12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I believe that it is the intention of the Government to issue further regulations regarding the matter mentioned by the right honorable gentleman, but I cannot saywhen.
– Will the Loader of the Senate give an undertaking to the Senate that no regulations will be introduced between now and the time when the Senate next meets ?
– I understand that the first procedure is to gazette any such regulations.I do not know when that will be done.
– Will the Leader of the Senate give the undertaking for which I have asked ?
– I cannot do that, because I am not responsible for the issue of regulations of this character. That is a matter for the Executive Council to decide.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Will the honorable gentleman, before the Senate rises to-day, ascertain from his colleagues in the Cabinet when it is proposed to gazette such regulations, and, before we adjourn to-day, inform the Senate?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the right honorable gentleman.
– A few days ago
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs the following questions: -
I am now in a position to reply to the honorable senator’s questions. The answers are as follow: -
Under section 201 of the Navigation Act an extension of the currency of a ship’s certificate, for a period not exceeding one month, may be permitted by the Minister in special cases and under specified conditions. No extensions are granted to enable a vessel to proceed to another port for the purpose of docking or repairs if proper facilities are available for such at any of the ports to which the vessel is usually trading.
– Again I direct the attention of honorable senators to the desirableness of moving for a return instead of asking a question which involves the preparation of such an amount of detailed material.
– I much regret that I overlooked the question. I shall endeavour to get the information for the right honorable gentleman.
Hospital Treatment at Australian Ports.
asked the Minister, representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Commonwealth subsidized the States in order to give effect to this agreement?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
New South Wales Awards
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The information is being obtained.
Dismissals in New South Wales.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from the 1st May (vide page 1522), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the Senate approves of the accession on the part of the Commonwealth of Australia to Chapters I., II., III., and IV. of the General
Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, subject to the following conditions. (vide page 1521.)
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.11]. - I am sure that we all welcome, as a further step in the direction of peace, the accession, on the part of the Commonwealth, to these parts of the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. Speaking for myself, I agree with all the reservations that have been made. The whole of them are interesting, but some are of particular moment to Australia. The third reservation, for example, reads -
Disputes between His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of any other member of the League which is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, all of which disputes shall be settled in such manner as the parties have agreed or shall agree.
That emphasizes one of the international difficulties of the British Empire, or, as it is sometimes termed, the British Commonwealth of Nations. It would appear to be difficult to reconcile the status which is claimed for the component parts, within the Empire itself, with the relations of the Empire as a whole with other nations, but these things have a habit of adjusting themselves. This, I think, is due largely to the strong vein of common-sense which runs through all British peoples. They decline to exaggerate the difficulties, and are disposed rather to emphasize agreements. Some years ago, when I attended the League of Nations Assembly as a representative of the Commonwealth, I was much impressed with the belief that agreements should be arrived at between the various parts of the British Empire in order to ensure concerted action on their part. In the eyes of other nations the Empire is a unit ; but at meetings of the League of Nations its component parts appear as six separate units, each of which has a vote. There again the common sense of British peoples is in evidence, because, so far as I am aware, only rarely is any diversity of views expressed by the representatives of the constituent parts of the Empire; but there is in this regard, all the possibility of trouble. I do not desire to explore nor to emphasize that aspect of the matter this morning; but I have always felt that there is a weakness in, shall I say, the constitution of the Empire. I am one of those who are old-fashioned enough to believe that the British Empire offers the greatest guarantee for the peace of the world, and that the rest of the world looks to it verylargely for a lead on these international questions. Any one who has attended an international conference as a representative of a Dominion must have been struck with the respect and attention that are paid to the views put forward by the representatives of the British Empire. I shall not be a party to any weakening of that unity of the British Empire. In unity there is strength, but in diversity there is weakness. Should the day come when the British Empire speaks with divided and opposing voices, on that day the usefulness of the Empire in international affairs, its prestige and its influence, will very largely disappear. This reservation No. 3 brings home to our minds very forcibly the need for such a reservation, so that any differences that may arise between the component parts of the British Empire shall not, except with their consent, be referred to the League of Nations. It is a striking illustration of the difficulties that have been created by the new status which has been conferred upon the component parts of the British Empire. I hope that, in all our future policy touching international affairs, Australia, at all events, will always act and speak in the direction of the unity of the Empire rather than in emphasis of any diversity of opinion that may exist. Putting the matter on selfish grounds, our safety depends upon the unity of the Empire, not on the breaking up of its constituent parts. The peace and well-being of the world also are very largely wrapped up in. that unity of the British Empire. Therefore, I trust that, in any action we may take as a nation, we shall emphasize that unity rather than our individual ideas.
Paragraph iv. also is very interesting from an Australian stand-point. It relates to disputes concerning questions which, by international law, are solely within the jurisdiction of the States. The phraseology of that paragraph is quite satisfactory ; but I am not altogether sure that that applies also to its interpretation. The first question that arises is, what is international law? Is there any code of international law? I know of none. There are certain international usages that have been established by custom.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.And of course there is the Court that has been set up to decide questions that are submitted to it under the Versailles Treaty. I am glad to have the assurance of Senator Daly.
I can only express the wish that further steps will be taken towards that concomitant action which is necessary to bring about general disarmament. No one who is aware of what is going on in Europe and elsewhere to-day can be satisfied that much real progress is being made. Therefore, we can only hope that the spirit which prompts this ratification, the spirit which is behind these resolutions, will more and more animate all nations in their international relations, and that ultimately it may result in action of a binding character that will ensure international peace. But there, again, I think we are forced to this consideration, that international peace is very largely de pendent upon the spirit and the mentality of the people. If we wish to preach international peace we should be prepared to preach peace within our own borders. So long as the doctrines of class hatred are being preached and promulgated actively throughout the world by one great nation, there can be no guarantee of either national or international peace. The promulgation of that spirit within any nation is the greatest menace to international peace, and must lead to war. Very much credit for sincerity cannot be given to those people in our own country who, while talking glibly about international peace, are yet prepared to set class against class! So I say that it is the spirit that matters, not the words that are uttered. What is the spirit of our community? Is it a spirit of peace and goodwill towards each other? If it is, we can enter the larger field of international peace, and preach that doctrine. Charity begins at home. We should begin within our own borders to preach and practice the doctrines of peace, before we commence to speak, as some so glibly do, about international peace. This is a national demonstration of our desire for international peace, and as such I give it my support.
– I am sure that every member of this Parliament believes in his heart that Australia should do all that it can to assist in the practically world-wide movement which exists to-day to bring about international peace.
I support most heartily the motion before the Senate this morning. To a very great extent, I am impelled to do that because of what I know is being done in the world to-day by organizations which, by close application and study, are endeavouring to bring about such a desirable state of affairs.
We have heard a good deal of the work of the League of Nations. I do not intend to speak of that to-day, because it is generally recognized that the League of Nations is engaged in a work that ultimately must advance the welfare of every community in the world. But a remark of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) just before he sat down impels me to say that the objects of the League of Nations, in connexion with international peace, can be achieved only by the cultivation of a spirit of goodwill, not only by one nation towards another, but also within the ranks of their own people. The people of each nation must realize that they comprise only a portion. of the world’s population, and that they must give consideration to all other people. There must be a gradual abandonment of the selfish motives that for years past have actuated many countries, and that have been the cause of a good deal of the trouble which has arisen. Those motives have been provocative, not of peace, but of war, of hatred instead of goodwill. A little while ago, I had the privilege of participating in what I consider to be one of the most intellectual treats that it has been the privilege of any Australian to enjoy. It was an address delivered in Melbourne by a visitor from China, Dr. Koo, on the subject of the international mind. One could not but be impressed with the soundness of his arguments, and the earnestness of his endeavour to convey to the Australian people the fact that what was needed more than anything else in the world to-day was the creation and the cultivation of an international mind by the people of every country. He pointed out that, unfortunately, the opinions formed by the people of one country with respect to those of another were based upon their experience of a certain type with which they had been brought into contact, but which was not truly representative of the nation. He urged that the Australian people, as well as the people of other countries, should endeavour to learn as much as possible of the problems that assail every country.
Three years ago, I had the privilege of meeting about 500 public men, representative of 38 different countries, at what I consider one of the most important conferences that could he held. It was a conference of the . Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Berlin. It was a movable conference, the object of which was to bring about peace and goodwill among the various nations of the world. This organization, which has in it quite a strong representation of the members of the British Parliament, has been hard at work for twenty odd years in an endeavour ,to bring together parliamentary representatives of the different nations, for the discussion of problems that affect every nation, and through them to cultivate a state of mind that must assist materially towards the attainment of the objects for which the League of Nations stand. I quote the following extract from a booklet entitled InterParliamentary Union; Its Work and its Organization.
Before 1914 the members of the Union met eighteen times in conference. They were received in all the large capitals of Europe; in 1 S92, at Berne and onwards. The conferences took place in Houses of Parliament, and were shortly after greeted by the heads of the States and their Ministers. In 1904 the members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union crossed the Atlantic to meet on American soil at St. Louis. In 1906, at the opening of the London conference, which was actively concerned with the preparations for the second Hague conference the Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, said in his inaugural speech: With the purpose of your mission, let me say at once, His Majesty’s Government desire unreservedly to associate themselves. It is their hope that your delibrations will do much to promote a closer understanding between the nations. You have indeed done much since the new century began to give shape and substance to the growing, the insistent desire that war may be banished from the earth.”
As the motion under discussion relates to the pacific settlement of international disputes, I am directing the attention of the Senate to the important work being done by an organization which has that objective in view. I express the hope that anything I may say in this connexion will stimulate, if only to some small degree, a desire on the part of the people of Australia to take a greater interest in these matters which, until the termination of the Great War did not concern the Australian people to any extent. After the termination of the Great War, Australia attained the status of a nation, and since then we have realized that while enjoying the benefits of nationhood we have also to accept greater responsibilities with respect to international matters.
A further interesting quotation from the booklet to which I have referred reads -
The aim of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is to unite in common action’ the members of all Parliament’s constituted in national groups, in order to secure the co-operation of their - respective States in the firm establishment, and the democratic development of the work of international peace and co-operation between nations by means’ of a universal organization of nations. Its object is also to study all questions of an international character suitable for settlement by Parliamentary action.
The object of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is similar to that of the League of Nations, which has repeatedly recognized its magnificant work I have taken this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Senate, the work being done by this union in the direction of securing international peace, which can be achieved only by a close and persistent study of the vital problems involved. I support the motion.
– I rise to discuss this motion with mixed feelings. Up to a certain point I appreciate what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has said with respect to the necessity for a better understanding between the peoples of the British Empire. During his long political life the right honorable senator has closely studied not only matters of Australian interest, but also subjects of international importance. I am quite in accord with the noble sentiments he has expressed concerning a better understanding within the Empire, but peace within the British Commonwealth of Nations is impossible when we in Australia find that during a period of severe depression the Mother Country is not prepared to treat Australia in a more considerate spirit, and is acting under a policy dictated by so-called diplomats, who are only wine-tasters at the festive board. A majority of the people of Australia earnestly believe that the interest rates on money borrowed in Great Britain, which are throttling this country, should be reduced, and until some concession in that direction is made peace within the Empire is impossible. India is on the threshold of a revolution, and a distinguished politician in the great sister Dominion of Canada has said that in that country there is talk of secession from Great Britain, and the possibility of Canada coming under the control of the United States of America.
– That is not true.
– I am not telling lies. As the honorable senator is not entitled to say that the statement I am making is not true I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) . - Senator Thompson should say that the statement made by Senator Dunn is inaccurate.
– I shall put it that way.
– Who is this man of whom the honorable senator speaks?
– Probably a member of the Soviet Union.
– He is not a member of the Soviet Union, but a leading man in Canada. In South Africa leading statesmen have also spoken of secession. Will honorable senators deny that prominent persons in this country have not spoken of secession?
-From the Commonwealth, but not from the Empire.
– Mr. Hardy, a wood and coal merchant in the Riverina, is now preaching secession. Peace within the British Empire is impossible until the whole social system is changed, and the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange is adopted as a fundamental principle.
– The honorable senator should remember that he is not now in the Domain.
– I realize where I am, and will debate this subject with the honorable senator in the Domain or anywhere else if he so desires.
– I am not likely to do that.
– The Leader of the Opposition was once an ardent supporter of the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
– I remind the honorable senator that the subject under discussion is the approval of the Senate to the accession on the part of the Commonwealth of Australia to chapters I, II, III., and IV. of the General Act for the Pacific Settlement of International Dispute, subject to certain conditions which are set out in the motion.
– I realize that, sir, but the discussion of an important subject such as this should not be a question of splitting straws. I should be permitted to complete the illustration I was about to give.
In the Parliamentary Library there is a valuable book entitled, Will Civilization Crash? It was written by LieutenantCommander Kenworthy, a member of the British House of Commons and an authority on naval strategy. The writer points out that since the signing of the armistice there have been more little wars in the British Commonwealth of Nations and throughout the world than was previously the case. He sets out clearly the various causes which led up to the great war of 1914-18. Among those causes he quotes theFashoda incident, and Germany’s designs on Morocco; and then he relates various events which have taken place right up to the present time. Special reference is made by LieutenantCommander Kenworthy to the armed troops of Soviet Russia, and the other preparations for war which that nation has made. In his opinion, Russia is on the verge of war with both Roumania and Poland. He states that one of the ambitions of Soviet Russia - particularly the “Red” army - is to obtain the control of warm water ports reaching from the Black Sea to Constantinople, and the return of the territory which after the war was granted to Roumania. He also states that Italy, under Mussolini, is preparing to obtain for itself a place in the sun. He predicts a struggle between France and Italy, and refers to the mobilizing of French and Italian troops on the border between those countries. In his opinion, a struggle is inevitable to determine which nation shall control Northern Africa. Other writers of note refer to the slogan, “ Trade follows the flag,” and draw attention to the visit of the Prince of Wales and Prince George to Peru and Chile. Recent cables disclose that hardly had their Royal Highnesses left Peru than a revolution, which was suspended during their visit, broke out. In the face of all these evidences of preparations for war, we talk of international peace! The United States of America, perhaps the greatest civilization of modern times, is experiencing a bitter fight in Congress over the nation’s ambition to have the greatest fighting navy the world has ever seen. That country also has a huge army, as have also many of the European countries which I have mentioned. Poland has 620,000 men under arms; Russia 2,000,000; France 1,000,000; and Italy about 1,000,000. It is significant that
Mussolini preaches the doctrine of war on every possible occasion, and that he is striving to give Italy the strongest navy in the Mediterranean. My reading of Kenworthy and others who have studied these matters, and placed their opinions before the public, leads me to believe that so long as the ideal of the socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange remains unrealized; so long shall we have to wait for peace among the nations of the world.
– As one who has taken a humble part in the conferences held at Geneva, I may perhaps be permitted to say a word regarding the proposals now before the Senate. Both the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) have analysed them. Dealing with the matter in a broad way, I desire to say that that portion of the general act to which we have agreed was the subject of considerable discussion by the Motherland and the dominions, and that the decisions eventually arrived at were in agreement with those generally expressed on the other side of the world. The point was raised, whether it would not be better to have individual agreements, providing for the settlement of international disputes, than a general act dealing with them. Senator Pearce has referred to the difficulty in relation to the construction of paragraph 4. There is another probable source of trouble; so far as I can judge the temper of the nations which confer at Geneva, the tariff question will eventually lead to serious international difficulties. Nevertheless, it is well, in the interests of the general movement for peace, that the British Empire, and Australia as a part of it, is prepared to accept the General Act subject to these reservations.Whatever may be charged against the League of Nations, it can be said that it has maintained peace in. Europe up to the present. There have been serious misunderstandings and difficulties; but, notwithstanding thom, the work of the League has gone on steadily, not only in the directions of maintaining peace, but also in the rehabilitation of nations which, without its assistance, would practically have gone out of existence. In my opinion, to preach the doctrine of the incapacity of the League is to advocate a policy of despair. Another such holocaust as that of 1914-18, and civilization will totter to ruin. Civilization has failed before; and it may fail again. The existence of the League of Nations has meant the stabilization of civilization. The League stands for all that is best in human nature, and for that reason alone it should have the support of every rightthinking person. It is easy to criticize the League, and to point out its weaknesses. If it has one weakness more than another it is that Soviet Russia is not a member of the League. That nation, with its great scheme of socialization of which We heard this morning, is, in my opinion, the greatest menace to world peace that at present exists. Russia’s desire to force on the rest of the world its socialistic ideas, its employment of forced labour amounting to slavery-
– I rise to a point of order. It is true that, in my speech this morning, I referred to the ideal of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and that I dealt with Russia’s army and navy; but I said nothing about forced labour or slavery in Soviet Russia.
– The honorable senator has not raised a point of order; he has made a personal explanation. I do not know why he interrupted Senator McLachlan, whose remarks were quite in order. I ask the honorable senator not to rise to make a personal explanation in future while another honorable senator is speaking, unless such action is absolutely necessary to correct a wrong statement, but to wait until there is a pause in the proceedings.
– I do not desire to diffuse any heat in this discussion. Indeed, on a subject so important as that now before us that would be unwise. We should discuss this matter calmly and analyse the position carefully. It is obvious that the reason why European nations are not engaging in further disarmament is the existence of an armed Soviet republic, which is desirous of forcing its will on the rest of the world. Other nations feel that they would indeed be ill-advised to place themselves in a position in which they would be at the mercy of the machinations of Soviet Russia. It has been claimed this morning that the cause of the dispute was Russia’s desire to obtain seaports in warmer waters, but those who have studied the position day by day realize that Russia’s position to-day is neither better nor worse than it has ever been in that regard, and that this contention on its part is all so much hot air ; because it really is the ground upon which some day the Russian Republic will base its attack upon “Western Europe. But while these differences do arise between the various nations, we must realize that so far as European conditions are concerned, the non-accession of the Soviet Republic to the League of Nations is a stumbling block to peace. I noticed the other day that Russia proposes to attend some conference at Geneva reserving the right to withdraw in the event of the determination of the particular committee with which it was associating itself not being to its liking. The high minded gentlemen comprising that committee are now functioning, I understand, in the absence of the representatives of that republic. Another stumbling block to peace is the absence from the League of Nations of that great country - the United States of America. While Russia and the United States of America still stand out of the ring, the League can do nothing but propaganda work, or the work referred to by Senator Payne and so graphically described in the language of the league itself as intellectual co-operation. Whilst I realize that even under this accession to the general act difficulties will arise, particularly under the exemption clauses, I think it is all to the good that we, as a people who have proved ourselves powerful in war, so far as our resources go, should accede to something which the nations of the world believe is in the interests of the promotion of peace. On those grounds, and knowing something of the atmosphere which prevails at Geneva, the weaknesses and strength that characterizes the organization, and the devotion to world peace that induces some of the best minds in Europe to attend the sittings of the League, whatever may be said of the others, I sub scribe fully to the motion that has, been moved by the Leader of the Government in this chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 14th May (vide page 1909), on motion by Senator Barnes -
That the paper be printed.
Upon which Senator Sir Hal Colebatch had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “and that after the thirty-first day of August, 1931, the date of the expiration of the agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Queensland, no agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Queensland, or between the Government of the Commonwealth and any other party relating to the sugar industry, and no duty, embargo, or prohibition on the importation of sugar into Australia shall have any force or effect until approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.”
.- When I was speaking on this question last evening, I had arrived at the stage at which I was criticizing the value of the continued policy of over-production of sugar in Australia. I want to supplement what I said by citing what the prospects are from this over-production during the coming year. I had already said that the estimated quantity of sugar to be exported this year would be 45 per cent, of the total production in Australia. Let me show what this means to the people of Australia. For the years from 1925 to 1928, inclusive, the production cost of sugar was £20 10s. a ton, and the average price received for the exported sugar was £11 5s. a ton, leaving a net loss of £9 5s. a ton. This was equivalent to the enormous sum of £6,058,990 for the four years. It practically meant that the consumers of Australia had to make good in these four years over £6,000,000. In 1930, the quantity of sugar exported was 219,418 tons, and the total loss on it was £2,029,616. In the coming year the cost of production is estimated to be £18 12s. 9d., which is lower than the £20 10s. for the period from 1925 to 1928, and it is estimated that on the 45 per cent, of the output which must be exported, not more than £8 a ton will be received. This will mean a loss” of approximately £2,500,000. How long is this to be allowed to continue? I said yesterday that if an ordinary business man conducted his business on the same lines it would be absolutely disastrous to him. But the ordinary business man does not conduct his business on those lines. If he finds that a branch of his business is being run at an annually increasing loss he takes steps to remedy the position. It was suggested yesterday by an interjection that a reduction in the output of sugar would necessarily mean an increase in the overhead costs of production. I realize that a curtailment of the area under sugar cannot be brought about at once; that it would need to be brought about as the result of a well thought-out plan over a period of years, and that during that period certain plants would necessarily have to go out of use. But I contend that it would be more advantageous to the sugar refineries, and to the people of Australia generally, if a smaller quantity of sugar were produced, just sufficient to meet the annual requirements of Australia, and provide a decent profit, than it is to encourage an increase in the acreage, necessitating, as it does, export at a loss, which has to be made good by the local consumers.
– Surely the honorable senator knows that the acreage is now being restricted.
– The acreage under sugar is considerably larger than it was five or six years ago.
– I doubt it.
– I have not read the report of the sugar committee from cover to cover, but in view of the fact that there has been an increase in the number engaged in the sugar industry, I gather that there has been an increase in the acreage under sugar.
– The increase in the number of employees is due to a better production per acre.
– How does Senator Payne suggest that this very difficult problem should be overcome?
– It is a very difficult problem, but it is our responsibility to deal with it. It is certainly not right to allow the present position to be maintained. It is unfair to the people who have to pay the piper. Any one’ who cares to read knows that the production of sugar throughout the world is on the increase. New areas are coming into cultivation for sugar in countries where labour is very cheap. For instance, during the last few years, the sugar industry has been established and extended in Central Africa. No sugar was produced in Kenya Colony a few years ago, but that country and other parts of Central Africa have been found eminently suitable for sugar production, and large areas are being devoted to that purpose. Sugar-cane can be grown cheaply in that part of the world. That is an aspect of the question we must take into consideration. It is certainly unwise to continue an industry on the basis that the more we produce, the greater the loss. Our losses on sugar are appalling, but under the sugar agreement they have to be made good out of the price paid by the ordinary consumer in Australia. We ought to make up our minds that, as soon as we can possibly manage it, steps must be taken to bring about a gradual reduction in output. Of course, provision must be made for a small carry over, because one season is more productive than another, but experience should enable us to provide a minimum carry over instead of such an enormous percentage of the whole output as has characterized Australian sugargrowing during the last ten years.
Coming to the question as it affects Tasmania, yesterday, my colleague, Senator Sampson, gave full particulars with regard to protests he has had forwarded to him by the jam manufacturers and the fruit canners, and also read a letter from the Grocers Association of Tasmania. The Sugar Committee has recommended that a committee should be appointed to control the distribution of the contribution’ proposed to be levied on the sugar industry for assistance to the fruit industry. The committee, it suggests, should consist of one representative of each of the following: -
The Commonwealth Government - to be nominated by the Minister for Trade and Customs, as the Minister controlling the sugar policy.
The Queensland Sugar Board - to be nominated by the Sugar Board.
The growers of jam fruits - to be elected by growers supplying jam fruits to manufacturers, at a conference fully representative of such growers.
The growers of canning fruits - to be elected by the Australian Canning Fruit-growers Association.
The proprietary manufacturers of fruit products - to be elected by a conference of proprietary manufacturers, to be called for that purpose.
The co-operative and State manufacturers of fruit products - provided by the co-operative and State-controlled canneries.
Tasmania occupies a somewhat peculiar position, inasmuch as it produces five-sixths of the small fruits of Australia, and the growers of small fruits are small settlers, who should receive our special consideration. That, they are en.titled to some consideration has been recognized by the Sugar Committee. It has recommended that, in addition to the amount already provided by the sugar industry, an amount of £110,000 should be made available for distribution amongst certain producers. The method of distribution is to be determined by the committee. The majority report suggests that the proposed committee should, out of this fund, continue to pay the home consumption rebate, which is now £6 5s. Id. per ton, to the manufacturers of fruit products, provided only that such manufacturers might be required by the committee to pay such prices to the growers for their fruit as the committee declared to be reasonable. There is every justification for the protest made by the firm of Henry Jones & Company with regard to this proposal. The committee might fix a price which, in the opinion of the committee, was reasonable, but it might absolutely preclude the marketing of the finished product. For example, the price to be paid for strawberries might be such as to close the whole of the mainland market for Tasmanian strawberry jam. In that case the small growers would certainly lose heavily because of the arrangement. The writer of the letter to which I have already referred suggests that the money should be paid to the fruit-growers on the certificate of the jam manufacturers.
– Surely the whole business could be adjusted without any difficulty ?
– As I have already shown the decision as to the price to be paid would rest with the committee, if the manufacturers wished to participate in the extra amount which would be provided by the Sugar Board.
– That recommendation could be varied.
– It has been accepted by the Government, and ‘all I am asking now is that it shall be varied. The writer of the letter goes on to state -
It is well understood that the grower is the man who is to get the benefit of this lower price for sugar supplied to the manufacturer for the processing of fruit products, and he can get this benefit, of course, in either one or two ways, i.e., increased price for his fruit (which encourages further production of fruit), or greater distribution at a lower price of jam and canned fruit, which works surely, though slowly, in the direction of a balanced situation in the production and consumption of jam and canning fruits in the Commonwealth. It is not so well realized, apparently, that he has had this benefit for some years past . . .
Referring to the special aspect of the manufacturers’ comparative positions in the price of fruit, take strawberries. These are grown in Victoria, Tasmania, and Queensland in the main. The committee would be called upon to fix a price for strawberries satisfactory to the growers. A different variety of strawberry is grown in each of these States. In fact, several varieties are grown in Victoria and Tasmania, but practically one type only in Queensland, and some of these varieties are much cheaper to grow than others. In Tasmania all strawberries are cheaper to grow than any strawberry in Queensland, for example. Again the cost of delivery to the factory varies according to the type of container in which the goods arc delivered, and also the value of output to the factory for jam-making purposes varies by as much as 25 per cent, in accordance with the condition of the fruit and the type of container in which it reaches the factory.
Whilst a high price for strawberries might appear advantageous to many Tasmanian strawberry-growers, if it meant that they finally lost the sale of strawberry jam to Victorian or Queensland strawberry-growers, or on the other hand, lost their market through having a too high comparative price for strawberries, as against the price for apricots, plums, &c, then the grower’s last state would be worse than his first. This could easily occur through any attempt at artificial regulation of prices to be paid by the manufacturer to the growers.
That puts the position in a nut-shell. It would be better to pay this additional £110,000 as a bonus to growers for the production of fruit, instead of arranging for its distribution under conditions to be determined by the committee.
– It would not be advisable to encourage the production of more fruit than the market could absorb.
– This is what the writer of the letter has to say on that point -
If the sugar industry really desires to help the fruit industry of Tasmania, the simple plan is the best, i.e., increase the amount of £6 5s. Id. per ton of sugar used by Tasmania’s share of the extra £110,000 based upon the actual sugar used by processors and jam manufacturers in Tasmania, and continue the supply of sugar for export purposes on the present basis.
There is a good deal of force in his contention.
Although I freely acknowledge the generous help which honorable senators from other States are ready, at all times, to extend to Tasmania, Ave must bear in mind that certain difficulties are peculiar to that State. No one will deny that the prosperity of the jam manufacturers depends on the prosperity of the fruitgrowers. Consequently it is to their interest to see that the fruit-growers receive all the encouragement it is possible to give them.
Senator Sampson yesterday made reference to the sugar position in Tasmania. I supplement his remarks by saying that the existing arrangements are not at all satisfactory. The people in all the States should be placed on exactly the same footing with regard to the purchase of sugar ; there should be no differentiation between one State and another. All should have tho same facilities. The Grocers Association, of Tasmania, has always taken a keen interest in this subject, and I presume that all honorable senators have, from time to time, received communications from that body. It declares emphatically that if the people of Tasmania are to be placed on an equality with the people in other States, a sugar depot should be established in Tasmania. Refineries are established in the capital cities of all the other States, so there is no danger of a shortage at any time. Tasmania does not possess a refinery. The whole of our sugar requirements have to be shipped from either Sydney or Melbourne, and, as honorable senators are aware, until quite recently, for six or even years in succession industrial dis putes at the busiest season of the year caused a complete suspension of shipping services, sometimes for several months on end. The Sugar Committee remarks that there has not been a shortage of sugar in Tasmania for the last two years. I believe that is true, but there is no guarantee that, should a dispute occur in the shipping industry, sea communications between Tasmania and the mainland will not again be dislocated. In the circumstances, it is only reasonable to urge that a sugar depot should also be established in Tasmania.
– Any part of Tasmania is nearer to Melbourne, where there is a refinery, than is Townsville to Brisbane.
– The honorable senator knows, as well as I do, that for many years it was a common experience to find all shipping communications between Tasmania and the mainland suspended because of industrial disputes. If we could have a guarantee that our transport services would be uninterrupted, as is the case in all the mainland States, we should be in a much better position; but, unfortunately, we have to depend entirely upon sea communications, and because of what has happened in the past, we are fully justified in protesting against the absence of a sugar depot in that State. The merchants of Tasmania have been informed that if they will give a guarantee, through their banks, a certain amount of sugar will be stored in Tasmania and be available at any time. It should not be necessary to provide a guarantee. The Sugar Board should make the necessary provision for the convenience of the traders and people of Tasmania.
I sincerely hope that the Government will give favorable consideration to the requests made by the Grocers Association of Tasmania. As one who is keenly interested in the smooth working of the Commonwealth Constitution, I hope that steps will be taken to remove at least some of the disabilities from which we are suffering. There is a growing feeling among the people in Tasmania that the State would have been better off had it remained out of the federation. We do not want to encourage the growth of that feeling, and while we do not suggest that Tasmania should receive special’ favours from the Commonwealth, we contend that it should receive at least reasonably fair treatment.
– Is there any State that derives a greater advantage than Tasmania from the export parity?
– That is not the question. The honorable senator wants me to get away from the subject with which 1 am dealing. The Tasmanian fruit industry has been considerably handicapped by the high price of sugar; and when in addition the ordinary consumer is faced with a possibility of supplies being cut off, the request for the establishment of a depot, which would impose only a moderate expenditure on the sugar interests, is eminently reasonable.
I intend to support the amendment of Senator Colebatch, provided that he is prepared to strike out the reference to the duty.It is desirable that Parliament should always have the opportunity to decide such important matters as this, rather than leave them in tho hands of the executive. I want the sugar industry to be run on sound, business-like lines, and to remove the burden of the high price that is unnecessarily imposed on the people of Australia at the present time. I hope that the amendment will bc carried.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS (South Australia) [12.34].- On behalf of the housewives of South Australia and the other States, I regret that no action can be taken by the Senate in tho direction of cheapening the price of sugar. Everywhere meetings are being held, and resolutions are being passed urging federal members to see that sugar is provided at a more reasonable rate in the future than it has been in the past, so that jammaking, which was such a prominent feature of domestic economy for so many years, will be restored to the position in the household that it formerly held. I: have listened with a good deal of satisfaction to the extracts that have been read by Senators Sampson and Payne from the communications of that wonderful jam-making concern, Henry Jones and Company Proprietary Limited. The manager of that firm has an unexcelled knowledge of its operations, and can speak with authority. If his requests were complied with possibly the people of Australia as a whole would benefit. It is not my intention to plead the cause of that firm ; its financial resources are sufficiently strong to enable it to discharge that function. A reduction in the price of sugar will not be brought about by the carrying of this amendment; but the door will be opened to a further consideration of the matter by this Parliament. No other subject that I can call to mind comes up so frequently for consideration. I hope that the question will be re-opened at an early date, and that Parliament will be enabled to fix the price.
– If the housewives reduced their visits to picture shows by one a week, they would save more than they would gain by a reduction in the price of sugar.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS.That would not enable them to purchase more sugar. I am not advocating that housewives should attend picture entertainments frequently; but I do contend that sugar should be made available to them at a price that would make home jam-making profitable. Sugar should be dealt with under the customs tariff, and this Parliament should have a voice in fixing the price of it.
I commend Senator Colebatch for having raised this matter, because of the opportunity that has been afforded us to express an opinion upon it. I cordially recommend the acceptance of the amendment.
Debate (on motion by Senator Thompson) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- Will the Leader of the Government furnish us with the information for which Senator Pearce asked earlier in the day, respecting the intentions of the Government in regard to the gazettal of further regulations dealing with waterside workers?
– I have no further information to impart to the Senate upon that matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310515_senate_12_129/>.