12th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
SenatorRAE asked the Minister repre senting the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Prime Minister read a statement in the Sydney Horning Herald of Saturday, the 24th October, to the effect that the Nanking High Court passed the death sentence on Nouiens, alias Vander Cruyssen, the Communist agent, and that itsentenced his wife to life imprisonment; also that the sentences are awaiting confirmation by President Chiang Kai-shek, who is at present attending the preliminary peace discussions at Shanghai; and intimating that this is the first death sentence passed upona Foreigner under the regimeof the Chinese Nationalist Government?
In view of the statementmade that this is the first occasion on which the Chinese Courts have imposed the death sentence upon a foreigner, will the Government make official inquiries from the Chinese Government as to the nature of the offence for which these persons are reported to have been condemned
In view of the strict censorship reported to exist over the transmission of news from China, and if the Chinese consul in Australia refuses to give any information as to the. activities of his Government, will the Prime Minister endeavour to ascertain through the Imperial Government -
If the present Chinese law makes the mere avowal of Communist beliefs a capital offence?
If the Pan-Pacific Trades Union Secretarial has been declared an illegal organization in China?
If Nouleus orVan der Cruyssen and his wife have been convicted of any offence other than membership of the Communist movement or of the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretarial?
The number and names of those arrested and charged with similar offences to those of the convicted persons referred to, at or about the same time ?
Willthe Prime Minister also ask that, in the interestsof international goodwill, the Chinese Government should furnish to Great Britain and her Dominions respectively full particulars of any of their nationals convicted in Chinese Courts of political offences?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The question of the appointment of a director to the Commonwealth Bank Board has not yet received the consideration of the Government. When a selection is being made, the Government will he careful to satisfy itself that the person selected possesses the qualifications essential for the discharge of the duties of the position.
Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are: -
The above replies relate to values assessed for the 1930-31 land tax. For purposes of land tax to be assessed for 1931-32, the date “30th June, 1930” in the replies should be altered to “30th June, 1931.”
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 29th October (vide page 1322), on motion by Senator Dooley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [10.11]. - The wheatfarmers of Australia may well my “ Thank God for the Senate,” because the refusal of this chamber to allow the previous bill to be rushed through last week, as suggested by the Minister in charge of it, and the demand of senators that the Government should consult further with the banks, has resulted in an arrangement which is much more favorable to the wheat-growers. All the dangerous provisions of the last bill are removed; we have now before us a straightforward proposal for the payment of a flat rate bounty, with a definite limitation of the liability of the Commonwealth. To two statements made by Ministers I must, in justice to the Senate, direct attention. Last week, Senator Dooley stated that the private banks had been consulted in regard to the Wheat Bounty Bill (No. 1), and had approved of it. I draw attention to the reply of representatives of the private banks in New South Wales, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 25th October, that they had not been consulted. Another statement made in this chamber was that all interested parties, including the wheat merchants, had been consulted by the Department of Markets. I have been informed by representatives of at least two private buyers that they were not consulted, and that if other buyers had been consulted they would have known of it. I place these denials on record in the hopethat, in future, Ministers will be sure of their facts before making statements in this chamber. I regret that under the revised proposal the bounty is not to be paid on an export basis, but I am not prepared to delay the passage of the bill merely because I cannot get all that I think desirable. This measure is a distinct improvement on its predecessor, and, subject to one amendment which I shall move in committee, I shall support it.
– It is not my intention to refer in any detail to the Wheat Bill introduced towards the end of ‘last year. We can, for the moment, pass over the circumstances that were responsible for the rejection of that measure. All honorable senators will, I am sure, admit that the position of our wheat-farmers is so serious that government assistance in the form of a bounty is urgently needed. Thepeople’s foodstuffs, in particular wheat, have always been the subject of gambling in the various markets of the world, and unfortunately, during the last twelve months, prices for wheat have been, until quite recently, at an extraordinarily low level.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the decline was due to the rejection by the Senate of the Government’s proposal to pay a guaranteed price of 4s. abushel ?
– To some extent, I believe it was. But as I wish to be quite fair to those honorable senators who opposed that proposal, I shall merely repeat what I have said on other occasions, namely, that this gambling with the peoples’ foodstuffs is merely an economic evil inseparable from the present capitalistic system, and that, while it is maintained we shall, from time to time, suffer from these “bull” and “bear” operations in the wheat markets of Chicago, Liverpool, and elsewhere. The position of primary producers the world over will never be satisfactory until we have a socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. However, that is a subject which may be discussed on some other occasion. I wish now to direct my attention to the bill before the Senate. Previous measures introduced, by this Government did not meet with the approbation of honorable senators. I approve of the present bill; but, in my opinion, it does not go far enough, and when it is in committee I intend to move that the amount of bounty be increased from 4½d. per bushel to6d. per bushel. An article dealing with the subject appeared in the Sydney Sun of the 28th instant. I extract from it the following statement : -
Sydney Bankers’ Plan. £940,000 to New South Wales.
The two trading banks - New South Wales and Commercial, of Sydney - which have their headquarters here, have announced that they are willing to participate in the financing of the scheme for a bonus on the 1931-32 wheat crop of the Commonwealth. After “conversations”, their representatives intimated that they favour a “ flat” rate bonus of 4½d. per bushel, to ‘ be payable unconditionally to growers as the wheat is sold off their farms.
If these two banks are prepared to join in a scheme for the payment of a bounty of 4½d. per bushel, I feel sure that, if the position is properly placed before the trading banks of the Commonwealth, it will be possible to increase the ‘bounty to Gd. per bushel. That would mean the PaY.ment of an additional £1,000,000. But, so far from being a burden upon the financial institutions of this country, the payment of the extra bounty would mean good business, because Australian wheat-growers, -when they have the “money, spend as freely as any other section of the community. The freer circulation of this added income would, therefore, lead to an improvement in business, and eventually the money would find its way back to the banks.
– If that line of reasoning is sound, why not advocate the payment of ls. per bushel?
– I should like to see our farmers get a bounty of ls., but I am afraid it would be impossible to persuade the banks to finance the scheme to that extent. The price of wheat in Australia is now 3s. per bushel. According to the Sydney Sun, this increase in wheat prices is world-wide. The Sun states further -
On the basis of preliminary estimates of production in this State, the wheat-growers of New South Wales appear likely to benefit from such a bonus to a total extent of about £940,000, and it is calculated that, on the entire harvest, the amount to be provided for farmers throughout the Commonwealth will approximate £8,000,000. Preliminary estimates of yields in the respective States of the Commonwealth are as under: -
– That estimate might easily be out to the extent of 25 per cent.
– I agree with the honorable senator. A little over eighteen months ago, the Prime Minister, in a broadcast appeal to our wheat-growers, urged them to extend their areas so as to provide credit overseas for the discharge of our obligations. Our primary producers responded loyally to that appeal, which was made in all good faith, but the promised assistance has not been forthcoming, and now, because of the world-wide depression, wheat-growers in all countries are being urged to reduce the area under cultivation. The Sun goes on to state -
If ordinary procedure be followed in connexion with the payment of the bonus, the Commonwealth Loan Council will issue treasury-bills for the requisite amount. These will be made available through the Commonwealth Bank and will be taken up by the trading banks as becomes necessary. It is hoped that, by the official announcement by the Sydney trading banks, a lot of misunderstanding in relation to the attitude of the banks towards the provision of the wheat will be dispelled finally. Sydney bankers stated this morning that their preference all along has been for a bonus on all original sales of wheat off farms. It is thought that growers should be left to decide for themselves how their receipts in the form of the bonus may be applied. The plan of direct and unconditional advances to farmers could he operated on the basis of certificates issued to growers on delivery of their wheat either at country sidings or at silos.
I give notice that, when the bill is ir, committee, I intend to move for the insertion of a new clause to follow clause 5. J
– The honorable senator may, at this stage, indicate the nature of any specific amendment that he intends to move; he should not discuss it.
– I intend to move for the insertion of a provision stipulating that any bounty payable shall not, without the consent of the grower, be regarded as assets available to any creditor of the grower, in payment of debts or liabilities, and that the amount, if kept in a separate account, shall not, for a period of six months after receipt by the grower, be regarded as such assets. This provision was in the bill which was before the Senate a few days ago, but is omitted from the present measure.
– I do not wish to prevent discussion, but the honorable senator must know that it is against the Standing Orders to debate, at the secondreading stage, amendments which it is intended to move in committee. He may only indicate the substance of amendments which he desires to have discussed later. I shall be obliged if he will comply with the Standing Orders in that respect.
– Very well, Mr. President, I shall say no more. I merely add that I believe our farmers should be paid a bounty of 6d. per bushel instead of 4£d.
.- I regret that I cannot enthuse over this bill. Probably no section of the community has been deceived to a greater extent than have our wheat-farmers during the last twelve months. Repeated promises of assistance have been made to them, but, up to the present, nothing has been done to help them. Even under th is measure, the grower who makes the most money out of his wheat will also receive the largest measure of assistance. Take, for instance, the position of two sets of farmers in somewhat identical districts. In one district, just at the time when the farmers are expecting to commence harvesting, a storm destroys their crops, and, as a result, they receive practically nothing. In the other district, because the crops arc unaffected by storm, rust, or anything else, the farmers receive considerable benefit under this scheme. Although I am not prepared to record a vote to take from the wheat-farmers, the assistance which it is now proposed to give them, which is long overdue, I consider this scheme absolutely inequitable. Some years ago, when assistance was sought for the fruit-growers on the river Murray areas, money was made available to them by way of loan. When the season was over, a commission, appointed by the Government, inquired into the financial position of the growers who had received loans, and in deserving cases the debt’s were wiped out.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of applying that prin”ciple in respect of the assistance already given by the Government to the wheatgrowers throughout Australia?
– It would be a sounder proposition to pay this bounty on the basis of the acreage sown.
– Under this scheme the Queensland growers will be in a better position than those of the other States.
– They are in a better position because of the sympathetic consideration that they have received from the Government of Queensland, not because of any action on the part of this Parliament.
– The Queensland consumers pay for the benefit that those growers are receiving.
– Exactly; they pay more for their flour. Under this scheme, the farmer whose crop i3 damaged by tempest or rust will obtain little or no assistance, whereas the farmer who has a bumper crop will receive the greater portion of the bounty. That is not an equitable system of distribution. The fruit-growers on the river Murray areas received assistance because they were in distress. The unemployed receive assistance because they are destitute. In those instances the man who is worst off receives the greatest assistance, but under this proposal the bulk of the bounty will be paid to the more fortunate man. We’ should assist the man who is struggling to develop small areas, the man who is doing the pioneering work and has not the money with which to purchase modern farming appliances.
– Would the honorable senator be prepared to pay the cotton bounty on that basis?
– Any assistance provided for industries should be given to the most deserving section of those industries. This bounty should be paid, not on production, but on the acreage sown, and I repeat that the proposed system of distribution under this scheme is inequitable.
.- -Both the Senate and the Government are to be congratulated upon the fact that this measure is in every respect a distinct improvement upon the one which we were considering last week. This is the fifth bill introduced into the Senate by the Government with a view to assisting the wheatfarmers, and it is the first to offer straight-out assistance by means of a bounty without any nasty restriction, string, or condition, being attached to it. I hope that the Senate, by passing this measure quickly, will show to the Government that when it adopts the right course we are only too willing to approve of it. Last week, in my second-reading speech on the previous measure, I said that if this proposal to assist the wheatgrowers were put clearly before the banks they would certainly prefer a scheme of straight-out assistance, such as is set out in this measure, irrespective altogether of the f.o.b. price of wheat. The introduction of -this bill verifies my prediction as to the attitude of the banks. In addition, the Senate’s attitude in refusing to approve of the previous measure, which provided that if the f.o.b. price of wheat reached 3s. a bushel no bounty would be paid, has been fully justified. Had that legislation been passed, the farmers would have received no assistance at all if the price of wheat kept up, because wheat was sold yesterday in Sydney on the basis of 3s. 2d. a bushel f.o.b. Under this measure, which has been brought forward at the instance of the Senate, the farmers, irrespective of the price of wheat, will receive a bounty of 4£d. a bushel. The assistance granted in that way will amount to about £3,000,000. As the f.o.b. price of wheat is already over 3s. a bushel, the importance of this alteration in the scheme cannot be over-estimated. I regret that the basis of assistance originally approved by the Premiers Conference in Melbourne, and re-affirmed by the conference of Ministers of Agriculture held there a fortnight ago, was not accepted by the Government. Both those conferences laid down the principle that the bounty should be 6d. a bushel on all wheat exported. That principle has been departed from, and that, of course, means a serious loss to the big wheat-exporting States. The present scheme will, undoubtedly, be of great benefit to Queensland. I mention that because of Senator Poll’s complaint about this measure, which appears to me to favour particularly the wheat-growers of that State. The Queensland Government, by overriding the Commonwealth Constitution, is assisting those fortunate farmers, and that action, in the absence of an interstate commission, we cannot prevent. Last year the farmers of that State received 4s. a . bushel for their wheat, while the farmers in the other States received from ls. 8d. to 2s. a bushel.
– The people of Queensland paid that increased price.
– That is so, but the wheat-growers of Queensland, although they have received that benefit, will also obtain assistance under this scheme to the extent of 4½d. a bushel on all wheat produced by them. That being so, I fail to see that Queensland senators have much to complain of in this measure.
– I am complaining about the distribution of- the money. The rich man will receive most of the assistance.
– The original proposal was a bounty on all wheat exported. The adoption of that proposal would have been more just to the wheat-exporting States, because it would have meant that, in consonance with the increased price for wheat exported, the price of wheat locally consumed would have increased by 6d. a bushel. That would have given the wheat-farmers the advantage of 6d. a bushel on the whole of their crop instead of 4½d. a bushel, as is now proposed. Under this bill the growers of Western Australia will receive about £700,000 on the estimated production of 37,000,000 bushels. Under the original proposal they would have received over £900,000, including, of course, uri increase of 6d. a bushel in the price for wheat locally consumed. At any rate, we now have before us a definite and concrete proposal, which has been approved by the Government, the House of Representatives, and the banks, and it requires only the consent of the Senate to make it law. Next month the harvest will be in full swing. There is, therefore, no opportunity for us tO improve this bill in any way, and it is our duty to the wheat-growing industry to pass it as quickly as we can.
I am very glad that the restrictive provisions in the last bill are absent from this one.
– Seeing that the crop is already in, would it not be more equitable to adopt, the basis of the acreage sown ?
– I intend to support, this measure, but shall be quite prepared to assist the honorable senator to try an experiment on the acreage basis in relation to the cotton industry of Queensland. We could see how it worked there, and judge whether it was sufficiently successful for application to other industries. This measure provides that the whole £3,000,000 must be paid to the wheatgrowers at the rate of i.<X. per bushel. The receipt of that money will afford a very acceptable measure of relief to the wheat-growers. I hope that this will be our first step towards the restoration of the wheat industry, which is of such great importance to the prosperity of the nation.
– I support this measure wholeheartedly, and congratulate the Govern.n len upon having introduced it. Not every government or party is big enough to abandon the original course which it proposed to follow, and to take the course recommended by its political opponents. This Government has done that, and it deserves the commendation of the Senate for having done so. Its action shows that even in the clash of political conflict a.11 parties can give first consideration to those who need it, and these, in this case, are the wheat-growers of Australia. I like this measure very much better than the original bill., The realization that a straight-out payment of 4-id. per bushel is to be made will give the wheatgrowers an enormous measure of relief. Senator Johnston has pointed out that the proposal in this bill may not be so satisfactory to the farmers of Western Australia as that contained in the last bill-
– Nor to the farmers of South Australia.
– That may be so; but the proposition is certainly more equitable, on the whole. It will be much more acceptable in New South Wales and Victoria, where there are many thousands of wheat-growers. After all, it is our duty to consider a measure such as this in its effect on the States generally, not on one alone. Senator Johnston has admitted that the wheat-growers of Western Australia will receive £700,000 by the payment of this bounty. The payment of that money will, no doubt, give them confidence for the future, and enable them, in some measure at least, to meet their present obligations. It will also inspire confidence in the wheat-growing industry of Australia, and will encourage storekeepers and those who are directly and indirectly involved in the financial welfare of the farmers to look to the future with greater hope. When this bill is passed, the farmers will know that so much hard cash will go into their pockets, and that will help them to face the future with greater courage. I have no doubt that they will, so to speak, pass a hearty vote of thanks to the Senate for having intervened, and for having made possible the application of this much more satisfactory bounty scheme to their industry.
– I shall support the bill, because it is about time that we rang down the curtain on the long period of waiting, speculation and bitter disappointment through which the wheat-farmers of Australia have been passing. With them it has been a case of “ Now you see it and now you don’t.” If the bill is passed the farmers will see something; but, if it is not passed, they may not see anything for a long period. Whether this, proposal will be more beneficial to the farmers than that contained in the bill which waa before us last week will depend entirely upon the trend of the world’s wheat market. If the market rises, there will not be so much necessity for this bill, because the wheat-buyers will come in, and help to rehabilitate our farming industry, and put our farmers on an even financial keel - a big job. But, if the wheat market goes down - and there is no certainty that it will not go down - the provisions of this bill will be ‘ much less satisfactory to the farmers than those in the measure which the Senate did not accept last week.
Our marketable production of wheat last year was 210,000,000 bushels. We have been assured that it will bo at least one-third less than that this year. A moderate estimate of this year’s production is 140,000,000 bushels. Of that quantity 40,000,000 bushels will be required for seed .and feed. That will reduce the marketable crop to 100,000,000 bushels. An easy calculation shows that a bounty of 6d. a bushel on that quantity of wheat would yield £2,500,000. By reducing the payment to 4£d. a bushel, the farmers will get £600,000 less than that amount.
– At present prices, they will not get less.
– I am calculating on a falling market.
– But the market is rising.
– There is no guarantee that the price will remain at 3s. a bushel, for no one can say what the position is in Russia. It seems that honorable senators are assuming that the market will rise; but, on a falling market, the farmers stand to lose £600,000 through the substitution of this bill for that which was before us last week. As an insurance against a falling market, last week’s bill was infinitely better than this one. In the circumstances we cannot say whether the highest wisdom has been shown in. the substitution of this measure for the previous one. If the market falls, the farmers stand to lose by the substitution; if it rises, they stand to gain by it. Many complications were supposed to be inevitable from the operation of the provisions of the last bill. It was said, for instance, that, if its provisions became law, the farmers would be very disheartened, and would rush their wheat to market. I do not know whether that would have happened. The fact that the farmers would have had6d. a bushel in prospect, but not actually in hand, would not have made them frantic. They would have gone about their business in the ordinary way. The supposition that there would have been confusion, faintheartedness, and panic was, in my opinion, unwarranted. It was also argued, by some occult process of reasoning, that the wheat merchants or the pool authorities would not do business on the basis of a bounty of 6d. a bushel. This supposition, together with other imaginary complications which were feared, deadened the enthusiasm for the last bill. But my enthusiasm for it was not deadened, because I did not believe that the fears that were expressed were well founded. If the market falls to where it was a month ago, the farmers will undoubtedly lose £600,000 by the substitution of this bill for the previous one. However, I shall support the bill, because I believe that unless something is done quickly, the farmers may not be given any help at all.
We know something about the kaleidoscopic changes which have been brought about in the fortunes of the wheatfarmers in this chamber in the last few months. This bill gives an opportunity to grasp something for the farmers, and I intend to grasp it. Unless it is grasped nothing may be done for them. In the circumstances I shall support the bill.
SenatorR. D. ELLIOTT (Victoria) [10.56]. - I shall support the bill because it will give some relief at long last to the wheat-growers of Australia, and through them to our whole trading community. The passage of this measure will end a long period of political humbug and hypocrisy, which commenced when certain candidates at the last federal election promised the farmers that, if Labour were returned to power, it would guarantee the farmers 6s. 6d. per bushel for their wheat. After the election a bill was introduced for the payment of a guaranteed price of 4s. per bushel. That bill was not passed. Subsequently, the Government was given legislative authority to guarantee the payment of 3s. per bushel for wheat, but it shirked its responsibilities at a time when it was absolutely necessary to ‘do something to help the farmers.
It has been said that this bill has the virtue of simplicity. I do not know that it is not too simple, for there is no reference in it to the total expenditure involved. We have been told by the Minister in charge that the banks have provided £3,000,000 for the assistance of the wheat-growers, and that this money will be expended in the payment of the bounty of 4½d. per bushel, and in the administration of the bill. The Government estimates that we shall have 160,000,000 bushels for sale this year, I should like to know who prepared that estimate. According to figures submitted by Senator Dunn, the Government will need to find an extra £412,500 to finance the payment of the bounty. For every 1,000,000 bushels marketed in excess of 160,000,000 bushels, the Government will have to find £18,750.
– Does the honorable senator think that we shall be able to market 160,000,000 bushels of wheat this year?
– That is the Government estimate, and if it is realized, every penny of the £3,000,000 will be required to pay a bounty of 4½d. per bushel.
– The marketable crop will probably fall below 160,000,000 bushels.
– My point is that the bill verges too much on simplicity. I question whether it is wise to omit any mention of the total expenditure.
– That is one of the advantages of the bill.
– No doubt it is from the point of view of the wheatgrowers, but one of the most fruitful causes of financial trouble in Australia has been our neglect to give careful consideration to the total amount of expenditure involved in various measures that have been passed by Parliament for the assistance of different industries. I son fearful lest we should add to the number of such instances. Whatever might be said for or against the proposal for a sales tax on flour, it at least had the merit of providing for the interest and repayment of , the total principal involved. In this case no thought whatever appears 1o have been given to either interest or principal. The Government has been content to say “Let us get the money, mid spend it”.
– The- value of our equity will be increased.
– I do not deny that the wheat-farmers of Australia are in need of assistance; but I wonder whether the hot-house conditions referred to by Senator Pearce yesterday are not greatly responsible for their condition. . This carelessness regarding our financial future is another example of the Government’s total disregard of the future well-being of the country, and of the workers of Australia. It makes it plain that the longer the present Government remains in power the more difficult it will be for Australia to get out of the mire.
– - As one who has endeavoured to respect the views of the wheat-growers of Australia, I say fervently and reverently “ God save us from our friends “, if the remarks to which we have just listened express the views of the real friends of the farmers. I congratulate the Government and the Senate on the position in which we find ourselves to-day. At long last it appears that finality is about to be reached, and something definite done to assist tha wheat-growing industry. In all kindness, I say that had the spirit of sweet reasonableness which the Government has exhibited on this occasion been shown when the first bill to grant, assistance to the wheat industry was before us, that measure would have been remodelled, and all the trouble which has since occurred would have been obviated. Whether any substantial benefits to the farmer would have resulted from it is another matter.
– Why did not the honorable senator support his statements with his vote on that occasion ?
– A number of honorable senators, including myself, pleaded with the Minister to hold over the bill for further consideration, and not force a division on the clay that the division was taken.
– Johnston. - The Go.vernment wanted to be sure that the bill would be defeated.
– I say nothing as to the Government’s motive; I merely repeat that had the Government on that occasion been as reasonable as it is today that bill would not have been defeated.
– I ask honorable senators to confine their remarks to the present measure.
– The bill before us is designed to provide a bounty on the production of wheat. I claim to have at least ordinary intelligence; but if 1 understood Senator Poll’s speech aright, the honorable senator advocated the payment of a bounty, on the production of nothing at all. Tic said that a man who did not produce any wheat should be paid a bounty.
– I want to recompense the man who loses his crop.
– I agree that a man who has put in a crop which is not worth reaping should be assisted.
– The bounty should be paid on the acreage sown.
– In that case, there are some men in Australia who would stretch every nerve to increase their acreage under wheat, even though they knew that they would get no crop. The basis of the bounty, as set out in this bill, is the only fair one.
– Anything else would be a bounty on inefficiency.
SenatorFoll.-Itis not evidence of inefficiency for a man to lose his crop through drought conditions.
– Such a man is certainly deserving of assistance; but that assistance should not be given under a bill of this description.
I agree with other honorable senators that the bounty ought to be paid on the wheat that is exported. When the Prime Minister appealed to the wheat-growers of Australia, ho exhorted them to grow more wheat, to rectify our adverse trade balance by exportation, and the farmers of Australia responded magnificently to that appeal. It is remarkable that they were the people to whom the Prime Minister mainly appealed to make an effort to get Australia out of its difficulties. I earnestly wish that the right honorable gentleman would make the same earnest appeal to-day to a certain section of people of Sydney.
– Instead of “ Grow more wheat “, his slogan could be “ Man more ships “.
– To their own impoverishment, the farmers of Australia came to the rescue of their country. In spite of the rather cheap sneer of the Minister in charge of the business of the Senate last night, that some honorable senators were prepared to accept a bounty on wheat while denying assistance to others, I submit that this bill does not provide for a bounty on wheat at all. It is a tardy recognition of the claims of the farming community to a return of something which has been taken from them unjustly in the past. Unless this assistance is given to them, many farmers will be compelled to relinquish their holdings. Despite his greater experience of wheatfarming, I cannot agree with. Senator Lynch that this bill is not an improvement on that which we had before us last week. This measure promises something definite. I admit that it falls short of what I had hoped, and short also of the resolution of thePremiers Conference -
That the Commonwealth Government provide a bounty For wheat-growers for1 931 -1932 season at lid per bushel.
– Did the resolution say that the bounty should be provided on an export basis?
– Yes; it said “a bounty at 6d. per bushel for wheat exported.” In the light of that resolution, and with a full knowledge of the assistance that it can obtain from the banks, the Government has now decided on a bounty of 4½d. per bushel. I am prepared to accept that amount rather than nothing at all.
Honorable senators hare questioned whether a grant, of £3,000,000 would provide a bounty of 6d., or even 4½d., a bushel. Various estimates of this season’s wheat crop have been made. At this time of the year itis impossible to estimate the wheat yield with any degree of accuracy. In Victoria, for instance, should unfavorable weather prevail between now and harvest, the yield will not be more than. 50 per cent, of the present estimate. The only thing certain is that the area under wheat this year is considerably less than last year; and, so far as I know, at no place in Australia is it anticipated that the yield will exceed that of last season. It would appear, therefore, that the total yield this year will be much lower than that of last year. In my opinion, the Government’s estimate of 160,000,000 bushels is the maximum that can be expected ; the yield will probably be less. Although the bill contains provisions which I do not like, I shall support it, because it will give to the farmers of Australia some much-needed assistance.
– When at the recent Premiers Conference the Premiers reviewed the position of the wheat industry, Mr. Hill, the Premier of South Australia, submitted the following motion for consideration : -
With a view to securing a higher price for all wheat consumed in Australia, and thereby ensuring the safety of the wheat-growing industry throughout Australia, this conference is in favour of the pooling of all wheat produced in Australia.
The discussion which followed has led to the introduction of this measure. Later, Sir James Mitchell, the Premier of Western Australia, gave notice of the following motion : -
That this conference considers that, in order to enable the farming industry in Australia to survive, a substantial reduction should be effected in the tariff on those articles which contribute towards the cost of production.
It will be seen that even the Premiers of two important wheat-growing States could not agree as to the means to be adopted to save the wheat industry. Mr. Hill advocated a Commonwealth pool; while Sir James Mitchell blamed the tariff for the serious position of the industry. I have yet to learn that the tariff has seriously affected the cost of producing wheat. A few days later the conference agreed to the following resolution : -
That the. Commonwealth Government providea bounty for wheat-growers for the 1931-32 season at6d. per bushel (on a. basis of f.a.q. wheat) for wheat exported (an equivalent bounty for flour) provided such bounty shall not increase the f.o.b. price for wheat above 3s. per bushel.
I understand that that resolution was then placed before the Commonwealth Bank Board, which body evolved the complicated scheme contained in the bill with which we dealt last week. It is, therefore, unfair to blame the Government for the scheme embodied in that measure. The scheme of the Commonwealth Bank Board having proved unworkable, the Government consulted with the private banks, which have signified their willingness to make available the sum of £3,000,000 to assist the wheatgrowing industry.
I understand that the Premiers Conference agreed that no further borrowing should take place until Australia was out of the financial mire. This bill will add £3,000,000 to the national debt. I do not know the country’s liability in respect of interest on the sum to be advanced.
SenatorR. D. Elliott. - It will be about £150,000 a year.
– We should know what the bounty will cost.
– We know what it will cost the country if the farmers areforced off their holdings.
– Will a bounty of 4½d. a bushel keep them on the land? We should know to what extent this bill will commit the taxpayers of the country. The action of the Government in proposing to make available £3,000,000 in order to assist 14,000 farmers is in striking contrast to its proposal to make available only £250,000 for the relief of the 400,000 unemployed workers. That is inequitable. Had effect been given to the decisions of the Premiers Conference, and a bounty paid only on wheat exported, the farmers in South Australia would have received greater assistance than they are likely to get under this measure, as that State has a relatively high production and a low consumption.
– That is why this measure is more equitable.
– It is more inequitable from my view-point. The effect of this legislation seems likely to be to assist those farmers who are not in distress, and totally to disregard the interests of those who are in need of immediate assistance. We have no right, particularly whenour financial resources are strained to the utmost, to use money in this way which could be employed to help others whose claims are more pressing. Hundreds of thousands of persons in this country who have been without employment for years are in greater need of assistance than many of the wheat-growers who will benefit under this proposal. We should not increase our national debt to the extent of £3,000,000, if that is the amount proposed to be expended, by paying the proposed bounty on production. In many cases assistance will be given to those who are not in need. Although I know that the bill will be passed, and that its provisions will be of benefit to some, we are entitled to express our opinions. One cannot refrain from directing attention to the fact that while we are committing the taxpayers of this country to the extent of £3,000,000, we are not providing any practical solution of the present difficulty. As stated by Senator Lynch, the measure provides only a palliative. The difficulties now being experienced by the wheatgrowers will recur next year, and may possibly continue in subsequent years. Mention has been made of the fact that the five-year plan adopted in Russia may revolutionize the whole position, and that owing to the result of the operation of another five-years’ plan, the conditions in secondary industries in that country may also he revolutionized. We speak with our heads in the air of the benefits of trade within the Empire. We have heard that attempts are being made, by those interested in the marketing of foodstuffs, to influence the Chinese to change from, a rice to a wheaten diet. At the same time, we find that certain British interests are spending scores of millions of pounds in teaching the Chinese how to grow their own wheat. In these circumstances, the outlook for those engaged in the wheat-growing industry in Australia, regardless of tariff, is anything but promising. Even if the whole of our customs duties were abolished, the Australian wheat-growers could not produce wheat in competition with recent world prices. We are to increase our national debt to the extent of £3,000,000 in order to pay a bounty of 4½d. a bushel on production, but it must be obvious that unless there is a substantial rise in the price of wheat, the difficulties with which the wheat-growers are now confronted will have to be faced again next year. We should study fundamentals. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that we ought to thank God we have a Senate. Another honorable senator said, “ Save us from our friends “. One section appears to be thanking the other, but for what they do not know.
– On this occasion we can thank the Government.
– We shall see later whether there is any justification for extending- thanks to the Government for what it has done in this instance. The farmers of this country have nothing to thank the Senate for. In April of this year a bill was introduced into this chamber providing, not for payment of £3,000,000 as a bounty on a flat rate to all farmers, but for the issue of £6,000,000 of additional currency to assist necessitous farmers, and of another £12,000,00.0 to benefit the unemployed. The Fiduciary Notes Bill was rejected by the Senate. Is not the £3,000,000 to be found in this instance fiduciary in character? The farmer presents his certificate for 1,000 bushels to the Department of Markets and Transport, which hands him a cheque on the basis of a bounty of 4£d. per bushel, and this he takes to the Commonwealth Bank, where it is cashed. The private banks rake off interest at £2,000 a week out of the transaction. We were told that the Government should not countenance a fiduciary note issue, as it would involve an extension of the nation’s credit. The former proposal was to provide £6,000,000 for necessitous farmers; but, under this scheme, a good deal of the £3,000,000 which is to be found will get into the hands of those who do not need it. In these circumstances, is there any justification for the remark of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) :. “Thank God for the Senate”. Under the previous proposal, necessitous farmers would have been assisted, work would have been provided for the unemployed, and we would now have been well on the way to financial and industrial recovery. Instead of £18,000,000 being made available, as was proposed at the time, and which it was said could not be found, the banks have since advanced more than twice that amount. The credit made available under the Fiduciary Notes Bill was to be repaid to the Government. This amount is not to be repaid to the Government, but to the banks. It is merely placing a plaster on a sore, and that will not heal it. Obviously, honorable senators are in favour of the bill. The South Australian papers contain long lists of farmers who have got into difficulties, and are unable to meet their liabilities. We should frame a scheme national in its character. If the farming industry is essential to this country, and the wheatgrowers must be assisted, why should we not have a national scheme for helping them? This is, as Senator Foll pointed out, giving to the man who grows 1.000,000 bushels of wheat 4£d. per bushel, while the man who does not reap any crop will receive no assistance at all. Those in the last-mentioned category are the persons who should be assisted.
– Are there any who are not reaping any crop this year?-
– There are farmers in South Australia who, what- over price they may receive this year, will not be materially assisted by the payment of a bounty of 4£d. The bounty will not save them from their creditors. If there should be a drop in the market, their position will be as bad as it has ever been.
– Some South Australian farmers are likely to reap very light
– I know that. When I left South Australia a few days ago, some of the wheat-growing areas had experienced a very dry period, with hot winds, which was having a disastrous effect upon the crops. Those in a more favorable portion of the State will be assisted under this scheme, but if the main object of the ^Government’s proposal is to help necessitous farmers, a flat rate should not iia ve been provided for. There are 200,,000 invalid and old-age pensioners, many of whom are in necessitous circumstances. These pensioners have to declare periodically that they are in necessitous circumstances in order to obtain the continuation of their pension. Gould not a similar system have been adopted with respect to the 14,000 farmers in Australia? By that means the Government could have ascertained who were really in need of help, and the money which is to be made available could have been used in succouring them. Every one sympathizes with the farmers who need help; but to pay a bounty of 44d. a bushel on production is not the best way of assisting them. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to get down to some scheme of national control of our industries. I do not propose at this juncture to deal with the absorbing topic of capitalism versus socialism ; but this is an’ instance in which capitalism lias fallen down on its job, and a system of national control should bp introduced.
– The only national institution that is a paying proposition at present is the Bankruptcy Court.
– Not at all. During the war period wc were confronted with similar difficulties in the handling and marketing of wheat and other commodities, and bad some scheme of national control not been introduced, the grain would have rotted in Australia. On that occasion the Commonwealth Bank came to the assistance of the country, and brought £400,000,000 to the producers in return for the produce sold overseas.
– Under a socialistic control of industry how does the Commonwealth Bank obtain the money - from the private banking institutions?
– If it is a matter of deciding between capitalism and socialism, it will be seen that we are able to do more under a socialistic than under the capitalistic system.
– The railways, which are conducted under the socialistic system, are not a paying proposition.
– Parliament, too, may be a socialistic system, which has not been economical. If £3,000,000 is made available this year to assist the farmers, £5,000,000 may be needed next year, unless we adopt a sensible and scientific system. I am obliged to support the bill, which, I regret, is far from perfect in its present form. It does not give to some farmers that assistance to which they are entitled. Iri Queeusland a guaranteed price is paid which, as Senator Crawford said, has been provided by the people of that State paying an increased price for flour.
– The Queensland wheat-growers do not need the bounty.
– But they will get it. What they receive is actually coming from others who need, it more.
– To what extent would unemployment increase if 10,000 farmers were forced off their holdings?
– I suppose that 10,000 additional men would be out of wo 1 :k
– The number out of work would probably be 100,000.
– We are not assisting to solve our national problem by committing the nation to an additional £3,000,000 in order to pay a bounty of 4-£d. to farmers, many of whom do not need it.
– We are giving the smallest measure of assistance to those who need it most.
– That is so. It is not arguable. This system must break down. Obviously, men who have complete farming equipment do not need the same measure of assistance as those who have very little capital behind them.
– I agree with the view expressed by Senator Kneebone that the measure constitutes a very lame attempt to do what is desired ; but it is perhaps the best that can be done in the circumstances. It is quite clear, as pointed out by Senator Foll, that under this system those who are most in need of assistance will receive little benefit. It is worth while emphasizing the fact that this is only a palliative, and will, as Senator Kneebone said, probably result in further demands being made upon the Consolidated Revenue in subsequent years. Under present conditions the Australian wheat-grower has toaccept world’s parity for his product, and if that is lower than the cost of production, they cannot carry on. This measure affords only temporary relief, and as such I welcome it; but it does not meet necessitous cases. I think it is fairly obvious that the yield will be below the estimate. That estimate may be exceeded if, owing to climatic changes, crops which may be on the point of failing, are saved at the last moment. On the other hand, the wheat-producers in certain areas have experienced excessive rain, and considerable damage has boon clone by rust. In these circumstances, the yield will probably fall short of the estimate. It is understood that £3,000,000 is to be advanced by the banks to pay a bounty of4½d. a bushel.
– The limitation of £3,000,000 is not mentioned in the bill.
– That is so; but it has been said on many occasions that that is the amount which the banks arc prepared to advance.If, as it appears, theGovernment’s estimate will fall short,it wouldbereasonable to provide for a bounty of 6d. instead of 4½d. a bushel. It seems that an inflated estimate of the probable wheat yield has been presented to us. and that a bounty at the rate of4½d. a bushel will not entirely absorb the money to be made available by the banks.
– That is certain.
– If £3,000,000 is to be made available, obviously the farmers should get it, and, if necessary, the bounty should be 6d., instead of4½d. per bushel.
– To that extent the previous bill was preferable to this measure.
– Yes; but that related only to wheat intended for export, whereas this measure covers the whole of the crop. The Government should adhere to the original proposal, so far as the amount of the bounty is concerned.
I agree with Senator Kneebone that the bill embodies a most improvident method of affording relief for the farmers. While we have plunged the country almost into insolvency, because of reckless borrowing in the past, often at very high rates of interest, we now proceed gaily to remedy our troubles by further borrowing, which must ultimately force us deeper into the mire. Probably the rate of interest on the £3,000,000 will be not less than 4 per cent. I am inclined to think that we should not adopt a cheese-paring policy in coming to the assistance of the farmers. If they are to be given any monetary assistance,let it be sufficient to meet the admitted need.
– It may be this bill, or nothing.
– Of course, half a loaf is better than no bread; but I ask the Government to adhere to its original proposal, and allow 6d. per bushel to be paid.It is evident that 160,000,000 bushels is a considerably inflated estimate of this year’s wheat harvest, and, on the smaller quantity that will probably be produced, bounty at the rate of 6d., instead of4½d., per bushel could be paid. I agree with Senator Kneebone that it is a farcical way of dealing with the economic situation to provide merely £250,000 for the relief of 400,000 persons who arc unemployed.
– Will not this money also relieve the unemployment situation-?
– All expenditure does that, ofcourse, but this will relieve the situation to only a, limited extent. The farmers, as a class, do not employ a great deal of paid labour. The migration that has taken place from the rural areas to the cities is due largely to machine production having displaced much manual labour. Many of those who formerly worked on the land are now engaged in factories in manufacturing implements with which farm work is done. I protest, against n pretence at generosity to the farmers when there is to be a cutting down to a minimum. Substantial assistance is needed. If a thing is worth doing at all, it should be done well. Small measures to meet great emergencies are worse than useless, because they raise hopes that cannot be realized. Ve should endeavour to* plan for the future on a national basis instead of on the haphazard system of waiting till the farmers are nearly ruined before we help them.
– The statements of Senators Kneebone and Rae, if allowed to go unanswered, might create a wrong impression. The value of farming, from the point of view of employment, cannot be measured merely by the number of men employed in the industry. Experts have considered its value in relation to the absorptive capacity of Australia, and it. may bc of interest to honorable senators to know that, the official finding of the statisticians, which, though more or less approximate, may be taken as a guide, is that £700 worth of exportable produce represents an absorptive capacity of 27 persons. Therefore, if 10,000 farmers walked off their land to-morrow, we should probably have to find another £30,000,000 to provide for unemployment. But from what source could we raise that huge sum? In the final analysis, we have to get everything from the land, and, therefore, we mus keep men on the land. If 10,000 farmers remain on their holdings as thiresult of this measure, we shall have done something to prevent unemployment in the metropolis growing to greater dimensions than have been reached to-day. ] merely desire to point out that when the Government approached the banks for the purpose of securing money to enable ii to relieve unemployment, it was able to obtain £3,000,000 for the help of the farmers, and it is certain also of obtaining £250,000 for the relief of the unem ployed. Unless our farmers are kept on the land, it is no use building reservoirs and bridges, or proceeding with any public works whatever. We must maintain a maximum output of primary production, or we may as well put up the shutters, and hand this country over to somebody else.
– And close the factories, too.
– I deny that this Government has done anything in connexion with factory legislation which is detrimental to the best interests of the primary producers; but that raises another matter. The Government is confronted with the urgent necessity for doing everything possible to maintain the absorptive capacity of the Commonwealth, and the only way to do that immediately is to keep as many farmers as possible on the land. I admit that, in certain circumstances, men who do not require the proposed wheat bounty may receive it; but their number is so infinitesimal, compared with the total number of farmers in Australia, that we may reasonably regard this legislation as comparable with other measures, such as those providing for pensions and the maternity allowance, which are given at times to those who do not need them.
– I am in agreement with the Assistant Minister as to the necessity for assisting the men on the land. A few years ago one would not have thought, that the position of the wheatgrowers would become so serious that they would have to appeal to the national Parliament for a bounty to assist them in carrying on the production of wheat, which Australia, above all other countries, is particularly favoured by Providence to grow in the fullest possible measure. I cannot become enthusiastic over the main principles underlying this bill. We cannot disguise the fact that, at a time when the people generally are in dire need, when there are other sections that are not more worthy of assistance, but who require it as much as the farmers do, and when the reserves of the banks are strained to the utmost to provide money to give accommodation to their customers, the Government, is calling on the Commonwealth Bank and the associated banks to advance £3,000,000 for the relief of one section of the community. There is only one way in which this money can he found for the farmers, and that is by withdrawing credit from other sections.
– Will not this money be returned to them?
– Yes, it will come back in full measure; but for the time being, the banks will be forced to reduce their advances to other sections of the community.
– The banks will regard it as justifiable inflation.
– The Minister is not entitled to set himself up as the mouthpiece of the banks in connexion with the subject of inflation. We all know that when wheat and wool are being marketed, a certain amount of inflation takes place. At the present time, however, the banks do not know which way to turn in order to provide assistance for their ordinary customers, and by financing this proposal they will cause embarrassment to many other sections of the community. Why has this great industry to approach the National Parliament for assistance? The reason is to be found, not in disastrous seasons, but in the high costs of production. The wheat-grower will have to make his operations profitable at a price somewhere in the vicinity of that which rules to-day. lt may be considered low, but it will come to be regarded as normal, and permanent assistance will be given only by reducing the load that at present is being carried.
– The interest on their mortgages will have to be reduced.
– That is only one cost which must be reviewed. We must also take into consideration railway freights, and the price of every commodity that the farmer uses. A more equitable way of giving relief would be to make available for this year and next year superphosphates costing £1 a ton less than has to be paid for them to-day. Under this scheme, to “ bc that hath, to him shall be given,” while “he that hath not” must go without. That is a pernicious principle for this Parliament to adopt. Those who have a bountiful harvest will receive in full measure, while those who have suffered for years, and who in all probability will suffer just as keenly this year, are to be told that they need not turn to this Parliament for assistance. The conditions under which this industry was built up should be restored, so that it may again assist in the development of this country.
I support the bill, although I believe that a better way of assisting the wheatgrower would be to relieve him of the burdens which he is carrying to-day, and which have necessitated his appealing to this Parliament.
– What are the specific burdens to which the honorable senator refers ?
– A few years ago, superphosphates could be bought for slightly over £4 a ton, but the price has risen to as high as £5 10s. and £6 a ton. Railway freights, shipping freights, cornsacks, and everything else have doubled in cost. It is asking too much of the wheat-grower to expect him with all these handicaps, to sell his product on the world’s markets in competition with the producers of other countries, who have not these disabilities to overcome. The time of the Government would be more profitably spent if it devoted attention to improving the p O S 1 t10.11 of the wheat-grower by removing these loads before the next crop was harvested. In that way some practical help would be given. The money that is to be made available under this measure is not to come out of any surplus revenue, because this country has no such surplus, .lt will take the form of an overdraft, the granting of which by the banks will lessen their opportunities of making provision for the routine business of the country.
– Seemingly the opinion is general among honorable senators that the bill is lacking in generosity. It must be recognized, however, that the people of Australia are being governed at the present time not by Parliament, but, by the banking institutions. I expect that there will bc disagreement, on the part of the Opposition, with that view; but proof of its soundness is furnished by the fact that, if the banks were not willing to provide the money the farmers could not be paid the proposed bounty of 4£d. a bushel. The ob- ject of a previous measure was to guarantee a price of 3s. a bushel, but the banks said that that was unconstitutional, and declined to give effect to it, proving that they were the dictators of the country’s policy. We are thus somewhat fortunate in having obtained their approval of the present proposal.
– Is this the sort of stuff that lost the Port Adelaide election?
– It is the truth, whether or not it lost the Port Adelaide or any other election. No one realizes that better than the right honorable gentleman. This scheme may be lacking in generosity as. is alleged; but why did he and other honorable senators refuse to agree to another proposal, under which £6,000,000 would have been distributed among the wheat-growers? The reason was that they considered it would have an adverse effect on their political aspirations. The payment of a bounty of 4½d. a bushel will represent a cost to the Australian people of approximately 10s. a head, which is not an inconsiderable payment.
– But it will have to be borrowed.
– Unfortunately, as Senator Kneebone has pointed out, the Commonwealth will have to pay interest on the amount borrowed to the. extent of approximately £2,000 a week. But had credit to the extent of £6,000,000 been made available, no interest payment would have been involved. The scriptural passage, “ He that hath to him shall be given “ may aptly be applied to this measure. Throughout Australia there are many farmers who have never suffered the experience of a drought, and are not in distress, yet they are not to be deprived of any of the benefits conferred by the bill. The biggest payment will go to those who least deserve assistance, while those who have been scratching along in dry areas, and have hardly sufficient to cover their own nakedness, and that o’f their families will receive very little. SenatorFoll’s suggestion that discrimination should be shown in the distribution of the bounty is well worthy of consideration.
– In committee I intend to move in that direction.
– I do not know how such a scheme could be applied. I should like to be informed whether, if one farmer sells seed wheat to another, he will be entitled to the bounty on the quantity so disposed of.
– Of course.
– Care will have to be exercised to see that it is a bona fide sale. Senator Dunn has argued that a payment of 8d. a bushel should be made. There is probably no difference of opinion on that point among honorable senators; but as the banks would not consent to it we must take what they are prepared to give. It is deplorable that, before we can legislate we must obtain their approval. The Parliaments of Australia, and not the banking institutions, should govern this country; otherwise, what is the use of incurring the expense of their upkeen? The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) smiles, but he cannot ignore the influence that is wielded by those institutions.
– I am thinking of the next election.
– The next election has nothing to do with the bill. Senator Herbert Hays has pointed out that the cost of production has been increased by high prices for superphosphates and other commodities, high railway freights, and so on. On the other hand, I can remember that some years ago a farmer with a large crop had three or four strippers going round the paddock, each requiring the attention of three or four men to winnow and bag the grain. Now the whole work is done by one huge header, which cleans and bags, and no labour is required . for winnowing. In this way the cost of production to the farmer has been reduced. Senator Lynch, by interjection, intimated that a bounty of4½d. a bushel on wheat would benefit the workers of Australia. I point out, however, that the workers are not affected to any great extent by the price of wheat; practically the same amount of labour has to be employed whether the price is high or low. It is true that in good seasons more employment is provided in tha warehouses, because there is a bigger demand from the farmers for the commodities which otherwise they would do without, but employment on the waterfront and on the railways is not materially influenced by the price of wheat. I am glad that, for once at any rate, the Senate is unanimous, because all honorable senators believe that something should be done to assist the farmers.
– I should not have risen to reply had not the Leader of the Opposition struck a foul blow at the Government when he remarked that the farmers could thank God for the Senate. The only thing the Senate has so far clone for the farmers is to expend a lot of hot air in the discussion of the various bills submitted to it. The farmers have been clamouring for some relief for quite a long time, and the Government first sought to make £6,000,000 available to assist them. That proposal was defeated by the Opposition in this chamber, but from then on the Government has not let up in its efforts to afford the farmers some relief.
– It may not have let up in its efforts, but it has let the farmers down.
– The Government has not let the farmers down, and I am surprised that the honorable senator should try to score off his mates, who agreed to the present proposal as part of the Premiers plan. The Government is trying to get this scheme into operation as quickly as possible. The fact is that the bank has had all to do with these various schemes. It had to provide the money, and it wanted to call the tune. The other day I read a letter received by the Prime Minister from Sir Robert, Gibson, the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and I propose to repeat part of it, so that honorable senators may understand the position. The letter is dated the 7th October, 1931, and is as follows: -
RE WHEAT BOUNTY.
Pursuant to the arrangement made with you,
I have been in conference with Mr.Drummond and the Governor, Mr. Riddle, with the object of endeavouring to evolve a practical working plan in accordance with the proposal to pay a bounty up to6d. per bushel on export wheat provided the f.o.b. price does not exceed 3s. per bushel.
The procedure necessary to carry the plan into effect is necessarily somewhat complicated, andwe have consulted with representatives of wheat shippers, flour millers and wheat pools, so as to meet,as far as possible, any practical difficulties which might confront them in carrying on the business.
There would appear to be no doubt that the export bounty proposed will give the greatest benefit to farmers particularly where such is most necessary; this is us against the proposal to pay a lesser bounty based upon production.
After careful consideration we have evolved provisions, which we think, are necessary to carry out the plan. These arc embodied in the enclosed memorandum for your consideration and adoption if deemed advisable in legislative form.
The system of payment proposed is then set out as follows: -
Proposed System under which Wheat Bonus Shouldbe Paid.
All persons engaged in the shipment of wheat or Hour from Australia, who desire to come under the operations of the export bonus system, must obtain a license from the Government as a recognized exporter, and must satisfy the Government as to their financial ability to meet the obligations laid down in the working of the scheme.
No bonus shall be paid on any wheat in respect of which the price f.o.b.is 3s. per bushel or more.
Where the price paid by the licensee to the grower is less than 3s. f.o.b., he shall issue a certificate to the grower stating the price at which he has purchased from the grower on an f.o.b. basis.
The grower, on presentation of such certificate, shall be entitled to receive from the bank the difference between 3s. f.o.b., and the price paid hy the licensee, not exceeding 6d. per bushel.
The licensee shall, on the 31st October, 1932, be called upon to account for every bushel of wheat upon which he has issued certificates to the grower, and he shall pay to the Commonwealth Bank, as agent for the Commonwealth Government, a price equal to the average of the bounty in respect of all certificates issued by such licensee on every bushel of suchwheat which he has not shipped at that date. 6. (a) Where the licensee is a flour-miller he shall account to the Government every fourteen days for the total amount of flour sold for internal consumption in Australia, and for every bushel of wheat sold ‘for the same purpose, and he shall pay to the Commonwealth Bank, as agent forthe Government, 6d. per bushel for every bushel of wheat disposed of for internal consumption. The number of bushels for which he shall account when such have been eon verted into flour shall be based upon ( ? ) bushels per ton of flour. On the 30th November, 1932, the flour-miller shall pay to the bank an amount calculated at the average of the bountyin respect of certificates issued by the Hour-miller, on the total number of bushels for which certificates have been issued, less the equivalent in bushels actually exported, lifter allowing for fortnightly adjustments during the period up to thu 30th November, 1932. (b)Every miller will, on the day of , 1931 (a date to be fixed prior to new crop doliveries commencing), submit a return to the Commonwealth Government of stocks of wheat and flour on hand. Such stocks on hand shall he included in returns rendered in terms of the act, but shall be excluded from the operation of the act. 7. (i) In the case of wheat pools the certificates issued shall show, in addition to the arranged advance, the amount of bounty payable to the grower.
For the purpose of assessing the return to the grower, the amount of the bounty shallbe added to the advance by the pool, plus the expenses of administration of the pool.
Should the return to the grower amount to 3s. per bushel on an f.o.b. basis, any surplus arising from the pool shall be used to refund the bounty,or portion thereof, paid in respect of certificates issued by the pool, and no payment shall be made by the pool to the grower, which would increase the return to the grower beyond the 3s. per bushel onan f.o.b. basis, unless and until the bounty paid in respect of certificates issued by the pool has been refunded to the bank.
That should he sufficient answer to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), and other honorable senators who doubted my statement that the bill submitted to the Senate was designed to carry out the arrangement agreed to by the bank which was to find the money. Representations were made by the Government to the bank with a view to having a flat rate of 6d. per bushel fixed as a bounty. The bank, however, was unwilling to advance more than £3,000,000, and on the basis of a harvest of 160,000,000 bushels, £3,000,000 would provide a bounty of only 4½d. per bushel.
– I suggest that if we are to finish the bill before lunch the Minister should curtail his remarks.
– I could not allow to pass unchallenged the statements which have been made against the Government.
I was obliged to make the Government’s position clear. However, in order to expedite the passage of the bill, I shall reserve anything more I might have said until the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (2.) For the purposes of this act wheat shall he deemed to’ have been delivered for sale if it is delivered by a grower to a flour miller, wheat merchant or co-operative organization for storage pending sale.
.- I suggest that the Government postpone clause 4, because I propose to move an amendment to clause 5 which, if agreed to, would make clause 4 unnecessary.
– I propose to move an amendment to clause which may overcome the difficulty so far as Senator Foll is concerned. My amendment, in effect, is to insert the words “ Government instrumentality “ after the word “merchant”. This is to cover wheat stored in government silos in New South Wales.
– That will not solve my difficulty.
Clause 5 -
The rate of bounty payable under this act shall be four pence half-penny per bushel.
. - I move-
That the House o£ Representatives be requested to amend the clause by leaving out the words “four pence half-penny” and inserting in lieu thereof the word “ sixpence “.
– Is it competent for a private member to move for an increase in a proposed charge or burden on the people? I think it is laid down in May’s Parliamentary Practice that such a course is open to Ministers only.
– I differ from Senator McLachlan. The Senate can amend or request the House of Representatives to amend any bill. It is certainly prohibited from increasing a proposed charge or burden on the people by an amendment, but whereas in another place; such an amendment must be covered by a message fromthe GovernorGeneral, the practice long ago laid down is that any such amendment may be moved in the Senate by way of request to the House of Representatives.
– I rule that it is competent for the Senate to request the House of Representativesto increase a proposed charge or burden on the people. The request is quite in order.
– At the Premiers Conference the following resolution was carried, with one dissentient, which, of course, was Tasmania -
That the Commonwealth Government provide a bounty for wheat-growers for the 1931-32 season of (id. per bushel on the basis of f.a.q. wheat for wheat exported and an equivalent bounty for flour provided such bounty shall not increase the f.o.b. price for wheat above 3s. per bushel.
I do not wish to do anything to defeat this bill, but if the banks have been persuaded to advance4½d., I think they could easily be persuaded to go a little further and provide an additional1½d., which would not increase the total payment to more than £4,000,000.
SenatorDooley. - The Government would have no objection to making the bounty (3d., but the money is not available. It is, therefore, useless to humbug the matter any longer.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [12.22].- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by leaving out all the words after the word “ be “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ four shillings per acre on land under wheat crop on the 1st October, 1931 “.
My purpose is to see that the man with the heavier yield gets no more than the man with a small yield. In some parts of the Riverina district floods have hit many share-farmers severely, and those men will hardly benefit from the payment of this bounty. Again, in some of the areas of South Australia the farmers will get a very light crop, because of the recent hot weather and lack of rain. The man most in need of assistance should receive it. The payment of a bounty of 4s. an acre would absorb approximately £3,000,000. The man with a crop of 500 acres would get £100. My idea is to assist the wheat-farmer who is struggling on a dry area and not simply to pay the bounty to the man who has had a big crop on good land.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment, because, in the first place, it is unconstitutional. The Constitution allows the payment of a. bounty only on the production or export of goods.
Question - That the request (Senator Foll’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chatrman - Senator Duncan.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [12.29]. - I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “and all payments thereof shall be made by the Commonwealth Bank “.
The bill which preceded this made provision for the payment of certificates through the Commonwealth Bank, but I understand that in another place yesterday the Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) indicated that, under this bill, they are to be paid by the Department of Markets. The purpose of my amendment is to use the organization of the Commonwealth Bank to make these payments to the growers.
– This matter was discussed in another place yesterday, when suggestions similar to that of the honorable senator were put forward. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Parker Moloney) conferred with the Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank Board on the subject, and was informed that the Bank Board insisted that the certificates should be issued, and the cheques paid, by the Department of Markets. The message of the Chairman of the Bank Board reads as follows: -
Certificate of marketed wheat to be furnished to Department of Markets. Department to issue cheque on Wheat Bounty Act with Commonwealth Bank. Treasury to issue treasury-bills to Commonwealth Bank as required from time to time to cover advances made on this account.
– In view of the Assistant Minister’s explanation, I desire to withdraw my amendment.
Amen drnen t - by leave - withd rawn .
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following; new clause bo inserted: - “ 5a. Any amount of bounty paid or payable under tin’s Act, shall not, without the consent of the grower, be assets available to any creditor of the grower in payment of the debts or liabilities of the grower, and the amount, if kept in a separate account, shall not for a period of six months after receipt by the growerbe such assets.”
A similar provision appeared in the previous bill, and 1 cannot understand why it was omitted from this measure. In his opening remarks on the second reading, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) stated, “ Thank God for the Senate.” Having in view the interests of thefarmers of New South Wales, I retort, “ Thank God for Jack Lang.” Honorable senators opposite have onlyto study the conditions that exist in Now South Wales to appreciate the protection that is afforded to primary producers by the operation of the Moratorium Act. 1 want to safeguard farmers from the predatory action of the rich American petrol companies and other go-getters who may obtain a lien over their crops.
– I trust that the Senate will reject the amendment. Clause 6 of the bill provides that the Department of Markets will send a cheque for the bounty to the grower concerned.
The cheque will be marked “ Not negotiable,” and be payable to “ Order,” which will ensure’ its being deposited with a bank. A clause was inserted in previous bounty bills making it difficult for creditors to have recourse to bounty payments. There is, however, doubt in the minds of the legal authorities as to whether such provision can be constitutionally inserted in a bill for a bounty, such as this. It is highly desirable that no risk should be taken in this connexion, especially as finance has been arranged, and payment of the bounty is certain. It is further pointed out that in each State the farmer is protected by a moratorium act against unfair claims by his creditors.
– Honorable senators should not concern themselves about the possibility of this amendment being unconstitutional. If a case arose, and the provision was shown to be unconstitutional, that would not invalidate the remainder of the act. It is only when the unconstitutional part of an act is so vitally interwoven with the remainder of it that the act may be declared ultra vires. I do not think that we have any reason to be afraid that any unconstitutional issue will be raised. The proposed new clause will safeguard the interests of the farmers, and can do harm to none. Although it may be provided that bounty cheques shall be paid through the department into a bank, that does not prevent, a creditor lodging a garnishee against the money. This amendment, seeks to safeguard the farmer for at least six months. The country is giving this money to the farmer to help him out ofhis difficulties, and we should ensure that he will handle it. Lethim discharge his liabilities as he deems fit.
Question - That the proposed new clause be inserted - put. The committee divided. (TemporaryChairman -Senator Duncan.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 - (1.) The Minister, or any person thereto authorized in writing by him, may by notice in writing call upon any person to furnish to him, within such time as is specified in the notice, such booksand documents and such information as the Minister or that authorized person thinks necessary in relation to compliance with this act or the regulations made thereunder or anysuspected contravention thereof.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [2.36]. - I move -
That the following wordsbe added to subclause1 : -
Such notice shall specify the transaction or series of transactions to he inquired into and the books, documents and information required by such notice shall bo such only as relate thereto.
My object is to ensure that the examination of any books shall have strict relation only to transactions upon which the department shall have the right to make an inquiry. I am sure it is not contended that the department should make a general examination of books regarding matters not relating to a transaction in which the department was concerned. The inquiry should have relation to the payment of the bounty, and to nothing else. I have consultedlegal authorities, and am advised that, in its present form, the clause is not sufficiently clear.
– Certain information may be furnished to the Minister suggesting the need for an inquiry, but if he has to specify the actual transaction, he may be unduly hampered in the exercise of his discretion. There has never been an abuse of this power in other legislation. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Minister has general power to inspect time books. I have no objection to the principle of the amendment, and I am sure that the Government does not wish to include in the clause provisions which might be used for a fishing inquiry, but the discretion given to the Minister should be wide enough to enable an inquiry to be made in respect of all transactions which might be open to suspicion. I suggest that further consideration of the clause be postponed.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Postponed clause 9 (Power to call for information.)
– I am instructed by the Markets Department that, after the legal position had been fully considered in another place, an amendment was inserted at the instance of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in order to tighten up the provisions, and, at the same time, allow certain discretion to the Minister. In its original form the clause read as follows : -
The Minister or any person thereto authorized in writing by him, may, by notice in writing, call upon any person to furnish to him, within such time as is specified in the notice, such books and documents and such information in relation to wheat as the Minister or that authorized person thinks necessary.
After discussion, the following words were added : - “ in relation to compliance with this act or the regulations made thereunder or any suspected contravention thereof.” The powers of the Minister are, by statute, limited to an inquiry in respect of which there is a contravention of the act. That is to say, the Minister, before an inquiry, must have some ground of suspicion. I admit that this discretion may be exercised capriciously, but clearly it is the intention of Parliament that any inquiry authorized shall be in relation only to a suspected contravention of the act. The amendment, if adopted, would unnecessarily fetter the Minister in the exercise of his discretion. I, therefore, suggest that the clause be passed in its present form if the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Dooley) will give an assurance that this power to call for the produc- tion of books and documents will be used only when the Minister has reason to believe that there has been a contravention of the act; - that the ordinary procedure with regard to the exercise of ministerial discretion will not be departed from.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [2.24]. - Since every transaction between a wheat-buyer and grower would have relation to this bill, any notice issued by the Minister for a general production of books and documents could be held to have relation to compliance with the act or regulations made under it. My only purpose is to ensure that any books or documents called for shall have relation to one thing only, the payment of the bounty, and not to the general business of a particular wheatbuyer, whether the buyer be an individual or an organization.
– Perhaps the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) might be met if we left out the words “ in relation to compliance with this act or the regulations made thereunder or any suspected contravention thereof” and inserted in their stead the words, “ in respect of any suspected contravention of this act or the regulations made thereunder “.
– I am afraid we are leaving too much to the discretion of the Minister.
– Any information disclosed would not be made public.
– If the Leader of the Opposition intends to press his amendment I, as representing the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, must advise the Minister that it will be impossible to police the act efficiently, and, as this legal point was fully considered in another place and a compromise agreed upon, the Minister in charge of the bill should not accept this amendment.
.- I hope that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) will not press his amendment. The clause amply safeguards the position of honest traders. The overwhelming majority of our wheat-farmers have no desire to evade the law with regard to any provisions relating to the bounty.
The provisions dealing with the inspection of books and documents are not so stringent as similar provisions in taxation legislation. I see no objection to the clause. If the Minister thinks that certain people are evading the law he should have complete power to call for the production of books and documents.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [2,29]. - I have no desire to hamper the Minister in the administration of the act, and I trust that Senator Johnston does not suggest that, in submittingmy amendment, I was actuated by any desire to assist persons who might seek to evade the law.
– No. I hope I did not convey that impression to the Senate.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.My only object is to prevent the Minister from conducting an inquisitorial inquiry into matters that may have no relation to the payment of the bounty. Can I have an assurance from the Government that in administering this provision, it will cause only such inquiries to be made as are connected with the transaction under notice, and that it will not authorize fishing inquiries into the whole business of the wheat buyers?
– I give the right honorable senator that assurance.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Postponed clause 4 - (2.) For the purposes of this act wheat shall he deemed to have been delivered for sale if it is delivered by a grower to a flour miller, wheat merchant orco-operative organization for storage pending sale.
– I move -
That after the word “merchant”, subclause 2, the words “ government instrumentality “ be inserted.
The object of the amendment is to cover wheat stored in government grain elevators in New South Wales.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) put -
That so much of Standing Order No. 134 be suspended as requires seven days notice of motion for rescission of an order of the Senate relating to this bill.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present and no dissentient voice, I declare the motion carried.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) put -
That the order of the Senate making the second reading of this bill an order of the day for the next day of sitting be rescinded.
– I declare the motion carried by an absolute majority of the Senate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Senator BARNES (Victoria - Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [2.40]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to authorize the expenditure of money on works to provide employment for men now unemployed, and so afford, in the period prior to Christmas, some measure of alleviation to those in distressed circumstances. Though I am not at present able to specify the particular works which will be put in hand, I assure honorable senators that they will be of such a nature that practically the whole of the expenditure will consist of the payment of wages. The cost of supplying materials will be at the minimum. It is proposed to ration the work so that the minimum period of employment will be two weeks and the maximum four weeks.
The schedule of works is now being compiled, and the probable allocation is £50,000 for expenditure by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and the bulk of the balance for expenditure by the Works Department for works required by that and other departments.
An appeal is being made to private employers to join in this attempt to provide work for the unemployed at the Christmas season, and it is hoped that those who have the means to do so, will assist -where they have useful work to be done. Action of this nature may well give a substantial impetus to the movement towards recovery which has been made manifest in the last few weeks, particularly in respect to our wheat and wool industries. It is estimated that the number of men who will benefit directly by the proposed expenditure will be between 12,000 and 14,000.
The allocation as between States is based on population, and is as follows: -
The balance of the money will be spent in the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
Honorable senators are, I know, intensely sympathetic with those who are out of employment, and I do not anticipatethat they will offer any objection to the speedy passage of this bill, because it will give a small measure of relief to a class in the community which has suffered great hardships.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [2.44]. - I shall not impede the passage of the bill except to say that, while I recognize that it is a palliative, it is a very necessary one, and one which will be most acceptable to the people who are out of work. If one may so put it, it will help to make the Christmas of these people a little more enjoyable than it would otherwise be. I am not sure that the best way has been found of spending the money so that the maximum of employment will be given, but there is not time available to formulate other plans which might possibly be more effective in that regard.
– Needless to say, it is not my intention to offer any opposition to the Government’s proposal to appropriate a certain sum of money to provide employment; but it is time that the Government applied some common sense to the expenditure of public money. We have only to look around Canberra to see for ourselves that money is being expended in a way that it should not be. I can recall thoroughfares which were good enough to last for the next twenty years being ploughed or dug up merely to provide work. I object not to work being provided, but to the unproductive nature of the work which is frequently undertaken. A practical man travelling around this area could readily find a more profitable way to employ labour than on much of the work which is now undertaken. Work should be of a nature that it will provide some return in the future, if not in the immediate future. For instance, there are large areas on which trees could be planted, which, in time, would bring in revenue as well as improve the landscape. I also think that there are large tracts of country on which the timber could be either ring-barked or cleared, and the land thus made available for cultivation. To plough up good hard roads merely to provide employment is sheer waste of money. It is, of course, right to construct a road when it is needed, but there is no advantage in reconstructing a road when the one in use is sufficient to meet requirements. There is no necessity to gravel walks that do not need gravelling, merely for the sake of employing labour, particularly when that labour could be more profitably employed in other directions. Some time ago this Government made a pronouncement that money was to be spent in constructing sewers in the neighbourhood of Sydney.
– The health of the people is very important.
– I fully realize that the health of the people has to be protected ; but considering the volume of work awaiting attention, it is the business of the Government to see that that undertaken is of a reproductive character. That is a phase of the subject to which the Government should direct its attention, instead of wasting money upon unnecessary work.
SenatorRae. - Sewerage work is more reproductive than our railway systems.
– In some cases that may be so. If a capable business man were in control in Canberra he would see that money was devoted to more useful works than many of those on which money has been spent in the past. I do not say that employment should not be provided; but am merely suggesting that the work on which money is spent should be of a reproductive nature.
– I agree with some of the opinions expressed by Senator Lynch ; but his illustration with regard to sewerage works was rather unfortunate,” as the rates charged to those using the sewerage system are usually sufficient to return more than interest on the capital cost. Until quite recently the sewerage system in the metropolitan area of Sydney has been reproductive. We should spend money on reproductive work whenever possible; but to what extent can that be done in this case when the small amount to be appropriated is to be allocated between six States, the Federal Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory?
– The principal work to be undertaken will be in the nature of repairs to Government properties.
– That is all right so far as it goes; but cannot the Government make a larger sum available? It is the intention of the Government to spend £3,000,000 to assist the farmers.
– That will provide work.
-To a limited extent; but most of it will be used to pay off debts. The sum of £250,000 to bc appropriated under this measure will provide only a few shillings each to the 400,000 odd men, who are out of work. If employment is to be found for only 14,000 persons throughout the Commonwealth, the prospects of a happy Christmas for the remaining 400,000 are not particularlybright. Why cannot the Government increase the amount? In travelling throughout the country, I have found that a large number of government buildings are in a state of disrepair. The old adage - “ A stitch in time saves nine “ - could be applied in this instance. If some expenditure were incurred now, much heavier outlay would be avoided in the future. I trust that the Government will endeavour to provide a much larger amount than is to be appropriated under this bill in order to afford some relief to the hundreds of thousands of unfortunate men who are out of work.
– Twelve months ago, when our financialposition was infinitely worse than it is to-day the Government provided £1,000,000 to relieve unemployment; but to-day when our economic position is improving, as a result of the increased prices being obtained for wheat and wool, the Government can provide only £250,000 to meet the needs of the unemployed in the six States, the Federal Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. The distribution of this amount among the 400,000 odd who are out of work would mean that they would receive only about 10s. each. We have just passed a measure, under which it is understood £3,000,000 is to be made available to the wheat-growers. Why not a larger vote than is proposed for the relief of the unemployed? I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes), or the Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley), how the proposed scheme will operate, say in the metropolitan area of Sydney? Is it the intention of the Government to establish a central labour bureau at the Customs House, where men will be expected to register, will the money be allocated to local governing bodies, or trade union organizations, or will the officials of the Department of Labour and Industry in New South Wales work in conjunction with the officers of the Works Department? Is preference to be given to returned soldiers regardless of the claims of others who may not possess that qualification? Since a’ pronouncement was made by the Prime Minister a few days ago to the effect that a certain sum was to be made available, I have received numerous letters from some of my unfortunate fellow citizens who are out of a job. As I am. unable to explain the conditions under which work is to be provided in New South Wales, perhaps one of the Ministers will enlighten me.
– The Government realizes that the sum of £250,000 to be appropriated under this measure is not large, but honorable senators should remember that the Prime Minister has also appealed to private employers, upon whose shoulders portion of the burden of finding employment should rest. Surely the whole responsibility in this respect should not be borne by the Commonwealth Government. There is also a certain obligation upon State Governments to do their part. Most of the money to be made available under this measure will be spent by Commonwealth. Departments. The scheme has not yet matured, but the intention is to spend a large portion of the money in repairing Commonwealth properties. The Commonwealth holds about £20,000,000 worth of properties, which are crying out for paint and repai rs. Those honorable senators who complain that the amount to be allocated is inadequate, and who make little of the Government’s endeavour to alleviate the lot of those unfortunate people who are out of work, ought to remember that representations should also be made to the State Governments to do something to help the Commonwealth in its effort to relieve unemployment.
– The details of the manner in which the £250,000 is to be spent have not yet been completed ; but at present it is expected that a large portion will be expended by the Postal Department and the Department of Works. The officers of those departments are now working on the scheme. It is anticipated that the money will be allocated at an early date so that relief may speedily be afforded to some of those in need. As stated by the Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley), the States, which employ many thousands of persons, have greater opportunities of providing employment than the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in theaffirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall bc payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purpose of expenditure on prescribed works to provide relief to persons out of employment, the sum of Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend tbe clause by leaving out the word “ Two “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Nine “.
-Where is the money to be obtained ?
– Let the Government approach the Commonwealth Bank, as it did in the case of the wheat-farmers. I have as much right to advocate the cause of the poor slaves who are looking for a feed or a job as I have to support a proposal to come to the assistance of the wheat-farmers, and I intend to do so without heat. Twelve months ago, Australia was in a state of financial stringency.
– It still is.
– It is, to a great extent. I appreciate the proposal of the Government to make available the sum of £250,000, and support the contention of the Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) that the different State governments should do their share as the New South Wales Government has done and that private enterprise should get its back against the wall with a view to giving the unemployed a much better spin than they have so far had. I appeal to the Minister, in a spirit of benevolence and goodwill, to assist me to carry this> request.
– What is the use of kite-flying, when it is known that the money cannot he obtained? This is the limit to which the Government can go; let us agree to it.
– The Government has agreed to distribute £3,000,000 among the wheat-farmers.
– Of course it has, because it was able to procure that sum. This is all that we can obtain for the purpose of relieving the unemployed. The Government does not desire to restrict itself to an expenditure of £250,000 ; if it had £5,000,000 to spare, it would gladly spend it.
Question - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Senator Duncan.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I should like the Minister to state whether any restriction is to be placed upon the kind of work that State governments may put in hand, or whether they are to be free to expend the amount allocated in whatever way they consider desirable.
– I stated only a few moments ago that the details of the expenditure have not yet been worked out. The amount appropriated will be allocated to each State, as nearly as possible on a population basis, and those chiefly responsible for its expenditure will be the Department of Works and the Postal Department.
– Does that mean that there is any intention to interfere with local government bodies, and to demand that they shall spend the money in the manner stipulated by the Commonwealth?
– The Commonwealth Government can exercise no power over local government bodies; but, if it is found necessary and is considered wise that some such body should expend a portion of the amount allocated, in all probability action along those lines will be taken. The money will be spent, and relief will be given to some of our people; therefore, what is the use of worrying further about the matter?
.- Some of the States will not employ men unless they pay them award rates of wages.
– What is wrong with that?
-Other States are providing work for their unemployed at reduced rates of wages, to the benefit of both parties. I do not think it is right that award wages should be paid out of money that is provided in a charitable spirit to help those who are unemployed.
– The honorable senator is not quite in order in making such remarks on this clause, which deals purely with the appropriation of a certain amount for prescribed works. The next clause is wider in its application.
– I do not think it is fair that some States should pay the full award rates for relief work that will not give an appropriate return. As a rule, relief work is not expected to be comparable with that which is ordinarily undertaken.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable senator were permitted to raise that issue on this clause, it could be debated at great length by every honorable senator, and finality would not be reached.
– I have no desire to delay the passage of the bill. I protest against the money being expended in that way.
– Seeing that preference to returned soldiers is still the law of the land, I should like to know if it will be applied in the allocation of this money which Senator Barnes has assured us will be spent on the renovation of post offices and other federal buildings.
– In the expenditure of this money there will be no departure from the policy of tho Government in regard to the employment of labour on Commonwealth works. That policy is too well known for me to have to explain it again.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which are required or permitted to be prescribed, or which arc necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular for prescribing the works on which moneys may be expended in pursuance of this act.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.17]. - I understand that in the Commonwealth departments, particularly in a spending department such as the post office, the principle has been laid down that a clause must be included in every contract, specifying that only union labour must be employed. I should like to know if it is the intention of the Government, in making regulations under this bill, to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists in regard to the benefits that will accrue from the expenditure of this money?
– There will be no departure from the practice now adopted in employing labour on Commonwealth works. Labour will be employed in accordance with the policy of the present Government.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.19]. - That is just what I was anxious to hear. Apparently the policy of the Government as now applied in the post office is that none but unionists need apply for employment.
– What is wrong with that?
– Presumably we are making a grant of money for the relief of men who are out of work, and it is not only unionists who are unemployed; non-unionists are also unemployed. Both unionists and nonunionists are citizens of this country, both are contributing to the country’s taxation, and this relief should be extended to both. The qualification for assistance should be not whether a man is a unionist or not, but whether he is unemployed. I want an assurance from the. Minister that there will be no attempt to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists in the allocation of this expenditure.
– In Australia to-day there are tens of thousands of people who cannot be described as financial members of any organization, for the reason that, through being out of work, some of them for as long as two years, they have not earned sufficient to make themselves financial on the books of the organizations to which they formerly belonged. The Government does not propose to discriminate against those persons. When a member of the Australian Workers Union is unfinancial, he is given an opportunity to make himself good on the books of his union out of his first or second pay, according to circumstances, and in accordance with the judgment of the man in charge of the joh as to what is a fair time to allow to the man to complete his membership. The Government will administer this expenditure as sympathetically as possible. I think honorable senators know my opinion about preference to unionists. 1 have expressed it on many occasions, I prefer a unionist at any time to any one else.
.- The Minister’s reply was equivocal up to the concluding words, which clearly indicate that he is in favour of preference to unionists. What 1 want to know, and, I think, Senator Pearce also, is whether that is to be the policy of the Government in the disbursement of the money we are voting to-day. If so, I shall vote against the bill. At this time of distress in Australia, there should be no discrimination between unionists and non-unionists, and it is one of the cruellest things the Government could suggest that such a discrimination should be displayed in the disbursement of this relief. If Senator Barnes is the mouthpiece of the Government in the matter, I shall certainly oppose the passage of the bill.
– If you do your blood will be on your own head.
– The Government should be ashamed of itself if it intends to ask applicants for this relief whether they are members of a trade union.
– That is not done.
– Then why did Senator Barnes say that we knew where he stood, and that, so far as he was concerned, he was in favour of preference to unionists?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.24]. - I shall test the matter in view of the indefinite nature of the Minister’s statement, which is capable of being construed to mean that this is a bill to provide money to enable unionists to pay up their back dues.
– I regard that as a slur on the trade union movement in Australia, and as a representative of the trade unions, and of the Labour party of New South Wales, I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– As there was nothing personally offensive in the right honorable senator’s remark, 1 cannot ask foT its withdrawal.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
Thatthe following words be added to the clause : “ and such regulations shall not discriminate between unionists and nonunionists ‘’.
.- Whilst I do not see any great objection to the amendment, I think it would be better not to insert it in a bill which is purely a measure to afford relief to unemployed.
– Leave it at that.
– -I am prepared to leave it at that, andI believe the Government is also, because we realize that men have been too long out of employment to keep their union ticket’s.
– They may still be unionists.
– They may still be unionists in principle, To a degree, every worker is a unionist in principle, but the question is whether he is; or is not, a ticket holder or a financial member of a union. The question of preference to unionists or returned soldiers should not have been raised on a bill which is simply a measure to afford relief for those who are out of employment.
– If the Minister will give the assurance that the Government will not discriminate in the expenditure of the money, I shall withdraw the amendment.
-I am not the Leader of the Government in the Senate, but if 1 can interpret the intention of the Government, it is not to enforce any restrictions in the expenditure of this money for the relief of unfortunate unemployed.
– Let the Leader of the Senate give that assurance officially.
– I do not know why the vice should be screwed up so tightly in order to extract a promise of this kind. It -has been made clear that this bill is to provide a small amount of relief so that hungry people may have an opportunity to earn u few pounds to tide themselves over the Christmas season. All I can tell honorable senators is that last night in another place, Mr. Theodore said, “ .If a mau is unemployed, that will bc all the qualification necessary for work”. I can merely re-assert that declaration.
– If the only qualification is to be that the man is unemployed, then, on that assurance, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave- withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Hill reported without Amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
ASSENT TO BILLS.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Australian Institute of Anatomy Agreement Bill.
Service anil Execution of Process Hill.
WHEAT BOUNTY BILL (No- 2).
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
The following paper was presented: -
Quarantine Act - -Regulation amended - Statutory Hines 10:1], No. 1.10.
Semite adjourned at 8.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 October 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19311030_senate_12_132/>.