12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held at Canberra, February, 1930 - Proceedings and decisions of Conference.
Tariff Board -
Reports and Recommendations -
Springs for Motor Cars, &c.
Wool felt Hoods for the manufacture of felt hats.
Wireless Receiving Sets and Parts.
Arsenic and Arsenical Compounds.
Floor Coverings capable of being used either asRoofing Felt or Flooring Felt.
Ironclad Air Break Switches; Ironclad Air Break Switch Fuzes; Air Circuit Breakers.
High Grade Carbon Steels and Alloy Steels.
Metal Bedsteads and Cots, manufactured angles and fittings for wooden bedsteads and wooden cots.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules, 1930, No.61 -No.66.
– With regard to the point of order raised yesterday by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in connexion with a question proposed to be asked by SenatorH. E. Elliott, I have to report that having examined the question I have decided that it is out of ordnr on the ground that it contravenes the principle that the purpose of a question is to obtain information and not to supply it. It also infringes the wellestablished parliamentary practice that a question must not contain quotations, and is out of order on other grounds. I regret the growing tendency on the part of honorable senators to ask questions for the purpose of supplying information rather than obtaining it. In this connexion, I think, we might very well follow the example which has been set us by another place. On the notice of questions form used in the House of Representatives is to be found a résumé of what is, and is not, permissible in asking questions on notice, and I propose, after having adapted that advice to our own Standing Orders, to have printed for the use of honorable senators a similar form. Honorable senators, when drafting a notice of question, will not then be under any misapprehension as to what their powers, are, and what is, or. is not desirable in submitting questions to Ministers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the honorable senator will be advised as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of the ever-growing use of the aeroplane as a means of transport, will the Government consider the question of connecting up all country aerodromes by telephone with the nearest townships?
– The Government realizes how helpful it would be to the increasing number of persons who use the aeroplane as a means of transport if every country aerodrome were connected by telephone to the nearest township. However, the expenditure involved would be very considerable, and cannot be contemplated at the present time, when there is such need for economy in departmental expenditure.
North- Western Australia
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide page 3544), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [3.9]. - From the point of view of Western Australia, this is certainly the most important measure that has been before the Senate during the short period I have been here as one of the representatives of that State. Certainly no other measure has given me so much cause for anxious consideration. It is true that Western Australia depends almost entirely upon its primary products for its prosperity, and particularly upon the wheat and wool industries. Anything that affects the wheat-growing industry is, therefore, of the greatest interest to the whole of the people of that State. For many years past, Western Australia has engaged in an active policy of land development very largely carried out in the wheat districts. New railways, roads and water supplies have been provided, huge areas of new land opened up, and successive governments have done what could be done by legislative action to assist in the production of wheat. I approach the consideration of this measure from the view-point of one who was for seventeen years a representative of a very important wheatproducing electorate in the State Parliament of Western Australia, and also of one anxious to further the interests of the wheat-growers in this matter. As a wheat-grower with 10,000 bushels of wheat in this year’s voluntary pool and a considerable area at present under crop, I am naturally closely associated with the industry, and I shall endeavour to show its importance to Western Australia. Last year, the area harvested for wheat in that State was 3,568,225 acres which produced 39,081,183 bushels, or an average of 11 bushels an acre. Last year’s production was arecord for the State as it exceeded that of any other State in the Commonwealth during that season. It also exceeded the production of the previous year by over 5,000,000 bushels and the average yield in that season by 9 bushels per acre. The production war 2,710,964 bushels above the previous record which was established in 1927-28.
In view of these figures I consider that the importance of the wheat industry to Western Australia, and also the importance of Western Australia’s wheat industry to the Commonwealth is apparent. The phenomenal growth of the industry in that State has been obtained by the energy displayed by the wheat-growers and by the assistance of successive State Governments in opening up and developing our wheat lands, constructing roads, providing water supplies, and in building railways, as well as by the assistance given in the form of advances by the Agricultural Bank. This assistance has been a means of developing the wheat industry to a remarkable extent. I do npt think any Government in the Commonwealth has stood so closely behind any industry as has the Western Australian Government in connexion, with this industry. The wisdom of the policy adopted has been proved by the results achieved and is shown in the record figures which I have just quoted for last year, when Western Australia topped the wheat production of the Commonwealth. This measure of success which has placed Western Australia at the head of the wheat-producing States of the Commonwealth last year, has been obtained in face of the handicaps and obstructions which have been placed in its way in consequence of the oppressive burden imposed as a result of the Federal policy. The wheat-growing industry has been handicapped chiefly by the tariff increases, by the Navigation Act and by the bounties paid to other Australian industries, particularly secondary industries. During the last seven months these tariff burdens have been increased to an extent unprecedented in Australian history. In that period no fewer than four new tariff schedules imposing higher duties on 450 items have been tabled, and every higher duty imposes an additional tax on the primary producers, particularly those engaged in the wheat industry. Is it any wonder that the sworn evidence given before the royal commission which inquired into the disabilities of Western Australia, four years ago, by a gentleman who at that time was general secretary of the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia, and who is now a colleague of mine - Senator Carroll - shows that at that time it cost double the amount to equip a wheat farm in Western Australia, compared with the cost of similar equipment prior to the war. The position has been rendered worse by recent tariff increases and the placing of embargoes upon the importation of agricultural machinery into Australia.
The organized wheat-growers of Western Australia are opposed to two. cardinal principles in the bill. The first is in relation to its central system of marketing, and the second is the principle of compulsion. These views must be somewhat modified by a realization of the fact that the wheatgrowers of Australia are steadily drifting into a serious financial position. In these circumstances it is imperative that some relief should be granted either by the payment of a bounty on production or by a guaranteed price. In whichever form assistance is given it should be entirely a federal responsibility, and the assistance given should be by the Federal Treasury as is the case in connexion with the payment of all other bounties to primary and secondary industries. In these, circumstances, I favour the payment of a bounty of, say, 6d. a bushel on the production of wheat. Such a policy would be consistent with the Government’s policy in regard to all its pet industries, most of which are carried on in the eastern States. At present, bounties are being paid to the galvanized iron, iron and steel, cotton, flax, paper, shale oil and other industries. I could also include the wine industry, but that is in a slightly different position as under the latest measure passed by this Parliament it is to provide the money for its own bounty. In regard to all, however, the Federal Treasury is responsible. As a system of bounties is the best way to encourage industries operating in the eastern States, why should not a bounty be paid on the production of wheat or on the production of gold? For 30’ years these two industries have been faced with increasing costs in consequence of tariff and other im- posts for the benefit of secondary industries in the eastern States. If the Federal Government genuinely desires to assist the wheat-growing or gold-producing industries it should adopt the same method as has been adopted in connexion with others I have mentioned.
It has been suggested that a bounty is being paid on cotton and other such commodities, because the market price may be low, and that it would not be advisable to pay a bounty on the production of wheat, because the price realized may be high. If the Government adopts that attitude it should provide a purely federal guarantee and there should be no financial responsibility placed upon the States. It has never been suggested that the State Governments which derived benefit from the encouragement of local manufacturing concerns should contribute towards the burdens which are placed upon the people in the form of tariff imposts. Our agricultural machinery is expensive, because we are compelled to purchase it in the eastern States. We are not allowed to obtain it in the markets of the world. In addition Western Australian farmers pay 12£ per cent, more than the Victorian farmers for the same machinery, because of the burden imposed by the high sea freights under the Navigation Act. The State of .Victoria is not asked to pay one-half of the extra cost which has to be borne by the Western Australian farmers to encourage the production of machinery in that State. The Commonwealth Government gives protection on agricultural machinery as it does in connexion with every other item of the tariff. The cost of producing wheat has been abnormally increased in “ consequence of the tariff, but that cost is borne by the producers of the Commonwealth and not by the State Governments, whose States are benefited by factories. In the past seven years no less than £1,455,503 has been paid in bounties to the iron and steel industry of New South Wales, but the Government of that State has not been asked to contribute one-half of that amount. During the last five years a sum of £4,973,543 has been given in the form of bounties to other industries. These payments have been distributed as set out in the following return : -
The above figures show that the sum of £95,209 was granted to Western Australia during the period mentioned. It should be noted, however, that of this amount, £41,375 represented compensation paid by the Commonwealth in respect of the outbreak of rinderpest. This was a Commonwealth liability, and would have been incurred irrespective of the State in which the disease made its appearance. If we deduct that amount as properly a Commonwealth obligation, Western Australia, during the period mentioned, received in direct subsidies from the Commonwealth only £53,834.
– Special grants have been made by the Commonwealth to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Provision is made in the Constitution for such payments. I remind the honorable senator that the amount paid to Western Australia was only two-thirds of the sum recommended by an impartial tribunal upon, which Western Australia had no representation. It, however, included an ex-Treasurer of the Commonwealth who acted as chairman. In its report upon the disabilities suffered by Western Australia under federation, that commission made reference to the burdens which had been imposed upon the people of that State by Commonwealth legislation and the tariff. I may add that since the royal commission referred to made its recommendation, the burdens upon the people of Western Australia have been substantially increased in every direction, particularly in the form of higher tariff duties. Many years ago Ave complained of the incidence of the Massy Greene tariff. Since then we have had the Pratten tariff and no fewer than four Forde-Fenton tariffs, and I can assure Senator Greene that the burdens laid upon the people by his proposals - severe as they were - were triflling compared, to the indirect taxation levied in the later tariffs.
I have shown that, during the period mentioned, the sum of £5,000,000, in round figures, was paid by the Commonwealth Government to the various States in direct assistance, mainly for secondary industries already established and almost exclusively operating in the eastern States. In no instance was the State concerned expected to provide one-half of the bounty. The same policy has been adopted in respect of the sugar industry, which is assisted by an embargo on the importation of foreign sugar. This may not be considered a direct payment to the industry, but, so far as the people are concerned, it is the equivalent of a direct payment, because Australian consumers have to pay £37 6s. 8d. a ton for, their sugar, whereas the exportable surplus is sold in the markets of the world at from £9 to £11 a ton. Actually, the people of the Commonwealth pay for the sugar more than treble the world’s parity. This is the price which the people of Western Australia, in common with other citizens of the Commonwealth, have to pay for the maintenance of sugar-growing, which is almost exclusively a Queensland industry. I do not overlook the fact that it is a valuable industry. I merely emphasize that itis costing the people of Australia over £7,000,000 a year, and, up to the present, the people of Queensland have not been asked to contribute one half the cost, as is intended in respect of any loss that might be incurred in the operation of the proposed wheat pool. Our complaint is that the people of Western Australia have always contributed more than their fair share of bounty payments and other forms of governmental assistance to industries, mainly in the eastern States, at the expense of our industries.
When, some months ago, we were informed that a conference was to be held in Canberra to consider a proposal to assist the wheat industry I concluded that at last the Government realized that the primary producers, upon whom the tariff burdens had lain very heavily, were to get some relief. I confess that I rejoiced at the announcement. I naturally thought that this Government intended to help the wheat-growers on lines similar to the assistance which had been afforded to other sections of Australian industry, namely, by a direct bounty on wheat production. For many years this vicious circle, as it has been described, of bounty payments and high tariff protection had been extending wider and wider and I felt that if the primary producers were to be permitted to carry on their industry they too should be allowed to get into it. I concluded, therefore, that, in summoning the conference of primary producers to consider proposals for a wheat pool, the Commonwealth Government had in mind a scheme whereby the industry would be assisted in a practical manner. Later, press reports indicated that the Ministry did not contemplate the payment of a bounty but, instead, proposed to guarantee payment of 4s. a bushel on all wheat produced in Australia, and I was pleased to think that at last the Government was prepared to assist our growers. The people of Western Australia believed that the proposal was- a sound one. They did not realize that there was going to be any catch in the scheme, in that it was not to be an all-Australian guarantee for which the Commonwealth Government would accept full responsibility. This proposal that wheat-growing States which join the pool shall be expected to pay one-half of any losses that may be incurred in the operation of the scheme is an unjust discrimination against the financially weaker States that depend upon primary production, whereas the financially strong States which have benefited substantially from the incidence of federal taxation and the protectionist policy of the Commonwealth will escape with a comparatively small risk. The following return, based on an estimated loss of 6d. a bushel in the working of the pool, shows how the burden will be distributed among the various States : -
The point that I particularly wish to emphasize is that the State guarantee desired by the Federal Government throws a disproportionately heavy liability on the people of Western Australia and South Australia. Assuming that the State Governments made a loss under the guarantee of 3d. a bushel - which might very easily occur - it would mean that the following percentage increase in State taxation would be necessary to make good the deficit: -
This method of a divided guarantee exercises an extremely unjust discrimination on the more sparsely populated States. It certainly puts on the shoulders of the States of Western Australia and South Australia burdens which they are quite unable to bear. Already Mr. Hill, the Premier of South Australia, has 3aid that, with the present condition of the finances of his State, he does not see how it would heu possible to face the excessive charge that it would have to bear under the proposed guarantee. Presently I shall read correspondence to the same effect from the Premier of Western Australia, Sir J James Mitchell, to the Federal Government. The idea of asking the States to join in the guarantee is most unjust, un-federal and unAustralian. There is no national spirit about it. It shows unjust discrimination against the poor and weaker States that, in my opinion, is quite unworthy of the National Government.
It is interesting to remember that just before calling the Canberra Wheat Conference, which was representative of the wheat-growing States, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) broadcast addresses in Victoria and New South Wales, urging the farmers to grow more wheat. The right honorable gentleman did not say to the State Governments at that time that if the farmers did grow more wheat he desired the governments to pay more money. He waited until he had their representatives in Canberra before he broke that news to them. Mr. Scullin should also have said to the States at that time that the policy that he enunciated to them was intended, n’ot only to encourage the wheat-grower to grow more wheat, but also to encourage the States to “ incur more debts,” to “ raise heavier taxes,” and to “produce bigger deficits” as part of the liability that he wished them to incur under his “Grow more wheat” campaign. This new principle of the Federal Government in fixing on its own exclusive account the measure of assistance to be given to an industry - in this case a guarantee of 4s. a bushel - opens up delightful vistas as to the future. It solves the problem of “How to be popular at some one else’s expense.” I should like to hear a lecture on that subject by Mr. J. H. Scullin, also one on “How to be generous with other people’s money,” by Mr. Parker Moloney. This Federal Government’s policy of being generous with the money of the States is capable of infinite extension, to the great relief of the Commonwealth Treasurer. The Government might, with equal propriety, ask the States to bear half of the cost of their defence, and so avoid the rationing of employment and retrenchment that is now being directed against our naval and military services. It might also ask the States to bear half the cost of their oldage and war pensions, and postal services, and so avoid a deficit. It might further ask the people of Queensland to pay half the cost to Australia of the sugar embargo, and in that way put money into the pockets of all. It might extend the principle to the international arenas; ask France to pay half of our war debt, and Germany the other half, and so relieve us of taxation attributable to the war. All these requests are possible under the principle of the measure. But there is one thing that the Federal Government might hesitate to do. I tremble to think what would happen if it dared to ask the residents of Canberra to pay half the cost of the Federal Capital.
This new principle is entirely unacceptable to Western Australia. After paying for 30 years through the tariff and by bounties to the support of industries in the eastern States, it is galling to find that the first time direct assistance is offered to one of its prominent industries, it is to be provided mainly at the expense of Western Australia. A change of government has occurred in my State since the
Canberra conference took place, and, through the courtesy of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly), in response to a request that I! made to him in this chamber, I am able to quote the following interesting telegram that was sent to the Federal Government by the Premier of Western Australia, Sir James Mitchell, in regard to this legislation. It is dated the 7th May, 1930, and reads-
The farmer will be encouraged to increase production by the guarantee proposed under your Marketing of Wheat Act. This State has sixteenth of Australia’s population, and will produce a fourth of Australia’s wheat. Our revenue shows a deficit. Our loans regulated under financial agreement. Short of money for urgent needs wo could not meet any considerable loss and your bill provides State pay half losses under guarantee. Urge that your Government guarantee and also meet total loss, which should fall equally upon Australian people. Object to some provisions of bill, but strongly to clause 10.
Honorable senators will see that, immediatelyon attaining office, Sir James Mitchell sent a telegram to the Prime Minister pointing out the disabilities under which Western Australia suffers, in view of its decreasing revenues and its commitments under the financial agreement, and setting out clearly that the State was short of money for urgent public works, and therefore was unable to meet any guarantee in respect of wheat which this Parliament might foist on the States. On 22nd May, the Prime Minister replied to Sir James Mitchell in the following terms: -
Your telegram 7 th May Commonwealth Wheat Marketing Bill. Minister Markets asking Parliament amend clause 12 of agreement so as to make equalization scheme compulsory thus securing Western Australia present freight advantage on overseas shipments, also advantage arising from sales for Australian consumption based on your State’s total production. This coupled with fact that your cost production lower than eastern States, gives your State a higher per capita gain than other States as offset to any loss you may have to meet.
Clause 16 essential enable Australian board regulate oversea trade and obtain freight and insurance reductions and other advantages for wheat and flour industry of Australia.
The Prime Minister entirely ignored Sir James Mitchell’s request that any guarantee should be solely the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The whole of his reply was directed’ to the position of Western Australia in connexion with the export of wheat in the event of that State not being a party to the pool. Surely that was a contemptuous way of treating a State Premier !
As one who largely owes his political existence to the wheatgrowers of Western Australia, I say frankly that I want the guarantee of 4s. a bushel, provided the responsibility in connexion with it is borne solely by the Commonwealth. In view of the financial position of Western Australia, I fail to see how the farmers in that State can receive the guaranteed price unless it is provided by the Federal Government. Thousands of settlers have gone on to the land in Western Australia without capital. The last season was poor, particularly in the outer wheat belt of that State. The financial position of the farmers there is such that, unless they receive a fair return for this year’s crop, they will be faced with ruin. In some districts hundreds of settlers have assigned their assets to their creditors. Particularly in the eastern portion of the wheat belt, the wheat-growing industry is in a precarious condition. The farmers there are primarily concerned with getting a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for their wheat. The obtaining of that guarantee is of paramount importance to me, provided the States are not required to share the liability. The Federal Government should foot the bill, and not ask the States to accept any responsibility in respect of the guarantee. I defy any honorable senator to show that, in the granting of assistance to Australian industries in the past, the Commonwealth has required the States to share the liability, and it is now most unjust to ask the States which have suffered most as a result of federation to carry the major portion of this burden.
In spite of my objection to many of the principles underlying the bill, and to compulsion generally, I am prepared to vote for the second reading if the Minister will give an assurance that the Commonwealth will accept the full responsibility for the guarantee.
– I feel sure that the honorable senator will support the bill.
– I shall not do so unless the Minister gives the assurance for which I have asked. In granting assistance to various primary and secondary industries by means of bounties, tariff protection and embargoes, the Government bas not previously asked the States to accept a portion of the liability. Probably that is because those industries have been almost entirely confined to the eastern States. I am regretfully forced to the conclusion that the Government is discriminating between the less populated States of Western Australia and South Australia and the other States. This bill imposes on the people of South Australia a per capita liability of 13s., and on the people of Western Australia a liability of £1 3s. 6d. per head.
– The farmer will still get his 4s. a bushel.
– Where will he get it, seeing that the treasuries of South Australia and Western Australia arc almost depleted? The wheatgrowing industry has been singled out by the Government for special treatment in that in connexion with that industry alone the States are to be asked to share the guarantee, notwithstanding that it will impose on them a burden too heavy for them to carry.
Recently a deputation waited on the Prime Minister to ask for a bounty on the production of gold. I was disappointed at the Prime Minister’s reply that the granting of a bounty on the gold produced within its borders might well be undertaken by the Government of Western Australia. This discrimination against the two main primary industries of Western Australia is entirely foreign to Australian sentiment and comes with ill grace from a government pledged to unification. The Government which professes to believe in unification, worships at the shrine of State boundaries and desires to divide Australia into watertight compartments when dealing with the wheat industry. This, again, will probably have the effect of denying any guaranteed price to the farmers of Western Australian and South Australia. At any rate, in neither case can the farmers in those States get any assistance under this measure unless the State Governments accept a liability and burden entirely out of proportion to: those carried by the other States under the measure.
– Why give the State Governments an excuse for evading their responsibility?
– Why put an unequal burden on each State? Why ask Western Australia to pay £1 3s. 6d. per head of the population and South Australia 13s. per head of the population, and some of the eastern States practically nothing? Why not let it be a sole federal guarantee, as it is whenever federal assistance is rendered to any other Australian industry?
– The real question is: Why deprive the farmer of 4s. a bushel for his wheat?
– I do not want to deprive the farmer of 4s. a bushel for his wheat. I wish him to get it; but the Government of which the honorable senator is a distinguished member is refusing to give it to him. It is on the shoulders of the Ministers in the Commonwealth Government that the responsibility rests for bringing in this hybrid proposal, this intermixture of State and Commonwealth liability. It is entirely because of that unfederal action that honorable senators representing Western Australia are not able to support this bill. At any rate, that is my position in the matter.
– Then the farmers of Western Australia must accept a lower price for their wheat.
– If so, it is because the Federal Government will not give them a proper guarantee. The Government is playing with the matter. Wheat has become a political plaything. Instead of the Federal Government accepting its proper responsibility, it says, “ We shall give you something if some one else who has nothing to give will also give you something; hut unless you can extract blood from stone, that is to say,” from empty State treasuries, we shall give you nothing.” The Government has already refused to accept an amendment moved in another place providing that where a State Government does not join in the guarantee, a moiety of any loss incurred in that State shall be paid by the Commonwealth to the wheat-growers in that State. In other words, it refuses to give any assistance to the growers in States whose governments are unable to join in the guaranteed price. If it had any desire to assist the farmers of Western Australia and South Australia it would certainly have accepted the amendment, under the provisions of which if a loss of 6d. a bushel was incurred in cither State the Federal Government would still pay 3d. a bushel towards making good the loss, even if the State Governments were not a party to the guarantee. That would be a federal action, and I could quite understand a Federal Government adopting it ; but it is not a proper federal spirit for the Government to say -
For he that hath to him shall be given, and he that hath not from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.
That is what the Federal Government is saying to the wheat-growers to-day. If the wheat-growers have rich State treasuries behind them, able to join in guaranteeing a price for, wheat, the Federal Government is prepared to meet half the loss should any be sustained, but if the growers are in the unfortunate position of being in a State where the treasury is bare, and the State Government cannot join in the guaranteed price, they will be given nothing at all, and that which they have will be taken from them, namely, the right of an open market for the export of their wheat.
One of the most dangerous features of this measure is that if it is passed and a State Government is not in a position to join in the guarantee, the Federal Government will control the export of wheat from that State, while giving no benefit at all in the payment of the guaranteed price to the producers in that State. The whole thing is unjust and inequitable and shows no regard for the wheat-growers in the weaker States. When Senator Daly was introducing the bill he said -
A poll of wheat-growers is to bc taken in Now South Wales, Victoria and South Australia at an early date to ascertain whether growers desire the establishment of a wheat board in each of these States to also join up with the federal scheme. The Western Australian Government is prepared to act similarly to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, provided no financial liability to the State is involved.
I interjected “Will the Government accept that suggestion from Western
Australia and give a guarantee to growers in Western Australia V Senator Daly replied -
No ; I do not think, when it was put up to the Government, that the people of Western Australia really believed that it would.
The statement that the Government would not give that limited assistance was unsatisfactory, but Senator Daly was quite wrong in .thinking that the people of Western Australia did not expect the Government to accept their suggestion. If the Federal Government is prepared to pay half the loss in those States where the governments join in the guarantee, I utterly fail to see why it should not pay the same amount per bushel in States whose governments, owing to the heavy burden the guarantee would impose, are unable to join in it.
– Is that the only objec-tion the honorable senator has to the bill?
– I am prepared to waive other objections, serious as they are, if the Government will give a full guarantee of 4s. from the federal treasury to the wheatfarmers.
– I suggest that that is a matter for the committee stage.
– And I suggest that it is not. Once this bill gets into the committee stage we are gone. The Western Australian wheat-farmer will wake up to find that he has no guarantee and that his export of wheat is prohibited.
It is clear to me that -there is no desire that the Western Australian wheat-growers should receive the amount that the Federal Government may have to pay in the richer States. It seems to me also that extraordinary ingenuity has been devised in putting forward these proposals which discriminate between the States and deprive Western Australia of any benefit from federal action unless it is prepared to carry a load far beyond its financial strength. I am forced to the conclusion that under this bill it is impossible for the wheat-growers of South Australia and Western Australia to receive any benefit at all. If the Federal Government were sincere and desired to do equal justice to all States and all wheat-growers it could guarantee 3s. 9d. a bushel at sidings and request the State Governments to guarantee an extra 3d. a bushel. No doubt the States that could afford to do so would accede to the request, and the federal guarantee would then apply to all wheat-growers in all States. Ani unconditional guarantee of 3s. 9d. at sidings to all farmers would certainly be of great benefit to the producers. Under the present proposal the wheat-growers run the risk of selling their freedom to control their products for a mess of pottage, and then losing the mess of pottage itself through the inability of State Governments to join in the guarantee.
Another point to which I take exception is the provision for one year’s guarantee in a three-years’ pool. It is a most unjust proposal. The guarantee should be for the term of the pool or the pool should be for the term of the guarantee. They should fun concurrently. At present, it looks as if the one year’s guarantee is dangled before the wheat farmers like a carrot in front of a donkey to persuade them to give socialistic unificationists control of Australia’s wheat for three years with provision for its indefinite extension, and, after the first year, no guarantee at all and none at any time for “Western Australia, unless the State Government shares in something which the State’s finances debar it from doing. I object to Western Australia always being treated as a poor relation by the eastern States. In this instance, the Commonwealth adopts the role of a rich uncle. -Western Australia i3 a poor relation earning a bare sustenance working long hours at wheatgrowing. The rich uncle invites the poor relation to come and live with him in a palatial hotel where he will find already domiciled his cousins, the Bounty family, Miss Sugar, Miss Galvanized Iron, Miss Sewing Machine, and a number of others. When the poor relation arrives, the rich uncle says, “I want you to stay with me at this expensive hotel for three years. I will pay half your board for one year, but you must stay with me and fend for yourself for the following two years.” The poor relation replies, “I am sorry, but I cannot afford the expense for the year. I have no money. I do not know how I would get on for the following two years.” The rich uncle says, “Ingrate, I will give you nothing. In fact, you will be imprisoned where you will not be able to export your wheat.” The poor relation replies, “ I should have been better off without your invitation. J should have been better off if you had let me alone.” This is the position of Western Australia. It would have been better off if this bill had not been brought forward unless the full guarantee of 4s. per bushel is to be made by the Federal Government solely.
Senator Lynch’s views have been misquoted here. They were clearly set out in the West Australian a few days ago, and I quote that newspaper as follows : -
Senator Lynch, who owns a farm at Three Springs, said that the proposals represented meddlesome interference in a sphere of business that could well be left alone. If the real purpose was to help the farmer, that could best be done by stimulating competition and not by stopping it. The ideal position was reached in this State where the pooling system and the private agencies existed side by side, the result being that the grower could choose his buyer and the highest possible price resulted from competition. As the farmer required and demanded competition to help him to buy, he needed the same condition to help him when he wanted to sell his goods. There had been no clamorous demand for a compulsory pool by the wheat-growers. At one time a law used to be enacted to remedy a manifest grievance; now the fashion seemed to be to frame the law first, and then to hunt for the grievance to fit it. “The bill,” Senator Lynch added, “is an attempt to increase the bold of the Socialistcumunificationist party on the farming constituencies of the Commonwealth. The farmers should not take this paltry bait. If they do they will pay for it in the shape of drastic tariff and other charges.”
The Commonwealth desires control of the money received for Commonwealth wheat in London. That is no justification for. its attempting to take over the direct, business control of Australia’s second greatest exporting industry. One year’s guaranteed price, largely at our own expense, might prove a very bad business deal for the farmer when it involves putting his business for an indefinite period into the hands of the Federal Labour party, which represents mainly the unionists of Sydney and Melbourne.
As to the wishes of the farmers in Western Australia, I have received about 150 separate telegrams . from them urging me to oppose the bill. Some of the messages have several names attached to them, and the 150 telegrams certainly represent over 350 wheatgrowers, among them being many of the leading growers, men personally known to me. Despite the letter sent to the West Australian newspaper by a Labour member urging wheat-growers who support the bill to telegraph to honorable senators to that effect, I have received only one telegram in favour of the bill, and the sender urges me to support it only if there is a full federal guarantee of 4s. a bushel. I am, therefore, in the happy position of being able to agree with the wishes of 350 persons who urge me to oppose the measure as it stands and at the same time I am willing to support the measure as desired by one dissentient if the 4s. guarantee is made entirely a federal responsibility.
– How much does the honorable senator anticipate will be obtained for wheat if this legislation is rejected?
– It is impossible to say what the wheat market will be a year ahead, quite apart from what it will be three years hence for which period the farmers will be bound under this legislation. If the price of wheat goes up to 4s. a bushel the conduct of the farmers’ business from that time on will be taken completely out of his hands, but he will receive no benefit from the guarantee. If the bill survives the second reading and reaches the committee stage, I shall endeavour to provide that the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel shall be a federal responsibility. An amendment which was moved to that effect in another place was ruled out of order, and I am rather doubtful as to the powers of the Senate to increase the liability of the Commonwealth Treasury. It can be done only at the instigation of a Minister of the Crown. Alternatively, I shall move or support an amendment similar to that moved by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), in another place, to the effect that half the amount of the guarantee be paid by the Commonwealth to the wheatgrowers in those States which are not a party to the agreement. In other words, assuming that a loss of 6d. a bushel is incurred the federal guarantee should be 3s. 9d. instead of 4s. a bushel.
There is another very undemocratic principle in this measure to which I take strong exception. The bill provides that if three of the six States agree upon a pooling system, it shall be binding upon the other States. That is a principle entirely foreign to federal legislation as expressed in the Constitution. Why should the wheat-growers in three States, two of which may not grow wheat for export, control the wheat-growers in the other States? The bill does not provide that a majority of the States must be in favour of the pool before it can be established, or that a majority of wheatgrowers in Australia or a majority of the wheat-growers in a majority of the States must support a pooling system before it is established. [Extension of time granted.]
I now wish to direct attention to an extraordinary clause in the bill which provides that if any part of the measure is declared by the High Court to be unconstitutional that decision shall not affect the validity of the rest of the measure. I should like the Minister to say why that clause has been included. Is it because the Government thinks that a payment by the Commonwealth under a guarantee system is unconstitutional? In such circumstances, does the Government wish to retain a compulsory pool without any liability under the guarantee to the wheatgrowers of the Commonwealth? Has the Government had any advice from the Solicitor-General as to the constitutionality of this bill? If that officer considers that the measure is constitutional, why has such an extraordinary clause been inserted? If the Government has had any advice on this point it is its duty to place it before the Senate. It should not proceed with a measure under which the payment of a guaranteed price may prove to be unconstitutional. I am of the opinion that it is not within the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for a guaranteed price for wheat. The provision in the bill under which the guarantee, if valid, will be paid to some of the States, but not to those whose Governments refuse to submit the question to a plebiscite of their wheat-growers is a violation of section 99 of the Constitution, which clearly provides that there shall be no discrimination between the States. The provision which enables certain States to export wheat while restrictions are placed upon others, is also, in my opinion, a violation of section 99 of the Constitution. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following quotation from a judgment by Chief Justice Knox, Justices Isaacs and Starke, and concurred in by Mr. Justice Rich, in the case of MacArthur v. the Queensland Government, Commonwealth, Law Reports 28, page 556 -
Section 99 forbids preference. These provisions ensure that border duties or other pecuniary imposts or encouragements or any legislative contrivances tending to destroy the commercial equality of opportunity between the States, are forbidden so far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned.
That decision clearly shows that what is provided in the bill is beyond the competence of this Parliament. If the bill is passed in its present form, its legality is sure to be contested. It requires a good deal of imagination to visualize the vast disservice that would be done the wheat-growers, indeed, the whole community, if the wheat pool was established only to be declared invalid.
Senator Duncan criticized certain honorable senators on this side of the chamber, including the Leader of the Opposition, who supported a wheat pool under war conditions; but I contend that there is nothing inconsistent in the right honorable senator’s attitude. The wheatgrowers of “Western Australia supported a compulsory pool under war conditions as heartily as they are opposing the pool proposed by this Government. I wish to read the opinion expressed by Mr. J. F. Booth, Agricultural Economist, Division of Co-operative Marketing, Bureau of Agriculture Economics. Mr. Booth said -
In connexion with the efforts of the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan to obtain suitable, personnel to operate a wheat board, it should be recorded that the leading authorities on grain marketing which were approached with a. view to obtaining their service, were opposed to government monopoly except under war-time conditions. The constitutionality of such an organization was seriously questioned; but quite apart from that phase of the subject, there were many who believed that government control could not, under normal conditions, be made a success. It was held that the success of the Wheat Board as a war measure could not to be used as a criterion of the possibilities of such a scheme in peace times.
That clearly shows that some of the greatest authorities in the world on wheat, marketing agree with the pooling system during a period of war; but are entirelyopposed to governmental control under peace conditions. Included in the dangers of the socialistic proposal of the Government to form a compulsory wheat pool, are the following: The wrecking of the existing voluntary wheat pools in Western Australia and other States; the destruction of their existing financial and marketing arrangements ; and the simultaneous driving out of business of private enterprise and capital with respect to wheat marketing. There is also the unjust discrimination against Western Australia and South Australia to which I have referred. The proposal also involves the taxation of bread and the setting up of an expensive, cumbersome and inefficient socialistic organization. It is impossible to estimate the financial liability involved by the guarantee, which may result in a collapse of the Australian wheat market. No one knows the extent of the liability of the Commonwealth or the State Governments which should be disclosed, particularly when our finances are in a very serious position.
– Every one knows that the farmer will get 4s. a bushel for his wheat.
– No one knows that. If a State Government does not join in the guarantee the farmers in that State will not get a fixed price for their wheat, but will be subjected to federal control in the matter of export, which they do not want. They will be at a distinct disadvantage and without the benefit of a guaranteed price. If private enterprise is not permitted to handle our wheat the Government will be taking the first step towards giving effect to a plank of the Labour party’s platform, which provides for the socialization of all means of production, distribution and exchange. It can then proceed to end the private marketing of wool and all other primary products. It would be extremely foolish to attempt this in view of the complete failure of other socialistic undertakings in Australia, such as shipping, fish trawling, retailing of meat and fish, sugar production and distribution, and State cattle stations. These ventures have all failed and have brought enormous financial responsibilities upon Federal and State Governments. The Government should withdraw the bill at once. The wheat-growers should be assisted; but the Government should do the right thing in the right way. From the speeches I have heard in this chamber, the Senate is impressed with the financial difficulties of the Australian wheat-growers, and is anxious to assist them, and assistance can be readily and effectively given on the same basis as that of favoured industries in the eastern States by the payment of a bounty of, say, 6d. a bushel for the ensuing harvest. This will avoid most of the objections that may be urged against a compulsory pool. The only uncertain factor is the yield. If the yield is larger than in a normal season, the total bounty payments will, of course, be greater; but the wish of the Prime Minister to increase the total of exportable surplus will have been realized and he should be gratified at the successful result of his appeal. The payment of a bounty will not tax the bread of the people; it will not set up any socialistic organization, and it will strictly limit the amount which the Commonwealth will have to pay. Also there will be no discrimination between the wheat-growers in the different States or between the different States. Every wheat-grower in every State will be paid 4s. per bushel according to the amount of his production. For these reasons, I urge the Government to abandon the bill and introduce legislation to provide for the payment of a bounty of 6d. a bushel on all wheat produced in Australia for the next five years. This will ensure the necessary assistance being given to the wheat-growers and make for stability in the industry throughout the Commonwealth.
.- It is practically impossible to debate this measure without traversing some of the ground and using some of the arguments already advanced in the course of the very interesting discussion which has followed its introduction. I shall endeavour, however, to limit, as much as possible, the time occupied in the delivery of my speech, and to compress into small compass the observations which I desire to offer. Many political storms have raged around this problem. Some years ago, in the State which I have the honour to assist to represent in this chamber, I was in the centre of several such disturbances. This scheme may be regarded as an aftermath of the war, and the proposal for a compulsory pool has been made because of the experience gained during the war years. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly), in moving the second reading of the bill, drew very largely upon the experience acquired in the working of the Victorian pool during the war years. His figures, his arguments, his illustrations, were drawn from the experience of that pool, and I desire to take this opportunity to bear testimony to its efficient management. At the outset we had the usual difficulties. There were political troubles incidental to the launching of the scheme, and in its early stages it was urged in some quarters that, because of the Government’s association with the business management, political pressure might be exercised in connexion with certain appointments. It is generally admitted that the wheat pooling system at that period was justified as a war-time emergency measure. As honorable senators well know, there was one predominant cause for the establishment of those pools. It was impossible to charter vessels for the transport of Australian wheat to overseas markets. As a result, the various governments and the wheat-farmers were practically driven to the expedient of adopting the pooling system to handle the production and save the Commonwealth from irreparable loss. The experience of certain other States in connexion with the ^compulsory pools then established, was not nearly so happy as was the case in Victoria. Errors, and even scandals, crept into the administration of certain State pools, and these left a very unpleasant taste in the mouth when the pools came to be finally administered. Also, there were political convulsions during the transition from the compulsory pooling system to the free marketing of wheat. In Victoria-, we actually had a general election on this question, a dissolution being forced on Parliament. But when an appeal was made to the people, it was impossible to confine the issue to the advisableness, or otherwise, of establishing a compulsory pool. Other influences operated against a definite expression of opinion on the part of the electors. But following upon that appeal to the people we established a voluntary pool working in competition with private enterprise. That is the system which I approve and heartily commend to honorable senators. Under the Victorian scheme, we have the wheat merchant offering his services to the wheat-growers side by side with this element of co-operative marketing. If honorable senators will take the trouble to read a well-known book by Sir Horace Plunkett, entitled, The Rural Life Problem in United, States, they will find that the writer commends the principle of co-operative marketing. No honorable senator, I suggest, holds a brief for any particular section of the community in this matter. Certainly, no one holds a brief for the wheat merchants or other vested interests. Our principal desire in the discussion on this scheme is to do what is best in the interests of the wheatgrowers primarily, and of the people of the Commonwealth in general.
The suggestion that certain honorable senators are ‘actuated by considerations for vested interests is a totally unworthy one in my opinion. Last night, Senator Hoare, in the course of. an impassioned speech, said that he did not blame the wheat agents for their attitude towards this proposal. The honorable senator then proceeded to deliver a polemic against the methods employed by certain’ people in South Australia in regard to the formation of branches of what, I understand, is called the. South Australian Producers Freedom League. He read a letter of instruction which had, apparently, been sent, out to the people in country districts in South Australia advising them as to the best methods to adopt for the formation of branches of the league, and. telling them in detail what ought to be done, even in such matters as managing a public meeting, and the kind of gentleman they should get to act as chairman, and so on. I saw nothing improper in the letter read by the honorable senator. On the contrary, I considered it was evidence of efficiency on the part of- those who are endeavouring to organize public opinion in their State against the Government’s proposal. Surely no one will deny that they have a perfect right to do this.
– A right also to direct, public opinion?
– Not by compulsion. It is the inalienable right of all citizens of the Commonwealth to petition Parliament. If they do not petition Parliament they have a right to make their representations to members.
– Hear, hear!
– All honorable senators, I assume, have been inundated with propaganda relating to the Government’s proposal to establish this scheme of compulsory wheat pooling. As Senator Colebatch has said, the capacious lockers provided for our correspondence have Deen filled with letters, pamphlets and telegrams from interested persons urging, us to take this or that course in connexion with this bill. I have received large numbers of telegrams and letters from supporters and opponents of the measure. I see no impropriety in this method of approach to members of this Parliament, unless an attempt is made, by duress, or coercion, to influence them. Certainly no objection can be offered to any body of citizens addressing their views in a respectful way to their representatives in this Parliament, and asking for a fair and full consideration of- the Government’s proposal. There should be no imputation of improper motives .so. long as fair methods ase employed to formulate public opinion for or against the scheme. In a democracy such as ours this is a perfectly legitimate exercise of the right of every citizen, and so. long as the manner of approach is respectful, there can be no suggestion pf impropriety in the legitimate exercise of this, citizen power. Accordingly, in my consideration of this proposal I am not influenced by the suggestion that improper motives have been adopted, or that the persons who are making representations concerning it do so because their interests areinvolved.
I suppose it can be said in regard tothe protagonists, as well as the opponents, of the bill that a certain amount of vested interest is at stake. It is natural,, if certain people support the Govern- merit’s scheme and advance arguments why it should he adopted, that we should weigh carefully all the arguments adduced and not be. misled by the representations made. On the other hand, wheat merchants and persons whose business enterprises may be affected by the passage of this bill, are entitled, free from any imputation of impropriety, to get fair and reasonable consideration of their view-point. .Of course it is inevitable that in the issue of propaganda inaccuracies will creep in. Sometimes when feeling runs high we have accusations and counter-accusations concerning the Goment’s proposal; statements are issued and contradictions follow. It is the responsibility of honorable senators to weigh carefully the pros and cons of all these representations and to judge the proposal on its merits.
I shall endeavour to approach the consideration of this bill uninfluenced by the scores of telegrams which I have received and unaffected by the idea that this section or that section is strongly in favour of, or opposed to, the bill. I notice that the supporters of the scheme point to the Canadian precedent. They emphasize that the pooling system in the United States of America and Canada has been absolutely successful. I would point but, however, that there is not one compulsory pool in Canada. I have already said that I favour the establishment of voluntary pools. It may interest honorable, senators to know that I introduced, in the Victorian Parliament, legislation which led to the establishment of the Victorian Wheat-growers Corporation. In wishing that venture every success I expressed a hope that it would receive a reasonable measure of support from the wheatgrowers of Victoria, so that the corporation might function in the interests of our primary producers, who would thus have two competitors desiring to handle and market their wheat. I understand that the result has been entirely satisfactory. We were able to ensure the element of competition, and we avoided the dangers of monopolistic control.
Let us examine some of the details of this proposal. In the first place, ‘this Government says to the wheat-grower “ You shall “. The liberty pf the wheat-growers dis appears. I know that from time to time we have to interfere, by legislation, with the liberty of the subject. There are times when we have to say, “Thou shalt not do this”, and, “Thou shalt not do that”. But, provided that it involves no detriment to the body politic, we. have no right, no sanction, no mandate to introduce this principle of compulsion and to restrict the exercise, by the farmer, of his lawful function of selling his produce where he will. If at a meeting of 200 only 24 voted against pooling, the majority would have the right to establish their own voluntary pool, and co-operatively handle and market their produce in that way; but they would have no right to say to the minority, “You must willy nilly send your wheat to the market in this way, and fall into line with our ideas, notwithstanding your own private convictions or what you conceive to be best in your own interests “. That is a fundamental principle. Compulsion was justified as a war-time emergency measure. Then we had to use it. But now that we have returned to the days of peace, when ample shipping is available,; and no transport difficulties face us, we are utterly unjustified in endeavouring to impose the principle of compulsion upon any section of the community. Vie toria has tried to do so since the cessation of the war-time pools. There was some unofficial poll, upon which I am unable to pronounce definitely ; but I understand that a majority of wheat-growers in Victoria favoured a compulsory pool. That, however, was absolutely informal and unofficial, and there was no guarantee as to its authenticity as an expression of the desires of the wheat-growers. When legislation was ultimately introduced in Victoria providing for the taking of a poll of wheat-growers to determine whether a compulsory pool should be established, the majority of the growers voted against the proposal. I do not know the mind of the Victorian grower on the subject at the moment. If telegrams are any indication, one might assume that a. majority -favoured the -pool. But it is not a -very big ‘majority. We must not forget, in dealing with -this matter, that, in existing circumstances, there would be a strong temptation for any grower to overlook the fundamental principles of trading and disregard the future reactions of the proposal in order to obtain the immediate benefit of 4s. a bushel guaranteed by the Commonwealth and State Governments. Never has such a bribe been incorporated in any legislative proposal submitted in this chamber. Dangled in front of the farmers, it will be the price of their liberty of action that will have gone, irretrievably.
The guarantee is offered for one year. It is possible that it may be renewed. “ ‘ “Will you walk into my parlour ‘, said the spider to the fly.” So says the Commonwealth Government; but it ought to add, “After I get you into the trap you may be left to your own resources.” These things ought to be separated. The political action ought to be entirely divorced from the payment of a guaranteed price to the farmer for his produce. I should not be surprised if a very strong body of opinion among the wheat-growers themselves has been captured by this offer of a definite price in a period of some doubt and perplexity. But I have never voted for compulsion in a matter of this kind and, much as I desire to help the primary producers and to advance the interests of the wheat-growers, I cannot see myself surrendering my fundamental political convictions in favour of individual liberty for a measure of this kind, even in existing circumstances. I, therefore, find myself absolutely opposed to the method proposed by the Government to assist the wheat-growers at this stage. I do not know whether the conference that sat in Canberra dealing with the matter was really representative of the wheatgrowers or whether it was representative of certain interests that are absolutely in favour of pools.
I want to ask a few questions. By passing this bill the Senate would be authorizing the signing* of this agreement, and would give it legal sanction. In the agreement which is the schedule to the measure, it is provided that in the event of any deficit occurring in connexion with the guarantee, 50 per cent, shall be met by the Commonwealth, and 50 per cent, by the States that join in the scheme. I want the Vice-President of the Executive Council, or some other representative of the Government, to tell the Senate what financial arrangements have been entered into? What is the agreement ? We have been given information in the most indefinite terms. I venture to suggest that it is not fitting to ask a legislative chamber such as this to take a leap in the dark. We ought to know what are the- express terms of the agreement and what payments are to be made at country railway sidings. We should be told whether this 4s. is to be paid in a lump sum and, if so, how the money is to be provided, or is it to be paid by progressive advances? There must be an agreement otherwise the Government is most reckless. It is really a huge gamble on the part of the Government unless some arrangement has been made with the Commonwealth Bank or with other financial institutions of the country to find the money to finance the project.
– How does the honorable senator know that the States are willing to meet any obligation under the scheme?
– The States have to pass enabling legislation. I take it that there are blanks in this agreement, and that there must be complementary legislation by the- respective States to give effect to what I understand the proposal to be; that a ballot will be taken of the wheat-growers in the different States as to whether they will or will not participate in the scheme. That will be governed by State legislation. Where this schedule is silent in regard to certain matters the silence will be broken by such legislation. But we have a right to ask for the agreement, and to know the details of the financial arrangement. The least that the Vice-President of the Executive Council can do for honorable senators is to take them into his confidence. Are the financial arrangements to be made by the Commonwealth Bank, or is that bank to be supported by the associated banks? We have heard all sorts of vague statements, but we ought to know the truth.
– The scheme will be financed by the Commonwealth Bank.
– The Minister cannot get away with such a generaliza- tion. I presume that there is an agreement. We have a right to ask that it will be laid on the table for the information of honorable senators.
– How can an agreement be made before the legislation has been consummated?
– If the legislation has been launched without exhaustive investigation as to its financial aspect the Government is more foolhardy and improvident than I imagine it to be.
-The Government made the fullest inquiry into the scheme, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Bank.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in this chamber to place the agreement upon the table of the Senate before the debate closes, in order that honorable senators may ascertain definitely the details of the financial arrangement. Already we find the Premier of South Australia communicating with the Prime Minister indicating that his State cannot pass the necessary enabling legislation, and that it will not join in the guarantee, while a similar telegram has been received from Western Australia.
– -South Australia has not said that.
– I am quoting newspaper comments. They may be right or they may be wrong. That certainly is a position that may arise.
The matter of the guarantee brings us to the question as to who will control the pool. Much is made of the fact that this is a growers’ pool. It is a growers’ pool in name, but it will not be so in fact. It cannot be. Have you, Mr. President, ever known a man to give a guarantee and not take a hand in the business concerned? Is it suggested that the Government is intimating “ We will give you this guarantee. With the assistance of the Commonwealth Bank we will find 4s. a bushel f.o.r. country sidings, and will step aside and let you run the pool? “ It is unthinkable. The Government would be recreant to its trust if it did that. In the interests of the taxpayers of the country, as custodian of the public purse, it must exercise a measure of direction and control. Senator Daly knows perfectly well that during the war period, where there were State boards and an Australian Wheat Board, the Minister of Agriculture in the respective States was invariably the chairman of the State board and the Prime Minister of Australia was president of the Australian Wheat Board. The whole business was directed as a matter of government policy, by government management. If the wheat-growers are deluded into thinking that this scheme is all right, that it is co-operation, they are misguided.
I make it quite clear that I am in favour of co-operation. I have strongly advocated it on many platforms in this country. I believe in the farmer largely controlling his own affairs, because I want him to retain his freedom. But I say to him “ Beware of government control.” Now we are to create a kind of govern.mentcumfarmers monopoly, and we shall get all the attendant evils of monopolistic control and management. There will be no spur to efficiency or to great endeavour if competition is eliminated. By enacting legislation of this kind, we shall, unquestionably, do the farmers great harm. I make that point because the farmers are being led to believe that they will control the pool. They will control it only in name; in essence and in fact, the Government will control it. Referring to the guarantee and the making up of any deficiency, Senator Colebatch pointed out that the deficiency must be made up either out of the taxpayers’ money - from the exchequers of the Commonwealth and the States - or by increasing the price of wheat for local consumption. On that statement, argument has ensued as to whether the price of bread would necessarily rise if the price of wheat was increased. While it is possible to raise the local price of wheat, without increasing the price of bread, I suggest that experience has shown that when there has been an increase in the price of flour the price of bread has invariably gone up.
– It does not often happen the other way.
– The honorable senator may be right. I am not discussing that aspect now. I repeat that experience has shown that an increase in the price of flour has almost invariably meant higher prices for bread, and a consequent increase in the cost of living to the general public. Do honorable senators suggest that the Government would allow the growers’ pool to put up the price of wheat to any extent it liked? If the Government did so, it would be recreant to its trust as the alleged representative of the workers in the industrial suburbs. If the Government says that it will grant this political favour to the farmers of Australia, it will increase the cost of living to those workers. I cannot imagine that the Government is prepared to face that possibility. Indeed, it dare not tell the growers that they can control the pool in their own interests, and get what price they can extract from the people for the wheat required for local consumption. It cannot tell the growers to help themselves. Such a thing cannot be done; if it could, the Government would not let it be done.
– And the farmers would not do it if they could.
– If the intention is to make up any deficiency which may ensue by increasing the price of the product required for local consumption, how can the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) say what he has just said? The farmers would be compelled to put up the price if that were the only way in which the loss could be met.
I have not yet seen the report of the Canberra Conference of wheat-growers. I suggest that it might have been circulated among honorable senators as a parliamentary paper, for it is, no doubt, an interesting document. I am indebted to Senator Carroll for the extracts which he read from that report yesterday. The honorable senator told us - and I have every confidence in his interpretation of what took place - that the whole tenor of the debate at the conference was that, while the guarantee of 4s. a bushel should be given, any deficiency which might arise should be made up by increasing the price for local consumption. I remind honorable senators that the market prospects at that time were better than they are now. That any deficiency should be made up in the way suggested was apparently the dominant thought in the minds of the delegates to the conference. Are we justified in sanctioning such a policy?
Some people affect to despise economists. I do not belong to that school.I take notice of the remarks of men in high places, with sound and impartial training, in no way attached to political parties. With the indulgence of the Senate, I propose to quote some extracts from a series of articles which appeared in the Melbourne Argus recently, under the heading “ Wheat Marketing : The Guaranteed Price,” by Professor D. B. Copland, of the Faculty of Commerce of the University of Melbourne. There are four articles in the series, and I commend them to honorable senators. They are very interesting, for they deal with fundamentals. They probably give us a clearer vision of the basic principles underlying the proposals of the Government than could be obtained otherwise. In one of those articles, entitled “ The Economics of Pooling,” Professor Copland says -
Importance of Management.
A voluntary pool requires little assistance from the Government. There is no obstacle now on financial grounds, for the rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank will grant the necessary credits to any bona-fide co-operative organization for wheat marketing. The success of the pool must, therefore, depend upon its capacity to procure the support of the growers and to market the wheat on terms at least as good as those offered in the open market. This is a question of efficiency of management. It is no mere coincidence that the most successful wheat pool in Australia had the advantage, like the pools of the prairie provinces of Canada, ofassociation with a vigorous farmers’ co-operative association. In the marketing of wheat there are many intricate problems requiring daily decision, and a successful pool must be so organized that it can make these decisions without frequent consultation with the controlling board elected by the producers. When to sell, what ships to charter, what freights to offer, what markets to exploit, and whether to hold wheat in store or to cut a loss in a falling market, are all questions that demand the exercise of judgment by some individual in close touch with the world situation, and charged with the necessary authority. The administrative functions in marketing are largely matters of routine; the more purely commercial functions require the exercise of initiative and judgment.
The success of the pool will depend upon its capacity to exercise this initiative and judgment more efficiently than the merchant. If the pool is successful in selling at the right time and in the right places, and in chartering its cargoes, it will receive a sufficient volume of business to reduce its administrative costs a bushel. If not its administrative costs will be heavy. They are, in any case, a small percentage of the total costs of marketing, and no plan of wheat marketing can offer advantages to farmers merely by the promise of reducing these costs because a larger volume of trade is handled. In open competition the larger volume of trade goes to the agency which demonstrates the highest capacity in discharging the commercial functions. Under compulsory pooling the mere fact that all the trade is concentrated in the hands of one authority will provide no guarantee that the wheat will be marketed as efficiently as at’ present. Indeed, there are grounds for believing that a compulsory pool will not prove as efficient as the competitive system. In the first place its very organization is an obstacle to quick decisions. The producers will elect a majority of the board, and the Governments of both the States and the Commonwealth, having pledged their resources to guarantee a price of 4s. a bushel, must also exercise some measure of control. : . .
There may be a claim for a special local price to compensate growers for the lower export price. This may also give rise to a demand that wheat should be held back for a more favorable price, as has been attempted by the Canadian pool. The consensus of opinion among all authorities that have considered this policy in wheat marketing is unhesitatingly against such a practice. . . .
After quoting certain statistics, and comparing the returns from the pools with those from private enterprise, Professor Copland concludes - ‘
Iu considering the figures quoted, it is necessary to remember that the open market price is a cash price, and that the pool price consists in part of deferred distributions. Further, under the pool the farmer carries the risk, and in the open market he has no responsibilities after he has sold his wheat to the merchant. When these facts are considered, it is clear that voluntary pooling has not achieved such results as would justify Australia entering upon an experiment of a compulsory pool. It is impossible to accept the experience of the voluntary pools as conclusive evidence, and. it is irrelevant to quote the development of the Canadian wheat pool or the establishment of the American Farm Relief Board. In none of these cases is there compulsion to market the whole of the crop through a single agency. The risks involved in giving one authority complete control over such a staple product as wheat are enormous. At present the mistakes of a merchant or a pool are offset by the successes of other marketing authorities, but under the compulsory pool no such insurance would be available, and an error of judgment might prove very costly.
I have tried in my own hesitating way to say something along those lines, in an endeavour to reinforce the opinions expressed by that eminent authority.
All honorable senators feel somewhat under a sense of obligation to the wheatgrowers of Australia, by reason of the appeal which has been made to them to grow more wheat. That appeal was accompanied by the bait of a guaranteed price for wheat. I know that a lot of “ tosh “ is talked about the primary producer being the backbone of the country. But the fact remains that he is. Every section of the community, as well as the Government itself, knows that the progress of this country depends basically upon our primary industries - wool, wheat, butter, &c. The primary products of this country are the agencies by which our financial equilibrium will be restored and the country saved. Having urged the farmers to increase their acreage and grow more wheat, there rests on us some obligation to render them assistance.
– What assistance does Professor Copland suggest?
– He does not suggest that assistance be granted by means of a pernicious system of compulsion, by which the farmer will be dragged into a pool attended by all the evils associated with monopolistic control and government interference in marketing. As I have said, this pool, if established, will be only nominally a growers’ pool; in fact, it will be controlled by the Government. We all know that governments are notoriously ill-equipped for trade and commerce. The function of governments is to govern. The more that governments keep out of trade and commerce, the better for this country. The sooner we divorce business from politics, especially in connexion with the marketing of primary produce; the better it will be for everybody, and the sounder will be the political opinions expressed in the” country. A compulsory pool is attended by great danger, which ought to be avoided at all costs. The concluding paragraph of Professor Copland’s last article, entitled “Unequal Cost to the States: A Suggested Alternative,” reads -
A Preferable Method.
It may be said that the compulsory pool would not embark upon such a scheme. That it is a danger is shown by the advocacy” of the plan from time to time by producers, and there is the example of the butter industry before wheat-growers. Such a development is one of the dangers inherent in the proposals of the Government. What, then, should be the measure of relief afforded to wheat-farmers at the present time? The first and simplest method is to allow the exchange rate to rise to its “ natural “ level. Every increase in exchange would give an additional bounty to exporters, and wheat producers would thus be relieved of some of the disparity between costs and prices. Secondly, the Government might announce that it was prepared to grant assistance without disturbing the prevailing marketing methods. This could be done in the following way: - Let the pools and merchants proceed with the marketing of wheat in the usual manner, If on the completion of the sale of the wheat the pools showed a return to the farmers of 3s. 9d. a bushel the bounty payable to all growers, whether members of pools or not, would be 3d. a bushel. The Government might give such assistance to a maximum of 6d. a bushel, and any favorable movement in prices or freights would reduce the bounty required. Such a proposal has many advantages. It maintains the present marketing methods without favour to pools or merchants and without disturbance of prevailing financial arrangements; it avoids the necessity of making a doubtful experiment in compulsory pooling; it reduces both the inequalities among the States and the indirect economic effects to a minimum; it eliminates the need for an artificial Australian price; it is a temporary measure, because it involves taxation; and it keeps down the financial assistance to the minimum required in the circumstances. Alternatively it is open to the Government to offer a straight-out bounty of not more than Gd. a bushel.
I again commend that series of articles to the earnest consideration of honorable senators.
Attention has been directed to clause 3, which provides that if any part of this legislation shall be deemed to be unconstitutional, that unconstitutionality shall not necessarily involve the whole measure. That may be a wise provision to insert. But it does imply that there is, in the minds of some, a reasonable doubt as to the constitutionality of this proposal ; so that something may go, possibly, the guaranteed price.
– Is that provision to be found in any other act ?
– Yes, it is in the Navigation Act.
– I think I remember a provision like this being inserted in an amending Navigation Act, which can be taken as indicating that there is some doubt on the point. I have received letters which attack the power of this
Parliament to pass this legislation in its present form. I am not endeavouring to discuss the constitutional aspect of the matter, but I think that attention should be drawn to it. I merely emphasize what others have said in this regard, and leave the matter at that point. . A great deal more could be said, but I think that I have already sufficiently indicated that the bill is constitutionally doubtful, politically unjust, economically unsound, and calculated to permanently endanger the interests it proposes to serve. There will be inevitable repercussions and reactions if we destroy the open market or kill private enterprise or organizations for the purchase of wheat. In three years they will be dead and gone.
– We do not do that.
– If we drive men out of business for three years, their organizations will disappear. I think that we shall be making confusion worse confounded, and the last state of the wheat-grower, so far as the marketing of his wheat is concerned, will be worse than the first. We must remember that when the war emergency pools were created, we made an appeal to the wheat merchants to help us by placing their organizations and experience at the service of the nation. Mr. George Bell, one of Melbourne’s wheat merchants, was actually adviser to the Victorian Government, and a director of the Victorian pool. Everywhere there was a desire to co-operate. The then Prime Minister, the Eight Honorable W. M. Hughes, addressed the wheat merchants and asked them for their help and co-operation, giving them an assurance on behalf of the Commonwealth Government that when the war was over and the necessity no longer existed for these pooling conditions, there would be no attempt to destroy their business enterprises or drive them off the market. This is the way that promise is being honored. As I have already said, I do not hold any particular brief for the merchants, but I stand for fair play to every section of the community, and for the honouring of promises that have been made by the Commonwealth Government in the name of the people of this country.
.- I have no accusations to make against the wheat merchants of Australia. They have done yeoman service to the farming community, and, no doubt, are putting up & fight for their existence. Judging by the propaganda that has been circulated by them, they are putting up a strenuous fight to which no one can take objection, not even those who believe in the bill, and in the assistance which the Government has guaranteed to the farmers.
Before passing to the agreement which we are about to consider, I want to review the stages through which our wheat has passed in the matter of marketing during the last few years, and to compare the present system with that which the Government is prepared to establish. At present, practically all wheat exported from Australia is sold in London, where buyers from all parts of the world gather. A few years ago we had in Australia a great many European buyers competing with each other for our wheat. They had their head-quarters in London. To-day, there are only two wheat buyers operating in Australia.
– Do Japan and India buy through London?
– Japan is the only foreign country competing in Australia for Australian wheat, but the quantity it buys is very small.
– Its value last year was £1,500,000, and each year India buys £6,000,000 worth of our wheat.
– But the quantity that Japan purchases is very small compared with what Australia sells overseas. Our wheat sales are on quite a different basis from our wool sales. Buyers come to Australia from all parts of the world to buy our wool, and the price of the commodity is fixed by the competition of those buyers. On the other hand, wheat prices are governed by the conditions on the London market. The great bulk of our wheat has to be sold in London, where all the importing countries have representative agencies. London buyers buy on a c.i.f. basis, which means that the seller here ships the wheat, insures it, and, in order to give delivery, merely hands over the shipping documents to the buyer. No farmer or group of farmers can reasonably sell wheat upon that basis, and, accordingly, the merchants purchase the wheat from them and send it on to the buyers in Europe. Although the press quotes numerous sales in Europe, the price at which the wheat is sold includes freight and insurance and all other charges incurred by the merchant, and it is practically impossible for the farmer to work out the local value of wheat from the overseas prices quoted. This position has resulted in the London value of wheat determining the value in Australia, except that the wheat merchant has become the sole interpreter of that price. Except for the group of merchants, there are only millers buying wheat from farmers, so that there is really no wheat market or wheat exchange in Australia in any sense of the word. All that the farmer is concerned with is the price he can receive for his wheat, and that is always arbitrarily fixed by the merchant. On many occasions a merchant will refuse to buy wheat. On other occasions the price will be unduly low. But the farmer has no alternative; he must accept the price or refuse it. Practically all the merchants have the same buying price, and the farmers’ wheat must ultimately be bought by them at that price.
The first real breakdown of this system was in 1915, before the buying of the United Kingdom became concentrated in two firms. The failure was not brought about by the inability to market wheat at a satisfactory price in Europe - that fact can always be disguised - but rather by the inability to buy wheat at all from the farmers. Shipping became scarce, and because of the uncertainty of the duration of the war, merchants were able to offer the farmers prices ranging from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a bushel, and only for limited quantities of wheat. Wheat at these prices meant that the growers would cease to produce it freely, and as there was no alternative production to which the great wheat-growing areas of Australia could be put, the Commonwealth Government considered the matter to be of national importance, particularly as wheat was required as a reserve for the Allies and to maintain Australia’s exports. After considerable thought as to the best system of marketing and to secure to the farmer full value for his wheat shipped overseas, a compulsory pool was formed for the season 1915-16; and although the wheat of that season had to be stacked for long periods, in many cases amounting to years, it was ultimately sold at a price which returned to the growers 4s. 6d. a bushel or ls. 6d. a bushel more than the merchants had offered. That price was secured in spite of abnormal damage being done by mice and weevils, and in spite of freights to and from Europe attaining an unprecedented figure. Moreover, the Government itself had . to operate the pool and many of those engaged in the conduct of affairs had little, if any, previous experience in the handling of wheat. Despite criticisms from many, probably no step ever taken by a government in this country had such far-reaching and profitable results as this compulsory pool had. When it ceased to operate in 1921 there was general dissatisfaction among the growers in the States. In every State ballots were held to ascertain just how strong was the feeling in favour of retaining the compulsory pool. In two States the pool was carried on. In Western Australia the State Government continued it for one year only and in Queensland the compulsory pool is still operating with unqualified success. In Victoria a ballot of the growers was taken. Of 15,000 votes recorded, over 13,000 favoured a compulsory pool. That ballot was conducted with an entire absence of propaganda and is accordingly the clearest exposition of the growers’ feelings it would be possible to obtain.
It has been stated that it would be preferable to allow the wheat-farmers to dispose of their product in the open market than to sell it under a compulsory pooling system. The effect of merchant selling compared with the pool method is shown by the fact that, during the war, quotations by the pool to Japanese buyers were based, not upon the London parity,, but upon the cost of landing American wheat in Japan - a much higher figure at times. At the present moment, it would be impossible for a voluntary pool to sell to Japan on that basis, because the merchants would immediately quote a price based upon the London parity. At the start of the season 1928-1929, a similar position arose in connexion with India, where Australian wheat was required. Before the season opened the pools were selling at a considerable premium above the London parity, but when the season opened, and the merchants were able to buy wheat, they immediately forced the premium down until there was practically no difference between the Indian price and that at which sales could be made to Europe.
The Victorian voluntary pool handled 119,500,000 bushels of wheat up to the commencement- of the 1929-1930 season, and the average net return to the grower for the whole of this wheat has been 5s. Id. a bushel, less rail freight. No Victorian wheat merchant has handled such a huge quantity of wheat since the war period, and no wheat merchant can claim that he has ever paid such a high average price to the growers. That is, I contend, a test of the efficiency of the Dooling system.
Senator McLachlan referred to the opinions expressed by Broomhall’s who are the world’s greatest authority on wheat. Broomhall’s state -
From 15th July, 1929, to 15th August, 1929, the average price of good red milling wheat at Liverpool was 10s. 3Jd. per cental, whereas from 15th October to 15th November, 1929, it dropped to an average of 8s. Hid., a decline of about 13 per cent. During this decline bread, in London, was marked down only id. per 4-lb. loaf, a reduction of under 3 per cent.
To-day (November, 1929), unusually favorable weather, a weak tactical position, aggravated by stringent money markets and stock exchange panics, brought about this apparent glut and low prices. Thus, there was (and still is) a glut of supplies, and starvation prices for wheat in the British markets; yet the milling trust of Great Britain and all their satellites, agents, claquers and scribblers cry out with anguish in their voices that the heartless, grasping, avaricious farmers of Western Canada, through their sellingagents, are grinding the faces of the British poor, by “holding up” the price of wheat. They are enraged because to this glut was not added the Canadian crop of high-grade wheat. In that event the “starvation” crisis at which they have been purchasing supplies would have dropped to the lowest level in- 40 years; and as they would have held their prices of flour to the highest levels made possible by their monopoly, they would have made a record killing. Deprived of this by the prudential policies followed by the handlers of Canadian grain there is no limit to their wrath and their desire for revenge.
The Australian wheat-growers are greatly indebted to the Canadian farmers, whose action in holding was largely responsible for the price which the Australian wheatgrowers received last year.
– The Canadian farmers have nothing to thank the pool for.
– They have. The quantity of wheat held by the pool is only 50per cent. of that stated in the press. I do not regard the proposed guaranteed price of 4s. as a bribe to the fanners, but as an indication of the Government’s anxiety to assist the wheatfarmers, and to help the country during a period of financial stringency. The wheat-growing industry can assist the Commonwealth by increased production, and thus help to remove some of our difficulties. I regret, however, that it appears impracticable for the Government to submit a proposal under which the Western Australian wheat-growers Would be willing to join a compulsory pool. Western Australia, which has experienced greater difficulties than any of the eastern States’ in consequence of tariff impositions, the effect of the Navigation Act, and her distance from the eastern markets,cannot view this proposition in the way that we do. Recently I read a resolution passed by the wheat-growers in Western Australia, which clearly conveys their opinions, and, knowing them as I do, I find it difficult to understand why one of their representatives in another chamber should have submitted the proposal he did. At a recent conference, which was attended by settlers from Northam, Kellerberrin, Baandee, Walgoolan, Narrembeen, Dowerin, Yarding, Merredin and Totadgin, this resolution, was passed -
Whereas the farmers assembled in conference realize that special efforts to grow more wheat, in response to the Prime Minister’s appeal, irrespective of the cost of production, will inevitably increase our financial difficulties by ( 1 ) bringing about reduced yields per acre, (2) tending towards lower overseas prices, (3) adversely affecting the present exchange position which favours producers to the extent of 3d. or 4d. per bushel, and (4) reducing net profits to the grower.
– There is another resolution.
– Yes; but I am now dealing with the first portion. That resolution was supported by some of the most loyal subjects in the Commonwealth. The fact that Commonwealth £1 notes are being hawked around London and offered at 16s. is sufficient to indicate Australia’s financial position.
– That is not so!
– They are being offered at 16s. 6d., and any number can be obtained at that price.
– In making that statement the honorable senator is unduly depreciating Australia’s credit.
– If the honorable senator can disprove my statement I am quite prepared to withdraw it.
– Theyare only payable in cash on demand at the head office of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I repeat that Commonwealth notes are being offered in London for 16s. 6d. If you ask the bank in London to cash them, you are referred to some individual. Notwithstanding the seriousness of our financial position, intelligent wheat-farmers in Western Australia, who, in common with those in the other States, have been appealed to by the Government to assist the Commonwealth, have advised their colleagues to disregard the appeal, because they contend that increased wheat production will detrimentally affect the present exchange position, which is slightly in their favour. Notwithstanding the attitude adopted by the Western Australian wheat-farmers, those in the eastern States realize that, by responding to the Government’s appeal, they will assist in adjusting our adverse trade balance. The Western Australian farmers have advised their fellow farmers to go slow.
– Nothing of the kind. All they say is that they will not grow wheat at a loss. The honorable senator should read the remainder of the resolution.
– The honorable senator cannot deny that Western Australian farmers have advised the wheat-growers to go slow. The resolution continues -
We urge wheat-growers throughout the State to concentrate their resources upon better methods of cultivation on small areas of firstclass land as a means whereby they may most readily and effectively help themselves.
Surely Senator Colebatch, who knows the Western Australian farmers better than I do, realizes what that means!
– It means growing wheat at a profit, and helping the country instead of producing it at a loss.
– If the Western Australian farmers complied with the request made at that conference, and cultivated only the good land, the production of wheat in that State would be reduced. There is a large area of good land in Western Australia, but the areas alluded to in the resolution are limited.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I can understand the state of minds of those who supported the resolution which I have quoted; but I should like to know whether the representatives of Western Australia in this chamber endorse the sentiments which it contains.
– Absolutely. The whole argument is that they do not want to produce wheat at a loss.
– We have been endeavouring to ascertain why the Western Australian wheat-growers are opposed to this scheme. We have been informed definitely by one of the keenest men in this chamber that the only alternative to the guarantee is for the farmers to go slow.
– That is absolutely untrue. The honorable senator is mis-representing the terms of the resolution utterly.
– The terms of the resolution are clear beyond all doubt. I have already said that the farmers in Western Australia, being nearer to the markets of the world, have an advantage over the farmers of the eastern States. They fear that the Government’s proposal will lay greater burdens upon them. If the eastern States adopted the same attitude in respect of every act of Government policy, what would happen? How could we live as a nation, if our wheatfarmers decided to down tools, or adopt the policy of ca’ canny! And yet this advice is being tendered to the farmers of Western Australia.
– In spite of that wheat-production in that State is increasing?
– I am sorry I cannot see eye to eye with the honorable senator. I must be guided by the terms of the resolution.
-Read the first line of it. It says - “ Regardless of cost.”
– Now as to the proposed guarantee. Who are the opponents, of the Government’s proposal ? Certainly not the wheat-farmer.
– Thehonorable senator will find scores of wheat-farmers in South Australia opposed to the bill.
– And scores are in favour of it.
– The only opponents that I have met up to the present time are the wheat merchants. No one suggests that the workers of this country object to the scheme. They are interested in the prosperity of the farmers and they would not object to pay 2d. a loaf extra for their bread, if that meant a contented and prosperous farming community. I have no hesitation in saying that if we appealed to the industrial section of the community, on these grounds knowing what they are suffering through the failure of last seasons harvest, they would approve of the scheme. Surely honorable senators who are opposing it, do not expect our farmers to carry on for a mere pittance in order that the consumers should be able to get a cheap loaf.
– No one has made that suggestion and the honorable senator knows it.
– Opponents of the scheme predict a further decline in the wheat market, and state that the loss in connexion with the operation of the pool will be greater than is anticipated. If the price of wheat falls to 2s. a bushel, that will be 2s. below the cost of production. Without this scheme, what will be the position of our wheat-growers ? Will they be expected to shoulder the total amount of the deficit? If the consumers in Australia declare that they must have cheap bread, even at the expense of the farmers, the latter will be forced out of business. They will follow thelead of merchants and manufacturers when they are upagainst economic difficulties. They will call a meeting; of their creditors to inform them that they can no longer continue wheat-production at theprice.
– If wheat falls to 2s. abushel, the Commonwealth will have to find £90,000.000 ayear to pay the growers theamount of the guarantee. Nogovernment could stand up to that obligation.
– If wheat falls to 2s., and the farmers receive no assistance from the Government, they will be £20,000,000 short of the income which they are entitled to expect. A bounty, of 3d. or 6d. as suggested, will not satisfy the growers. I have a vivid recollection of the economic situation in 1894 and 1895. I was then a new arrival in Victoria from Scotland. As I had a few shillings in my pocket, I thought I would make an effort to increase the wealth of the country of my adoption. Accordingly, I went into the mallee district and started in the business of ^rowing wheat. At that time Victoria was passing through a very serious financial crisis. The land boom had burst, and banks were closing their doors. The country was in a very bad state indeed, so the Government of the day appealed to Victorian farmers, as the Prime Minister recently appealed to the farmers of Australia, to increase production. I, like others, felt it my duty to respond to the call. As a result, the acreage under crop in Victoria was a record, and the harvest was one of the greatest in the history of the colony. When we started cultivating, wheat was 4s. a bushel. As the season progressed, we had bountiful rains, and the prospects were magnificent, but prices began to decline, and when the harvest was gathered, large numbers of wheat farmers were forced to sell to the wheat merchants regardless of cost. The opening price was ls. 7d. a bushel. I carted my wheat over 12 miles of unmade road and sold it for ls. 4d. Needless to say, the few shillings which I had saved, very rapidly disappeared. It might be argued that I should have stored my wheat instead of selling it for ls. 4d. As a matter of fact, I did store a small parcel of it and got an advance on it of ls. a bushel. Some months afterwards I received a handsome cheque, because, in the meantime, wheat had advanced in price. Unfortunately, 90 per cent, of the wheat grown during that year had then changed hands. Dreyfus and Co., backed by Rothschilds’ money, bought the bulk of the harvest for ls. 4d. In the following year, wheat rose to 4s. 6d. a bushel, but the farmers reaped little benefit from the increase in price.
I have had long experience in the business of wheat-growing, and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that at no time for many years have the merchants had a greater opportunity to make huge fortunes than the coming wheat harvest promises. Again this country is facing serious financial difficulties. Opponents of the Government’s proposal suggest that a bounty of 6d. per bushel will be sufficient inducement to wheat-growers to extend their acreage. Without the guarantee, the position of our wheat farmers will be exceedingly dangerous. The bulk of the wheat will be delivered in January or February. If our farmers have not the security of a Commonwealth guarantee, they will be expected to sell at the then ruling price. If they decide to hold it for a rise, and have not sufficient cash to meet their current liabilities, the day will come when the storekeeper, the baker, or the butcher, will put to each farmer this question, “ What about your wheat ; is it sold yet?” Later, other gentlemen, who just now are much concerned about the farmers’ welfare, and who are advising honorable senators to reject this bill, will remind wheat-growers that certain promissory notes have been dishonoured, and unless something is done about it the bailiffs will be put in. How will the proposed bounty of 6d. a bushel help our wheat-growers in their difficulties? How will it prevent them from being obliged to sell their wheat to the merchants in the months of February or March, regardless of the then ruling price? If they have to sell at 2s. a bushel, will that bounty save them from destruction? In many instances it may tempt farmers to sell at a price which is even lower than that quoted by me. The only way that the farmers can be protected is by participation in a compulsory pool. The man who professes to give relief to the farmers by granting a bounty is deceiving and leading them to their doom. That is why I favour a compulsory pool, and a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for the wheat. I ask honorable senators to weigh the matter carefully before recording their votes. At least let them allow the bill to go into committee where, if they so desire, it may be amended. It would be wrong to say to the wheat-growers of Australia, “We ‘shall not permit the bill to go into committee, because we do not trust your intelligence, and because this Government intends to force upon you a compulsory pool.” This bill does not seek to force a compulsory pool upon any body. It merely offers the farmers a guaranteed price if they will participate in a pool. At a later stage I shall move an amendment to add a new sub-clause to the schedule, to ensure that the wheatfarmers of every State will be given an opportunity to vote for or against a compulsory pool.
– I am prepared to give favorable consideration to that proposal.
– If the Commonwealth Government would shoulder the whole of the responsibility in .the event of 4s. a bushel not being realized for our wheat, it would remove all fears for the future from our farmers and from the States. Such ‘an assurance would place the storekeepers and the manufacturers of harvesting machinery behind the farmers, than whom there is no finer manhood on Gods’ earth. Even if the Government will not. give such an assurance, I shall support the bill. If it embraces only the two big wheat-growing States of Australia it will assist to .raise our wheat-farmers out of the .misery in which many at present. find themselves.
– To which two States does the honorable senator refer?
– New South Wales and Victoria. I should have included Western Australia, but for the unfortunate secession resolutions recently fostered in that State. I am in favour of the bill, and I hope that its second reading will be carried.
.- I think that Senator Plain struck the nail precisely on its head when he summarized the advantages of the compulsory pool. I have listened with rapt attention to honorable senators opposite who have opposed the bill. No less a personage than the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) trotted out that old bogy, the phantasy of the socialistic tiger, and was ably supported by another considerable personality of the Opposition, Senator McLachlan. I thought that the unfortunate man-eater had died years ago. Apparently, destitute of ideas, honorable senators opposite must resurrect - it on every occasion that : the Labour Govern- ment endeavours to introduce legislation designed to benefit the community. I am quite satisfied that every honorable senator who is concerned about our wheat industry will forget superficial party shibboleths and give earnest thought to the task in hand. The whole of the argu-ments raised in opposition to the measure appear to hinge on the allegation that there is a deliberate intention on the part of the Government to .stabilize wheat prices to the detriment of the people of Australia. Honorable senators opposite appear to be inoculated .with the virus of the go-slow bug, and are endeavouring to sabotage the proposal of the .Government.
– After the manner of the coal-miners.
– If the .honorable senator had any experience of coalmining he would realize that it is impossible to go slow in that , industry if -one wants to make one’s efforts pay. The .only conclusion that I can draw from the .attitude of honorable senators opposite is that they desire to leave the farmer “in the soup.” It is well known that practically every wheat-farmer in New :South Wales is up to his ears in debt. How to get out of debt is a nightmare to him. The Government has suggested a way out. It has consulted the desires of the wheatfarmers, and it. convened a conference in order that the project might be exhaustively discussed. As a result we have, this bill, which seeks to alleviate the lot pf the- wheat-farmer. I put it to every honorable senator who has an interest, in our primary producers, is there any man in Australia more entitled to consideration .than he who works day and night on a farm ? Many of them eke out a bare pittance, even when helped by their wives and families. The old saying still holds good, that what they cannot do .by day they have to do by night, with a hurricane lamp on the plough to enable them to see. These men, the pioneers of our land, must be given some hope for the future. Since this project of the Government has been ventilated our wheat-farmers have called to their aid their families and relatives in order that they might put under crop every available acre. How will honorable senators opposite face those people if they reject the bill? I believe that the Prime Minister, felt sure when he submitted the proposals that he would have the support of honorable senators. I urge them to realize the great responsibility that they must shoulder if they turn down the proposals of the Government.
– The farmers could be given a bounty without any compulsory pool.
– A bounty of 6d. a bushel has been suggested. In the event of the wheat realizing only 2s. a bushel, the farmer would get 2s. 6d. for his wheat, which is less than the cost of production. Consequently, he would be worse off than he is to-day.
– If wheat brings only 2s. a bushel, how is the balance of 4s. to be made up?
– The possibilities are that the market will improve. A government would be in a better position to find satisfactory markets than would any individual or firm. I am hopeful that in the world’s market our wheat will realize 4s. a bushel; but if not, I suppose the difference would have to be made up by the nation. Even if that had to be done, would it not be justified?
– Where would the money come from?
– During the war Australia raised nearly £300,000,000.
– We cannot borrow money to-day.
– During the war period we found it difficult to borrow money; nevertheless, we financed the war. What we did then to prosecute the war we can do to-day to feed our starving people.
– Does the honorable senator advocate further borrowing?
– Not necessarily. There are different ways of accomplishing these things. Why is it that the Government’s proposal has met with such opposition ?
– Does the’ honorable senator object to criticism ?
– It is useless to describe the opposition to this bill as criticism. It is true that some honorable senators opposite have signified their intention to support the second reading; but they have also indicated that, in committee, they will move cer tain amendments. Those amendments, if agreed to, would destroy the bill. Because of the opposition to this measure the Government would be justified in dropping it altogether and throwing on the Opposition the responsibility for rejecting it.
– Why not make it a full Commonwealth guarantee?
– There is something to be said for that. It may, however, be unnecessary, for, after all, the Commonwealth will take the responsibility in respect of the guarantee, seeing that it will make arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank to finance the scheme. There is nothing wrong in expecting the States to accept a share of the responsibility. It may be that the regulation of the market will result in a better price being obtained for wheat than would otherwise be the case. In such circumstances, would it be fair for Western Australia, or any other State which was not a party to the pool, to obtain the advantage of the higher price gained by reason of the existence of the pool ?
– How would the higher price be obtained?
– By selling their wheat direct. It is unreasonable that there should be a Commonwealth pool with some of the States standing out.
– Western Australia certainly will stand out.
– Not necessarily. If the Government’s proposal was placed before the wheat-farmers of Western Australia untarnished, they would support it. They would realize that, without a pool, there would be a grave danger of their getting much less than 4s. a bushel for their wheat.
Honorable senators seem to be greatly concerned as to where the money is to come from in the event of the wheat realizing less than the guaranteed price. It would almost appear that they would welcome a fall in the price of wheat, and are anxious to get back to pre-war conditions, when wages were £2 8s. per week, and the working week comprised 48 hours. It must be remembered that at that time the price of wheat also was low. If we revert to those conditions, how is the farmer to pay for land or machinery obtained, when prices were high? While I believe that we should be no worse off if we were to get back to pre-war conditions, I failto see how the wheat-farmer and the wage-earner can be forced back to the standard of that time without other sections of the community being affected. I regard the farmer as a worker; but he is no more the mainstay of the country than is any other individual who produces something worth while. Every producer is worthy of his hire. If the farmer is reduced to prewar conditions, I want to know how he is going to pay for machinery and land which he purchased at peak prices. Are we going to ask him to honour his obligations in such circumstances?
– That is the risk that one has to take in the ordinary course of business.
– Only by struggles and trials extending over many years have we built up our present standard of living. Do honorable senators want to get back to the conditions which existed in the ‘nineties? Rather than advocate a return to those conditions, we should make every effort to maintain existing standards. Senator Colebatch doubts the constitutionality of a guaranteed price of wheat. I think we need have no fear in that connexion.
Senator McLachlan appeared to be greatly concerned about the freedom of the farmers to dispose of their wheat in the open market. I ask him what freedom they have enjoyed in the past. In many instances, they have sold their crop in the ear.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
Private business taking precedence after 8 p.m.,
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
Penny-a-word Messages - Reportof Select Committee.
Debate resumed from 15th May (vide page 1803) on motion by Senator Herbert Hays -
That the report from the selectcommittee unpointed to inquireinto and report upon the desirability and commercial possibility of sending messages from Australia to England over the Beam Wireless at a penny a word, presented to the Senate on 14th August, 1920, be adopted.
– The select committee after having gone into this question exhaustively has presented an informative report which I feel that honorable senators will be pleased to discuss, but as I understand that it is the wish of the Leader of the Government in the Senate that other business should take precedence, and that the honorable senator in charge of the motion has consented to that course being followed, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 1325) on motion by Senator Carroll (for Senator R. D. Elliott) -
That this Senate strongly advocates the encouragement of increased intra-Empire trade and the development of the ideal of Empire economic unity, and considers that the most effective means which can immediately be employed towards that end is the adoption of a comprehensive system of reciprocal preference calculated to preserve and expand the particular and essential industries of each section of the Empire, upon which the prosperity of all depends.
– This motion very intimately concerns the trade of Australia, and should receive very serious consideration at the hands of honorable senators, but out of deference to the wish of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who wants honorable senators to proceed with Government business, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10th April (vide page 1106), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That in the opinion of the Senate a committee of experts should be appointed to consider and report upon the advisability and economic soundness of paying a bounty on the production of gold to be employed exclusively inmeeting obligations in respect of Australia’s overseas indebtedness:
– This is a motion which I think might be conveniently discussed after the Senate has had an opportunity to deal with the CentralReserve Bank Bill. I am sure Senator McLachlan will agree that the success or otherwise of his proposal will depend on the view taken by this chamber as to whether a central reserve bank should be set up in Australia. I ask leave, therefore, to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
That all other private business be postponed.
– Senator McLachlan last night produced a press cutting relating to an alleged claim for £6,000,000 made by the banks on the three prairie provincial governments under the guarantee given the Canadian Wheat Pool. I have been advised that the Victorian Wheat Pool communicated with Canada in regard to the matter and the reply received was that there was no truth in the statement quoted by the honorable senator.
– Can the honorable senator quote the telegram that was sent to Canada?
– I have not the telegram, but I take it that it would be well for me to read the press cutting. It is taken from the Sun Pictorial of the 2nd July, 1930, and is as follows: -
It is understood the banks have demanded payment of £6,000,000 from the three Prairie provincial governments under the terms of the guarantee given the Canadian wheat pool.
The Premiers of those Governments have conferred, and it is thought they will call upon the Dominion Government to assist in liquidating the liability.
With storage and other charges added to the banks loan, the cost of the pooled wheat was about5s. a bushel.
Further decline in wheat prices, and the prospect of a yield of 400,000,000 bushels from the Canadian crop this season are causing uneasiness. Some predict prices may fall to 3s.1½d. a bushel or less. Carry-over of United States crop is expected to be 15,000,000 bushels more than a year ago.
– On the face of it what was askedfor was merely the difference between the value of the wheat and the advance made.
– Exactly. But if my information is correct there must be some motive behind this article. It has evidently been published for the purpose of side-tracking the present issue. Possibly, persons who are not anxious that there should be a wheat pool are trying to engender a fear in the minds of the people as to the ultimate effect of having a pool. At any rate some interested parties must have been responsible for it, and the only interested parties in wheat production, other than the consumers, of course, are the growers themselves and the merchants. The latter, who have to some extent financed farmers, may be, in the words of Senator Rae, “in the soup” if a compulsory pool is set up. Should the price of wheat fall below a point which makes it impossible for the farmers to meet their obligations - and the indications are that it will do so - either the merchant or the farmer must suffer. In my opinion the man most fitted to suffer is not the farmer, but the one who has made something out of him.
– The honorable senator does not feel disposed to come to the aid of the merchants.
– We shall be coming to their aid by establishing a pool, because we shall then be making it possible for the farmer to meet his obligations. There is little hope of the nation meeting its obligations to its overseas creditors if we cannot secure a reasonable price for our wheat. The whole matter is a speculation, and the question is whether we are prepared to embark upon that speculation. Personally, I think we owe it to the primary producers to do so. It is useless to let things drift along. We must get over our present trouble, and I believe that the step proposed to be taken by this bill is one in the right direction. Honorable senators who have announced their opposition to the measure would be wise to reconsider their decision. After all is said and done, there is not the compulsion about the bill that honorable senators would have us believe. Through his State Parliament the farmer will be given an opportunity at a ballot to voice his opinion. Honorable senators have argued that a ballot should be compulsory. Some of the States already have compulsory wheat pools. At any rate there is one in Queensland, which, I understand, is working very effectively; and there is a voluntary pool in Victoria. If, in the opinion of the Governments of the States where pools are in operation, there is no need to go to the expense of taking fresh ballots, why should it be made compulsory for them to do so? The matter could best be left to the judgment of the respective Governments of the States. If they think it wise to hold a ballot they will have the option to do so.
It has also been argued that if three States adopt the principle of a compulsory pool,Western Australia will be compelled to come in, even if it desires to stay out, because being nearer to the market, it will fare better to the extent of 3d. a bushel.
– No reason of that kind has been advanced. Western Australia’s opposition to the pool bill is due to the absence of a full federal guarantee.
– I shall come to that later. How can we have an effective pool if only a few of the States participate in it? The Government will certainly supervise a compulsory pool, but the bill permits of the representation of the farmers on the State boards. That being so, notwithstanding anything that has been said to the contrary, the farmers will conduct the pool in their own way. If the pool decides that it will be more profitable to hold wheat for a time than to sell it immediately, a State that is standing out may take advantage of the opportunity to sell at the current price. Again, if the pool ascertains that there is not a sufficient market for the whole of the wheat produced in Australia, and decides to store a proportion of it until a more favorable opportunity for marketing is presented, it will, no doubt, store in each State a quantity in proportion to the total quantity produced in that State. To make such an arrangement effective it will be necessary for all the States to be in the pool; if not, some States will benefit at the expense of others. There does not appear to be any way out of the difficulty other than by providing that at least three States shall come into this scheme before a pool can be formed. Senator E. B. Johnston’s main objection is that the States are to shoulder a portion of the loss which may be incurred in the event of the guaranteed price being in excess of the market price; but seeing that the States are likely to benefit as a result of a pooling system, they should accept some of the responsibility. It really does not matter whether the National Parliament provides the money or whether it is contributed by the States.
– Then why should not the Commonwealth bear the whole of the responsibility?
– The system proposed will have the same result, as most of the revenue is obtained from the States.
– But it would be spread over all of the people.
– That will be the result under this proposal.
– A large wheatproducing State with a small population would be at a disadvantage.
– There may be something in that contention; but I cannot see why the Commonwealth should shoulder the whole responsibility.Reference has been made to an article which appeared in the Sun newspaper with respect to the over-production of coffee. It has been suggested that there is a possibility of an over-production of wheat, which would have a serious effect upon market prices. The paragraph reads -
New York, Monday. The Brazilian State of Sao Paulo finds itself confronted with a problem as a result of its effort, started several years ago, to control the world price of coffee.
The first result of stabilization into the higher price realm was to induce Colombia and several other countries to enter into competition in the world markets. To-day Sao Paulo has quite a financial problem on her hands, along with 20,000,000 bags of unsold coffee in storage.
The New York coffee and sugar exchange learned to-day that Sao Paulo intends to destroy 4,500,000 bags, hoping thus to restore a good market position, and perhaps raise world prices.
Federal legislation throughout Brazil is being agitated to compel other States to join in Sao Paulo’s plan. New York brokers admit that the proposal is very much in the air, but the elimination of the huge amount proposed to be destroyed “would undoubtedly improve the picture statistically.”
– I have quoted the paragraph as it appears in the press. That incident has, I think, very little connexion with an over-production of wheat, because it is not likely that such a large quantity of wheat would be produced that a portion would have to be destroyed in order to maintain prices.
– Is it not a matter of price?
– We have always been told that the law of supply and demand, determines prices; but the statement which I have read conclusively proves that it is of little consequence. It is amazing to read that, at a time when hundreds of thousands of persons cannot afford to purchase coffee at the exorbitant price at which it is sold, a large quantity is to be destroyed in order to maintain prices. The law of supply and demand does not determine prices. The same argument could be used in connexion with wheat and other commodities, the prices of which are fixed by certain interests. There is ample scope for increasing the production of wheat and flour. We have not to look very far, even in this land of plenty, to find thousands of persons on the verge of starvation. Even though we endeavour to give the farmers a free hand and assist them to produce the wheat as cheaply as possible, the lot of the consumer does not appear to be any easier. In Sydney last week bread was selling in some shops at 4£d. and in others at 3½d. a 2-lb. loaf. There was a good deal of agitation in the minds of those engaged in the baking trade at this cutting of rates, and meetings were held with the object of keeping up the price. Ultimately a compromise was reached, and there has been an all round reduction of id. in the price which the trade generally was charging. The reduced price is, however, considerably higher than that at which bread was being sold by those who were “cutting” before the bakers took action. If it is possible for those in the baking trade to rig the price of bread to that extent, and force those who were prepared to sell it at 4£d. to increase their price to 5£d. a loaf, it is easy to see that prices are not determined by supply and demand. If the bakers, through their organization, can regulate the price of bread, the farmers are entitled to some voice in regulating the price of the commodity they produce. No workers are in the same position, as the wheat-farmers. The average labourer undertakes employment at a fixed rate for his labour, but the farmer is depending upon what the other fellow offers him, and which he has to accept. There is no bargaining in his case. In these circumstances, I contend that no one requires protection and assistance more than the primary producer. This matter was considered in connexion with what -is known as the £34,000,000 Agreement. The commission went exhaustively into the question of development and migration, and concluded that the most effective way in which to absorb the unemployed in. Great Britain or in Australia is to increase exports. It was said that for every £700 worth of products exported, employment is found in the country of export for 21 persons. This Government has been doing its best to encourage primary and secondary production in Australia, and in that way to help to absorb our unemployed. If we can increase our production, our next responsibility- is to find a market, and, as Australia can produce commodities equal to those of any other country, we should be able to hold our own in the markets of the world. As wheat is a commodity which is readily produced, and for which there is usually a good market, we should endeavour to increase its production to the fullest possible extent. I trust honorable senators will see the wisdom of giving the farming community at least some security for what they have done in increasing production during this season. I support the bill.
– Whatever differences of opinion there may be among honorable senators as to the wisdom of passing this measure, I do not think there can be any difference of opinion on the question of whether the Australian wheat-farmers need help.
I have given very serious and careful consideration to this measure, but I cannot believe that the method proposed is the best way in which to help the farmers. I admit that they need assistance. They comprise a very hardworking section of the community. The Australian farmers are probably the most efficient in the world, their methods of cultivation are highly developed, they spend money in scientific research, and use the most uptodate machinery in connexion with their industry. Notwithstanding that, they have now reached a point at which they cannot get for their wheat a price that will cover the cost of production. It is now proposed that Parliament should render them some assistance by providing for a compulsory pool and a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel, but, in my opinion, the best way in which we can help them in the present circumstances is to pay a bounty on wheat.
– On what basis does the honorable senator suggest that a bounty should be paid?
– I should pay every wheat producer in Australia a bounty on his production, and then every one in Australia would contribute towards the cost.
– And great would be the profits of the wheat merchants.
– It has not yet been proved that the pooling system is preferable to the present method of selling through the wheat merchants. From what we read, it appears that pools have failed wherever they have been tried. An attempt was made some time ago to keep up the price of tin to £200 a ton, but it failed. Efforts were also made to maintain the price of rubber at 2s. 6d. per lb. but it is now down to 6d. per lb. Reference has been made to an unsuccessful attempt to regulate the price of coffee, and other instances could be quoted to show that all attempts under a pooling or any other system to regulate prices have failed. Even if production is encouraged the cost of production is not reduced, and schemes of this kind usually break down under their own weight.
– What of the wheat and wool pools during the war period ?
– Conditions were then abnormal.
– It would be interesting to know why those pools were not continued if they were so successful.
– The wool pool was established at a time when there were large quantities of wool in Australia, and when the warehouses and shopkeepers shelves were empty.
– But the usual channels of marketing were used.
– Yes; and after the war, when the warehouses became fully stocked, it was found desirable to revert to the old system. I am in favour of the payment of a bounty on wheat, because I believe it is practically impossible for the farmers to produce wheat at a price at which it can compete in the markets of the world. The difficulties’ with which primary producers arc faced have arisen largely in consequence of the legislation passed by this Parliament. Frequent reference has been made to the situation in Winnipeg, and it is interesting to note that the authorities in that city are now considering the possibility of reducing the cost of producing wheat. That can only be done in Australia by repealing some of the legislation which we have passed, particularly with respect to arbitration and navigation. By other legislative enactments, also we have increased the cost of production, and the farmer is now entitled to assistance.
– In what respect has the tariff increased the cost of production ?
– By making dearer everything which the farmer uses. In New Zealand where the wheat grown is hardly sufficient to meet the requirements of the home market, the Government has put on a tariff, with the result that wheat in New Zealand is now 6s. a bushel.
– The farmers in New Zealand pay more for their agricultural implements than do the farmers in Australia.
– That statement is open to question. In any case the tariff on imported wheat helps them, because the price for local consumption is 6s. a bushel. We could not do that in Australia. We export about two-thirds of our total production. The payment of a bounty would be merely an act of justice to our wheat-farmers. Every grower then would be treated alike. If one may judge from the information published in the press, a bounty would not involve the Commonwealth in expenditure any heavier than in the case of a guarantee, because the price of wheat has been declining for some years and the downward tendency has not yet been checked.
– That being so, the farmer would get less for his product than under the guarantee system.
– Without the security of a guarantee the wheat-farmers will be compelled to sell early in the season at low prices.
– Wheat is being sold all the year round. I am satisfied that the payment of a bounty would bc the most equitable form of assistance for our farmers. With our advantages in climate and our superior methods of cultivation Ave should be able to grow wheat in Australia in competition with the rest of the world. I have heard the highest authorities on wheat production make this statement, and yet we cannot do so, because we have loaded our primary producers with too many burdens. It is the duty of this Parliament now to rectify the position or else our wheat-farmers will have to go out of the business. Such is, of course, unthinkable. With all the experience of the various pools to guide us. it should not be difficult to determine which is the best method to adopt to assist our wheatgrowers. No one who has given close study to the situation can doubt that the bounty system is more equitable than a pool; but I believe the most lasting benefit would be obtained by a reduction in the costs of production.
The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Dooley) stated that he thought all the States should join the pool. If this bill is passed in its present form, I believe all the States will be brought under this scheme.
Tasmania produces only about 500,000 bushels of wheat per annum, and the bulk of it is exported for use in the manufacture of biscuits, although it is quite suitable for bread. The bill provides that the import and export trade in wheat shall be controlled by the Australian Wheat Board. Licences will be granted by the Minister on the recommendation of the board, in the appointment of which any State which is outside the pool will have no part. The Premier of Tasmania attended the conference of primary producers held in Canberra in February last to consider this scheme, and made it quite clear that Tasmania did not wish to have anything to do with it. I anl afraid, however, that this provision with regard to licences for the exportation or importation of wheat will force every State to join the pool. I have a very lively recollection of the operation of the last wheat pool in Australia. .We in Tasmania thought that we would be entirely free of trouble, but we quickly discovered that, in pur own interests, and to protect our millers and farmers, we had to establish a State pool because the Victorian flour-millers were obtaining supplies under more favorable conditions than were offered to Tasmanian millers. I happened to be the unfortunate ministerial head of the State pool, and from my experience of it I made up my mind that if it was possible I would prevent Tasmania from ever having anything further to do with a similar organization. I fear, however, that we shall not be able to stand out of this scheme if this bill is passed.
– Even if the wheat-farmers vote against it?
– The vote of the farmers will not affect the position in any way. If we wish to continue our export trade in wheat we shall have to join the pool. This is one of the reasons why I intend to vote against the bill. Senator Colebatch advanced another reason why the bill should be rejected. He directed attention to the provisions in clause 3 which suggest that the constitutionality of the scheme may be challenged. So far as my knowledge goes, that clause is new in Commonwealth legislation. The framers nf t.l»*-. bill must have considered that there was some danger of the proposal being challenged from the point of view of its constitutionality.
-That provision is not new. It is t6 be found in the Navigation Act.
– If the bill is passed in its present form, there is npt much doubt that we shall have to establish a wheat pool in Tasmania. I am aware that it is not competent for the Senate to insert an amendment to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of wheat, but I believe that if this Government is in earnest in its expressed intention to help our wheatgrowers, it should withdraw this bill and introduce another measure in another place to provide for the payment of a bounty. This would not prevent the formation of pools on the voluntary system to work in competition with the present distribution services. I object to this proposal to compel the farmers of Australia to join up with the scheme whether or not they approve of it.
.- I very much regret that in the discussion on this important measure we are not favoured with the views of Senator Lynch who is an acknowledged authority on wheat. I always listen carefully to what that honorable senator has to say and I feel that if he were contributing to this debate my attitude towards this bill would be guided largely by what he might say.
– What about the views of Senator Plain? He, too, is a wheat-farmer.
– I realize that Senator Plain is very much in earnest and that he speaks from bitter experience. He views the future with some apprehension because of the possibility of adverse conditions obtaining for some time to come. I do not share his apprehensions. I am opposed to the creation of a trading monopoly, especially a government trading monopoly. I have never yet known a business enterprise, supervised or controlled either by a Federal or State Government, that has not proved a failure.
-What about the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Commonwealth Bank is not an ordinary commercial enterprise. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) and those honorable senators who are supporting the bill, ignore the conclusions arrived at by acknowledged authorities as to the operation of the pooling system. I hold in my hand a leaflet containing the report of an address delivered by Professor Copland on the economics of the pooling system. His views are worthy of the consideration of every honorable senator. This is what he says -
The success of the pool will depend upon its capacity to exercise this initiative and judgment more efficiently than the merchant. If the pool is successful in selling at the right time and in the right places, and in chartering its cargoes, it will receive a sufficient volume of business to reduce its administrative costs a bushel. If not, its administrative costs will be heavy. They are, in any case, a small percentage of the total costs of marketing, and no plan of wheat marketing can offer advantages to farmers merely by the promise of reducing these costs because a larger volume of trade is handled. In open competition the larger volume of trade goes to the agency which demonstrates the highest capacity in discharging the commercial functions. Under compulsory pooling the mere fact that all the trade is concentrated in the hands of one authority will provide no guarantee that the wheat will be marketed as efficiently as at present. Indeed there are grounds for believing that a compulsory pool will not prove as efficient as the competitive system. In the first place its very organization is an obstacle to quick decisions. The producers will elect a majority of the board, and the Governments Of both the States and the Commonwealth, having pledged their resources to guarantee a price of 4s. a bushel, must also exercise some measure of control. What powers would the manager of a pool have under these conditions? Secondly, the efficiency of the management itself will be open to question. In a voluntary pool unaided by a guarantee, success or failure depends upon management, and there is competition. Under a compulsory pool a marketing monopoly will be established, and we cannot be certain that the most efficient management will be appointed at the outset, or that it will subsequently be stimulated to the necessary efficiency.
– Is he a farmer?
– No. Professor Copland is an economist whose duty it is to investigate all economic questions which are likely to affect the interests of the people of Australia, and it is fitting that we should pay some attention to his views.
– The farmers ought to have sufficient brains to be able to conduct their own business.
– I want them to be able to manage their own business. Senator Hoare is assuming that the farmers are unanimous in their desire for a compulsory pool.
– I know they are not.
– -From my knowledge of the subject, gained from meetings held in the different wheat-producing States, and from correspondence in the form of circulars and letters, I am forced to the conclusion that at least 50 per cent, of the wheat producers of Australia are opposed to compulsory pooling. My experience leads me further to believe that that 50 per cent, probably takes a deeper interest in the matter than do those who favour a pool. I have noticed that when you offer a person anything, and he jumps at it without proper investigation, he has a lesser knowledge of the matter than has another man who rejects it, after first making full inquiries. I believe that that analogy may be applied to the wheat-farmers. I have heard Senator Lynch state that not only is he a member of a voluntary pool in “Western Australia, but that he also sends a proportion of his wheat to be disposed of by merchants, believing that the wheatgrower is far better off under a competitive system than under a monopoly such as is suggested by the bill.. I am confident that the farmers are just as keen on retaining their freedom to conduct their own businesses as is any other section in Australia. I cannot with any calmness contemplate the idea of foisting upon the wheat-farmers a scheme that is surrounded by such dangers. I know that the object of the bill is to eliminate any competition in the purchase of our wheat crop. One would imagine that private enterprise had done nothing towards building up Australia. My conviction is that this country has benefited remarkably from the efficient methods of private enterprise. Those who have risked their capital to build up businesses have been a vital element in the progress of the nation. What has dragged the Commonwealth down to its present level, financially and otherwise, is the legislation that has been introduced from time to time, the chief effect of which has been to increase the cost of production. Senator Dooley and others have stated clearly that, but for the excessively high production costs obtaining in Australia, our wheatfarmers would not need any assistance. The abolition of private enterprise, so far as it is associated with the wheat industry, would be fraught with very grave danger to the Commonwealth. In the first place, it must be recognized that very considerable sums of money are attracted to Australia annually to purchase our wheat crop.
– Well ! What of that?
– Does not the honorable senator realize that the more foreign capital we attract here the better it is for the country? We should offer every inducement to its introduction.
– What difference will a pool make to its coming here?
– All the difference in the world. It has been said that Tasmania does not produce a great amount of wheat. It produces a reasonable quantity, as I shall demonstrate. My figures are corroborated by article 4 in Professor Copland’s leaflet. Tamsania produces approximately 700,000 bushels of wheat per annum.
– Has the honorable senator the average yield per acre?
– Not at the moment. I know that there has been a very considerable increase in the aggregate production of wheat in Tasmania during the past four or five years. Many honorable senators claim that, if this bill is passed and the guarantee of 4s. a bushel is paid, it will inevitably result in a large sum of money having to be made up by the States and by the Commonwealth. Some speakers estimate that it might be necessary to make up from 6d. to 8d. per bushel. If the amount were 8d. the Commonwealth would have to find 4d. and the States 4d. If Tasmania came into the scheme, it would enjoy a benefit of £11,666 from the 4d. contributed by the Commonwealth, on its estimated crop of 700,00.0 bushels. To make good the deficit of 8d. a bushel an additional impost would probably be placed on local consumption, and the citizens of Australia would have to pay an additional 3s. a bushel over world’s parity for their wheat. Tasmania’s population of 220,000, consuming an average of five bushels per annum, which is the average per head for the Commonwealth, would account for 1,100,000 bushels of wheat. An additional 3s. per bushel on the quantity would amount to £165,000, so that to gain £11,666 my State would have to contribute £165,000!
– What is that per head?
– Approximately 15s.
– That would save the wheat industry. Would it ruin Tasmania?
– If the loss were only 6d. a bushel, the Commonwealth’s contribution of 3d. a bushel would amount to £8,750. It would be necessary to increase the price of wheat for local consumption by 2s. 3d. involving Tasmania in an expenditure of £123,750 - to gain £8,750. I am not prepared to place such a burden on the State that I represent. I agree that the wheat-growers form one of the most important sections of the community, and that we should make every endeavour to assist them to carry on. I am compelled to confine my remarks to the proposals set forth in the bill, but I believe that other suggestions, such as a bounty, that have been made to meet the difficulty are more attractive to the great bulk of the people of Australia, and would be sounder than those contained in the measure.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate said that clause 3 of the bill is similar to a provision contained in other acts of parliament. I remind the honorable senator that we are dealing with a bill the like of which has not previously been before the Senate. I ask him whether this particular provision appeared in the bill when it was first introduced into Parliament? It did not. It was added at a later stage. Senator Colebatch gave a very definite indication why that was done. There can only be one reading of the clause. If any part of the bill is declared to be ultra vires of the Constitution, the rest of the measure will remain in operation. We should be in a very fine position if it were found to be unconstitutional to differentiate between the amounts to be paid to the farmers in different portions of one State, and if, on that acount, that section of the measure fell by the way, and the remainder continued to operate. We should have created a monster that would tie up for a period of years the whole of the wheat-farmers of Australia without conferring any benefits on them. I know that some will claim that the inauguration of a compulsory pool would be of benefit. In my opinion, it would be a disadvantage.
A few days ago I received a circular dealing with the proposed compulsory pool. It is signed by 105 South Australian wheat-farmers. Those men have banded themselves together to do their utmost to retain the freedom of the wheat-grower against coercive legislation of this nature.
– The chairman of that body is a well-known and successful wheat-grower.
– It has been claimed that very few reputable wheatgrowers are opposed to the bill; that the opposition consists mainly of malcontents who have been whipped into action by the wheat merchants. I know wheatfarmers in Victoria, as well as in my own State, and my knowledge of them leads me to believe that the most highly intelligent section of our wheatgrowers is opposed most strongly to the bill. I do not reflect on the intelligence of those who are prepared to accept the measure. I merely mention that the weight of evidence induces me to believe that the majority of the more highly intelligent of our wheat-farmers are opposed to it. Holding the views that I do, I feel that it is my duty to vote against the second reading. The rejection of the bill by the Senate will be an intimation to the people of Australia that a section of their representatives is strongly opposed to unnecessary government interference with the wheat industry.
– Having listened to most of the discussions that have taken place on this measure, I find that one of the chief arguments against its acceptance is based on a suspicion, founded on clause 3, that portions of the measure may be found to be invalid, in which case thousands of wheat-farmers would be kept in subjection to a wheat pool when the principal reason for its establishment had disappeared through the payment of the guaranteed price for wheat having been declared to be unconstitutional. The object of the measure is so to marshal the wheat-growers of this country that they will be able to sell their wheat in an orderly manner instead of haphazardly as at present. Should the provision in respect to a guaranteed price be found to bo unconstitutional, there would be no reason for keeping the pool in existence. No government would take the trouble to compel farmers to belong to a pool from which they would reap no advantage. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) must have known that when he used that argument against the bill he was merely raising a bogy. It is surprising that he has not educated his followers sufficiently for them to know that it is a bogy.Without wishing to reflect on the right honorable senator, I suggest that it is hardly cricket for him to give his followers the impression that there is a sinister reason for the insertion of this clause. The clause provides -
This act shall be read and construed subject to the Constitution, and so as not to exceed the legislative power of the Commonwealth, to the intent that where any enactment thereof would, but for this section, have been construed as being in excess of that power, it shall nevertheless be a valid enactment to the extent to which it is not in excess of that power.
The right honorable senator was. a member of the Bruce-Page Government which introduced in February, 1929, an Acts Interpretation Bill, clause 2 of which provided for the insertion of a new section 15a, which read -
Every act whether passed before or after the commencement of this section, shall be road and construed subject to the Constitution, and so as not to exceed the legislative power of the Commonwealth, to the intent that where any enactment thereof would, but for this section, have been construed as being in excess of that power, it shall nevertheless be a valid enactment to the extent to which it is not in excess of that power.
That clause was intended to apply to all acts passed by the federal legislature con cerning which doubts as to the constitutionality of any part thereof existed.
– The contention of the Opposition is that under such an enactment, although the payment of a guaranteed price might be held to be unconstitutional, the compulsory pool will remain.
– If the bill introduced by the previous Government had been passed, a section to that effect would now be in operation.
SenatorRAE. - Owing to the defeat of the Bruce-Page Government that measure failed to receive legislative approval. Later the present Government introduced a similar bill in another place, but it has not yet become law. Pending its enactment a similar provision has been included in this measure in the belief that itwill be assented to before the other.
– Do other bills introduced by the Government contain a similar clause?
– No similar measure has been introduced by the Government. For instance, there can be no doubt whatever of the validity of the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill, seeing that bounties are specifically provided for in the Constitution as being within the power of this Parliament to enact.
– The honorable senator’s interjection suggests that there is a prospect of the validity of the legislation before us being challenged.
– Wherever there is a conflict of jurisdiction, any Commonwealth act may be challenged.
SenatorRAE. - This bill deliberately provides for joint action on the part of the Commonwealth and the States. Wherever the States are empowered to do certain things, and the Commonwealth is authorized to do other things of a similar nature, there is obviously the possibility of a conflict of jurisdiction. To meet such a contingency this simple clause has been inserted. In the second-reading speech on the Acts Interpretation Bill to which reference has been made, the then Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said -
This is a reproduction of a section of the Navigation Act for general application to the statutes of this Parliament. Because of the limited powers conferred by the Constitution upon this Parliament, questions arise as to the validity of some of our legislation. For instance, when a statute relates to a subject as to which power of legislation is conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament in limited terms, and the State Parliaments also have certain powers of legislation, the validity of the Federal statute may be contested in the courts. It has been held by the court in several cases that when a provision which is invalid is inseverable from the rest of the statute, the whole of the statute fails as invalid. The object of this provision is to lay it down as a general rule that all statutes of this Parliament are to be considered valid in so far as the court is able to hold them to be so, and that the rule is not to be applied that because one part fails the rest shall also fail.
In some very simple and possibly trivial provision of this measure, the High Court might hold that the Commonwealth Parliament had exceeded its jurisdiction. In the absence of such a validating clause, such a declaration by the High Court would render ultra vires the whole measure. Later in his speech Mr. Latham said -
This has been stated by Mr. Justice Isaacs to be ,the position in other cases. When the Navigation Act was passed it was realized that there was room for dispute and difference of opinion over the extent of the navigation powers of. the Commonwealth as part of its trade and commerce powers and Parliament sought to save the position by the inclusion in the Navigation Act of a declaration in the terms of the second clause of this bill. _ . . . That would leave a statute, a portion of which was declared by the court to be invalid, in this position: Parliament would know that certain sections were invalid; that part of the act would, therefore, be cut out, and would not be effective or operative; and it would then be for Parliament to determine whether the remaining and valid portions of the act should continue in force, or whether the act should be repealed or amended in some way. I commend this amendment to the support of honorable members as being likely to carry out the intention which honorable members have when they support any bill in this House. That is the first and principal provision of this bill.
Those remarks of Mr. Latham completely dispose of the bogy which has been raised as to the sinister intention of the Government in inserting this clause.
– There is a doubt as to the constitutionality of the bill.
– There is a doubt whether every letter and word is valid. As’ I have said, there must always be a doubt when both the Commonwealth and the States are vested with certain powers in connexion with a matter involving them both.
– It is scarcely correct to describe as a bogy the criticism of the bill.
– It is a bogy in the sense that it is said that the Government, on second thought, doubted the validity of the bill and inserted this clause as a safeguard. In the speech to which I have referred Mr. Latham distinctly said that certain legislation in which both the Commonwealth and the States are concerned could only be safeguarded from possible destruction by the insertion of such a provision. The bill introduced by him failed to receive legislative sanction, not because there was any opposition to it, but because other business intervened. The present Government has not yet had time to enact a similar provision in an Acts Interpretation Bill, and has consequently inserted a safeguarding clause in this bill seeing that it is one which deals with a matter in which both the Commonwealth and the States would be involved.
If I followed the arguments of Senator Colebatch correctly, the honorable senator stated that, because a guarantee of 4s. a bushel also included the cost of getting the wheat from the farm to the sea-board, there must necessarily be different payments to farmers in different parts of Australia, and that consequently there would be discrimination between States or parts of States. I contend that instead of those different payments being a discrimination between States or parts of States, they give equality of treatment to all persons concerned. The bill is an earnest attempt to give to every wheat-grower the same net return for his produce, irrespective of where it is grown. . Instead of that being unconstitutional, it seems to me that it is merely taking notice of geographical differences in order to make the guarantee apply equally, so far as its value is concerned, to the farmers in all parts of the Commonwealth.
– But what about the price for home consumption per capital
– That is not differentiating according to State boundaries.
– It is, because each State will be responsible for half of the guarantee on the wheat produced in the State.
SenatorRAE. - I do not think that that touches upon the point. The regulation of the prices of flour, bran or pollard is a matter which is distinct from that of guaranteeing a price of 4s. a bushel for wheat. Consequently the guarantee might be perfectly valid, even if the fixing of prices is not. There is, therefore, no need to mix the two things. In other legislation the Commonwealth has inserted provisions which result in different payments in different States, and often in different parts of the same State. Take, for instance, arbitration awards. Time after time arbitration courts have fixed higher rates for persons employed in one district of a State than those fixed for persons employed in other parts of the same State. For instance, rates fixed for shop assistants, butchers, and so forth at Broken Hill are different from those which prevail in Sydney, in the same State.
– Are they not based on the cost of living?
SenatorRAE. - They are supposed to be; but the obvious purpose is to equalize wages. The nominal wages, however, differ; consequently, if there is a technical breach of the Constitution in making the nominal guarantee different in different parts of the Commonwealth, because the rail charges from one district may be 3d. a bushel, and in another place 6d., that nominal difference is only to secure equality in the payment of the guarantee to the individual farmers affected. If it is legal for the Federal Arbitration Court to differentiate in its awards in the way I have described, in order to try to secure practical equality, it must be equally legal to pay different rates to the farmers because of their geographical position, in order to secure equality in the guarantee.
It has been suggested that, instead of the Government doing what it has proposed to do, it should pay a bounty of so much per bushel. That would not have the same result as is obtained by the pay ment of bounties in connexion with other industries we have attempted to help. In those other industries the producers or manufacturers are organized, or have been compelled to bring about some kind of organization, in order to reap the benefits of the bounties, whereas, in the case of wheat, it is absolutely certain that the bounty would go mainly into the hands of the wheat merchants, except in the case of the most prosperous farmers. It is useless for honorable senators to profess to believe that wheat merchants are philanthropists; as a matter of fact, they are out to get the most they can as buyers and sellers of wheat. The prosperous farmers can afford to hold on to their wheat; but the poor farmer is unable to make any such satisfactory arrangement. I had the misfortune to be a wheat-grower in theRiverina district for a few years, when prices were low and droughts were prevailing. My capital was so limited that it was almost non est. I found, during the years I was engaged in wheat-growing, that immediately the crop was harvested, the various wheat dealers brought down the price of wheat to a minimum. The storekeepers, who had been carrying us on their back, as the saying is, all through the year, were waiting for their money, and were naturally anxious to get it. Consequently we had to sell at any old price in order to pay our storekeepers and carry on. Some of the prosperous farmers with big barns stored their wheat.
– And lost on it.
SenatorRAE. - Sometimes they gained.
– That was not my experience.
– This year the farmers who held their wheat, lost.
SenatorRAE. - I know that losses have occurred through holding wheat.
– It is quite a mistaken idea that because one holds one’s produce, one makes money on it.
SenatorRAE. - I do not say that the holding back of produce necessarily brings a higher price, but the ability to hold it hack is a distinct advantage.
Owing to an error of judgment, or want of luck, a man may hold his produce back too long. I know of plenty of instances of that. I knew one man who was exceedingly well off, yet was a born growler. He was always regaling every one with tales of how much he had lost by holding on to his wheat a bit too long. Nevertheless it is a distinct advantage to be in a position to hold on, because, every year while I was wheat-growing, prices went down immediately after the harvest, and invariably rose again after April. Consequently, while some by holding their wheat too long dropped a portion of what they might have got, and some may have lost heavily, on the whole, those who were able to hold their wheat for a few weeks or months almost invariably got better prices than those who were compelled to sell as soon as their crops were harvested. Obviously it would be stupid to give a bounty or any other form of pecuniary help which might go into the hands of those for whom it was not meant. The bounden duty of the Government in trying to help this necessitous industry is to see that those who are entitled to the benefit should get it, and that it should not fall into the hands of rapacious go-getters who are out to swallow the lot, leaving the farmer on his beam ends for all they care.
I like to hear those who hold up their hands in holy horror at the mention of compulsion in this connexion when I know that nearly all of them during the war were prepared to use compulsion to send men into the shambles while they themselves were nearly all of sufficient age to escape service. I am reminded of Mark Twain’s declaration that he was prepared to shed, in the defence of his country, the last drop of blood of his wife’s relations. The Government says that it is prepared to help the wheatgrowing industry so that the help it may give will go to those for whom it is intended and not to those who by their manipulation of markets may absorb all the guarantee, or the main part of it, for their own advantage. The Government wants to see the wheat-growers so organized that the handling and sale of their wheat will be on a definite plan.
It proposes that the wheat-growers themselves shall carry that plan into effect - that they shall form the main part of the board in control of the pool. Its desire is that the marketing of wheat shall be done in an orderly manner, so that the greatest possible advantage may be gained from the methods adopted. Obviously, the only way to do this is to give the wheat-growers in each individual State the opportunity to say whether they are prepared to take up that responsibility and assist in the formation of the wheat board of the State, and also in the pool that is to be managed conjointly by the States and the Commonwealth.
I am strongly opposed to any unnecessary compulsion in any walk of life, but when it is a choice between one sort of compulsion and another, naturally I prefer the less objectionable form. Surely it is less objectionable, if we must have some form of compulsion, that the wheatgrowers themselves, by their votes, shall determine that they will agree to harvest their produce and handle it in the manner proposed, than it is for them to be under the iron heel of compulsion of those who will have them at their mercy if they do not accept this method of doing the business. The poor farmer, the one who is dependent upon his annual crop for his existence and that of his family during the coming year, is subject to the compulsion of the wheat-dealer ; and while there is a certain amount of competition and rivalry among the buyers for the business it does not very largely affect theprice which the wheat-grower gets.What advantage is it to the wheatgrower if he sells his wheat at 2s. 6d. a bushel and the merchant who buys it keeps it in store and later on gets 5s. a bushel for it? Is it any consolation to the wheat-grower? Is it of any value to the wheat industry that the speculator gets a high price for his wheat?
– The wheat-dealers will store wheat for the grower.
– That is not often the case; they mostly buy straight out.
– They will store it without charging the grower.
– I did not meet any of those benevolent wheat-buyers when I was in the business. It is news to me to learn that they will store the farmers’ wheat for nothing, and give the full price if it rises afterwards.
– They will do it, hut they will starve out the man who cannot store it for long and must sell at whatever price is available.
– I knew that there was a nigger in the wood-pile somewhere. Under existing conditions, the poor farmer has a big chance of becoming poorer or of being wiped out altogether. It is only the prosperous man who is helped by the offer of the buyers to store wheat. The prosperous man continues growing bigger. The same rule applies in most businesses, I admit, but it applies particularly to farmers, and I know of districts which are rapidly becoming aggregated into large estates again where there was formerly a large number of small holdings. Senator Payne said that no State trading concern has ever been satisfactorily conducted; but when twitted with the fact that the Commonwealth Bank is a State concern he said that he was referring to ordinary industrial undertakings. There are a number of State trading concerns in New South Wales which have been prosperous for a number of years. One is the Government Insurance Office in Sydney.
– That is not an ordinary trading concern.
– It is in competition with private enterprise, and that is the phase of the subject which the honorable senator introduced. Then there is the Queensland State Insurance Office.
– The Government Insurance Office in Queensland has a monopoly in certain lines of insurance business.
– If the Queensland Insurance Office has a monopoly in certain classes of business that is not the case in New Zealand or in New South Wales where registered insurance companies conduct accident insurance business in competition with State offices, which, while making profits, are charging lower premiums than the private insurance companies. A few days ago a person in New South Wales, who had insured a domestic servant under the workmen’s compensation scheme, showed me a receipt for his premium which was previously 12s. 6d. a year, but of this 7s. 6d. had been refunded. Practically the same results have been obtained in Queensland where several successive reductions have been made in the premiums charged. I admit that in that State the Government Insurance Office has a monopoly, and is therefore in a different position from the office in New South Wales. In New Zealand, the State Life Insurance Office has been in existence since 1870 when it was established by a Tory Government under the late Sir Julius Vogel. Although it is operating in competition with powerful insurance companies, it has always been in a flourishing state. Ever since the New South Wales Brickworks were established some years ago, they have been a striking success, and have notonly made satisfactory profits while paying high rates of wages to those employed in the industry, but have also compelled the private monopoly to reduce the price of bricks by from 20s. to 30s. a thousand. Then again, there is the State Monier Pipe Works of New South Wales, which have made handsome profits since they were established, and have repaid to Consolidated Revenue the whole of the capital cost. For some years, the Walsh Island Dock Yard, near Newcastle, was a very profitable undertaking. There is nothing in the bogy that a State-owned concern has never made profits. It is a question of honest and capable supervision. Every man who is working for a corporation, company, or firm, is subject to the control of an overseer or “ gaffer “ whose duty it is to see that the work it efficiently performed. I have worked for government concerns, and only a few years ago I was employed by the Sydney City Council and the Marrickville Council, when I found that there was no such tiling as the government stroke in governmental or municipal employment. I never had much of a “ let up “ and had as much to do when working for these concerns as I would have to do in the employment of a private individual.
Reference has been made to the constitutional aspect of this measure. With due respect to the opinion expressed by Senator Colebatch, I say that if we refrained from passing a measure because its validity might be questioned by the High Court, and a portion declared invalid, very little legislative work could be done by this Parliament. It seems rather peculiar that honorable senators opposite who oppose every attempt to increase the power of this Parliament so that our constitutional position may be placed beyond all doubt, are the first to object to this proposal on the ground that it may be declared invalid. I do not think a majority of honorable senators will oppose the motion for the second reading of this bill, although some may try to play “ ducks and drakes “ with it in committee. After having said that they recognize the serious difficulties confronting the farming industry, it would be absurd for them to defeat a proposal which is framed with the object of assisting it. They have not suggested anything of a practical character as an alternative to the present proposal. I do not think they will be game enough to throw this measure out, but if they do their blood will be upon their own heads. The measure is not perfect; we cannot expect it to bring about an ideal condition of affairs, but it will help the wheat-growers. The unfortunate position of the wheat industry affects not only those directly engaged in it, but also those in other industries depending upon it. As we are living under artificial conditions we are justified in adopting artificial means to assist it. It is useless to adopt a strictly academic attitude in connexion with this proposal. Personally, I think that all palliative legislation is only an attempt to prop up a rotten system, and that in this instance as in others we are only postponing the evil day. As the opportunity offers, we must try to protect the interests of those who are seriously menaced, and for that reason I intend to support this measure. Private enterprise has not been the enormous benefit to the community that some suggest. I clearly recall the bank smash of 1893, when all hut four banking institutions in Sydney closed their doors. I cannot remember how many banking institutions were operating at the time, but there were a good many more than there are at present, because there have been several amalgamations. The banks are entirely the product of private enterprise; they are conducted by private companies. Prior to the bank smash these institutions speculated in privately-owned land, and over-lent money to such an extent that they got into a dreadful mess. Four of the banks closed their doors within a few days, but it was the State which came to their assistance. I was a member of the State Parliament at the time when two measures were introduced, one of which was in the form of a moratorium which enabled the banks to foreclose on their fixed deposits and repay them over a lengthy period at a nominal rate of interest. The other measure was to enable the notes, which were then issued by the banks, to become legal tender. Therefore, all this boastful talk about the value of private enterprise is discounted by the fact that private enterprise brought about that disaster, and State assistance pulled it out of the mire. Personally, I am not concerned as to how honorable senators record their votes, but I do not think that a majority will dare to vote against the second reading of the bill. With the exception of the representatives of Western Australia who contend that Western Australia cannot afford to share in the guarantee, those who oppose the bill have not said anything to justify their opposition.
– Why not make it a federal guarantee?
– I do not see why it should be. If this guarantee is not placed within the reach of the Western Australian farmers, is there any corporate body, apart from this Parliament, that can give the- farmers in that State any relief? It is not a question’ of whether the Western Australian Government can raise the money for its share of the guarantee, but whether Western Australian farmers can afford to do without it. Will Senator Johnston, because he does not think that the Commonwealth is doing all that it might do to help the wheat-farmer, reject this scheme on the ground that the State Government cannot afford to take the risk that might be involved in the event of ,losses being incurred in the operation of the pool? Are the farmers of Western Australia to be left unprovided for, and are they to be exposed to the risk of lower prices, simply because the Government of that State will not come into line and accept its responsibilities? Considering the scheme as a whole, I dare the majority of honor- able senators to defeat this bill, which has been introduced in the interests of the farming community of Australia.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [9.46].- The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (SenatorRae), in support of the Government’s proposal, quoted instances in which private enterprise had failed and State enterprises had succeeded. In the early days of the development of every country, private enterprise fails from various causes, such as inflation of values and other unforeseen difficulties. The honorable senator’s experience of State enterprises differs very much from mine. I come from a State where the people have had considerable experience of the intrusion by the State into business ventures, and, with the exception of those business undertakings in which the State has had a monopoly, such as the workers compensation branch of insurance, they have failed utterly.
– How did the State get a monopoly in State insurance?
-The law provides that private insurance companies shall not be allowed to do certain classes of business. Honorable senators who have spoken in favour of the bill based their arguments largely on the experience gained during the war. May I suggest that the position then differed very much from that of to-day. Although compulsory pools handled our primary products - wheat and wool - we had a benevolent buyer in the British Government, and, furthermore, the pools were controlled by those who, in normal circumstances, would have supervised the marketing of our products, with the result that the ordinary channels of trade were not entirely closed to us. In the case of the British and Australian WoolRealization Association we had the advice and assistance of the various wool-broking firms. At the termination of the war, the British and Australian WoolRealization Association controlled an accumulation of about 2,000,000 bales of wool, and there was a new clip coming in. Prior to the war there were in manufacturers’ stores awaiting treatment, in the various woolbroking firms’ establishments in London and in transit, as well as in the numerous shearing sheds, about 2,000,000 bales of wool. When the war was over there was no wool in those channels at all. This condition of affairs enabled the British and Australian WoolRealization Association to market the wool in such quantities as the market was able to absorb, and the channels to which I have referred were filled in an orderly manner. The position is totally different to-day. The Government’s proposal will remove from the process of marketing one of the most efficient organizations that has ever been built up in Australia.
The bill is an important step in the direction of giving effect to the Government’s policy, namely, the socialization of industry.
– It would be splendid if we could give our wheat-farmers 4s. a bushel in the first step.
– The guaranteed price is the sugarcoated pill. The Minister omitted to add that it is to be paid only for the first year. He does not tell us what is going to happen in the subsequent years during which the wheat production will be controlled by the Australian Wheat Board. The bill is, in short, an attempt to bring about government control of all wheat grown in Australia. Its purpose is to conscript the farmers as to the method of marketing their produce. If accepted, it will shift the business of handling the wheat from one class of citizen, under whose direction it has been developed under Australian laws and institutions - fostered by the freedom of private initiative and ability, made efficient and economical through competition but protected in its property rights - to another class of citizen under a quite different plan. All previous experience indicates that it is likely to be vastly more costly, wasteful and uneconomical. It is true the bill has the appearance of merely being a scheme to help the farmer, through collective action, to market his crop; its effects on other business are regarded as incidental. These effects are, however, of profound and far-reaching significance. It is suggested by the propounders and supporters of the scheme, notably Senator Chapman, that it attempts nothing very different in effect from what the Government has done for the manufacturing industries through the tariff and for the dried fruit and wine industries through bounties. But those legislative measures did not put the Government into business; they did not displace and destroy the established and legitimate business of its citizens and. divert trade into channels involving Government control and the extensive use of public money.
In vetoing what was known as the McNary-Haugen bill, a proposal on lines somewhat similar to this scheme, President Coolidge said, inter alia -
I do not believe that this bill represents the farmers’ understanding wishes. The chief objection to this and similar devices for controlling the market is that they do not benefit the farmer in the end. Whatever may be the temporary influence of arbitrary interference, no one will deny that, in the long run, prices will be controlled by the law of supply and demand. Any form of price-fixing, once started, has alike no justice and no end. It is an economic folly from which this country has every right to be spared. No man can foresee what the effect on our economic life will be of disrupting the long-established and delicately adjusted channels of commerce. . . It calls for an aggregation of bureaucracy dominating the fortunes of the farmers, intruding into their affairs, and offering infinite possibilities to fraud and incapacity. It runs counter to the wellconsidered principle that a healthy economic condition is best maintained through the free play of competition.
In these remarks the President of the United States of America stated clearly his views on the effect of the pooling system and price fixing.
The wheat-growers of Australia are being led to believe that under the terms of this bill control of the pool will be in the hands of their elected representatives. Provision is made for the majority of the members of each State board to be elected by growers, and each State board is to have a single representative on the Australian Wheat Board. In addition, the Federal Government is also to have a representative on the Australian board. As compulsion can only be enacted and enforced by’ the Federal Government, and as the Federal Government will also be employing public funds to finance the wheat pool, its representative on the Australian Wheat Board must exercise a dominating influence in all matters of policy affecting the sale of the pooled wheat. Without compulsion, and without the assistance of public funds, the proposed pool could not function. Furthermore, as the taxpayers or consumers will be responsible for any loss incurred through guaranteeing wheatgrowers a minimum price, no government could divest itself of responsibility by its failure to exercise a final voice in matters of policy affecting the handling and disposal of the pooled crop. As government control is the one thing which growers will not countenance, this aspect of the compulsory pool is being camouflaged for the time being.
Singularly enough, this question of government control has also arisen in Canada . with regard to the proposal that legislation be enacted that, when 75 per cent, of growers have agreed to deliver all their wheat to the contract pool, the other 25 per cent, shall be compelled to d,.liver their ‘wheat to the pool too, thus bringing about a compulsory pool. The following extract from the report of the UFA, the official publication of the United Farmers of Alberta, published on 1st October, 1929, will be of interest to honorable senators: -
The following interview, dealing with proposals for the creation of a compulsory wheat pool which have be?n advanced in certain quarters in Saskatchewan, was given by President Wood to the Calgary Herald on 23rd September,- when he was asked to comment on these proposals: -
Dr. H. W. Wood, President of the United Farmers of Alberta and Chairman of the Alberta Wheat Pool, when interviewed, branded as unthinkable the suggestion advanced by Aaron Sapiro in his Saskatchewan addresses, that when two-thirds of the growers in Saskatchewan are enrolled in the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool voluntarily, the balance be brought in by legislation, with no representation on the board of control or voice in. conducting of affairs of non-poolers. Mr. Sapir( is also credited with suggesting that there be no governmental control but that the administration of the Saskatchewan pool rest in the hands of the co-operative marketing organization.
The proposition of a compulsory pool without government control, from the wheat-growers’ viewpoint, has a rather pleasant sound, but from the standpoint of practical application it presents some difficulties that I have never been able to satisfactorily adjust in my own mind.
In the first place we have two systems of selling grain in Western Canada; both recognized by law. each controlled and regulated by legislation, Dr. Wood continued. If the representatives of the pooling system acknowledge the right of the Government to legislate one system out of existence the Government might decide to exercise that right to legislate the pool out of existence.
On the other hand, if the Government legislates the old-established grain trade out of existence, by forbidding growers to make deliveries to that trade, it thereby destroys millions of dollars worth of property that the trade has been accumulating for years under the sanction of the Government.
Is the trade supposed to lose this property? Is the Government supposed to indemnify the trade? Or do the farmers who are asking for this revolutionary method propose to take the responsibility of indemnifying the. trade? I might also ask who would indemnify the pool for its property if the Government should decide to pass legislation compelling the farmers to deliver all their grain to the oldestablished trade?
I cannot conceive of the Government undertaking to force the delivery of all grain to any one selling agency without also taking the responsibility, or at least a joint responsibility, of the control of that system. The old Canadian Wheat Board is an example of the simplest method. Neither the farmers nor the Government want to revert to any kind of direct government control.
There are many other complications involved in this proposition affecting both the farmers’ interests and the functions of the Government, that will have to be carefully considered both by the farmers and the Government before such unprecedented legislation is enacted. To me such legislation is unthinkable in a free country.
That is the statement of a gentleman who was the president of one of the largest pools in Canada. In that dominion, the voluntary pools do not endeavour to draw in the whole of the growers and compel them to form a pool. When I was in Canada two years ago, I remember hearing the president of the Manitoba Wheat Pool give an address at Winnipeg. He very clearly, and very fairly, set out what had been done in the matter of pooling. It was shown that the farmers’ representatives were quite willing to continue in a voluntary pool, operating in competition with the ordinary wheat merchants.
– Were they getting any guarantee?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.No.
– Then that was a horse of an entirely different colour.
– I quite agree that the circumstances were different. Is it not a queer proposal to have a compulsory pool for three years and give a guarantee for only one year? I have here an article by James E. Boyle, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Cornell University, United States of America. It embraces a statement by President Hoover, of the United States of America, and reads -
When Congress met in special session, 16th April. 1929, to consider farm relief, President Hoover delivered a short message containing this very definite and sound advice -
We must not undermine initiative. There should be no fee or tax imposed upon the farmer. No governmental agency should engage in the buying and selling and price fixing of products, for such courses can lead only to bureaucracy and domination. Government funds should, not be loaned or facilities duplicated where other services of credit and facilities are available at reasonable rates. No activities should be set in motion that will result in increasing surplus production, as Such will defeat any plan of relief.
In the United States, they have had small co-operative concerns, and a movement was afoot to consolidate them into big central co-operatives. This article shows what happened -
Aside from this major weakness of price- fixing, which is fatal, the Farm Board has developed a number of other very serious infirmities. Take three of the worst of them, as samples.
1 ) Big Central Co-operatives. - The board is committed to the theory of big, powerful, centralized co-operatives. We have tried both kinds - the strong locals and the strong centrals. Experience has weeded out most of the big centrals, such as the Burley Tobacco with its 100,000 members; the other large tobacco co-operatives; the great potato cooperatives of Maine and Minnesota ; the great central grain co-operative, the United States Grain Growers; and so on. The California Raisin Growers and the California Prune Growers are depending on surviving, if at all, as re-organized into strong locals in place of the big centrals.
Seventy per cent, of all co-operative selling by farmers to-da.y is done through their grain, their dairy, and their livestock shipping associations, and most of this business comes respectively from the 5,000 local farmers’ elevators, the 2.500 local creameries and cheese factories, and the 1,600 local livestock shippins associations.
A very large peT cent, of these locals have refused to come into the Farm Board organization. As a farmer in one of the locals expressed it. “Wo don’t believe in a Santa Claus in Washington.”
I think that the farmers of Australia will be disappointed if they expect to find a Santa Claus at Canberra. Professor Boyle continues -
Over-stimulation of co-operation has hurt more co-operatives than it has helped. Even our most successful co-operatives in the past have secured but half the business from private dealers. I never expect them to do more.
Control of Marketing. - In Chairman Legge’s letter to William Butterworth, President of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, he expressed a belief in control rather than in economies in marketing. Said Mr. Legge -
Unless we can work out a different system of marketing which goes far beyond the question of saving a fraction of a cent per bushel on grain,’ a few cents per bale on cotton, or a few cents per head on livestock, as compared with the present system, there would be little hope of progress in the line of putting agriculture on an equality with other industries, for the simple reason that if all these operating costs were added to the price the farmer gets for his product it would make but little difference in the return to the grower.
The remedy for this, Mr. Legge says, is “ control “ - control of the flow of the crop to the market. It is, however, as Mr. Legge must learn, the production of the surplus, not the marketing, which is the real problem. The Canadian Wheat Pool has clearly proved to us that a surplus withheld from the market is not disposed of. The corpse is too expensive to bury. This old fallacy about “feeding the market “ is wrapped up with that twin fallacy, “ dumping “.
The Farm Board is not now stabilizing price or stabilizing marketing or stabilizing production.
It should turn its attention to certain fundamental problems. It should look ahead, not a few days or weeks as at present, but for five or ten or fifty years. Farm relief must come slowly. The law permits the Farm Board to work out orderly programs for land utilization and orderly programs of production. Progress in this direction would benefit all classes in the country and hurt no one.
– Would the honorable senator favour making this pool operative for 50 years?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.No. I should like to know from the Minister in charge of the bill in the Senate how this wheat pool is to be financed, also whether it is intended to pay the farmer the full amount of 4s. a bushel for his wheat at the railway siding.
– The bill says so.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Although the question was raised in an other place, neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) nor the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) would answer it definitely.
– If the honorable senator received that assurance would he vote for the bill?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.No, I seek to obtain the information in the interests of myself and other honorable senators.
– The scheme will be financed as the war was financed, through the Commonwealth Bank.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.A very considerable tax will be placed on its resources if that bank has to pay 4s. a bushel on 150,000,000 bushels of wheat in a period of two months. Again, if the exported wheat is sold at a loss, how is it proposed to make good the difference? Will it be done by placing the total deficit on the price of locallyconsumed wheat, or will a part only of the shortage be borne by local consumers, and the remainder made good by the Commonwealth and the respective States ? A wheat pool operates in Queensland, but I am confident that growers there will not come into the compulsory pool if the Government proposes to raise the price of locally-consumed wheat by1s. over world’s parity. Nor would they come into the pool if Queensland is expected to make good any loss on the wheat exported, other than its own.
– Queensland does not grow enough to feed its population.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.That is true. Queensland imports well over 1,000,000 bushels per annum. If any assistance is to be given to the wheatfarmers, I should prefer it in the form of a bounty. It should be treated as a federal matter, and the charge should fall upon the whole of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth equally.
I feel very keenly for two States in this matter. Take, for instance, the position of South Australia. I have a press statement published in Adelaide on the 30th June last, which reads -
Adelaide, June 30. “The Government has been notified by the Commonwealth Bank that it cannot permit the present overdraft of the State Government to be increased, either here or in England,” said the Treasurer (Mr. L. L. Hill) today. “ The bank is at present carrying a very heavy load in financing Australian Governments.” Mr. Hill stated that it would be impossible to balance the budget for 1930-31, and the burden of taxation was greater in South Australia than in any other State.Revenue bills and the budget would be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity to improve the overdraft position, meet the interest bill, and prevent a carry-over. If Parliament would agree to this it would spread the collection of taxation over the whole year, instead of throwing the whole burden upon the people at the end of the year.
The State’s deficit for the year ended today is £1,625,472. The expenditure, according to the approximate statement of revenue and expenditure issued to-night, was £11,472,292, and the revenue £9,846,820.
Honorable senators from Queensland are not interested in this matter to the extent that other honorable senators are, seeing that Queensland is a small wheatproducing State, whose wheat-growers get the benefit of the local market. But they, in common with other honorable senators, should consider seriously whether they should add further to the burdens of a State like South Australia - already financially embarrassed - by calling upon it to find money to make up any loss on the wheat grown in that State and exported. South Australia, which has a small population, produces a large crop of wheat annually. If that State has to make up any loss on the wheat exported, either by increasing the price to the local consumer or by sharing with the Commonwealth the loss on wheat exported, its burdens, already heavy, will be further increased. I, for one, am not prepared to place that already embarrassed State in a worse position.
My first objection to the bill is in respect to its compulsory provisions, which compel farmers to join the pool. We should indeed be in a sorry position if every primary producer was compelled to market his produce through a compulsory pool. I also object to the bill because I favour the ordinary wheat marketing firms being allowed to operate alongside the voluntary pool. Like other primary producers, the wheat-growers of this country have a very efficient system of marketing their produce. The Australian wheat-grower gets as high a price for his wheat as it is possible to obtain, having regard to world parity. Why does the Government desire to interfere with the existing system of marketing wheat? The removal of marketing operations from the wheat merchants will reduce the amount of finance available. While I shall vote against the bill, I am prepared to support the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) that a bounty on wheat be substituted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir John Newlands) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Protocol for the Revision of the Statute; Accession of the United States of America to the Protocol of Signature.
– I move-
That the Senate approves of the protocol for the revision of the statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, dated Geneva, 14th September, 1929, and of the protocol for the accession of the United States of America to the protocol of signature of the statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, dated Geneva, 14th September, 1929.
The two protocols under consideration were signed under instructions from the Commonwealth Government by Sir William Harrison Moore at a conference relating to the revision of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice and the accession of the United States of America to the Court. The Statute of the Court of International Justice was adopted in 1920, and it was resolved in 1928, at the ninth Assembly of the League of Nations that the Statute should be examined in order that advantage might be taken of the experience gained in the past eight years to determine what amendments appeared advisable. A committee of jurists consideredthe matter, and its recommendations were adopted at a representative conference at which Sir Harrison Moore was present on behalf of the Commonwealth. These proposals are embodied in the protocol adopted by the Assembly of the League of Nations which is now before the Senate.
The amendments dealt with the number of the judges forming the court, the sessions of the court, and the procedure with regard to advisory opinions. Formerly, there were eleven judges and four deputy judges; it is now proposed to have fifteen judges and no deputy judges. The judges are debarred from exercising political or administrative functions. Instead of holding annual sessions, the court is to be regarded as permanently in session, and will hold itself in readiness to function at any time. Sufficient judges were not always available when the court held only annual sessions.
As to the second protocol, the United States of America last year intimated to the parties to the protocol that an exchange of views might lead to an agreement as to the conditions under which that country could adhere to the Statute. The Council of the League referred the matter to the committee of jurists who were examining the constitution of the court. A protocol was drafted by the committee, and sent by the Council of the League to the conference that was considering the revision of the court statute. That conference, as well as the Council, approved of the protocol. The Assembly of the League also accepted it. This protocol constitutes an agreement between the United States of America and the States which had accepted the jurisdiction of the permanent court, and will come into force when it has been ratified by all the States and the United States of America. The most important articles of the protocol are those numbered five and eight. Number five relates to advisory opinions of the court; number eight empowers the United States to withdraw from the court. These are drafted to overcome difficulties arising from the fact that the United
States of America is not a member of the League of Nations. The effect of article five is that the United States of America stipulates that the court shall not entertain a request for an advisory opinion as to a dispute affecting that country without its consent.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLachlan) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– For the second time since I became a member of the Senate, I rise to address honorable senators on the motion for the adjournment. I regret the necessity for doing so. A week ago yesterday, the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) speaking in another place, saw fit to make a personal, bitter, and unjust attack on me and quoted a newspaper cutting or paragraph concerning me. Having discovered the newspaper from which he quoted, I immediately telegraphed tothe proprietors of the Hobart Mercury asking that a copy of that newspaper for Monday, 9th June, 1930, be sent to me. I have it here. I do not wish to dwell on this matter at length - it is distasteful to me and I desire the whole incident to be closed - but as I was accused by the Minister of Defence of having done my best, both by word and action, to discourage voluntary enlistment in the Military Forces, I propose to read the concluding paragraph of the article referred to, which the Minister had neither the fairness nor the decency to quote. I do not propose to read the whole of this lengthy article. It is headed “Australian Defence; Voluntary Enlistments Unsatisfactory; Senator Sampson’s Comments.” The Minister has had over a week in which to admit that he made a mistake, or that he spoke under a misunderstanding. I do not ask him for an apology, but as he has not done the decent thing as between man and man - had he done so, I should not have raised this matter again to-night - I propose toreadthe concluding para graph of the article from which he quoted, which gives him the lie direct. It is as follows : -
He, Senator Sampson, urged the Old Comrades Association to persuade the youth of the city to join the volunteer forces. Success in this direction would be very fine work, indeed, for the country.
I leave the matter there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.32p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300703_senate_12_125/>.