13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– As the Government has acted upon the report presented by Mr. Buring upon the condition of the wine industry in Australia, can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs explain why the document in question is being regarded as confidential and withheld from members of the Senate?
– I understand that the report is of a confidential nature and is intended solely for departmental use.
– That being so, can the Minister say in what respect the policy of the Government was influenced by the recommendations contained in the report ?
– That question was answered yesterday. Certain recommendations made by Mr. Buring have been given effect.
– Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate when the report of the Petrol Royal Commission will be submitted, and if there will be an opportunity to discuss it during this session?
– I am not in a position to say when the report will be debated.
– On the 25th July, 1934, Senator Sampson addressed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows : -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 25th July, Senator Collings asked me a question, upon notice, regarding the Royal Commission on the Wheat
Industry. The second part of the question was as follows: -
What are the rates of fees and travelling expenses paid to each member of the commission, and the total amount paid to each?
I am now in a position to state that the total amount paid to each member of the commission to date is as follows : -
” SIR GEORGE’S MUSEUM.”
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been directed to to-day’s issue of the Daily Telegraph, Sydney, containing a leading article entitled “ Sir George’s Museum,” in which the editor seems to cast ridicule upon the right honorable gentleman, and, in various ways, makes an attack on his dignity and ability? It seems to me that the article in question should be brought to his notice in order that he may, if he thinks it necessary, invoke the Crimes Act, or bring the editor to the Bar of the Senate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Before the right honorable the Leader of the Senate replies, I again remind the Senate that for a long time it has been the practice in this chamber not to invest persons outside Parliament with privileges that are not allowed to individual senators. Opinions expressed by outsiders should not be quoted in questions asked of Ministers.
– I refrained from quoting an opinion.
– But the honorable gentleman made plain to honorable sen a tors the opinion which had been expressed by a person outside this Parliament concerning a member of this chamber, and a member of the Governmentat that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.If the reading of the article will cause me as much gratification as apparently it has given Senator Rae, I shall take an early opportunity to read it.
– Has the Leader of the Senate noticed in the press a statement attributed to Professor Walter Murdoch, of the University of Perth, to the effect that Englishmen regarded the secession movement in Western Australia as a joke, and considered it an undreamt of possibility that the British Government would interfere in Australia’s internal affairs; further, that it was regarded as a certainty that the petition for secession would be referred to the Australian people? Have representations been made by the Commonwealth Government to the British Government with regard to the secession movement in Western Australia or any other State, and, if so, have any replies been received? If no representations have been made, can the Minister supply the reason?
– A statement of the action which the Commonwealth Government may take in the event of the petition for secession being forwarded by the Parliament of Western Australia to the British Parliament will he made by the Prime Minister at the proper time.
– After the election ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The honorable senator feels, no doubt, that he is at liberty, by interjection or otherwise, to capitalize the secession movement in Western Australia for his political advantage. I may, however, tell him that the pending general election will not in any way influence the Government in the matter. The reply of the Commonwealth Government to the case submitted in favour of secession will bc circulated to honorable senators shortly.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether the statement which the Prime Minister is to make in regard to secession will be made before the coming federal election ? If not. why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I am unable to give the date when the statement will be made.
– In order to kill effectively this stupid bogey of secession, will the Leader of the Government give the Senate an assurance that the inquiries made by the committee will definitely determine whether any one in Western Australia honestly believes in secession?
Question not answered.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether the Government will make speedy representations to the British Government expressing what is generally accepted to be the view of the people in the eastern States, that the proposed action is foolish, and does not meet with the approval of a vast majority of the Australian people?
– The honorable senator can rest assured that the Government will take such action as is appropriate and necessary.
Mr. GIBSON, M.P.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Prime Minister been drawn to a report in the Sydney Telegraph of to-day’s date, to the effect that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), an exPostmasterGeneral, and a member of the Country party, has left Canberra for Melbourne to accept nomination with the United Australia party members of the “Victorian Senate team? Is the right honorable gentleman, who is to be the lieutenant of the Prime Minister during the election campaign, aware that Mr. Gibson has left Canberra for this purpose? Is he also aware that Senator Elliott has stated that whether he is or is not endorsed by the United Australia party or the United Country party he proposes to stand as a. candidate in the interests of the Country party in Victoria ?
– - Our Standing Orders provide that questions may be asked of Ministers in relation to public business. The question asked by Senator Dunn has nothing whatever to do with public business, and I therefore propose to ignore it.
New South Wales and Western Australia
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that the Agricultural Bank, administering the distribution under the Wheat-growers Relief Act 1933, in Western Australia, refuses to make any payment on areas cropped last harvest and carried on by trustees in bankruptcy?
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the representations recently made by the Government of Western Australia to the Federal Government requesting that the Federal Government and the Imperial Government should, as a defence measure, co-operate with the State Government in providing the necessary finance for the provision of an up-to-date dock at Fremantle -
Has the Federal Government made representations to the Imperial Government, asking for their co-operation in this matter as suggested ?
If not, why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Ministerhas supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Sittings - Fees and Allowances
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many sittings of the Common wealth Grants Commission were held in each State, and in Canberra?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following information in answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
– On the 25th July, Senator Johnston asked the Minister representing the Treasurer a question, upon notice, regarding the Commonwealth Grants Commission, part 2 of which was -
What fees and allowances have been paid to each of its members to date?
The desired information is now available and is as follows: -
Nationality of Cane-cutters.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With reference to answers to a question asked by Senator Johnston on the 12th July, in which it was stated that in 1931 80.4 per cent, of the cane-cutters in Queensland were British -
Do these figure’s include naturalized British subjects?
If so, what proportion of same were (a) British horn, and (6) naturalized?
– The answers supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
PRICES in South AUSTRALIA
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following information in answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Precise information is not at present available to the Commonwealth Government in regard to these matters. The royal commission on wheat is inquiring into all matters concerning the wheat industry and that body will be asked to consider the questions raised by the honorable senator.
Payments in Aid.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amounts, under all headings, are included in the budget for 1934-35 in respect to payments to or on behalf of Western Australia?
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The following particulars of amounts included in the budget for 1934-35 in respect to payments to or on behalf of
Western Australia, excluding normal Commonwealth expenditure, have been furnished by the Treasurer: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total amount in money that Australia owes to England for war debt, including interest?
Senator Sir HARRY LAWSON.The Treasurer has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The amount of war debt duc to the United Kingdom Government is £79,724,220. Since 1931 payment of interest has been suspended by the United Kingdom Government, pending settlement of the war debts question in its wider aspects.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following information in answer to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Restrictions by Foreign Countries - Relations with Italy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What foreign countries have intimated or indicated that, owing to unfavorable trade balances with Australia, they are contemplating applying restrictions against the importation of Australian primary products?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The question of trade balances is the subject of discussions with ‘foreign countries, and no public pronouncement can be made at the present time.
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 : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In addition to the questions asked by Senator Duncan-Hughes relating to Australia’s trade in wool with Italy, is the Italian attitude in any way attributable to the GO Tariff Board reports which have npt yet been considered by Parliament?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question supplied by the Minister for Trade and Customs is “ No “.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following information in answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
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: -
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
[3.34].- I move-
That the bill he now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to ratify and approve an agreement for the further variation of the agreement entered into between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, respecting the River Murray and Lake Victoria, and other waters, and for other purposes.
The principal agreement, made on the 9th September, 1914, came into operation on the 31st January, 1917, and provided, amongst other things, for the construction of the upper Murray storage, now known as the Hume reservoir, the Lake Victoria storage, twenty-six weirs and locks on the River Murray, from Blanchetown to Echuca, and nine weirs and locks on the River Murrumbidgee. The estimated cost of these works was set out in the agreement as £4,663,000, towards which the Commonwealth was to contribute the sum of £1,000,000. It was also provided that any receipts in respect of tolls prescribed by the River Murray Commission should be credited to the contracting governments in the proportion in which they shared the cost of construction of the work, provided for in the agreement.
An amended agreement, made on the 10th August, 1923, came into force on the 16th November, 1923, and increased the Commonwealth contribution to onefourthof the cost of the works, which was then estimated to be in the vicinity of £10,000,000. It had become apparent by then, that, amongst other things, the original estimates had been based on insufficient data. This agreement was ratified, but the provision of the principal act, No. 46 of 1915, which limited the Commonwealth liability to £1,000,000, was not then amended. Action is now being taken to put the matter in order. Similarly, advantage is being taken by the introduction of this bill to correct a typographical error in section twenty of the principal act, where the words “contracting authority “ appear instead of the words “constructing authority”. The amended agreement of 1923 also provided that the works to serve the needs of irrigation should have precedence over those intended primarily to serve the needs of navigation, and that tolls collected should be divided equally between the three State contracting governments, instead of between the four contracting governments.
At a conference of Ministers representing the four parties to the agreement held on the 9th August, 1924, it was decided to construct the Hume dam of sufficient dimensions to provide a reservoir with a capacity of 2,000,000 acre feet of water, and in 1926 the four contracting governments decided that the reservoir bo constructed to that capacity forthwith.
That decision had since been modified in that it is not at present intended to install the 29 steel vertical lift gates, each 20 feet long by 15 feet high, in the spillway section. So the storage will not exceed 1,250,000 acre feet of water. It has been considered desirable that this limitation should be stated in the bill, but provision has been made to enable the storage to be increased to 2,000,000 acre feet at a later date, if so desired, by agreement between the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the Commonwealth not being a contributor towards the cost of such extension.
A present-day estimate of the cost of the scheme as covered by the principal agreement is, approximately, £15,000,000. Some of the reasons for the increased cost are : -
Up to date the following works have been constructed: - Twelve weirs and locks in the Murray River, viz., Nos. 1, Blanehctown, to 11, Mildura, and No. 26, Torrumbarry, together with the Lake Victoria storage and the Hume reservoir, to the 1,250,000 acre feet capacity, with the exception of the completion of road deviations, land acquisitions and the necessary clearing up. Work upon the weir and lock No. 15 at Euston is in progress. The expenditure to” the 30th June, 1934, has been £9,600,000, of which the Hume reservoir accounts for £5,250,000.
The agreement set out in the schedule to this bill clearly defines the limits of the Hume reservoir, and provides that the cost of any extension beyond the 1,250,000 acre feet capacity is to be borne by the three contracting States in proportions agreed to amongst themselves. It also authorizes the construction of a roadway over the Hume dam, five barrages in the channels at the mouth of the River Murray, a diversion weir at Yarrawonga, and two weirs in the River Murrumbidgee. The effect of the proposed amendment of paragraph 20 of the principal agreement will be that the works mentioned in the principal agreement which have not yet been commenced will not be proceeded with. The amendments of the agreement tobe made by this bill will also release the Commonwealth from its obligation to contribute towards the cost of maintenance, operation and control of completed works and gauging stations.
The roadway over the Hume dam was provided for in the original design of the dam and specific mention of it has been made in this agreement for the purpose of removing any doubt as to the legal authority for its construction.
It has been demonstrated that the provision in the principal agreement for maintaining the lower reaches of the river fresh, viz.,- the allocation of a certain quantity of water, is not fully effective, and that damage to the reclamation settlements in that area is being caused by an influx of salt water. The River Murray Commission recommended that, to remedy the position, five barrages be constructed across the channels in the vicinity of the Murray mouth. This recommendation was subsequently supported by the South Australian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The location of the barrages will not interfere with the wharfage at Goolwa, nor with any proposals for the development of a port at or near the Murray mouth.
The State of New South Wales has only been waiting for water to be impounded in the Hume reservoir to enable it to develop schemes to utilize its share of the water. From the Yarrawonga weir an area of approximately 5,000,000 acres in New South Wales can be commanded by gravitation; but the water available will be sufficient to supply only a portion of that area. The district for which water from this weir is required, as soon as it can be made available, is that at Berriquin and consists of 605,000 acres between Berrigan and Deniliquin. The objective of this development is the growth of fodders under irrigation for the feeding of stock, and not for any extension of fruitgrowing until the marketing position is more assured. Similarly, water from the Yarrawonga weir is urgently required to serve an area of approximately 400,000 acres in Victoria, of which about 90,000 acres will actually be irrigated to grow lucerne and sown pastures to permit of an extension of lamb-raising and dairying.
The two proposed weirs in the River Murrumbidgee are to be constructed at sites selected for two of the weirs and locks contemplated under the original scheme, and will be built in such a manner as to allow locks to be added at a future date, if so desired. There is a considerable area of country on the lower Murrumbidgee, the carrying capacity of which is much enhanced by the growth of herbage, &c, resulting from flooding. The landholders in the district have for several years been urging that fixed weirs be constructed to enable the land to be flooded at least once a year when the river is not sufficiently high to break out under natural conditions. The two weirs proposed will effect this object and benefit an area comprising upwards of 200,000 acres.
Owing to the decline in navigation the four contracting governments are of the opinion that the construction of the remaining thirteen weirs and locks in the River Murray and the nine weirs and locks in the River Murrumbidgee provided for in the principal agreement should not be proceded with at present. The amendments made in the agreement by this bill give effect to this decision. Should it be desired to construct any of these weirs and locks in the future the making of a new agreement to cover their construction, and the necessary financial arrangements, will be considered by the interested parties.
The estimated cost of the additional works covered by the amendments of the agreement now to be made is £1,200,000 and the estimated total cost of the scheme as now proposed is £12,000,000, representing a saving of £3,000,000 on the original scheme. These amendments to the agreement definitely limit the expenditure to £12,000,000, including the money already expended.
As the result of an opinion given by the Crown Law authorities it was ascertained that although, by the amended agreement of 1923, tolls received were to be credited equally between the three contracting State governments instead of between the four contracting governments as previously provided, the Commonwealth was still liable to contribute one-fourth of the cost of maintenance, operation and contol of completed works and gauging stations. The three State Governments have therefore decided to release the Commonwealth from this liability, and provision to this effect has been made in the agreement covered by this bill.
Great benefits have been derived from those works which have already been constructed. The water stored in the Hume reservoir and Lake Victoria, together with that retained by the various weirs and locks, has been the salvation of the irrigation settlements along the Murray River, both by providing water at a convenient level at times required by the settlers, and by preventing salt from seeping out from the soil. The additional works proposed will consolidate and extend these benefits.
The amended agreement set out in the schedule to this bill must be ratified by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia before it can come into effect, and as it is desired that the additional works referred to shall be put in hand at the earliest possible moment, it is asked that the Commonwealth Parliament will ‘do its part by passing tho ratifying bill. At a time when unemployment is rife, this class of work is of particular value, because most of the expenditure represents payment for labour rather than for materials. The sooner the new agreement is ratified by the Commonwealth and the States, the sooner the works can bc proceeded with.
– Over what period will the expenditure be spread?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There is no time limit; it is intended to push on with the works as quickly as possible.
– Will the money be made available during this financial year?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes.
.- I offer no opposition to the passage of this measure, for I agree with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that the work should be put in hand as quickly as possible. As the right honorable gentleman has said, this class of work is of particular benefit to the unemployed, in that most of the expenditure represents wages rather than payment for material. I may be wrong, but I was of the opinion that all the States concerned had already agreed to the proposals, and that only the passage of this measure was needed for the work to be proceeded with. If that is not so, I shall be disappointed.
– I understand that the States propose to go on with some of the works in anticipation of the State parliaments passing the necessary legislation after this measure has become law.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. So far from delaying the passage of the bill, I shall be pleased to expedite its progress through this chamber, so that the works to which it refers can be put in hand without delay.
.- As I listened to the Minister’s speech, I was impressed with the financial history of this undertaking. If I understood the right honorable gentleman aright, the original estimate for the full work was £4,663,000.
– That was a guess.
– I have always understood that in the works branch of the Department of the Interior there is a highly-trained staff. If, however, departmental estimates are merely guesses, is it any wonder that taxation in Australia last year was equal to 30 per cent, of the value of our total production, and that industry is so heavily loaded? The Minister said that the revised estimate for the whole work is £12,000,000. That may be merely another guess.
– It is a firm estimate, based on data which have been obtained.
– Even when departmental officers have supplied firm estimates, they can always advance reasons why those estimates have been exceeded. What guarantee have we that the present estimate of £12,000.000 which, apparently, is based on something more than a mere guess will not be exceeded? I understand :1’ 9.t the expenditure on this work to date is £9,600,000.
– That is on the whole of the works, not on this particular work.
– The expenditure to-date on the Hume reservoir amounts to £5,434,095, representing an increase of nearly 20 per cent. of the original estimate for the whole of the river Murray works.
– Was the Hume reservoir included in the original scheme?
– I believe it was, but I understand that there has been a modification of the plans, the height being increased to provide for a greater acreage.
– That is correct.
– Now the Minister tells us that, under the new scheme, certain sections of the work will be eliminated, and he refers to these modifications as representing a saving of £3,000,000. I find it difficult to follow the working of the departmental mind in this matter. I fail to understand how the total cost of £12,000,000 represents a saving of £3,000,000, when the original estimate of cost was £4,633,000. There should be more effective control by the departments concerned of expenditure on public works of this nature. We all agree that it is desirable to improve the unemployment position as quickly as possible, but we should not countenance this apparent lack of responsibility by departmental experts, technical, financial, or otherwise. Even now Parliament is called upon to pass what may be regarded as a guess as to the actual cost of these works. I should like the Leader of the Senate to furnish a little more information on this point.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [3.53] . - I am glad to know that this proposed expenditure will absorb a good deal of labour. An enterprise of this nature will involve considerable expenditure on raw material, plant, &c., but by far the greatest proportion of expenditure will be for labour. I am not so much concerned as Senator Elliott appears to be about the departmental view of the savings to be made, although I agree that we should, wherever possible, save money on undertakings of this kind. The saving to be made in connexion with this work reminds me of the story of a little girl who, when asked to describe the benefits conferred on the world by the use of pins, said that pins had saved the lives of thousands of people by not being swallowed. Apparently, the Government has saved expenditure on these works by modifying the plan, the capacity of the Hume weir being reduced from 2,000,000 acre feet to 1,250,000 acre feet. My purpose is not to hinder the passage of the bill, but I should like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to give me some assurance with regard to the labour conditions attached to employment on the works. Can he say if the money will be expended on lines similar to relief work proposals, or will Arbitration Court award rates and conditions be observed? I would further like to know if there is any possibility of union monopoly - whether the union presided over by Senator Barnes will practically have control of the work, or whether members of other industrial organizations will participate in the employment.
– The expenditure proposed under the modified plan is, I understand, £12,000,000, of which amount the Commonwealth will provide £3,000,000. There is £600,000 of this amountstill to be paid. I do not object to this, but I should like to know the principle upon which the Commonwealth has undertaken to bear a considerable portion of the expenditure. The development of the river Murray irrigation scheme is a very desirable work. I must, however, emphasize that the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia will benefit chiefly from this expenditure. They are fortunate in having made an agreement with the Commonwealth Government, under which the latter will provide one-fourth of the total cost.
– If Western Australia had a similar river system, no doubt that State would be assisted in like manner.
– That is just what I want to know. May I assume that Western Australia will be given similar assistance in respect of any irrigation works which it may put in hand?
– Western Australia has benefited from the construction of the East- West railway line.
– I could say a good deal about the way in which that line is being operated for the benefit of industries in the eastern States. I want to know definitely if Western Australia will receive similar assistance for irrigation schemes which it may initiate. Recently the Government of that State applied unsuccessfully for assistance to provide a dock at Fremantle, which the Commonwealth Government admitted would be of great value for defence purposes. No one will deny that a suitable dock at Fremantle would be an important addition to the defence measures of the Commonwealth, because at present there are no docking facilities for naval or other vessels on the western seaboard.
– Surely the honorable senator knows why the request for assistance was refused. Western Australia has the wrong senator in the Ministry.
– I do not know that the honorable senator is correct as to the reason for the refusal. Senator Pearce is a very good Minister for Defence, although. I do not agree with his views on a number of subjects. Defence is a federal responsibility and the Commonwealth Government should assist in the construction of a dock at Fremantle on at least the same basis as it is assisting in the Murray irrigation works. I claim that, in justice to Western Australia, similar assistance should he forthcoming from the Commonwealth for any irrigation or defence schemes which may be formulated in that State.
– I agree with Senator Johnston that the principle contained in this bill with regard to the Commonwealth’s contribution to expenditure on works of this nature should bc applied to similar schemes which may be brought forward in Western Australia, Queensland and other States. On this point, we should have an explanation from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce).
– The river Murray marks boundaries of three States.
– That may be so, but Queensland contributes a good deal of the water that has made the MurrayDarling River system so important. A considerable volume of water from southern Queensland goes to the enrichment of the three Sta;tes which benefit from irrigation works along the Murray. Senator Johnston has emphasized the principle governing the participation of the Commonwealth in this expenditure. If irrigation schemes are proposed in Queensland, we would be quite justified in citing this precedent in support of a request for Commonwealth aid in carrying out such works. Although good progress has been made in developing the Dawson Valley irrigation area in Queensland, the Queensland Government has not sought the assistance of the Commonwealth Government or of any State government A big flood-prevention work is proposed on the Stanley River, which is a tributary of the Brisbane River. If the Brisbane River should again reach the flood level it once reached, it would mean a loss of £15,000,000 to people of Brisbane, which would be felt all over the Commonwealth because of the resultant reduction of the purchasing power of the Queensland people. A proposal has been made to expend several million pounds to prevent such a disaster, which would be the most serious that has ever occurred in the history of the Commonwealth. As suggested by Senator E. B. .Johnston, I trust that the Minister in charge of the bill will explain more fully the principle involved in the measure, and state why those States which ,do not receive any benefit under the River Murray Waters agreement are asked to contribute to the extent proposed. If an irrigation scheme of similar magnitude were undertaken in Western Australia, or in Queensland, I suppose that the States not directly concerned would be expected to contribute towards the cost. I hope, however, that honorable senators who have criticized the protection given to sugar and tropical products will realize that the States which do not produce them are assisted by the Commonwealth in other ways.
– I agree with many of the arguments advanced by Senator E. B. Johnston, concerning the position in Western Australia, but at the same time it is open to argument whether the docking facilities* in that State, which the honorable senator mentioned, are really required. Docks are necessary for the development of trade and commerce, but Senator Johnston must admit that the conservation and reticulation of water is one of the most important problems which Australian Governments have to solve. At present the govermnents of European countries are expending large sums of money in the development of their rivers and waterways in order to increase production and to provide additional transport facilities. Senator Johnston, who must admit that the waters of the River Murray cannot be diverted across the Nullarbor Plain, to render fertile land which at present is unproductive, should remember that a large amount of money has been expended in providing Kalgoorlie with a water supply, and in constructing the East-West railway, which brought Western Australia into closer commercial communication with the eastern States. If Senator Johnston can show how £3,000,000 can be spent on a reproductive water conservation scheme in Western Australia why does he not submit a proposal to the Commonwealth Government for consideration? I trust that the Minister will explain more fully how this money is to be expended, and also state whether those engaged on the proposed works will be paid at relief rates or in accordance with the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are anxious to assist in providing employment wherever possible. I should, however, like to have a definite assurance from the Minister that this huge sum will not be expended merely in paying the salaries of administrative officers, but will be used in providing a living wage to blacksmiths, carpenters, stonemasons, timber-getters and others. Senator Elliott, who is a member of the Country party, must admit that the conservation and reticulation of water increases development and production in rural areas, and is of benefit not only to those in the areas supplied, but also indirectly to those in the cities. I intend to support the bill, but when it is in committee I should like the Minister to give more information as to the manner in which the money is to be expended, the wages to be paid, and generally the conditions under which men are to be employed. We do not want to assist in making this huge amount available if it is to be a matter merely of writing cheques or issuing bonds in the interests of the wealthy. If the proposal involves the continuance of a reproductive undertaking, and will provide work at award rates so that many of the men, women and children who are at present experiencing extreme hardship will receive some benefit, it will have our support.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [4.21]. - There seems to be confusion in the minds of some honorable senators as to the financial liability involved. The total expenditure under the final amended agreement is £12,000,000, which represents a reduction on the £15,000,000 expenditure which was undertaken under the agreement which this bill amends. Of that £12,000,000, £9,600,000 has been expended, leaving £2,400,000, of which the Commonwealth’s share is £600,000, to be devoted to the completion of the works indicated in the bill.
– And that balance will definitely complete the work?
– So I understand. In order to appreciate why the first estimate, upon which the original agreement was based, was faulty, it is necessary to take the mind back to the conditions existing at the time it was made. In the first place, Australia had had no experience of this class of work, and estimates were provided by the Works Departments of three separate States - New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. No estimate was furnished by the Works Department of the Commonwealth, and the Works Departments of the States had had no experience in this class of undertaking.
– Is not this ordinary civil engineering?
– No, it is rather a variation of the class of civil engineering on which those departments had hitherto been engaged. They had been concerned with public works relating to railways, public buildings, schools and undertakings of that kind, and were called on to supply estimates of a vast scheme of which they had no previous experience. Moreover, the estimates were based on theories, and not tested out by bores and surveys, as would be required in a closer estimate of the cost of such an undertaking, and as has been done since. The estimates now submitted are based on actual surveys and borings of the sites. As an illustration, the first agreement provided for storage works on the upper Murray. “The upper Murray is a very wide term. No particular site was indicated, although a site was in mind, of which no survey had been made, and no borings were taken, and the State departments gave an estimate of what the storage would cost. That was the way in which the estimates were built up. It is of no use to criticize the present. Commonwealth Government or Public Works Department with regard to them. Neither of those authorities was responsible for the figures supplied by the State Works Departments, which were accepted by the then Commonwealth Government. The estimates were drawn up in 1913, so that the agreement was made before the war.
I come now to the question of why the agreement was drawn up between the three States named and the Commonwealth. It was because the Murray was the only great river in Australia which found its way through the territories of three States, and it was necessary, in order to arrive at a comprehensive plan, and to have a scheme based upon such a plan, to secure their cooperation. The then Commonwealth Government took a great part in inducing the States to come to an agreement, because it saw the economic value to Australia of conserving the waters of the Murray, and of the settlement that would follow. The three States concerned had been conferring for many years previously, but had never .reached agreement. It was only when the Commonwealth came into the picture that an agreement became possible. There was. a conflict of interests between South Australia, which was more interested in navigation than in irrigation, and New South Wales and Victoria, which were more concerned with irrigation than with navigation. There were other causes of jealousy between the States, but the Commonwealth was able at length to reconcile them.
– That disagreement in itself cost a great deal, including double overhead expenses in connexion with the Hume Weir.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. The Commonwealth was able, by reconciling the States’ differences, to get something done. I have been asked by Senator Johnston and Senator MacDonald what principle underlies the agreement. I inform Senator MacDonald, who represents Queensland, that it is the same principle that underlies the sugar agreement. The States of Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland are asked to contribute indirectly to the cost of the Murray Waters scheme, because it is for the general good of Australia that the contiguous lands should be used to the fullest extent, and the water availed of to the greatest advantage of the community.
– The underlying principle of the sugar agreement is the preservation of a White Australia.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The principle that underlies the Murray River Waters agreement is involved in the sugar agreement, of which for the general good of Australia, the people of Western Australia and Tasmania have been willing to bear a share of the burden.
– Not too willing.
– Many of them have been big enough Australians to be willing to bear their share, because they know that it is for the well-being of Australia to have 100,000 white people settled in the north. It is not wise for a Queensland senator to attack the principles underlying this agreement, seeing that they are exactly those which prompted the adoption of the sugar agreement. I shall mention an instance showing the reason why the first estimates were so faulty.
– The right honorable senator mentioned that they were a guess.
– Yes. In the original agreement the upper Murray storage was estimated to cost £1,353,000, and was intended to cover 1,000,000 acre feet; it was to he situated at Cumberoona. When that site was investigated by boring and otherwise it was found unsuitable, and after further exploration, the present site of the storage, now called the Hume reservoir, was finally decided upon. It is interesting to read the reports of the various conferences to see how the idea of a greater reservoir grew, and the reasons for it. In this we have a more costly scheme, but a scheme which is far more beneficial than was ever contemplated in the original agreement. It is easy to be wise after the event.
Certain honorable senators asked what labour conditions will obtain in connexion with the proposed works, and, in reply to them, I cannot do better than quote Mr. Perkins, the Minister for the Interior, who administers this expenditure. He said, in the House of Representatives -
I aSsure honorable members, however, that award conditions have been observed in connexion with the works already carried out, and I see no likelihood of that practice being departed from. The constructing authorities - the Minister for Public Works in New South Wales, tlie State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in Victoria, and the Commissioner for Public Works in South Australia - have always paid award rates and the Commonwealth will express, the wish that that practice shall continue.
The Commonwealth is not one of the constructing authorities, but it will express to the States the wish I have quoted. Senator Rae also raised the question of whether - particular unions are to be favoured. I suggest that that question does not arise in this bill. It is one for the unions to which he is referring to thrash out with the State constructing authorities, but. apart altogether from whether union or non-union labour, or any particular union labour, is to be engaged, the Minister has indicated that award rates ha.ve always been paid, and that the Commonwealth desires that they shall continue.
– Will the Minister state what works have been dropped in the reduced estimate?
– I indicated those in my second-reading speech. First of all the present proposal in connexion with the Hume weir is for 1,250,000 acre feet and not for 2,000,000 acre feet, although it can be extended later to 2,000,000 acre feet. Thirteen weirs and locks provided for in the original agreement on the Murray, and nine on the Mumimbidgee, have been eliminated from the original plan, -and are, therefore, not to be proceeded with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Third schedule).
– Clause 1 of the third schedule reads : “ This agreement is subject to ratification by the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia “. The agreement is not to be referred to the Parliaments of the other three States. It is true that those States, as States, neither contribute to, nor benefit from this expenditure, but honorable senators representing them are entitled to ask for a full explanation of the general principle upon which the Commonwealth makes a substantial monetary contribution to a work that, directly benefits only South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. I do not agree with the Minister when, he says that this bill is based on the same principle as that which underlies the sugar agreement. The White Australia principle is the basis of the sugar industry agreement, but that principle does not enter into the agreement which the Senate is now considering. This bill may be defended on other grounds - the conservation of water resources, increase of production, and the general betterment of Australia.
– One agreement concerns molasses and the other water.
– There is a more substantial difference than thai. Queensland representatives in this House and the people of Queensland do not adopt a dog in the manger poliCy when considering matters of this nature. We are quite prepared to co-operate in measures which, while conferring particular benefits on certain States, are really for the good of the nation as a whole. In other ways, to the States not directly concerned in this measure, generous treatment has been meted out. I acknowledge that. Queensland does not object to this agreement. My earlier remarks were prompted by the desire to obtain a little enlightenment on the general principles of the measure. I think it is a good thing at any time, but particularly when we are having a rather thin session, as we are at present, that senators should seek information when they are in doubt as to the real import of measures and amendments. In such circumstances the seeking for information and even the moving of amendments, as was done on two occasions recently, is to be commended. It shows that honorable senators are awake to and aware of the business being transacted in this chamber.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 24th July (vide page 583) on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read it second time.
– When introducing this bill the Minister outlined fairly completely the history of the efforts which have been made by this Parliament during the last ten years to assist the wine industry out of the difficulties it has experienced during the whole of that period. It is interesting to review the development of this industry in Australia. Although the production of wine is partly a primary industry, the distilling side of it demands a good deal of science and technical knowledge. Wool-growing and agriculture generally and other purely primary industries have been longer established in Australia than the wine industry, which, however, is one of our oldest, and, I think it will be agreed by all those who have any knowledge of viticulture, one of the most efficient. Therefore we must look outside the industry itself for a justification of the measure of assistance now proposed . The difficulties which exist in the industry to-day are serious and affect all those directly or indirectly connected with it. They affect the growers, the wine-makers, and the employees of both. I think these difficulties can be traced to the actions of the State Governments, encouraged, to some extent, by the Federal Government, in extending viticultural operations very considerably after the war as a means of repatriating ex-soldiers. Before that period the industry, for a number of reasons, which I need not recount at this juncture, was in a relatively prosperous position, and thus appearedto offer opportunities for soldier settlement at a cost that was low in comparison with the costs of agricultural or pastoral settlement. [Quorum formed.] Through this encouragement by governments the industry has expanded rapidly in South Australia, Victoria and Now South Wales, some of the increased plantings being intended for the production of beverages and others for the production of dried fruits. But for this encouragement given by authorities outside the industry, and often in opposition to the adviceof those actually engaged in it, the industry would not have fallen into the appalling condition in which it has been for the last ten years, and which makes the passing of measures such as this imperative. Prior to the repatriation activities the industry had developed gradually over a long period. The growers and wine-makers, experienced in every branch of wine production, had slowly extended the areas under vines, planting suitable areas with grapes which would produce the beverage wines and spirits for which a market could be readily found. But with the intrusion of governments into the field this policy was departed from and, as a result, the industry suffered materially. In South Australia, for instance, there were extensive plantings of heavy-yielding types for the production of fortifying spirit. Later, it was found almost impossible to dispose of the spirit. At Berri, on the river Murray, a distillery was built and run as a co-operative concern; but, later, government aid became necessary, and now it is used extensively for the production of beverage wines. Practically all the plantings under the repatriation schemes in the several States show the same result. A study of these schemes would convince honorable senators of the need to grant relief to the industry.
There is an erroneous impression, widely held throughout the Commonwealth, that South Australia is the only State which obtains any substantial benefit from the wine bounty. It is true that South Australia is the principal wine-producing State ; but the Year-Booh reveals that considerable areas are planted with vines in all the States except Tasmania, where the climatic conditions are not favorable to the growth of grapes. For the last year for which official figures are available- 1931-32 - the areas under vines in the several States were -
That total includes areas devoted to the production of sultanas, lexias, and currants. The two brandies of the viticultural industry are indissolubly linked together; the prosperity or otherwise of the one is reflected in the other. The wine production of the several States in 1931-32 was as follows: -
Those figures show that over 60 per cent. of the total win” output of Australia is produced in South Australia, and it may be thought that that State will benefit most from the passing of this legislation. That is not so. Almost all of the wine produced in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and
Western Australia is consumed in Australia, whereas each year South Australia has a large surplus which must be disposed of overseas. My point is that this legislation will benefit all persons engaged in the viticultural industry, whether or not they are” producing wine for export. Were there no encouragement of the wine export trade, the surp.113 production of South Australia would detrimentally affect the home market. That part of the viticultural industry devoted to the production of dried fruits has also benefited from the legislation directed towards the encouragement of the wine export trade. At one time it was seriously suggested that large areas in South Australia which had been planted with beverage grapes should be devoted to the production of types suitable for drying; but, fortunately, the growth of the export market for wine has been sufficiently encouraging to dissuade grape-growers from making that change.
The first attempt by the Commonwealth to assist the wine industry was made about ten years ago by the BrucePage government. The bounty then provided was so generous that it probably did more harm than good, in that it led to the export of quantities of inferior wine and the good name which Australian wine had won, as the result of the judicious exporting of the beverage in previous .years, was endangered. Later, it became evident that a long-range policy would have to be adopted if the industry was to succeed. Credit is due to the Scullin Government for taking the first definite Step to place the export trade in wine on a sound footing. That Government introduced legislation to provide for the payment of a bounty extending over five years. Its action stabilized the industry; and a continuance of the same policy is essential to the future success of the industry. The Scullin Government also introduced legislation to provide for the proper control of the export of wine, the setting up of the Wine Export Control Board, and the prevention of the export from Australia of immature or inferior wines. The knowledge that the Wine Export Bounty Act will expire early next year underlies the decision of the present Government to introduce this legislation. I commend the Government for the way in which it has maintained the principle established by the Scullin Government. This measure embodies that principle, and contains other provisions designed to overcome difficulties which have arisen during recent months, particularly with regard to the fixation of the price of grapes. Parliament thought that it had protected the growers when it empowered the Minister to fix the price to be paid to the growers of grapes by wine-makers who claim the bounty. Last year, however, the arrangement broke down completely, and growers of .grapes in South Australia, and probably in the other States also, were seriously affected. This legislation authorizes the Minister to co-operate with the State authorities, which are the only bodies with power to take action to fix the price of grapes, irrespective of whether they are used in the production of wine for the local market or for export. At no time has there been any doubt about the power of the Federal Minister to fix the price to he paid for grapes used in the production of wine for export. All that he had to do was to refuse to pay the bounty, unless the wine-makers could show that they had paid to the growers of the grapes a price which the Minister considered fair and reasonable.
– T rouble has been caused by the price having been determined too late.
– I was coming to that point. Almost, without exception Australian wine-makers are engaged in both the local and the export trade. It is true that one big wine-maker in South Australia produces wine solely for export, but, in the main, the winemakers of Australia sell their product in both home and foreign markets. The difficulty arose because while the growers were entitled to receive a fair price for .grapes used in the manufacture of wine for export, there was no provision governing the price paid for grapes used in the manufacture of wine for local consumption. As the major part of each vintage is intended for wine and other beverages for use in Australia, a serious position was created because of tho absence of effective protection for the growers. To remedy this state of affairs the Governments of the three States chiefly concerned have agreed to cooperate with the Commonwealth Government in the administration of price-fixing provisions with respect to grapes used for the production of wine intended for local consumption as well as for export. In South Australia the principles upon which action shall be taken have already been settled, and the Government is now considering legislation to give effect to the agreement reached. One of the difficulties of administering the previous price-fixing arrangements was indicated by Senator Duncan-Hughes, namely, the fixation of the price to be paid too late in the season. I anticipate that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who will be responsible for the co-operation of the Commonwealth and State Governments in this matter, will see that steps are taken to fix the price early in each vintage, so that growers and makers will know where they stand and be able to make their arrangements accordingly.
-hughes. - The price should be fixed before any grapes are delivered.
– I agree with the honorable senator. Growers and makers will then know the conditions applying to that particular vintage. 1 hope also that once a fair price has been fixed, it will be adhered to unless it is proved that it detrimentally affects a major section of the industry. We have had instances in South Australia of certain people, acting in their own interests, interfering with price- fixing arrangements which, had they been observed, would have been of substantial benefit to the growers and the majority of wine-makers.
The purpose of the new principle should be to ensure that the price is fixed before grapes are delivered, and that it will give a reasonable return to the growers and, at the same time, he fair to vine-maker3. If this is done many of the difficulties which have been experienced hitherto will be eliminated. Already, because of the prospect of the early passage of this legislation, there is evidence of a more heartening spirit of cooperation among those engaged in the industry on the wine-making side. For a number of years the growers have been organized, for the protection of their own interests, hut the wine-makers have been somewhat loosely organized, owing largely to the fact that some makers produce entirely for export, some confine their attention to the local market, while others manufacture both for export and the home market. The position is further complicated by the production of wines of different types and qualities, each calling for different treatment and varying periods of maturation.
There is now some prospect of co-operation between all sections of the industry, which I need hardly remind the Senate, is a very important one in South Australia. In the volume of wealth produced it ranks third amongst our great staple industries - next to wool and wheat, our two main industries. Its importance is enhanced because of its capacity to provide employment. Those districts which are primarily concerned in viticulture are very closely settled, having comparatively large towns in close proximity. When the industry was in a healthy condition, those towns were noted for their prosperity, but latterly they have felt the depression severely.
I am glad to know that in this legislation the Government is maintaining the principle, established by the previous administration, of assuring for the employees in the industry .fair and reasonable conditions of work, as a” condition of the assistance afforded to the industry by the community. It may be said that this primary industry is being assisted at the expense of the community. That is not accurate.
– Is it a primary industry?
– It is classed as one, although, as every one knows, it calls for the application of a great deal of technical skill and knowledge. But the point I wish to make is that, although this bill provides for the continuance of a bounty on export wine, that portion of the product consumed in Australia” is liable to a very heavy excise duty.
– Does not the excise duty interfere with local sales?
– The consumption of wine in Australia is, to some extent, interfered with by this high taxa tion in the form of excise duty on fortified spirit. The proposal to return to the industry portion of the excise duty on fortifying spirit is an attempt to rectify what, in my opinion, is an injustice. Serious consideration must bc given to the position that will arise in 1940, when this legislation will expire. There will bc a demand by manufacturers of other forms of intoxicating beverages for a reduction of the taxation which they have to pay, but if the excise duty on fortifying spirit is removed, the viticultural industry will be placed on thu same basis as the industry in France and Spain, and there should be no need for the periodical review of this legislation. It is important to remember that the wine-producers in the countries mentioned are our competitors in the export market, and because wine intended for local consumption in those countries does not pay heavy taxation, as is the case- in Australia, the makers are able more effectively to compete with our producers in overseas markets. This is important because, following the repeal of prohibition in the United States of America, a new market has been opened for Australian wine in that country. If we can exploit that field on relatively equal terms with continental wine-producing countries, we should be able to capture a greater quota of the trade than we can command at the present time. The export trade is dealt with by the bounty, plus a drawback. A further burden is laid on the industry by the excise duty on brandy and other spirits used in Australia. That burden, is not entirely removed by this legislation.
While generally I support the bill, I regret that before we are called upon to deal with it, we have not been informed of the nature of the recommendations made by Mr. Buring, who made an inquiry into the industry some time ago at the request of the Government. The Government, which has refused to release Mr. Buring’s report because it is confidential, has informed us that his recommendations have been adopted. Mr. Buring has had a long experience in the wine industry, and although he is eminently qualified to make suggestions for its improvement there are others possessing similar qualifications who were not asked to submit, confidential reports. Tb.&re is such a wide variation of manufacturing methods, that the opinion of only one authority, however qualified, should not be regarded as representative of all engaged in the industry.
– If Mr. Buring’s report is confidential he should have been consulted confidentially.
– Exactly. The publicity given to tho fact that he bad been asked to submit a report has created the impression amongst members of this Parliament and others interested that the document would be published and that Ins recommendations could be discussed. Unfortunately, that opportunity is not afforded to us. The Government has stated that Mr. Buring’s recommendations have been given effect to and are not embodied in this measure as, apart from the variation with respect to the fixed price of grapes, the bill is a replica of the legislation passed by the Scullin Government four years ago. There has also been an adjustment of the excise, which, apart from anything Mr. Buring may have advised, has been prominently before Parliament, and lias for some time been a feature of the requests by deputations representative of the viticultural industry. While’ the reduction will be of some assistance, it i3 not so great as those concerned consider that it should be. I support the bill.
– I congratulate the Government upon its efforts to assist the wine-making industry, which, particularly in South Australia, has been in a serious position for some years. I am pleased that at last the Government is dealing with the industry in a manner that should he satisfactory to all concerned. Although the bill may not provide all that some require it appears that those directly interested will at least be able to thank the Government for the assistance to be given. I am not, however, sure that the Government has . thoroughly mastered the situation, which presents problems, some of which would be difficult for any government to solve. Even if this measure is passed some engaged in the industry will not he quite sure of their position. Since I have been a member of the Senate I have endeavoured unsuccess fully to secure information on this subject to enable me to arrive at definite conclusions, but on certain points even those engaged in the industry are at cross purposes. The position is as intricate as is the making of good wine. Having investigated the matter the Government has arrived at certain conclusions and in this measure it has provided a solution of some of the problems. My chief concern is for the grape-growers, who, for many years, have been unable to obtain an adequate return for their product. In some seasons the price of grapes has not been fixed until months after the crop has been sold, and in other cases the growers have not been paid for three years, although the bounty has been collected and wine made from their grapes sold in the Commonwealth or exported. Moreover, wine made from grapes which have not been paid for has been sold in competition with that made from grapes purchased at a fixed price. £ am glad that a clause has been inserted to provide that the wine-maker is not to be paid until the grape-grower has received the. price fixed. I am rather doubtful as to the meaning of clause 17, which reads -
The Minister may withhold the whole or part of the bounty which would otherwise be payable under this act lo any claimant if he is satisfied that -
at any time during the financial year in which the claim is made or during any preceding financial year, the claimant has received a payment of bounty, under this act or under the Wine Export Bounty Act 1030-1932, to which, by reason of the fact that he had not complied with the requirements; of the law then in force, he was not entitled ; or la the exporter or the wine-maker to pay the fixed price to the grape-grower? Will the exporter receive the bounty or will it be- withheld until the fixed price has been paid? Does the clause mean that if an exporter has not paid for grapes purchased under the Wine Export Bounty Act 1930-32 he is not to receive a bounty under this bill? The administration must be carefully watched. I am particularly anxious that the grower shall not have to wait for years before he is paid, perhaps pay interest at 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, on an overdraft, or obtain credit from his storekeeper to enable him to purchase his requirements. I believe that the bill, which provides for quarterly payments, will go a long way towards solving some of their difficulties. It has been stated in some quarters that if the growers complain of any delay in the making of payments, they may be boycotted by the winemakers. I believe that the measure is sufficiently comprehensive to prevent winemakers from adopting unfair tactics, and that it will meet with the approval of the grape-growers and wine-makers. I agree also with the principle of diminishing the bounty by1d. a year after the expiry of two years from1s. 3d. to1s. a gallon.
– It is to be hoped that in time we shall be able also to adopt a diminishing tariff.
– I hope that will occur, because, if the tariff were not so high to-day, the cost to the grower of producing the grapes would not be so great, and there would be no need to pay him a bounty. We should be able to avoid the necessity of paying bounties to support primary industries.
SenatorO’Halloran. - Will you help to take the excise off ?
– I would gladly help to take the excise duty off wine. The South Australian growers, as I have said, are in a perilous position. South Australia is the State in which the greater part of the wine exported from Australia is produced. I understand that the industry in that State was in a fair position until repatriated soldiers were settled by the State Government on the land, resulting in a great increase of the area under vines, particularly in the districts near the Murray. Those new areas have built up large stocks of wines, which are stored in both the co-operative and proprietary wineries. These are situated mostly on the River Murray, and difficulty has been found in providing storage for the accumulated stocks, particularly in the co-operative wineries. The South Australian Government has been put to considerable expense in assisting the Berri distillery to provide the storage required. This bill may help to overcome that difficulty, particularly as the repeal of prohibition in America will give Australia a better opportunity, as Senator O’Halloran pointed out, to export its wine overseas. The Government should do its utmost, at this early juncture after the repeal of prohibition in America, to establish the export of wine to that country, and to see that the exporters ship only wine of good quality. There is a conflict of opinion with regard to the class of wine to be exported. Some makers believe that wine should not he exported until it is at least twelve months matured, whilst others are anxious to export it within six or eight months of manufacture. On that point there is a great divergence of opinion among the growers and makers. The export of wine from Australia has increased considerably of recent years. In 1925-26, the quantity exported was 1,085,000 gallons, whereas, in the year just expired, it increased to 2,678,000 gallons. The value of the wine exported in 1928-29 was about £500,000, in 1931-32 £908,000, and in 1932-33 £788,000. I have not been able to obtain the figures for the year 1933-34, but I believe they show a considerable increase over those for 1932-33. I trust that the Government will be able so to administer the bill that the grape-grower will receive the full reward for his labour, without having to wait years for his cash after delivering the fruit to the winery.
– The wine industry is of immense importance to Australia, and more particularly to South Australia. I accordingly congratulate the Government upon introducing the bill, and accept its broad principle. It should have been introduced years ago, but the authorities could not then foresee the’ iniquities which have since operated, greatly to the detriment of the grower. We have always contended that if any one in the industry required assistance, it was the grape-grower. It was claimed that the wine-maker could look after himself, and that, I think, was a sound and logical conclusion. Seemingly, one of the main objects of the bill is to compel wine-makers to pay within a reasonable time what is due to the grower. As other honorable senators have pointed out, growers have been placed in a most awkward position by having to wait for payment for the fruit they have sold to the makers, who have them absolutely at their mercy. The makers accept the grapes when they choose; if they want them this week, they take them; if they do not want them until weeks afterwards, they delay taking them until then, and afterwards pay for them when and how they like. In many instances £1 a ton was paid shortly after delivery and the balance handed over months afterwards, or even, as some honorable senators have stated, years afterwards. That was not fair to the growers, many of whom were living on credit and paying heavy interest on borrowed money, or living in poverty. In the long run, what will count most is the administration of the bill. If it is properly policed, an immense amount of good can be done by it. I hope that those who have to administer it will endeavour to look after the growers and enforce it in every detail, otherwise those whom we desire to help will not benefit to the extent intended. It is easy for educated people, with means to pay for the best legal advice, to evade the law, but the growers cannot take that course, and often are not so well-educated as are the wine-makers. It is the duty of the Government to see that no advantage is taken of them. Senator Badman spoke about America taking a quota of wine from Australia. I do not know whether America is in earnest or not in that matter.
– A thousand hogsheads were landed in America yesterday.
– I trust that shipment will be followed by thousands more, because, if any community owes a great deal to Australia, it is the United States of America, seeing that, whereas America took goods to the value of £5,800,000 from us in one year, we, in the same year, took from America goods valued at £38,000,000. Those figures showed a considerable trade balance against us, and if America is not prepared to treat us fairly, we should talk pretty straight to its Government.
– It is a fair proposition to swop one spirit for another - wine for petrol.
– I quite agree. When we are dealing more than fairly with America, America should at least endeavour to reciprocate. Another important provision, upon which I heartily congratulate the Government, compels those in the industry to pay award wages and observe prescribed labour conditions. The success of that stipulation also will depend upon the administration of the bill. If it is not policed thoroughly, it will not have the effect desired. I hope the Government will see that it is enforced in every detail. It was a pleasant surprise to me to find the Government introducing that provision. If an industry receives bounties from the consolidated revenue, those who benefit thereby should be prepared to do their best to pay at least a living wage to their employees. There are unscrupulous wine-makers as well as good ones. The wine-makers themselves admit this, because certain of their number have indulged in under-selling. The makers have met in conference and agreed upon certain courses, and have then found one or more of their number breaking away from or “ scabbing “ upon the rest. Some way should be devised of preventing men of that kind from underselling their confreres in the Australian market.
– That is competition.
– It is not fair competition.
– We cannot judge them until we know their costs of. production.
– Wine-makers tell me that, even taking costs of production into consideration, those people have unscrupulously undersold them.
– It is a question of the price they pay for the grapes.
– Yes, but the practice of underselling on the Australian market injures not only the fair winemaker, but also the grape-grower, whom the bill aims at helping.
– I have no personal experience of the wine that I consume being very cheap.
– I know nothing about that. I have never drunk wine, and perhaps never will. Although I have always been a teetotaller, I have endeavoured to deal with the liquor trade in a broad-minded way, and have done my best to help the wine industry by supporting the payment of bounty to grape-growers. In fact, when the Wine Bounty Bill was first introduced, it provided for bounty payments for two years, and I was mainly responsible for extending the term ‘ to three years. Although I am a teetotaller, I have endeavoured to take a broad view of this matter. I think the measure is a good one, and I hope that it will help the men it is designed’ to help.
.- Tho favorable reception given to this measure is very gratifying to the Minister for Customs (Mr. White), who has been mainly responsible for framing it. He has gone to considerable pains to equip himself with the fullest information so that be might be able to deal with the wine industry on a practical basis. I concur with the suggestion that the price of grapes should be fixed early in each season. In past years I have made representations to that effect. I understand that the matter has some complexities, but I am sure that the Minister for Trade and Customs will give the fullest consideration to the statements which have been made in this debate.
In regard to the report of Mr. Buring, C suggest that the country should express its gratification that he, a member of the wine trade, was prepared to give to the Minister certain confidential information, which may or may not bring him into conflict with his confreres in the industry.
– If the information was to be confidential it should have been Sought confidentially.
– It was, but if the honorable senator can show me how anything of this sort can be kept confidential in Canberra I shall be very grateful to him. In regard to securing agreement between the ‘ Commonwealth and State governments, so far the undertakings required in the bill have been entered into only by South Australia, which produces 80 per cent, of out wine. The other two States have not yet ‘intimated ‘ whether they will fall into line.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Senate adjourned at G.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1934/19340726_senate_13_144/>.