12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Minister representing the Treasurer -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 10.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No.68 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 31st July, 1931, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past ten o’clock at night.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) - by leave - agreed to -
That, until Friday, the 31st July, 1931, Government business, unless otherwise ordered, take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from the 29th July (vide page 4540).
Postponed clause 6 - “ 9a. Where a gold mine or portion of a gold mine is worked by a tributer, the owner of the treatment plant at which geld from the gold ore produced by the tributer is recovered (whether the owner of that plant is the lessee or owner of the mine under tribute or not) shall account for, and pay to, the tributer fiftyper centum of any bounty under this act received by the owner of that plant on account of the gold obtained from the oreso treated.”
Upon which Senator McLachlan had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “ Where “ proposed new suction 9 ( a ) the words “ under -an existing contract or agreement “ be inserted.
– Having had an opportunity to consider this matter overnight, I have decided to ask leave of the committee to withdraw my amendment with a view to substituting another, which I have submitted to the parliamentary draftsman. I believe that it will clarify the matter.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That proposed new section 9 (a) be left out with a view to insert inlieu thereof the following new section : - 9a. - (1.) A tributer shall be entitled to receive the same percentage of the bounty paid in respect of the gold obtained from the ore won by the tributer as he is entitled to receive of the proceeds of the gold won under the terms of his tribute agreement or contract. (2.) Where a gold mine or portion of a gold mine is worked by a tributer. the owner of the treatment plant at which gold from the gold ore produced by the tributer is recovered, shall account for, and pay to, the tributer such proportion of the bounty.
– The amendment of the honorable senator is on all fours with that originally moved by him. If agreed to, it will simply destroy the application of the gold bounty. I have copies of agreements that have been made with the tributers, and they provide that the costs of treatment, insurance, supplying power, air, and various other charges shall come out of the value of the gold produced, before the tributer gets anything. The agreements also embody an irritating method of making payments to the tributer which, if continued, would drive Treasury officials mad. In respect of sulphide ore, the tributer is to be paid percentages varying from 9 to 80 per cent. of the contents of the gold produced, while in connexion with oxidized ores, the percentage varies from 5 to80. If the amendment of the honorable senator is agreed to complications must inevitably result.
– It would be fair to the tributer.
-I do not think so.
– Presume that the tributer is to receive 75 per cent. of the value of the gold won. Under the Government’s plan he would be robbed.
– That is not so. If a mine shows no sign of a promising output, the owners are only too pleased to pass it on to a tributer. If it is obviously a rich concern, the tributer is not given an opportunity to exploit it. At times the tributer strikes it rich, and he deserves all that he gets, but as soon as his six months’ contract is up, the owner sees that it is not renewed. The thing is a gamble, one way or the other. The suggestion that the section should be worded to provide that the bounty shall be divided between the mine-owner and the tributer in proportion to their share of the gold obtained is not practicable, for the reason that in most cases the proportion of gold which each obtains cannot be ascertained, because generally tribute is worked on a royalty basis. The procedure is that from the proceeds of the sale of the gold the mine-owner makes certain deductions to cover, for example, all treatment charges, charges for the supply of power, air, and steam, the performance of services, and use of plant and equipment, and also for charges for insurance, and for tools, stores, and other materials. The mine-owner then deducts the royalty payable by the tributer, which varies according to the grade of the ore, and also any other moneys due by the tributer. The tributer, on the other hand, has to observe certain wage standards. Under these arrangements it is not possible to arrive at the proportion of the gold which the tributer receives. Both the owner and the tributer take the risk of the venture proving profitable, and as they are both equally concerned it is only equitable that any bounty should be evenly divided between them, as the gold produced is the result of their joint endeavour. I cannot imagine why vested interests are fighting this matter so strenuously. The Government’s proposal seems to he so fair that in my opinion it should have been accepted without question.
.- The facts quoted by the Minister buttress the arguments of honorable senators on this side. It is not a case of vested interests fighting the matter, but merely one of bare justice. It affects the tributer as much as the mineowner. Where the tributer gets 75 per cent. of the gold he would, under the bill as originally drafted, be deprived of a portion of the bounty to which he should be entitled. I do not know why the Minister waxes so warm. The calculations necessary to decide how the bounty should be apportioned would be quite simple. The bill maintains the provision which makes some person responsible to the tributer. Listening to the Minister, one might think that tributes are generally taken by individuals; whereas, in fact, the general practice is that they are taken by speculators who employ others to work for them. In such cases, the actual worker is not concerned with the bounty, the contest being between the speculating tributer and the owner of the mine. Whatever the terms of the contract between the tributer and the mineowner, the bounty should be divided in the same proportions. If the tributer gets 33 per cent. of the gold he should get 33 per cent. of the bounty; if he gets 66 per cent. of the gold, he should have 66 per cent. of the bounty. The Opposition is contending merely for elementary justice. I can carry the matter no further.
– The Minister said that the terms of tributes were so varied that it would be difficult for the department to administer the law in the event of the amendment being agreed to. If he will recall the conditions associated with tributes, he will see how easy it will be for the Treasury to divide the bounty. If the tributer is working under an agreement which provides that he shall receive 10 per cent., 20 per cent., 40 per cent., or 80 per cent. of the gold won during a certain period, there will come a day of settlement between him and the owner of the mine. He might have worked on different classes of ore; but the only point that matters is how much gold there is to divide on the day of settlement. If his proportion of the gold is 25 per cent., and the gold won weighs 100 oz., he will receive 25 oz., and the owner 75 oz. If the proportions are reversed, the tributer will receive 75 oz. and the owner 25 oz. It is only fair that the bounty should be divided in the same proportion. There is no need to go into the details of the contracts, because all we have to consider is the quantity of gold available for division on the day of settlement. On receipt from the two parties to the contract of a certificate as to the division of the gold, all the Treasury would have to do would be to divide the bounty in the same proportions.
– The owner of the treatment plant is bound to account to the tributer.
– In my opinion, the whole thing is perfectly simple. Goldmining being an uncertain venture, some tributers will necessarily have a bone with little meat on it, while others will have more meat than bone. I know of some tributers who have found it difficult to support themselves and families; I also know of others who have been fortunate, and, in a short time, have made large incomes. As between those two classes we have to strike a fair average. The best way to do that is to divide the bounty on the same basis as the gold is divided.
– It does not matter a great deal how we divide the bounty, because, eventually, the position will adjust itself as between the tributer and the tributee. For that reason the division of the bounty on a fifty-fifty basis seems the best thing to do. At first the tributers were not recognized as being entitled to any share of the bounty. Then representations were made that they should share equally with the owners of the mine. I was surprised that the tributers did not ask for more, seeing that they take the greater share of the risk necessarily associated with gold prospecting. Were it not for the efforts of tributers, much gold which is won would still remain in the earth. In most cases the apportionment of the bounty will not make much difference. Let us suppose that a tributer is working in ten-pennyweight ore. That means½ oz. of gold to the ton. On a fifty-fifty basis that would give the tributer a bounty of 2s. 6d. and the mine-owner also 2s. 6d. If the bounty were to be divided in accordance with a contract which provided that the tributer should get 33 per cent. of the gold, he would receive1s.8d. and the mine-owner 3s. 4d.
– As a tributer working in poor dirt generally receives more than 50 per cent. of the gold, my amendment would give him more than 50 per cent. of the bounty.
– My personal opinion is that the tributer should get the whole of the bounty; but if the bounty is to be shared, it does not matter much on what basis it is done, because, eventually, it will be adjusted in the tribute itself.For the sake of simplicity I suggest that it should be on a fiftyfifty basis.
– Is the Tributers Association agreeable to that basis?
– Yes; it is not a breach of confidence to say that when that question in the party room was raised the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) assured me that the tributers would be satisfied with 50 per cent. As I have said, whatever the basis of division, the matter will be adjusted in the agreements between the tributers and the mine-owners.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) referred to a statement regarding premiums. I refer him to sub-section b of section 152 of the Western Australian Mining Act of 1904, which -provides that -
The owner of a treatment plant shall also account for, and pay to, the tributer not less than fifty per centum of any premium received by such owner on the scale of the gold obtained from the ore treated.
That provision is in operation today. The question of the division of the bounty is somewhat complicated. In many instances, the owner of the mine is not the owner of the treat ment plant. In that case what interest has the owner of the treatment plant in the agreement between the tributer and the mine-owner? As a consequence of that, they would not be able to determine how much should be deducted. The mine owner is already secured; he receives an allowance for the use of his machinery. Even the tools used are taken into consideration, while on top of that, a royalty is charged according to the scale quoted by the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes). This shows how complicated it would be to apportion the money as suggested. The tributer gets nothing until all charges due to the owner are paid. I can appreciate the idea behind the amendment, but the matter can be regulated in the agreement between the tributer and the mine-owner. As there is only a further six months to run, it is not likely that any bonus will be paid in that time.
Question - That the section proposed to he left out, be left out (Senator McLachlan’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives; Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 28th July (vide page 4411), on motion by Senator Barnes) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.42]. - We are becoming used to bills of this sort; one of them seems to come along every month.
There is power under the bill to fix the price of wheat in each State for local consumption. That provision is directly contrary to section 93 of the Constitution, which lays it down that trade between
States shall be free. Of course, I know that a High Court judgment has been given to the effect that, though the States themselves cannot interfere with interstate trade, that provision does not bind the Commonwealth. I have here the report of an address delivered at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College by Professor Shann, a noted economist. Addressing a gathering of agriculturists he made some striking comments -
Wheat is more in our line, and I have here a Wheat Marketing Bill lately “submitted for the consideration of honorable members “ at Canberra “ for the purpose of enabling the wheat-growers of Australia to form an organization controlled by themselves to regulate the sale of wheat for consumption in Australia and to effect the more orderly marketing of wheat exported.” This description of its objects was given by the honorable Minister in charge of the bill. Let us consider the layout of this new scheme, and the results likely from such organized marketing, both at home and abroad ….
The procedure contemplated in the act has a democratic look about it, like a party machine. The rank and file are to elect State boards, andthose elect the real central executive that will control all Australia. The wheatgrowers in three States, two of which presumably may be the wheat-importing States of Queensland and Tasmania, set up State Wheat Boards by vote of a majority of the wheatgrowers voting in each State. These States and, perhaps, others with them, will then enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth to erect an Australian Wheat Board. On it will sit representatives chosen by the State Wheat Boards, and by the Commonwealth Government. The representative of the Commonwealth Government “ shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General in Council,” i.e. a political appointment by cabinet. This Australian Wheat Board will forthwith take control of the export and sale of Australian wheat. To make the new board’s control of export effective the Federal Government takes power to prohibit by proclamation the export from the Commonwealth of any wheat except wheat exported by the board or in accordance with a licence issued by the Minister for Markets. Unless licencees doas they are told the Minister may cancel their licences.
That is “ the nigger in the wood pile.” Under the cover of democratic control by the farmers themselves, the Minister will be given power to refuse a licence to export. Honorable senators, who vote to give to the wheat-growers power to elect the Wheat Boards will also give to the Minister absolute control over the export of wheat. He can grant or refuse licences.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Whatever influence the Perkins plan would have had. on the price of bread, this proposal for the fixation of the home price of wheat will have. If a sales tax on flour would have increased the price of bread, so will this proposal to increase the price of wheat. Those members who support the Government cannot lay the flattering unction to their souls that the policy they are supporting will not increase the price of bread. There is this difference between what the Government proposes and the Perkins’ plan : that the latter provided for taxation by Parliament, whereas the bill makes possible increases in the price of wheat, flour and bread by a body elected by only a section of the people. Those who support the bill in its present form are transferring the power of taxation into the hands of a sectional corporation.
Secure in its own State preserve, each State wheatboard is thus placed in a position to charge whatever price it deems just and right for wheat locally used or consumed. Doubtless eachboard, a majority of its members being elected by the wheatgrowers resident in the State, will be expected to raise to a more profitable level than that now ruling the average price of the wheat there grown. But the boards will find their powers to do so somewhat hampered by the proportion which local consumption bears to the total harvest. Taking the figures for last harvest, and allowing 5½ bushels a head for local consumption, and a bushel an acre for seed, the following table sets forth the varying positions of the four wheat-exporting States: -
Thus, for every shilling by which a State board raised the local price of wheat above the export parity, the average return per bushel placed in the wheat pool of the State would be raised - In New South Wales, by 2.61d.; in Victoria:, by 2.40d.; in South Australia, by 1.23d.; and in Western Australia, by just over a halfpenny (0.56d. ).
Putting the same discrepancy between the States in another way, to add a penny to the value per bushel of pooled wheat, it would be necessary to add to the local price of wheat - In New South Wales, 4.58d.; in Victoria, 4.99d. ; in South Australia, 9.77d.; and in Western Australia. 21.23d.. i.e.1s. 9¼d.
The Minister for Markets arguedat Canberra last week that a local price of 4s. a bushel at country sidings for all wheat required for local consumption would this year have meant 4½d. a bushel on all wheat delivered for sale. Under some other plan than this now put forward, it might have done so. Under the hill to which he was speaking, such a local price of 4s. a bushel would have meant 5.44d. on to the average price of New South Wales wheat, 4.93d. in Victoria, 2.43d. in South Australia, and 1.1 2d. in Western Australia. My impression is that Western Australia would stand to lose more through pooling the better quality of her wheat, which results from its dry harvesting, than she would gain by any such increase in the local price of the small part of her crop that is locally consumed. But you are not interested in the attractiveness or otherwise to Western Australia of this scheme. Then let us apply the figures further to New South Wales.
The cost of production of wheat in this State, I am told, is 4s. a bushel. Accepting this figure for purposes of illustration, and taking 1s. 9d. a bushel as the present average price at sidings, what increase in the price of wheat going into local consumption would be needed togive you an average profitable price, say, 4s., for all your pooled wheat? You would be setting out to put 2s. 3d. a bushel on to the average price, but, as you can control only the price for local consumption, you can only get this extra amount per bushel pooled out of the 13,750,000 bushels that enter into the bread-bills of your fellow citizens. With a harvest as good as that of last season, over 63,000,000 bushels of which came on the market, this would mean raising the local price by 10s. 3d. a bushel, i.e. to about 12s. a bushel.
Those who are putting forward this scheme will probably shelter themselves behind the fact that the bill includes provision for an equalization scheme to overcome the discrepancies to which Professor Shann has called attention. I shall come to that later.
We are not without experience of pools. They operated in Australia during and immediately after the war. While the war was in progress, and for a year or two afterwards, such control was absolutely necessary because of the disorganized state of trade and the lack of shipping. The farmers were then glad of the help which the pools could give; but, when normal conditions returned, what happened ? I was a member of the Government at that time, and I well recollect the tremendous outcry from the farmers throughout Australia against the continuance of pool control. The lives of Ministers were made miserable by the continual pressure exercised upon them by members of all parties to end the pool.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Am I asked to give to the farmers of Tasmania and Queensland, two nonexporting States, the right to decide whether a pool should be imposed on Western Australian farmers who export the overwhelming proportion of their wheat? Professor Shann dealt with the history of the American wheat pool which was formed only two years ago to save the farmers of the otherwise prosperous United States of America-
To-day, under a chairman named, very fittingly, Stone, it lies on the wheat markets of the world with the great dead weight of 130,000,000 bushels of wheat which cost it 66,000 dollars a day to carry, i.e., over ?15,000. When it began operations it cheerfully announced that, having looked into the world wheat situation, it was satisfied that the price (1.34 dollar at Chicago) was too low.
It would lend money to co-operatives so that they might hold back the current season’s wheat for “ orderly marketing “. These are the exact words of the board: -
The Federal FarmBoard believes that based on known world supply the present prevailing prices for wheat are too low. Theboard believes that this unsatisfactory price-level is chiefly due to the rapid or disorderly movement which is putting a large part of the year’s supply of wheat on the market withina short time The board also believes that the remedy lies in a more orderly marketing. In order to assist wheat farmers to hold their crops and at the same time have money with which to pay their obligations, the board proposes to loan to wheat co-operatives. The co-operative will market the wheat in orderly fashion through the year . . . The board places no limit on the amount of government money to be so loaned. Nearly 100,000,000 dollars are available for this purpose and, if necessary, the board will also ask Congress to appropriate more.
That was in October,1929. By July of 1930 the board and its subsidiaries had60,000,000 bushels of wheat. The price was under a dollar a bushel and still falling.
This unlooked for result of orderly marketing made the board cry out against the farmers for bringing in too much business. What a strange attitude for a merchant to adopt! The board was the farmers’ own merchant, yet it now dropped its big talk of getting them the just price of their labours. It called upon them to go slow, to reduce their acreage,” to go out of business as producers until it could get the hang of the puzzle at the marketing end. In other words “ orderly marketing “ endedby “ passing the buck “ to the fanners. The American Farm Board had discovered the elementary fact that trips up all these mass marketing plans. A product withheld from the market is not disposed of. When it does come on themarket in competition with other supplies it is almost certain to depress the market more than its withholding had previously elevated it.
I suggest that honorable senators who are interested in this subject should read the speeches on the original Wheat Guarantee Bill when it was introduced in another place. If they do that they will find that the same forecast of control of markets overseas was held out as a reason why we should accept that legislation. What has become of the Wheat Marketing Act of 1930 which the Senate passed ? Why has the Government introduced this new proposal instead of implementing that act which contained a proposal which, if given effect, would have conferred upon the necessitous farmers of this country far more benefit than they are likely to obtain under this pro- posal. The Minister, in his speech, made no reference to the act of 1930, but in answer to a question asked by Senator Johnston, he said that the Government intended to repeal that act.I do not see in this bill any clause providing for the repeal of that act.
I now come to the question of giving relief to necessitous farmers. There are three ways in which they can probably be assisted. They can be assisted under the proposal of the Premiers Conference, to which this Government is committed, that a loan be raised, and from it a sum of £2,500,000 be set aside for the relief of necessitous farmers. It was also proposed that £6,000,000 be raised for relief of unemployed, and speaking of that proposal I said, and I still believe, that we should reverse the figures and provide £6,000,000 for necessitous farmers and £2,500,000 for the relief of unemployed. In that way we would enable the farmers to employ many of our workless citizens. Then there was the proposal of Mr. Latham, M.P., for the private financing of the farmers. That was carried almost to the verge of fruition, but the Government intervened, and when the subject was discussed at the Loan Council, it asked the council not to sanction the proposal because it had some better scheme in view.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It was available in Victoria, New South Wales, and some of the other States. Then there is the proposal known as the Perkins plan which is a more honest, straightforward and legitimate way of finding the necessary money to finance the farmers. Of course, the objection to it is that it will increase the price of bread, but no one who supports this bill can raise that objection.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.This bill is not a remedy for the ills of the farmers of Australia. It is not even a palliative. The true remedy is a reduction in production costs. In an article which appeared in the Melbourne Argus, and was contributed by Mr. Gerald Robinson, appear these figures -
A study of prices of wheat, flour, and bread, and of wage rates, over a period of years is enlightening. Compare these figures for Melbourne -
It will be seen that, although from 1911 to 1931 the price of flour decreased from £8 0s. 5d. to £6 15s., the price of bread actually increased by 2½d. a loaf.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There are other factors in the high price of bread besides the price of the raw material. The article contains this further table -
Using as a basis the year 1911, in which the average Melbourne prices of wheat, Hour, and bread, and the baker’s wage are each token as equal to 100. variations since 1900 are here shown -
Bakers’ wages are fairly typical of wages in milling and baking trades. Compared with 1911, wheat and flour were dearer from 1900 to 1910, while bread was slightly cheaper, and labour was decidedly less costly. From 1912 to1916 there was no material change in the relative position. The cost of wheat was still the dominant factor in the price of bread. But between 1923 and 1929, which was a period of high prices, high wages, and high profits, both bread and labour had practically doubled in price, and wheat was only 54 per cent. dearer. Wages had become relatively more important than wheat in determining the price of bread. By June, 1931, the influence of wages was still greater, for they had increased by 114 per cent. The price of bread was 43 per cent. higher, while the price of wheat had fallen 29 per cent. below the level of 1911.
There we have the real crux of the trouble, and it is affecting everything that the farmer uses. How can we cure it by the so-called orderly marketing of wheat or by giving the farmer the power to elect a wheat pool? I hope that the advocates of this bill will explain that to me. It is obvious that the only way to cure the ills of the farmers is to bring down the cost of production, and that can be effected only by a reduction of the tariff. Where is this control of marketing to stop? If there is to be compulsory pooling of wheat, why not have compulsory pooling of woolas well? What is the difference? The two industries are on exactly the same basis, and the catastrophic fall in the price of wheat is reflected in the price of wool. If one is to be controlled, why not the other?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Then what is the basis of the honorable senator’s interjection ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Compulsory pooling is the first step in the direction of socialization.
I come now to the proposed equalization scheme. I am sorry that the Minister did not explain, in his second-reading speech, the alleged equalization scheme which is provided for in the bill. The impression that I have gained from reading the debate in another place is that the scheme is to increase the price of wheat in each State for local consumption, the money from that source to be pooled and distributed pro rata among the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth, losing sight altogether of State boundaries. Such a scheme would overcome the criticism of Professor Shann which I read just now, and Western Australia, for instance, which has a huge exportable surplus and a small local consumption, would benefit from the bigger local consumption in Victoria and New South Wales.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There are many estimates that are never realized, and I think that that will be one of them if this bill is passed in its present form. That view is shared by those who represent the wheat-growers in Western Australia, as is shown by a telegram which was sent to Mr. Gregory, M.P., from the Primary Producers Association of the State. It reads -
Executive considers wheat bill provides that the premium obtained for locally sold wheat remains the property of the growers in each respective State. Executive opinion backed up by Keenan, Parker and Parker. Executive request you ask Minister in charge of bill if scheme for distribution of excess, if any, of average price realized in respect of wheat of any season sold for consumption within any State, over the average price of Australian wheat of the same season sold for export, means that such excess will be distributed throughout Australia, on the production figures for wheat grown, or whether it means that each State will retain, for the benefit of such State, the excess arising in respect of wheat consumed in such State. In respect to foregoing read clause 7 in conjunction with clause 12 of Schedule.
The matter was discussed in the House of Representatives, and I defy anybody reading that discussion to say that it had much relation to the clause as it stands: The discussion ‘was really confined to the Minister’s statement of what he believed the clause to mean. Clause 13 of the Schedule reads - (1.) In the event of the average net realization per bushelof wheat of any season to which the scheme applies for use or consumption within the States exceeding the average net realization per bushel of wheat of that reason exported an equalization shall be effected between the State Wheat Boards as follows: -
The amount of the excess shall be contributed to an equalization fund and subject tosub-clauso (2.) of this clause such fund shall be distributed between the States in the proportion that the quantity of wheat of that season grown in each State and delivered to a State Wheat Board bears to the total quantity of wheat of that season grown in all the States and delivered to State Wheat Boards. Any financial adjustments necessary shall be made accordingly by the Australian Wheat Board, acting as a clearing house and the State Wheat Boards concerned shall pay on demand by the Australian Wheat Board such amounts as by such equalization account may be shown to be due by them and the Australian Wheat Board shall disburse to the State Wheat Boards concerned such amounts as may by such equalization account be shown to be due to them.
And this is what it is subject to - (2.) Prior to the effecting of such equalization any advantage of a State arising -
from its geographical position;
from any shortage in its production, during the season to which the equalization applies, owing to unfavorable conditions in that season ; or
from an excess in the average price found by the Australian Wheat Board as being the average price obtained during the three seasons terminating with the season 1930- 1931 in respect of wheat sold for use or consumption within the State over the average price so found in respect of those seasons as being that obtained in respect of wheat of that State sold for export, shall be taken into consideration and accounted for to the State Wheat Board concerned accordingly.
Let us construe these provisions in the words of a layman, taking paragraph 1 first. It provides that in the event of the price of wheat per bushel sold for local consumption exceeding the price per bushel of wheat sold for export abroad, an equalization of the receipts from the sale of wheat shall be effected between the State Wheat Boards. The amount of the excess price for locallysold wheat shall be paid into a fund for distribution (a) in the proportion that the quantity of the wheat grown in a State bears to the quantity of wheat grown in all States.
On that basis, if Western Australia produced one-fourth of the wheat grown in all the States, Western Australia would be entitled to one-fourth of the excess price realized in respect of the wheat sold in all the States. Then clause 13 goes on to say that the Australian Wheat Board, in making the equalization, shall have regard to three things, of which I shall refer to the third, paragraph c. Why does that paragraph limit the hoard in making the equalization in this way?
What actually does the limitation mean? I ask honorable members to turn to their bills and read the last few words of paragraph 1 : “ The Australian Wheat Board shall disburse to the State Wheat Boards concerned such amounts as may, by such equalization account, be shown to be due to them “. Then the words, “ Subject to this “, must be read, followed by paragraph c, which reads as follows : -
from an excess in the average price found by the Australian Wheat Board as being the average price obtained during the three seasons terminating with the season 1930- 1931 in respect of wheat sold for use or consumption within the State over the average price so found in respect of those’ seasons as being that obtained in respect of wheat of that State sold for export,
It means that, in the case of Western Australia, the Wheat Board would say, “You sold 2,300,000 bushels of wheat for home consumption, for which you received1 s. a bushel in excess of the price that you obtained for the wheat exported. You are entitled to distribute over your 53,000,000 bushels the excess price on 2,300,000 bushels”. Paragraph c says nothing about the excess wheat from other States. It is a watertight proposal which absolutely confines the Australian Wheat Board to distributing the amount derived from the excess wheat to the State in proportion to the amount derived by that State from the excess price charged on its local consumption. It seems to be inconsistent with the first part of clause 13. Those who claim that this is an equalization scheme that confers a benefit on’ Western Australia have read the first part of the clause, but not the last part. If my reading of the clause is correct, the wheat-growers of Western Australia would have available for distribution among them only that amount represented by the excess price charged on Western Australian wheat sold in that State for local consumption, which amount would be distributed pro rata. among Western Australian wheatgrowers, in accordance with the quantity of wheat produced in that State and exported overseas.
This is how the scheme would work out. I shall take Professor Shann’s figures, which estimate that Western Australia’s crop for 1930-31 amounts to 53,000,000 bushels, the proportion for local consumption being 2,310,000 bushels and the quantity sent overseas 46,734,000 bushels. It will be gathered from these figures that the local price would have to be increased to lis. 5d. a bushel in order to pay 6d. a bushel above world’s parity on the Western Australian crop. Does any honorable senator suggest that a wheat board would be permitted to increase the price of wheat to that extent? Even if the increase per bushel of wheat amounted to 2s. 6d., that would provide only 1-Jd. a bushel to the wheat-growers of Western Australia. That is the magnificent result to which the farmers of that State may look from this bill, while the consumers would be mulcted to the extent of 2s. 6d. a bushel.
I also have a fundamental objection to the bill, which applies to other legislation of this nature. And here, I am a sinner come to the penitent form. I believe that the present position of Australia is largely due to government interference with business, and that we shall never get out of our difficulties until we renounce many of our ideas in that respect. This is another attempt by the Government to regulate business, and it can have only one result. I do not know of one single exception to the list of disastrous failures that have followed from governments dabbling in business activities.
– I shall vote against this bill. It does not belong to one of the three conventional classes, good, bad, or indifferent. If I were asked to describe it as a good or an indifferent bill I could not do so. If I were asked to describe it as a bad bill I should say that it was a bad bill, but that it has a small compensating factor of goodness - it proposes to come to the help of the wheat-farmers of Australia, but in such a lazy, indifferent way. Already four wheat bills have been introduced and either completed or left incomplete, but they have all been fruitless. What then are we to expect from this measure? As Patrick Henry said, “ I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.” If we are to base our opinions upon the previous efforts of the Government to help the wheat-farmers we can only forecast failure for this one.
I oppose the bill primarily because ii contemplates establishing a monopoly. As honorable senators know, at least three States . must agree to the proposition before a wheat pool can be established, and those three States’ need not be wheatproducing States. When a pool comes into existence it professes to give to the wheat-farmers of Australia better marketing facilities, and an improved price for their wheat. I challenge the possibility of doing that. Pools have been tried in many other parts of the world without that success.
– They were not controlled by farmers.
– The ones that. ] have in mind were controlled by farmers. I ask the Minister to disabuse his mind of the idea that the suggested pool can effect a commercial miracle. The very fact of the establishment of a selling monopoly would justify the consumers taking counter action and bringing into existence a purchasing monopoly. When wheat pools were formed in the United States of America and Canada many business men combined and placarded their shops with statements that they guaranteed that no pool wheat or flour was sold in their establishments-. I do not stress this perhaps unimportant point. But the British consumer will buy in the cheapest market, even from Russia, and the effort to secure “ orderly marketing “ is bound to break down. Otherwise, why cannot pools raise the price of wheat to-day? It seems thai the consumers may decide that if the farmers are to have only one selling agency, they will not buy their wheat, but will get it elsewhere. When the Canadian pools attained to a position of authority in the markets of the world, Germany, France, and Italy assumed a defensive attitude. Germany commenced to grow rye on a scale greater than before; Italy insisted that 90 per cent, of the wheat gristed in that country must be locally grown; while France raised an almost prohibitive tariff against foreign wheat., and especially Australian wheat. What are those actions but an answer to the pooling system of America - an answer to those who thought that by controlling the selling market they would automatically raise the price above the rates which the law of supply and demaud would dictate? If one section of the people organizes in its own interests, it i3 only reasonable that the section against which they organize will do the same thing. “ What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander “ in this as in other matters. That is why the American Farm Board and the ‘ Canadian pools are in deep water to-day, and hopetoss and helpless to assist the farmer. The Canadian pools are in so serious a position that the provincial governments of Canada have had to come to their assistance. They are in that position notwithstanding that their granaries are full. The price of wheat is lower than it has been for very many years. The consumers have found that the organizing game is one that two can play, and consequently wheat now stands at a low price in the world’s markets. I am against the compulsory pooling of wheat for the reason that the farmer, who wants an open and free market, for everything he buys, also requires a free market in which to sell his product. There is not one wheat-grower in Australia who would not be up in arms-if he were told that there was only one maker of farm machinery from whom he could obtain ploughs and other machinery. The same thing applies to everything that he requires - from the axe which he uses to clear the forest to the binder twine with which he sews up the bags in which his wheat is placed. The farmer wants an open market both in regard to what he buys, and to what he sells. A pooling system is likely to have a boomerang effect. If we succeed in having only one selling agency for our wheat, we can expect that those who have for sale the things the farmer requires will combine against the farmer, with the resultthat the prices of those articles will go up, and the position will become worse than it was before compulsion was applied.
I desire to say a word regarding the tariff. All sections of the community sympathize with the farmer.
– In words.
– Not only in words, for they realize that he is entitled to their sympathy,- because he is a worker. They know that on the farming industry depends the success of every other industry. They know that the farming community comprises the best market for the goods manufactured in this country. Mr. Hugh V. McKay died leaving £1,500,000. That money was made out of the farmers of Australia. Many other manufacturers have made fortunes out of the farmers. The farmer is a fit subject for our sympathy, seeing that he carries most of the burdens of the country.
What has the Federal Parliament done for the wheat-farmers of Australia during the 30 years of its existence? It has helped the meat industry, the sugar industry, and all the manufacturing industries; but it has done nothing for the farmers. Experts have told us something of the burden placed on the farming community by the tariff. They have produced figures to show that the tariff imposes on the wheat-farming industry a charge equal to 14 per cent, of the cost of production. Assuming that the average cost of producing a bushel of wheat is 4s., that means that for every bushel of wheat produced in Australia the manufacturers of Australia impose a levy of 6d. If the Government were to give that 6d. a bushel to the farmers even temporarily they would be pleased.
I do not say that this bill is merely a pretence on the part of the Government; that it savours of hypocrisy; but I do say that it will prove abortive. Consequently, I propose to move an amendment to provide something direct and substantial in its place. If the farmers were given 6d. a bushel on last year’s harvest, it would mean about £4,000,000 to them.
There is a deep-seated fear in the minds of the. wheat-growers of Australia that if all their wheat were pooled and placed under a committee, with a government nominee as chairman, a government similar to that which now rules New South Wales might come into power. What would their position be if there were 160,000,000 bushels of wheat in the custody of a government of the Lang type? I ask Senator Barnes, who has no faith in Mr. Lang, how he would feel if he were a wheat-farmer and his product were in the control of a government like the Lang Government.
– That is not the intention in this bill.
– It is not only possible, but probable that a government of the Lang type will come into power in the federal sphere. Two years ago no one anticipated, at least no sensible person, anticipated that a government like the one now in office in New South Wales would be on the treasury-bench in that State. Do not honorable members think that a’ government of that type, with £15,000,000 worth of wheat within its grasp, would reach out and take it, and use it. and pledge it, as it has taken other things in New South Wales?
– This bill does not provide for the Government nominee being chairman of the board; the board is to elect its own chairman.
– The Government will have its nominee on the board, and there will also bo State Government nominees on the State boards. We arc told that the scheme will bo financed by the Commonwealth Bank. What would be the position of the wheat-growers if a government of the Lang type were in power and found itself in need of funds?
– Did not the New South Wales Government recently raise the price of wheat and keep the money for its own use?
– Yes. It imposed a levy on the flour produced in New South Wales, ostensibly, with the object of helping the farmers, but the farmers got no help.
– The New South Wales Government embezzled it.
– That is so. It broke every promise it had made. A government of the Lang type would break its most solemn promise in order to servo political ends.
– As we all know, the unexpected frequently happens in politics. It is not impossible that a Federal Government, possessing the same propensities as the present Lang Government in New South Wales, might some day get into power in the Commonwealth. God forbid that such a thing should happen, but it is possible. We know that Mr. Lang promised the farmers of New South Wales that they would get 7s. 6d. a bushel if he was returned to power, but neither that promise, nor a great many others, have been redeemed. Therefore, even the possibility of a Federal Government of the same complexion as the Lang Government ever getting into power should serve as a warning to the wheat-farmers not to put their property into a pool so that it might be seized and used by a necessitous government. A wheat pool would have to depend upon some one to finance it, and the authority in this case would be the Commonwealth Bank. The bank, no doubt, would advance1s. or1s. 6d. a bushel, and, under present conditions, the authority which advances money upon goods virtually owns those goods. We know that from our own bitter experience in Western Australia. The wheat upon which the pool and agents had advanced money did not realize the amount of the advance, and we had. to make good the deficiency. If an impecunious Federal Government of the Lang type were to see £15,000,000 worth of wheat in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank, it might, seeing that the Government backs the bank, and if it had a majority in both Houses, take steps to seize the wheat, and use it as a pledge to satisfy demands upon it, oras a means of furthering its political ends. While that sort of thing is possible, nay probable, I am not going to raise a finger to help in the formation of a compulsory wheat pool. I am not prepared to do it even with the Scullin Government in power, and I have more respect for Mr. Scullin than ever I could have for Mr. Lang. Even Mr. Scullin was forced by circumstances to break the pledges he made before he went to England. At one time, he firmly opposed a fiduciary notes issue, but he was compelled to abandon that attitude which merely shows that, when governments are up against a stone wall difficulty, they are usually not too much concerned about keeping their promises. As a matter of fact, where would the country have been had the fiduciary notes proposal gone through? Every one who had a life insurance policy, or who had money in a bank, would have had the value, of his property cut down in proportion to the amount of fiduciary paper money which was pumped into the currency of the country. That has been the experience in all countries where the system has been tried. Therefore, it would not be advisable for the farmers to depart from the safe and commonsense method of marketing which has been practised up to date.
The wheat-growing industry in Australia is not supported by Australia alone. Three-quarters of the wheat produced is marketed overseas, and if our overseas markets were lost the industry would bc in a very bad way. There are now 70,000 wheat-growers in Australia struggling to wring a reluctant living from the soil, but without our overseas markets, 75 per cent, of them would have to give up tuc cultivation of wheat. If the wheatfarmers accept this pooling proposal, and employ compulsion and monopoly for achieving their ends they will alienate public sympathy, because they cannot hope to retain the goodwill of the people if they embark upon a scheme designed to levy unreasonable and permanent toll on society. They may derive a temporary advantage, but they will lose in the long run. When they ask for a reduction of the tariff, they will be told that they have no right’ to seek relief, seeing that they asked the Federal Parliament to create an instrument for the purpose of wringing a little more out of the wheat consumers of Australia than the law of supply and demand awards. I do not ask on behalf of the wheat-farmers of Australia, or those of Western Australia, for any more assistance at the present time than is necessary to tide us over the immediate emergency. As soon as the price of wheat recovers to even 3s. a bushel, I shall be prepared to say, “Take away your patronage; withdraw the props; and expose the wheat-farmers to the full blast of world competition. We will hold our own.” I know the struggle will be great, but we will take it on with a reduction in costs. We ask for only temporary assistance, and in that Ave differ from other industries, which desire to be permanently assisted. It is unfair of the Government to take advantage of the poverty and. misery of the farmers to-day to foist on them a scheme like this. The Government had ample opportunity to put into operation the bill passed in December of last year, but it did not even try to borrow money for the assistance of the wheat-farmers. It has been stated in this Senate that the money could have been found in the market at the time, because the need for sustaining this industry was generally recognized, more especially as it would, in its fall, have brought down others. The Government passed a Wheat Act, and then allowed it to become a dead letter. The farmers relied on the Government, and found they were leaning on a broken reed. Even if the Government had no authority to make payments under the act, it could have advanced the money, and then passed an act of” indemnification to legalize its action. Without attempting to do this, however, the Government sheltered itself behind the excuse that the Commonwealth Bank could not support it. The Government was prepared to sacrifice the farmers rather than jeopardize its political prospects. So far as I know, this is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that an act of Parliament has been passed, and then deliberately allowed to become a dead-letter - a broken promise.
If we cannot hold our own in the markets of the world, the wheat-farmers will have to go out of business; but proposals of this kind, if put into effect, will only make it more difficult for Australian farmers to compete. If the farmers enter into a pooling arrangement they will provoke retaliation in Australia. Let the wheat-farmers stand erect; let them be as they have been in the past, the one independent group in the community. They have worked the dry soils of Australia, and produced wheat of a quality superior to that grown anywhere in the world.
Wo have been told that if this proposal is agreed to, and a single pool established to control wheat, it will be possible to obtain cheaper freight rates on wheat shipped abroad. I deny that. If there is only one authority to bargain for freight, the ship-owners will, as they have done before, put their heads together and say, “ Oh ; so that is your game ! Two can play at that. In future freight will be so much a ton, and none of us will offer space at a farthing less. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
What is the warrant for this bill? In this age such a measure is generally based on one of three grounds. It either ministers to a burning and pressing want, or supplies an overdue necessity, or is a response to public clamour. Does this bill belong to the last category? Never in the history of Australia have a majority of the farmers asked this Parliament to legislate for the establishment of a compulsory pool. On the contrary, overwhelming majorities of the farmers have declared against such a system. It is extraordinary that we should be asked to pass a bill in defiance of the wishes of the majority of wheat-growers throughout Australia. Therefore, instead of this bill being defensible as a measure to meet a public and clamourous need, or to meet an over-ripe necessity, it is one of those premature propositions which are introduced to rectify so-called grievances that do not in fact exist. The Government says that it is resolved to “ save the farmers “. What experience have Ministers had of wheat-farming?
– What did the farmers of Northam tell the honorable senator?
– That reminds me that I have received a sheaf of telegrams. A gentleman who signs himself “ Texas Green “, in order to gain advertisement in the back country, will gain by my action. I have received a telegram from the secretary of the Wheat-growers Association, and I intend to act in opposition to his request. If Senator O’Halloran received such a telegram he would shiver as one in a wet sack. That is the difference between him and me. I have been warned that I am digging my own political grave; I may be, but this is not the first time that I have been told that I was engaged in that enterprise. By telegram I have been prohibited from opposing the bill ; I intend to defy the prohibition, and to tell the 12,000 wheat- farmers in Western Australia that, even though they may turn me out of public life, they cannot rob me of my inherent right to follow the course which I believe to be socially wise and just, and to warn them when they are proposing to do what is detrimental to their very own interests. Whether it is or not I shall carry on just the same. I may be making a mistake; but I shall not part with my independence. It is anti-social for any section of the community to seek from Parliament a charter to fix the price of their goods and compel the consumersto pay that price regardless of the operation of the law of supply and demand.
Even the present Ministers have not fallen so low as to discontinue the practice of calling for public tenders for government supplies. Tenders are called because the Government wants an open market in which to buy its requirements in the taxpayers interests. The consumer also is entitled to as open market in which to buy bread. If the wheat-growers are to be given the exclusive right to fix the price of their product, permanently or even temporarily, that will be the end of industrial development in this country. Other sections can and ought to do thesame. We shall disintegrate into a community of warring atoms. The fixation of prices has been found impracticable, except as a temporary measure, in times of dire necessity. As a permanent part of the public economy, such a system is wrong; its logical development is the policy which is being tried out inRussia. TheRussiana may experiment to their heart’s content, but I shall never subscribe to coercive measures which are opposed to natural justice and the rights of free men in a free community.
This bill is premature. The wheatgrowers have asked for a bounty and all that the Government offers to them is a ballot-box with sliding panels. We want no more smooth or bounteous talk; we want a government of action and with its heart in the right place, a government that will suit its actions to its words, and, having promised a bounty, will give it. Whathas been the experience of pools in other lands? We must not delude ourselves into the belief that this community of 6,000,000 people can blaze new tracks, and compel the rest of the world to follow. “We cannot do that. We must be guided by the experience of other countries. In Canada, where pooling was tried on a large scale, it was a failure when it tried dictation. Up to a certain point it was a success. The human body benefits from medicine only as long as the medicine supplies something that is deficient in the system. A person who takes medicine beyond that limit courts the risk of ill-health; the cure becomes more dangerous than the ill. Likewise, pooling is a valuable medicine to the industrial bodies in certain circumstances, but as no person can live entirely on medicine, so too, no industry can live entirely on pooling. The wheatgrowers must have two doors open, to them - one through which they may pass voluntarily into a pool, and the door of private enterprise, through which they may sell their products in the open market. The farmer should have the chance of deciding for himself which of the two will be the more helpful to him. If one door is closed only one agency will remain, and, in the absence of competitive buying, the seller will suffer. That has been, the experience through* all ages. A pool will be stimulated and strengthened by the rivalry of private agencies, and vice versa. That is the ideal and it obtains in Western Australia to-day.
Pooling does not necessarily improve market prices. Sometimes the farmer fares better by putting his wheat in the pool, and at other times by selling to private enterprise, but the spirit of competition is essential in industrial and commercial life - without that spur and incentive sections of society are liable to be persecuted. When a Minister calls for tenders he seeks competition so that he may make a better bargain in the interests of the taxpayers. Not even Mr. Lang would willingly consent to a system which obliged him to buy the requirements of his Government from one store. Let us have properly regulated competition. By eliminating it we shall be taking the first step to destroy all true social progress, as well as a very fine industry. The farmers, by entering into a pool, will forfeit the sympathy that otherwise would be given to them, and will be loaded with such onerous conditions in respect of the three-fourths of their product that is marketed abroad, that competition with other countries will be more difficult. A compulsory pool may seem to offer a temporary advantage, but a person who grasps at a temporary advantage without considering the ultimate cost is not taking the long view. In any case, the temporary advantage which pooling may offer can be attained without the farmers swallowing the sugarcoated pill offered by a socialistic government. At the Ea*ster Labour Conference these motions were agreed to -
Mark the words “ transition period “ ; this is only a stage in the approach to socialism.
This is holy writ to the Government; to this gospel it must work. The Government dare not ignore the instructions from the high command of the Labour movement. Therefore, this bill is merely giving legislative effect to the directions of the Labour conference. Do honorable senators who are supporting it realize that, they are doing what Mr. Lang and those associated with him want them to do? What the Lang faction wants is not what the farmers want; on the contrary, it is almost axiomatic that that which Lang wants most is what the farmers should like least. Wheatfarming has not been developed by co-operative effort; it is the direct product of individual striving. The wheat-grower is the ideal of a self-made, indepedent and self-reliant citizen. He is the only man in the community from whom we can get an independent and individual expression of opinion.
The Canadian farmers are to-day chafing under a compulsory pool as is shown by the following- paragraph in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 13th July, cabled from Ottawa by the correspondent of the London Times: -
Reports indicate that grain-growers in Manitoba, who contracted to sell through the pools, desire the privilege of selling independently this year. The concensus of a series of meetings of pool members throughout the province is that selling be permitted in the open market. The wheat pools of Saskatchewan and Alberta are now discussing the abandonment temporarily of compulsory selling.
From that article it will be seen that in three large wheat-producing provinces of Canada there is a growing preference for the open market as against compulsory pooling. They realize that a pool is necessary up to a certain point, but beyond that the ire of the” consumers is aroused and the first to suffer in consequence are the wheat-growers themselves.
I come now to the equalization scheme provided for in the bill, and which was dealt with very forcibly by the Leader of the Opposition. If this bill does not provide for a true equalization scheme, which will ensure to Western Australia the rights to which it is entitled, it is not worth the paper upon which it is written. At present, a stream of gold is flowing from the west to the east of Australia as the result of Western Australia purchasing £10,000,000 worth of goods annually from the eastern States, and unless the rights of that State are properly safeguarded in this bill, the adoption of the equalization scheme, as is now proposed, will undoubtedly increase that stream of gold. I have no objection to Western Australia purchasing the goods of the eastern States, although I consider that it is paying too high a price for them. If we accept an equalization scheme which will not actually have an equalizing effect so far as Western Australia is concerned, we shall be acting detrimentally to the interests of the wheat-growers of that State. As the proposed scheme does not in my opinion sufficiently protect the interests of those wheat-growers, I cannot support the bill, and I shall move an amendment, so as to provide the Government with an opportunity to abide by the promise which it made to the wheat-growers of Australia. I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu the following: -
The Senate is of opinion that prior to the passage of any” Wheat Marketing Bill a matter of greater urgency is the payment of a Bounty of fid. on all marketable wheat while the price of that wheat is 3s. per bushel or under.
That the funds required to pay such Bounty be obtained either from an increase in the price of or a tax upon wheat or flour used in home consumption.
That legislation required to give effect to this proposal be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament without dependence upon any action of any State Parliament or upon an uncertain majority of wheatgrowers in any particular State.
– I second the amendment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) [2.48].- The honorable senator submitted this amendment to me before circulating it among honorable senators so as to afford me an opportunity of considering it. I have carefully examined it, and the bill to which it refers, and I am of the opinion that the amendment is not in order. The Standing Orders relating to the second reading of a bill are numbers 193 to 196. Under Standing Order No. 194 amendments may be moved to the question that the bill be now read a second time by leaving out “ now “ and adding this day six months, “ which if carried shall finally dispose of the bill; or by referring the bill to a select committee; or the previous question may be moved “. Standing Orders No. 195 and No. 196 provide that no other amendment may be moved to such question except in the form of a resolution strictly relevant to the bill. I am of the opinion that this amendment is not relevant to the bill, the sole object of which is the establishment of a pool to supervise and control the marketing of wheat. So far as I can gather there is no word in it in regard to any payment to farmers. The question of a bounty is quite foreign to the question of a pool, and, therefore, I rule that this amendment is not relevant to the bill. I may say that I have myself created a precedent for this action, in that, when an amendment of this nature was moved by the Leader of the Opposition to the Wheat Marketing Bill which proposed a payment of 4s. a bushel, I ruled it out. of order. There is greater ground for ruling this amendment out of order.
– With great respect to you. Mr. President, I consider that ray amendment is in order, and that, if your ruling is accepted, it will severely limit the area of the debate, and consequently the power of the Senate. There is, therefore, no option left to me but to move -
That the ruling of the President be dissented from, on the ground that it would curtail the proper discussion of the subject before the Senate, and limit the power of the Senate as a consequence.
– I formally second the motion.
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
– In disagreeing with your ruling, Mr. President, I feel, of course, that I am taking a rather unusual ground, but at the same time I have a duty to perform. The ground for my disagreement is that, if your ruling is adhered to, it will mean the undue limitation of the area of discussion, and it will naturally follow that the power of the Senate by its own hand and rule will be lessened. If I gather aright, the ground for your ruling is that there is no provision in the bill for the payment of a bounty. It is quite true that there is not, as such. It is equally true that the intention of the bill is to provide something in the form of a bounty or bonus to assist the wheat-farmers. In proof of that, it is merely necessary to remind honorable members of what the Minister said when introducing the bill. The honorable senator intimated that one of its principal purposes was to deal with the price of wheat and flour in Australia in order that the difference between the price obtained overseas and that charged in Australia might be set aside in a fund for the purpose of providing a bounty or bonus for the wheat-farmer3. It is essential to take notice of the intention rather than the language of the measure. My amendment is on all fours with the intention of the bill, and should be regarded as a natural complement to it.
I realize that it is necessary rigidly to observe and maintain our Standing Orders, so that the business of the Senate may be conducted along proper lines, but I submit that my amendment in no way contravenes the Standing Orders as they apply to amendments. It provides for something which is in conformity with the purpose of the bill. That there is an affinity between the amendment and the bill is unchallengeable. I ask honorable senators to favour the view that
I have advanced, if for no other purpose, than that of maintaining the right of the Senate to conduct its own business, and of providing itself with discussions within the prescribed limits.
– Your ruling, Mr. President, which I consider to be quite sound, saved me from raising a point of order on the amendment submitted by Senator Lynch. I contend that that amendment has no relevance to the bill, and is, therefore, out of order. If given effect to, the measure will bring into existence a method for marketing wheat. It has nothing to do with the provision of a bounty. No doubt that would be a very popular subject for discussion in connexion with a bill relating to the wheat industry, but it has no relevance on this occasion. I believe that your ruling is sound, sir, and I propose to support it.
– Difficulties always obtrude themselves when a proposal with which one is in favour is ruled out of order. Although one realizes that the ruling is sound, one naturally has a bias against it.
I strongly support the purpose of the amendment moved. by Senator Lynch, and would welcome an opportunity to discuss its subject matter. However, I have a keen recollection of my experience on a former occasion when I endeavoured to achieve a similar purpose, and was ruled out of order. If I supported the motion of dissent, sir, I should be suggesting that your ruling is unsound. That I cannot do. I believe that the point raised by Senator Lynch that your ruling prevents the proper discussion of the subject before the Senate is incorrect. You, sir, permitted me to discuss the matter of a bounty being payable out of a sales tax on flour. Therefore, the ruling does not limit the powers of discussion of this Senate. I should like to have a vote on it, but I cannot stretch my conscience to the extent of indicating that the ruling is wrong, as I believe it to be consistent with the Standing Orders. I suggest that Senator Lynch should withdraw his motion of dissent.
– My position is similar to that of Senator Pearce. Having -in mind the Standing Orders on the subject it is difficult to see exactly how the desire of Senator Lynch can he given effect.I suggest that if he moves an amendment such as the following it would be in order : -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words -
That the Senate is of the opinion that instead of the method of raising the price of wheat proposed to be effected by establishing wheat pools, which would have a doubtful result, the same result could he more expeditiously achieved by the payment of a bounty onflour.
That would be strictly relevant to the bill, and would accomplish what Senator Lynch desires. If the honorable senator withdrew his motion of dissent, and moved an amendment such as suggested, it could be determined whether that was acceptable to the Chair or not.
– Regarding the matters raised by Senator Lynch, “ I point out that the Standing Orders are supposed to operate to limit discussion that is not relevant to the subject-matter under consideration. I always have, and always will, endeavour to confine discussion in this chamber to relevant issues. That, I believe, has the approval of every honorable senator who has at heart the conduct of the Senate in a businesslike manner. Senator Lynch reads into this bill an intention on the part of the Government to pay a bounty to wheat-growers. I remind honorable senators thatwe are here to consider not the statement of a Minister or any honorable senator, but the contents of the bill itself. I have examined it very carefully, but I cannot see in it any mention of any possibility of the Government granting a bounty.
Regarding the subject of prejudice, I am in exactly the same condition of mind as is Senator Pearce. If I may let the Senate into a secret, it is my intention to vote against the second reading of the bill, so that the matter of prejudice may be set aside.My chief concern is that the procedure of the Senate should be properly conducted in accordance with Standing Orders. I have to consider the matter of relevancy. That responsibility is attached to the very proud position with which honorable senators have honoured me. Having elevated me to the position, they must take the chance of the soundness of the eleve’s judgment. In my opinion, the amendment by Senator Lynch is out of order, and I have ruled accordingly. I must deal with this bill as it is printed, andnot with utterances by honorable senators which allow meanings to be read into the measure, that may be right or wrong.
– In a matter affecting the interpretation of the Standing Orders any ruling which you, Mr. President, might give always commands my respect; but you will admit that occasions sometimes arise when an honorable senator feels justified in dissenting from the ruling of the Chair. I shall be satisfied so long as the result I desire to obtain is accomplished.Would you be prepared to say whether Senator Greene’s proposal which is really an amendment of mine is in order, and therefore acceptable to the Chair? If I am thrown back on my own amendment I shall, of course, abide by the decision of the Senate. My motion of dissent from your ruling was submitted with the utmost goodwill; I have moved it under a sense of duty. If the proposal of Senator Greene is acceptable to you, sir, I shall be glad to ask leave to have my motion withdrawn.
– Before I could say whether the proposal of Senator Greene would be in order, I should need a little time to study its terms ; but, so far as I can. recollect what the honorable senator said, it appears to me to be not very different from the amendment which I have just ruled out of order. If the Senate is serious in this matter, and wishes an adjournment of the motion of dissent until the next day of sitting to enable further consideration to be given to it, that is a matter for the Senate itself to determine; but at this stage, I am not prepared to give a ruling on the further point raised in regard to Senator Greene’s proposal.
Motion (dissent) - by leave - withdrawn.
– I understand that Senator Lynch moved an amendment of which he had given notice, and that you, sir, ruled that it was out of order. Apparently the honorable senator had not concluded his speech when the ruling was given and I desire to know therefore, whether it is now competent for him to move a further amendment.
- Senator Lynch has spoken to both the second reading and the amendment. The question now is, “ That the bill be now read a second time “.
– I should like to move that my amendment be amended.
– The honorable senator having already spoken cannot do that, but he may get some one else to move the amendment he desires to place before the Senate.
– The opposition to this bill on the part of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and Senator Lynch is difficult to understand, in view of the professions of sympathy with the farmers which we have so often heard from the other side of the chamber. Honorable senators supporting the Government are frequently taunted with having no regard for the welfare of any but a small section of the people, who are generally domiciled in and about the cities qf Australia, This bill represents an honest attempt on the part of the Government to deal with an entirely different section of the people; it proposes to create a marketing organization to dispose of the wheat of the farmers of Australia. If it becomes law, I maintain that it will confer a benefit, not only on the farmers of Australia, but also on the nation as a whole. For that reason I trust that honorable senators will give serious consideration to the undoubted merits of the bill, and not be influenced by the opinions expressed by those who have spoken against it. This bill does not, as Senator Lynch suggested, impose a compulsory wheat pool on the farmers of Australia. It gives them the right to decide for themselves whether they will have a pool for the marketing of their produce, or whether they prefer to continue to market it as they do now.
– If this bill is agreed to, will not those farmers who vote against the pool be compelled to join it?
– There was a time when Senator Lynch believed in majority rule. Unless his views have changed, he should have no objection to a majority of the farmers determining a question of vital importance to all the farmers of Australia. If majority rule applies in the Parliament of the country, which deals with the major problems affecting Australia, I see no reason why it should not also apply to the marketing of our wheat.
The Leader of the Opposition condemned the bill on the ground that it gave power to the Minister to license agents to arrange for the export of wheat, and to de-license them if found guilty of an offence against the act. He claimed that the bill virtually gave to the Minister the power to control the export of wheat. I interjected that the bill gives the Minister no such power; that it only gives him the power to carry out the recommendations of the Australian Wheat Board, which will be representative of the farmers of this country, seeing that it will be elected by the State wheat boards, a majority of whose members will be elected by the farmers of the States. The decisions to which the Minister will be called upon to give effect will be made, not by himself, but by the elected representatives of the farmers whose wheat is in the pool. The provisions of the bill having been fully explained by the Minister, I shall not traverse the ground already covered by him.
Another criticism of the Leader of the Opposition was that, although wheat pools were necessary during the war, they are not necessary now. Considering the difficulties which those pools had to overcome, I claim that they were an unqualified success, and that they saved the farmers of Australia from ruin. The right honorable gentleman said that immediately after the termination of the war there was a demand from all over Australia that these pools should be discontinued. That demand did not come from the farmers, but from the wheat merchants and others who desired to make profits out of dealing in the farmers’ wheat. There was certainly some criticism and condemnation of the wartime pools, because they were, entirely under Government control; but if the control of the pools had, as the farmers desired, been handed over to them on the terms provided for in this measure, it would have redounded greatly to the benefit of the wheat industry in Australia. To show that the farmers have not lost faith in the pooling system it is only necessary to point out that after the disestablishment of the wartime pools, the farmers immediately set to work to build up voluntary pooling organizations. In Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, such pools were formed, and carried on with a considerable amount of success. I understand that to-day the voluntary pools handle over 50 per cent, of the wheat grown in those States. In Queensland the Government established a compulsory pool, which has operated with great success and satisfaction to the farmers. Despite the fact that a government of a different political complexion has displaced the one which introduced the pool, there has been no move for the dia-establishment of the pool set up eight or ten years ago by a Labour government.
The farmers have had much experience of voluntary pools working side by side with the system of individual marketing, and, as a result, there has been, within the last two years, a persistent demand by the farmers of every State for the establishment of. a compulsory pool. It is recognized that the voluntary pools cannot be a complete success. I have before me a pile of correspondence containing resolutions passed at meetings of farmers during the last six or Seven months in support of a pool. When, the Wheat Marketing Bill was defeated in this chamber last year, the farmers of South Australia immediately began a drive with the intention of showlug that they were wholeheartedly behind the compulsory wheat-pooling proposal. Since then meetings have been held in practically every wheat-growing centre of the State, and I propose to place on record some of the resolutions carried at those meetings. At a meeting held at Manoora, which is one of the important wheat-growing centres in the State, the following resolution was carried: -
That this meeting of farmers calls upon the Government to immediately introduce legislation to give the farmers control of the marketing of their wheat, as only by control are they likely to get fair play.
In February last the farmers at a meeting at Kybunga carried this resolution -
That this meeting of farmers at Kybunga regards the formation of a compulsory pool under growers’ control essential for the safety of the industry and the State, and it pledges itself to work with this objective.
At a meeting of wheat-farmers held at Caltowie, on the 9th February, the following resolution was carried: -
That we ask the Commonwealth and State Governments to take the necessary action to ensure a Commonwealth-wide wheat pool being in operation to deal with the next harvest.
A similar meeting at Petersburg carried this resolution -
That this meeting urges the State and Federal Governments to re-introduce the wheat marketing bills which were defeated last year; to erect an Australian-wide wheat pool, under growers’ control, with one selling agency for all Australian wheat, both for home consumption and export, and again endeavour to place the control of the marketing of wheat in the hands of the nien who grow it. A ballot of the growers to be taken thereon.
Those are samples of the resolutions carried throughout South Australia in support of legislation such as we are now considering. There is no doubt that there is a widespread feeling among the farmers of South Australia that a compulsory pool should bo set up.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that if this bill were passed, and a compulsory wheat pool inaugurated, the bread consumers of Australia would be penalized, because bread would become dearer. He said that the Government’s present proposal did not in that respect differ from the proposal which the Government rejected some months ago for the imposition of a sales tax on flour. In. my opinion, however, the effect of the two proposals would be vastly different. Under the sales tax proposal a definite impost of, I think, £7 2s. 6d. a ton would have been imposed on flour used for human consumption. That tax would be loaded on to the price of flour before it reached the baker who made the ‘bread, and the baker would have full opportunity of passing on the tax to the public, plus a little for himself. Under the stabilization scheme proposed in this bill, the price of bread need not necessarily be raised at all. In this morning’s Canberra Times there appears a statement setting out the results of the flour stabilization plan inaugurated by the Lang Government in New South Wales, as a result of which the price of flour is higher in New South Wales than in the other States. Taking the quotations which appeared in the daily press for the 25th of July, prices in the various capital cities are as follow : -
I am not familiar with the New South Wales stabilization scheme, but I understand that the price of flour has been increased in that State for the purpose of creating a fund for the relief of necessitous farmers. In Adelaide, where wheat is sold for 2s. a bushel, and flour for £0 12s. 6d. a ton, bread costs 4d. a loaf. According to this morning’s Canberra Times, the New South Wales Government has recently let a contract* for- the supply of bread for public relief purposes at 3s. Sd. a dozen loaves, or just on 3Jd. a loaf, despite the fact that flour is £.1.0 a ton.
Senator Lynch referred to the matter of freights. He argued that if the hiring of shipping space was placed in the hands of a single authority, it would induce the shippers to combine to keep up freights. My belief is that a very effective form of combination already exists among the shipowners, and the farmers arc more likely to get better terms if there is only one chartering agency than if a dozen such agencies are bidding against each other in their anxiety to get the wheat away. When there are several buyers anxious to obtain something, the price is always higher than if there is only one buyer in the market.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and Senator Lynch referred to the alleged failure of the Canadian wheat pool, and the efforts of the Federal Farm Board in America to stabilize the price of wheat. Of course, there are two sides to this story. The Canadian wheat pools have never been complete. They were not compulsory and, according to the latest figures available, they never handled much more than 50 per cent, of the total crop. ‘ Naturally, the statements sent to Australia by representatives of the Canadian pools place their operations in a favorable light, while the communications from the private agencies which have been competing against the pools are condemnatory. One of the charges levelled against the Canadian pools is that they have unduly withheld wheat from the market and have thereby involved the farmers in considerable losses. It is true that during the last year they were not able to dispose of their wheat a3 readily as was desirable, but that was due to world-wide circumstances that were entirely beyond their control. The records for normal years show that wheat was withheld from the market, not by the pools, but by the agents who had purchased in competition with them. In 1925-26 the pools received 187,250,000 bushels, or 52 per cent, of the total crop. The quantity, sold in the following selling season was 177,250,000 bushels, leaving a carry-over of 10,000,000 bushels. The .quantity held by the private agencies at the end of the season, although they handled only 48 per cent, of the crop, was 24,750,000 bushels. In 1926-27 the pools received 180,000,000 bushels, or 53 per cent, of the crop, sold 172,000,000 bushels, and carried over 7,500,000 bushels. The private agencies, which controlled only 47 per cent, of the crop, carried over 40,500.000 bushels. In 1927-28 the pools handled 210,000,000 bushels, or 51 per cent, of the crop and sold all of it, whereas the private agencies retained 78,000,000 bushels. In 1928-29 the pools bought 244,000,000 bushels, or 52 per cent, of the crop, sold 196,750,000 bushels, and carried over 48,250,000 bushels. The private agencies, handling 4S per cent, of the crop, had a carry-over of 55,750,000 bushels. Those figures show that in normal times the Canadian pools disposed of their wheat more expeditiously than did the private buyers who were in competition with them. The same thing would occur in Australia, .only to a much greater extent, because an Australia-wide pool would not be handicapped by two contingencies which the Canadian pools had to face. One was the competition of private trading agencies which, of course, made pool management more difficult. Private purchasers can influence the market by raising prices a few cents a bushel one month and causing a rush of sellers to them; though they lower the price later, -the impetus given by the temporary increase continues, and thus many million bushels are attracted from the pool before the farmers realize that they have sold for less than the price which pool wheat would probably realize. A second factor was that the pools were dependent for their existence on selling wheat at a price not less than would be realized by the private agencies and the huge carry over by the merchants was a continual menace. Yet during the fouryear period of orderly marketing the pool provided a greater return to the farmers than was received by those who disposed of their wheat to private agents, and marketed the wheat more expeditiously thus avoiding the danger of a carry-over. In regard to the Federal Farm Board of the United States of America, Mr. James C. Stone, chairman of the board, stated that a crash in wheat prices which would have cost the United States billions of dollars had been averted last November by the board stepping into the wheat market. Mr. Stone said that $100,000,000 could be entered on the credit side of the balance-sheet, representing the difference between the world price and the price of all United States wheat sold from November to the end of the crop year. On the debit side could be entered, say, a maximum of $500,000,000 for storage, insurance and other expenses involved in holding the wheat. Thus the stabilization activities could reasonably be defended. Although the Farm Board has made losses, they were, approximately, only 50 per cent, of the- amount which the farmers gained as the result of the protection afforded by the board from the collapse of prices which took place in November of last year.
We are told that the farmers of Canada have revolted against the pooling system. According to advices forwarded to Australia, the dominion farmers, as late as May last, desired the establishment of a pool on lines similar to that proposed in this bill. A very significant fact is. that at a meeting held at Saskatoon on the 4th May last between the Premiers of the three Western Provinces, representatives of the wheat pools, the farmers’ educational organizations, and representatives of the anti-one hundred per cent, organizations of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it was unanimously agreed, inter alia, that if the International Wheat Conference then about to be held in London came to any agreement which would eliminate competition between the exporting countries in marketing .the 1931-32 crop, and if it were necessary to establish a dominion wheat board, such action would meet with the approval of the large majority of farmers in Western Canada. The conference .further agreed that unless during the month of May there was strong evidence of a considerable increase in price levels, the Government should consider the establishment of a dominion wheat board with provision for the highest possible initial payment. I emphasize the fact that these resolutions were agreed to by the representatives of anti-one hundred per cent, organizations present at the meeting. Evidence that the Canadian wheatgrowers are aware of the limitations of the pools in that they control only a percentage of Canada’s wheat, lies in the fact that recently representations in favour of 100 per cent, pooling by the Premiers of the three Prairie provinces were made to the Dominion Government. This proves that the operations of the pools have not been a failure, but that their limited constitution has prevented their functioning as successfully as 100 per cent, control would allow. It is clear that the growers in Canada are not against the pooling system, but they realize the need for more complete organization, and there is a growing demand amongst them for legislation such (as is now before the Senate.
The wheat-growing industry is one of the most important in the Commonwealth. Approximately .66,000 farmers are engaged in the cultivation of wheat as the principal source of their livelihood. The area sown last year was 18,312,420 acres, and the yield 212,628,700 bushels. Practically all of this’ has been disposed of in the following proportions: - 15,000,000 bushels for seed, 13,000,000 bushels for flour for home consumption, and 5,000,000 bushels for stock and poultry, leaving a surplus of 162,000,006 bushels available for export. As a result of a combination of circumstances, including unfavorable seeding weather throughout a considerable portion of Australia - the disastrous floods in New South Wales, were an important factor - and low prices, statisticians estimate that the area to be sown throughout Australia this year will be approximately 14,000,000 acres. Australia will harvest next season about 14,000,000 acres of wheat, and, taking the average yield over a period of years, that acreage should yield from 150,000,000 to 160,000,000 bushels. The local requirements will be approximately the same as they are to-day, so that there will remain to be sold for export from 100,000,000 to 110,000,000 bushels. I quote those figures to emphasize the benefit which could be conferred upon the farmers of Australia without costing the consumers of bread one penny apiece. If, as a result of this legislation, the price of wheat is fixed for local consumption at 4s. a bushel, that will provide a sum sufficient to yield 6d. a bushel on the exportable surplus, so that, if world prices remain as they are to-day, the farmers, instead of receiving from 2s. to 2s. 2d. a bushel for the 110,000,000 bushels that they export, will get from 2s. 6d. to 2s. Sd. a bushel. I know the difficulties of the farmers in South Australia, because I arn a farmer myself. During the previous season a big area of that State was afflicted with one of the worst droughts in the history of white settlement, and last year, while nature was fairly bounteous, the world wheat price collapsed before our wheat could be marketed. When wheat is selling at 4s. or 5s. a bushel, an additional 6d. a bushel does not loom very large in a farmer’s yearly return ; but, when wheat is 2s. a bushel, an additional 6d. a bushel is like an oasis in a desert to the farmer when he is making out his yearly accounts, and trying to make his return of, say, £200 or £300 meet his charges for the twelve months.
Another point which we should not lose sight of is the gulf between the producer and the consumer. Senator Pearce this afternoon quoted figures, from which he contended that this gulf was due in the main to wages. I venture to say that the difference between the prices of wheat, bread, and flour in Australia to-day and prices in 1911 - the year taken by Senator Pearce- is not due so much to wages as it is to profiteering and inefficiency in the distribution of bread. Let us trace a bushel of wheat, which the farmer grows and sells for 2s. at the country siding, to the breakfast table of a person in the City of Adelaide, who has to pay 4d. for a 2-lb. loaf of bread. On the 25th of this mouth wheat was quoted at 2s. a bushel f.o.b. Port Adelaide. The average cost of freight and handling charges between the farmer’s wagon and Port Adelaide is 5d. a bushel, so that the farmer receives approximately ls. 7d. a bushel at the siding for his wheat. That works out at £2 18s. a ton. In these figures 1 have eliminated fractions, so that, although they are not mathematically correct, they are approximately and substantially correct. There are 36j” bushels in a ton of wheat. The miller, who pays the cost of transport and handling charges, has to pay £3 13s. 4d. a ton for that wheat. Prim ‘it he grists 1,540 lb. of flour, 330 lb. of bran, and 330 lb. of pollard. The Advertiser, on the 25th July, quoted flour at £6 12s. 6d. a ton, bran at £3 15s. a ton, and pollard at £4 10s. a ton. On those prices the miller would get £6 Ss. 9d. for the flour, bran and pollard gristed from the ton of wheat bought at £3 13s. 4d. He would sell that portion converted into flour to the baker for £5 2s. 8d. The baker, after adding the usual ingredients which go to the making of bread - hops, potatoes and water, mostly water - would make 1,026 2-lb. loaves of bread, which, sold and delivered for 4d., would return to him £17 2s. Yet the farmer receives only £2 18s. a ton over a period of twelve months, representing cost of ploughing, planting and carting, and the risk. The Railway Department, or whoever freights the wheat, the lumpers and the agents who handle it between the wagon and the port of shipment or the mill, receive 15s. 4d., and the miller, for gristing the wheat into flour, bran, and pollard, gets £2 13s. 5d. There is no great ground for criticism there. The baker for turning the flour into bread and delivering it to the consumer gets £11 19s. 4d. The result is that the community pays £18 8s. Id. for the product of 1 ton of wheat for which the farmer gets £2 18s.
– How much does the baker, as a baker, actually get?
– The baker gets for converting the flour produced from a ton of wheat, £11 19s. 4d. There is something wrong with the baking trade when it costs that to convert flour into bread and to deliver it to the consumer. That is the weak link of this system of production and distribution which is robbing, not only the farmer, but also the consumer. A contract was alluded to this afternoon under which a firm of bakers in Sydney pays £10 a ton for flour - which is £3 7s. 6d. a ton more than the figure that I have quoted - and sells its broad at 3s. Sd. a dozen delivered, or a fraction under 3$d. for a 2-lb. loaf. That is proof of my contention. This gulf between the producer and the consumer is too great, and can be eliminated only by the establishment of a properly organized system of marketing. The elimination of that gulf would lead to a substantial increase in the return to the farmer with no corresponding increase in the cost of living to the consumers of bread.
Let mc point out some of the considerable savings that would result to all concerned in the handling and selling of wheat. Take, first of all, the Railway Department. A multiplicity of agents means a multiplicity of orders for trucks, and necessitates greater rolling-stock reserves. It makes, also, for difficulty in the marshalling of the available freight vehicles in order to obtain the maximum traffic benefit. A pool controlling the export of Australian wheat would direct its shipping so that vessels would be available at various ports at different times, and the railway rolling-stock could be used to fill one vessel at one point and some other vessel at another point. That would confer an appreciable benefit, not upon the farmer, but upon the State Governments by bringing about a substantial saving in railway working costs, and thereby minimize railway losses, which make it so difficult for State Governments to balance their budgets. The miller will also derive benefit under the pooling system. Under open marketing conditions he is more of a speculator in wheat than a grister of flour or grinder of wheat. He cannot forecast what the market is likely to be for the whole of the season, but” he knows that he will have demands for flour which he must supply or else lose his trade. If he has to purchase, at the commencement of the season, sufficient wheat to supply the requirements of his customers for twelve months, that involves him in speculation, because he may have to pay more for wheat for delivery in February and March than for wheat for delivery in August or September, towards the end of the selling season. It also involves him in the necessity for financing the payment of stocks of wheat which he must lay in. - These are two factors which increase the cost of the wheat between the farmer’s wagon and the consumer’s breakfast table. The pool eliminates these disabilities, because under a pooling system, with the local price stabilized for twelve-monthly periods, a miller could purchase wheat from the pool as he required it, thereby not only eliminating the danger of loss through speculation, but also minimizing his expenses, because lie would not have to provide the necessary finance for stocks. Another factor is that wheat gains substantially in the stack. more particularly if it is kept for any length of time. That was the experience of the war-time pool, and in some instances wheat gained as much as 1£ lb. a bag. I know from practical experience that even on farms where wheat is stacked for only two or three months there is an appreciable gain. Under the open marketing system that gain in weight goes to the merchants, but if there is a 100 per cent, pooling system it will go to the farmers. Assuming that on a total exportable wheat surplus of 100,000,000 bushels there is a gain of only 1,000,000 bushels, a conservative estimate, that would represent £90,000 to £100,000 to the farmer at prevailing prices. When spread over many thousands of farmers that may not appear to be a big amount, but the sura that each would get would be much larger than many of these unfortunate people have seen in actual cash during the past twelve months.
Those are the figures, and I ask honorable senators to give the fullest consideration to the subject before they contemplate rejecting the bill. As I have indicated, the farmers have asked for the measure, by resolutions passed at meetings’ all over Australia, and by deputations and petitions to members of Parliament. The bill seeks simply to create machinery under which the farmers may determine whether they will have a compulsory pool to be controlled by themselves; whether it will embrace sufficient States to warrant the setting up of an Australian-wide organization for the orderly marketing of the Commonwealth’s wheat harvesting abroad, and to provide for the stabilization of wheat prices in Australia, without additional cost to the consumer, to the great benefit of the farmer who grows wheat. I commend the bill to the Senate, and hope that it will be carried.
– This bill differs in an important respect from that which was rejected a little more than a year ago. I am glad that the Government has not incorporated in this measure what was probably the most paltry feature contained in a bill introduced allegedly to assist an Australian industry. Since the inauguration of federation, different industries have received assistance from the Federal Government, but the Wheat Marketing Bill presented last year, providing for a guarantee of 4s. per bushel, contained a provision that the States should bear half of any liability that might accrue from a fall in the price of wheat. That was a most inequitable and iniquitous proposal, and it resulted in the rejection of the measure. It could not be expected that Western Australia, with its small population and large production of wheat per capita, would entertain such a scheme, and it is quite understandable that the Premier of that State, fresh from the hustings, should telegraph the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) that the measure sought to impose an unfair burden on Western Australia, which precluded the Government of that State from accepting it. I have nothing but contempt for the mean action of the Government, on the first occasion that it proposed to assist the wheat industry, in bringing forward a bill that provided for such an imposition upon Western Australia, a burden which the representatives of that State very properly refused to bear. At the time, I told the Government that if it would give a guaranteed price for wheat, and release the States from participating in any loss incurred by such guarantee, the measure would have my support. The Government refused to amend the bill in that direction, and the measure was rejected. The Government has since endeavoured to attribute the blame for that to those who voted against the measure. On the 3rd July, 1930, when referring to the matter in this chamber, I said -
If tlie Federal Government is prepared to pay half the loss in those States where the Governments join in the guarantee, I utterly fail to see why it should not pay the same amount per bushel in States whose Governments, owing to the heavy burden the guarantee would impose, are unable to join in it.
– Is that the only objection the honorable senator has to the bill?
– -I am prepared to waive other objections, serious as they are, if the Government will give a full guarantee of 4s. from the federal treasury to the wheatfarmers.
The Government refused to give any guarantee unless the State Governments undertook to bear their proportion of any liability incurred. It even refused to accept the request that where a State Government would not become a party to the guarantee, the Federal Government should pay that State’s share if any loss were incurred.
I am glad that this measure does not seek to impose similar liabilities on the States, and I hope that neither this nor any other Government will have the temerity to bring forward bills, professedly to help Australian industry, which impose heavy and disproportionate burdens on certain States.
This bill lacks that essential, a guaranteed price. The first time the Government proposed to assist the wheat industry it suggested a hybrid guarantee under which the States were to bear the unequal burden. This time, because of the state of the Government’s finances, there is be no guarantee. That is to be regretted. At the same time I am of the opinion that this bill has merits, and that it offers a measure of valuable assistance to the wheat-growers. One of its benefits is to enable them to obtain a satisfactory local price for that substantial portion of the wheat crop that is consumed in
Australia. It is provided that a poll shall be taken for the establishment of the pool; a valuable safeguard. If the bill did not leave the decision to the wheat-growers it would not have my sympathy.
– Only recently the wheat-growers of New SouthWales rejected a wheat pool.
– That vote was influenced by the repudiationist policy of the Lang Government. It is not to be wondered that the farmers of New South Wales desire to keep their wheat out of any pool with which Mr. Lang could interfere.
The wheat-growers of Australia are suffering from the burden that has resulted from the artificial tariff policy of the Commonwealth Government. They have to pay high prices for their machinery and other needs because of the high protective prices which rule because of the Government’s tariff policy. The whole thing is a vicious circle, and at last under this bill the farmers are to have their “ share of the loot.” On many occasions the representatives of the farmers of Australia have unsuccessfully endeavoured to bring about a reduction of the tariff in order that they may be relieved from high costs of production. This measure will protect these farmers and enable them to receive a higher price for that portion of their output which is consumed in Australia. Because it gives the farmers the right to say whether they will adopt the course proposed, I shall vote for the measure. If a pool is inaugurated it will be the result of a democratic ballot. In supporting this bill I am giving the farmers the right to determine for themselves by a ballot whether or not they will avail themselves of its provisions.
It seems to me that under the equalization clauses of the bill the farmers of Western Australia are offered, very properly, substantial advantages in regard to receiving a full share of the Australian price obtained for that portion of the wheat crop that is sold and consumed in Australia. The measure gives recognition to the fact that annually the people of Western Australia buy goods to the value of £10,400,000 from the eastern States, and maintain in those States large numbers of factory hands and others, particularly in the metropolitan centres of Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. The bill permits farmers throughout the Commonwealth to obtain a fair share of the increased price that will be obtained from locally-consumed wheat.
The wheat-farmers of the Commonwealth, and particularly those of Western Australia, are in desperate straits. Bill after bill has been introduced in this and another place to give them a measure of assistance”. Some of that legislation was dropped by the Government, some defeated. The Wheat Advances Act of 1930 was approved by both Houses of Parliament. Under it the farmers are guaranteed a price of 3s. a bushel for the whole of their crop for the last harvest, but I am sorry that, though it appears on the statute-book, that legislation has not been put into effect. It has been repudiated. So far as I know, it is the only instance of effect not being given an act passed by both Houses of the Federal Parliament. The farmers have not been granted any relief. A reply given to a question asked by Senator Carroll suggested that this measure repealed the Wheat Advances Act of 1930. Having perused the bill carefully, I cannot sec that that is so. This measure applies only to the coming year’s crop, whereas the Wheat Advances Act of 1930 applied to last year’s crop. The passing of that act placed not only a moral but also a legal obligation on the Commonwealth Government to pay 3s. a bushel the moment the money was available. It is a debt already due by the Commonwealth to the farmers of Australia. If the present Government cannot meet its obligation to pay this 3s. per bushel on last year’s crop, the sooner we have a change of government the better. When that change takes place I hope that the new government will honour the obligation that rests upon it.
Various plans have been put forward to assist the farmers of Australia. One of them, known as the Perkins plan, proposed a sales tax of £7 4s. a ton on flour. Many farmers prefer that proposal to the one contained in this legislation ; but I am afraid that even if we carried a motion in favour of such a plan effect would not be given to it. The measure before us contains a definite promise to the farmers of Australia in respect of the wheat consumed locally. I am prepared to accept what is offered.
I have here a return prepared by the Hon. W. C. Hill, the honorable member for Echuca in another place, who is also a trustee of the Victorian voluntary wheat pool. While no one can say now what the effect of seasonal conditions will be on the production of wheat in Australia this year, the return prepared by Mr. Hill is reasonably accurate. I have checked the figures carefully with the author of the return. I ask leave for the inclusion of the return in Hansard.[Leave granted.]
That return is subject to sub-clause 2 of clause 13 of the schedule. It will be seen that, in connexion with the proposal to charge 2s. a bushel over the export parity price in respect of wheat used for Australian consumption, Mr. Hill sets out that on an estimated yield of 40,000,000 bushels in New South Wales, 40,000,000 bushels in Victoria, 34,000,000 bushels in South Australia, and 40,000,000 bushels in Western Australia, the amounts which would be paid in and taken out of the pool by the several States under the equalization scheme would be as under -
– What about the other States?
– The effect of this measure on Queensland and Tasmania will be so small that I should be surprised if either of them joins the scheme. Queensland docs not export any wheat, while Tasmania, although an ex porter of wheat, imports more than it exports. Queensland would lose a great deal by joining the pool as compared with the price that the farmers of that State have been able to obtain this year - a price which, perhaps, will not be maintained in the future. Queensland industries appear to be fortunate in everything. During the past season, under a local scheme, carried out in opposition to the Federal Constitution - a scheme which could easily be knocked out if we had in existence the Interstate Commission provided for in the Constitution - the farmers of Queensland have obtained 3s. 9d. a bushel for their wheat, as against less than 2s. a bushel received by the farmers of the other States.
– The Queensland farmers obtained that advantage without injuring any other part of Australia; it is a purely local scheme.
– Should either Tasmania or Queensland join the pool, the influence on the figures which I have quoted would be negligible.
SenatorFoll. - Does the honorable senator think that it would be to the disadvantage of Queensland to join the pool?
– All that I can say is that, if I were a wheat-grower in Queensland, I should much prefer the system that was in operation there last season to anything which might be obtained at the hands of the Commonwealth Government.
The advantages which I have mentioned are not the only ones which Western Australia will gain under this measure. Under clause 13, sub-clause 3 c, of the schedule, it is provided that each State shall retain the benefit, which it now derives from its geographical position. That means that Western Australia will retain an advantage, estimated at¾d. a bushel, or about £115,000 per annum on a normal year’s crop.
– What is meant by “geographical advantage”; does it refer to climatic conditions?
– Western Australia, being so much nearer to the markets in Europe, gains an advantage over the other States, estimated at¾d. a bushel. Moreover, the majority of the wheat farms of Western Australia are closer to the ports of shipment than are the farms in the eastern States. Under the equalization scheme, Western Australia would put into the fund £250,000, and draw out of it £740,000 - an advantage of £490,000 to that State. If we add retention of the advantage of £115,000 based on Western Australia’s geographical position, the total advantage to that State under the equalization scheme amounts to £605,000 per annum.
– That provision is inserted in the bill in order to take that advantage from Western Australia.
– The honorable senator entirely misrepresents the position. That advantage is retained by Western Australia under the bill. It will be taken into account by the State Wheat Boardbefore payment is made to the federal pool.
– It is to be taken from, not given to, Western Australia.
– That is not so. If there is any doubt as to the meaning of the clause, I hope that it will be cleared up when the bill reaches the committee stage. I am not a lawyer, but if I understand the King’s English the clause makes it clear that Western Australia will retain the advantage of its geographical position. On the 24th July, the Hon. W. C. Hill, one of the trustees of the Victorian Wheat Pool, spoke on this subject in another place. I desire to give his views to the Senate-
– The honorable senator may not quote from a debate of this session in another place.
– If I am not permitted to quote from Hansard of this session, I trust that I shall be permitted to quote remarks made to me by Mr. Hill, in a conversation that I had with him on the subject. Mr. Hill, referring to the return which he prepared, and which I have obtained leave to incorporate in Hansard, told me that his statement showed that Western Australia would pay into the pool £490,000 less than that State’ would draw from the pool. In addition, Western Australia would retain a further £115,000 by reasonof that State’s better geographical position. At the same time, the Commonwealth Government in this measure has shown a proper and generous recognition of the fact that a large number of persons in Melbourne and Adelaide are employed in factories making goods which are sold in Western Australia. Consequently, it proposes to allow us to obtain a fair share of the extra money received for wheat consumed in Australia, and to retain our existing advantage because of our geographical position.
– That benefit is being derived now. No new benefit is being conferred in the bill.
– Well, the Government has recognized the position, and is not taking anything away from us.
– Mr. Hill would give us only 50 per cent. of the advantage we enjoy.
– That is not in the bill.
– It was mentioned in the preliminary conversations.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON.Yes; but the proposal was rejected. There is nothing about it in this measure. It is evident that Western Australia would take from the pool £20,000 more than either New South Wales or Victoria, although she would put into it £650,000 less than Victoria, and £1,150,000 less than New South Wales. Mr. Hill said that if such a proposal was equitable, he did not know the meaning of words. He continued -
I am willing to go a long way to try to induce Western Australia to come into the pool, but I would be a traitor to the farmers of Victoria if I did not place the facts of the position plainly before them before they are asked to cast their votes under this measure.
It appears to me that this bill does give the farmers of Western Australia, who bear so heavy a burden under the tariff, a chance to get a little of their own back in connexion with that portion of the wheat which is consumed in Australia. This bill will give the wheat-farmer an extra 6d. per bushel on his total production. For that reason, and because I am unable to wring any other concession from this reluctant Government, which cannot be induced to pay the 3s. a bushel guarantee, I support this measure as the only means available of providing some financial relief to the farmers in their present desperate plight. I hope the Senate will approve of it.
– Having occupied several pages of Hansard on a previous occasion in stating my general principles regarding compulsory pooling, I propose to be brief this afternoon. I should like to re-capitulate the history of the failure of the present Government to grapple with the problem confronting the wheatfarmers of Australia. Mr. Gibbons who, I understand, is regarded as the saviour of the wheat-farmers, and the prospective president of the Commonwealth wheat pool, promised the wheat-farmers of Calare6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, and, on the strength of that, induced them to vote him into Parliament. The Prime Minister urged the farmers to grow more wheat, and shortly afterwards, a bill was introduced into this Parliament very similar to the one now before us. So similar are the two measures, indeed, that I doubted whether the present bill was really in order. This measure differs from its predecessors in one important particular: it does not guarantee the farmers 4s. a bushel for their wheat. As a matter of fact, it does not guarantee them anything. It is not clear from this bill what benefits the farmers are to derive, except the very dubious one of a compulsory pool. The first wheat bill was defeated in the Senate, but its very introduction cost the farmers and the nation millions of pounds. There was a pause in the selling of wheat pending the unfulfilled promise of the Scullin Government. Farmers hesitated to sell their wheat, and while they hesitated, there was a fall in price, and the farmers lost, millions. Then another bill was introduced guaranteeing the farmers 3s. a bushel. I gave that bill my blessing, because, clumsy as the proposal was, I feltthat we should spare no effort to do something for the assistance of the farmers. After the bill had been passed, it was found that there were legal and financial difficulties in the way of putting the scheme into operation. A movement was then inaugurated to float a company for the purpose of providing financial relief for the farmers. In New South Wales a company was actually incorporated for this purpose, and the necessary forms were got out. Capital was available in that State, and also in Victoria. Meetings were held, and the whole scheme was going forward nicely when the Government hurled its bombshell of a fiduciary currency proposal. Under the company proposal, assistance was to be afforded to those farmers who had failed to raise any wheat. They were to receive assistance which would enable them to live and produce a crop next year, but the fiduciary notes proposal ruined everything. Later, at the Premiers Conference, a fourth proposal was put forward to the effect that a loan should be raised, partly for the assistance of necessitous farmers, and partly to pay a bounty of 6d. a bushel on wheat. Now, at the end of this long history of failure, of utter ineptitude on the part of the Government, it has brought this bill forward in the final hours of this sitting of Parliament, so that it may broadcast to the farmers of Australia, and particularly to the electors of Hume, that it really intends to do something for the wheatfarmers. This whole proposal is merely a political gesture. There is no sincerity behind it. If the Government had attended properly to its business in the first place, outside assistance would have been available to the farmers, and there would have been no need for a measure such as this.
What relief is it proposed to grant the farmers? Under this scheme, the price of wheat for local consumption is to be raised. That is the bait held out to the farmers, and that is the only assistance they are offered. But what of the thousands of farmers in the dry areas of Western Australia, of which Senator Lynch has spoken; of the farmers in the Mallee, in Victoria and South Australia? What is to become of them? Their position will be utterly hopeless, because they will get nothing at all out of the increased price for wheat. That is not the way in which to handle this problem. As a matter of fact, many farmers in South Australia will have to be repatriated from their homes. This pooling scheme is only so much political window-dressing by the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney). It is proposed to coerce those farmers who desire their freedom, and subject them to the will of a bare majority of farmers in three States. I do not think for a moment that the farmers will have anything to do with the proposal. They intimated very definitely in New South Wales what they thought of it. Notwithstanding the fact that the Minister and his supporters explained to the farmers of New South Wales that the Lang Government would have nothing to do with the pool, but that it would be under Commonwealth control, they turned the scheme down by an overwhelming majority.
– That was because of the propaganda indulged in by the opponents of the pool.
– Most of the propaganda of which I have heard up to date has been in the interests of those who are concerned with the establishment of a pool. Senator O’Halloran quoted resolutions which he said had been carried at meetings of farmers in various parts of South Australia. Two of the places he mentioned were Manoora and Kybunga. I also have received a circular from Manoora, and the name of the farmer appended to that document has under it the initials of the gentleman who has been spending the money of those who belong to the voluntary pool on propaganda in the interests of a compulsory pool. These resolutions do not come from farmers; the whole thing is stage-managed. It is the same with the sheaves of telegrams which honorable senators receive, allegedly setting out the opinion of farmers in various parts of the country. I’ know the farmers of Manoora, and I know that they are not in favour of a compulsory pool. I am only afraid that the present unhappy state of the farmers may be taken advantage of to prevail upon them to agree to something which will prove their utter undoing. The farmers, as I know them, are strong individualists, who know how to look after their own affairs, and who have no desire for a compulsory pool. The administration of compulsory pools has, in the past, been characterized by corruption and ineptitude.
– The honorable senator speaks very much like a Bourkestreet farmer.
– The honorable senator who has interjected could not farm anything but a political scheme, and that is what this proposal is. The only benefit which the farmers can possibly derive from this scheme is the higher price which will be obtained for wheat consumed locally. While listening to Senator O’Halloran just now,I could not help thinking that he must have been the originator of the Gibbons plan. He convinced me that he was preaching the doctrines upon which the proposed fiduciary issue was based. He said that a sales tax on flour, as proposed by Professor Perkins, would be passed on to the consumers, and in that way the’ money for the financing of the plan would be provided. In what other way could it be provided? This blessed word “ stabilization “ is all moonshine. If the farmer is to get an extra 6d. a bushel for his wheat, he must get it from the consumers, and those who live in industrial centres will, unless theyhave been mes- merized by the extravagant language of the supporters of this bill, realize that there is no distinction, in effect, between what the Government is proposing and what would happen under the Perkins plan. A certain amount of money must be obtained somewhere, and it cannot be drawn out of the air as Senator O’Halloran, apparently, would have us believe.
What was the history of compulsory pooling during the war time? The losses were approximately £6,000,000, and of that sum the farmers were definitely robbed. The crowning act of folly was in 1919 when, owing to the pressure exerted by the growers’ representatives on the Australian Wheat Board, the Prime Minister of the day sold 56,000,000 bushels to the British Government at 5s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. Within a month after the sale was completed wheat was worth 8s. a bushel f.o.b. The Australian growers thus suffered a loss of £7,000,000, of which £1,750,000 was lost by the farmers of South Australia. The growers’ representatives on the Wheat Board, believing that they knew everything that was to be known about the markets of the world, insisted that the Prime Minister should sell, even at 5s. That is the sort of business management we shall get under the scheme proposed in this bill.
SenatorR. D. Elliott. - Is not the honorable senator criticizing governmental control as distinct from pool control?
– In the last analysis the proposed compulsory pool will be controlled by the Commonwealth Bank. The crux of this measure is finance. If a pool were constituted tomorrow, and all the private buyers were driven out of the market, what would be the fate of the farmers? There is no doubt that the great wheat-buying firms, including John Darling and Sons, Bunge, Dreyfus and Company, Dalgety and Company
– They are just as dependent on the banks as the pool would be.
– Think of the amount of money they bring into Australia and their ability to arrange exchange overseas. To-day the Commonwealth Bank cannot provide money for advances against government securities. How then is it to find the necessary capital to finance the wheat pool?
– Where did it find the money this year?
– It had great assistance. All the private buyers, with millions of pounds at their disposal in Australia and overseas, were in the market. At this time when the Commonwealth Bank is at its wit’s end to find cash for the requirements of governments, is it to be burdened with an additional liability of £15,000,000 to finance a compulsory wheat pool? Obviously, if the bank is required to find more money for the needs of government, wheat will have to go forward in order that credits may be established. The bank will have to market as the pecuniary necessities of the country dictate. How can such marketing be termed orderly? The private merchants have invested in. the business millions of pounds, and have at their disposal overseas enormous resources. Are we to eliminate them for the sake of a fantastic scheme that has failed in Australia, and in every other country in which it has been tried ? Orderly marketing connotes the raising of prices to the consumer. Failure has attended the efforts of the Canadian wheat pools, the Federal Farm Board in the United States of America, and the conferences inRome and in London; yet when the socialistic doctrines upon which these schemes of control are based are falling about our ears like a pack of cards, and the world is realizing that the benefits of compulsory pooling are illusory, the Government, in its desire to fulfil the promises made by the Prime Minister when he asked the wheat-growers to produce more, asks us to adopt an expedient that has not been able to survive the test of practical experience. On this aspect I quote from that excellent paper by Professor Shann, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred this morning -
A conference of wheat exporting countries only was, therefore, gathered at Canada House, in London, late in May. But even among exporting countries there was found such a divergence of interests that no agreement was possible. The delegation from the United States of America announced that it had no power to subscribe to any scheme of market control without special legislation. What did that mean? Congress has not much heart for more farm relief, to benefit this time all the world’s farmers. The Canada House conference did arrive at one decision. It decided to set up a committee, of one representative of each participating country, to organize a clearing house of information to serve the wheat exporting countries, thereby assisting orderly distribution of wheat in world markets. There are already two remarkably efficient organizations for the collection of wheat statistics. There is at Rom( the heavily-endowed International Institute of Agriculture. Also the “ Liverpool Wheat Futures Market” has an access to information on crop conditions, world needs and world supplies, which recently wrung from even a Canadian royal commission unstinted praise. What then are ive to make of the May conference, when it talks of a third statistical bureau? Merely this, that the advocates of international organization had to save their faces somehow and could find nothing less futile. The American delegate, S. R. McKelvie just before sailing to Europe, has shown up the Farm Board’s disillusionment about marketing from on high, inspired by statistics. “ With all the figures before me “, he said, “ I would have lost my shirt if I had speculated in the grain market any time during the past year “. Well, mass marketing, if it means holding back supplies, is mass speculation by non-liable persons at the liability of the farmer’s last shirt.
If we eliminate the private speculator and embark on a mass gamble we have to take into consideration possible re-actions such as have already followed some of the -tariff proposals of this Parliament. There will be massed against us the buyers on the other side of the world.
– That is the point.
– It is a very important consideration. The overseas market price of wheat cannot be fixed in Australia. It is governed by the supplies of the world. Statistical bureaus and other organizations supply reliable advice regarding the supplies of wheat in existence in all parts of the globe. We may hoard our wheat in enormous silos, and withhold it from the market, but the existence of such stocks will be known to speculators and they will influence world prices.
– The wheat muSt be sold some time.
– Tha t is so, and the fact that it exists influences the world’s market. If we eliminate the private buyers the last condition of the farmers will be worse than’ it is now. I have stated my objection to the principles of compulsory pooling. Provided we have the necessary organizations to implement the Perkins plan it matters not whether the pool is voluntary or compulsory. By these compulsory provisions the Government will involve the farmers in a protracted lawsuit. As a lawyer I would welcome such a windfall, but my duty as a public man, who has always been associated with primary producers, compels me to sound a note of warning. Although so-called orderly marketing has failed all over the world, it is now offered to the farmers as a panacea for their ills. It will help no farmer.
I cannot imagine that this bill will be accepted, but if the second reading should be agreed to, are the wheat exporting States to be leg-roped by Tasmania and Queensland, which grow barely enough wheat for their own requirements? The measure should at least be amended to provide that the compulsory pool shall not operate without the consent of three of the wheat exporting States. What interest has Queensland in this proposal? I imagine that the farmers of Queensland will have little sympathy with it, when they have examined the delightful equalization plan, which I am unable to understand, and which probably not even the draftsman understands. The Senate rejected the last Wheat Marketing Bill, which was accompanied by a guarantee of 4s. a bushel - something which the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) described as real and tangible. If we are consistent we shall give equally short shrift to this proposal for the introduction of a system that is condemned by a record of world-wide failure. The bill ought to be ignominiously rejected. The farmer will receive no benefit from it. If I am to be consistent with the principles of a lifetime, I must vote against this measure, although I admit that it is gaining a good deal of support, because it is a stepping stone to the sovietization of the wheat industry with the attendant evils of that system.
– Although I have had no direct association with the wheat-growing industry, I was for many years associated with another great primary industry, and took a great deal of interest in it. I refer to the dairying industry. I recollect vividly delivering milk to a proprietary factory in Victoria and receiving 1¾d. a gallon for it. I had to get up at 3 o’clock on cold mornings to milk cows, and then to sit shivering on top of the cart until the milk was delivered. Therefore, I have a very good idea of the conditions of the dairying industry in the days when it was a purely proprietary-governed concern. The dairy-farmers of Australia gradually adopted the co-operative system in the handling of their product. It was a slow process and an uphill fight. It was not accomplished in one, two or ten years. It took something like 30 years to bring the industry under the dominant control of co-operative enterprise. It is surely a monument to the persistence and initiative of the dairy-farmers of Australia that their industry is now practically controlled by co-operative factories and selling organizations. It is because they gradually strengthened the co-operative movement that they were eventually able to make the few proprietary . people left in the enterprise accept what is known as the Paterson plan. I admit that there is a difference between wheat-growing and dairying. There is this great difference between them, ‘that the dairying industry produces its product for twelve months of the year; it is all the time producing and selling. The great difficulty of the wheat industry is that it is seasonal, practically the whole of the harvest being garnered in two or three months from one end of Australia to the other, and all that wheat is available for sale at the same time.
– That is no reason why all of it should be sold at the same time.
– None whatever, and that is one of the aspects to which I intended to refer. There is a difference between the two industries, and in fairness to the wheat-growers, I point that out; but at the same time I am, and always have been satisfied, that the correct method for the primary producers of Australia to obtain control of their products is by building up the co-operative enterprise of this country. That can only be done gradually. It cannot be done in five minutes. All that we can secure to the farmer by any method that we adopt is the ultimate price that the market will yield. We can get no more. All that the fanner can accomplish by co-opera tive enterprise is to cut out the profit that the other fellow makes out of the product. All the benefit that the producer can obtain for himself by co-operative enterprise is a reduction in the actual cost of handling the product from the farm to the market. All these schemes of orderly marketing cannot give the producer more for his product. In very many instances, as has been proved by experience, he does not get what he should. Because of the lack of experience those handling the pools have frequently done most foolish things, and the result has been a world-wide depreciation of the market. What is the Australian wheat market suffering from to-day more than anything else? It is the grave mistakes that have been made by the pools of Canada and the United States of America. We have certain products and a certain market for them, and we have to sell at the market price in order to get rid of our products. What depresses the price of a product like wheat more than anything else is the knowledge that there exists a huge unsold balance. It is that factor which is doing more than anything else at present to depress the market. That is borne out by the fact that to-day’s London cables quote wheat at 18s. a quarter. That low price has been brought about mainly because of the failure of the pools in Canada and the United States of America. All that we can accomplish by the methods suggested in this bill is to obtain the ruling price for wheat. We cannot get more than that. We cannot make a market for wheat by establishing a pool. If we try to withhold from the market large quantities of wheat we cannot hide that fact from the world, and as a result the market will be depressed more than it would have been had the wheat been placed on the market.
– That happened in Canada.
– Was the Canadian pool a nation-wide pool, or a provincial pool?
– It matters not whether it was a national, local, voluntary, or compulsory pool. If there is a huge quantity of wheat withheld from the market the world knows of it, and the market must become further depressed. We should probably have a better market for our wheat to-day had the Canadian and American wheat been thrown on. the market from time to time.
The wheat-farmers of Australia have done something to build up the cooperative system in this country, and they can do more. It is, of course, a gradual growth, because considerable capital is required before wheat can be handled satisfactorily. The real reason why the Canadian and American pools broke down - and I venture to say that this pool, if established, will for the same reason break down sooner or later - is that there was lack of finance. The people who really control these pools, although nominally they may have nothing to do with them, are those who find the money. The time comes when they say to the pools, “You must not hold wheat any longer; you must place it on the market.” The pools must carry out those instructions. They are not the masters of their own house, and they will not be until they have sufficient money of their own to finance their operations. This bill has been introduced by the Government, because the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) is, speaking in ordinary street parlance, “in a devil of a hole “. He has been responsible for a number of schemes.
– That well describes his proposals.
– They are attractive looking, but they are nothing more than placards. With respect to the legislation under which 4s. a bushel was to be guaranteed to the farmers, and which this Senate failed to pass, it was eventually demonstrated in this chamber by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank, that the Government had made no arrangement to finance that guarantee. This Senate gave the Government permission, under a subsequent measure, to pay the wheat-farmers 3s. a bushel, but once again it was found that the Minister had not the slightest intention of giving effect to that legislation, because he knew that the scheme could not be financed. Mr. Parker Moloney has discovered that the farmers are becoming wise. He now comes along, after making certain loan proposals which were badly digested before they were placed before the public at all events, with this pre cious scheme. Let us examine it and ascertain what it really means. He has seen, of course, the benefit of the Paterson scheme to the dairying industry. The public has accepted that scheme, certainly with the best of goodwill to the dairy-farmers.
– That scheme is costing the public several million pounds.
– That is so, but it must be remembered that the dairyfarmer works 365 days in the year, and averages fourteen hours of labour a day. Therefore; no one can say he is getting too much for his labour. Those conditions have been largely responsible for the kindly attitude which the public has adopted towards the dairy-farmers.
This scheme is designed to enable a pool to be established, legislation to be passed, and prohibitions enacted which will enable that pool to charge a higher price for wheat for local consumption than for wheat for export. We should never have seen this legislation had it not been for the desire of the Government that the wheat farmers should have an opportunity, through this bill, to compel the public to pay a higher price for wheat used for local consumption than that paid for wheat exported. That is the kernel of the whole measure. The result will be that the public will have to pay more for its bread than would be the case if the pool were not in existence. Stripped of all pretence, that is all that the bill does; and it does it in a way that is exceedingly dangerous to the farmers. The wheatfarmers of Australia are asked to run all the risks associated with such a pool, and they are many. This socialistic Government seeks to place the heads of the wheatgrowers under one axe, so that at any time it pleases it may use the existence of the pool for the furtherance of its own doctrines. I am reminded of the historic desire expressed by an autocrat of old, who wished that all his enemies had but one neck. I notice that Senator Kneebone looks hard at me, which recalls to my mind one of his utterances. The honorable senator said, “ The object of all measures of the Labour party is to lead up to the socialization of industry.” This is one of the measures designed to bring a little nearer the realization of the dream of socialization entertained by Senator
Kneebone and his colleagues. In future the wheat-farmers are to produce for use and not for profit. That is the doctrine of honorable senators opposite, and of the Soviet.
To enable higher than the existing prices to be charged for wheat used for local consumption, and consequently for flour, and bread, the Government is asking the farmers to accept this advance towards socialism; to put their heads on a single neck and take all the risks of the scheme so that they may obtain a little benefit. The Government limits the benefit but not the risk. A little while ago the Senate affirmed that the wheatfarmers of Australia are entitled to 3s. a bushel for their wheat, and the machinery exists to give them that price. I do not wish to weary the Senate any longer, and move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “ the Senate is of opinion -
That as the bill provides, with the ostensible intention of helping wheatfarmers,
for wheat pools;
for local prices for wheat for local consumption it would necessarily raise the price of wheat for local consumption.
That as this result can be obtained more expeditiously, and with greater certainty by a tax on wheat and flour used for local consumption, thus providing a more certain means for assisting the wheat-farmers of Australia, the Senate requests that the bill be temporarily withdrawn with a view to its re-introduction in a form giving effect to the above proposal.”
If the Senate agrees to my amendment it will have declared once more that it believes that the farmers of Australia are entitled to this assistance. It will also have declared emphatically that it is not going to give such assistance through the medium of this socialistic scheme, which is simply a step in the direction of the complete socialization of industry, but that it prefers a straight-out tax on wheat and flour, which would have exactly the same effect in assisting the farmers, without involving them in the risks associated with the Government’s plan.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Greene’s amendment) be left out - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question proposed -
That the words proposed to be inserted, be so inserted.
– I feel myself in a somewhat awkward position, in view of the vote that has just been recorded. I have prepared a speech in support of the bill. I have been consistent in my attitude of endeavouring, irrespective of party, to do something to assist the wheat-growers of Australia. When the Government introduced a bill to guarantee to the wheat-growers 4s. a bushel, I voted for it, contrary to the wishes of many of my political supporters. I did so because I considered that it was the duty of any public man to see to the stability of the man on the land - the man who is the backbone of our national existence. I now realize that the Government did not make adequate provision for the financing of that scheme. Last December another bill was introduced to guarantee to the wheat-growers 3s. a bushel f.o.b. for f.a.q. wheat, equal to from 2s. 3d. to 2s. 6d. a bushel at railway sidings. I also voted for that bill, which was passed by both Houses of this Parliament. Effect has not been given to that act. The bill before us has its faults; but it is better than nothing.
– The honorable senator must speak to the amendment, which is that certain words be inserted.
– Does the amendment nullify the bill?
– Then am I not in order in speaking in support of the bill?
– It is not usual for an honorable senator to speak on an amendment to insert certain words in lieu of other words which have just been omitted. The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the whole bill at this stage.
– It seems to me. that I am more or less hamstrung in my efforts to explain my position, and in my determination to help the wheat-growers of this country somehow.
– The words, that “ the bill be now read a second time “ having been struck out, the motion now is that certain words be inserted in their place.
– I support the amendment.
– I rise to a point of order. As I introduced -the bill and opposed its withdrawal, I should like to know whether it can be withdrawn by the method proposed?
– If the amendment is agreed to the measure will go hack to the House of Representatives with a message asking the Government to withdraw it in order that another may be introduced in its place. The bill having been introduced in another place, it should be withdrawn there, unless, of course, a motion be made for its restoration to the Senate notice-paper.
– I desire to speak in support of the amendment, because 1 am anxious to assist the Australian wheat-growers, who are in a serious position. It appears to me that the way proposed in the amendment is the proper way to raise funds to assist the wheatgrowers. I am glad that the amendment takes precedence over the bill in” its original form, because in that form it contained provisions of which I did not approve. Had there been an equalization scheme, Victoria would have suffered at the expense of “Western Australia.
– The same thing will apply to the tax.
– Under the equalization scheme, Victoria was to pay in £900,000 and take out £720,000; that State would have been a loser to the extent of £180,000. I have always said that I prefer a sales tax on flour.
– The honorable senator says that he objects to the equalization scheme.
– The amendment provides a more direct way of helping the farmers:
– That is my opinion. A good deal ha3 been said in condemnation of pools. During the debate it has been pointed out that recently the farmers of New South* Wales voted against a pool. That vote gives no true indication of their views concerning pools generally. They voted against that scheme because they were afraid of the Lang Government.
– The honorable senator is straying from the amendment.
– Senator Greene and others pointed out that any increase in the price of wheat, or any tax on flour, would result in The consumers of those commodities being penalized through an increase in the price of bread. With that view I entirely disagree. Experience shows that the contrary has been the case. When wheat was 7s. 6d. a bushel, bread was lid. a 4-lb. loaf. In New Zealand the wheat-growers obtained 6s. 2d. a bushel for wheat at country railway stations, bags extra, which was equal to 6s. 6d. a bushel delivered at seaports, yet bread was only lid. a 4-lb. loaf. In some towns in Victoria to-day, despite the appallingly low price of wheat, bread is sold at from lid. to ls. a 4-lb. loaf. Within the last month, in the town in which I live, my son paid lid. a 4-lb. loaf for bread, while I bought it in another shop for 7d. In Sydney recently a contract was let for the supply of bread at 3d. a loaf. In some of the suburbs of Melbourne bread has been sold recently for 3-Jd. a loaf. Senator Greene condemned the Government’s proposal on the ground that it would mean that a higher price would be paid for wheat in Australia than would be obtained for the wheat we exported. That honorable senator is most inconsistent, because he favours the Paterson butter scheme.
– Does not the honorable senator consider that the amendment was moved with the object of killing the bill?
– I hope not. I hope that the bill is not yet dead. I agree with Senator Greene that the Paterson butter scheme has conferred an enormous benefit on the dairying industry ; but under it the local consumer of butter pays more than is paid for our butter in England. The same is true of the sugar we grow. The wheat-growers of Australia are, indeed, in a serious plight. In addition to working long hours, they are suffering tremendous disabilities by reason of. high tariffs and embargoes on the things that they require. The present Government is not alone to blame; all governments have placed burdens on the wheat-farmersLast year the farmers of Australia were exhorted to grow more wheat. They responded so nobly to that call that last year’s harvest was a record.
– I must ask the honorable senator to discuss the amendment. It is not right for the honorable senator on this amendment to attempt to make a second-reading speech, most of which is irrelevant to the question before the Chair.
– I am most desirous, Mr. President, of getting my speech in.
– The honorable senator should have availed himself of the opportunity to speak to the main question. It is indeed most unusual for a. speech to be made in the circumstances in which the honorable senator is endeavouring to speak. It is only with the object of moving an amendment to the words proposed to be inserted that a speech is ever made in such circum-
St HI] CCS
– I shall endeavour to speak to the amendment. I voted for the omission of the words proposed to be left out on the assumption that I was doing the best thing to ensure that assistance should be rendered quickly to the wheat-farmers. The amendment is not available to us, and I have been caught.
– The honorable senator may obtain a copy of the amendment. These things are done in open Senate, and he has no right to say that he was caught. Every honorable senator is supposed to be in his place, and to know what is going on.
– I was taken by surprise. I agree with the amendment, and I wish to stress the need for helping the farmers at this time. They are the backbone of the country. The primary producers arc responsible for the creation of 98 per cent, of our exportable wealth, and 75 per cent, of our total wealth, This amendment is to the effect that the bill be withdrawn with a view to its reintroduction in a form which will impose a sales tax on flour. That would be better than a pool under the conditions proposed in this measure, whereby the wheat-growers in exporting States could be out-voted by those in non-exporting States, and even whereby the growers in States which produce only a very little wheat might impose their will upon the big wheat-producing States. It is not true to say that all pools have been failures. Senator Greene said that the Canadian wheat pool had been a failure.
– There is nothing in this amendment about the creation of pools, or whether or not they have been failures. If the honorable senator wishes to criticize the wording of the amendment he will be in order; otherwise he will not.
– The honorable senator who moved the amendment condemned wheat pools, but they have not all been failures. The Canadian pool, which has been so much blamed, was for two years undoubtedly responsible for enabling the wheat-growers of Australia to obtain a higher price than they would otherwise have obtained.
– Does the honorable senator desire to move an amendment to the one now before the Chair?
– Yes. I intend to move -
That the amendment he amended by inserting before the word “ rc-introduction “ the word “ immediate.”
This would have the effect of requiring that the bill be immediately re-introduced.
– The honorable senator, if he proposes to continue his speech, must confine himself to the effect of inserting the word “ immediate “.
– I desire to stress the necessity of giving immediate relief to the long suffering wheat-farmers by almost any means. These men have been carrying a heavy burden, and have been doing so for years. They have been severely penalized by various forms of legislation, and by a fall in prices. If my proposal has the effect of granting them immediate alleviation, I consider it worth while. In my opinion the insertion of the word “ immediate “ makes a vital difference to the amendment. Without its presence the amendment could be used as a means of indefinitely postponing the bill, and of killing the whole scheme.
– There was no other intention behind it.
– I do not desire the bill to be killed. I want to save it. It may have been dealt a severe blow; it may have been hit behind the ear with a sledge hammer, but it is still breathing, and can be revived. It is wrong, as I have pointed out, to say that wheat pools have been a failure. Honorable senators who have objected to this proposal have said that it is of no use building up stocks of commodities, but what happened in the case of Bawra? That constituted one of the greatest triumphs for organized marketing, and was an example of successful pooling.
– Has this anything to do with the imminent necessity for re-introducing the bill?
– I do not think so.
– I was endeavouring to prove that if the bill were immediately reintroduced, and the scheme gone on with, it would be possible to prove that the assertions of Senator Greene and Senator Lynch were wrong. Bawra handled 7,000,000 bales of wool, and successfully marketed the surplus over requirements for naval and military purposes despite the fact that very many predicted failure, and advised it to dump the wool in the sea. It was said that its presence constituted a menace.
– The honorable senator must cease discussing Bawra.
– Surely, without mentioning the word “ Bawra “, it would be in order, while supporting my argument for the immediate introduction of the bill, to say that, although it was contended that that organization would be of little value it ultimately succeeded in selling accumulated stocks of wool at an average price of 22½d. per lb.
– The honorable senator is not in order.
– As to the stabilization of prices by imposing a tax on flour for local consumption, surely I shall be in order in reading what has been done in other countries in that regard.
– No, not at this stage.
– One is handicapped at every turn. Surely I am in order in emphasizing the necessity for the immediate reintroduction of this bill so that we need not continue the sham that we are out to help the wheat-farmers. It is just about time we did something.
SenatorFoll. - I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator referred to the Senate as having been shamming on some previous occasion. I object to that statement, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– It is a most unusual and unpleasant term.
– I said that there had been a good deal of shamming regarding the proposals of Parliament to assist the wheat-farmers.
– The word having been objected to, I ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– I bow to your ruling, and withdraw the word “ shame I should like to substitute the word “ hypocrisy “.
– That is worse.
– It has not been objected to.
– I object to the word “ hypocrisy “.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I formally move -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the words “ its “ the word “ immediate “.
– I second the amendment.
– I ask you, Mr. President, what will he the effect of the amendment on the fate of the bill?
– The bill will be laid aside unless the Government chooses to adopt the suggestion contained in the amendment.
– If the amendment is rejected, how will the bill stand ?
– It will be “in the air “, because the word “That “ will be left ‘without any following context.
– If I, representing the Government, refuse to accept the amendment, what will happen?
The PRESIIDENT- The bill will be laid aside.
– Will not the carrying of the amendment hare the effect of defeating the bill?
– The only definite method of defeating the bill at this stage, other than by negativing the motion for the second reading, is by striking out the word “ now “ and adding “ this day six months “. If the amendment now before the House is agreed to the bill can be restored to the business-paper by motion, upon notice.
– The proposed amendment affects a large number of wheat-growers, and the insertion of the word “ immediate “ is particularly necessary. I suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council that if the amendment be carried all the Government has to do is to regard the bill as withdrawn or laid aside, and forthwith recast it in accordance with the wishes of the Senate. Judging by the celerity with which the Government has promulgated regulation after regulation to the number of nine, following disallowance by this chamber, it will not lack the resource to re-draft this measure speedily, and give the Senate a chance to consider it in its amended form. The wheat-growers have been hoping almost against hope. . .1 the last two years, and particularly the last twelve months, their eyes have been turned towards this Parliament. When bill after bill affecting their industry has been carried to a certain stage and then abandoned, and when finally one was agreed to but yielded nothing, the 60,000 growers in Australia may well wonder what Parliament is for and what is the worth of an act of Parliament. Through not getting the benefit of the bill which was actually agreed to by this Parliament, they have been left in the lurch. To my personal knowledge many men in Western Australia, fortified by the knowledge that the Wheat Advances Act had been placed upon the statute, made contract after contract in the expectation of receiving a bounty of 6d. a bushel. Those contracts have had to be broken. It is seasonable time for the Government seriously to consider whether it can continue to break promises to an important, worthy and much-neglected section of the people, and still preserve its reputation. The Senate, too, must take its share of the blame. It has a definite responsibility in this matter, and I am very pleased that within the last few hours it has taken action, to vindicate the honour of Parliament and to give to the wheat-farmers the bounty which was definitely promised to them. The word “ immediate “, which Senator Guthrie hat proposed to insert, exactly fits the situation. The 60,000 wheat-growers do not want any form of socialism; they ask only for the bounty that this Parliament, by statute, undertook to pay to them, and not to be fooled any longer. I have pleasure in seconding the amendment.
– I rise to a point of order. The Standing Orders provide that upon the motion for the second reading -
Amendments may be moved to such question, by leaving out “ now “ and adding “ this day six months” which, if carried, shall finally dispose of the bill; or by referring the bill to a select committee; or the previous question may be moved.
No other amendment may be moved to such question except in the form of a resolution strictly relevant to the bill.
I submit with great respect to you, sir, that our procedure has been out of order, and that we should retrace our steps.
– The honorable senator is not quite correct. Senator Lynch circulated an amendment which waa ruled out of order. Another amendment, by Senator Greene, which was
Strictly relevant to the bill, was resolved in the affirmative. Therefore, the motion for the second reading of the bill has been superseded. Precedents for the procedure adopted to-day are not wanting. I quote from the Senate Jonrnals, for the 16th September, 1920-
Northern Territory Representation Bill. - Order of the day read for the adjourned debate on the question, That the bill be now read a second time, and on the amendment moved thereto by Senator Duncan.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Senate divided - Ayes, 17; Noes, 0.
And so it was resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Senate divided - Ayes, 17; Noes, C.
And so it was resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Senate is of the opinion that residents of the Northern Territory who would under ordinary circumstances be entitled to a vote under the Commonwealth Electoral Laws, should for that purpose be attached to the State of South Australia and accorded the right to vote at the election for senators for that State, thus being granted representation in the Commonwealth Parliament - put and passed.
So the Northern Territory Representation Bill disappeared’ from the noticepaper. That is only one of many precedents for the amendment of the motion for the second reading of a bill. On this subject May, 13th edition, page 392, says -
The effect of such an amendment is merely to supersede the question for now reading the bill a second time; and the bill is left in the same position as if the question for now reading the bill a second time had been simply negatived or superseded by the previous question.
The previous question is, “ that the question be not now put.” The point of order raised by the Leader “of the Senate (Senator Barnes), although it is not irregular, should not have been taken at this stage. The bill can be restored to its place on the notice-paper only by giving notice of that intention.
– May I move an amendment to the amendment at this stage?
– What is the amendment ?
– I wish to move that all the words after the word “ consumption “, first appearing in the amendment be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “the bill be now read a second time “.
– No amendment can be moved except at a stage subsequent to the consideration of the amendment now before the Senate.
– The position is that Senator Guthrie has moved to add the word “ immediate “ to the amendment moved by Senator Greene, and unless Senator Guthrie withdraws’ his amendment, no other amendment can be moved until it is disposed of.
– I object to the word “ immediate “ being inserted in the amendment moved by Senator Greene, which amendment is a deliberate attempt on his part to defeat the measure.
– Something must be done to assist the farmers.
– The farmers would have been assisted had we carried the bill. Honorable senators opposite, some unwittingly but others deliberately, have succeeded in defeating the bill.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in imputing motives to honorable senators on this side?
– I am merely repeating the admission of Senator Guthrie, who said that he had been taken by surprise when he voted just before the dinner adjournment. I submit that his attempt to insert the word “ immediate “ in the amendment is nothing but make-believe.
– I object to that interpretation being placed upon my action, and I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the statement complained of.
– I withdraw it. I am in sympathy with the honorable senator’s desire to help the farmers, who are to-day in dire distress. Had the measure been passed it would have enabled their products to be handled on proper lines. This amendment aims at the impostion of a form of taxation which has nothing to do with the marketing of wheat. If there is to be a tax on flour, it should be included in the sales tax. There is no doubt that now that the bill has- been defeated, the poor struggling farmers will obtain no relief at all. I oppose the amendment.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
.- I oppose the amendment. Had it not been for the methodical action on your part, Mr. President, in reading the amendment a second time, I should not have known its real objective; but having heard it I am convinced that if I voted for it I should be voting for the destruction of the bill. The amendment reads -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words -
The Senate is of opinion -
1 ) That as. the bill provides, with the ostensible intention of helping wheat-farmers,
for wheat pools;
for local prices for wheat for local consumption it would necessarily raise the price of wheat for local consumption.
That as this result can be obtained more expeditiously and with greater certainty by a tax on wheat and flour used for local consumption, thus providing a more certain means for assisting the wheatfarmers of Australia, the Senate requests that the bill be temporarily withdrawn with a view to its reintroduction in a form giving immediate effect to the above proposal.
If this amendment is carried the bill will be completely nullified, although its object is to give relief to the farmers by means of a compulsory pool.
– The amendment, if carried, will afford that relief much more quickly.
– The statement of the honorable senator is entirely wrong.
– The honorable senator must not make accusations.
– I am judging the honorable senator by his intelligence. I have no wish to hurt his feelings. The Government has informed us repeatedly that it will not consider a sales tax on flour in lieu of this bill. That being so, how is it possible for us to “assist the farmers by means of this amendment! The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the farmers will receive no relief if his amendment is carried.
– Cannot the Government do directly what it has tried to do very indirectly?
– That has nothing to do with the amendment. I have told the honorable senator repeatedly that the Government has stated that it will not impose a sales tax on flour, and unless we shift the Government, which does not seem likely at present, the amendment can serve no good purpose. If it is carried, how will it be possible to establish a compulsory pool? How will it be possible to levy a tax on the consumption of the wheat grown in this country, and to distribute the revenue so collected equally among the growers unless we establish a pool of some description? How will it be possible to establish an equalization scheme as between the States in conformity with the Commonwealth Constitution? It appears to me that this amendment is being moved with a view to defeating the bill. It cannot achieve the object which it ostensibly aims at, and its real purpose is to deceive the farmers of this country.
– A discussion on this amendment will have no immediate effect on the bill, although it would be relevant to the legislation which it is suggested that the Government should introduce to assist the farmers in the direction indicated. The amendment can have no executive effect whatever.
– I realize that you, Mr. President, have given me considerable latitude, and rather than make matters inconvenient for you, I shall curtail my remarks and to-morrow morning have the pleasure of moving the adjournment of the Senate with a view to having this matter debated.
– I confess that I feel great difficulty about the proposed amendment. I have not the advantage of speaking as an experienced parliamentarian, therefore, if I stray from the path I shall have to trust that your guiding hand, Mr. President, will draw me back to it.
Personally I see great difficulty in connexion with the proposed insertion of these words. They seek to have the bill temporarily withdrawn with a view to its re-introduction in a form giving effect to the first part of Senator Greene’s amendment. The bill provides for a compulsory wheat pool. The words proposed to be inserted suggest that a tax on wheat and flour should be inaugurated. That, I submit, could not possibly be regarded as an amendment of the bill which was before the Senate this afternoon. It is an entirely new proposal, and really involves the introduction of a new bill. It appears to me that we contemplate passing something which, to say the least, is nugatory.
Frankly, I regret that the Senate did not proceed with the debate on the motion, “ That the bill be now read a second time,” in order that it might have been determined whether this branch of the legislature did or did not favour the proposals embodied in the measure.
– I remind the honorable senator, at his own request, that the remarks that he is now making could more appropriately have been made before the question for the omission of all the words after “ That “, was put.
– I realize that. I adopt the view which Senator Guthrie expressed a little too impolitely, that honorable senators were “ caught “ on that amendment. We were not given time to consider what its effect would be.
– The honorable senator was offered the guiding hand .of those in charge of the bill.
– “I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts.” I question the desirability of inserting these words. The position, apparently, is that the Senate carried a resolution that all the words after “ That “ be omitted from the original motion. Now we are debating whether certain words should be inserted. It appears to me that nothing could be gained by inserting them. To “temporarily withdraw the bill and introduce a new one “ is merely a contradiction of terms, and I do not think that such an action would in any sense enhance the dignity of the Senate.
– Supposing that we were to strike out the word “ temporarily “ ?
– That overcomes part of the difficulty, kit we should then have to face the position that we were asking the Government, which, after all, by our Constitution, is in charge of the conduct of the business in this chamber, to withdraw one bill and substitute a totally different measure. I can do nothing more than express my regret that we did not vote on the motion, “ That the bill be now read a second time,” and let the Government take whatever action it cared after that vote had been recorded. 1 cannot approve of the insertion of these words. I prefer to leave the whole business in the air, with nothing in the motion except the word “ That “.
– I trust that the Senate will not agree to the inclusion of these words, which instruct the Government temporarily to withdraw the bill with a view to introducing a measure which, if it gave expression to the amendment, would completely alter the’ nature of the present bill. If honorable senators who have expressed the opinion that they voted earlier in the sitting under a misapprehension are sincere, the best means of rectifying their error and demonstrating their sympathy with the wheat-farmers of Australia is to vote against the inclusion of these words, leaving it for the Government to restore the bill to its original form. The Senate could then quickly arrive at the stage of discussion which had been reached when Senator Greene moved this amendment, and an opportunity would be given to honorable senators to indicate whether they do or do not desire to assist the Government to introduce a system of orderly marketing to dispose of Australia’s wheat under the most advantageous terms. I trust that the Senate will not accept the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted, as amended (Senator Greene’s amendment), be so inserted - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, agreed to.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by SenatorBarnes) proposed -
Thatso much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [8.45]. - I do not think that this motion should have been moved in connexion with the annual appropriation bill. The national finances are in such a position that a bill of this nature should not be rushed through hastily, but should be given full consideration. The charge frequently made against Parliament - sometimes with justification, and sometimes without justification - is that it does not give sufficient attention to questions of finance. At a time like this, when the finances of the Commonwealth and the States are in such a serious condition, such a charge should not lie against Parliament. If the Senate were to agree to this motion in connexion with the most important financial bill which will come before it this financial year, it would lay itself open to the charge of hurriedly dealing with important legislation. I see no reason why the Senate should not continue to sit until it has given to this bill the consideration which its importance warrants.
Leader of the Government is not prepared to withdraw his motion, I shall certainly vote against it. I appeal to him not to attempt to rush the bill through, but to give it that consideration which its importance warrants.
– In view of the state of our finances, I feel that we should not do anything which might in any way delay the putting into operation of the plan agreed upon by the Prime Minister and the Premiers, Treasurers and Leaders of Oppositions at the conference held recently in Melbourne. If the objection to this motion means that there will be any delay in carrying out that plan, I shall vote with the Government. I feel that we should not do anything which might in any way embarrass the Prime Minister, or any other Minister or any government in giving effect to the arrangment agreed to by the several Governments and Oppositions in Australia.
– This motion is for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Unless I can be convinced that the right honorable gentleman’s opposition to the motion will not in any way delay putting the plan into operation, it is my intention to vote with the Government.
.- I am surprised at the remarks of Senator R. D. Elliott. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) that time after time this Parliament has laid itself open to the charge of not giving reasonable consideration to the Estimates and other financial measures brought before it. If ever there was a time when the Senate should analyze carefully the financial proposals submitted by a government, that time is now. The Leader of the Opposition has only suggested that we should adopt the ordinary course in dealing with a measure of such importance. I cannot see any connexion between this Appropriation Bill and the successful carrying out of the plan agreed to at the recent Premiers Conference. Unless the Leader of the Government is prepared to withdraw his motion the Senate will be placed in the position of having to tell the Government what is its duty to the people of Australia. I do not say that in any threatening manner. The people have sent us here not to deal with legislation hurriedly, but to give it the consideration that its importance merits. The bill before us is a measure of prime importance, and it should be carefully considered.
.- Senator E. D. Elliott, in his anxiety to make a speech, spoke rather too early. I was surprised at his remarks. Every honorable senator on this side of the chamber is desirous of assisting the plan. I remind the honorable senator that some members of the party to which he belongs are to-day rejoicing that they had no part in the preparation of the plan agreed to at the recent Melbourne conference.
– The honorable senator may discuss only the necessity or otherwise of suspending the Standing Orders.
– I have no desire to transgress the Standing Orders as Senator R. D. Elliott did. During the many years that the supporters of the present Government were sitting in opposition, on every occasion when the then Leader of the Government moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders they made a strong protest. Even when the object of the motion was obviously to expedite the business of the Senate, they protested. The Standing Orders have been framed deliberately to prevent undue haste in dealing with important legislation. Earlier in the day a bill reached us from another place, the object of which was to appropriate certain moneys for additions and works. That bill has not yet been dealt with. There are three or four other measures on the notice-paper awaiting our consideration.
– One of them is part of the plan.
– That is so. It is strange that even before the bill has been circulated, the Government should endeavour to have the Standing Orders suspended in order that it might be rushed through. I agree with Senator Payne that only too frequently there is this last minute rush to deal with important legislation. On one occasion legislation involving the expenditure of many millions of pounds was passed through Parliament within a few minutes. The Senate, which is representative of the States, as such is expected to watch governmental expenditure. At no previous time in the history of Australia has it been more necessary that that duty should be conscientiously performed. I urge the Minister not to persist with his motion.
– The motion moved by the Leader of the Government is one which we have come to expect towards the close of the session preceding the Christmas vacation. That is not the position to-day, for Christmas is yet a long way off. In his zeal for the preservation of the plan agreed to at the recent conference in, Melbourne, Senator R. D. Elliott went a little too far. He urged us to hasten the consideration of the Estimates in order to give effect to that plan. If there is one cause more than another which has led up to our present unfortunate position it is the expenditure of governments, and the haphazard way in which financial measures have been dealt with in the past.
– The Estimates which we are asked to deal with in this hasty manner comprise 395 pages.
– The Senate should be given a reasonable time to consider this bill. We should satisfy ourselves that the expenditure to the extent of every shilling proposed to be spent, is warranted. The Senate stands on the same plane as the other chamber, neither higher nor lower. It is a co-equal branch of the legislature, and has substantially the same rights, even in respect to money bills, as has the other House. It is too much to ask that we should hurry our important task of reviewing the financial policy of the Government. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will withdraw his motion, and allow us the time necessary for the proper consideration of these important matters.
– I trust that honorable senators will agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders as requested by the Government. The matter now before the Senate is part and parcel of the Premiers’ plan. Honorable senators know that the Government has supply only until the end of July. The first pay day after that falls on the 6th August. It is true that the Senate has been working very hard, and that a great deal of legislation has been submitted, but, in my opinion, the Government has reason to be proud of its record. It has worked day and night in its attempts to put through the legislation necessary to carry the Premiers’ plan into effect. Every day that is lost in putting that plan into effect costs the country a great deal of money. There has already been so much discussion regarding the Premiers’ plan that honorable senators must bo quite familiar with it in its various aspects. It is necessary that the present measure be passed before 6th August. The Government is anxious to proceed with this legislation. On the 5th August next, the Loan Council meets, and there is to be a conference with the State Premiers about the 10th August; if this legislation is not disposed of with reasonable expedition, the Prime Minister will not have an opportunity of preparing his proposals for the conference. It is not a fair deal to prolong the session unduly, and thus tie the hands of the Government. Honorable senators who are opposing this motion are making a deliberate attempt-
– “We are not opposing the legislation.
– The Government wishes to go straight ahead with these measures, and have them passed by Parliament. It does not wish to be diverted by side issues. We desire to get these measures through so that the Government can deal with the conversion proposals.
– Is the Government afraid of having its expenditure criticized ?
– No; we have no desire to stifle criticism. I appeal to honorable senators to carry this motion, and let us get on with the business. I do not care if we sit over the week-end if necessary. Honorable senators will be given an opportunity to discuss every item in full.
– That is all we are asking.
– The Government does not propose to deny them that opportunity. The Government takes such a serious view of this matter that if the
Senate opposes the Government’s intention to push on with this legislation, the Senate will have to take the consequences.
– I am not a blind follower of this Government, and I agree with most of the arguments advanced by speakers on the Opposition side, particularly with the contention that financial proposals should receive proper consideration. I have known of instances in which the attempt to rush through financial proposals at the tail end of the session, after time had been wasted in the earlier part, resulted in those proposals receiving too scant consideration. I do not believe, however, that there is any danger of that kind of thing happening in the present instance. Opposition members are in a majority in the Senate, and they can at any time insist on Parliament carrying on the discussion to any extent they think fit. The mere suspension of the Standing Orders to permit of this legislation being passed through all its stages without delay will not prevent honorable senators from exercising their right to criticize any and every item in the Appropriation Bill.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [9.7]. - I was rather surprised to hear the Assistant Minister say that honorable senators should do nothing to hamper the Government in regard to the passage of this Appropriation Bill. There is no precedent for introducing an appropriation bill so early in the financial year. Everybody knows that in previous Parliaments the various financial measures have been discussed in the early part of the year, and the appropriation bill has not been brought down until near the end. This afforded members of both Houses ample opportunity to discuss financial proposals fully. If the Government’s supply will be exhausted at the end of the month, and fresh supply is needed on the 6th August, it has its remedy. It can bring down a Supply Bill for a month or two months, as required. One such bill has already been passed. Only one month of the financial year has gone, yet the Government is asking the Senate to pass an appropriation bill granting it supply for the whole year. In my opinion, the Senate is quite justified in opposing this motion.
– I suggest that the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) should accept the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in the right spirit. The speech of the Assistant Minister seemed to me to be marked with fear and suspicion, as if he suspected some sinister design behind the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. I have wondered for some time past how long the Opposition was going to continue being so generous and tolerant to the Government in the matter of the suspension of Standing Orders. Only a little while ago we had the Gold Bounty Bill sent to us from another place. The Leader of the Government immediately moved that the Standing Orders be suspended to enable him to move the second reading of the bill, and have it put through its remaining stages without delay. As a result, we had an unnecessarily prolonged discussion. It is not fair to legislators in ordinary circumstances to ask them to deal with a bill which has only just been put into their hands, without giving them an opportunity to study its contents, or to prepare amendments. If the Minister, after his explanatory speech, had put the Gold Bounty Bill on the notice-paper for consideration next day, so that honorable senators might have considered it and prepared amendments, we could have disposed of the amendment moved by Senator McLachlan in half an hour ; whereas it took us actually half a day. I have had some experience of these matters, and I know that the surest way to expedite the passage of legislation is to allow members a reasonable opportunity of considering it and of preparing amendments. 1 did not see a copy of the Gold Bounty Bill until copies were passed round after the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders had been carried. It makes for greater efficiency if honorable senators are afforded proper opportunities of exercising their deliberative qualities, and they cannot do this if they have to deal with bills which they have not been able to study.
I have not seen a copy of the bill now before the Senate. I know from the press, and from other sources, the general nature of its contents, but I am not familiar with the items. We are supposed to scrutinize the work of the departments for which supply is being asked. We are all familiar with what is known as “ the end of the session rush “, and we know that it has been responsible for many mistakes. When Parliament fails to exercise its proper deliberative functions, these errors creep in. We cannot escape responsibility when we do our work in a slipshod way. Senator Elliott said that he would not support any attempt to interfere with proposals for putting the Premiers’ plan into operation. Neither would I; nor would any of us. There is another measure on the notice-paper, the Income Tax Rates Bill, which is part and parcel of the Premiers’ plan, and though none of us like it, we are prepared to help the Government to put it through. N The Opposition can claim that it has tried to assist the Government in every possible way to effectuate the plan. We feel that we are in honour bound to see that plan into operation, and we have no desire to throw a spanner into the machinery at this stage. But let me examine the argument that the Appropriation Bill is part of the plan, and if we do not suspend the Standing Orders and “ gape, open and swallow “, without even considering the bill, we shall be interfering with the plan. There are seven partners to the Melbourne agreement - the Commonwealth and six States - and so far as I can gather from reports of parliamentary proceedings, not one State legislature has yet passed its estimates or dealt with its appropriation bill. It is not in accordance with ordinary parliamentary procedure for the Appropriation Bill to be presented in the first month of the financial year. The upper chamber does not make or unmake governments; that is the privilege of what is known as the popular House. So far as I understand parliamentary practice and tradition, agreement to the first line of the Estimates in the lower House is a general affirmation of the budget by that chamber. Then financial bills arising out of the budget are proceeded with, if necessary Supply for two or three months is granted, and towards the close of the session the Appropriation Bill to cover expenditure for the balance of the financial year is submitted to Parliament. That is the invariable practice in the State Parliament, inwhich I have had experience.
The Appropriation Bill now before us is not an integral part of the rehabilitation plan, but the other financial measures that have been submitted to us are, and I commend the Government for the promptitude with which it has executed the undertakings given at the Melbourne Conference.
– With the assistance of the Opposition.
– Yes, hut if we are fair we must give to the Government credit for the expedition with which it has submitted its financial measures to Parliament, and the fidelity and resolution with which it has forced them through another chamber in spite of the strenuous opposition of some of its friends. Delay in the passing of the Appropriation Bill will not interfere with the rehabilitation plan in any way. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to state a precedent for the presentation of the Appropriation Bill at this stage of the session except in very exceptional circumstances.
– I can do that.
– The honorable gentleman will probably remind me that last year the Appropriation Bill was passed in August. That was done solely because the Prime Minister was about to depart for London to attend the Imperial Conference.
– I think we did the same when Mr. Bruce was about to leave for an Imperial Conference.
– It is a parliamentary convention that when the Leader of the Government is engaged on an ambassadorial mission, party hostilities are suspended during his absence, and, so far as I know, that convention is generally observed in this legislature. I protest against the proposal to suspend the Standing Orders, not because the motion relates to this bill, but because, for a considerable time, I have been convinced that bills should be circulated and members afforded an opportunity to study them before being asked to agree to them. Honorable senators should not be rushed into dealing with bills and passing them willy-nilly. The Appropriation Bill, I admit, provides for certain economies which are part of the rehabilitation plan, but an affirmation of them can be given on a supply bill. If the Government so desires, it can get from both chambers, promptly, complete adherence to the measures arising out of the plan. If that be done, this Parliament will be the first, for probably a considerable time, to complete the legislation necessary to effectuate the Melbourne agreement. I hope that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) will not look for ulterior motives or sinister design, and will not jump to the conclusions stated by SenatorR. D. Elliott, but will accept the attitude of members of the Opposition as a protest on principle against undue haste in dealing with important legislation.
– The Assistant Minister stated that if the Senate persists in blocking the legislation of the Government it must take the consequences. That sounded to me very like a threat, which, I understand, is not permissible in any legislative chamber. I do not ask the honorable senator to do more than think over his remark; but so far as it is intended to convey the impression that opposition senators are concerned to thwart the legislative policy of the Government, merely because it is the Government’s policy, I, as a newcomer to this chamber, resent it. I was told privately this afternoon that the fact that the Senate, and sometimes the other chamber, has, in the closing hours of the session, passed Estimates amounting to over £50,000,000 which honorable gentlemen had little opportunity to consider, and which, indeed, they made no pretence of considering, has been the subject of very grave comment. The Appropriation Bill includes 400 pages of Estimates, and the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) has asked that the Standing Orders be suspended, apparently, in order that the bill disposing of that immense sum, which seems more immense because of the perilous times through which the country is passing, may be passed through all its stages without delay. Honorable senators have had no opportunity to consider the bill, and I venture the opinion that the attitude of the Government is dictated by a feeling which was indicated in the speech of the Assistant Minister. He apparently is looking for ulterior motives in the attitude of the Opposition. There are none. His suspicion has, no doubt, arisen from a statement published in the Canberra Times a few days ago about what the Opposition in the Senate had determined to do. That statement was inaccurate, to use no stronger term, but it has been well said that an inaccuracy - I do not know that that is the word actually used - given a start is very difficult to overtake. This misstatement got a start, and has never been overtaken in the minds of Ministers. As one who knows as much of this matter as anybody, I repeat that no such decision was arrived at by members of the Opposition in this chamber.
– The report was denied by me in the Senate.
– But apparently the newspaper paragraph engendered in the minds of Ministers a suspicion that is not easily eradicated. All we ask is that we be allowed sufficient time at this critical period in the nation’s history to consider the immense expenditure involved in the Estimates, and that attitude, we, who have a conscientious sense of the duty of the Senate as a chamber of review, cannot honestly escape. We should not be asked, at the close of a long and weary day, to swallow the whole of the Estimates without making reasonable comment upon them, or having- an opportunity to consider them in detail.
.- On many previous occasions, I have protested against the endeavours of Ministers to rush the Estimates through this chamber without affording honorable senators an opportunity to discuss them. Sometimes the Appropriation Bill has reached the Senate in the middle of an all-night sitting, and we have had no alternative but to register our protest against such cavalier treatment, and then pass the bill.
– That has happened every session.
– I admit that previous governments have been equally guilty.
– On one occasion, aD expenditure of £60,000,000 was agreed to in eleven minutes.
– Such happenings have occurred when the Appropriation Bill has come down to us in the last days of a session, and honorable senators were anxious to reach their homes before Christmas. On two occasions, to allow Mr. Bruce, and later Mr. Scullin, to attend Imperial Conferences, the Appropriation Bills were passed earlier thanusual, but I have no recollection of such measures ever having been agreed towhile other important business remained to be transacted. Usually the Appropriation Bill is almost the last business of a session. I am pleased that the Senate is protesting against the discourtesy with which it has been treated by the Government. The request of the Leader of the Senate (‘Senator Barnes) at this late hour, that . the Standing Orders be suspended so that the Appropriation Bill may .be passed hurriedly through the Senate, is not reasonable. Past governments have treated this chamber with similar discourtesy and lack of consideration.
It is our duty, as representatives of the States, to give careful consideration to the Estimates, and by doing that we shall not in any way interfere with the plan of rehabilitation. Senator Elliott became rather warm in his contention that any opposition to the motion before the Senate would harm the plan.
– Even if the Appropriation Bill were not put through until just before the 30th June next, the plan would be unaffected.
– I ask Senator Elliott, and also the Government supporters, to show in what way a careful discussion of the Estimates would interfere with the plan. They are merely side-tracking the issue. It is right and proper that- the Senate should give careful consideration to the expenditure of the various governmental departments. As has been pointed out by Senator Lynch, government expenditure is so great to-day that it warrants our careful scrutiny. I shall vote against the motion for the suspension of standing orders, because the intention of the Government is to force honorable senators to sit all night in order to pass the
Estimates practically without discussion. I trust that the Senate will oppose the motion.
– If I thought for one moment that any delay in passing the Estimates would interfere in the slightest degree with the speedy completion of the rehabilitation plan, I should be prepared to agree to the passing of the whole of the Estimates in five minutes. But there is. not one senator who has any real experience of parliamentary procedure who does not know that the actual passage of the Appropriation Bill has nothing to do with the accomplishment of the plan. I can quite understand a comparatively new senator and the people outside thinking that any delay in passing the Appropriation Bill might affect the plan, but I defy the Leader of the Government (Senator Barnes) to show how it can.
– I do not propose to try to do that.
– My honorable friend has had too much experience to attempt such an impossible task. As Senator Lawson has admirably put it, the invariable procedure in all Australian parliaments is to pass in the lower house the first item of the estimates, which is always regarded as the endorsement by that house of the financial policy of the government. That is the first step taken when the estimates are introduced. Then the government, at its leisure, brings down the Appropriation Bill. That has always been the practice, and why it should be departed from at this stage I do not know. It has nothing whatever to do with the plan. Not only is this procedure being departed from, but we are asked, for what purpose I do not know, to agree immediately, without further discussion, to the motion for the suspension of standing orders, so that Ave can pass the Estimates to-night. The Government is asking the Senate to agree to a course of action which is not only unprecedented, but so utterly unnecessary that why the Government is pressing it I cannot for the life of me understand. The Senate has given to the Government, in respect of the plan, the most generous and ready assistance. There has not been a single dissenting voice except that of Senator Rae.
– Most of the Government’s own supporters voted against the plan.
– We have assisted the Government in every way. I remind the Assistant Minister that had it not been for the support of the party with which honorable senators on this side are associated in another place, the Government would have found itself deserted by its own supporters, and absolutely unable to implement the plan.
– There was no objection to the hurried passage of the legislation dealing with reductions in wages and pensions.
– I cannot understand that remark, because it has not the slightest hearing upon what I have been saying. The taxation measures received generous treatment at the hands of the Senate. The Government is, I think, endeavouring to find some ulterior motive in our action, although all that we are doing is to insist that the Appropriation Bill shall be given the careful consideration which every appropriation measure demands.
– And is not given.
– And which is so seldom given to it. The solemn duty of every honorable senator at a time like this should be to give careful consideration to the Appropriation Bill line by line. The Government’s action in asking us to agree to put that bill through ‘ all its stages without delay is absolutely unjustifiable and utterly unprecedented, and let me inform the Leader of the Government that the Senate intends to give this measure the proper consideration that it deserves.
– I am astonished at the attitude of honorable senators. I had the idea that they were desirous of cleaning up the business of the Senate as quickly as possible, although at the same time, giving it proper consideration. That was the purpose that I had in mind in moving the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Had it been carried, I should have proceeded with the secondreading speech, and’ at its conclusion, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
Pearce) could have obtained the adjournment of the debate for a reasonable time. The procedure which the Government proposes will not necessarily deprive honorable senators of an opportunity to give fair consideration to the Appropriation Bill.
– The honorable senator did not say that when he moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– I saw no necessity for doing so. I thought that it was obvious to honorable senators that time was pressing, and that important events affecting the leaders of all parties were shortly to take place.
– Why does the honorable senator want this bill passed immediately?
– I want it passed as quickly as the Senate in its wisdom will pass it. The statement of Senator Greene that the Government’s action is unprecedented is all moonshine, because in 1923-24 the Appropriation Bill was passed on the 8th August, 1923.
– An election was pending.
– That was important, and so are the events that are to take place soon after Parliament rises. In 1926-27, the whole of the appropriation for that year was passed on the 8th August.
– That was done to permit the then Prime Minister to proceed to England.
– That was also important. Is not the Premiers Conference which is to take place just as important as was the departure of the Prime Minister for England? Yet, Senator Greene has said that the Government’s action in asking for the passage of the Appropriation Bill at this stage is unprecedented. Last year the Appropriation Bill was passed on 4th August, but there was no howl about that, because honorable senators were satisfied that circumstances warranted it. There is nothing dishonest in the Government’s action. It is merely an honest endeavour to give the rehabilitation plan a fighting chance of success. I hope that, notwithstanding what honorable senators have said, they will agree to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders and allow me to proceed with my second-reading speech. Beyond that I do not wish to go, Some honorable senators have complained that these things are sprung on them without notice. It was said that the Gold Bounty Bill was presented in the Senate without honorable senators having an opportunity to make themselves familiar with its contents. That measure was under discussion for about a week in another place, and copies were available to honorable senators for their perusal. My endeavour now is merely to expedite matters, and I urge honorable senators to agree to the motion that I have submitted.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided. (President - Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a first time.
I propose to put before honorable senators a few of the reasons why it is necessary to expedite the passage of this measure. The Government has no desire to deprive honorable senators of the opportunity to debate the bill, but it would like it dealt with with all possible despatch. This is the annual appropriation, covering the estimates of expenditure for ordinary services for the year 1931-32. The amount of Supply already granted, and the further amount provided for in thebill total ?21,995,891, which is about ?3,000,000 less than the corresponding appropriations for last year. It will be remembered that that appropriation bill was passed by another place on the 4th August without much debate, and that it reached this chamber four days later; on the 8th August, where it was dealt with promptly.
– We were caught on the hop, and missed the first reading.
– I point out that on numerous occasions similar bills have been dealt with very rapidly. That for the year 1927-28 was introduced on the 8th December, 1927, and put through both Houses on the same day.
The reduction of ?3,000,000 to which I have referred is due to the savings provided forby the rehabilitation plan. The balance of the reductions to be effected under that plan, such as interest and pensions, affect special appropriations which are not included in the bill. The Government is hoping that Parliament will be able to adjourn in time to allow the Prime Minister to attend a meeting of the Loan Council in Melbourne on Wednesday next, and a conference of Premiers some days later. The Prime Minister stated, in another place, that the adjournment of Parliament will be for not more than five weeks, and that if necessary we shall assemble earlier. A definite pronouncement in the matter will be made later. I think that honorable senators appreciate the significance of thosewords. Everything depends upon the developments arising out of the proposed loan conversion.
I realize that honorable senators have not had much opportunity to discuss the budget, and they may desire to discuss the Estimates at length. In that case I propose to ask the Senate to sit on Monday next. That will give honorable senators an opportunity to prove the sincerity of the expressions that they uttered earlier in the sitting. If the Senate requires still further time to debate the Estimates, the Prime Minister will endeavour to arrange for the Loan Council to meet in Canberra instead of in Mel bourne. The present Supply will enable the Government to carry on the usual services until the 6th August, but further Supply, which is provided for in this bill, is necessary to meet the pay-day commitments on the 7th August.
It may interest honorable senators to recall how expeditiously the Appropriation Bill of 1925-26 was dealt with. The proceedings are reported in Hansard of the 14th January, 1926, at page 72, and read -
Bill presented by Dr.Earle Page, and read a first and second time.
Mr. FENTON , Maribyrnong [8.35]. I should like to know whether it is a fact that there is only one copy of the bill, and that that is in the possession of the Treasurer. Did not the Government expect that business would be disposed of expeditiously?
Dr. Earle Page. The bill is a monumental mass of printing, and includes the whole of the Estimates. The bills available for honorable members are those circulated last year, with necessary alterations.
Mr. FENTON. That is too lame an excuse. If the Treasurer had been honest he would have said that the bill had not been printed in its altered form. I have seen the items in another form, and on this occasion am prepared to allow the bill to go through.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The whole thing was over in a few minutes. It is necessary that a deliberative assembly of a character such as ours should remember that special action is necessary on special occasions. Surely, if the departure of the Prime Minister last year for Great Britain justified this chamber passing the Appropriation Bill with all expedition, the exceptional circumstances of the present occasion warrant similar action now. Honorable senators know the importance of the problems confronting Australia, and the responsibility resting on both Governments and Oppositions. The circumstances confronting Australia are so serious that the assistance of every person in the community is required. I ask the Senate not to waste time over this bill. Honorable senators need not fear that the Government is endeavouring to get them to do something which later they may regret. I have read to the Senate the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), and I feel sure that honorable senators will agree that what the right honorable gentleman sets himself to do he will do if humanly possible. The Prime Minister has said that he will meet Parliament within five weeks from the date of the adjournment, and if necessary, at an earlier date. I suggest that there is nothing to prevent the Senate from dealing with this bill as expeditiously as the bill introduced by Dr. Earle Page, to which I have just referred, was dealt with. Indeed, greater reasons exist for dealing with this bill promptly than existed then. I have no objection to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) securing the adjournment of the debate until to-morrow, because I know that with his knowledge of events in Australia and his great capabilities he will be as able then to deal with the measure as if he had had it before him for a month. I invite him to give the Prime Minister, and those who will attend the important conference to be held next week, a fighting chance of doing their best for their country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 28th July (vide page 4431).
Clause 4 (rates of income tax).
– When this bill was under discussion yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) asked for some assurances regarding its effect on mutual life insurance societies. I now desire to inform him that the Prime Minister has conferred with the Commissioner of Taxation relative to the request of life insurance companies that an alteration should be made in the basis upon which income tax is now assessed to such companies. It appears to the Prime Minister that there is a prima facie case for careful consideration to be given to the matter, and he has therefore, requested the Commissioner of Taxation to confer with the representatives of life insurance companies for the purpose of discovering the extent to which an alteration in the present law in this connexion should be made. The Commissioner of Taxation will take early action to arrange the conference mentioned. It may be pointed out that the bill before the Senate deals with the imposition of rates of income tax for the assessment of income tax for the current financial year. It would not be possible to incorporate in this bill any provision to deal with the basis of assessment of life insurance companies. Any such provision must be incorporated in an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which provides the machinery for ascertaining the taxable income of a taxpayer. A bill to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act is now before another place. There will not be time before the passing of that measure to permit of the making of a proper investigation into the many points associated with the suggested alteration of the basis of assessment of life insurance companies. If, however, as a result of the conference to be held between the Commissioner of Taxation, and the life insurance companies, the Government is convinced that an alteration in the basis of assessment of these companies should be made, action will be taken upon the re-assembling of Parliament after the approaching recess to introduce a special measure to make that alteration.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [10.10]. - All honorable senators will agree that the statement of the Minister is satisfactory. He has promised that there will be an inquiry; I realize that this is a matter which cannot be dealt with hurriedly, and I am satisfied with the promise that it will be looked into. I trust that the inquiry will not be delayed ; so that when Parliament meets again - if there is an adjournment - we shall have an opportunity to adjust matters. I thank the Minister for the action he has taken.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5. (1.) In addition to any income tax payable under the preceding provisions of this act, there shall be payable upon the taxable income derived by any person -
– I enter my protest against what I term the iniquitous rate proposed to be imposed on incomes from certain sources. In addition to the income tax payable under the preceding clause, it is proposed to impose a tax of 10 per cent. upon the taxable income derived by any person from property - interest, dividends, rents or royalties - whether derived from personal exertion or from property. I hope that the Senate will not agree to this provision. While I realize the necessity for obtaining revenue, I point out that we shall not get over our difficulties by depriving the people,by means of taxation, of capital that is absolutely necessary if the industries of the Commonwealth are to be carried on successfully. The proposal contained in this clause follows a heavy impost placed on this particular class of incomes last year. It imposes a hardship upon what I regard as a most deserving section of the community - those people who, by dint of self-denial and thrift, have saved what they thought would be sufficient to enable them to live in reasonable comfort in their declining years. To the heavy imposition placed on these deserving people last year, it is now proposed to add a further burden. A person with an income of £500 from investments is to be called upon to pay a tax of £16 13s. 4d., added to which is a special tax of 2s. in the £1 on his total assessable income. In addition to paying £16 13s. 4d. he will be called upon to pay one-tenth of his income. Such a proposal is entirely wrong. A person deriving the same income from so-called personal exertion is called upon to pay only £12 15s. 2d. as against approximately £66 in the other case. This is not an impost; it is a species of confiscation. It is now proposed to impose, in addition to the ordinary rate of tax on property, a special property tax of 2s. in the £1, representing an additional 6d. in the £1 on the1s. 6d. imposed last year. As against an increase of 10 per cent. in the rate of tax imposed on income derived from personal exertion, the tax on property incomes of £300 has been increased by as much as 2,000 per cent. Surely the Senate is not going to stand for that. Last year, by means of increased taxation, the Treasurer raised an extra £800,000, which was permanently withdrawn from industry, and was thus not available for providing employment. It is now proposed to go further in this direction. I cannot agree to this increase, and I intend to move an amendment to abolish the special tax. I am not taking this action without having studied what is being done in other countries. No such tax as this has been imposed any where else. The confiscation of so large a portion of the taxpayer’s income cannot be justified, no matter what the exigencies of the State may be. I object to one particular class of income being singled out for special taxation, when it already is taxed at a higher rate than other classes of income.
– It is part of the Premiers’ plan.
– No, it is not. Under the plan it is proposed to balance the budget, but as I pointed out in my second-reading speech, there are other ways of doing this besides confiscating property. In order to test the feeling of the committee, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-clause 1 by leaving out the words “ In addition to any income tax payable under the preceding provisions of this act, there shall be payable upon the taxable income derived by any person- “
If I am unsuccessful in having that amendment carried, I propose to move that the rate of the tax, namely, 10 per cent., be reduced.
– I regret that I cannot accept this amendment. This hill has been drawn up for a specific purpose - to give effect to the much discussed Premiers’ plan. It is necessary to raise extra revenue to carry out the compact which the Government has made. Last year a special property tax of7½ per cent. of the taxable income was imposed, and it is proposed in this bill to increase that special tax by 2½ per cent. If we start tinkering with the Government’s proposals designed for the purpose of rehabilitating the national finances, if we start biting off a piece here and another piece there, we might as well abandon the plan altogether. There will be nothing of it left.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [10.27]. - I hope that Senator Payne will insist upon his amendment, and I shall support him. This proposed tax is iniquitous whether it is part of the plan or not. I am sure I read in the press on many occasions that if the income tax bill was amended as is proposed, this special tax of 7½ per cent. on property would be abolished.
– That, I think, was in respect to the taxation of interest from bonds.
SenatorRAE. - I thought that it applied to the property tax generally. I cannot understand why the tax payable under this heading should be dealt with under no fewer than nine separate’ schedules. These schedules cover all sorts of companies, partnerships, &c, so that there does not seem to be any reason for inserting a dragnet clause ofthis kind, and defending it on the ground that it is part of the Government’s rehabilitation plan. It would almost seem that if the Leader of the Government were to lure me into a dark place and strangle me, he would seek to justify his action on the ground that it was part of the Government’s plan. Every sort of iniquity is justified on that ground, as is every kind of legalized robbery and financial thimblerigging.For my part, I wish the plan in perdition; it is a scandalous thing. I do not know how many taxpayers it is proposed to rope in under this present proposal, but I believe it will affect a great many. I know one hard working woman in Victoria, who has reared a big family, and who depends for her living on the rents received from two cottages. She is unable to keep them in repair, because nearly every penny she gets is taken in rates and taxes. The idea that a country can tax itself into prosperity is all bunkum. A man might as well try to pull himself out of a bog by his bootlaces. This form of confiscatory taxation is becoming a mania with the Government, which is spying into every hole and corner searching for threepenny pieces, so that it may grab two-thirds of them. Iniquitous taxation of this kind will not restore the country to prosperity, but will still further increase unemployment. If the tax were imposed to provide money for the carrying out of reproductive works that would provide employment, and produce assets of permanent value to the country, it might be justified, but it is merely for the paltry purpose of reducing the deficit from about £10,000,000 to £5,000,000. All that will be accomplished by this petty and mean-souled proposal to tax everybody out of their homes will be the making of a small contribution towards the expenses of government.
– Is not this part of the rehabilitation plan?
– No. The extraction of money, from the pockets of those who have a surplus, to carry out developmental and reproductive works would have something to commend it, but a tax which is merely to be absorbed in governmental expenditure, while perpetrating in justice on thousands of people, and still leaving a deficit of £5,000,000, is not worth while.
– May I suggest to Senator Rae that he should send to his leader, Mr. Lang, an uncorrected proof of the speech he has just delivered? It isvery gratifying to hear his protest against the continual imposition of taxation, thus diverting money from industry,and causing unemployment. Members of the Opposition have for years been protesting against such taxation by governments which the honorable senator has supportedallhis life. I am glad that even at this late hour he is a convert to saner methods of finance. His protest against the super tax on incomes is amusing. He complains that the Commonwealth Government is trying to extract every threepenny piece out of the pockets of the taxpayers; yet his friends in New South Wales would have taken upwards of 75 per cent. of the incomes of some people had not the Legislative Council rejected the Lang Government’s taxation proposals. I was even more gratified hy the remarks he made regarding the tax on property-owners. When he spoke as a champion of the owners of cottage property, I realized that his conversion was complete. I could not help recollecting, however, that some of his friends in New South Wales have recently formed themselves into armed pickets to prevent the eviction of tenants who have not paid any rent for twelve months.
– Hear, hear! I will help the pickets.
– Some of them sawed through the verandah posts so that the verandahs were in danger of collapsing upon the owners who attempted to enter the cottages. In these circumstances, the honorable gentleman’s protest against the unfair taxation of owners of cottage property is most refreshing. I congratulate him on having at last seen the light, and I hope that he will send copies of his speech to his vandal friends, who have been destroying property in which he has so suddenly developed an interest. I agree with him regarding the injustice of harassing people who have worked hard all their lives, and invested their savings in a few cottages in the hope that they would not need to be a charge on the Government in their old age. Apparently their difficulties and hardships have come under his personal attention.
No member of this Senate likes the super tax on incomes, but in the attempt to balance the budget, revenue has to be sought in new fields. If Senator Payne can suggest a more equitable and less harsh means of raising the amount of revenue that the Government must have, his proposal will receive considerable support. As the Leader of the Senate pointed out, we all could gain political kudos by moving modifications of this and that feature of the rehabilitation plan for the relief of those on whom it will press harshly; but unless we can suggest other means of raising the required revenue the endeavour to balance revenue and expenditure along the lines agreed to at the Premiers Conference will fail. If the honorable gentleman cannot indicate some more equitable alternative I shall reluctantly support the Government’s proposal.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [10.40]. - I find myself in very much the same .difficulty as Senator Foll. When Mr. Lyons, Mr. Latham and I attended the Premiers Conference in Melbourne, this taxation was not part of the rehabilitation, plan, but we were informed that after effecting all the savings that were included in the plan, there would still remain a difference of several million pounds between revenue and expenditure. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer informed us of the means by which they proposed partially to bridge that gap, but not even with these additional imposts can it be completely bridged. Mr. Lyons said that the Opposition could not be regarded as committed to particular items of taxation, but as it could not pick and choose between this and that proposal, the whole responsibility for the raising of the necessary money must rest on the Government. That is my attitude to-night. This is a cruel tax, especially in its operation on small property-owners, but if it be defeated, and no other effective proposal be placed in its stead, we shall merely increase the deficit. Unless I can suggest other means of providing the money required, I am not justified in opposing this proposal. Frankly, I cannot see other means of raising revenue, and, apparently, the Government is in the same difficulty. None of us liked reducing salaries and pensions, but the fact stares us in the face that in spite of all the economies that have been adopted and the heavy taxation that is proposed, there will still remain a’ gap of several million pounds between revenue and expenditure. In those circumstances, I regret that I cannot support the amendment.
– I endorse the remarks of Senators Payne and Rae, but if we reject this taxation what shall we put in its place? All of us think as Senator Payne does in regard to the hardship which the tax will impose, but if he presses his amendment to a division, we shall be compelled to vote against it, because we have no alternative to the Government’s proposal. I suggest to the honorable senator that having made his protest he should withdraw the amendment. I shall support the Government not because I agree with this tax, but solely because I cannot help myself. The bill is part of the rehabilitation plan. I cannot find sufficient adjectives to express my distaste for it, but adjectives will do no good; the Government must have money. If Senator Payne can suggest an alternative that will be less unjust than the proposals in the bill, I shall favorably consider it. It would be a mistake to interfere now with the Government’s financial measures, unless we have a practical alternativeto suggest. I admit that some of our old people will suffer severe hardships because of the operation of this legislation. The thrifty and wealthy people are enabling Australia to carry on at the present time. I suggest that, in view of the circumstances, we should support the bill.
– I appreciate the attitude adopted by SenatorReid, and, possibly after he has heard what 1 have to say, he may feel disposed to support my amendment, and thus prevent a grave injustice being done to a most deserving section of the community. I opposed the increase in taxation which was imposed by the Government last year. I entered my protest against it, but have regretted ever since that I did not carry it further. We were given to understand last year that the tax was purely a temporary measure; now it is proposed to levy an additional tax on that cruelly heavy impost. Every State government is levying additional taxation, but not to the extent that this Government is. The States would not dare to do what the Commonwealth is doing.
– What about New South Wales?
– I should have excepted that State. I have already given instances in which the extra levy of 15 per cent. on a taxpayer’s income meant 2s. in the £1 Federal tax, and1s. 6d. State tax, which is 3s. 6d. altogether. That, together with this additional tax of 2s., plus a 22½ per cent. reduction in interest on loans, is equivalent to a tax of 10s. in the £1. That extortionate taxation cannot continue. I have been asked to suggest an alternative, and I do so by reading the following extract from a document which I have with me: -
The streams which flow from the Government reservoir go as spending money to the departments; and once spent, the wealth does not return again. It is expended in the upkeep of an army of people employed in the governmental institutions in unproductive labour. The extent of the unnecessary annual expenditure in this direction is staggering to the informed. The actual expenditure by the Government of the vast sums of money so withdrawn from the people’s reservoir is only a fraction of the harm done. The major harm is wrought by the fact that every pound so withdrawn from the people’s reservoir for Government expenditure lessens the legitimate stream of investment which should furnish the power to drive the wheels of industry.
I endeavoured to stress in my secondreading speech on this bill the fact that this enormous levy on the incomes of the people will be at the expense of the capital available for the industries of the Commonwealth, and will bring about the further impoverishment of the people.
– How can that be avoided ?
– My alternative is a further reduction in governmental expenditure. If this Parliament does not bring that about, the time is not far distant when the people will rise in revolt, and demand that government expenditure be reduced by at least 50 per cent. Australia is over-governed, and our expenditure is far too heavy for a small population of 6,000,000. The statement that my amendment, if successful, will seriously interfere with the plan of rehabilitation, is not correct. At the Premiers Conference there was no suggestion that an iniquitous and confiscatory tax should be placed on one section of the community. The point, was stressed that the governments must endeavour to balance their budgets; but itwas never suggested that one person, whose income is derived from personal exertion, should bear an increased tax of 10 per cent., while another person with a similar income derived from property should bear an increased tax of 2,000 per cent. In 1930, a person with an income of £350 from properly paid a tax of £1, and a person with a similar income from personal exertion 19s. 3d. This year the payments were, respectively, £21 12s. and £11s. 8d., and it is now proposed to increase those payments to £26 10s. and £1 3s. Any parliament that stands for that sort of thing has lost all sense of justice.
– There is too much disparity between the two classes of income.
– It is an iniquitous tax. Last year, the ordinary tax on incomes from property was in many instances almost twice that on similar incomes from personal exertion. From year to year, the income taxation has been increased. A sufficient differentiation would be to impose a tax of 10 per cent. on income from personal exertion, and 15 per cent. on a similar income from property.
– The property has, in many instances,been obtained by years of personal exertion.
– That is so. Is it because these people have been frugal and thrifty that they are now being penalized? There will soon be no money to invest in industry in Australia, or to provide works to give employment to our people. I ask honorable senators to accept the amendment that I have moved.
Question - That the request (Senator Payne’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-clause (1) by leaving out the word “ ten “, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ five “.
If I am successful in having my amendment carried, it will mean that in addition to the ordinary rate levied on income from property, which has been increased from 50 to 100 per cent. in comparison with that on income from personal exertion, there will be levied a flat rate of1s. in the £1 on the total income, so that a person in receipt of £500 from property would have to pay £25 in addition to the higher rate that he already has to pay under the schedule. Although my former amendment was rejected, I approach the Senate with some confidence with this request. Even if it is carried, an unjustifiable imposition will still be. placed on this section of the community. However, I realize that half a loaf is better than none, and I commend my amendment to honorable senators.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [11.2]. - I hope that this request for an amendment will be carried. The Leader of the Opposition admitted that this is not part of the original plan, but that it is an after-thought to obtain a little more money in order to get a little nearer to “ balancing the budget “. Why should this section of the community be singled out for treatment which can only be described as cruel? Cruelty and injustice are the very essence of moral delinquency. Yet honorable members opposite appear to be prepared to assist the Government to go to any lengths of iniquity to bolster up this supposedly sacred plan. Have they torn up their Bible or their Koran, and made this plan their holy scripture, placing it beneath their pillows when they go to sleep ? This cursed plan is nothing to be proud of. It has degraded this Paliament to depths that I did not think possible. In an endeavour to prevent the iniquity going further, I shall support the requested amendment, and I hope that it will be carried.
– I hope that the request will not be carried. The provision in the bill embodies a method to raise certain money, and it is necessary to the Government’s rehabilitation plan. SenatorRae said that the plan is nothing to be proud of. It is at least something to be adhered to. I remind honorable senators that the provision is necessary to the plan, and urge them to allow it to stand.
.- There is another way out of the difficulty. I have pointed out what I term the iniquity of unfairly penalizing one section of the community. That can be remedied to a certain extent by reducing the existing differentiation between the two classes of taxation. The Government has an opportunity to make that differentiation more equitable, if it seeks a way out of the difficulty that might confront it if my amendment is accepted. I hope that the measure of relief that I ask for property owners will be granted, and that my amendment will be accepted.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [11.6]. - If the Government seeks economy alternatives I invite them to sack half a dozen State Governors.
SenatorReid. - We pay only one, a Governor-General.
SenatorRAE. - What I suggest could be arranged by the State Premiers in collaboration with the Prime Minister. There are numerous other excrescences on the body politic that could well be dispensed with. I fought tooth and nail against the vicious attack that was made on old-age, invalid and soldier pensioners, and I shall fight with equal vigor against any other unjust attack upon any section of the community. I do not care whether we sit interminably, I shall raise my protest against the sophistry which justifies improper actions designed to restore the nation’s bank balance. I remind honorable senators that these people whom the Government is precipitating into penury, also have their budgets to balance. I protest against the hypocritical action of the Government, and urge that the amendment be agreed to.
Question - That the request (Senator Payne’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The Commissioner of Taxation regards tribute as royalty. I suggest that tribute be treated as income from personal exertion. Tributing is only another means of working a mine, and should not be treated as a royalty.
Clause agreed to, subject to requests for consequential amendments.
Clause 6 (Levy of income tax).
.- Sub-clause 2 reads-
This act shall also apply to all assessments for financial years subsequent to thatbeginning on the 1st day of July, 1931, made prior tothe passing of the act for the levying and payment of income tax for the financial year beginning on the 1st day of July, 1932.
I take it that that is retrospective legislation, and that it means that taxation may be levied in the future on assessments which only by this act will apply to those years. It seems to me that the clause authorizes the Taxation Department to get at persons in a way not otherwise possible.
– The clause is meant to apply to persons coming to Australia, and having, say, a successful series of concerts. Under the clause, they will earn the income this year and the department will be able to tax them next year.
Clause agreed to.
First and second schedules agreed to.
Third schedule -
– In his second-reading speech the Minister assured us that the methods of taxation were to be simplified so that any taxpayer would be able to check the demands made upon him by the department.
I find that that is so in regard to the first and second schedules, but not in the case of the third schedule. Let us suppose that a person has an income of £1,000, being £500 from personal exertion, and £500 from investments. I understand that the practice of the department is to assess the taxes payable in respect of properly at the rate applicable to an income of £1,000, and that his income from personal exertion is also assessed on that basis. I should like to know whether I am right in assuming that he is assessed, both in respect of income from property and income from personal exertion, at the rate applicable to his total income. If that is so, the third schedule should be made clear so that all can understand it. If I am right in my assumption, a person who has an income of £500 per annum from personal exertion and an income of £10 per annum from property will suffer a hardship because on his income of £10 from property he will be assessed at the rate applicable to an income of £510.
– The honorable senator has had plenty of time to work it out because the present provisions have been in operation since 1916.
– The position should he set out plainly.
– The language used in the schedule has been adopted in order to agree with an interpretation given by the High Court.
– There is a simple formula in the first and second schedules. The third schedule should also be made clear.
Schedule -agreed to.
Fourth schedule agreed to.
Fifth schedule -
– I should like to know what is the amount, if any, of the alteration to the rates applicable to companies last year.
.- The rate this year is 16.8 as against 16 last year.
Schedule agreed to.
Sixth to ninth schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with requests; Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and report adopted.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua - Annual Report for year 1929-30.
Defence Act -Royal Military College of Australia - Report for period 1st January, 1930, to31st December, 1930.
Senator BARNES (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [11.31]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £829,077 for additions, new works, buildings, &c, for the year ending the 30th June, 1932. The total amount provided by this bill is made up as follows : -
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 July 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310730_senate_12_131/>.