12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Customs and Excise Duties and Land and Income Tax Collections
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The particulars required by the honorable senator are being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
Prices of Australian Products
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The particulars required by the honorable senator are being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
Prices in Germ any.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Wales district branch of the Australian Journalists’ Association that while many members of that association, who are trained journalists, are out of employment, a number of Federal Government employees, enjoying good salaries, are doing journalistic work for the Sydney newspapers? 2.Is ita fact that among those referred to are Mr. D. Helmrich, of the Postand Telegraph Department, Sergeant-Major Lukeman, of the Commonwealth Defence Department, and Mr. Leo Percy, of the Commonwealth Taxation Department?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. The Prime Minister has received a communication on the subject from the organization in question, in which the names of the persons mentioned by the honorable senator are referred to.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the measure is to ratify the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth andWestern Australia Governments granting financial assist ance to the State by indemnifying it in. respect of certain guarantees given by it to the Midland Bank Limited in relation to the advances made by the bank to the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited. Besides ratifying the agreement, the bill provides for the appropriation of such amount as is necessary to meet any liability of the Commonwealth arising under the agreement. The agreement to be ratified is printed as a schedule to the bill. The annexures to the agreement bave not been printed. Photostat copies of the annexures are available for perusal by honorable members, and I have handed one to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce). The agreement sets out -
The principal provisions of the agreement are -
In November, 1929, representatives of the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited asked the Commonwealth to guarantee an overdraft of £300,000 with the company’s bank. The company stated that its capital of £1,000,000 would shortly be exhausted; that it required a further £550,000 to complete its first unit of plant; that it desired to raise £300,000 from its bankers subject to a government guarantee and that it could then raise the balance of £250,000 from the public. It undertook to repay the £300,000 by half-yearly payments of £25,000 each, commencing in June 1931. The company was adopting improved methods of mining which, if successful, and applied to other mines known to possess large deposits of low-grade ore of similar characteristics, would result in an increase of the output of gold from £2,000,000 to £4,000,000 yearly and would greatly increase the number of men employed. It was informed the Commonwealth Government would not grant financial assistance direct to it, but would be prepared to co-operate with the Government of Western Australia in extending financial assistance provided that Government was satisfied that the Wiluna enterprise was of such nature as to warrant government aid. If the Government of Western Australia was willing to guarantee a bank overdraft up to £300,000, repayable by the company at the rate of £50,000 per annum, the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to recoup the State against any losses arising from such guarantee. It was stated at the time that any assistance in this case was to he regarded as an addition to the special assistance granted to the State in recognition of disabilities suffered by it under federation. The offer, of course, was to be subject to ratification by Parliament. The State subsequently guaranteed the overdraft granted by the Midland Bank to the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited. The Commonwealth has now entered into an agreement with the State on the lines already indicated. Satisfactory reports regarding the prospects of the mine and special reports in regard to the mining and metallurgical processes to be adopted have been received by the Commonwealth.
– Have we got them here?
– The reports are here. I do not propose to table them, but for the convenience of honorable senators I am leaving the whole of the documents in the hands of the Secretary to Senate Ministers. They will be available to any honorable senator who desires to see them.
The most important aspect of this proposal is that relating to the methods to be adopted by this company in mining. It is expected that these new methods will make possible profitable mining operations in many centres for some years to come. The special methods adopted by the Wiluna Gold Mines Limited are dealt with in the reports of the technical officers of the company, and the State Mining Engineer.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure has been before the Senate on other occasions, and it has met with the approval of another place. It will be generally admitted that the care of our timbers is of very great concern to Australia. Unfortunately, certain happenings previously prevented the finalization of the proposition incorporated in the bill. On the last occasion that the measure was before the Senate it was in the charge of Senator Glasgow. To refresh the memory of honorable senators who were here on that occasion, and to inform the minds of those who were not here then, I propose to detail its history. As far back as December, 1925, the then Prime Minister of Australia, in enunciating his policy speech, made the following announcement : -
Recognizing the importance of forestry to Australia the Government has established a Central Commonwealth Forestry School for the training of foresters. It also proposes to establish a forestry bureau to advise and assist the State Governments in all matters relating to the development and utilization of our timber resources.
Following upon that statement, on the 2nd November, 1927, Senator Glasgow introduced a Forestry Bill for the consideration of the Senate. The bill passed through all stages. Later it was introduced in another place, but it lapsed at the end of that parliament.
Senator Glasgow re introduced the measure in February, 1929, when it differed only in one clause from the original form in which it was presented. Again, the bill met with the acceptance of the Senate. It was, however, destined to meet a similar fate to that which befell the first bill.
The bill now before honorable senators lias been passed by another place. The alterations made there to the measure as last dealt with in this chamber are of a minor character, affecting in a slight degree clauses 3 and 4, and leaving intact the main provisions of the hill as it left this House.
In view of .the expressed intention of the late Government in the announcement of 1925, to which I have made reference, steps have already been taken to establish the bureau and to carry out the functions it is designed to perform. The nucleus of the staff, consisting of the Inspector-General of Forests, and a secretary, has been established; other appointments will be made when the time is opportune. Meanwhile, research students are undergoing a thorough course of training to fit them for the responsible duties they will be called upon to perform in prosecuting research into the forestry problems of this country. In the making of forestry appointments preference is given to students trained in forestry in Australia, a policy which I feel sure meets with the commendation of honorable senators. So that such men shall have opportunity of contact with forestry thought and practice in the older countries of the world, where intensive forestry has been practised for many centuries, their preliminary training includes a refresher course in one of the leading schools in Europe or the United States of America.
In the matter of assistance and advice to the States, the bureau has been called upon by three of the States, namely, Tas mania, South Australia and New South Wales. A valuable report on the forestry position of the island State was prepared after a close investigation had been made. The appointment of a professionally trained forester as Conservator of Forests there is in accordance with a strong recommendation contained in the report that such a step was highly desirable if Tasmania’s valuable timber resources were to be properly conserved.
The scheme for the large pine planting programme upon which the Government of South Australia is now engaged was investigated by officers of the bureau before the necessary financial arrangements under the ?33,000,000 undertaking were agreed to. So far as New South Wales is concerned, a project for the planting of a large area of the central highlands with conifers for softwood timber of superior quality is now receiving the attention of the bureau.
The Australian Forestry School is one of the activities of the bureau. It was established in 1926. The question of forestry education formed the subject of discussion at no less than six interstate forestry conferences held between 1911 and 1924, and also at the Premiers’ Conference in 1920. The reports of the proceedings of those conferences show that all the States were agreed as to the desirableness of having only one school of forestry for the whole of Australia. For one year the school was held at the university in Adelaide, but upon the completion of the building in Canberra in April 1927, the Forestry School was removed here, where it has continued up to the present. The establishment has had the support of the States which gave undertakings when the school was opened, although it is to be regretted that, in some instances, the support has not been on the same generous scale as was promised. The principle of one Commonwealth school for the training of professional foresters for the whole of Australia met with the approbation of the Empire Forestry Conference at its third great convention held in Australia and New Zealand nearly two years ago. In placing that view on record the conference recommended that the various universities should be requested to award degrees to successful students of the
Forestry School. Four of the six Australian universities have agreed to do so, and it will now be possible for students of the school, who fulfil the necessary academic requirements, not only to secure the diploma of the Australian Forestry School, but also a B.Sc. degree in Forestry.
At the present time the financial position does not permit us to treat afforestation in the comprehensive manner warranted by its importance. This bill is merely a step in the right direction. The organization it is proposed to create will be of immense value at the time when measures are taken to ensure adequate provision for our future timber requirements. That time cannot be very long postponed without serious future loss to Australia. As at least thirty years must elapse before a tree reaches a state of maturity sufficient for marketing purposes, it behoves us to take a long-sighted view, and prepare now to meet the world shortage of timber which it is estimated will occur before 1960. Fortunately, estimates of the exhaustion of natural products usually prove to be inaccurate. I hope in this case we shall have the much needed grace that will enable us to put our house in order.
Apart from this aspect of the matter, the fact that Australia imports timber to the value of £4,000,000 annually represents an economic loss and contributes largely to the present financial stringency. That £4,000,000 should be spent in Australia, instead of being sent abroad to enrich foreign countries.
Afforestation is, of course, mainly a matter for the States : the forests which will provide our future supplies of softwoods must, to a great extent, be planted in areas controlled by the various States. Nevertheless, to the extent that the States have failed to promote this work, the finances of the Commonwealth have been adversely affected, and a vast field of employment left empty.
In addition to placing the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau on a statutory basis, the bill provides for the control by trustees of donations for forestry purposes. No words of mine are needed to convince honorable senators of the desirability of giving serious attention to our natural timbers. Honorable senators are acquainted with the conditions in the several Status from which they come. I am not personally acquainted with the timber resources of all the States, but I know that in Victoria, in addition to the vast areas of valuable naturaltimber, the State Government has embarked ona policy of planting additional areas with different varieties of timber which in the years to come will prove invaluable. On a measure of this kind honorable senators, irrespective of party or State, can speak with one voice, for we all love our country, and wish to do our best folic.. Perhaps, in no better way can wedo a lasting service to Australia than by developing her timber resources. If we do our duty now, those who come after us will have no reason to say that we, in our day, were lacking in vision, in that we made no provision for the time when the timber resources of the world would be depleted.
– What will the Government’s proposal cost?
– I have endeavoured to obtain the information sought by the honorable senator, but regret to say that it has not yet come to hand. In order that honorable senators may be placed in possession of all available information, I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 13th June (vide page 2795) on motion by Senator Daly-
That the Senate approves of the declaration under article 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, signed at Geneva on 20th September, 1929, in respect of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– As has been indicated by the Minister, this motion involves the ratification of the signature which has already been attached on behalf of Australia in respect of optional clause 36.
By those who take a keen interest in the League of Nations, whose underlying object is the securing of permanent world peace, the motion, tis well as the actions of this and the previous Government in respect of the optional clause, will be hailed with a great deal of satisfaction. One of the gibes that has been directed at the British family of nations, as I prefer to describe the British Empire, has been that whilst they have preached the doctrine of arbitration, they have refused to accept this facile means of dealing with international disputes. Those who believe in the larger sense in the work of the League of Nations, will hail this movement on the part of the Commonwealth and other dominions of the British Empire, as another step down that long corridor that leads to ultimate international peace. The movement in this direction may have been slow; indeed, it has been slow, and for two very good reasons. In the first place, we are submitting ourselves to a body of law which up to the present is largely unsettled. As the Leader of the Senate has pointed out, if we accept the jurisdiction of this international court, we are submitting to the judgment of a body of law which is largely in the. crucible. Efforts are being made to remedy this condition of affairs. The expert committee of the League of Nations has. an immense task before it in the codification of international law. The members of the committee have made slow but steady progress, and all the nations are now gaining a certain degree of confidence. Another reason which hitherto has prevented our adherence to the optional clause is that, as separate entities of the British family of nations, each dominion has interests which occasionally conflict with the interests of other members of this family. Other nations which have accepted the optional clause are, as a rule, homogeneous. They have no internal difficulties which might be brought within the jurisdiction of this court. We are also stipulating that in certain circumstances the proceedings in the court may be suspended in respect of any dispute for a period of twelve months or longer so as to give the parties concerned an opportunity to exercise methods of conciliation and meditation before bringing the issue in question into the legal atmosphere of the court.
The action of the Government in accepting the optional clause is really the logical outcome of our participation in the Kellogg Pact, which was executed in the interest of world peace. It should be rioted also that probably the most militant nation is, as far an one can see, leading the van in this effort to secure peace for mankind in the future. This movement for the execution of the optional clause by Great Britain and France started in 1924. With steady persistence the position has been examined from time to time and now it has reached a stage at which we feel we can accept the clause and submit disputes of an international character to the rule of international law, subject to the limitations indicated by the Minister. One member of the British family of nations; the Irish Free State, has accepted the clause without reservations, but Australia and the other British dominions, as well as Great Britain herself, has accepted it with certain important reservations. In the first place, we reserve the right to have certain disputes investigated by the council of the League of Nations for. a period of twelve months. That course is common to all member nations. The reservations mentioned by the Minister are of great importance. They include disputes inter se, in regard to which the parties have agreed that they shall have recourse to some other method for settlement. All dominions of the British Empire have, in the past; preferred bilateral agreements for the Settlement of disputes that may arise. Another reservation relates to disputes with regard to questions which, by international law, fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Australia. These would include disputes between the Commonwealth and Great Britain, and between the Commonwealth and other dominions of the Empire.
All those who supported this movement foi’ peace, and they are legion in Australia, as in other countries, will welcome the ratification by this Parliament of the adoption by the Government of the optional clause. They will welcome it because there is a growing confidence among/ the nations of “the world in the efficacy of the International Court. This confidence will be stimulated by the proposal for the revision of the statute of the international tribunal itself. I had the pleasure of meeting, two years ago, Sir Cecil Hirst, the legal advisor of the British delegation at the League of Nations Assembly in 1928, and I hail with great satisfaction his accession to the judiciary of the International Court.
At the 1928 Assembly he stood preeminent among the number of eminent men, not only for his learning, but also for his judicial calm and great sense of justice. I think we can, without hesitation and without criticizing the action of any other government, regard the action of this Government with great satisfaction. The Secretary of State for Foregn Affairs (Mr. Arthur Henderson), in commending the adoption of the optional clause to members of the British House of Commons, said he did so because the British Government in the past had desired, and in the future would always desire, to arbitrate in international disputes. This has been the policy of the British race throughout its history. Believing as I do that it is the duty of every public man to assist in the attainment of this great ideal, for which the British Empire stands, and believing also in the efficacy of this international tribunal, I commend this motion to honorable senators.
– Does it stand for universal peace?
– The League of Nations is endeavouring to secure international peace. That is its objective. I heartily support the motion submitted by the Leader of the Senate.
– We all must have been edified by the pious aspirations of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator McLachlan). I am in favour of the motion because I believe in giving the League of Nations and the International Court of Justice all the machinery they may require to function efficiently. At the same time I cannot accept the common idea that the League of Nations is going to ensure a permanent world peace. Already in a number of disputes in which it has intervened, its efforts have been disastrous. Those who are acquainted with the facts do not require me to supply the details. The statement is impossible of refutation that the League of Nations has signally failed to secure justice in disputes which have arisen since the great war. I take the view that, so far from being a body that is going to ensure permanent peace to mankind, the League of Nations is a distinct menace to world peace, inasmuch as it leads people into believing that its machinery is capable of effecting that purpose when, in actual fact, it will prove to be an absolutely rotten reed to lean upon. It is misleading the genuine pacifists into the false belief that it is in a position to ensure permanent world peace. My belief is that the ever-increasing rivalry between the great imperial powers for the diminishing markets of the world, is the fundamental cause of friction arising between nations, which ultimately resort to war. Any system which fails to remove the fundamental causes of war cannot have any permanent effect in securing world peace.
– Does not the honorable senator think that this is a good start?
– No. It is merely camouflage. While many small nations are enrolled as members of the League, they have very little authority, and the important powers which control its operations disguise their rivalry. The League of Nations has not yet succeeded in securing any reduction of armaments, and has made no sincere effort to bring about world peace. There have been numerous international conferences, protocols, pacts, and things of that kind;but, at the same time, the great powers have been increasing their fighting strength on land, on the sea, and in the air in preparation for war. Our gravest danger is that we are leaning too much upon the League of Nations as a means to secure international peace. Prior to the outbreak of the world war, millions of pacifists and socialists in various European countries held conferences at which it was resolved that, in the event of any of their governments provoking war, they would refuse to fight, and would, at once, commence a general strike by refusing to manufacture or transport munitions of war. Yet, at the call of so-called patriotism, they forgot their resolutions and rushed to the front in what they called the interests of their country. If we depend upon the League of Nations for world peace, while all the forces that make for Avar and international friction are more active than they were prior to 1914, we shall find that the results will not be as satisfactory as some are foolish enough to anticipate. As the League of Nations does not do anything to remove the cause of war, it cannot be a potent factor in preventing it. At this juncture thereis insufficient time to elaborate on this important subject; but the convictions which I have expressed are supported by many who have devoted very long and deep research into international topics. I could not allow this motion to pass without registering the opinion that I have absolutely no confidence in the League of Nations. I believe that it was never founded with any other idea than of establishing a temporary truce between the great powers, and to give them time to recover from the terrible effects of the Great War. I further contend that, if serious international troubles should arise, the League will crumble to pieces, and will be found quite incapable of preventing any further international disaster, which may result in the destruction of civilization. Something totally different from the League of Nations will be necessary before we can have any reasonable guarantee of permanent world peace.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Protocol for the Revision of the Statute : Accession of the United States of America.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 3644), on motion by Senator Daly-
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.
SenatorMcLACHLAN (South Australia) [11:53]. - I regret that in speaking to the motion which has just been carried I should have said anything concerning the League of Nations to lead to a discussion concerning that estimable body, which, after all, has been established in the interests of world peace. This proposal, which is associated with the motion which the Senate has just carried ratifying the optional clause, is for the approval of the Protocol for the Revision of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice. As I understand the instruments of ratification have to he deposited before the 1st September, the Senate should accept this revision. I should, however, like to direct attention to one or two matters of importance with respect to the court. The Minister (Senator Daly) pointed out that in the future judicial members of the court will attend solely to the business of the court. That is a marked improvement on the practice of the past. I may say that those whom I had the honour and pleasure of meeting at Geneva are so impartial that they would, in any circumstances, be able to deal out even-handed justice to all. The clarification of the court and the tightening up of certain provisions which provide for more speedy work will also be of great advantage. There are other provisions in the Protocol for the Revision of the Statute of the Permanent Court which are worthy of approval. The most important portion of this motion relates to the accession of the United States of America to the Protocol of Signature of the Statute of the Permanent Court. In the document circulated honorable senators will find all the details. One important feature is contained in Article 8, which provides that the United States of America may at any time notify the Secretary of the League of Nations of its intention to withdraw from its adherence to the Protocol of 16th December, 1920. The obligation is then placed upon the Secretary to the League to notify other nations which will also have the right to withdraw. The most important feature, however, is the accession of the United States of America to the court, following the acceptance of the Kellogg Pact, which originated in France and was perfected by Mr. Kellogg of the United States of America. I heartily support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 3rd July (vide page 3643), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the billbe now read a second time.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS (South Australia) [11.57]. - In making a few observations on this measure it is not my intention to quote from any of the few letters I have received in support of the bill, or to quote extensively from the numerous communications which have reached me setting out objections to it. The main objections to a compulsory system of pooling have been expressed at numerous meetings of farmers held in South Australia during the last month or six weeks, at which resolutions strenuously in opposition to the bill have been passed. It appears that the majority of the farmers are of the opinion that the bill is a step towards the socialization of production and wealth, which honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not support. Although the Commonwealth Government is to pay a guaranteed price the States will have to bear a portion of the loss. This will only result in raising conflicts between the two interested parties, the Commonwealth and the States, as to the manner in which the money has to be raised. That point has been left in doubt by the bill, butin my opinion the responsibility will rest upon the whole community.
It can reasonably be said that one objectionable feature of this proposal is that many menwho have spent practically the whole of their lives as buyers of wheat will be deprived of their occupations, and that when eventually the pool ceases this country will have no one to take its place. I regret that in this instance, as in others, government interference will deprive men of their means of livelihood. In any case, the work that they are now doing will have to be undertaken by a small army of men in the service of the pool. There is nothing in the bill to indicate the nature of the machinery that will have to be set up to take control of the wheat as delivered from the farmers, but it goes without saying that a considerable staff will be required to receive the wheat and make payments to the farmers.
We have heard a great deal during the course of this debate about the history of pools, and we know that the collapse of many pools has brought lamentable losses in its train. We know also that governments have interfered with private enterprise without a moment’s consideration for the interests of the people who are by that interference deprived of their means of livelihood. I shall vote for the second reading of this bill. I do not want to see it rejected until honorable senators have had an opportunity to insert in it provisions that they think are necessary. Many years ago in South Australia I was a member of a royal commission that inquired into the handling of wheat. That commission found much that it could condemn and much that it could commend in the actions of those who had been buying the wheat from the farmers of South Australia. A term of contempt used against them was the phrase “ honorable understanding “ which was in common use at the time. But I am not prepared to condemn these men as others have done. At every railway station in South Australia there are sheds erected by the wheat-buyers, and I am wondering what arrangement the Commonwealth Government proposes to make in regard to the wheat delivered at these sidings - whether it intends to take over these storage sheds or send the wheat straight away to the sea-board. If the latter course is followed it will lead to endless trouble. Eirst of all there will be the trouble of getting sufficient trucks and tarpaulins. And if there is no shipping available when the wheat reaches the seaboard and the wheat has to be stored, it will be liable to be attacked by mice and other vermin. We all remember the plague of mice that infested South Australia some years ago, and what a source of trouble it was to those who were handling the wheat. The Government will have on its hands one of the greatest contracts it has ever experienced. We are not told how the wharfage and rail charges will be met - whether they will be paid direct by the farmers or be deducted from the price paid to the farmers for their wheat. These are a few of the matters which are incidental to wheat buying, as those who are engaged in the business soon find out to their sorrow. Wheat buying is a troublesome business. There are countless arguments with railways staffs and others that will cause the pool a great deal of worry and anxiety.
I do not propose to touch upon the Canadian or American experience or anything of that kind, but I have received a letter which goes to show what the farmer is thinking about the Government’s proposal. He wants to know the details of the bargain into which the Commonwealth Government desires him to enter. The writer of this letter says -
I am directed by my central council to draw your attention to clause 2 of the schedule of the Wheat Marketing Act, wherein the respective Governments may fix the guaranteed price for 1931, 1932 and 1933 harvests.
My association wish to pointout that this is not in keeping with growers’ control. We contend that clause 2 should be amended to allow the Australian Wheat Board to collaborate with the respective Governments concerned tofix the guaranteed price for the harvests of the 1931, 1932 and 1933 seasons.
Although my association are allowing members to use their own discretion on the ballot papers, we wish to obtain the best possible pool for the farmers if it becomes law.
That is exactly what honorable senators of the Opposition are trying to do. It is not correct to say that we are opposing the interests of the farmers. We have not said one word against them, good, bad or indifferent. We are anxious to pass a bill which will be more acceptable to them. While we are sorry for the men who will be thrown out of employment by the passing of the bill, we are not at this stage proposing to do anything to help them. Our anxiety is to provide for the farmer slightly better machinery than is now existing for the sale of his wheat. It may or may not be true that the wheat-buyer gives the farmer too little for his wheat - I know nothing about that matter - but if we are replacing the buyer by a pool it is our duty to try to see that the farmer will benefit. I trust that the Senate will play no unimportant part in doing so.
I want now to quote a few words from a letter written by a mercantile broker in Sydney who has been engaged for many years in wheat buying and, knowing all the intricacies of the business, can speak with seme authority. He writes -
I would respectfully call your attention to the following dicta appearing in the joint judgment of Judges Sir Adrian Knox, Isaacs and Starke, and concurred in by Judge Rich, in the case of MacArthur v. Queensland: C.L.R. 28, at page 550:- “ Section 99 forbids preference. These provisions ensure that border duties or other pecuniary imposts or encouragementsor any legislative contrivances tending to destroy the commercial equality of opportunity between the States are forbidden so far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned.”
I submit that these establish that the bill in its present form is beyond the competence of Parliament.
As previously pointed out by me, if the bill is consummated in its present form its legality is certain to be contested; and it requires no great imagination to visualize the vast disservice that would be caused to the wheat-growers - even, indeed, to the whole community - if the wheat pool was established only to be declared invalid.
That is avery grave submission, made by a man who knows a good deal about the law and the wheat industry. Honorable senators on this side have already expressed doubt as to the validity of the Government’s proposal. It is certain that steps will be taken by those interested to preserve their connexion with wheatmarketing, and it behoves the Government to pay serious attention to the legal aspect of the proposals embodied in the hill. It needs no great stretch of imagination to visualize the enormous harm thatwould he done to Australia if the hill were passed, and portions of it were found to be unconstitutional. Those who are opposing the bill certainly have good grounds for doing so. This gentleman continues -
States, whilst the non-pool States may be subjected to all kinds of inhibitory restrictions.
Personally, for the above reasons and for others not enumerated, I am firmly convinced that the bill in its whole incidence is beyond the competence of Parliament, and feel sure that if ever it should be consummated its legality will be contested.
That prediction is significant. I prefer to accept the legal opinions of those who know something of the subject, rather than the opinions of those who have not properly studied it. I urge the Government to think well before involving Australia in what may be a catastrophe. I have here a long letter that was written to the Minister for Defence in another place, but I shall not weary honorable senators by reading it. It gives advice to the Minister as to the clauses of the bill that are likely to be contested. I shall vote for the second reading as I am anxious to give the farmers every possible advantage; but I make no further promise. Unless something is done when we go into committee to make the bill more acceptable to our wheatfarming community, I shall have to vote against it. Hitherto the Government has done very little for our primary producers, and now, when the opportunity presents itself, it brings down a most unsatisfactory measure that may land the country in very serious difficulty in the future. In committee, I shall do what I think necessary to improve the bill and to protect the interests of the growers.
– It can be very truly said that this is one of the most important measures that has been before the Senate for a long time. The speeches of honorable senators have indicated that they are alive to the serious position in which our wheat-growers find themselves, and of the necessity for extending some assistance to them. By their speeches and interjections honorable senators supporting the Government have scouted the idea that the Opposition is anxious to assist the farmers. They suggest that we are actuated only by a desire to help the merchant section of the industry.
– That is the inference to be drawn from the attitude of honorable senators opposite.
– The honorable senator misinterprets our intention. It is clear that all appreciate the necessity to assist the wheat-farmer. We then come to the question, “ In what form should that assistance be granted?” In passing, I may say that I believe that the proposals of the Government are illconsidered; that they fail to take a general survey of the situation, and totally disregard the future. The bill makes provision for a compulsory pooling system and for the payment of a guarantee of 4s. a bushel for wheat. But while the compulsory pooling will operate for three years, the guarantee is to be paid only on the 1930-31 harvest. That indicates that the Government is prepared to give only temporary relief to the wheat-farmers, and that it leaves the future to look after itself. There is no evidence in the bill that a poll of the wheat-growers will be taken, or that they have been consulted generally in the matter. It is true that representatives of the growers met at Canberra in conference, at the request of the Prime Minister. The Minister for Markets and Transport presided at the conference, and restricted the discussion to a scheme that he outlined. This hill embodies that scheme, and the general policy of the Labour party regarding marketing. It gives no expression to the desires of the wheat-growers.
It is imperative that a stocktaking should be made of the wheat-growing industry, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. All concerned in the industry view the present situation with the gravest concern. In this morning’s Canberra Times, there appears the following comment : -
The Department of Agriculture in a special report on the world wheat outlook, declared’ that an extensive adjustment in wheat acreage must be made if wheat production is to be profitable to growers in the next six or ten years.
This will be necessary, it declared, to meet the intensified competition of the world market, the increasing production of other countries and the lack of demand.
Discussing the necessity for looking forward for longer periods than before and increased production coupled with inadequate demands, the report states : “ The area of South-Western United States in 1919 was 14,000,000 acres larger than in 1910 while that of the Argentine, Canada and Australia was 28 million acres larger. Extension in the past few years has been made possible by improved equipment, new wheat varieties and improved cultivation processes, particularly where the rainfall was scanty. Thus wheat had been raised on land hitherto unsuited. Though large areas of such hind are still available at low costs in important surplus producing countries, within the next decade Russia is likely to re-enter the export field as an important competitor.
It would appear that the prices now ruling for wheat will remain without much fluctuation for many years, unless, of course, a gigantic disaster befalls the industry. In view of the possibility of Russia again becoming a big exporter of wheat, we cannot look forward to receiving high prices for wheat in the future. There can be no doubt that the good prices received for wheat during the last decade encouraged the opening up of further wheat land and led to an extension of wheat-growing. There is no necessity to emphasize the value of the wheat industry to Australia and the necessity for retaining it. But this bill gives the farmers of Australia no encouragement to look to success in the future. It is true that for one year they will be guaranteed 4s. a bushel for their wheat ; and it may be that, on the assumption that that guarantee will be continued, they will increase their acreage. But there is no certainty that the guarantee will be continued.
– The honorable senator is offering counsel of despair.
– I am not. Nor am I advocating a policy of foolishness. I do not desire to lead the wheat-growers of Australia to believe that this bill will grant them real assistance when, in fact, it will grant them assistance for only one year and leave them in the dark as to the future.
– The guarantee may be extended.
– The bill gives no indication of any such intention. If there is a loss the first year, the guarantee will probably not be continued; nevertheless, the pool will be retained for another two years. During, that period the price of wheat consumed locally may be raised in order to meet the loss on the first year’s operations.
– That is only an assumption.
– Most of the debate on this bill has been based on assumption. The honorable senator will admit that in this case it is a fair assumption.
The bill provides that if not less than three States favour a compulsory pool the measure will become operative in those States. But although the guarantee may operate only in three States, the prejudicial effects of the bill will, in fact, be felt throughout Australia. If the Government really desired to assist the wheatgrowers of this country, why did it not introduce a scheme to cover a period of years and provide that the guarantee would be met out of general revenue? Instead of doing that, it has introduced a measure which, if agreed to, will make the position of the non-participating States so difficult that, eventually, they will be compelled to join a scheme in which they do not believe.
In another place there was abundant evidence of a genuine desire on the part of honorable members opposed to the Government’s scheme to compromise with a view to improving the bill. In the ministerial statement of policy outlined by the Government at the beginning of the session, it was suggested that Parliament might form itself into an economic conference to discuss the problems confronting this country. The passage of this measure through another place revealed no such desire on the part of the Government. Amendments which would have improved the bill were given short shriftIt is fair to assume that the Government will adopt a similar attitude in this chamber. There is even a suggestion that the Government is not very enthusiastic about passing the bill at all.
All honorable senators will admit that the series of articles written by Professor D. B. Copland on the wheat industry, to which reference has already been made by several honorable senators, is the product of a trained, unprejudiced mind. In those articles Professor Copland has shown clearly the causes of our present economic depression, and made it clear that tlie wheat industry is in need of assistance. The only question at issue is the form which that assistance should take. The Government proposes to go ahead with its scheme if only three States agree to it. If it does so, the remaining States will be unable to carry on as in the past. Seeing that it has been ruled that an amendment to provide for the payment of a bounty on wheat exported would be out of order, I shall not refer to that matter other than to say that Professor Copland prefers a bounty to the proposal contained in this bill.
– Would not the granting of a bounty encourage farmers to crow more wheat?
– The payment of a bounty, like a guarantee of 4s. a bushel, would encourage farmers to grow more wheat.
– I thought that one of the honorable senator’s objections to this bill was that it offered such encouragement.
– I am not opposed to giving assistance to the wheat-farmers, but I am opposed to their being encouraged to produce more wheat for one year and then being left in the dark. This bill contains no assurance of assistance after the first year. If the Government sincerely desired to help the wheat-farmers of this country, it should have been prepared to accept the full responsibility for the guarantee. Sitting suspended from 12.1/5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Western Australia is particularly deserving of assistance to its wheat-growers. It has developed a huge whea’t-growing belt in recent years at considerable cost, and its population is small. Moreover, it does not enjoy the advantages that the other States have reaped from a home market, and the protective policy of the country. That State has no secondary industries, and- we are told by honorable senators from Western Australia that it is beyond the power of its people to undertake reponsibility for 50 per cent, of the guarantee of 4s. a bushel. South Australia, if one is to be guided by press reports, also appears to be unable to meet the financial obligations that the bill imposes. Li Queensland a compulsory pool ing system is already in operation, and in any case the growers in that State are practically assured of 4s. a bushel, because the wheat grown there is consumed within the limits of the State. Tasmania, and, in a measure, Queensland, are not directly interested in the bill, as wheat-growing States. Western Australia, particularly, recognizes the necessity for assistance to the wheat-growing industry in a substantial and permanent way. If advantages are to be gained under the bill, Victoria and New South Wales will receive them, because those States produce a great deal of wheat and have a large home consumption. Those States which accept the proposal will reap such benefits as the bill confers, but the other States will suffer all the disadvantages accruing from a compulsory pool.
The Government has not given full consideration to a general scheme for the encouragement of the industry. Wheatgrowers the world over are in an unfortunate position to-day. The trouble of the growers in Australia has been brought about largely by circumstances over which they have little, if any, con- trol. The fiscal policy of this country has given little or no advantage to the wheat-growers, and it has substantially increased the cost of production. A few years ago when the production of wheat was short of the world’s requirements, the price soared to an abnormal level, and this encouraged the opening up of farming land, which, in the circumstances of to-day, would not have been put into cultivation. The high price ruling for wheat inflated the cost of farming land, and the grower now finds himself producing a commodity that has to be sold on the world’s markets in competition with wheat grown in countries that are not suffering under the same disabilities as . those of Australia. We, on this side of the chamber, are as anxious as honorable senators opposite to see theindustry assisted in a practical way, and we should consider how best that assistance may be given. I object to the producers in a great primary industry such as wheat-growing being forced into a pool, and, in a large measure, without their consent. Is this a time when we should launch such a speculative undertaking? The proposed guarantee is merely for a period of twelve months, although private enterprise has been handling the wheat business for years. One must have regard to the limited time that the Government has at its disposal to take a poll of the growers, and l.o make the necessary arrangements for the administration of the pool and for the shipment of the crop.
The bill does not show how the Government proposes to finance the scheme. Are the necessary funds to be raised by increasing the price of flour for home consumption, or is there to be increased taxation ? It is undesirable at the present time for the Government to launch out on a big business enterprise such as the bill contemplates. Serious ns the financial position of Australia is regarded to-day, I venture to suggest that, it will be found to be even more serious when the budget is submitted. We have a right to know from the Minister how the Government proposes to finance the pool.
– Through the Commonwealth Bank.
– That means little or nothing.
– How did the Government finance the late war?
– Circumstances have entirely changed since then. The late war was financed by pooling the whole of the resources of the Empire; but it is idle for the Minister to suggest that present conditions in Australia are comparable with those obtaining during the war period.
– The position is the same now as it was then, so far as wheat is concerned.
– I think not. It cannot be suggested that any resources other than those of the Commonwealth itself will be used to finance the proposed pool. The Minister said that a more scientific method of marketing wheat was desirable. With that remark we all agree; hut does he seriously suggest that the system outlined in the bill indicates a more scientific and profitable way of marketing the wheat crop in the interests of Australia?
– I suggest that the proposal will give the farmer 4s. a bushel for his wheat.
– But it is idle to state that the bill provides a more scientific method of marketing wheat than has obtained in the past. We know nothing about the personnel of the board, except that it is to be elected by ballot, and that the Government is to have a representative upon it. Since the Commonwealth Government will be responsible for the amount of the guarantee it is reasonable to assume that its representative on the Australian Wheat Board will dominate the policy of that body in regard to all proposals for the disposal of the pooled wheat. The same conditions obtained under the compulsory pooling system during the war. We may take it, therefore, that the other members of the Wheat Board will act in a consultative capacity and that the Government’s representative will be the dominating personality. Supporters of the proposal have pointed to the success of the compulsory pools established during the war and have implied that a similar system, inaugurated now, would be equally successful. There is no evidence to support such a contention. The circumstances of to-day are entirely different from those that obtained during the war. At that time the whole of the available shipping had been commandeered for war purposes, so the only course available to the Government was to inaugurate a compulsory wheat pool to handle the accumulated wheat surplus. Wor is there * any evidence that pooled wheat marketed after the war realized higher prices than wheat sold through the ordinary channels of trade.
– The British Government was the only buyer of Australian wheat during the war.
– That is so. I am referring more particularly to wheat sales for a year or two after the war because it took some time to administer the affairs of the compulsory pools and clean up the accumulated surplus of wheat. Senator Rae endeavoured to show that it would be to the advantage of the individual grower to hold his production for a higher price, instead of selling” it’ at the ruling rate when it is ready for marketing. I have had. very many years” of farming experience, and I have yet to learn that it is to the interest of a wheat-grower to hold his produce off the market. I have always found it more profitable to sell as soon as convenient.
I cannot see how the operations of the board will appreciably influence in favour of the grower prices on the London market. Australia produces only about one-sixteenth of the world’s wheat crop, so it is not probable that the marketing of our exportable surplus by either the proposed board or through the ordinary trading channels will materially influence prices in a market already well supplied. Furthermore we may assume that, since the Government does not favour the present system of marketing, the Australian Wheat Board will not seek the cooperation of existing organizations for the disposal of next season’s crop. There is, therefore, the danger that the board’s operations will be controlled by men without adequate knowledge of this intricate business, with the result that the interests of the wheat-grower will suffer. Senator Daly is a member of the legal profession. If I were in need of legal advice, I should, seek his counsel rather than that of another person lacking experience in legal matters. For the same reason, the marketing of Australian wheat should be in the hands of those efficient organizations which have been built up in Australia, and have their business “connexions in all parts of the world. Surely they are in a better position to carry out this work than a board, which may consist of persons with limited experience.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the wheat agent is a friend of the farmer?
– I would not say that he is. Nor would I say he is an enemy of the farmer, until evidence is furnished to that effect. Certainly, in the business of wheatmarketing, I should prefer the advice of business organizations controlled by men of proved ability rather than a hoard under Government control.
The bill suggests that the financial side of the Government’s proposal will not extend beyond the first twelve months. I am afraid that the true position of the wheat-grower is not thoroughly under stood by members of this Ministry. This proposal was discussed in general terms at the Canberra conference, and the bill is the outcome of resolutions adopted at that gathering. I am inclined to believe that some honorable senators are supporting the bill for reasons other than those relating to its actual merits. Possibly it is thought that this scheme will lead to the destruction of the bounty system as applied to other industries in Australia, and that eventually the entire economic situation in the Commonwealth will have to be re-examined with a view to building up our industries on a competitive basis. Though I have no wish to impute motives, I do not think the members of the Government would be very much annoyed if the bill were rejected.
– I have reason to believe also that many honorable senators opposite are not too keen in their opposition to it.
– Certain honorable members on this side have made that admission provided that the bill is amended in committee. But there was very little evidence of conciliation given by the Minister in charge of the bill in another place. Amendments suggested by the Opposition with a- view to making the proposal more acceptable were summarily rejected, honorable members being told that the bill was the last word in wheat-marketing, and that they would have to accept it or reject it as it stood. Consequently, it has come before this chamber in precisely the same form in which it was presented to another place.
– The honorable senator will admit that I am more conciliatory.
– The Minister has indicated that he is prepared to compromise with regard to certain of its provisions. In reply to Senator Plain he intimated that he would view favorably an amendment to provide in the bill itself for the taking of a ballot of the wheat-growers. Wheat-farmers are deserving of every assistance which it is possible to give them. But this financial aid should be given in a practical form. If I were asked which form this assistance should take I should prefer the bounty system. The Government would then know what its obligations were.
– A bounty of 6d. a bushel would cost £4!,500,000 a year.
– If a bounty were paid we would know exactly where we stood, and the States which were not associated with the pool would derive some benefit and would not suffer the disadvantages they will under this measure. It appears to me that a thorough investigation should be conducted into the wheatgrowing industry of Australia in order to ascertain how it should be financially assisted. If the body which conducted such an investigation could not make its recommendations in time to enable them to apply to this year’s harvest, they could be made retrospective to this season. If this measure is defeated on the second reading, I shall take the earliest opportunity to move for the appointment of some authority to conduct such an investigation.
– How would the scheme which the honorable senator advocates be financed?
– -From the Consolidated Revenue, as all other such schemes are financed. All the money used in assisting other industries is obtained indirectly from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth; but in this instance the proposal is to obtain funds by increasing the price of wheat sold for local consumption.
If my suggestion were adopted the Government would know exactly what it was doing, and our future action could be guided by the recommendations of an authority independent of Parliament. It is admitted that the wheat-growing industry should receive some help, and I trust that serious consideration will be given to the suggestion I have made so that wheatgrowing may be more profitable than it is to-day.
– I did not intend to speak at this stage; but, as I understand that there is more than a possibility of the second reading of the bill being defeated, I feel it incumbent upon me to define my attitude towards it. Although I cannot support some of its provisions, I am in favour of the second reading being carried, be cause I believe it can be so amended in committee as to make it acceptable to this chamber and also to the wheat-growers of Australia. The position in Queensland in the matter of wheat-production is somewhat different from that in the other States as Queensland only produces for home consumption. In the event of a low price being obtained for wheat the measure, in its present form, will impose upon some of the States a burden greater than they can bear. I realize the difficulties in such States as Western Australia and South Australia, but I do not think they are insuperable. If we devoted our energies to improving the measure in committee rather than to defeating the motion for the second reading we should be rendering a greater service to the wheatgrowers and to the whole Commonwealth. In stressing the importance of wheatproduction I do not wish to minimize the value of other industries; but I believe that the production and handling of wheat gives employment to more persons than any other industry. If its importance should in any way diminish, Australia would be affected more seriously than it would be by the decline of any other industry. Although the wheat-growing industry is not of particular importance to some of the States, its general decline would affect the whole Commonwealth. In these circumstances it is in the interests of every State, whether it produces wheat in large or small quantities, to do everything possible to maintain the industry at least in its present proportions.
The disorganized state of the world’s wheat markets has been alluded to, but that should not deter us from doing something in the interests of the wheatgrowers in Australia. Rather should it impel us to endeavour to improve their position. I believe that the wheat-growers in Queensland are in favour of a Commonwealth compulsory pool. There has been a compulsory State pool in Queensland for some years, and I have not heard any serious complaints concerning its operations. There have not been any on the score of Government interference. In addition to the compulsory wheat pool in Queensland, there are maize, peanut, egg, and butter pools, and, in case I should be interrogated on the subject, also a sugar pool. There has never been any interference or suggestion of interference on the part of the Government in the management of that pool. The Government, which owns a couple of sugar mills, is represented on the sugar board by one member, and its representative has been of very material assistance to the industry. As the industry also nominates three members to the board, it can be truly said that the pool is controlled by those engaged in the industry. I believe that is what will happen if a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool is established. The Bruce-Page Government was strongly in favour of what is termed orderly marketing, which is as necessary in connexion with wheat as in the disposal of any other primary products.
– The marketing of sugar is conducted through ordinary channels.
– I am well aware of that. So far I have not been able to discover anything in the bill which will preclude the marketing of wheat through ordinary channels, or which will prevent the wheat-growers from receiving the assistance of those firms whose business is the marketing of wheat. I cannot see why there should be any difficulty, as some suggest, in financing this pool, and I venture to say that that phase of the undertaking should not impose any particular strain upon the financial resources of this country. After the wheat has been delivered and paid for at the rate of 4s. a bushel at railway sidings the aggregate balances of the Australian banks will, I contend, be the same as it was before a single bushel of this year’s crop was harvested.
I recognize that there are some valid objections to the bill in its present form, but before I deal with them, I should like to express the opinion which I strongly hold, that the Australian grower of wheat is entitled to something more than the world’s parity for the wheat consumed in Australia. For many of the commodities he uses in his home and in connexion with his farming operations he has to pay considerably more than the wheat producers in other countries, and is therefore entitled to a substantial amount above world’s parity. I do not think that the people of this country would object to paying1s.,1s. 6d. or even 2s. a bushel more than the wheat would bring in the markets of the world. I recognize that all the States are not on an equal footing in this matter. Western Australia has a small population and a large export trade in wheat, and South Australia, where the financial position is very acute, is in a similar position. If that difficulty could be overcome I believe that the bill would be more acceptable to the Senate than it is at present. I therefore ask the Minister (Senator Daly) whether he will, in committee, favorably consider an amendment providing that where a State is not willing to stand with the Commonwealth in the guarantee, the Commonwealth Government will guarantee 4s. a bushel, less such amount as would represent the State’s quota of the guarantee.
– As I have already pointed out, an honorable senator must not anticipate debate in committee. On the second reading he may not do more than allude in a passing and general way to what he considers would be a desirable improvement to effect in committee.
– I am sorry if I have transgressed; but I cannot withdraw what I have already said, and I hope that the Minister will not be precluded from answering my question.
– Again I have to thank honorable senators for the very fine spirit in which the debate on a bill submitted by the Government has been carried on. I admit that the proposal contained in this measure probably offends the political principles of quite a number of honorable senators, although I have no doubt some of them are prepared to sink those principles in the interests of the rural producers. I have no complaint to make concerning the lobbying or alleged lobbying of honorable senators, because in modern politics one must expect to be subjected to it.
– Why should the Minister complain when the Minister for Markets and Transport has been busily engaged in lobbying?
– I said that I have no complaint to make about any person lobbying.
– I should not think that the Minister would complain.
– I cannot help it if the numbers have turned against the Opposition ‘ since the Senate met this morning; but I repeat that I have no complaint to make against any person on the ground that he has been lobbying. I admit that the Minister for Markets and Transport is so keenly concerned about the passage of this bill, not in his own interest, because he does not possess an acre of wheat land, but in the interest of the farmers, that he has been prepared to give to any honorable senator the benefit of the knowledge that he unquestionably possesses. If, on a measure of this description, any person could give me the benefit of his knowledge and experience, I should at all times be prepared to get it. The merchants also have exercised the right to protect what they consider to be their personal interest - the right to market the farmers’ products. Having built up big businesses, they are naturally concerned when legislation threatens to assail those businesses, and no one can complain if, on the grounds of self-interest, they approach members of Parliament to show them how, under the merchant system, the farmers’ wheat can be marketed more scientifically than under the scheme proposed by the Government. The cogency of their remarks is, of course, a matter for the individual judgment of the honorable senator who listens to them.
I can have no complaint to make about the farmers who, during the last few weeks, have held meetings and carried resolutions strongly supporting this bill. Some of these meetings have been held in centres where, “a fortnight ago, the agitation against the measure was fairly strong. I think that all honorable senators, whatever their opinions on this bill may be, will admit that there has been a growing feeling in the wheat areas in favour of it. We had evidence of that a few days ago, when a wise man from South Australia, an ex-senator, undertook to debate this question with a member of another place in a centre where one of our most honorable senators, Senator H.
– What was the resolution upon which the farmers were asked to vote?
– The resolution was “That the Commonwealth Government’s proposal be accepted “.
– It did not mention the amount of the guarantee?
– I do not know whether the actual amount of 4s. was mentioned in the resolution, but the farmers, I presume, had sufficient experience of the present Government to know that they had nothing to fear whether the amount was mentioned or nor.
– They knew that the Government would keep its promise in either case.
– I am obliged to Senator McLachlan. The present Government always keeps its promises, and on this occasion it will keep its promise if the Senate passes the bill.
I am somewhat bewildered at the nature of the opposition to the bill in this chamber. All honorable senators allege that they are in favour of giving assistance to the farmers, and I believe that all honorable senators are anxious to assist the primary industries of Australia. Some suggest that they would support the proposal if it were that the Commonwealth should bear the whole of the responsibility for the scheme. Others say that they would support it if the assistance to be given were in the form of a bounty. I cannot accept the first suggestion, because the Government believes that a scheme under which the whole of the responsibility was thrust upon the Commonwealth would be most inequitable. The interests of the taxpayers must be preserved. On this occasion the Government is trying to give the farmers the maximum amount of assistance it possibly can give them, but to suggest that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth should shoulder the whole of the responsibility would be to ask it to carry too heavy a burden. If the bill reaches the committee stage I am prepared to give favorable consideration to the suggestion made by Senator Crawford that in the ease of States which, for financial reasons, feel that they cannot come into the scheme, the 4s. per bushel should be paid, less the quota which the States that do come into the scheme are called upon to contribute. Of course, as the suggestion has been sprung upon me, its constitutionality would have to be determined, but if it is found to be constitutional and the honorable senator brings forward his suggestion in committee, I can give him the assurance that the Government will give it favorable consideration.
– That would mean a smaller advance to the farmer at the start.
– What has been agitating my mind since Senator Crawford made his suggestion is how it could be worked out from the point of view of the advance to the farmer ; but if a practical scheme could be put forward on the lines suggested, which would enable the Government to give a first advance to the farmers, the Government would give favorable consideration to it.
– It would mean that the promise of the Prime Minister that the farmers would get 4s. a bushel at the railway sidings could not be kept.
– It would mean nothing.
– I do not think that honorable senators are in order in debating a supposititious amendment.
– As a wrong impression may be created by honorable senators’ interjections, I crave indulgence to say that Senator Crawford’s suggestion does mean something. It means that the farmers, although they would not receive 4s. per bushel in the first instance, would receive 4s. per bushel as a minimum, less the moiety a State would be called upon to contribute as its quota to the joint guarantee of the Commonwealth and the State if it came into the scheme. I do not think that even Senator Pearce would suggest that the cost of the most ardent socialistic enterprise, whatever the result of the administration of this pool may be, would amount to the full amount of the guarantee, which in this case is 4s. per bushel.
As the hour is late, I do not propose to go into the point that has been raised that the effect of this bill will be to in crease the price of bread. I commend the arguments put forward by Senator Plain. They should be quite sufficient to convince honorable senators that they need not fear an increase in the price of bread. I suppose that all legislation brought forward by Labour could be described as socialistic. It all depends upon the spectacles through which it is viewed. I submit, however, that the legislation now under consideration is national. It is national in the sense that its purpose is to assist the very people upon whom we are to lean for a few years to come if we are to right the position in which the country finds itself to-day. Senator Dooley has pointed out that there are now in Australia almost 200,000 people on the verge of starvation, because the absorptive capacity of the country is too low. We have to admit that, unless we can increase our production, we cannot increase our absorptive capacity, and when I speak of increased production, I mean an increase of real and not nominal production. The formula referred to by Senator Dooley should cause honorable senators to reflect. After a most exhaustive inquiry, economists advised the Development and Migration Commission that every £700 worth of exportable wealth resulted in the creation of an absorptive capacity of 21 persons. Even if the Government loses on this particular wheat pool, from a national stand-point the resultant increased absorptive capacity which would be brought about would benefit the nation to a considerably greater extent than do some of the bounties for which some honorable senators opposite are never afraid to vote. The extension of the wheat-growing industry is vital to our national life. The step which the Government has proposed should be viewed, not from the stand-point of whether it is socialization or rationalization, or whatever it may be termed, but from the stand-point of whether it is practicable or designed to bring about some benefit to the nation commensurate with the amount which the nation is called upon to pay.
Honorable senators opposite have talked about conscripting the farmers: Already the farmer is conscripted from the point of view of his vote, and, if honorable senators opposite had their way, would be conscripted for defence. He is compelled to pay taxes and compelled to contribute towards the bounties to which some honorable senators opposite object. But when we try to bring in something designed to assure to him an income which will enable him to live under conditions which conform to the Australian standard and bear his share of the cost of those bounties, objections are raised that he is being conscripted. There is no conscription under this measure. The Government simply says to the farmers, “We believe that you should receive at least 4s. a bushel for your wheat. We believe that under this bill we can guarantee the payment of that amount, and at the same time save the taxpayers from any appreciable loss. But we also believe that there is only one way by which you can receive 43. a bushel for your wheat, and the taxpayer be relieved in his responsibility, and that is by the pooling system.” If those honorable senators who admit .that they would support a voluntary pool will regard this matter with an unbiased mind, realizing their suggestion that the Government stands to lose, not thousands of pounds, but millions of pounds, they must, to be consistent, support a compulsory pool as being the only effective pooling system.
The other herring which has been drawn across the track is the possible effect of clause 3. I shall not call it a red herring, seeing that it has emanated from honorable senators on the other side of the chamber, who profess to be opposed to anything “ red.” In respect of the effect of clause 3, it has been contended that this clause was inserted because the Government knew that, in many respects, the bill was unconstitutional, and wanted to get hold of the farmers’ wheat, and then turn round and tell the farmers that it could not pay the guaranteed price because it was unconstitutional. I do not propose to add anything to what has already been said by Senator Bae in this connexion, namely, that the clause would not have been inserted in this bill if the Acts Interpretation Bill, first introduced in another place by the BrucePage Government, had received legislative sanction. The clause is merely a safety valve invented, not by this
Government, but by a legal genius in another place - the Leader of the Nationalist party there. It is, I may say, a very fine invention. Its purpose is to save the intention of the framers of Commonwealth legislation from being overridden by the High Court on merely technical grounds. Apart from mere technicalities, the constitutionality of this legislation has been thoroughly explored by the highest legal minds in the land. There is no danger that the farmer will have his wheat conscripted by a nation, which will then turn round and say that it cannot pay the guarantee.
As a further argument against the bill the Russian bogy was raised. So long as the farmer received 4s. a bushel for his wheat and the interests of the taxpayer were properly conserved, I should not concern myself with the source of a good scheme. I should not care whether it emanated from Russia or from Belgium. Indeed, it may be of interest to honorable senators to know that in agricultural science the antipathy against Russia, which is to be seen in many directions, does not exist. Russia has showed Australia how to conduct soil analyses. It was left to Russia, following on the Bolshevik revolution, to frame the first soil map of Australia, a replica of which can be seen in the Waite Institute in South Australia to-day. Russia has done a great deal in the interests of agricultural science. Seeing that we learned soil survey from Russia, should the mere tinge of Russianism be the deciding factor in connexion with this bill? In my opinion, the deciding factor should be “ What will the farmers of this country get out of it?”
I remind honorable senators that this bill is the outcome of an appeal by the farmers of Australia to the Commonwealth for assistance. A round-table conference, presided over by the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney) and attended by men representing every branch of the wheat industry, met in conference at Canberra some months ago. At that conference this scheme was evolved. While, perhaps, not the best scheme pos* sible, it was the best scheme that could be evolved consistent with the duties of those representatives to the interests they represented, and the responsibility of the Minister as a custodian of the taxpayers’ money. It is now suggested by the Opposition that this bill, which vitally affects the national life, shouldignorniniously be thrown out, without even extending to it that courtesy which would be extended to an ordinance providing for some minor matter affecting Canberra. The suggestion is one of contempt of the Government - a disregarding of the best interests of the Parliament of this country. I submit that to throw out this bill in the way suggested would be to betray that trust which the people reposed in us when they sent us here.
Honorable senators are aware of the limitations imposed by the Standing Orders in connexion with the debate on this bill. On two occasions when honorable senators desired to bring forward suggestions for bettering the Government’s scheme, they were informed that t he Standing Orders prevented them from doing so. The rejection of the second reading will prevent those two honorable senators from bringing forward, in committee, amendments to provide for the better marketing of one of Australia’s most important products. I submit that to vote against the second reading would be to treat, not only the Government, but also those honorable senators, with contempt.
However, if the numbers are against it, the Government will not mind going down fighting. It has nothing to gain politically from the passing of this measure. The elections are over, and there is no likelihood of another election for a further eighteen months. I ask honorable senators not to treat the Government in this manner, but to let the bill get into committee.
– “ Will you walk into my parlour”? said the spider to the fly.
– If the bill does reach the committee stage, I fear that some honorable senators opposite will be made to feel very uncomfortable. Why should they be afraid to agree to the second reading?
– Ha !
– The right honorable senator desires to retain the advantage he has gained; butI appeal to honorable senators sitting behind him to desert him on this occasion, and to join with the Government in the discussion in committee of a proposal which, if it emanates from this chamber in legislative form, will, I feel certain, prove one of the most beneficent pieces of legislation in the interests of the farmers of this country that has over been placed on the statutebook.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative. PAPER.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules, 1930, No. 69.
Defence Department Retrenchment: Article in Labor Call.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.29]. - I wish to bring before the Senate an article which appeared in the Labor Call of Melbourne in its issue of 3rd July, 1930. The article, which is headed “ Military Dismissals : Good work by Labor “, states -
The military and navallosses are now getting a bit back, and are squealing muchly. During the war, these gilt-spurred roosters’ used their positions against the Labour press and party in an unmerciful and unnecessary manner - amounting to persecution. A censorshipwas appointed of inexperienced and totally unlit persons, who were raised to different ranks - such as major, colonel, lieutenant, &c, to fit in with the screw they were to draw (not earn). ‘‘Colonel” McColl (stationed at Victoria Barracks, St. Kildaroad) was the head rooster in Victoria, and he styled himself an “ Imperial “ officer, acting under instructions from London.
The other smaller fry were domiciled at the Elizabeth-street Post Office, where they put in four years of useless “ work,” and could have been better employed at the front, as every one of them was physically fit.
After describing the various activities of the central office, the article continues -
It is now Labour’s turn to show these josses that they only held power whilst the people were unbalanced in mind.
The suggestion is that when Australia took part in the late war its people were unbalanced in mind -
Now the populace are aware of howthey were doped, and what the Labour presssaid during the war has come true: Unemployment and misery stalk throughout the land, whilst thevultures of finance grow richer and richer. As for the misled soldiers; well, they were fine fellows whilst the fighting was on, but afterwards they were looked on us a d-d nuisance.
To-day many of these braves are trying to dodge starvation by selling soap or collar studs, whilst the jingoes and “soolers-on “ drive past and splash the down-and-out returned soldiers with the mud from the wheels of their limousines.
Seeing that Labour is behind the scenes they ought to dig up some of the military documents of war time and see who was responsible for the terrorism reigning here in Australia during the war, which was 12,000 miles away.
This statement, which is signed “ Lex,” was made in a responsible Labour newspaper published in Australia. I ask the Government if the article indicates the reason why rationing has taken place in the Defence Department. Has it been done as a reprisal for the censorship imposed during the war? Has it been carried out in a spirit of revenge against the military officers and soldiers generally or for the reasons given by the Government itself? This article was written by one supporter of Labour who perceives in the action taken by the Government in connexion with the Defence Department a revenge for the loyal service given by the military during the late war to the people of this country. Personally, I do not believe for a moment that that was the motive of the Government ; but, when such a statement appears in a Labour journal, some contradiction of it should be made by the leaders of Labour. My reason for bringing this matter under the notice of the Senate is to give the Government an opportunity to say whether a desire for revenge actuated the Government in dismissing naval officers and rationing military officers.
– The newspaper which has been quoted, circulates, I understand, chiefly in Victoria. The article in question has not previously been brought under my notice; but I am pleased to hear the opinion expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that the motive imputed was not that which animated the Government in the action recently taken in connexion with the naval and military forces. We’ have no control over newspapers, and it is difficult to know what is the basis of the complaint of the right honorable gentleman. One moment he accuses the Government of attempting to bring about the socialization of industry, in which event this Parliament would have control over newspapers, and, in the next breath, he complains of something that occurs no matter whether a Labour or a Nationalist Government is in power.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300704_senate_12_125/>.