have endeavoured by all the means in my power to have that matter investigated, but so far I have failed. I have not, however, given up hope. History is being written and it is revealing a. great deal. Captain Bean has just disclosed that on the eve of the disaster at. Fleurbaix, I compromised my career by endeavouring to have the operation cancelled. I even sent a message to General Haig asking for reconsideration. In consequence of that action a wire was sent to the officer responsible for the action to this effect -
This action is not to take place unless the general is able to assure me that the artillery preparations are sufficient and will enable theinfantry to advance.
That assurance was given, my advice waa overridden, and, as a result, some 7,000 of our best and bravest fell upon that fatal field without the slightest results. In the November following I took similar action.. I was ordered to take a trench; but I formed a deliberate judgment that thetask was impossible. I refused to give the order to attack until I received an order in writing from General McCay stating that I had protested that my protest was overruled and that I was thus relieved of all responsibility in that respect. None of my superiors would sign that order .and another general was sent in my place and the attack was made. If honorable senators will read Bean’s history they will learn that the men took six hours to march two miles, and that the. younger men were weeping through sheer exhaustion when they arrived. In that condition they had to make the attack. Over SOO men fell, including the general who took over control from me, and not one single yard of ground was gained. Precisely the same position then arose as has now arisen. On that occasion I perceived that an impossible task was being attempted. I opposed the course suggested with all my power, and tb-day I am opposing a policy that I believe to be equally disastrous. Narrow-minded bitterness has been aroused against me, as it was then. I was regarded as an obstructionist as I am now. I was then as unperturbed by the consequences as I now am. I shall not resign, except under the conditions stated, and shall continue to do my duty to the public of this country as I see it, again regardless of the consequences.
– I shall be brief in my remarks. My name has been dragged into this discussion, or I should not have spoken at all. I have never at any time challenged the personal courage on the battlefield of Senator Elliott; but I remind him that while I was serving with the Australian Imperial Force, I had to take my instructions from my superior officers. I had to go where they sent me. If I- had not obeyed the orders that I received on active service from such gentlemen as Senator Elliott, Senator Glasgow and Senator Sampson, I might have left my carcase in France. I can understand that the honorable senator may not have very much to spare out of his £250 after his military expenses have been met.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Government what I’ consider to be a grave in justice. to certain persons in/ this country who, prior to the passing of the Naturalization Bill a week or so ago, had applied for naturalization. It will be remembered that the bill made necessary the payment of a fee of £3 for naturalization papers. I have in mind particularly the case of a person who, five or six years ago, during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, applied for naturalization. Upon reports coming to hand from the Vice-Consul for Italy in New South Wales to the effect that the applicant was an opponent of the Fascist regime and the Mussolini Government, the application was refused. Recently the gentleman renewed his application and after a further investigation had been made, approval was given to the granting of it. The surprise of the applicant may be imagined, therefore, when he received a notification that under the new law he was obliged to pay. a fee of £3 before he could obtain his papers. This man is a sufferer from phthisis, and is an inmate of the Waterfall sanatorium. He has been ill for a considerable time; he may never leave the institution alive; and T suppose he has not threepence to call his own. It is a great hardship in such circumstances to withhold the naturalization papers. I trust that the Government will endeavour to find means of granting this application and others which were made and approved before the passing of the act.
– I entirely repudiate the suggestion that the Government has treated the Senate with contempt and .contumely. Senator Elliott has complained that certain replies have not been. given to questions he has asked. I suggest to him that he should ask other questions until he receives the information that he desires. I appeal to the honorable senator also to let his differences of opinion with the Minister for Defence drop, and I promise him I shall make a similar appeal to the Minister for Defence. It is not in the best, interests of this chamber or of our defence system that a gentleman like Senator Elliott who, unquestionably, has had a long and honorable military career, should continue to make speeches of the kind he has made lately in regard to our defence, forces. The honorable, senator has attacked the military records of certain members of another place. ,It is entirely undesirable that mud-slinging of the kind which was indulged in in the other place lately should be indulged in here. I have no doubt that Mr. McGrath could make out a strong case to show that his courage was just as great as that of Senator Elliott. It strikes me as strange, however, that it should be possible under the British military system for Mr. McGrath, or any other person, to obtain advice at Horseferry-road as to when it was safe and when it was dangerous during the war period to go from England to France.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), the Attorney-General (Mr.Brennan) and the Minister for Health (Mr. Anstey) have been charged with hypocrisy in simply apologizing for their absence from certain recruiting meetings. May I remind the honorable senator that these three gentlemen have had an exceptionally busy time since this Government assumed office. The Prime Minister, in particular, has carried the whole weight of the Government on his shoulders since he assumed office. These Ministers are giving 100 per cent of their time to their duties, whereas Senator Elliott suits his own convenience as to when he attends to his parliamentary duties in Canberra and when he attends to his business interests elsewhere. As to the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fen ton) from the meeting concerned, the honorable senator seems to have forgotten that the Minister was attendinga naval disarmament conference in London when the meeting was held. He could not have been at that conference one night and at a recruiting meeting at Dandenong the next night. It is regrettable that this matter should have been raised at all, and that the honorable senator should have rushed into print in connexion with it. The whole affair reminds me of an incident when I was appearing in a matrimonial case. The defendant was a big 6-ft. waterside worker, while his wife was a little frail woman not more than 5 ft. in height. It was alleged that she was in the habit of beating her husband. The magistrate expressed some surprise, and during the cross-examination he said to the husband, “Do you say that this little woman beats you in the way described?” The husband, in reply, said “ Yes.” “ Well,” said the magistrate, “ I cannot understand it.” “ Oh, it is this way,” replied the defendant. “ She beats me. It pleases her and it does not hurt me.” Now that is exactly the attitude which I suggest Senator H. E. Elliott should adopt when he feels that the Minister for Defence is making an attack upon him. It would be in the interests of the Senate, and conducive to his own self-respect, if he regarded himself as the big waterside worker to whom I have alluded, and said to himself, “ Well, if the Minister finds pleasure in attacking me, let him do so; it does not hurt me.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300702_senate_12_125/>.