13th Parliament · 1st Session
The. President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
I ask leave to make a statement with reference to a change in the Ministry.
SenatorRae. - I rise to a point of order. Standing Order 64 provides that a formal motion for the adjournment of the Senate can only be made after petitions have heen presented, and notices of questions and motions given, and before the business of the day is proceeded with. I submit that the Minister cannot intervene with a statement at this stage.
– There is some force in the contention of the honorable senator, but the Semite controls its own business, and it is for honorable senators to say whether or not they will grant leave to the Lender of the Senate to make a statement. leave granted.
[3.3]. - I desire to inform the Senate that” Senator the Honorable Sir Harry SutherlandWightman Lawson, K.C.M.G., has been included in the Cabinet, and was, on the 17th October, appointed by His Excellency the Governor-General to be a member of the Federal Executive Council.
Consequent upon the appointment of Sir Harry Lawson, the following arrangements have been made for ministerial representation in the Senate: - The departments of the Prime Minister, External Affairs, Interior and Industry, will be represented by myself; the departments of the Attorney-General, Trade and Customs, Postmaster-General Health and. Repatriation, by Senator McLachlan ; and the departments of the Treasury and Commerce ‘by Senator Lawson.
– Order! A statement by leave can be made only with the unanimous consent of the Senate. The honorable senator did not object to leave being granted, and, unless he wishes to dissent from my ruling, his objection at I his stage is out of order.
[3.6]. - I may say, in reference to the points of order that have been raised by Senators Rae and Dunn, that I am following the usual procedure. When ministerial statements are made in another place, we endeavour, at the first opportunity, to make them in the Senate also, regarding this as an act of courtesy due to honorable senators.
The Government has given the fullest consideration to the prospective position of wheat-growers after the sale of their 1933-34 harvest, and has carefully studied the representations that have beenmade regarding the adverse effects which a continuance of present low prices would have upon the solvency and stability of the industry. The present very low price is, to some extent, duc to reaction from the market activity which waa evident while restrictions were under consideration, andthe unusually violent specula- tion in North America recently. The Government believes that it is yet too early to determine what the average price next season is likely to be, and, therefore, what will be the industry’s need of financial assistance. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that, for the major part of the next crop, prices will be considerably above the present level. In October, 1931, the export price of Australian wheat was 2s. 4¼d.a bushel, approximately the price prevailing to-day. Thereafter, the price movement was as follows: November, 2s. 10¼d. a bushel; December, 3s. 3¼d. a bushel. From the latter date tothe end of the season the price did not fall below 3s. 2d. a bushel. In this connexion, I may mention that every increase of1d. a bushel in the price of wheat would add almost £750,000 to the income of Australian farmers from the sale of the forthcoming harvest. The Government, therefore, considers that a postponement of its final decision in the matter is justified. The position will be closely watched, and a few weeks hence the Government will be in a position to determine what assistance will be necessary. The industry may rest assured that appropriate action will be taken in lbc light of the position then obtaining.
Last week the Government announced that it was carefully considering the measures necessary to ensure that Australia would comply with its undertaking under the international wheat agreement, and at the same time assure to farmers n ready sale for all wheat produced by them whether or not its export had to be postponed. Since that time, the Government has received the latest estimates available of the volume of the forthcoming Australian harvest, and has had consultations with State Ministers, and representatives ‘of wheat-growers, voluntary pools, flour-millers and exporters, and grain exporters. following the receipt of the latest crop estimates,’ and the consultations referred to, the Government has considered its policy in. regard to this matter, and I am now in a position to indicate the steps which it proposes to take.
The latest estimate of the next harvest is about, 185,000,000 bushels, which would bc disposed of as follow: Requirements for home consumption, seed, and poultry, 50,000,000 bushels; available for export, 135,000,000 bushels. Australia’s export quota for grain and flour for the year ending the 31st July, 1934, is 105,000,000 bushels. The anticipated exportable surplus is, therefore, 39,000,000 bushels in excess of the quota. It is desirable that the export of flour be not restricted, for obvious reasons - (a) Flour trade contacts are difficult to maintain, and. once lost, would not he easily regained ; (/;) the production of flour provides labour;, (c) the production of flour in undiminished quantity i3 desirable to ensure supplies of offal for poultry and other purposes; (d) it is a matter of indifference to the wheat-grower whether his wheat is exported in the form of grain or of flour. For the foregoing “reasons, it is not proposed to diminish the export quota for flour below the export in 1932-33, provided that the Federal Flour-millers Association is satisfied that the export this year will reach the same proportions as that of last year. The export of flour during 1932-33 was the equivalent of 30,000,000 bushels of wheat, and was in excess of “the export during 1930-31 and 1931-32. Allowing 30,000,000 bushels to cover flour exports, the total amount of grain which may be exported is 75,000,000 bushed. Export at present is handled by the voluntary pools in the States of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and by independent persons and exporters in all States.
The anticipated crop surplus of 30,000,000 bushels, and the carry-over from the 1932-33 season as at the 1st August, 1933, must be provided for until the 31st July, 1934, after which it may be exported. Arrangements must be made to ensure that this wheat will be freely purchased, if it is freely offered by farmers. .Wo legislation will be necessary to ensure compliance with the agreement, and provision for the ready purchase from fanners of the surplus which cannot be exported till the 31st, July, 1934. The following procedure is proposed : -
I may say that no licensed exporter will have a vested interest in the quota initially allotted to him. The allocation, of quotas at the outset is necessary to provide a working basis. . If circumstances arise which, in the opinion of the Minister, justify a revision of the basis of allocation, he will take action accordingly. As a result of the Government’s consultations with the various interests concerned, it is satisfied that the plan devised will work satisfactorily, and that finance will readily be available to the pools and the merchants to enable them to observe their obligations to hold wheat, on farmers’ account, for subsequent export.
– I understood the Leader of the Senate to say that the Government expected a considerable increase of the price of wheat during the coming export season. If my interpretation of his remarks is correct, I now ask him upon what data the Government bases that expectation, and by what amount per bushel it anticipates that the farmers of Australia will benefit?
– In answer to the honorable senator, I cannot do better than repeat what I said just now, namely, “ The Government believes that it is yet too early to determine what the average price next season is likely to be. . . It is not unreasonable to anticipate that, for the major part of the next crop, prices will be considerably above the present level “. I have nothing to add to that statement.
Effect of Excise Tariff
– Will the Government consider the fact that employment in Australia is not likely to be increased by giving a tariff preference on imported whisky to the prejudice of beer produced in Australia? Is it not equivalent to giving a preference on imported whisky so to reduce the excise duty on whisky as to enable the price charged to the consumer for a nobbier to be reduced whilst at the same time maintaining an excise duty on beer which will not permit the price of it to be reduced ?
– I know no member of the Government more fitted than I to debate that matter, but the points raised by the honorable senator can be appropriately discussed when the Senate is considering the budget proposals of the Government.
– The Sydney Sun of last evening published a statement, apparently emanating from the Department of Development, to the effect that 20,000,000 tons of shale oil was in sight in the Newnes Valley, and similar quantities were available at Baerami, and at Latrobe, Tasmania, and that private companies were now negotiating with the Government regarding the development of those fields. Since the Minister has already made a statement to the press, has he any further information to give to the Senate?
– It is not a fact that negotiations are being conducted with any private interests for the working of the shale oil fields mentioned. It is anticipated that upon the return of Mr. Rogers from abroad on the 4th November, the committee which is investigating this subject will be in a position to furnish a final report as the result of its exhaustive examinations at Newnes, and this, I believe, will help towards the solution of a somewhat difficult problem.
– Who was responsible for the statement in the Sim?
– I know nothing of it. I did not see it, and it did not emanate from my department.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether copies of the recent agreement between Great Britain and the Argentine have been received in Australia? If so, will the Minister place them at the disposal of honorable senators?
– Since Senator Brown, on the 5th October, drew attention to the agreement between the two countries mentioned, I have made inquiries, and now find that only a limited number of copies has been received in Canberra. In the circumstances, I am not able to supply copies to honora’ble senators, but I propose to lay one on the table of the Library.
– Is the Minister in charge of development in a position to take the Senate into his confidence in relation to the Government’s policy for the development of the Australian fishing industry, and can he say whether, in conformity with the spirit underlying the federation, that policy will be submitted to a conference of Premiers?
– The budget speech of the Treasurer contained the statement that the Government proposes to set aside £20,000 for the purpose of developing pelagic fishing.
– In reply to a question I asked a few weeks ago, the Leader of the Government in the Senate said that there was no immediate prospect of an agreement with British capitalists to take over- a large area in Northern Australia under the chartered company system. In view of that reply, and a subsequent press statement made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), :that British capitalists were, only last week, negotiating with the Commonwealth Government in connexion with some scheme for the development of Northern Australia, can the Minister say whether any finality has been reached in connexion with such negotiations ?
– There is at present no agreement with British capitalists for taking over a portion of the Northern Territory, but as soon as any definite arrangement has been made, it will be placed before Parliament. Any agreement proposed will be subject to ratification by the Parliament.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether it is the intention of the Government to secure for Australia the services of that great Queenslander, Sir Charles Kingsford Smith?
– If the honorable senator will suggest in what capacity the services of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith could be secured, and what salary should be paid to him, I shall consider his proposal.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1933-34.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1933-34.
Loan Fund Expenditure Bill 1933-34.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have received’ from Senator Dunn an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the urgent necessity for taking steps to prevent chaotic conditions arising in the wheat industry by financing this season’s crop through the Commonwealth Bank to at least 3s. a bushel, and by establishing a satisfactory marketing organization.”
Five honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move-
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m.
I congratulate the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) upon his anticipation of this motion, of which I had given 24 hours’ notice.
– The honorable senator’s statement is a reflection on your ruling, Mr. President.
– I ask the honorable senator to keep clear of that contentious matter.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate has made a statement setting forth what the Government intends to do to assist the wheatgrowers. A similar statement was made in the House of Representatives yesterday by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart). The Government has frequently been at pains to give assurances that it is the friend of the farmers, but whether it is so or not we must judge for oursslves as this debate proceeds. On the subject of wheat marketing, I propose to quote the considered statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 13th October -
It has been pointed out that since the American announcement of her intention to subsidize export wheat and flour to China and Japan, there had been practically no demand from these countries for Australian wheat and flour, whereas last year at this time sales were being effected. Mr. Lyons also pointed out that in view of the important part which America had played in the negotiations leading to the wheat agreement, the Commonwealth Government had intimated to Mr. Bruce that it considered that, in the interests of the market stability which the agreement was designed to foster, America should be prepared to make a definite announcement regarding her intentions. Mr. Lyons added that it would materially help the position if America were prepared to announce that exports to specific markets would not be subsidized but that her allotted quota would be sent to world markets at the existing world parity under ordinary trading conditions. Such an announcement would accord with the spirit of the agreement.
Following this report, the executive of the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia telegraphed to the Minister asking him, in view of the extreme seriousness of the wheat situation, to urge the Federal Government to take immediate steps to stabilize wheat at 3s. a bushel at sidings. Failing definite action, it stated, the collapse of the wheat industry was certain. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 13th October, the Minister for Commerce is reported as having stated -
Mr. Stewart said it was still too early to determine whether immediate assistance to growers was necessary. The estimates for all the States would not be received in Canberra until Monday. Surely the Government was entitled to ascertain the extent of the harvest before coming to a decision. Although some membera had denounced the International Wheat Agreement the real representatives of the industry in the Bouse had not adopted that attitude. They knew the value o£ the agreement, and they knew, also, that the Government bad not agreed willingly to a restriction of exports. The Ministry was not unmindful of the position of the growers, or of the urgency of the position. He had made appointments with representatives of the industry and financial institutions in Sydney on Saturday, and in Melbourne on
Monday. In the coming week the Cabinet would consider the position of the industry and would see that it received a fair deal.
In the Sydney Sun of the 17th inst., there appeared the following report: -
Federal Cabinet is Tackling.
The Federal Cabinet is discussing plans to assist the wheat-growers, but at the luncheon adjournment to-day, no finality had been reached.
The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) outlined to Cabinet this morning the proposals submitted by the representatives of the State Governments.
Then the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) came into the picture -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said at the luncheon adjournment that no official statement would bc issued until the House of Representatives assembled. No decision had been reached, and it was doubtful whether the problem would be settled to-day. “ We are faced with a very grave and complex situation,” he said.
The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) was busy with departmental officials until a few minutes before Cabinet met, but a solution of the problem had yet to be found.
The Victorian Premier (Sir Stanley Argyle) said to-day that the Government could not introduce a Flour Acquisition Bill, as urged by a meeting of wheat-growers at Dimboola yesterday, because such legislation had been declared illegal by the High Court.
In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 16th October there appeared the following report
Although declining to indicate his proposals, Mr. Stewart said he knew they would be reassuring and acceptable to the interested parties and to the general public. Australia had to conform with the international agreement and restrict herexportations of wheat, and the wheat-growers were faced withadifficult position. The matter of the disposal of the balance of the exportable harvest had been engaging his attention for some considerable time, and he had made exhaustive investigations, seeking advice and information from the best-informed persons.
In the same newspaper of that date there appeared a report of the following statement madeby the Premier of Victoria, Sir Stanley Argyle, attheconference:- “ I am very worried about prices,” he said. “ The States are not in a position to deal with that phase of the question. The Federal Government gave a bounty of 4d. a bushel for the season before last. Last season it gave a grant for the States to distribute to growers. The imposition of a flour tax or the fixing of the home consumption price has been suggested, but it would be unconstitutional for the States to deal with those matters. They belong entirely to the Federal sphere.”
Mr. Butler, the Premier of South Australia, who also attended the conference, said - “ We cannot expect any improvement in unemployment or budgetary positions until we stabilize our agricultural industries. If the Federal Ministry had used half its surplus to help agriculture, it would have done much better. The wheat agreement now provides for the export of 105,000,000 bushels of this season’s crop, which is estimated to produce 180,000,000 bushels. The estimate is increasing all the time, and the prices are decreasing proportionately. That is not the agreement which we mode in Sydney. We are building a huge surplus here, and surpluses are growing overseas.”
In the budget which will come before the Senate for discussion shortly, the Government has made provision for the remission of taxation to the amount of £5,000,000 in the interests of the wealthier sections of the community, but has made absolutely no provision for the assistance of the wheat-farmers. Speaking on behalf of wheat-growers in New South Wales, I say definitely that they have been let down very badly. A further statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 17th October, was as follows: -
Conference in Melbourne.
Proposals to end the desperate position of wheat-growers were discussed again to-day by representatives of the Ministries of Victoria, South Australia, and Now South Wales in the presence of the Federal Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart).
Later Mr. Stewart conferred with representatives of producers, flour-millers, and exporters. To-morrow morning he will submit the result of the deliberations to the Federal Cabinet.
Although the statement which the Leader of the Senate obtained leave to make this afternoon vitally affects our wheatfarmers, those who claim specially to represent them in this chamber apparently have so little concern for their welfare that, at the moment, I am speaking to almost empty benches. The Minister’s statement was almost identical with that made by the Minister for Commerce in the House of Representatives, but I notice that in the appendix to the latter there appeared the following : -
The present very low price is, to some extent, due to reaction from the market activity which was evident while restrictions were under consideration, and the unusually violent speculation in North America recently.
The Government believes that it is yet too early to determine what the average price next season is likely to be, and, therefore, what will be the need of the industry for financial assistance.
It is obvious that the Government is in a jamb, and does not know what action should be done to assist the wheatfarmers of Australia. The Minister went on to say -
It is not unreasonable to anticipate that for the major part of the next crop prices will be considerably above the present level. . . .
The Government considers, therefore, that a postponement of its final decision in the matter is justified. The position will be closely watched, and in a few weeks’ time the Government will be in a position to determine the extent of any assistance which may bo found necessary.
As a matter of fact, the Minister for Commerce, in this matter, is merely indulging in crystal grazing. He is endeavouring to persuade himself and our farmers that everything will be right in the sweet by-and-bye, when they will get better prices for their wheat. The Minister for Commerce was for some time financially interested in the Sydney Sun newspaper, and occupied a position on its directorate. Following his appointment to the Ministry, he severed his association with the Sun, stating that he had disposed of his interests in that journal. I do not for a moment suppose that, as he walked out of the Sun office, he gave his shares to the first pedestrian he met in Castlereaghstreet. In the commercial columns of the Sun of yesterday’s date wheat was quoted at1s. 8½d. a bushel for bags at railway sidings, and1s. 7½d. for bulk wheat. This does not support the Minister’s contention that prices later in the season will exceed last year’s level of 2s.4½d. a bushel.
The Leader of the Senate has just told us that -
Licences to export will be subject to conditions.Each licensed exporter will be required to undertake to buy from farmers as long as they are freely offering wheat for sale.
What is meant by “freely offering for sale”?
– A licensed exporter will probably approach wheat-farmers, and say to them, “ I am a licensed government buyer. I am prepared to give you2s a bushel for your wheat.” Then the haggling will begin, and the farmer will say to the buyer: “I am not prepared to sell at 2s. a bushel because it costs me that amount to produce the wheat. I want 2s. 6d., 3s. or 3s. 6d.” The licensed buyer will call on the neighbour of the farmer who has refused to sell, with the result that other arrangements will be made, and he will report that the grower who refused 2s. a bushel was not “freely offering “ his wheat. Last week the price had fallen to the lowest level experienced for two years. The Sydney quotation was 2s. 7½d. f.o.b., or1s.11d. at country railway sidings. The latest figures, which are published in a newspaper in which the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) once had an interest, states -
The Sydney rates at sidings are1s. 8½d. for bagged and1s. 7½d. for bulk.
The English market has been deluged with German, Hungarian and Russian wheat, and there is no likelihood of improvement in the market. The position was aggravated by a carry-over of 15,000,000 bushels from last season. The overseas outlook is not encouraging. The attitude of Russia is causing concern, the Amercian Government has threatened to dump a large part of its carry-over on the Eastern markets at about11d. a bushel, and the Australian trade with the East has practically ceased. Because of bumper harvests in Italy, France and Germany, the Australian export quota has been limited to 105,000,000 bushels for the year ending the 31st July, 1934. The quota will be higher for the following year, but if European countries again have good crops, Australia will be no better off two years hence than it is this year. The farmers of Australia have been taught another lesson. They are not to be permitted to sell the whole of their crop this season owing to the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and other nations. Primary production being the principal industry in Australia, this matter is of great interest to all sections. Miners and pastoral workers alike have been affected by the depression in their industries, and drought and low prices combined with indebtedness have crushed the farmer, who was the final hope of armchair economists. Yet the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) as well as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) pose as monuments of political purity, and as the saviours of the man on the land, who is the backbone of the country. The Government is prepared to hand out £5,000,000 to the wealthy interests for services rendered, but no provision is made in the budget to help the down-trodden farmers out of the morass in which they find themselves. Because of the next election, the Government, like the blackfellows dog, has its ear to the ground, but the farmers are in desperate need of immediate assistance. Despite the fact that it has been stated that no credit is available to enable the Government to grant financial relief to the wheat-growers, the Leader of the Senate went post haste to the Millions Club in Sydney to counteract propaganda for increased defence expenditure carried on in New South Wales by a senile and half-witted politician whohas seen the best of his days. The Minister said that the Government was prepared to fmd £12,000,000 to strengthen the defences of Australia, yet it cannot provide £6,000,000 for a grant to assure to the farmers 3s. a bushel. Nor is the Government willing to advance money to assist in the discovery of a means of commercially extracting fuel oil from coal by the hydrogenation process; but it is prepared to remit taxation to its wealthy friends to the amount of £5,000,000.
Restrictions upon the export of wheat are proposed in order that Australia may keep within the quota agreed upon between Great Britain and other nations. That international agreement was a sardonic commentary upon the Ottawa Agreement, which was launched as an instrument to keep trade within the Empire, and as a certain means of enabling every primary and secondary producer inside its borders to sell the whole of his productat a fair price. Surely the Government is not prepared to say that the wheat-farmers of Australia are asking for more than a fair price for their product. A few years ago, every Government in the Commonwealth urged the farmers to produce more wheat, but as time went on the growers realized that they had been deceived. Australia has to face competition from Russia, Italy, France, Canada, the United States of America, India and the Argentine. The monthly summary for
September issued by the National Bank of Australasia states that in Victoria the wheat crop is abundant; in New South Wales rain brought timely relief to the wheat belt, and a satisfactory harvest from considerable areas is said to be assured; in Queeusland a good seasonappears certain, and in South Australia another bountiful harvest is
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
[4.5]. - After having listened to the honorable senator, one cannot help feeling what a debt of obligation he is under for the compiling of his speech, to what he and his friends sometimes refer to as the capitalistic press. He quoted with evident, approval various statements made by State Premiers, and I cannot help thinking of a familiar character jn Mark Twain’s books who said that he was willing to sacrifice his wife’s relations in any good cause. It appears that the State Premiers are quite willing to submit proposals to the Commonwealth Government, and even to suggest the terms upon which it should take the farmers’ wheat, but they have no plan which they themselves are prepared to carry out. The honorable senator and his associates in the Lang Labour party have not shown much evidence in the past of being sympathetic towards the farmers, nor can they now be regarded as their champions. Unfortunately for Senators Dunn and Rae, the Lang Labour party has recently been in office in New South Wales, which is the largest State in the Commonwealth, and the farmersof that State have a lively recollection of what that Government did for them. The term “ did for them “ is most apt, because by its political control of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales it caused that institution to close. In most country districts the farmers, particularly the small growers, do most of their banking with the savings bank; but another institution in that States - the Rural Bank - had been established for the express purpose of assisting the farmers. The Lang Government brought about the closing of not only the savings bank, which caused great loss and anxiety tothe depositors, but also the Rural Bank, which was designed especially to assist the farmers.
That Government also did something for the avowed purpose of assisting the farmers. Like Senator Dunn, I shall quote from the capitalistic press. I find that the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday published the following paragraph : -
The Labour party is against a. tax on flour for the purpose of procuring funds to pay a subsidy to the wheat-grower. Its members say that by that means the price of bread would be increased. Yet thu Labour party favours a Commonwealth pool for the purpose of raising the price of wheat used for home consumption. The raising of the price by that means would have just as much effect on the price of flour as a tax would. The main reason for the Labour party supporting the formation of a Commonwealth wheat pool is that it would be a step towards socialism, which would end in the socialization of the farming industry. The Labour party takes no notice of the fact that it was the Lang Labour Government which passed through Parliament a Flour Acquisition Act -under which flour was taxed at the rate of £2 15s. a ton.
Now let us see what the “ friends “ of the farmers did with the money raised by the tax -
The proceeds of that tax were not distributed among the farmers, as they well remember, but were lent at interest to farmers who were in necessitous circumstances.
The Lang Government raised the money by a tax on flour and lent it at interest, so when the farmers read Senator Dunn’s speech they should remember that he represents a party which when in power treated them in that way. The Flour Acquisition Act is still in force, but the tax has been reduced to 30s. Senator Dunn, apparently with great approval, quoted the Premier of Victoria as having said that it is not legal for the States to impose a tax on flour. In making that statement, he was condemning the Lang Government for its illegal act of imposing a tax on flour, and then lending tho money so obtained to the farmers and charging them interest on it. I am not impressed by the attempt of Senator Dunn and the party he represents to pose as the friends of the farmers.
The honorable senator disputed the statement of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) regarding the price of wheat, but it must be remembered that the better price obtained after October, 1931, came at a time when there was a surplus of approximately 440,000,000 bushels in the United States of America and Canada. Notwithstanding the danger of that carry-over being placed on the market at any time, the price of wheat rose, as the Minister for Commerce showed. One of the virtues of the agreement is that it definitely limits the export of wheat for two years to an amount estimated to be equivalent to the reduced demand of the importing countries of the world. It also brings under control the surplus of the United States of America and Canada. Without the agreement, the chaos in the wheat market would have been worse.
Senator Dunn also suggested that the agreement will destroy the opportunity of the farmers to dispose of their wheat freely. It will do nothing of the sort. All the usual channels of disposal now open to the farmer will be maintained. He may still sell his wheat to millers, wheat-exporting merchants, or the voluntary pools in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. There will be no restriction on the reestablishment of a voluntary pool in New South Wales. The agreement will not disturb the competition which has existed hitherto, or place the farmer in a worse position than before.
– If there is a surplus, there will not be much competition.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There has always been a carry-over of wheat. If Senator Johnston denies that the competition which has existed has ensured world parity prices to Australian wheat-farmers, he condemns the voluntary wheat pool in his own State.
– I do not condemn it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The farmers have obtained world parity prices, and since the voluntary pools have not obtained the whole of the yield, it is evident that private wheat merchants also have given world parity prices.
– The restriction of exports will alter the position.
– The arrangement made to give effect to the agreement will ensure to wheatfarmers all the privileges which they would enjoy under a compulsory pool. The voluntary pools may receive financial assistance through the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank for the whole of their operations, including the wheat which they will export, as well as that which they must hold.
– Will those advances be free of interest?
– Certainly not. They will be no more free of interest than was the money which the Lang Government lent to the farmers of New South Wales. The Commonwealth Bank does not lend money free of interest; but its rural credits branch does make . it available at lowrates of interest. That money will be available to the voluntary pools for the purchase of the wheat to be exported, and also in respect of the wheat to be. held until the following year. The merchants are under an obligation to hold wheat for the farmers in the same way that the pool holds it, or to purchase wheat. Under a compulsory pool, all wheat-growers, whether they liked it or not, would have to place their wheat in the hands of one authority. They would only bc able to receive advances on that wheat, and would have to wait until the final returns were received before they could obtain full payment. The arrangement made by the Government gives an increased financial facility to those farmers who wish to avail themselves of it, and, in addition, preserves the existing trade organizations, which enable farmers to sell their wheat outright if they prefer to do so.
It is contended that the plight of the wheat-growers is so serious that the Government should have announced its willingness to grant them immediate financial assistance. The announcement of government policy is clear. The Government considers that it is necessary to wait a little longer for a reliable estimate of the price which is likely to be obtained for wheat when the forthcoming Austraiian harvest is marketed. The present price of wheat is low; but that does not necessarily mean that it will remain low for the whole of this financial year. I remind honorable senators that, although in October, 1931, the price of wheat was as low as it is to-day, by the time the Australian harvest was being marketed, it had risen almost ls. a bushel. The following table sets out the f.o.b. price of wheat from October, 1931, to June, 1932 :-
The average for the year was 3s. 0+d., although the price in October was only 2s. 4¼d. Does any honorable senator suggest that if there is a bountiful harvest, and the price of wheat at harvest time is 3s. a bushel or over, the farmers will be in need of assistance ?
– Will the Government guarantee them 3s. a bushel, or more?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE I am not saying that the Government will, or will not, guarantee them that price.’ I merely ask whether, in the circumstances I have mentioned, there would be any necessity to introduce legislation to guarantee a certain price for wheat. The new season’s wheat is not harvested until November. In November, 1931, the price of wheat was 2s. 10½d. a bushel, and- in November, 1932, 3s. 2Jd. The Government ‘believes that the low price of wheat to-day is largely the result of the gambling in wheat when the World Economic Conference was being held. The price of grain then rose rapidly, but when the result of the conference and the terms of the agreement entered into were disclosed, the gamblers in wheat realized the true position. It remains to be seen whether the fall in the price of wheat is temporary or permanent.
The following statement shows the basis on which the export quotas for the principal wheat-producing countries were based : -
Another point which should be remembered is that, under the agreement, Canada and the United States of America undertake to decrease the acreage under wheat. First, the surplus stocks in those countries, which previously threatened world prices, will be under control, and, secondly, there will he a 15 per cent, reduction of the area they will have under, wheat. Although the agreement is not all that the Government would like it to be, Australia comes out of it with a minimum of sacrifice compared with the other wheat-growing countries of the world. We have yet to see what the result of the agreement will he, when the gambling in wheat has ceased, and norma] conditions have returned. If, in 1931, when 440,000,000 bushels of wheat could have been placed on the market at any moment, the price of wheat rose, what is likely to be the position with that huge carry-over under control and reduced areas under wheat in both the United States of America and Canada? In the circumstances, it surely is not unreasonable to expect an early rise in the price of wheat. The Government recognizes the value of the farming industry to Australia, and believes in assisting the wheatgrowers if they need assistance. It3 policy will, I feel sure, receive the support of a majority of the people of this country. Within the next few weeks, the prospect for the forthcoming harvest should be better known. Surely the Government is entitled to await developments before submitting proposals which, may mean increasing the- burden of taxation upon the people. Before Parliament adjourns, the Government will make known its intentions. I remind the Senate that the assistance given by the Scullin Government to the wheat-farmers of Australia is still costing the people of’ Australia £300,000 a year.
– If that assistance had not been granted, the present Government could not have balanced its budget.
– Probably not. I merely point out that by borrowing money to assist the wheatfarmers, the problem was not disposed of, because for some years Australia will have to pay £300,000 a year in respect of the money then disbursed. If we borrow money again to assist the wheat growers, -we shall build up a further liability over a number of years. Rather than commit itself to a definite policy at this stage, the Government prefers’ to wait for a more reliable estimate of the forthcoming harvest. If the need arises, the Government will bring forward proposals to ensure that the farmers will be kept on the land.
– I am not concerned at the moment with Senator Pearce’s criticism of the Lang party, though I am politically opposed to that party. It appears, however, that we have at last seen the end of the liaison between the Lang party in the Senate and the Government, which., when the tariff was under consideration last session, resulted in such heavy burdens being laid on the wheat-farmers in opposition to the wishes of the Country party and even of the majority of the Government’s own supporters. I arn now concerned to see that proper assistance is given by the Government to the farmers, and such assistance should take the form of assuring to them for the coming harvest not less than 3s. a bushel at sidings. A request. to that effect was made to the Commonwealth Government by various State Governments at the time that the Commonwealth Government, in opposition to the wishes of some of the wheat-growing States, imposed restrictions on the export of wheat.
For the year 1931-32 a bonus of 4-kl. a bushel was paid to the wheat-farmers by the Scullin Government, and that absorbed £3,400,000. Last year, £2,000,000 was paid to the wheatfarmers out of revenue by means of a grant of half a crown for each acre of wheat-bearing land. This year the price of wheat is lower than ever before. The Minister said that the price is 2s. 4id. a bushel f.o.b., but in some States, the price is as low as ls. 8d. and ls. 9d. at sidings. Nevertheless, no provision has been made in the budget for assisting the wheat industry, though the outlook is blacker now than ever before. Not only are prices ruinously low, but, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the Government - acting under a good deal of pressure, I admit - has imposed restrictions on the export of wheat. It is merely repeating a truism to say chat wheat and wool are our two most important industries, yet the Government has discontinued the assistance which last year was given to the wheat-farmers. The Prime Minister said that the present budget is a recovery and prosperity budget. Of course, I am glad that the Government has been able to reduce taxation and grant concessions to various sections of the people. I approve of the reduction of taxation as being the best way of relieving unemployment; but, in my opinion, the first duty of the Government, before making these concessions, was to provide adequate assistance to the great wheat-growing industry of Australia. “We can have neither prosperity or recovery until thi3 is done. It is a farce to speak of “ a recovery budget “ while the great key industry of wheat-growing is on the verge of collapse.
It is not’ too much to say that the failure of the Government to make provision for assisting the wheat industry has created a feeling of deep dismay and bitter disappointment throughout the wheat-growing areas of the Commonwealth. I approve of the action of the mover of this motion in drawing attention to the matter. Unless something is done to assist the wheat-growers, we shall have increased unemployment and industrial chaos. After three years of low prices, the outlook to-day for the wheatgrowers is darker than at any time since the depression descended on Australia, because, in addition to low* prices, the industry is faced with the menace of restricted exports. In the past Australian wheat, because of its high quality, enjoyed a much better export market than did the wheat of any of its competitors. I cannot follow the workings of the ministerial mind which, when framing the budget, provided concessions and assistance for practically every other section of the community, but ignored entirely the plight of the wheat-growers. Senator Massy-Greene has had eulogies heaped on him for having been associated as Assistant Treasurer with the preparation of the budget, but I did not join in that chorus of praise.
– Because the great wheat industry has been overlooked by a gentleman who, when in opposition, was .most prominent in this chamber in promising all the assistance that could be afforded to it by the imposition of a sales tax on flour.
Senator Daly. - The honorable senator himself assisted to ‘bring about the election of Senator Massy-Greene.
– No. I had nothing to do with putting him in the Ministry. There is some difference of opinion as to whether, during the presentation of the budget, the Prime Minister waa reading in the House of Representatives Senator Massy-Greene’s speech, or whether Senator Massy-Greene was reading, in the Senate, the Prime Minister’s speech. I know that we were dragged 2,500 miles from Western Australia three days earlier than was necessary, in order that the two speeches might take place at the same time.
On the 30th July, 1931, the Senate was considering the Scullin Government’s Wheat Marketing Bill No. 2, which I supported. On that date Senator MassyGreene moved an amendment to the effect that as the rehabilitation of the wheat industry could be brought about more expeditiously, and with greater certainty, by imposing a tax on wheaten flour used for local consumption, thus providing a more certain means of assisting the wheat farmers of Australia, the Senate should request that the bill be temporarily withdrawn with a view to its re-introduction in a form that would give effect to that proposal. That amendment was carried by 21 votes to eight, and, included among the 21 who voted for it were Senator Massy-Greene, Senator Pearce, Senator McLachlan and Senator Lawson. Now, however, when those* gentlemen, together with others, are in control of the finances of Australia, no attempt is made to impose a sales tax on flour, even though the position of the wheat-farmers is worse than it was two and a half years ago. Much the same thing happened in the House of Representatives. There the cry of the Nationalist party in Opposition at that time was “Do not establish a compulsory pool. Do not pass the Wheat Marketing Bill No. 2, but let us have a sales tax on flour “. Such a tax would, at least, permit of the payment of 3s. a bushel to farmers at sidings this year, and the Government would, within three years, recoup itself from the proceeds of the tax.
– What would be the price of bread under that arrangement?
– It would possibly be. a little higher, though not much, but the benefit to the wheat-farmers would be such that the consumers would not object to paying the tax. The wheat-growers are as much entitled to receive an Australian price for their product - a price which will assure to them and their families a decent living wage - as are the workers in any other industry.
Another way of assisting the growers would be to have a marketing board composed of representatives of the growers from each State, which would fix an Australian price for wheat consumed in the Commonwealth, the proceeds to be distributed among the growers on. an all-Australian basis. I urge the Government to adopt one of those proposals. I should be prepared to support either, hut I cannot remain silent while the Senate considers a budget which makes’ no provision for assisting the wheat-farmers. Representations have been made to the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia for the introduction of a scheme for the payment of 3s. a bushel at sidings for the whole of this year’s production. Similar representations have been made by the wheat-growers’ organizations, and by Country party organizations throughout the Commonwealth. The Primary Producers Association of Western Australia has urged that, since the Commonwealth Government has imposed restrictions on the export of wheat under the international agreement, it should at least guarantee to the growers 3s. a bushel at sidings in order to save the farmers, in both the old and the new areas, from ruin. The Wheat-growers Union throughout Australia has made similar requests to the Government. The wheat-growers, when sowing their crop, had no knowledge of the Government’s intention to restrict export. In fact, not long ago the growers were urged by the Federal Government, and by prominent members of all political parties, to grow more wheat. Surely if the Government, after the crop has been sown, and when it is almost ready for harvesting, restricts exports, it should, at the very least, ensure that farmers receive something approaching the cost of production for this season’s crop. It is doubtful whether even 3s. a bushel at sidings would cover the cost of production except in the most favoured areas.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to accept the statement which the Minister made to-day? ,
– No, I want something definite. I want the wheat-growers to have first consideration and to be paid at least 3s. a bushel at sidings. Their claims should be fully considered and granted before concessions are given to any other section of the community.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Knowing something of the position of the wheat-growers of Australia, and particularly of the farmers in my own State, I offer no apology for taking part in this discussion, and I am not deterred by the references of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to what Mr. Lang is alleged to have done in New South Wales, or the views on this subject held by some one else in some other part of Australia.
It is the duty of all honorable senators and particularly of Government supporters, who, in season and out of season, claim to be the chosen representatives of our primary producers, to consider this question on its merits, and to determine whether the Government’s proposals for the relief of the wheat-farmers are adequate. The Leader of the Senate has offered two explanations of the Government’s wheat industry policy. The first was contained in the considered statement prepared by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) giving detailed information of the wheat agreement and the manner in which it is proposed to implement it. His second explanation was made in reply to the remarks of Senator Dunn in support of this motion. An examination of the Minister’s statements will, I feel sure, leave our wheat-farmers in a very unsettled frame of mind because there was in them nothing tangible or substantial, not even a promise of financial relief. First let us consider the Government’s scheme for implementing the wheat agreement. Senator Dunn has urged that the only effective means of doing this is by the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. I endorse that proposal entirely. Any one with the most superficial knowledge of the conditions of marketing that must operate under this agreement, will realize that a compulsory wheat pool is essential to handle the production of the next two years without disaster to the agricultural community. But the Government does not approve of a compulsory pool. It asks us to believe that under its proposals it will be possible to maintain the existing marketing organizations.
Australia was represented at the London conference, which drew up this agreement, by the then Resident Minister (Mr. Bruce), who signed the document, without any of the details being submitted to this Parliament. Last season we pleaded on many occasions, but in vain, for an authoritative statement of the Government’s intentions with regard to the wheat industry, and urged that wo should have a full opportunity to discuss any proposal which it had in mind. But that opportunity was denied to us. Neither the Senate nor the House , of Representatives was given a chance to express its views on this important subject.
– Neither were the farmers.
– That is so. The agreement, having been signed when Parliament was not’, sitting, has been forced on the farmers. The Government claims that under it existing marketing organizations will not be affected. That will be impossible because a fundamental principle of the existing system of marketing has been destroyed, namely, the freedom to export the whole of the Australian wheat crop as it becomes available. Let us see how this agreement will affect existing organizations. Voluntary pools, are an important and necessary part of the machi- nery for the marketing of wheat. Under existing conditions they are the only guarantee which the wheat-farmer has that he will get something like world parity for his wheat. What are the conditions under which these voluntary pools operate? At the commencement of each season they arrange with banking institutions for certain sums to be advanced against wheat delivered- to the pool. In this way they are able to make a first advance to farmers, and further advances from time to time, until the whole of that portion of the crop which has been placed in their hands is sold. The basis of the arrangement with the banks is that the wheat shall be marketed in the most orderly manner possible; that is to say, its marketing shall be spread evenly over the whole selling period. This agreement will prevent that from being done, because voluntary pools will be required to hold a certain portion of the coming season’s carryover wheat.
The Minister has said that arrangements have been made through the rural credits branch of the Commonwealth Bank to finance the pools. On what basis will finance be provided ?
– On the same basis as in previous years.
– Obviously, the Leader of the ‘Senate, and probably, also his Cabinet colleagues, know very little about the actual working conditions of voluntary pools, because the basis of their finance changes from year to year.
– The basis of financing the w-heat crop, is determined by the hanks, and I repeat that they will provide advances this year as in other years.
– Will the amount of advance be determined by the quota of wheat delivered by farmers to the voluntary pools ? Also can the Minister say how that quota will be arrived at, and will the market value of wheat delivered in December govern the amount of advance?
– The Western Australian voluntary pool gets most of its finance from the buyers in London.
– Nothing in the agreement will prevent that from being done in the future.
– For a number of seasons, the Western Australian voluntary pool has secured most of its finance from the British Wholesale Cooperative Society. Can the Leader of the Senate tell us if that organization is prepared this year to make advances on “the same basis as last year, in view of the fact that this Government, through its acceptance of the agreement, ha3 changed the entire system of marketing by requiring the Western Australian pool to hold approximately one-half of the carry-over wheat, which, perhaps, will not Ite sold until late next year? Under this agreement, farmers who place their wheat in the voluntary pools this year may have to wait until next August or September before they will get the bulk of their money. As every one knows, they cannot afford to wait. Consequently, the majority of them will not be able to deliver their wheat to the pools.
– Has the honorable senator read the announcement which appeared in yesterday’s newspapers to the effect that the final payment for last season’s wheat has just been made by the Western Australian voluntary pool?
– That is so ; but the last payment is a very small amount indeed, and represents the final realization of the assets in the pool. All the effective payments are made by voluntary pools as quickly as possible, the bulk of the money being paid to wheat-farmers in the early months of the selling season. If this were not done, the difficulty of financing farming operations would be enormously increased, and voluntary pools would be unable to carry on in competition with private merchants, who offer cash for wheat at sidings.
– Representatives of voluntary pools have been consulted about this scheme, and have expressed themselves as being quite satisfied with it.
– What the right honorable senator has said is news to me, because when I left Adelaide on Tuesday, the last person I spoke to was a director of the South Australian voluntary pool, who expressed very grave dissatisfaction with the scheme, and urged me to use my influence to secure some pro tection for voluntary pools. He feared that this agreement and the Government’s proposals for implementing it, would detrimentally affect the position of voluntary pools throughout Australia; and believed that farmers would he forced to sell their wheat to private merchants who offered cash.
– The Minister for Commerce met representatives of the voluntary pools in conference, and they were satisfied with the Government’s proposals.
– I should like to know what representatives of voluntary pools conferred . with the Minister. By a question this afternoon I endeavoured unsuccessfully to extract this information “from him.
Another important phase of the wheat problem, which apparently has been overlooked, is the more favorable position of wheat-growers in what are known as early districts, compared with farmers in late districts. There is, I suppose, a spread of about two months in the harvesting period in South Australia. Possibly, the period is greater in some of the other States. Farmers who deliver wheat early in the season, will have an advantage over those whose wheat comes on to the market later in the year, because the export quota will have been filled in the earlier part of the season, and wheatfarmers in late districts will be at the mercy of buyers who, knowing that they will have to hold the wheat ‘for four or five months, may force them to take whatever price they care to offer. This is an important factor in the whole scheme of marketing which should receive careful consideration. As additional storage provision will have to be made under this scheme, it is also pertinent to ask if the cost will be thrown upon the voluntary pools and private merchants, or will the Government foot the bill? I feel certain that the already overburdened farmer will have to bear this additional cost.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– The matter under discussion is a motion by Senator Dunn that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m., the “ avowed object being to draw attention to the urgent need of assisting the wheat industry by guaranteeing to the growers at least 3s. a bushel at sidings. If the carrying of the motion would have practical effect, I would immediately support it; but what advantage would the farmer derive from its adoption? While the discussion of the motion does give honorable senators an opportunity to urge upon the Government the vital necessity of rendering assistance to the wheat industry, I am unable to agree that the carrying of the motion will bring that assistance one step nearer. Under the Standing Orders, honorable senators have only a quarter of an hour in which to state their views, and that is a totally inadequate time in which to deal with the important problem of the position of the wheat-farmers. I arn glad that an opportunity will be afforded later for a full discussion of the subject. No matter how an honorable senator may vote on this motion, he cannot be accused of being opposed to the granting of assistance to the wheatgrowers. All honorable senators, I believe, are in favour of helping them; I: would not accuse even Senator Dunn of trying to make political capital out of their necessity. We should consider in the calmest possible way. how they may be bestassisted.I listened with a good deal of disappointment to the statement presented by the Leader of the Senate ( Senator Pearce). I do not intend to discuss it in detail at this stage because of the limited time at my disposal, but 1 am afraid that the proposals of the Government will be detrimental rather than helpful to the industry, because they leave an opening for exploitation of the farmers. The great drawback is the fact that a large quantity of wheat will be unexportable, and no provision is to be made for dealing with it. This matter, in my opinion, will be tho deciding factor in regard to the price of wheat in the coming season. The Minister’s estimate of a production of 1S5,000,000 bushels is overoptimistic. If that figure were reduced by 10,000,000 bushels, it would be nearer the mark. It is true, as stated by the Leader of the Senate, that a year or so ago, the price of wheat rose rapidly to over 3s. a bushel, but the conditions which brought that increase about ure not likely to recur. It was due entirely to the fact that Great Britain had gone off the gold standard, and as it is still off it, that influence cannot operate again.
SenatorFoll. - The outlook is blacker now than it was then.
-Yes. Wheat is now quoted at about ls. Sd. at country sidings.
– At some sidings the price is even lower than that.
– Yes. It cannot possibly be grown profitably under such appalling conditions, and it is hopeless to look for improvementwhen we speak of an unexportable surplus of 30,000,000 bushels. Whilst I admit that the request of the farmers’ organization for an advance of 3s. a bushel will place on the Government a heavy burden, I remind the Senate that the Government has a definite responsibility to the growers. Had the Government not intervened the industry would still have had a moral claim for help, but the Government deliberately placed itself in control of the industry, and decided, without consulting the growers, what should be done with their wheat. Therefore, the Government has assumed a definite responsibility for seeing that the farmers get a fair market price. They were told that Government control would result in an increase of the price, but ever since the Government has taken charge of the industry, the price has consistently dropped. Whilst I do not blame the Government for that, I contend that it is now bound to do something in the interests of the farmers.
Objection has been taken to a flour tax which has been proposed for the purpose of enabling an advance to be given on wheat. The cry has gone up that such a tax would increase the price of bread, but I say emphatically that it would not necessarily do that. The price of wheat to-day bears no relation to the price of bread. The quantity of wheat required to produce a ton of flour can be purchased at any of the exporting ports in Australia for about £6. Allowing for the value of tho bran and pollard, the cost of the wheat may be put down at £4, and 10s. should be added to cover the cost of gristing. In Sydney, I have to pay5d. for a 2-lb. loaf of bread, so the local consumer pays for wheat at the rate of £27 10s. a ton. A flour tax of £2 10s. a ton would not necessarily increase the cost of bread by one farthing a loaf.-.
– If that tax were passed, a similar law should be passed to regulate the price of bread.
– I admit that that is a legitimate subject for inquiry.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the price of bread should be fixed?
– On general principles, I object to the Government interfering in industry ; but, unfortunately, it has already done so by the regulation of exports, and if it is legitimate to interfere in one direction, it is not a much greater offence to take similar action in other directions. I sincerely hope that the farmers will receive 3s. a bushel, and if the carrying of the present motion would have that result I would support it’.
– The motion has nothing whatever to do with the wheat problem.
– That is so. If we carry the motion, the Senate will adjourn; but the wheat-grower will be no nearer to getting 3s. a bushel. His sore need has been increased by the action of the Government in consenting to an export quota. It seems to me that this arrangement was entered, into because the big bully on the other side of the Atlantic said, “ We have a certain quantity of wheat to export. You keep off the market until it has been placed, and then you can have what market is left “.
– That started with the Ottawa agreement of which honorable senators opposite approved.
– No doubt the conscience of the honorable senator who interjects is quite clear on the matter. He has widened my mental horizon immensely. He is the American aloe of the human race which blooms but once in a hundred years, and it has been my good fortune to live to see the blooming. The immediate fate of the wheat industry is too big a subject to be dealt with comprehensively in the time at our disposal to-day. I expect to have a further opportunity to discuss it, and when that opportunity comes I shall avail myself of it to the full. I do not question the sincerity of honorable senators opposite, or their desire to help the wheat-farmers. I appeal to them to assist to relieve the farmers of some of the burdens which they are now carrying. I am confident that, if that is done, the farmers will not need to ask for other assistance.
– While Senator Carroll was speaking I was handed the following telegram from the chairman of the South Australian Farmers Union: -
Directors Fanners Union doubt -if farmers’ interests properly protected by wheat plans published to’-day. Would like assurance that chartering of freight and orderly allocation of exports will bo effectively controlled by board. Would appreciate your efforts our behalf.
I do not ‘ disbelieve the statement of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that the farmers are satisfied with the Government’s proposals. I have been a Minister, and I have mct farmers who have expressed their satisfaction with proposals submitted to them only to oppose them later.
– I know that the honorable senator would not willingly misrepresent me. I did not say that the farmers’ unions were satisfied, but that certain representatives of voluntary pools who were consulted expressed their satisfaction.
– I should not be surprised if the representatives of the farmers expressed their satisfaction with the Government’s proposals one day, and their dissatisfaction the next day. When the Scullin Government proposed to establish a wheat pool, to pay 4s. a bushel for wheat, and to give effective protection to our secondary industries, the satisfaction expressed by the parties concerned was such that, had there been an election at the time, there would have been no party other than Labour represented in the Senate. The trouble is that people agree to proposals when they are submitted to t]i:em. and later disapprove of them. The discussion today will probably do a great deal of good. Senator Dunn has done well to draw the attention of the Senate to this important matter, and I hope that the Government will give further consideration to the points which have been raised. I do- not see eye to eye with my colleague
Senator O’Halloran regarding compulsory wheat pools. I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth has no legislative power to create a Commonwealthwide wheat pool, although it can provide for the payment of a bounty, and make it a condition precedent to the receiving of that bounty that there shall be a compulsory wheat pool. Honorable senators may remember that the legislation introduced by the Scullin Government for the establishment of a Commonwealth wheat pool was conditional on certain action being taken by the States. I hope that what has been said this afternoon will be conveyed by the Leader of the Government in this chamber to his colleagues in the Ministry, and that the Government will, in turn, consult the Premiers of the States in the matter. In my opinion, a Premiers Conference is the only authority which can deal effectively with the agricultural industries of Australia. The sooner we realize that we are living under a federal system the better. I should like the Commonwealth Government to take the governments of the wheat-producing States more into its confidence, and to rely more on their advice in agricultural matters. The carrying of this motion would, at least, indicate that the Senate is of the opinion that a radical change from the system which has operated under successive governments is desirable. The interests of the primary-producing States have been consistently ignored by the Commonwealth, and it is time that the Senate, which is supposed to represent the interests of the States, raised a protest. I hope that the motion will be agreed to.
– Since the Treasurer delivered his budget speech, I have been puzzled to know what the Government intends to do to assist the wheat-growing industry, which provides more employment in this country than does any other industry. I assume that the Government has considered the report of the conference of wheat-growers, which was held in Melbourne in March. The position of the wheat-farmer, which was then bad, has not improved.
– The new season’s crop had not been planted in March.
– The State Governments have been recouped 80 to 90 per cent. of the money advanced in 1931-32 to the wheatfarmers of Australia. Notwithstanding that the price of wheat was then higher than it is to-day, the Commonwealth assisted the wheat-farmers to the amount of 4½d. a bushel. The latest figures available show that the position of the farmers was not so satisfactory in 1932-33, for fewer of them we’re able to repay the amounts advanced to them by farm relief boards.
– The 4½d. a bushel was a grant, not a loan.
– The Commonwealth Government has received in taxes a great portion of the 4½d. advanced to the farmers.
Senatorfoll. - The farmers could not have paid taxes unless they had made profits.
– The Government has followed a policy of vacillation, and it still is waiting for something to turn up. When at last the Government comes to a decision, it will probably be too late to deal with the matter effectively. The Government should take action immediately. That the wheat-farmers are not satisfied with the Government’s proposals, the telegram which Senator Daly read makes clear. I have never favoured a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool; but now that the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement with other nations in regard to the export of wheat, and we cannot escape from the position which has been created, the Government will have to take control. According to the statement of the Minister this afternoon, the Government proposes to take action, either by regulation or by legislation, to control the exportable surplus of wheat, or the wheat quota. I am concerned about the 40,000,000 bushels of wheat by which Australia’s wheat yield is likely to exceed the export quota. I am in favour of an Australian price for wheat for home consumption. The farmers have to pay the Australian price for the machinery and goods they purchase, and Australian award rates to those whom they employ, and they are entitled to an Australian price for the goods they sell. I feel confident that if the workers understood the difficulties of the farmers they would not oppose an Australian price for wheat.
– The Australian farmers ought to stand for the Australian standard of wages; hut they never do.
– That is because they have suffered so much in other directions.
The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) said that Australia was still paying £300,000 a year in respect of the assistance granted to the wheat-farmers of this country by the Scullin Government. I ask the Tight honorable gentleman whether he is not of the opinion that the assistance then granted enabled Australia to maintain her credit overseas.
– Undoubtedly, it did. I did not say that I disagreed with the .assistance given to the farmers in 1931-32. I merely said that a liability still remained because of it.
– I cannot see how our credit overseas will bo maintained, since our export quota of 105,000,000 bushels this year will be about 40,000,000 bushels less than our exports last year, and the price of wheat is lower now than it was then. The farmers of Australia are looking to the Commonwealth to help them in connexion with the carry-over of wheat from this season’s harvest. I do not believe -that the arrangements outlined by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) will really overcome the difficulties: Further action is necessary, and I urge the Government to take such action.
– Queensland is not so much interested in this matter as are the States of South Australia and “Western Australia, but I should like to know from the Leader of the Senate just to what extent Queensland will be affected by the Government’s proposals. Queensland produces most of its own requirements of wheat, but occasionally finds it necessary to import from southern States. “Will Queeusland be compelled to hold back a quota of its own wheat, and take some from the other States, or will it be allowed to continue as it is now?
– If Queensland has no wheat for export, I take it that it will not be affected. That seems to he the commonsense view of the matter.
– Admittedly, but governments do not always act in a commonsense way. I understand that the carry-over from last year amounts to 30,000,000 bushels, and that this year’s crop is estimated at 185,000.000 bushels. What the crop next year will be we do not know. Possibly, if there were a drought, the Government would be greatly relieved, because it would solve the problem of over-production. The tragedy of the’ present economic system is that the wheat-producing countries of the world are gambling on droughts or other climatic irregularities in order to adjust supplies. Many years ago, the people of Sydney were called together to pray for rain, and, perhaps, we may yet have the Commonwealth Government ordering the people to pray for a drought in order to relieve the situation in regard to wheat.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator’s remarks about praying for rain have no reference to the subject before the chair.
– I think that they are most pertinent to the matter, because they emphasize the lack of applied intelligence in dealing with problems of production. The governments of the world have, to some extent, overcome the problem, of food scarcity, but when they are confronted with a condition of plenty, they seem to be impotent, and the community, particularly the farmers, has to suffer. All the Commonwealth Government is able to do is to agree to the restriction of wheat exports, and this in n world in which millions are hungry for want of bread.
– They will be doing the same thing in regard to sugar shortly.
– At least, the sugar industry has been planned with some thought for the future.
– They have gone in for restriction of sugar production.
– I admit it, and we have also gone in for fixation of prices. I have said again and again that the Labour party is prepared to apply the same principle to wheat as has been applied to sugar. Eventually, a system of organized production and organized marketing must bc introduced. The farmers of this country should not he penalized simply because there is a surplus of the commodities they produce. In Australia, the farmers have produced in plenty the wheat which is essential for our welfare, and it should not be beyond our capacity to overcome the difficulties that arise as a result of Providence being so good to us.
So far as I could understand from the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and of the Minister for Commerce in another place, it appears that the Government is hoping that, in n year or two, the problem of increased production will be solved by the former importing countries ceasing to produce at home, and commencing again to import ns they did in the past. It is only twelve months ago since I, on the floor of the Senate, called attention to what Senator Duncan-Hughes is pleased to call the growth of economic nationalism. I pointed out that Italy and Germany were endeavouring to increase their production of wheat so that they would be entirely independent of the rest of the world for supplies. Sir Hal Colebatch stated that Germany was undoubtedly producing more wheat, but that the quality was such that it would be compelled to rely on supplies of Australian hard wheat for blending purposes. He practically prophesied the inability of Germany to supply her own needs of wheat. Nevertheless, according to the statement of the Minister for Commerce, wheat production in Germany, which in 192S-29 was only 123.000,000 bushels, had increased bv 193:1-32 to 184.000,000 bushels. During the same period, imports of wheat into Germany declined from 78,750,000 bushels to 23,330,000 bushels, and this year Germany will have an exportable surplus. What hope is there that Germany will cease to produce wheat in such quantities, ‘and will once more become an importer? Herr Hitler stated in his May Day speech that Germany must stand by its farmers. First of all, he said, the Government had to deal with the unemployment problem, and after that they must, as a nation, see to it that their farmers were kept on their farms, and that Germany produced all the foodstuffs it required. To-day, according to the statement of the Minister for Commerce, Germany is producing all the wheat it needs for its own consumption, yet the Commonwealth Government wishes the farmers to believe that, as time passes, the situation will improve, and Australia will have a bigger overseas market for its wheat. That suggestion is absurd. There i3 no hope of that happening unless the wheat crops, fail in other, parts of the world. Let .not honorable senators deceive themselves. World conditions have changed even wi’thin the last twelve months, and the next twelve months will witness an even greater intensification of economic nationalism.
– Does the honorable senator believe that there should be a still further restriction of the production of wheat ?
– I say that there should be rational organization of production, and, above all, rational distribution of the products of industry. Every man who produces should be paid the highest price which the community is able to pay. t maintain that, before long, the Governments of Australia will be compelled to adopt the same view as that which I now hold. I see no harm in Australia, or any other country, organizing its production in a reasonable way. Only a few mouths ago Professor Giblin, speaking in Canberra, pointed out that economic evolution was in the direction of planned economy, and he cited Russia. Regardless of what our individual opinions may be concerning that vast country, all must admit that it now has a planned economy, and I am convinced that, if Australia is to progress as we hope it will in the future, we also must plan our national economy.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– The discussion on this motion has. I think, revealed the smallness of the world, and how definitely the commercial and financial conditions in other countries affect Australia. We now have the spectacle of a compulsory world wheat pool, which might prove a political whirlpool to the Government. In the debate on another subject some months ago, I emphasized the vast influence of overseas financial organization on Australian affairs, and pointed out that this country was, in a sense, a puppet province. My remarks were, of course, derided by Ministers and their supporters, who do not like to hear the truth; but what I said then has been amply borne out by more recent events. The wheat agreement, signed on behalf of Australia by the then Resident Minister in London (Mr. Bruce) was adopted by this Government without reference to the Commonwealth Parliament or the wheatgrowers of this country. All honorable senators who take an interest in this subject will recall that Mr. Bruce offered the strongest opposition to the proposal to restrict wheat production, regarding the whole scheme as merely one phase of collectivism, to which, as a disciple of the capitalistic system, he is naturally hostile. In support of his opposition to the scheme, he pointed out that collectivism applied to world wheat production would pave the way to collectivism in regard to many other primary products, notably butter and sugar, in which Australia is so deeply interested. Apparently the views of the Government prevailed, and I assume that he was instructed tosign the agreement. Possibly the Government’s attitude in this matter, more than anything else, induced him to relinquish his position as Resident Minister in London, and accept the High Commissionership. The fact remains, as Senator Carroll has said, thatthis Government was obliged to bow to those powers which now apparently have economic overlordship of the world. Although it did not approve the scheme, it was forced to accept it. This is merely another instance of what may happen to Australia in regard to world affairs. Under this agreement, our exportable quota this year is 105,000,000. bushels. The latest crop estimates indicates a production of 1S5,000,000 bushels, so that, after providing for home consumption, we shall have a carry-over of 30,000,000 bushels. Being a debtor country, Australia cannot regard with satisfaction any proposal to limit the exportation of its surplus products. Although we have enormous commitments to meet overseas annually, we are forced to restrain the natural productivity of this country. Thus we shall find it increasingly difficult to hold Australia for the white races against the coloured hordes of Asia.
The ‘Government having accepted the agreement, the obligation now rests upon it to see that the wheat-growers receive a decent price, say, at least 3s. a bushel, for the carry-over portion of the crop. Unless action to this end is taken, they will be unable to carry on. What will happen in the future it is difficult to say. In recent years, wheat production in Germany and Italy has increased to such an extent that those countries now supply their own requirements. Other European countries which, until recent years, imported wheat, are now not only supplying their own requirements from local production, but have an exportable surplus. In Great Britain, also, there has been a marked revival of the agricultural industry. The spirit of economic nationalism is forcing all countries to become self-contained. This is the attitudewhich honorable senators of the Opposition adopted during the discussion of the tariff. We urged that, in secondary as well as in primary production, Australia should be a self-contained nation.
Apparently, theGovernment is delaying an announcement of its proposals for the assistance of the wheat-farmers in the hope that unfavorable seasonal prospects may relieve it of the necessity for making a much-needed provision. In fairness to the farmers, the Ministry should immediately announce its intention to make the necessary financial arangements to ensure to them a decent price for the surplus over and above the export quota allowed under the agreement.
Motion (by Senator Rae) agreed to -
That the Senate do now divide.
Question - That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m. - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch. )
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Tariff Board’s Report
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Railway Concession Rates
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How much beer has been carried from (a) Melbourne, and (b) Adelaide to Kalgoorlie at special concession rates during the years ended the 30th June, 1932, and the 30th June, 1933. respectively?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior has sup plied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Minister take steps to stop the practice of Federal Government servants employed in Papua and the Mandated Territory returning to Australia on leave in foreign sea-going vessels, while Australian vessels, manned with white crews, are in commission and operating under mail grants from the Federal Government?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
It is considered that where fares are paid wholly by officers there is no justification for limiting their choice of means of transport. The matter is, however, being brought to the notice of the two administrations for consideration in connexion with assistance granted to officers towards the cost of fares when proceeding on recreation leave of absence.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Now that the Government hasbrought down its budget, will the Minister for Defence press in the Federal Cabinet for the setting up of a royal commission on Australian aviation? If not, why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I have no intention to ask the Cabinet to reconsider its refusal to appoint a royal commission on Australian aviation. The Government’s policy has been determined only after most mature consideration, and the Government believes it is the one best calculated to develop aviation in the interests of the community generally. I am fully satisfied that there is no foundation whatsoever for the accusations of favoritism, malpractice, &c, so persistently levelled against officers of my department by certain obviously disgruntled sections of the aviation industry.I take this opportunity of saying that I have every confidence in the integrity of the personnel of my department charged with the administration of civil aviation, and I deprecate the baseless innuendoes broadcast against trusted officers who are capably administering the aviation policy approved by the present and the last Governments.
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will the Government institute inquiries as to why the price of power and other kerosene has not been reduced to an amount corresponding with the recent reductions in the price of petrol ?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Such matters as the prices of power and other kerosene are included within the scope of the terms of reference to the royal commission which is at present inquiring into the trade in mineral oils and petrol and other products of mineral oils.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held at Melbourne,June. 1933 - Proceedingsand Decisions of Conference with Appendices.
Nauru Island Agreement Act - Ordinances of 1933-
No. 7 - Appropriation.
No. 8. - Nauru Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No.6of1933 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Unionof Australia: Australian PostalElecticians’ Union; Australian Workers’ Union ; Common- wealthPublic Service Artisans’ Association : Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union; Line inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service: Arms,Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; Commonwealth Naval Store- housemen’s Association; and Commonwealth Storemenand Packers’ Union of Australia.
No. 7 of 1933 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; Amalgamated Engineering Union; and Australasian Society of Engineers.
No.8 of 1933 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
No. 9 of1933 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; Australian Postal Electricians’Union; Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union; Australian Workers’ Union; Commonwealth Medical Officers’ Association; Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association; Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’Association; Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association: Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association: Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association ; Federated
Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia; Fourth Division Officers’ Association nf the Trade and Customs Department; Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union ; Line Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth of Australia.:Meat Inspectors’ Association, Common wealth Public Service; Postal Overseers’ Union nf Australia; and Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 10 of 1933 - Meat Inspectors’ Association, Cmninonwcalth Public Service.
No. 11of1933 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; and Australian Workers’ Union.
No. 12of 1933 - Arms,Explosivesand Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No.13 of 1933 - Arms,.Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia ; Commonwealth Foremen’s Association; Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association ; and Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
No. 14 of 1933 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; and Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 15 of 1933 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia; Commonwealth Storemen and Tuckers’ Union of Australia; and Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Seventh AnnualReportof the Canned Fruits Control Board, year ended 30th June. 1933, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
CommonwealthBank Act - Treasurer’s Statement of the Combined Accounts of the Commonwealth Bank of Australiaand Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1933, certified to by the AuditorGeneral.
Com mon wealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 111.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Eighth Annual Report of the Dairy Produce Control Board, year ended 30th June, 1933, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Defence Act -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 110.
Naval Defence Act. - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933, No. 112.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 12 - Justices. No. 13 - Slaughtering.
Licensed Surveyors Ordinance - Retrulations.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 21- -Pharmacy.
No. 22 - Dentists’ Registration.
No. 23 - Medical Practitioners Registration.
Building nnd Services Ordinance - Regulationsamended.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Fifth Annual Report of the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, year ended 30th June, 1933, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Customs Act - Proclamations prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Frozen Beef and Frozen Veal to the United Kingdom (dated 2 1st June,
Oranges to New Zealand (dated 21st August,1933).
Silver Coins minted in the Commonwealth to New Zealand (dated 13th September, 1933).
War Service Homes Act -Report of the War Service Homes Commission, together with Statements and Balance-sheet, year ended 30th June, 1933.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Thisafternoon I had occasion to apply for some stationery to enable me to carry out the duties which I was elected to this Senate to perform. When I asked for 2,000 or 3,000 sheets of notepaper of foolscap size I was told that that quantity could not be supplied to me because of the cost involved. It is unreasonable to expect an honorable senator, who has been elected by the electors of New South Wales, who comprise two-fifths of the electors of the Commonwealth, to crawl on his stomach to any officer of this Parliament in order to obtain the stationery which he requires. I am not greatly concerned whether or not I get the stationery, hut I mention this matter because I believe that when an honorable senator has a legitimate grievance he is justified in ventilating it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19331019_senate_13_141/>.