14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. 3. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I desire to make a personal explanation with regard to the report published in last night’s issue of the Sydney Sun concerning an action at law in which W. R. C. Bagnall sued E. S. Moulton for breach of contract. I should not have referred to this matter in the Senate, were it not for the fact that, in the course of his summing up, the Chief Justice made some very scathing comments, and mentioned that Mr. Bagnall had allotted to me 750 promotor’s shares as a result of my having introduced him to Mr. Moulton. I am making this explanation only because a House of Representatives select committee is referred to in correspondence between Mr. Bagnall and the National
Tobacco Corporation Ltd. Briefly, the facts of my association with the National Tobacco Corporation are these: -
Nearly six years ago Mr. Bagnall, ex- M.L.A., whom I have known for many years, called on me at Parliament Blouse and asked if I could assist him in the formation of a company in Australia for the growing of tobacco. I told him I could not do so; but, having been discussing the matter with Mr. Moulton a few days previously, and having been shown some light leaf grown in Australia, I gave Mr. Bagnall a brief letter of introduction to Mr. Moulton. Shortly after this incident I went to England for a trip, and whilst on the boat received a telegram from Mr. Moulton telling me that a company had been formed for growing and manufacturing tobacco in Australia, and inviting me to join the board. I accepted the invitation, and heard little or nothing more of the project until I returned eight months later. By that time Mr. Bagnall had severed his connexion with the company. I was advised that Mr. Bagnall had allotted to me 750 of his promoter’s shares, which qualified me for a directorship. I knew nothing of his intention at the time. I received his invitation. I did not even know that a company would be formed. On my return to Australia I attended one meeting of the board, resigned my position as director, and, later, returned all the shares to Mr. Bagnall. I heard nothing more of this company until I read the article in the Sun this morning. At no time did Mr. Bagnall, when talking to me, ever refer to the select committee, or to Mr. Tully, who was a member of it. In fact, I saw Mr. Bagnall only on the one occasion for a few minutes. The select committee was composed entirely of members of the House of Representatives. I was not a member of it, nor was I associated with it in any way. Ihope that this statemen t will receive the same publicity as was given to the report of the court proceedings yesterday.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Based on the number of enlistments in Australia of men and women for service overseas during the Great ‘ War, what is the total expenditure to 30th June last, per capita of such enlistments, from Commonwealth public funds on account of the settlement of soldiers on the land, and the operations of (a) the War Gratuity Act, ( b ) the War Service Homes Acts, (c) Repatriation Acts?
The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The total per capita expenditure from Commonwealth public funds, based on the number of enlistments for service overseas during the Great War (excluding interest on loan moneys used for the purpose) was as under: -
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN laid on the table the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on -
Pneumatic rubber tyres and tubes for motor vehicles.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Brennan) read a first time.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
Debate resumed from the4th December (vide page 2469), on motion by Senator A. J. McLachlan) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -I propose to give a brief history of the sugar agreement. During the last twenty years, the Fisher, Hughes, BrucePage, Scullin and Lyons Governments, representing all shades of political thought, observed the same policy in protecting the sugar industry - that of successively renewing the agreement. We are now asked to continue that policy, with which the Opposition is in entire and enthusiastic accord. The only material difference in the method of renewal is that the Lyons Government was the first to make the agreement subject to parliamentary approval, thus upholding the principle of the supremacy of Parliament. This action was first taken in December, 1932; the same method is being applied to the agreement now under discussion. In addition, the Lyons Government secured a reduction of the retail price of sugar by id. per lb. as from January,. 1933. It is only fair to point out, however, that on no occasion has either branch of this Parliament indicated its disapproval of any of the numerous sugar agreements made since 1915, although the subject has been frequently under discussion. During the last twenty years several commissions have inquired into the conditions in the industry ; yet in not one of them, was it suggested that the industry was not deserving of adequate protection, or that any major fault required correction. It is significant that nearly all the members of these and previous commissions were citizens of the Southern States, and wholly disassociated from the sugar industry. The last inquiry was that made by the Commonwealth Committee appointed in 1931,. and it was given the most comprehensive terms of reference directed to any such body. It dealt with land values, alien penetration, wages, conditions of employment, efficiency; costs and profits of growing, milling, refining, shipping, wholesaling, and retailing, the effect of sugar prices on the fruit and other industries, and allied matters. The consumers had three direct representatives nominated by their respective interests, namely, housewives, manufacturers, and fruitgrowers. This committee unanimously recommended an extension of the Sugar Agreement and the embargo for five years. All that the Lyons Government has done on this occasion is to announce another renewal of the agreement for five years, subject to parliamentary approval, at a price lower than either section of the. 1931 Committee recommended. It is noteworthy that the present capital city retail price of 4d. per lb. for refined sugar represents a smaller advance on the pre-war price level than has. occurred in regard to any other staple food except butter. I have extracted the foregoing particulars from a speech delivered in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White).
I shall give a few more salient facts regarding the industry. The growers of sugar cane in Queensland and New South Wales number nearly 10,000, and there are 35 raw-sugar mills in those two States. The capital sunk in the farms is estimated at£20,000,000, and the mills with their plants are worth at least £10,000,000. In addition to this a vast amount of capital is invested in the towns, railways, roads, wharves, and other undertakings, which depend for their existence upon the sugar industry. The sugar cane produced in this country in a normal year is about 4,000,000 tons, whilst raw sugar production is approximately 550,000 tons. The coastal freights on the sugar carried by Australian ships amount to about £500,000 a year. The industry provides £200,000 per annum for the assistance of the fruitindustry. All sugar used in manufactured goods exported from Australia is supplied at. the world’s parity price. In addition to the farmers, over 20,000 men are employed in the raw sugar industry, including engineers, mechanics, chemists and representatives of nearly all the skilled trades. The industry . also finds employment for hosts of men on wharves, in ships, in refineries, and in other occupations. There is a large sugar refinery in every mainland capital city of the Commonwealth, the Pyrmont refinery in Sydney employing 1,200 men all the year round. Cane cutting is carried out on piecework, the canecutter, like the shearer, being paid by results. Two-fifths of Australia lies within the tropics. Of this vast territory only the sugar districts and some adjacent areas can be regarded as effectively occupied. In striking contrast to this fact, parallel latitudes in Northern and “Western Australia are practically empty and unproductive. Australia is the only country where cane sugar is produced by white labour. At least 90 per cent, of the farmers and sugar workers are British. The services of the industry in maintaining the ideal of a White Australia are inestimable. No bounty has ever been paid to the sugar growers in this country. There are over 1,000 miles of 2-ft. tram lines with steam traction attached to the various sugar mills; most of the tramway material is now being made in Australia. Queensland sugar mills are now making ohe ton of sugar from less than seven tons of cane. This is a world’s record and is proof of the high efficiency of the industry. The consumption of sugar, per capita in Australia is greater than that of any other country. Those are tabloid statements on. which I shall enlarge in my remarks. The Opposition congratulates the Government unstintedly on its action in introducing this measure. At this juncture we desire to point out what the Labour party has done in the interests nf this industry. The first sugar agreement was made by two LabourGovernments, the Ryan Labour Government of Queensland and the Commonwealth Labour Government of 1915. and that agreement laid the foundation of the policy that has been followed since then by the Queensland and the Commonwealth Governments in respect of this industry up to the present time. Labour governments have always fought for this industry and invariably have stood for the renewal of the sugar embargo in the face of those who fought for its abolition and advocated the importation of black-grown raw sugar into Australia. Under Labour’s policy the Queensland cane farmer has been protected and given security and stability in his industry with the result that at the present time he receives a fair share of the returns from the industry. No Labour government has refused any reasonable request made to it for assistance or guidance from the industry, nor has it rejected any practical scheme advanced in the interests of either this industry, or agriculture generally. In 1915 the Queensland Labour Government passed a Sugar-cane Prices Act, under which was established the Sugar-cane Prices Board, and I draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that since that day the policy of the fixation of prices in many other primary-producing industries has become quite popular even with anti-Labour governments. Prior to the passing of this legislation the price of cane was determined by the millers, and was usually based on the price that the least efficient mill in the district could afford to pay and at the same time operate at a profit. The extraordinary development of the sugar industry in recent years is due, in great measure, to the inspiration, organization, support and continued encouragement given to it by the Queensland Labour Government, which is continuing this policy to-day. For the last seven years Australia has been producing well over 500,000 tons of sugar per annum, about 300,000 tons of which is required for ‘ our own use. The balance is exported and sold at world’s price.
What are the interests which oppose the sugar agreement every time a proposal to renew that agreement comes before this Parliament ?
– The consumers of sugar
– I am grateful for that interjection. I tell Senator Johnston that nothing is further from the truth. I hope to prove that the sugar consumers of Australia have never opposed this agreement.
– What of the housewives’ associations 1
– I expected an interjection of that nature also. I propose to deal with the refractory organizations which, it is alleged, represent the consumers of sugar, but which, by the way, do not represent them. In enumerating those people and organizations who oppose the sugar agreement, I shall begin by mentioning a gentleman named Burnett, whose address is given as No. 9 Martin-place, Sydney. I mention him although perhaps he is not really worth powder and shot. Although he is an elderly gentleman he is pretty prolific with his pen and every now and then in one journal or another he comes out with a diatribe against the sugar industry. Recently an article written by him along such lines was published in a journal in Katoomba, and a friend of mine, happening to read it, forwarded it to me with a request for evidence to rebut the arguments set out in it. After having numerous articles published along these lines in many journals, this gentleman went along to certain sugar interests and said to them : “ This is the kind of stuff I am turning out, but for a consideration I am prepared to write exactly in an opposite way; that is if we can come to terms “. That gentleman is of the type of those who according to Senator Duncan-Hughes and other honorable senators, represent the sugar consumers of Australia - a gentleman who is prepared to sell his journalistic ability and his immortal soul to both sides at a certain price.
– Is the honorable senator game to repeat that statement outside this chamber?
– Considering that the gentleman is very old and even his best friends suggest that he should not be roughly handled, because he might collapse under the strain, I do not pro~ pose to do anything of the kind, but I am prepared to give the honorable senator a letter of introduction to this gentleman if he desires to carry my statement to him. I am not looking for an opportunity to become a martyr, but I shall accept the responsibility at any time of refuting in this chamber the statements of such gentlemen.
– Why would not the honorable senator repeat that statement outside this chamber?
– That query is really remarkable. The honorable senator knows I am a man of peaceful inclinations and that I would not willingly take on a fight of that sort. However, if this gentleman can be persuaded to adopt a fighting attitude on this issue, I shall be prepared to have a piece of him. Other people who claim unjustifiably to speak on behalf of the sugar consumers of this country are represented by such organizations as the Henry George League. This is a worthy body, but it is definitely a freetrade league, and as such - and I say this for the particular benefit of Senator Johnston, who also is a freetrader - is anti-Australian because it is opposed- to the policy which this country has adopted as its national policy, a policy which i3 supported by all shades of political opinion and members of this Government, except Senator Johnston, who gives this Ministry somewhat lukewarm allegiance. The Henry George League cannot claim to speak for the sugar’ consumers of Australia; being anti-Australian in its outlook, it cannot claim to speak on behalf of any decent Australian. Other organizations of this character are the Freetrade and Land Values League and the Tariff Reform League. These organizations whenever they attack the sugar industry claim to do so behalf of the sugar consumers, but not one of them can justly claim that right. They are anti-tariffists, antiprotectionists, arch-freetraders and antiAustralian, and, as such, ,are not worthy of any notice when a matter of this nature is being considered by honorable senators. Then we have the Housewives Association. We know something about the constitution of that association, and we know that whenever that association has been able, by the exercise of pressure, to secure representation on bodies which have inquired into the sugar industry, and such representatives have been persuaded to make a trip to the cane-fields in Queensland, all of them have come back convinced that their association is wrong in adopting an antagonistic attitude towards this industry. In fact, the Housewives Association is not authorized in any way whatever, even Haider its own constitution, to speak for the sugar consumers of this country, or even for .the women sugar consumers. Another association which is antagonistic to the sugar industry is the Sugar Consumers Association, which has not even progressed so far as to draw up a constitution. This association is the year’s best joke. If honorable senators knew the gentlemen who constitute this association, they would realize immediately how utterly unqualified these men are to speak about the sugar industry. All that they can do is to establish contact with certain vested interests which object to the Australian sugar industry being protected as it is by this agreement, in an endeavour to make Australia a cheap-labour country, and thus enable them to further exploit the people and to make enormous profits. There are others not .allied to the Labour party who are .in favour of the bill now before the Senate. I wish to quote the opinion of two honorable senators. One is absent, but the other, owing to the exalted position which he occupies in this chamber, will not have an opportunity to speak on the second reading of the bill. I quote the remarks of Senator Guthrie, who does not support the Opposition, but who is logical in his criticisms. His remarks in Hansard of the 12 th June, 1925, read-
I understand that it is the intention of the Government to place a total embargo upon the importation of sugar into Australia. I do not favour that policy. I realize that it is necessary to give adequate protection to the sugar industry, which is a very fine industry; but I am not in favour of total prohibition. Those people who make a great fuss about the price they ‘have to pay for sugar .should realize the excellent position in which they stand compared with the inhabitants of some other countries. Recently, with other honorable senators, I visited .South Africa. We were surprised to find .that, despite the fact that the average rate of wages paid to the workers in the sugar industry in South Africa amounted to only from 8s. to 10b. a -week, compared with an average of 25s. a day in Australia, the price of sugar was no lower than in Australia. The .Queensland sugar fields are so much better managed, and their machinery is so much more efficient, that the price of sugar paid .by the consumer in Australia is no greater than is paid by the consumer in South Africa; and the South African sugar is very inferior to that which is refined in Australia.
– How does the honorable senator account for that?
– -The inefficiency, of their machinery is the cause. I formed the opinion that cheap black Habour led to inefficiency, and I returned to Australia more firmly convinced than ever that the policy of a white Australia is a correct one.
The West Australian - the leading newspaper published in Perth - published the following : -
The Melville Road Board recently -wrote to .Senator Lynch and other Federal parliamentary members, protesting against the renewal of the sugar agreement and requesting that a royal commission be appointed in inquire into the industry. Senator P. J. Lynch, who is President of the Senate, replied that ho would .see if there was a possible hope of securing a reduction in the price of sugar, “but not at the expense of injuring or risking the extinction of a great industry, and perhaps inducing .a bad revulsion of feeling against our own (Western Australian) interests into the bargain “. Senator Lynch, in his letter, stated that the sugar industry had been the subject of many inquiries ever since the day when the Kanakas were sent away from Queensland, and it became an industry exclusively worked and owned by Australians. The last inquiry was held in 1931, and the findings of the commission on that occasion was very significant. It had to be remembered that, before the appointment of the commission, the retail price of sugar was 4id. a pound. As a result of the findings of the commission, however, and particularly on account of the action of the Lyons Government, the price had been reduced a further -Jd. a pound to 4d. a pound, as at present, and the old agreement, under which 4Jd. a pound could have been charged up to June next was brought to an end. The commission included representatives nf every important section of the community, particularly consumers, and a commissioner from Western Australia.
Both the majority and minority reports declared against the cessation of the embargo on sugar. Hence, continued the letter, it was that the commissioners voting in the minority report, and representing the consumers, took the same view as those in the majority .report. The minority report recommended that the price .of sugar could not be reduced more than Jd. a pound ; therefore that section of the commission, which was ostensibly charged with taking care of the interests of the consumers of Australia, deliberately came to the conclusion that a greater reduction in justice to all interests, could not ‘be made. The Jd. a pound represented .an expenditure of about ls. 8d. per annum per head of the population, of Australia. Therefore, it .had to be considered that a great industry, now firmly established, giving employment to 30,000 persons, having a capital of .some £50.000.000 invested in it. and consuming £12,000.000 worth of products from the temperate parts of Australia, was threatened with a further and serious inroad upon its position.
For this part, as an old protectionist, willing: to give a helping hand to every industry in the Commonwealth, Senator Lynch said: that he had always regarded the sugar industry as one which, situated in the steamy tropical part of Australia, was entitled to equal, if not agreat deal more generous, treatment than any other industry situated in more pleasant surroundings.. Ifhe was asked, therefore, to take further action in the direction of threatening or rendering less secure such an important industry, especially in the fact of the consumers’ minority report, he intended to be very careful before he did so. His attitude, consequently, was to wait and see what fresh facts might be placed before the Commonwealth Parliament.
Senator Lynch went on to make some further pertinent remarks regarding the Queensland sugar industry, but all the timehewas assuring those to whom he was speaking that he would not do anything to injure the Australian sugar industry, which is of such outstanding benefit to the Commonwealth. I thank Senator Lynch for. his statesmanlike utterances on that occasion. An. article published in the Bendigo Advertiser in October last reads -
Sugar-growers have said that they were not allowed during the war to charge Australian consumers the price that was being paid overseas for sugar, and they have used it as an argument why they should now be allowed to charge enough to make the growing of sugar profitable. It is a fair argument, although the period in which they have been getting more thaw the world’s price has been more prolonged than the period when they got less. To justify the continuance of it the need for maintaining population in the northern part of Queensland is mentioned, and to justify the export of other primary products for a price lower than that fixed for the home market it is pointed out that Australia must export to pay the interest on its overseas debt and for its imports. Both arguments are valid. Australia must hold the north, and if it does not do it through the sugar industry it must do it in some other way-, and if it does not pay its overseas interest and for imports by primary produce it will have to find another means to meet the interest, and go without its imports. Other countries which have large manufacturing industries and low costs in these industries make their overseas payments in manufactured good’s, but Australia is one of the countries that pay with primary products. To these payments all should contribute equitably; it should not be left to the primary producer to produce wheat, butter, fruit, eggs, wool, and other farm products at a loss to pay the country’s overseas debt.
With those sentiment’s I entirely agree. There are certain objections urged - and those who oppose the renewal of the agreement have their rights-with which I propose to deal. It is contended that the over-production, in Queensland should cease. I assure the Senate that the sugargrowers of Queensland and in the northern portion of New SouthWales would be infinitely better off if an exportable surplus were not produced. That is a statement of fact and cannot be effectively argued inasmuch as every ton of sugar exported reduces the price over the whole crop. It must be obvious to; the producers that if there were not a surplus their position would be better than it is to-day. We have, however, to face the fact that if the production of a surplus ceased, at least 120,000 acres now under sugar cane would go out of cultivation. Something would then have to, be done for those producers, now engaged in the production of cane on that area. It is easy to say that they could engage in some other form of primary production, but if they did it would be in some primary industry already producing an exportable surplus. In those circumstances they would be jumping out of the frying pan into the. fire-.
-It would also increase unemployment.
– Of course it would. The men displaced would have to join the ranks of the unemployed and go on the dole, increasing still further the responsibilities with which Governments are faced in this respect. No decent Australian would entertain such a proposal for a moment. Those engaged in the Queensland sugar industry and those responsible for the legislation controlling it have taken the important factor of over-production into close consideration. No grower can get an assignment to have cane crushed at the mill except for a certain area and a certain quantity. If any unassigned cane is crushed - and it is on some occasions, because the cane should not be destroyed - the producer receives only world’s parity. Everything possible is done to ensure that no further extension of sugar production occurs. The article from the Bendigo Advertiser, which I have quoted, points out that we have no right to expect producers of any primary commodity to continue producing at a loss or under conditions which do not give them a decent and adequate return for their labour. Let us consider what the sugar producer is . receiving for his labour and whether there is anything in the statements that fortunes are being made by the cane-growers in northern Queensland. The Commissioner of Taxation in Queensland, in his 33rd annual report, gives the following interesting figures for 1934-35:-
For the Taxation Year 1934-1935.
Number of taxpayers generally. - Increased 4 per cent.
Number of cane-growers who are taxpayers. - Decreased 25 per cent.
Net income of all taxpayers. - Increased 10 per cent.
Net income of cane-growers who paid tax. - decreased 30.S5 per cent.
The taxable income of all taxpayers. - Increased 13.9 per cent.
The taxable income of cane-growers. - Decreased 32 per cent.
The total tax assessed for all taxpayers. - Increased 20.5 per cent.
The total tax assessed for cane-growers. - Decreased 41.3 per cent.
The records disclose that the average price of sugar in 1932 was £18 6s. 2d.; in 1933, £16 3s. 6d., and in 1934, £15 10s. 6d. Another point urged by those who oppose the renewal of the sugar agreement is that there has been tremendous speculation in land values and that the sugar properties are sold and resold at fabulous prices. That charge was true in the early stages of production, but it is untrue to-day. The measures taken by the Queensland Government, which are implemented by legislation such as that now before the chamber, prevent speculation in sugar lands. The result is that a canefarmer who desires to sell his property cannot complete the transfer until he has satisfied the Lands Department that a speculative price does not enter into the sale, and that full provision has been made against the deterioration of the land by continued cropping, and for various other risks which would warrant objection being taken to a sale at enhanced values. Therefore, I consider that I shall be able to demonstrate, as I proceed, that the complaints made by opponents of the bill against various branches of the industry cannot be supported. At this juncture, I. desire to offer a word of praise to the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) for the sentiments he expressed in moving the second reading of this bill. A copy of that speech has been very courteously supplied to me, and I propose to quote an extract from ii for the purpose of lending it additional emphasis. The portion I refer to is concerned with the claim that profits made by the industry are excessive, and that the growers of sugar are having a glorious time. The Minister said -
I now come to the reasons actuating the Government in continuing the present prices for another five years. The first consideration was the financial position of the producers of sugar-cane and raw sugar. In this connexion the last inquiry into the sugar industry - the Commonwealth Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931 - issued two reports. The majority report found that the cost of production up to 1930 justified no reduction in the then retail price of 44d. per lb., and the minority report considered that a reduction equivalent to id. per lb. could be made. These opinions were based upon a cost of efficient production of raw sugar fluctuating between £19 and £22 per ton. Since then, of course, the economic depression has brought about lower wages in the sugar industry, and also lower costs of commodities required by sugar producers for their productive and living purposes.
On the other hand, the Lyons Government secured by voluntary agreement with the producers themselves, a reduction in the Australian price as from January, 1933, equivalent to id. per lb retail. I had the honour of representing the Government during the negotiations at which, this agreement was arrived at. This reduction represented a loss of £1,250,000 per annum in the revenue of the sugar producers. Furthermore, the net return on the raw sugar exported hae fallen appreciably. The result of these two factors is that the average return for all raw sugar last year was only £15 10s. 9d. per ton, which was found, on examination by the Government last February, to be definitely less than the present cost of efficient production plus a reasonable return to farmers on their capital investment.
By voting against this bill, an honorable senator will indicate, in effect, that be is not in favour of the farmers engaged in this valuable industry receiving a price to cover efficient production and to give a reasonable return on the capital outlay. The Minister proceeded -
Figures definitely prove that the industry is not in a position to stand the only reduction that could be of any practical benefit to consumers, namely, another id. per lb. Such a reduction is equivalent to fi ,250,000 per annum less revenue for the producers. The growers’ share of such a reduction would be £875,000, which is more than the total net income of £780,251 of the 1,891 growertaxpayers, as revealed in the last annual report of the Queensland Commissioner for Taxes, and much more than their taxable income of £569,194 for the year ended the 30th June, 1934. A reduction of jd. per lb. would, therefore, eliminate practically all cane-growers ii oni thu income-tax field. In the light of these facts, the Government felt that there was no case whatever for further reducing the income of the sugar producers.
Another charge uttered in condemnation of the industry is that it is being monopolized by aliens. It is easy to make such a reckless statement, but it is very reprehensible when the facts are so different, and the figures relating to the true position are so conveniently obtainable. In the early months of 1934 I had the opportunity to make an extensive tour of South Australia, in the course of which I visited Port Pirie, and was conducted over the wonderful smelters there. In conversation with the manager of that enterprise I asked whether it was a fact that the majority of the men engaged in certain branches of that industry were aliens, because I had been led to believe that such was the case. When he told me the official figures of the proportion of Australians to aliens employed in that vast undertaking, I was astounded. To-day, however, I wish not so much to. astound as to confound, those persons who consider that the conduct of the sugar industry is in the hands of aliens. In Queensland there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Italians, as compared with approximately 700,000 persons of British race. Of those engaged in cutting cane in Northern Queensland, 75 per cent, are required by law to be of British stock, although I should add that three centres are excluded from this provision. However, the fact remains that the proportion of British to alien labour engaged in the cane fields is 75 to 25 in all other centres, and this proportion is being continually reduced. In 1931, investigations showed that, of the 8,142 cutters employed in the industry 80.4 per cent, were of the British race and 19.6 per cent, had been naturalized.
– The honorable senator quoted the British population of Queensland as being only 700,000 ; the correct figure is 900,000.
– The return from which I am quoting shows the population to be 700,000 persons. Some honorable senators who will later address the chamber on this measure will doubtless produce evidence to show that if all the branches of the industry are taken into account, the percentage of aliens employed is low indeed.
– Will the honorable senator give the Senate some information in reference to the statement made by the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr. J. T. Lang, in regard to the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?
– The .Colonial Sugar Refining Company has nothing whatever to do with either the sugar agreement or the ‘bill now under discussion. I am surprised that Senator McLeay should introduce into this debate the name of Mr. Lang, which is anathema to ministerial supporters, and mention it in such a tone as to suggest that any opinion expressed by that gentleman should perturb us. The only occasion upon which I and other honorable senators have been perturbed at the mention of Mr. Lang’s name was when it was necessary to curb his folly in a certain direction. For whatever profits the Colonial Sugar Refining Company derives from the sugar industry, it returns a quid -pro quo to the industry. The profits, to which Mr. Lang alluded, am not made out of the sugar industry by this company; his criticism referred to subsidiary organizations and the exploitation of cheap “ black “ sugar. Nineteen months ago a reduction of the price of sugar by id. per lb. was made, but it has not benefited the consumers in tha slightest degree. By how much did that reduction decrease the cost of living of the Australian people? Previously I quoted Senator Guthrie’s statements of ten years ago in regard to the position in South Africa; now I desire to furnish additional information to bring his utterances up to date. In South Africa generally, the retail price is 3-Jd. per lb., although on the Rand it is 3fd. per’ lb. These figures are illuminating -
Honorable senators will observe that of the five staple articles of diet, the consumption of sugar per capita is the second highest, whilst the cost per capita is the lowest. What is the justification for saying that the retail price of sugar is unduly burdensome? I shall now give a comparison between the latest and the pre-war prices for household commodities : -
This table demonstrates, therefore, that with the exception of butter and milk, the increase of the price of sugar in those 24 years has been the lowest in the scale.
I shall now refer briefly to the state of the sugar industry in India. I do not propose to enter into a disquisition on the harrowing details ; honorable senators, either from their personal observations, or from their reading, are well aware of the position. In this connexion, however, the Brisbane Telegraph of the 1st November, 1935, reported that the sugar industry in India is confronted with the same problem as that which- faced” the industry in Queensland in its early stages. In India the Government is now doing what this bill proposes,, although the measures are not so comprehensiveor advantageous to the sugar producers. It is realized that nothing short of compulsory organization and control of the industry from the producer to the consumer will alleviate their plight. Every honorable senator will admit that the fiscal policy of Australia is the protection and encouragement of its primary and secondary industries. I sum up the attitude of every good Australian by saying that, in these things, there must be two-way traffic. In regard to sugar, there is definitely two-way traffic. This industry is of vital importance not only to Queensland, which is a primaryproducing State, but also to those other States in which secondary industries are more highly developed. The manufacturing States - New South “Wales and Victoria - cannot have it both ways. As a result of Australia’s national policy of protection which aims at building up in the Commonwealth a population of contented, well-paid, decent living people, those States have benefited. Because it believes that the primary-producing States also should benefit from the fiscal policy of the country, the Labour Opposition in this chamber has supported every proposal to assist those engaged in primary production. It has supported legislation designed to help those engaged in the production of wheat,: meat, dried fruits, and other primary products, and has assisted to make liberal grants to those States which claim to have sr.ffe.red as a result of federation. In 1934, Queensland products to the value of £11,000,000 were disposed of in the other States. In return, goods from those States, valued at £14,000,000 were imported into Queensland. The southern States bought sugar to the value of £6,000,000 from Queensland in that year. What did Queensland give to them in return? In the purchase o£ confectionery, biscuits and cakes, from the southern States, Queensland expended £500,000, and trebled the sum in paying for machinery,- implements and galvanized iron used to modernize its farm and mill methods and increase its- industrial efficiency. During that year, Queensland smokers - and I am not included among them - expended £1,000,000 in the purchase of tobacco and cigarettes, all of which were manufactured in the southern States. Those figures can be verified by reference to the official records.
– -What was the honorable senator’s share of that expenditure?
– I may have other excesses, but none of my. money goes to purchase alcoholic liquors, tobacco or other narcotics. I have toomuch regard for my mentality and physical condition to indulge in extravagances of that nature. In the year mentioned, Queensland bought from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, dried fruits valued at nearly £750,000, whilst a further £500,000 was sent to the southern States to . pay for starch, blue, soap and polish; £200,000 for paint and varnish; £600,000 for beer and other liquors - a fact which I am almost ashamed to mention - over £500,000 for drugs and chemicals; and £27S,000 for motor vehicles and bodies, almost half .of which amount went to South Australia. The total, as one writer has expressed it, would make an income tax Commissioner’s fingers twitch.
– What does Queensland buy from Western Australia ?
– I shall answer that question by asking what Western Australia has to sell?
I have already shown the importance of the sugar industry to Queensland and to the other States of Australia, but, so far, I have dealt only with the commercial aspect of the industry. I have given cold figures, and dealt with the industry from a book-keeping point of view - the sordid materialistic aspect - but now I want to get away from the materia] benefits which the industry has conferred on Australia, and show that in the sugar areas of Northern Queensland a wonderfully successful experiment has been carried out. In those tropical areas, it has been proved beyond doubt that the white man can do the most laborious work, and not only maintain his health, efficiency and virility, but also improve them. Indeed, the experiment has proved that each succeeding generation is superior in health, efficiency and virility to its predecessor. The importance of the success of that experiment cannot be overemphasized. I need not stress the importance of peopling the northern parts of this great Commonwealth with a virile white race. Unless honorable senators have had access to the same sources of information as those from which I shall now quote, I doubt whether they have any idea of what has been done in this connexion. Sir Raphael Cilento, in his work, the White Mcm in the Tropics, says -
Australia has the unique distinction of having bred up during the last 70 years, a large, resident, pure-blooded white population, under tropical conditions. This more happy experience is directly referable to the relative absence of tropical diseases, and also of a resident native race. To the great majority of the inhabitants of temperate climates the word “Tropical” conjures up visions of sweltering mangrove flats - the haunts of the crocodile, of rank and steaming forests., that exhale the musky odour of decaying vegetation, deadly snakes, &c.
He goes on to say that the opposite is true in Australia, because’ of the development of this industry. It is true that he does not mention the sugar industry, but he refers to the progress which has been made in the development of industry, and that can refer only to the sugar industry which is the most important one conducted in that portion of the continent. Statistics covering the period 1907 to 1916 prove conclusively that in regard to infant mortality Northern Queensland compares favorably with Central and Southern Queensland, and has a better record than either Victoria or Tasmania. Dr. J. S. C. Elkington, Director of the Division of Tropical Hygiene, Commonwealth Department of Health, in an article entitled “White Women in the Australian Tropics said -
The tropical-born baby’s chances of survival are substantially better than those born in London, Switzerland, England and Wales, Canada or Scotland, and the rest of Australia. Mentally, school children are as far advanced in the tropics as are children born elsewhere in Australia.
I ask honorable senators to give to these statements the consideration to which they are entitled, and to cast their votes accordingly. An employer with twenty years’ experience remarks -
The British gangs head the list (i.e., efficiency and economy of labour), against allcomers.
A federal royal commission stated in its report that it entertained no doubt about the possibility of an effective settlement of the Queensland coastal areas by a white population. The report stated -
The present population is a normally healthy one, with a fully developed physique and a low death rate.
In evidence given before the commission, the head mistress of the State school at Mossman, North Queensland, who is as much entitled to express an opinion as is any representative of the Housewives Association, said -
The general standard of health and physical standard here are as good or better than they were in the west . The attendance is better than on the Darling Downs. Only two children who have been in attendance at the school have died since I have been here (thirteen and a half years) . . . Neither of them was born in the district.
Extension of time granted.] I have here some statistics extracted from the latest census returns, which prove in the most convincing manner the part played by the sugar industry in developing the northern portion of Australia. Whereas the population of the Commonwealth has increased by 21.9 per cent. between 1921 and 1933, the population of the sugar areas from Mossman to Mackay increased by 87.5 per cent. Does that not indicate that the sugar industry is doing a great deal to populate the Commonwealth? The following table shows the percentage increase of population in the various States and territories of the Commonwealth in the period 1921-1933 : -
As honorable senators know, I am an enthusiast for the sugar industry of Queensland, but I frankly confess that the figures which I shall now give to the Senate astonished me -
The Opposition will heartily support the bill. We express our gratitude to the Government for having introduced a measure for the renewal of the agreement, and hope that it will receive the unanimous support of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Hardy) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
The Governor-General desires to inform the President of the Senate that the message from the President and members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia contained in his letter dated 4th December, 1935, was conveyed by telegram to the King, and in reply His Majesty commands the Governor-General to convey His Majesty’s sincere thanks for their kind condolences which are much appreciated. (Sgd.) Isaac A. Isaacs,
– To enable honorable senators to attend an informal farewell by the Parliament to His Excellency the Governor-General (Sir Isaac Isaacs) the sitting will be suspended until this afternoon.
– I listened most attentively to the excellent speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and his eloquent advocacy on behalf of the sugar industry. However, I cannot approve of the terms in which he spoke of those organizations which have seen fit to criticize that industry. I believe that by intemperate criticism the Leader of the Opposition may alienate the sympathy of many people who are now disposed to support the industry. After all, any group of men or women in this country is entitled to organize for any particular purpose, and to my mind such organizations as the Housewives Association and the Henry George League have a perfect right to criticize not only this industry but also any other industry which plays a part in the economic life of this nation. I think the term” anti-Australian “ which the Leader of the Opposition has applied to these organizations is entirely too harsh, because it may be that these organizations have made their deductions sincerely from certain facts. Even conviction that their deductions are wrong, does not warrant one in denying them the right to express themselves. Thus it is wrong for the Leader of the Opposition, which, he claims, represents 46 per cent. of the Australian people in this chamber, to refer to such organizations as” antiAustralian”. I could just as easily describe the Australian Labour party as “ anti- Australian “ ; I am sure that if I did so the Leader of the Opposition would immediately and emphatically object. Thus he should be prepared to admit the right of such organizations to express their opinions. I trust that in future the Leader of the Opposition will not deny to a minority freedom to criticize the sugar industry.
– Have I not the right to criticize them?
– Most decidedly the honorable senator has such a right, but I dispute his right to term these organizations “ anti-Australian “. His denunciation was so vehement that I would not have been surprised had he asked the Minister to apply the Crimes Act to these organizations on the ground that they were unlawful associations. I do not want my remarks concerning these organizations to be interpreted to mean that I am against the sugar industry. I am not opposed to that industry. This legislation embodies two definite principles, each of which, to my mind, is vital to the interests of the community, and particularly to those interests represented by members of the Country party. The first principle is that of the right of a primary industry to demand a homeconsumption price for its products; and the second is that of the right of the people of this country, through their Government, to protect their own internal economy. I submit that we are subscribing to both principles by protecting the sugar industry. In so doing we are only following the example of most of the nations of the world. Although many men in public life in the past advocated freetrade, I venture to say that under present international economic conditions it is impossible for such men, even did they desire to do so, to adhere to that policy any longer. I do not say that I am a freetrader; certainly, while I have been a member of this chamber, I have never advocated the principle of freetrade; throughout my career as an honorable senator I have stood for a reasonable amount of protection, not only to primary, but also to secondary, industries. For the benefit of freetraders, however. I submit that international economic conditions to-day, when every nation is aiming at autarchy, are entirely different from those existing eight or ten years ago. Whether it is due to the fear of war or to economic stress is a debatable point, but it is clear that governments are now concentrating on their own unemployment problems and endeavouring, even at the sacrifice of economic principles, to overcome them by supporting the principle of national self-sufficiency. Such a policy, whether it be adopted by low-wage or high-wage countries, can have only one result, namely, a reduction of the volume of international trade. To-day a part of the economy of practically every nation is the protection of its industry from international competition. This does not involve merely the fixing of quotas through bi-lateral trade agreements, or the limitation of production, but seeks also to avoid the incidence of a depreciated currency, which is one of the most insidious instruments use in trade wars. To honorable senators who advocate that the embargo on sugar should be relaxed, I ask, “Remembering the importance of the sugar industry to the national welfare, are you prepared to allow it to suffer the effects of such an instrument as a depreciated currency?” “We know that the problem of currency has changed considerably during the last ten years. Ten years ago the nations of the world were on the gold standard. What is the position to-day? The currency policy of each country, and its relation to the exchange of another country, have a definite bearing on its protection policy. First of all there is the gold bloc, consisting of a minority of countries which still adhere to the gold standard. Frankly, I admit that these, in so far as they can make a weapon of exchange depreciation, are not a menace to the sugar industry, but the majority of the nations “ manage “ their own currency, and if by so doing they can increase their exportations they do not hesitate to depreciate their currency. Japan to-day is a very good example of a country which has accelerated its export trade through a depreciated currency. At present the Australian £1 in Japan is worth 27s. Over the last few years, Japan’s export trade has been increased as a result, not only of low wages, long hours of labour, and the special industrial programmes which have been undertaken in that country, but also of its depreciated currency. Any one acquainted with this subject knows that the main result accruing from such a policy is that it enables a country adopting it to dump its exports in any other country where the exchange is adverse with consequent repercussions on the economy of the exporting country. That is my first point. Now I a3k: Are we prepared to allow the sugar industry to be endangered by allowing, such a country to dump its goods here? Realizing the full implications of such a policy and the advantages which it give3 to certain countries, which adopt that policy, honorable senators must admit that the present protection afforded to the sugar industry must be maintained. Is Australia alone in following its present policy of providing internal economic protection, or on the other hand, are other countries adopting a freetrade policy to-day? Any honorable senator who investigates this matter will find that every country has been forced to join the tariff circle; even England, that grand old country of freetrade, has been forced to take refuge behind a tariff barrier, because it realizes that if it does not do so it will have no means of protecting its own economy. That represents a momentous change of policy. In regard to sugar, I point out that England and Belgium are the only countries that admit sugar free of duty to-day. I know perfectly well that, as this debate proceeds, those who are opposed to the policy of protecting the sugar industry will make great capital of the embargo on imported sugar. I frankly admit that, if it were possible, I would prefer to see some other form of protection for the sugar industry substituted for the present embargo. I do not like the word “ embargo “ ; to my mind it means total prohibition, and I do not like total prohibition because, unfortunately, all. international trade is weighed in the balance and all governments are forced, whether they like it or not, to make bi-lateral treaties in the interests of their own trade. Thus, it stands to reason that ‘the prohibition of any article is likely to arouse antagonism on the part of those countries which are customers for many of our primary products. I would enthusiastically support any other measure to protect the sugar industry in preference to the present embargo.
– Is there any other method by which the sugar industry could be protected?
– After analysing the best data I could secure on this matter, I say most emphatically that we have no alternative to a policy of total prohibition. The reason for this lies in the tremendous fluctuation of world parity prices for sugar. On that point it is interesting to read the report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee of 1931, on the subject of the embargo. I point out that the opinions expressed on this matter in that report are not the opinions of a majority or a minority section of the committee, but are the unanimous opinions of the committee, and, therefore, must be given the most careful consideration. This report states -
One of the most important considerations which require attention in dealing with the method of protecting the sugar industry seems to bo: Is the embargo, par se, better than a customs tariff or any other method of protecting the industry from foreign competition? Wo realize that it may be preferable to protect many industries merely by a customs tariff In the case of sugar, however, this method appears to have grave disadvantages, owing to the frequent and wide fluctuations in the prices of foreign sugar. In 1924, the then Prime Minister (the Bight Honorable S. M. Bruce) referred to these violent fluctuations in the world’s price, when announcing his Government’s decision to extend the embargo.
I point out that the world price for sugar fluctuated over a period of years by so much as £12 a ton. Thus, had a customs tariff been adopted as a means of protecting this industry, it would have had to be framed on a sliding scale. The report shows that since 1924 the fluctuations have been even more pronounced, as will be seen by the figures which I shall quote. These show the. various changes in the price at which foreign sugar could have entered Australia from October, 1923, to December, 1930. I ask honorable senators to consider these figures carefully and to ask themselves whether it would have been possible, by the imposition of customs duties, to have protected the sugar industry more effectively than has been done through the present embargo. The report states-
From this statement it will be seen that the high and low points were £36 3s. Sd. and £.10 10s. Od. respectively - a difference of no less than £25 1 3s. 2d. At the peak price, no customs duty would be necessary to protect the Australian industry at its present list wholesale price of £37 6s. 8d. per ton. At the lowest price, a. duty of approximately £26 per ton, or over £16 more than tho present tariff on cane sugar, would be necessary.
In other words, the world’s price has risen to such an extent that, if sugar had been, imported, it would hav* been sold below the present price of r.he Australian product. That statement answers effectively the critics who contend that the embargo should be removed, and that the industry should be protected by the imposition of a reasonable customs duty. I am quite prepared to support a customs duty, if it can be shown that it can be effectively applied, but, until some scheme can be devised by means of a sliding scale which would take cognizance of the variations in world parity in order to afford reasonable protection to the industry, I intend to support an embargo.
I cannot understand why there should be such a wide divergence of opinion in this chamber on the sugar industry. Some honorable senators say that they believe that the industry should be protected, but that the protection at present afforded is too great. I cannot, however, understand the motive which impels an honorable senator to say that sugar should be admitted into this country duty free.
– No honorable senator has made such a statement during the debate on this bill.
– I shall quote what an honorable senator said when a similar measure was before the Senate.
– I am speaking of the debate on this bill.
– The views expressed at that time are, I presume, still held by the honorable senator whom I propose to quote. At page 3047 of Hansard, volume 137, Senator Johnston” said -
I favour the importation of sugar and bananas from Java, in exchange for our natural products.
In reply to that definite statement. Senator Dunn immediately asked -
Does the honorable senator favour the importation of black -grown ‘bananas?
Later, when asked whether he favoured the importation of black-grown sugar, Senator Johnston replied “Yes”. What, does that imply? That he is prepared to sacrifice the Australian sugar industry in order to sell to Java what, in his opinion, are the natural products of Western Australia. What are these natural products ? Since I have been a member of this chamber, I have heard a good deal from honorable senators concerning our export trade. There should be a clear definition of “ natural products “. Practically all of our exports are natural products, and, with the exception of wool, are sold at an unnatural price. A home-consumption price is paid on practically every product, particularly butter, and wheat will soon be included, the balance being dumped on overseas markets at world’s parity. When it is said that we should sell our natural products in Java, I should like to know what natural products we can sell in J ava at unnatural prices. . It is only logical to assume that the purchases made by Java would be at world’s parity prices. I could readily understand Senator Johnston’s attitude if we were able to arrange a bi-lateral agreement with Java. Western Australia could adopt such an attitude if the trade balance were in favour of Australia, because we could say that we were selling more to Java than Java was buying from us. We could buy our sugar from Java and Java could buy our natural products. That, however, is not the position. The value of our imports from Java in 1932-33, expressed in British currency, was £2,940,000 as against our exports, which were valued at £1,195,000. In other words, there was an adverse tradebalance against Australia of £1,745,000. In 1933-34, the value of the goods purchased from Java was £3,960,000, and the value of our exports to that country was £1,149,000, again showing an adverse trade balance against Australia for that year of £2,811,000. If a trade treaty were to be arranged with Java, the first question to be considered would be whether the trade balance was in our favour. Senator Johnston, who does noi worry about that, contends that we should buy sugar from Java in spite of the fact that the trade balance is nearly £3,000,000 against us. The purchase of sugar from Java in exchange for Australian produces is impracticable. What would be the position if we allowed black-grown sugar to be imported to Australia. It is useless to say that we should be able to compete with Java; the difference in labour conditions would prevent that. I understand from those engaged in the sugar industry that the labour engaged in the production of sugar represents from 60 per cent, to 70 per cent, of the total. Is it suggested that the wages of those engaged in the Australian sugar industry are to come down to the level of the cheapest producing country in the world I If sugar were to be admitted free of duty the payment of reasonable wages to those engaged in the Australian industry could not be continued, and we should have to come down . to coolie rates. The wages earned by the men in the Australian industry are expended in purchasing goods produced in our secondary industries.
– Goods which are highly protected.
– If we are to allow Java sugar to be admitted duty free we must extend the privilege to Japan. There is no side-stepping that point, because Japan has a reasonable argument to submit to this Government in the matter of trade balances. Japan could easily say that as it purchases Australian wool we should take Japanese sugar. Japan produces approximately 800,000 tons of sugar annually, which is greater than the whole of the Australian crop. An ordinary agricultural worker in Japan receives 66 cents, which is a little over 9d. a day. One honorable senator advocates the importation of black-grown sugar, and by implication favours the Australian worker engaged in sugar production being paid 9d. a day.
– There are such things as customs duties.
– I have already informed the Senate that if I could be shown how such duties can be applied effectively I would support them. Cuba, which is one of the world’s largest sugar producers, is at present producing over 3,000,000 tons a year. If we agree to the importation of black-grown sugar at least some of our purchases would come from Cuba. The wage paid to Cuban cane-cutters in 1929 was 1 dollar 60 cen w a day, but in 1932 it was only 50 cents a day, or at the present rate of exchange less than ls. a day. Senator Johns on advocated the importation of sugar produced by coloured men earning wages “ such as I have mentioned. It is impossible to follow the logic of the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
– I refer the honorable senator to page 3045 of Hansard when Senator Daly asked -
Does the honorable senator suggest that the sugar fields should be worked by Javanese who would have to be fed on Australian bananas?
The honorable senator replied -
No; I am pledged to the maintenance of a White Australia policy.
I ask honorable senators to realize the significance of those words. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) showed most conclusively that one of the best means to populate Northern Australia is hy means of the sugar industry.
– The only one.
– Yes. Is it not reasonable to assume that if as Senator Johnston advocates, the importation of black-grown sugar be permitted, the men in the Queensland sugar industry will also have to be paid ridiculously low rates. In such circumstances, the maintenance of a White Australia policy would appear to be impossible unless it is proposed to populate the north with white men working for approximately one shilling a day. In other words, if this industry were exposed to the competition of foreign, “ blackgrown “ sugar, the sugar-growers of Queensland would have no alternative but to evacuate the north and the industry would collapse. I venture to say that the evacuation of the north, quite apart from the serious consequences involved in the loss of the sugar industry, would be of the greatest concern to the Commonwealth Government. I propose now to refer to the sugar embargo and its effect on employment. In view of the interjection by Senator Grant it is interesting to read the opinion of Professor L. F. Giblin -
If they abolish the sugar embargo, what were they going to do with all those persons engaged in the industry?
That is a very practical question indeed. If the sugar industry were to be destroyed, the employment of the growers at present engaged in it would probably be the first problem that this Senate would be called upon to consider. Professor Giblin continued -
To provide them with employment in the wheat and wool industries would mean that another 80,000.000 bushels of wheat, or a corresponding amount of wool, would have to be provided annually, and it was fantastic to think that anything approaching that amount could be produced by switching the bounty of £5,000,000 a year now paid to sugar over to either of these industries, as such action would only reduce their cost of production by 3 per cent, at the most. It would, therefore, be seen that it was very doubtful whether they could economically switch over the sugar-grower to other kinds of production and save anything for the public.
That is the considered opinion of a gentleman who, I unhesitatingly assert, is one of the leading Australian economists. His opinion cannot lightly be waived aside, as one might waive aside the statement of a member of the Housewives Association or of the Henry George League. Professor Giblin’s view must be considered in all its implications. Again, I repeat, if the sugar industry be destroyed, honorable senators must ask themselves what avenues of employment can be found for the persons at present engaged in it. That is the kernel of the nut: the sugar could be replaced in the far north only by another special industry, and I cannot think of one that could take its place. I hope that honorable senators, when casting their votes, will take all these facts into consideration.
There is another matter that I desire to stress. It is said that the price of sugar is too dear for the Australian consumer. I do not propose to quote the comparative prices of sugar grown overseas and the Australian product, because certain honorable senators are infinitely better informed than I am upon this subject; but I maintain that the assertion that the price of sugar is too dear in Australia naturally implies that the men engaged in the production of that commodity are making exorbitant profits. In reply to critics who hold that view, I ask : “ Where are the sugar millionaires to-day?” There are none. Reference to the statistics relating to the sugar industry will show that an extraordinary percentage of the farms carry mortgages and, what is more, this number has been steadily increasing during the past three or four years. It does not appear, therefore, that exorbitant profits are being made. Growers do not plaster their farms with mortgages or liens for fun ; they are driven by financial adversity to secure credit in this way. If sugar is being sold at such an exorbitant price that the grower is making wonderful profits,I fail to see why he does not clear his property of the mortgage. In 1932 in respect of 5,168 farms in the Mackay district, the crop liens totalled 3,102, representing. 60 per cent. of the farms in that district. In the next year the number, so far from diminishing, had increased to 3,186 and the percentage of the total was raised from 60 per cent. to 61 per cent. And yet, during this period, it was alleged that the growers were making’ exorbitant profits. In 1934, the number of liens increased to 3,159 or 69 per cent. Again, I ask, if those growers were receiving such handsome profits and if the sugar-cane industry were such a lucrative occupation, why did. the number of mortgages on the farms increase? If these figures related to the wheat industry I could well understand it, because it has been subjected to the full effect of the world’s low price level. If we were to accept the statements of the critics of the sugar industry, the growers, instead of having mortgages on their properties, should be able to sell out and retire after three years.
I frankly confess that there is much in the technical processes of sugar production that I do not understand, but I am informed by gentlemen infinitely better versed in this business than I am, that sugar-growing is one of the most efficient industries in the Commonwealth. My informants have also told me that in regard to efficiency of production the Australian sugar industry occupies a prominent place among similar industries in other countries. If the industry is efficient, I cannot see that the protection is too high to-day. Admittedly, I do not favour the embargo, but I accept it because I can see no alternative method of reasonably protecting this industry. I cannot conceive of a set of conditions which would justify this Parliament in lowering the protective barriers and: throwing the Queensland sugar into competition with the black labour product grown overseas. The sugar industry is of national importance, and we must protect it. I sincerely hope that the Senate will unanimously assent to this legislation.
Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) long this discussion, but honorable senators know my position in the sugar industry and will appreciate that if I refrain from making any observations my silence will be open to misunderstanding and probably misrepresentation. My association with the industry covers a number of years. It was 40 years on the 29th April last since I first set foot upon the sugar land of northern Queensland, which I subsequently purchased and in which I am still interested, although I have not very much to do with it now, the management of the business being carried on by my two elder sons’. Having listened to the three speeches in favour of the renewal of the sugar agreement, I shall have to tread very warily indeed in order not to repeat what has been said by those speakers, who, in my opinion, have explained the position of tie industry and the merits of this legislation clearly, effectively and most comprehensively. I notice, however, that no reference has been made to one important fact. In March, 1920, the Eight Honorable W. M. Hughes made a statement in the House of Representatives, and submitted the following resolution which, after discussion, was unanimously approved by another place : -
That the memorandum of the conference, held at Sydney, between representatives of the Queensland sugar industry and the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments, be printed.
A few days later, on the 25th March, Mr. Hughes made a speech on the new agreement, in which he said -
Pursuant to the decision of the House the other evening, the Government has taken steps to adjust the price and re-arrange the conditions, as from to-day. under which sugar is sold, and I desire to state for the information of honorable members and of the public exactly what has been done. I may preface my remarks by saying that, owing to the high price of foreign sugar, we have been losing £20,000 a day by retailing sugar at 3½d. per lb..
Later, I shall again refer to that speech; but I have been asked by some honorable senators to furnish some details in regard to the profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Its relationship to the Queensland industry, and where and how its funds, which have been stated by the general manager of the company quite recently to amount to £20,000,000, have been acquired. I was a member of the royal commission, appointed by the Fisher Government in 1911, to inquire into all branches and aspects of the Australian sugar industry, and to report to the Government. The commission made a very exhaustive investigation, first under the chairmanship of Sir John Gordon, a Judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia, and when his health failed, under the chairmanship of Professor Jethro Brown. One of the matters into which the commission inquired was the advisability or otherwise of nationalizing the refining business. Amongst the members of the commission was the Honorable Albert Hinchcliffe, M.L.C., of Queensland, a gentleman who was very well known at the time, and who is, I am sure, remembered by many as a member of the Queensland Labour party and a prominent union official.. At that time, as now, one of the planks of the Labour party’s platform was the nationalization of industry. It -was hoped and expected that, as a result of the evidence tendered to the commission, Mr. Hinchcliffe would discover sufficient reasons for recommending the nationalization of the sugar refining business. But he did not do so. He was convinced that the refining business was carried on as honestly, efficiently and advantageously to Australia by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as it would be if placed under government control. I well remember that at Labour conferences he was censured year after year for having failed to report in the way that a great many unionists thought he should have done. But he stood by his convictions, and refused to recant.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has a fairly long history. In 1842 Mr. Edward Knox, who later became Sir Edward Knox, took over the management of a sugar refining business in Sydney. Some years later the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was established, with Sir Edward Knox at the head of the business. When he retired he was succeeded by his son, the late Mr. E. W. Knox. For nearly 90 years the business had for its head a member of the same family - father and son - and during those years it made steady progress. But its development has been more rapid during the last 35 years than at any earlier stage of its history. One reason is that the business of producing and refining sugar in Australia has steadily grown. The company also has a large business in Fiji as a producer of raw sugar, and in New Zealand as a refiner of sugar. The present production of its mills in Fiji is about 140,000 tons a year. After allowing for a few thousand tons required for local consumption in Fiji, that sugar is exported to either Great Britain or Canada, where it receives a preference of £5 a ton, or nearly 30s. a ton more than the preference accorded by those countries to Australian sugar. After the war, as is generally known, the price of sugar increased to heights previously unknown. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company obtained the world price for the 100,000 tons of sugar produced each year by it in Fiji. According to a speech recently made by Sir Philip Goldfinch, the present general manager, it also made a lot of money by speculating in sugar which was , bought and sold outside Australia. I remember well that, owing to the seizure of a few Dutch ships by the United States of America, after that country joined the Allies in the Great War, all other Dutch ships made for neutral ports as quickly as possible, with the result that no transport facilities were available for Java sugar. For some time it had been difficult to find vessels to transport sugar from Java, and stocks had been accumulating; but when the Dutch ships were no longer available, sugar could have been bought in Java, 100,000 tons at a time, for about £9 a ton. There were then no buyers for it. I have it, on the authority of the then Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Mr. W. A. Watt), that a proposal was submitted to him at the time that Australia should huy 100,000 tons of sugar for £1,000,000, which was below the cost of production. Mr. Watt thought that it would not be right for the Commonwealth to speculate in sugar, and did not accept the offer. Subsequently, the Commonwealth Government paid over £6,000.000 for a similar quantity of sugar. The facts are set out in an audited statement of the Commonwealth Government Sugar Control, covering accounts extending from the 19th July, 1915 to the 31st March, 1922. During that period the price of sugar varied from about £24 to £98 12s. 5d. a ton. It is said that a Chinese firm, which had no compunction whatever about speculating in sugar, seized the opportunity to make a profit of £15,000,000. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company also saw its opportunity, and seized it; and although its profits were not so great as those of the Chinese firm, they probably amounted to millions of pounds. The ownership of that money is one of the reasons- why the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is making such good profits to-day, and was able, recently, to transfer some millions of pounds from reserves to capital account. I have never been able to understand why it should be wrong to transfer money from reserves to capital account and issue shares equivalent to the amount transferred. The practice is so common that no notice is taken of it in most instances. Only a few weeks ago the Carlton and United Breweries transferred £950,000 from reserves to capital account and issued 950,000 bonus shares of £1 each, and no special notice was taken of the transaction. Why should it be right for a brewing company to do that, but entirely wrong for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to do the same? Much is said regarding the price of shares in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but no comment is made when it is announced that shares in the Swan brewery, of a nominal value of 20s. are sold at £6 6s. Why should the Colonial Sugar Refining Company be singled out for attack, particularly as it gives employment to many thousands of Australians and is, after all, returning only a. reasonable profit to its shareholders? When tariff schedules are. under consideration we are told by some honorable senators that manufacturing businesses, cannot be conducted successfully in thic country because of the insufficiency of the market available to them. Yet, a business, which is acknowledged to be most efficiently managed, is attacked should it make only reasonable profits. The attack on the sugar industry has been mainly directed against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. A good deal of propaganda against the sugar industry and the sugar agreement has been indulged in and when the industry has not replied to the attacks, its opponents claim that their case is unanswerable. Yet, when the industry buys newspaper space to refute the charges levelled against it, the same people say “ Look at the money these people have to throw away.” I shall give some particulars of the money expended by the sugar industry on advertisements during the last twelve months, and I am sure that honorable senators will be astonished when they know how small the amount was. For some years the average output of sugar from Queensland sugar mills has been about 600,000 tons per annum. An expenditure of Id. a ton on advertising would represent £2,400, but, as the industry has not expended £2,000 on advertising, during the last twelve months, it will be seen that the amount has been less than Id. a ton. I can imagine what would . be said of the industry if it did not do something to repel the persistent attacks made against it. Last Sunday, in looking through the Sydney Sunday Sun, I was struck by the display advertisements of firms which had furniture for sale. I calculated the space occupied by those advertisements, and found that it amounted to not less than seven full pages. I have been informed that a fullpage advertisement in the Sydney Sunday Sun costs £100. It is safe to say that the Sydney firms which pay for those advertisements cater for customers in New South Wales only, and honorable senators should note that no attack is being made upon them by outside interests. Therefore it is not necessary for them to spend money to counteract false propaganda ; yet I undertake to say that every one of those firms ; spends many hundreds of pounds yearly in advertising goods. The expenditure on advertising of even £2,000. a year spread over the 8,000 odd sugar-growers in Queensland represent approximately oneeighth of a penny a ton of cane. As this would be divided between millers and growers, the cost to each individual grower would be practically negligible.
– It might buy a drink.
– It might do that if drinks were cheap.
I agree with Senator Hardy’s contention that any one has a right to engage in the discussion of public questions. No one will deny that in recent years the price of sugar has become a burning question in the Commonwealth; but no one has a right, either individually or collectively, to bear false witness against a great industry, and against the interests of thousands of honest, hard working, struggling, frugal people, like those engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland. It should be noted also that the people who bear this false witness are, for the most part, paid by some other interests, which believe that they might get something from the destruction of the Queensland sugar industry.
– May it not be urged that in making that statement the honorable senator is himself bearing false witness against certain interests?
– Those who pay others to shoot a man are just as criminal as is the person who does the shooting. Let Senator Brennan consider that aspect of the subject.
I turn now to examine the measure of protection given to other primary industries, upon which no attack has been made, in order to compare their position with that of the Queensland sugargrowers. I take first the dried fruits industry. A few years ago, I visited the Murray river settlement, where, I understand, the great bulk of our dried fruits is produced, and gained a fair amount of first-hand knowledge regarding the industry.
Senator Sir Walter Massy-Greene. Dried fruits are also produced in Western Australia.
– I have no knowledge of the industry in that State, so I cannot say anything about it. At. the present time there is an import duty of £56 a ton on dried fruits. I dare say that Senator Johnston would prefer an import duty of that magnitude to an embargo, though the word “ embargo “ is not mentioned in the bill.
– The bill makes mention of the prohibition of imports, which is equivalent to an embargo.
– It does provide for an embargo against importations, but the word “ embargo “ is not used. When the sugar industry learned, some years ago, that the Government had practically decided not to continue the embargo an urgent request was mads for increased protection, which, however, was not granted. The recommendation by the Tariff Board that a protective duty be not imposed, was supported by faked figures. I have retailed to the Senate the circumstances connected with that recommendation, so I shall not repeat the story this afternoon. Those engaged in the production of canned fruits enjoy protection equal to an ad valorem duty of 140 per cent. Canned and dried fruits, it should be noted, are in competition with the products of white labour countries, whereas sugar is sold in the world’s market in competition with countries employing coloured labour. Our hopgrowers have a protective duty of ls. per lb. or £112 a ton, and wine is protected by import duties of from 18s. to 38s. a gallon. A few days ago I read in a report issued by the wine industry of Australia that the f.o.b. value of Australian wine for export is about 4s. a gallon. I presume that the best of our still wine is exported. A great deal of wine, much inferior to that which is exported, is held for the Australian market; yet that industry enjoys a duty of 18s. a gallon, which would be equal to an ad valorem duty of 500 to 600 per cent.
We have been told that the cattle industry receives no protection. That statement is not strictly accurate, because there is an import duty of 6d. per lb. on tinned meats, and a duty of 3d. per lb. on meat preserved by cold process. Butter and cheese producers also are protected bv an import duty of 7d. per lb. against foreign imports, and 6d. per lb. on butter and cheese imported from New Zealand. We all remember the circumstances in which those duties were imposed. The previous duty of 3d. per lb. was doubled against New Zealand, a sister dominion, where labour conditions in the industry are almost identical with those obtaining in Australia. I wish it to be understood that I am not speaking in a spirit hostile :o other Australian industries, because I am not a geographical protectionist.
Nor am I, I hope, a person with a limited vision. In this regard I am reminded of a story attributed to President Lincoln about a farmer who went out one night to shoot opossums. After exhausting the whole of his ammunition in an endeavour to bring down what he took to be an opossum on the topmost branch of a tall tree, he discovered that he had really been firing at an insect on his eyelash ! I am afraid that the vision of some of our geographical protectionists is just about as good as that of the farmer in that story.
I turn now to consider the protection given to another Australian industry, about which, I confess, I do not know a great deal, namely, motor-body building. In order to obtain some accurate information, I made inquiries as to the cost of motor cars with Australian bodies, and I also carefully studied a number of American publications with illustrations and prices of motor cars with Fisher bodies, and I say, without hesitation, that the prices for motor cars with Australian bodies are from two or three times higher than prices for American cars with American bodies. I repeat that I am not criticizing adversely the Australian motor-body building industry. It is absurd to talk about defending this country, unless we are prepared to support all legislative proposals designed to enable us to produce in Australia the whole of our requirements for defence. In these days of modern transport, the mechanization of our defence forces is a first essential, so any proposal to give adequate protection to the motor-body building industry should have our approval.
For the reasons given, I ask honorable senators, when they are considering the protection afforded to the Australian sugar industry, to keep in mind also the protection that is given to industries in other States. That is all that the Queensland sugar industry asks of members of this. Parliament..
In this discussion we have heard a good deal about the cost of sugar to Australian consumers. Intimately associated with the production of sugar is the settlement of the fertile lands in our tropical latitudes. Professor Giblin estimates that the excess cost of Australian sugar as compared with the. cost of foreign sugar admitted duty free is, in round figures, £5,000,000 a year Professor Brigden, the Director of the Queensland Bureau of Industry who, I think, is as good an authority as Professor Giblin, estimates the excess cost at £4,000,000 a year. However, I shall accept Professor Giblin’s figures for the purpose of my argument. Of that amount Queensland pays £700,000 for sugar consumed in Queensland itself. It also contributes £400,000 towards the grants made by the Commonwealth Parliament to the smaller States, and in addition, as has already been pointed out, Queensland purchases from the other States protected commodities to the value of £16,000,000 a year. Even freetrade advocates will admit that the excess price of those commodities, as compared with the landed cost of similar goods imported duty free, would be about 25 per cent. That would mean that in. purchasing £16,000,000 worth of protected goods from other States, Queensland pays £4,000,000, which it would not have to pay were such goods not protected. Adding the excess cost of these goods to the £400,000 which that State contributes to the grants to smaller States and to the £700,000 which Queenslanders themselves pay for sugar, Queensland pays a cost of £5,100,000 directly and indirectly to protect the industries of other States, compared with £5,000,000 which is the estimated excess cost of protected sugar to people living in the southern States. Thus, Queenslanders pay more to assist southern industries than southerners do to maintain this protection to the sugar industry.
– Are there not people employed in industries in Queensland other than the sugar industry, who buy some of the goods imported by that State from the southern States?
– Certainly there are. The head of the Bureau of Industry in Queensland, Professor Brigden, who is one of Australia’s foremost economists-
– And a higher protectionist than most of them.
-I think it will be admitted that economists as a rule had marked freetrade tendencies a few years ago, but that this tendency is gradually being corrected. On that point I refer honorable senators to a booklet recently published by Professor Copland under the heading “ Is our tariff a failure?” in which he argues most convincingly that our tariff has not failed. All honorable senators will agree that the tropical areas of Australia should be settled, and that so long as they remain unsettled they will constitute a national danger. That point was stressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) this morning. I point out that out of a population of 240,000 people in tropical Queensland, 96,000 are under 21 years of age. Therefore it is clear that we have now laid the basis of a permanent population in tropical Queensland, and that the present number will, in the ordinary course of events, steadily increase, provided that the industries already established in those areas are given fair consideration and encouraged to expand. The last census report showed the populations of cities, towns, and shires in centres in which the sugar industry is carried on to be -
I point out that, whilst the population of the Commonwealth increased during the last intercensal periodby 21.94 per cent. the population of the sugar areas from Mossman to Mackay increased by 87. 5 per cent. The Mackay district, which includes the city of Mackay and the shires of Mirani, Pioneer and Sarina, depends almost entirely upon this industry and produces about 100,000 tons of sugar annually. Therefore, in that district, in which the population totals . 28,113, every three and a half tons of sugar directly supports one person. The moneycirculated by the industry is spent with the local tradespeople, who send it to other centres to pay for manufactured goods, and it is turned over five or six times, thus supporting a great number of people. Assuming that the production of four tons of sugar - taking the figure for the industry as a whole - provides a livelihood for one person the industry practically supports no less than 150,000 people in Queensland.
– The southern States do that.
– Queensland spends a little more with the southern States than the southern, States spend with Queensland, so the transaction is about square. In passing I am reminded that when union advocates appear before a certain judge in the southern States and point out what is done in the sugar industry under awards of the Queensland Arbitration Court, this judge always cackles, “ Yes, we pay for that “.
Undoubtedly there are a number of Italians in Queensland, many of whom are engaged in the sugar industry. Most of these have “bought sugar farms previously owned by Britishers, who have sold out because of the persistent agitation in the southern States against this industry. So virulent has been that agitation that Britishers still engaged in the industry pursue their business in fear and trembling.
– The industry thrives on such agitation.
– The Italians must be bad business men if they are prepared to buy farms despite such an agitation.
– It is much more difficult for Italians to obtain employment than it is for Britishers. The Italians’ nationality and language are undoubtedly handicaps to them when seeking employment. But these men have a veritable passion to possess farms of their own. They are good farmers and good settlers. Yet, this agitation persists against the industry.
– Nobody takes the agitation seriously.
Sena tor CRAWFORD. - Nevertheless, it is being continued and the newspapers are always prepared to give space to contributors who write in that strain, whilst the industry has to pay for space in those same papers to reply to such attacks. Many of the British cane-farmers are anxious regarding the future of the industry and these are selling out gradually to Italians’. At the present time the industry is practically on the bread line; I do not hesitate to make that statement. I have had long experience in this industry and if the present price of sugar were reduced I certainly would not attempt to carry on. The prices of Australian sugar, which is grown and handled by white labour, is consistently compared with the prices of sugar grown in cheap labour countries. I heard it said to-day that certain wages were paid in the industry in Cuba, but the figures given were far in excess of what I know to be correct. I point out that in recent years the ordinary labourer in the industry in Cuba receives his food and five cents or 2½d. a day and that the sugar-producing companies in that country have lost up to 2,250,000 dollars in a single year. Do honorable senators wish to see a similar condition established in the sugar industry in Australia? I ask honorable senators who represent other States when they are considering this great Queensland industry, to remember the pledge given to Queensland when it agreed to federate, that its sugar industry would be given the adequate protection which is afforded to various industries in other States. Let us reciprocate in these matters honestly and fairly.
– Why do the growers receive so little and we pay so much for our sugar? That is what we want to know.
– That question has been answered over and over again.
– But not convincingly.
– I have here a table showing how the retail price paid for sugar is distributed among those engaged in its production, transport and handling -
.- There has been so much propaganda against the renewal of the Sugar Agreement, particularly in Victoria, that many persons think that the Commonwealth
Government is attempting to work some swindle upon the Australian people. If the speech delivered by the Minister in moving the second-reading of the bill were circulated in pamphlet form, a good deal of misconception would be removed.
– It will be available in Hansard.
– But many of those who oppose the renewal of the agreement do not read that publication. The principal critics are members of well-known freetrade organizations, who would deny this and other industries any form of protection. They fail to realize that it is the policy of Australia to provide a reasonable standard of living for its people, and that, in order to do so, protection must be afforded to our industries. Many of our primary and all of our secondary industries of importance, are protected in one form or another. I intend to support the bill, because it will ensure stability in the industry for five years and so establish an assured home market for this indispensable commodity. The maintenance of the sugar industry provides the power to purchase the products of many southern secondary industries to an amount exceeding £6,000,000 a year. Despite the industry’s share in keeping factories in operation, there are some who desire the removal of the embargo on overseas cane grown by coloured labour. Australia is the only country in the world which grows cane sugar with white labour. Overseas competition would eventually result in the collapse of the industry, throwing thousands out of employment, not only in Queensland, but also in the southern States, particularly Victoria. Further, if the industry were destroyed as the outcome of the nonrenewal of the agreement, Queensland would ask the Commonwealth for an annual grant of perhaps £2,000,000 or more to stabilize its finances. Each year, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania ask for and receive varying amounts for a similar purpose. Apart from the fact that the Australian sugar industry supports our secondary industries, we have to consider it from a national aspect. I understand that, in the tropical areas of Western Australia, there are 6,000 white persons, in the Northern Territory 5,000 and in Queensland 172,000. The majority of the white settlers in northern Queensland are directly or indirectly dependent upon the industry. The defence of Australia and the maintenance of the Australian sugar industry are more closely associated than some persons imagine. Were this large area now used for the production of sugar allowed to become depopulated, the position would be serious. There is a virile population, including many sturdy children, in these areas and on the neighbouring fertile Atherton Tableland, which is as extensive as the whole of the arable lands of Tasmania, these settlers are peaceful garrisoning that portion of the Commonwealth for the benefit of the whole of the Australian people. So long as this industry is maintained and additional efforts are made to induce further settlement, we cannot expect very strong opposition’ to our White Australia policy from other nations. It is always understood that occupied land acts as a deterrent to an invader. Current international events emphasize the need to develop our sparsely populated territories, and, particularly productive areas. For broad national reasons, apart from any other considerations, I support the bill.
– I can assure Senator Brand that the propaganda of which he speaks in opposition to the renewal of the Sugar Agreement is by no means confined to Victoria. I, like other honorable senators from New -South Wales and also those from the other States, have for a long time been bombarded with the literature circulated by various organizations in the Commonwealth. In view of the valuable and interesting contributions to the debate, I feel that I can hardly introduce any new matter, yet I feel that I cannot record a silent vote in support of this measure. I intend to support the bill and I urge other honorable senators to do so on broad national lines.
– We have not heard anything in opposition to it.
– That is so. That reminds me of an incident, which occurred in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, when a fluent debater of Hibernian extraction said, “ I have listened with great pleasure to the remarks of the honorable gentleman who has spoken in favour of this measure, but I have also listened with no little misgiving to the ominous silence of those who have said nothing”. Possibly, the silence may be ominous in this instance, but those contemplating opposition should reconsider their attitude. I intend to support the bill on national grounds, and particularly for the reasons mentioned by Senator Brand. It is of great concern to Australia that the settlement of the tropical portions of Queensland should not only be maintained, but also increased to’ the fullest possible extent. Like Senator Hardy, I do not altogether agree with some of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), but I congratulate that honorable senator upon the speech which he delivered in support of the industry. He showed the value of the industry to Australia,’ and proved that by supporting it we are assisting the effective settlement of the north-eastern portion of the Commonwealth. Is it likely that we shall record a vote which may tend to destroy settlement in this important part of Australia ? “What a sorry spectacle it would be for the nation if this industry and the prosperity which it has brought were destroyed. We should encourage those men and women who are doing such splendid pioneering work and assisting to build up the nation. I ask the Senate to support this measure, and, by doing so, to send a message to those engaged in the industry that Australia appreciates their work and will not attempt to destroy it or interfere with the prosperity which they are entitled, to enjoy. Those who complain of the retail price of sugar should remember that, in maintaining this industry we are assisting the defence of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition quoted interesting figures showing the wonderful growth of population which has taken place on the sugar lands. Those honorable senators who contemplate opposing the bill should pause before doing so and dis.regard whatever pressure has been brought to bear by those with a restricted vision. We should invite them to consider the future of these tropical districts and to assist to make Australia secure. I support the bill.
. Like many other southerners, I was for some years under a misapprehension regarding the production of sugar in Australia. About ten years ago I made an extended visit to northern Queensland, where I inspected a good deal of the country on which sugar is produced. I visited a number of the mills and met many of the cane-growers and their children. Propaganda in. opposition to the industry has been almost continuously directed to us since I was first elected to this chamber nine years ago, but I am quite convinced that a great deal of it defeats its own purpose. In many instances it contains inaccuracies and statements which are grossly exaggerated. I shall support the bill, because the industry must have some security. Those opposed to its maintenance have never offered constructive criticism, and if effect were given to the policy which they support it would mean ruin to thousands of good Australians settled in the north. During the Great War I had the honour and privilege of serving with Queenslanders - I was never with men from my own State. I found these Queenslanders fine Australians, and better soldiers no one could wish to meet. I visited Queensland last year - two years ago I travelled as far north as Cairns - and I was particularly impressed with the health and virility of the children. I have lived in Africa, and I have been in other tropical countries, but I have never seen finer youngsters than those whom I met in northern Queensland. Apparently the children in northern Queensland do not wilt owing to the effect of the intense heat like the children in other tropical countries; the men and women in that part are magnificent specimens. On that account, and also because of the necessity for populating this country, the sugar industry is well worth while. I strongly deprecate the amount of unfair and unjust propaganda against the sugar’ industry which has been flooding the Southern States, and particularly Tasmania, and also the attitude adopted by certain sections of the press towards this agreement. Much of this unreasonably antagonistic literature is not even based on facts. I refer particularly to a pamphlet which I received recently, copies of which, I think, were sent to every municipality in Tasmania. It emanated from Victoria but was written by a South Australian; and it was a most amazing document by reason of the number of inaccuracies that it contained. Unfortunately many readers would not be aware of the facts, but anybody conversant with the position would at once recognize the information to be a wilful distortion of the position. The sugar-growers of Queensland, in having to combat propaganda of this character, have my sympathy.
– The author of that pamphlet at least made his statement openly.
– I am not concerned with that aspect. I know that I could analyze a number of his assertions and prove that they had no regard for the truth. I support the bill.
– I have been keenly waiting for Senator Johnston, who is the last surviving opponent in this chamber of the sugar industry to defend his attitude, which is that of a number of good but misguided Western Australians; but apparently he has become shy lately. Perhaps he contemplates voting for this measure. If so, there is a possibility of unanimity at last being achieved in the Senate; every honorable senator will be voting solidly in favour of this national agreement. Perhaps Senator Johnston will change his mind-
-I shall not change my mind on this subject.
– Such stubbornness is not a great attribute to possess, because if persuasive and irrefutable argument is laid before a person, the honorable senator should be intelligent enough to be able to change his mind. I consider that supporters of the sugar agreement can produce intelligent argument to convince Senator Johnston that the agreement is unassailable.
– I shall listen to the honorable senator with interest.
– I shall speak to the honorable senator as charmingly as I can in an endeavour, if only by my manner, to win him to my side. In participating in this discussion upon the sugar agreement I propose to state the position from the workers viewpoint. Senator Johnston is a worker, I know. Front my knowledge of Western Australia he has done splendid work for that State, but when I refer to workers generally I do not include Senator Johnston in that category. In approaching the discussion from the angle of the workers I am actuated by a desire to dispel a misunderstanding which has been created among the workers of certain other States by misleading propaganda. We do not deny that opponents of the sugar agreement have been most energetic.
– Surely the honorable senator is not suggesting that the seamen have been misled !
-I am speaking of the sugar industry, not of the seamen. So much propaganda has been launched against the sugar industry that even some of the workers have been misled, and they have been persuaded to regard this industry as something parasitical. Even in Western Australia - that land of sunshine and secessionists - a number of workers have been grossly misinformed upon this matter. Therefore, I consider that it is essential to endeavour to explain the attitude of the workers, who are anxious to change the economic system in order to bring about stability, and guarantee a livelihood to every one. Stabilization, in my opinion, is a splendid principle. I have my own opinions of what should be done economically and politically, and I assert that stabilization is a step in the right direction towards the full and complete organization of our economic structure in the interests of the nation. Therefore the organized workers of Australia should support to the utmost any industry that has been thoroughly organized and stabilized. I do not maintain for one moment that the mere stabilization of an industry under present condition is a panacea for the economic troubles of Australia; but I do believe that it is desirable that attempts should be made in the various industries to stabilize prices and payments to the various producers engaged in them. That is in line with that evolutionary development to which Senator, Hardy referred yesterday in regard to the payment of pensions to “ burnt-out “ soldiers. Those persons who are foolish enough to attack or impede this movement, I place in the category of troglodytes - mental cavedwellers who do not understand the need for keeping pace with social and economic evolution. In what way will the position of the workers of Australia be improved by a reduction of the price of sugar, such as has been agitated for by certain honorable senators? I believe that an amendment was moved in the House of Representatives, and may be moved in this chamber, with the object of effecting such a reduction. It is part of the Marxian doctrine - now I am addressing the students of economics - that the workers are exploited as producers, and that there is practically^ no exploitation in the realm of distribution. The Marxian school contends that, at all times, it is essential to organize business in such a way as to increase the purchasing power of the workers; this will offset any efforts which may be made to increase prices, and will thereby maintain a decent standard of living. According to this theory, if an effort is made to increase prices, it is essential for us thoroughly and completely to organize all production in order to offset this tendency. In the final analysis, however, it is contended that it is not in the area of distribution that the workers are exploited, but in that of production. However, I dp not propose to follow out that argument, which is a technical one advanced by students of the Marxian school, who state that the activities of the workers’ should be concentrated on the maintenance of their purchasing power; and that they should not be continually worried in regard to prices.
Many of those persons who seek to cause bitterness among the workers towards the sugar industry contend that the purchasing power of the employees in the sugar industry is grossly inflated. This propaganda has been circulated throughout Australia with the intention of causing a division in the ranks of the workers, by suggesting to them that, because in Queensland the workers are receiving a greater measure of purchasing power through high wages, there is a secondary exploitation of workers in other parts of Australia. This propaganda has been employed by opponents of the sugar industry to win the support of workers in other States for a campaign to effect a reduction of the price of sugar. But the workers of Queensland must submit to the awards of the Arbitration Court; they appeal to properly-constituted tribunals, which formulate awards in accordance with the evidence submitted. If all the facts of the case are taken into consideration, it must be admitted that the workers of Queensland are not participating in a secondary exploitation of the other workers of Australia. I made it my business to interview the leader of one of the greatest organizations in Queensland, and discuss with him the sugar industry iii the light of this statement. After a full discussion of the facts we came to the conclusion that the workers are not living in the lap of luxury, as has been contended by so many of the opponents of the sugar industry. Only last year the Arbitration Court of Queensland heard an appeal on behalf of the employees of the sugar industry, and, after argument, granted an increase of 4s. to mill hands; but I ani informed that it was impossible to grant an increase to the cutters, because the industry could not bear this additional burden. In ‘ spite of that fact, many people continue to maintain that the workers in the sugar industry, and the growers themselves, are receiving unduly high returns, because of the fixed price of sugar, and that there is a secondary exploitation of workers in other States. I am informed that the cutters receive 7d. a ton less to-day than when sugar was £30 6s. 8d. a ton. If that is so, the contention that, the price of sugar is too high is certainly refuted. I have collected some information about wages from Mr. Fallon, who has the evidence submitted to the Arbitration Court, when application was being made for a variation of the sugar workers’ award. Spencer Lewis Johnson, a mill hand of Babinda, gave evidence in regard to the wages that he received. The following table shows his income for each of six years: -
– What period did that cover?
– The figures include the slack season. A man who works in a district where the sun is so hot that it nearly cooks his liver is not overpaid at the rates shown. I cannot understand how any person can say that the price of sugar is high as a result of the workers in the industry receiving excessive wages. Another man who gave evidence was J. MacDonald, a returned soldier, who, during the slack season worked as a general labourer, effecting repairs to trucks. He told the court that his wages were -
When repairing trucks he received11s. a week more than as a cane-cutter. His income included payment for overtime two Sundays out of three. I give these facts in the hope that they will offset some of the absurd statements of those who speak of the excessive wages paid to workers in the sugar industry. Mr. A. R. Rex gave evidence on behalf of the employers. It may be well if I explain that, whilst Queenslanders of all political parties are unanimous in regard to the sugar agreement, there are times when the various sections of the industry are opposed in the courts. There is a certain amount of economic antagonism between the workers, who are trying to get as much as possible for their labour, and the employers, who wish to keep their profits at what they claim to be a reasonably high level. Mr. Rex told the court that he had received £192 6s. during the year. According to Mr. Fallon, a sugar boiler is paid £6 10s. a week. In the north of Queensland a sugar boiler works for about 22 weeks in a year. An income of £6 10s. a week for 22 weeks in a year surely is not excessive. There is no certainty that a man engaged in this seasonal occupation will receive other employment during the rest of the year, and yet opponents of the industry continue to speak of the wonderful time enjoyed by the parasitical workers in the sugar industry! It was admitted by Mr. Dutton on behalf of the employers that the cutters were not well paid. Mr. Young, who represented the fruit-growers at the inquiry, also agreed that they were not paid more than they earned. If honorable senators who think that these men are overpaid were to see them at work in the cane-fields, they would quickly admit that, far from being overpaid, they are grossly underpaid. The work demands great physical strength. Instead of the price of sugar being decreased on the ground that the workers in the industry are overpaid, the workers should receive more, even if it means a higher price for the commodity which they produce. ‘ Last year the growers of sugar received £15 10s. 9d. a ton for their product - a price which does not make possible any considerable increase of wages to their employees. I appeal to Senator Johnston, who has always advocated the claims of the primary producer, to remember that this agreement affects a number of primary producers who are experiencing great difficulty in meeting their commitments. Senators Collings and Hardy have shown that the number of liens and mortgages has increased, and that the number of growers of sugar who pay taxes to the Queensland Government has decreased. Such a valiant champion of the primary producers as Senator Johnston undoubtedly is, should vote for this agreement.
A good deal has been said about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Many Labour supporters outside Queensland are inclined to think that those who support the sugar agreement support the Colonial Sugar Refining Company also. So far as the Labour party is concerned, that company stands in exactly the same position as does any other company. It is strange, indeed, that so many advocates of private enterprise should be so antagonistic to this company. They have no objection to a brewing company paying a dividend of 10 per cent, or 12 per cent., but they are loud in their condemnation of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company if it does the same. When it wa3 announced recently in the press that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had taken action to reduce the wages of some of its employees, I was greatly incensed, because, as a member of the Labour party, I am opposed to any reduction of wages. It is particularly hard that a rich company like this ono should attempt to take a few shillings from its employees. Unfortunately, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is used as a stalking horse to defeat the sugar agreement. According to its latest balance-sheet that company has the following assets in Australia : -
The Sugar Inquiry Committee, which investigated the affairs of this company in 1931, reported that its Australian profits were £609,000 per annum, and that nothing had happened since then to increase its profits. The Jd. per lb., by which the price of sugar was lowered in 1933, reduced the revenue of the company by £75,000 per annum. If that be true, I ‘ shall shed no tears of sympathy for such a rich company; but I do say that the opponents of the sugar industry have no right to attempt to defeat the sugar agreement by using arguments which have relation only to the company. But even if the profits of the company on its Australian transaction are £609,000 per annum, that amount represents. 6 per cent, profit on its capital, and is reducible by taxation by approximately £135,000 a year, leaving a final net return of about £474,000 a year, or practically 5 per cent, on the company’s capital. As has been mentioned, the company has assets in Fiji and New Zealand. According to its balance-sheet, those assets are valued at £3,396,000, made up as under -
Last year the company’s entire profits amounted to £852,000 after paying taxes. If the Australian final net profit of £474,000 is deducted from that amount a final net profit of £378,000 on its foreign transactions is arrived at. That represents a profit of nearly 11 per cent, on the related capital of £3,396,000. The conclusion arrived at by the committee was that the company’s Australian final net profit is 5 per cent, and its external profit 11 per cent. When a company is making too much profit, it should be put on the same footing as individuals in. regard to income tax, and be forced to pay a graduated income .tax. The Opposition would support the Government in any effort it might make to extract a little more in taxes from this wealthy company. But our opponents endeavour to connect the Colonial Sugar Refining Company with the sugar agreement and by so doing seek to destroy the living standards that have been established in Queensland. That is what we, on this side, have to fight against.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is not a party to the agreement.
– That is so, but opponents of the agreement use that argument as propaganda against it. They point to the huge profits which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has made and pay no attention to the position of the hard-working employees of the industry in Queensland. They attack the agreement because, forsooth, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is making profits ! Those who have studied the position know, of course, that large profits are made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company from its activities abroad. The company practically owns the whole of the sugar produced in Fiji where it is refined and sold at remunerative prices in New Zealand. The total output in Fiji is about 130,000 tons per annum, and it should be borne in mind that the whole of it is produced by cheap, black labour^ I hope that Senator Johnston is listening, because I feel sure that he would not like to see cheap, black labour introduced into Australia.
– Certainly not.
– Nor, I hope, would he like to see our White Australia policy endangered by subjecting any Australian industry to the unfair competition of countries producing similar products under cheap black labour conditions.
– Does not the honorable senator think that a man is “ dead “ lucky to be white?
– I am very glad that I am not a nigger, though I admit that there are some very fine characters among the negro populations of the world. In advocating the maintenance of a White Australia policy, we cast no aspersions upon the coloured races on moral grounds. All we’ say is that black labour in industry is a definite menace to the living standards of the white race and no encouragement should bc given to proposals likely to endanger our White Australia policy.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company by efficient organization is able to earn large profits from its operations. But it also gets a very generous measure of tariff protection in the British market. Personally, I would like to see workers in the Queensland sugar industry obtaining a larger share of the profits from the Australian operations of the company. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company enjoys a preference in the United Kingdom market of £6 15s. a ton on about two-thirds of its output, and £3 15s. a ton on the balance. This represents an average of about £5 10s. a ton on 130,000 tons, or an advantage of £715,000 above the world’s free market price, which is admittedly well below the cost of production in black labour countries. But, when £5 10s. a ton average benefit from the British preferential tariff is added to the world’s price the total net return, with exchange, is “ about £10 or £11 a ton, which gives the Colonial Sugar Refining
Company a net profit of about £2 10s. a ton in Fiji. This is more than the company earns in Australia. The company’s profit on refining and distribution in Australia - an entirely different phase of the sugar business - ‘lias been 14s. 9d. a ton or one-twelfth of a penny per lb. since 1915, when the first sugar agreement was made by Mr. Hughes on behalf of the Commonwealth and the late Mr. Ryan on behalf of the Queensland Government. Honorable senators who have in mind the £5,850,000 of bonus shares distributed last year should remember that during and for two years after the war, and also in 1923 and 1924 the company made tremendous profits from buying cheap black grown sugar and selling it at exceedingly high prices. Some of these profits were distributed as dividends, but a considerable sum was placed in various reserve funds. Thus, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is doing very well indeed. I am sure that all honorable senators would like to have a few thousand shares in the concern. If honorable gentlemen opposite were in the happy position of drawing dividends from shares in this company, there would be no trouble about the agreement, because everybody would be satisfied. Possibly the day will come when, by a radical alteration of our economic and financial system, there will be benefits for all, and none shall endure the pangs of hunger.
The Labour party says that the time has come when this sort of thing must cease; that instead of huge sums going to the pockets of those who do no useful work in the community - the people who are merely coupon clippers - a greater proportion of the wealth that is produced shall go into the pockets of the people. It must be remembered, however, that the millions of pounds which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made during and immediately after the war did not all come from its Australian business, but it is unfair that tory governments should have allowed the company to escape the taxes which should have been levied upon its huge total of undistributed profits.
– Mr. Lang made a speech quite recently about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Mr Lang made a number of statements concerning it, and I have no doubt that much of what he said was true. What I am objecting to is that workers, mill-hands and sugargrowers should be in any way harmed by the propaganda that has been issued in opposition to the agreement. The people who are engaged in this stabilized industry play an important part in the defence of Australia. They are in effective occupation of the Queensland tropical belt, and should not be adversely affected economically by interested opposition to the renewal of the agreement. According to figures supplied by the Commissioner of Taxation, of the total profits made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company 57 per cent. is earned from its major operations in Australia, and 43 per cent. is earned from its minor operations outside the Commonwealth. In Australia the company produces 140,000 tons of raw sugar each year at its mills, and refines and distributes 320,000 tons. In Fiji it produces 130,000 tons of sugar, employing cheap black labour, and refines85,000 tons for sale to New Zealand.
In examining the operations of the company I have endeavoured to distinguish between its profits made in Australia, and profits made in Fiji, and I repeat that it is grossly unfair that the Queensland sugar industry should be in any way affected by criticism of the agreement on the ground merely that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is making such huge profits from its operations. I hope that as a result of what I have said Senator Johnston will be persuaded to vote with us in favour of a renewal of the agreement.It has been urged that action to renew the agreement has been taken too early. On that point I remind the Senate that the British Government has intimated its intention to give eighteen months’ notice to the dominions and colonial possessions of any proposed alteration of the measure of preference given in the British market. Another argument - it was also employed during the discussion of the Ottawa agreement - is that it would be grossly unfair to attempt to alter any of the terms of the agreement, because the parties to it had taken all relevant factors into consideration.
-There is provision in the agreement that it will not come into force until ratified by Parliament.
– The honorable senator will no doubt recall that when the Ottawa agreement was under discussion certain honorable senators urged that it was competent for the Senate to alter the schedule without in any way interfering with the general form of the agreement itself. Others contended that it was not competent for Parliament to alter any of the terms of a document of that nature. This agreement is fair, particularly when we realize that the future for sugar is dark; there is no immediate possibility of an increase of the world’s price. All sugar exported at world parity affects the growers as a whole, their last payment, as I pointed out, being £15 10s. 9d. a ton. Owing to the influences of economic nationalism, every country to-day is seeking to provide its own primary products, and some are producing sugar. According to F. O. Licht, it is estimated that the free market for sugar had dropped from 5,900,000 tons in 1928-29 to 3,100,000 in 1933-34. It has now to be considered whether the market promises to expand and whether the price is likely to increase in the near future. So far as I can see, no such prospects exist. I would like to see the world price increased, because it would help to relieve of heavy burdens many people engaged in this industry in northern Queensland. However, efforts are being made by certain countries at. the moment to increase the world price.
-Is the honorable senator suggesting that the present price of sugar in Australia should be increased ?
– I am suggesting that the remuneration of those engaged in the sugar industry should be increased, because many of these people at the present time are being forced into the hands of the money lenders. I remind the honorable senator that I opposed the reduction of the Australian homeconsumption price from 4½d. to 4d. per lb. because that reduction meant an aggregate loss to the industry of £1,250,000. However, I realize that so long as the present Government remains in power there can be very little hope of having the price increased again to 4£d. per lb. I have no doubt that the industry has had to fight very hard to get the present price of 4d. ratified. Many growers are not receiving sufficient to meet their commitments; they cannot get an income of the proportions to which they are entitled because the amount being returned to the industry as a whole is insufficient. The Chadbourne agreement was signed by a number of countries, including Australia, in an endeavour to raise the world price of sugar, and I understand that another similar attempt is to be made shortly. ‘ If such an increase is made, it will add considerably to the wealth of Queensland and Australia generally.
– It could easily be that the price may be reduced.
– Tha”t is so, in which case this country would suffer considerably.
– Could we not anticipate a reduction of the world price by immediately reducing the Australian home-consumption price?
– If such an argument is justified, the growers could justly claim that we should immediately increase the price, because every reduction of the world price during recent years has meant a loss to them. Reverting to the influences of economic nationalism, I point, out that Great Britain has established a beet-sugar industry, in which eighteen factories are now operating, catering for 46,000 growers of sugar beet. A few years ago this industry did not exist in that country.
– I would like to see a beet-sugar factory established in Western Australia.
– The actual market value of the produce of these eighteen factories is only 50 per cent, of the amount paid by the British Government in subsidizing the industry, that subsidy, I understand-, being about £6,000,000. In France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Russia and other European countries attempts are being made to increase the production of beet sugar. If these countries continue such a policy they will very soon, as Mr. John Lawson, M.P., and ex-Senator
Elliott pointed out, become a menace to Australian primary production. On his return from a visit to Russia recently, Mr. Lawson stated that primary produc-tion in Russia is progressing so rapidly that very soon the increased volume of its exports will seriously affect the markets now open to Australian primary producers, and Australian producers will be thrown back upon our own internal resources. In view of these facts, I ask Senator Johnston, “ Does he really believe that the price fixed for sugar in this agreement is too high?” I have endeavoured to place before honorable senators the policy of the Labour party so far ah the protection of the sugar industry is concerned, and I have attempted sincerely to appeal not only to the heart but to the mind of -Senator Johnston, who, I hope, will stand, as is done in the Salvation Army, and bear testimony in this chamber to his conversion to the belief that this agreement offers an effective means of preserving the welfare of a rationalized and stabilized industry.
– I find it most difficult to have to disappoint the honorable senator.
– I feel sure that Senator Johnston will see the error of his ways in this matter and that, as a genuine supporter of the principles of the United Country party, he will realize that, by supporting this efficient and stabilized industry, he will bear a torch among the primary producers of Western Australia, showing them that if the example of those engaged in the sugar industry be followed, every primary producing ind ustry in Australia can be stabilized and rendered most efficient. If he does that, he will render a real service to the primary producers of this country ; he will show them how they can overcome economic difficulties and that the way is wide open for a proper and efficient organization of all industry. He can show, if he will, it is unwise and foolish for any intelligent citizen to criticize adversely the sugar industry as it exists to-day; rather should other primary industries take a lesson from it and complete their organization so that every one engaged in them will receive full and sufficient return for his labours. If Senator Johnston follows this advice
I shall come to the conclusion that he has seen the light and at last is prepared to do something of permanent value to primary production in Australia.
. -Sometimes, when one listens to speeches in this chamber, one is impressed with a sense of unreality; I have had that feeling very clearly this afternoon. I do not object to Queensland senators, or any other senators, standing up for the sugar or any other industry. It is fair to admit that there are two points of view to this matter, but, while one point of view should be presented, one does not expect to sit in this chamber for hours and hear nothing of the converse side. From what we have heard this afternoon, we might be pardoned if we assumed that the whole of the defence of Australia was dependent upon the sugar industry, and that the sugar industry was the greatest industry of the greatest State of Australia; that there was very little opposition to it to be found in any State of the Commonwealth, and that what opposition did exist was, in fact, hopelessly biased if not, as it has been represented, malicious and deliberately untrue. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Henry George League cannot claim to stand for any decent Australian. I am not a Henry Georgie ora single taxer but to attempt to wipe out in this way a body such as this, which consists of most excellent, respectable and honest men is simply ludicrous. Such a description of such a body is an overstatement that robs the more correct statements of the Leader of the Opposition of a good deal of their weight. On the other side we should have the arguments of those who, while disagreeing on minor points, are not prepared to swallow the agreement lock, stock and barrel. Senator Hardy and others referred to those who wish to destroy the industry. Is there an honorable senator here, or do we know of any one, who wishes to destroy the industry? Such assertions are as far from the mark as are those of high protectionists, who, for their own purposes, suggest that supporters of a minor reduction of the duty on some item of iron and steel wish to destroy the industry conducted by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Surely we can maintain a sense of proportion in such matters! The agreement embodies many details of a difficult and contentious subject, and it should be permissible for honorable senators who feel that, in some respects, it could be improved, to express their opinion without being exposed to the accusation of being biased, and, indeed, of making inaccurate statements. There has been a good deal of the propaganda mentioned by some honorable senators. I have received letters and circulars from district councils and similar bodies all over South Australia, directing attention to the objections to a renewal of the sugar agreement.
– Only because those responsible for issuing them are not conversant with the facts.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Col lings) is not likely to give them the facts by making such statements as” the Henry George League does not stand for decent Australians.” If he visited Eyre Peninsula, or some of the MurrayRiver districts, he would not get a hearing.
– They do not believe in a White Australia .
– Every honorable senator recognizes that the maintenance of the sugar industry is bound up with the White Australia ideal; but it does not follow that we should give everything that is sought simply because, if we oppose a renewal of the agreement, we shall be accused of acting in opposition to the maintenance of that policy. While there has been a lot of propaganda in South Australia, and, I believe, in Victoria - some of what has reached me has come from Victoria - I have not been bombarded to the same extent as I have been for years with propaganda from Queensland.
– The honorable senator has received the poison and the antidote.
– The propaganda which the Leader of the Opposition supports came out first; but it could not have been very poisonous, because it has been in circulation for many years, and, relatively, has had very little effect. I have been bombarded with Queensland newspapers week after week and month after month. Many articles appearing in these newspapers - and, indeed, in some of the pamphlets with whichwe have been regaled of late - are published without the names of the writers. One is authorized by Mr. Craigie, a member of the House of Assembly of South Australia, who may, of course, be wrong in some of the statements he makes; but he has devoted a great deal of attention to statements which he has published over his own name,, and they are open for any one to disprove.
I regret that the sugar issue relates very largely to Queensland, because that tends to obscure the issue in a way which does not occur in connexion with other industries. It should be possible to deal with this problem without being charged with attacking Queensland. Many honorable senators were members of the Senate when the present agreement was ratified three years ago. I then listened to a long debate, including an extremely able speech on the subject by Sir Hal Colebatch, who rarely spoke without lending a great deal of weight and interest to any discussion in which he participated. He was a first-class debater, and his speech on this subject seemed to me to be one of his best. Three years ago the present Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan), after conducting negotiations with the sugar interests in Queensland, returned with a tentative arrangement embodying a reduction of the retail price by¼d. per lb. That was considered unsatisfactory by the Government, and the Minister again visited Queensland, and eventually a reduction of id. was decided upon. A fairly strong attack was made upon the agreement, and there was a good deal of doubt in the minds of some honorable senators as to the way in which they should vote. I followed the debate with great care, as I was in some doubt as to how to record my vote. There is no doubt in my mind to-day. At that time I considered that a reduction of½d. was insufficient ; but that any reduction should be on a tapering or graduated scale, rather than that there should be a severe, or as the Leader of the Opposition would say, a savage cut. We were then passing through extremely difficult times and at the end of the debate I decided to support the Government. My remarks on that occasion are to be found in Hansard, volume 137, of 1932. I said-
I suggest that the proper course, and the one generally adopted in other cases, is to have a gradual scaling down. The scaling down, in this instance, is not so great as I would desire, but it represents a definite reduction, which means something to the consumers . . While I propose to support this bill, believing that, on the whole, it is not radically unfair, I do not commit myself for the future, in relation to sugar or anything else.
I now take the matter up at that point and suggest that that scaling down should be continued. There is no reason why the price should remain where it then stood. I supported the Government’s proposal for a reduction of only ½d. because I thought that, on the whole, we should not radically interfere with the industry, although I did not think the concession was adequate. I adhere to what I then said because I do not think the present price is warranted, or that we should discontinue a gradual scaling-down policy. The actual reduction then made was only 11 per cent. and it was claimed by many that it might fairly be 22 per cent., which, it will be remembered, was the percentage reduction of interest on Government securities and mortgages.
SenatorCollings. -There had been a decrease of the number of income taxpayers and of the amount of tax paid by those engaged in the industry.
-HUGHE S . - Other primary producers are faced with difficulties in paying income taxes, and there are many who have not any income upon which to pay any tax at all. In comparison with other great industries the sugar industry is comparatively small. According to figures quoted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in the House of Representatives, there are only 32,000 employed in it, while the number engaged in the dairying industry, for instance, is about 169,000, quite apart from the number engaged in the wheat-growing industry. Moreover, the sugar industry was established on an artificial basis and it does not employ an abnormal number of persons. It is supported by governmental and other forms of assistance to a greater extent than any other primary or secondary industry. Professor Giblin, who was quoted this afternoon by Senator Crawford, calculated early this year that the cost of the industry to the community was £5,100,000 annually.
– Possibly the butter industry is receiving greater assistance than the sugar industry.
– The figures which I propose to quote are taken from a recently published memorandum compiled in South Australia under Government supervision. The work was carried out by the Auditor-General of South Australia, a member of the Statistical Department, and an auditor, under the control of, and for, the South Australian Disabilities Committee. The statistics relate to the year 1932-33. Honorable senators may ask why I have not obtained later figures. I have no sinister reason for quoting these particular figures; 1932-33 is the only year for which the figures are in existence. They are extraordinarily interesting and should be informative to Senator Crawford among others. They show the estimated cost of sheltering Australian primary and secondary industries by tariffs or bounties against foreign competition in home and foreign markets in that year; and they disclose the net burden or benefit, if any, accruing to each State as a result of the Commonwealth’s policy of protection.
– But the excess cost of sugar in Australia is compared with the bankrupt stocks in Cuba and Java.
– Before I proceed to quote the figures, the definition of “ excess costs “ may be of interest - “ Excess costs “ means the extra amount of the sale price of Australian-produced goods in Australia over and above the sale price of such goods that would have obtained without Commonwealth legislative action.
I am quite aware that since 1932-33, all or any of these figures may have varied, but I think that the period may be regarded as a fair specimen year. The excess cost of butter, according to this calculation is £2,430,027, and sugar, nearly £5,800,000.
– The price of sugar has since been reduced.
– This excessive cost of sugar is nearly three times the burden on the Australian consumer that any other industry, primary or secondary, imposes.
– Has the honorable senator ever tried applying those figures to motor bodies?
– If motor bodies are included in this memorandum, I shall be pleased to disclose the information. The excess cost of wheat was £2,000,000.
– I have no hesitation in saying that the honorable senator is comparing the price of refined sugar with that of raw sugar.
– These “excess costa” are due to protection. Referring now to secondary industries, I find that the excess cost in regard to chemicals is very high, being £927,120; boots and shoes, £1,097,734; engineering and other metal works, £1,035,989; tailoring and slop clothing, £1,266,466. These are the only items, primary or secondary which in the year under review had an excess cost, as it is defined by the committee, of over £1,000,000, the cause being protection. The excess cost of sugar was more than double that of butter, and nearly treble that of wheat.
– Is the . price of imported sugar stated ?__
– The following reference to sugar appears: -
Customs tariff £9 Cs. 8d. per ton, preferential and general. Data supplied by the Export Sugar ‘Committee shows that the basic value of raw cane sugar used for refining for the domestic market for the 1932 season was £25 per ton, while the return from exports was £8 5s. 9d. per ton. The difference of £10 14s. 3d. roughly represents the excess cost of raw cane sugar per ton.
Further details are given, but I shall not delay the Senate by quoting them.
– Are freights included in those figures? The difference would be about £4 a ton.
– Freights cannot be taken into account, because this relates only to the activities of the Commonwealth Government.
– HUGHES. - Senator Crawford made a verbal trip along the Murray river and referred, for instance, to the subject of dried fruits. He may be interested to learn that, in respect of dried fruits, the burden on South Australia is £19,000 and the benefit is nearly £55,000. That is to say, the net benefit accruing to South Australia in respect of dried fruits is £35,000. Senator Crawford said, in effect, “ “We assist South Australia with its dried fruits industry; why should South Australia object to protection .being afforded to Queensland’s sugar?” However, the figures show that the excess cost of sugar to Australia is £5,78S,659, whereas the dried fruits’ industry is beneficial to South Australia to the amount of £35,000. The burden imposed by sugar on South Australia exceeds £500,000; the burden of wheat on Queensland is about £284,000, and on South Australia £168,000; so that there is not very much difference in that respect. Without going further into statistical details, I have shown that a tremendous load is placed on the community by granting excessively high protection to industries. This report is most interesting and I shall be pleased lo lend it to honorable senators.
– Put it in the museum.
– That interjection does not answer the argument contained in this document. I hope that Senator Foll can produce a better defence than that for the protection of the sugar industry.
– Was this report submitted to the Commonwealth Grants Commission on behalf of South Australia?
– It was prepared by the South Australian Disabilities Committee for the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The sugar industry has been petted and favoured to a greater extent than any other industry in Australia. That policy may or may not have been right, but honorable senators should not be prevented from exercising their own opinion as to whether this agreement should be continued. I am averse to attempts to stabilize artificial prices in any industry. It may be within the memory of honorable senators that in 1933, a bill was introduced to pay a bounty on a number of iron and steel products with a view to stabilizing prices. In my opinion that policy was unsound ; it is a hopeless business to select certain. lines of manufacture and attempt to stabilize the prices for them. In any case, I moved in this chamber for the omission of galvanized iron, fencing wire, and wire netting from the scope of that particular bill. Two divisions were taken, and in each instance my motion was carried by a majority of one vote. I am pleased to think that I had something to do with the rejection of that proposal. Wool has no stabilized price; in fact, nobody ever suggests that the price should be stabilized.
– The price was stabilized under Bawra.
– No, Bawra never controlled the Australian wool market or the wool clip.
– It fixed the minimum price.
– Wool does not face the same competition as sugar does.
– HUGHES. - When assistance cannot be given to the wool industry, I am not prepared to participate in any effort to fix a high disproportionate price for certain other industries.
– The development of the synthetic wool industry may eventually necessitate an effort to stabilize wool prices.
– The sugar industry has been favoured by the fact that this agreement, after having been in existence for three years, will now be extended for another five years, but no reduction of price is contemplated.
– A reduction was made only eighteen months ago.
Senator DUNCANHUGHES.Sugar has been a favoured industry, and I conceive it to be my responsibility, and the duty of honorable senators, to see that a sense of balance is preserved, so that industries will not receive disproportionate benefits. I remind senators who are new to this chamber that in 1930-31 the price of sugar was £21 a ton. The Right Honorable W. M. Hughes appointed a royal commission, of which Mr. Piddington was the chairman. Mr.
Hughes fixed the price of sugar at £30 6s. 8d. a ton - nearly £7 a ton more than the industry asked for.
– No; the industry asked for £30 6s. 8d.
– The price asked for was £23 10s. a ton. The price fixed by Mr. Hughes was £8 6s. 8d. a ton more than the Royal Commission had recommended and £9 6s. Sd. a ton more than the then prevailing price.
– That charge against Mr. Hughes is absolutely without foundation.
– In the light of those figures, can it be suggested that this industry has not been treated with consideration? Yet, when we suggest that there has perhaps been a little too much consideration, we are treated almost as if we were making a ferocious attack on the industry.
– The honorable senator previously suggested a scaling down.
– I voted with the Government that the existing agreement should be continued. I believe that the sugar industry is efficiently conducted, as, indeed, it should be. There are certain fixed payments, among them being -
Those payments do not appear to be unreasonable. “We are assured that the profits of the company are largely drawn from outside Australia, or from other investments in Australia. I cannot say whether or not that is so. I cannot even say whether these various charges are cut to the bone. But, in any case, I cannot see in them much room for criticism. It has been pointed out, even by speakers who have attacked the company, that it is not directly associated with the agreement, although it might be affected by any change made in the agreement. I fail to see why, in discussing the agreement, so much attention should be given to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– A somewhat similar case could be made out against the granting of assistance to wheat-growers.
– I am glad to have that interjection because, otherwise, I might have overlooked that point. There has been no attempt to stabilize the price of wheat over a period of years. It is true that the wheatgrowing industry has been assisted year after year by grants, which have fluctuated between £2,000,000 and £4,000,000 a year, but at no time has Parliament fixed a price for wheat for six years ahead. That, in my opinion, is a most material consideration in connexion with the Sugar Agreement. We are asked to stabilize this industry on a hopelessly artificial basis for five years. We have not done that in regard to anything else, with the possible exception of tractor engines. In discussing the sugar industry, which employs a number of good Australians, I desire only to be reasonable and fair, and not to indulge in extravagant language. What has been the result of all the attention given to this industry? First, we have protected it. by an embargo which is a likely cause of annoyance to the people of other countries; secondly, we have inflated the value of sugar lands; thirdly, we have led to the payment to employees in the industry of high wages which, although determined by the Queensland Arbitration Court, are high largely because the money is there to pay them.
– The cane-cutters work for only about five months each year.
– We have also made possible hopelessly disproportionate internal and external prices. The real value of sugar in the eyes of the world is hopelessly out of relation to its price in Australia. That disproportion is not so pronounced in respect of any other product we sell overseas. Then we have caused every inducement to reduce the output. That is a rather lamentable position. I am aware that there have been times when, . in other industries, production has been allowed to proceed beyond what is desirable, and that a check has been found necessary, but what can we think of an industry which reaches a point where every expansion and every increase of production is to the detriment of those already engaged in it ? Is that the sort of industry which this continent hopes to build up by artificial means? Is it likely to be of great benefit to the rest of Australia economically? I do not think so. There is also the fact that certain lands are earmarked for the growing of sugar-cane whilst on adjoining lands sugar-cane may not be grown. That places different values upon lands according to whether or not they are ear-marked for the growing of sugar-cane. I think that I am correct in that statement.
– That is so.
– Is that a sound policy?
-Is it soundto grow more sugar than can be disposed of or treated by the mills?
Senator DUNCANHUGHES.There is also the definite danger to the cane sugar industry of an increased production of sugar from beet.For some time there have been indications of an extension of the beet sugar industry. When Senator Brown suggested that Senator Johnston might grow sugar in Western Australia, he, perhaps, did not think that the honorable senator might well do so. If beet sugar is grown in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia, the growers there will not be like those at Maffra, in Victoria, who I believe had an understanding that if they did not extend their operations, they would be free to sell their sugar anywhere in Australia. I cannot agree with Senator Brand that this agreement will ensure stability for five years. The agreement is hopelessly uneconomic, and Parliament should endeavour to rectify the existing uneconomic condition of the industry. I believe now, as I did three years ago, that there should be a moderate reduction of the assistance granted to this industry which, in my opinion, imposes a tremendous load on the rest of Australia.
– Queensland has not asked the Commonwealth for a grant of £1,500,000 a year.
– That it has not done so may be due to the fact that other benefits derived by Queensland from Commonwealth legislation have made it unnecessary for that State to approach the Commonwealth in a more or less penurious way. I suggest that an advantage of £5,000,000, or more, a year puts a State in a much better position than that of another State which gets a grant of £1,000,000. or even £2,000,000, a year. I do not claim to have put the case against the agreement adequately, but I hope that I, at least, have shown that there are two sides to this matter. In my opinion, there are far more people in Australia who wish for a reduction of the price of sugar than desire that the agreement be ratified. In committee I shall move for a further scaling down of the benefit to the industry in the interests of the consumers of sugar.
– I do not wish to be guilty of boiling cabbage twice, but from’ the remarks of Senator Duncan-Hughes, it would appear that he was not present when Senator Collings gave to the Senate some official figures relating to the sugar industry.
Figures extracted from the report of the State Income Tax Commissioner for Queensland, give the following results -
Comparing the taxation year 1934-1935 With 1933-1934, it is found that the -
Number of taxpayers generally - increased 4 per cent.
Number of cane-growers who are taxpayers - decreased 26 per cent.
Net income of all taxpayers - increased 10 per cent.
Net income of cane-growers who paid tax decreased 30.05 per cent.
The taxable income of all taxpayers - increased 13.9 per cent.
The taxable income of cane-growers - decreased 32 per cent.
The total tax assessed for all taxpayers - increased 20.5 per cent.
The total tax assessed for cane-growers - decreased 41.3 per cent.
Honorable senators speak as if a reduction of the price of sugar by½d. per lb. were a small thing, but it is a big proportion of 4½ per lb. A gradual scaling down by½d. per lb. at a time and a reduction of the term of the agreement to two or three years, will, if the process be continued long enough, destroy the sugar industry.
– That did not happen when the price was reduced on a previous occasion.
– The figures quoted by Senator Collings show what would happen if these things were done. Senator Duncan-Hughes discussed the agreement in moderate terms, and I hope to follow his example. It is my intention to state the facts as clearly as possible, in order that the people of Australia may thoroughly understand what the renewal of the sugar agreement means to the Commonwealth as a whole, having particular regard to the maintenance of a “White Australia policy through the effective settlement of the fertile lands in the tropical coastal belt of Queensland. I have long had the impression that many people in the southern States are convinced that Queensland is one of the richest States in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator has made that suggestion on more than one occasion.
– I suppose that at times we all “ boost “ our own State and indulge in a certain amount of sales talk.
– The honorable senator will not, I suppose, deny the potentialities of Queensland?
– No ; it contains a large area of fertile land capable of immense production, and I like to think of it as one of the more important States of the Commonwealth. But it is not so incomparably rich, either actually or potentially, as to be able to withstand the onslaughts of southern opposition to its principal primary industry. I had an opportunity to visit Western Australia early this year, and during my stay there I was much enlightened as to the position of that State in the federation. A study of the last report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which examined the applications made by South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance, has convinced rae that, whilst the three States named are justified in claiming a measure of financial relief from the Commonwealth for the disabilities which they suffer under federation, Queensland, which the investigation showed was in a condition of balance - that is to say, it has not benefited so enormously as New South Wales and Victoria - is also deserving of sympathetic treatment from the other States in respect of its major primary industry if it is to maintain a condition of solvency. Southern opponents of the sugar agreement would do well to bear in mind that the maintenance of the industry in Queensland is to that State a compensating advantage of federation, enabling it to avoid appealing to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. If through the scaling-down of the return to sugar-growers by the fixation of a lower retail price for sugar the industry were destroyed, Queensland’s finances would certainly be in such an unsatisfactory state as to justify an appeal to the Commonwealth for financial aid. If honorable senators will analyse the figures contained in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission they will discover that Queensland is not the marvellously rich State which some southern people believe it to be. It is, I repeat, in a condition of balance in relation to the Commonwealth. By this is meant that, whilst New South Wales and Victoria have benefited enormously from federation, Queensland has not; on the other hand, it has not, so far, been reduced to such a condition as to render necessary an appeal to the Commonwealth.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I ask the honorable senator to relate his remarks to the subjectmatter of the bill.
– J shall not intentionally trangress your ruling, Mr. President. My purpose is to show that if, by any action in this Parliament, Commonwealth support were withdrawn from Queensland’s major industry, that State then would, in all probability, join the other claimant States, and Commonwealth payments to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania would be correspondingly reduced. On page 33 of the report of the Commonwealth
Grants Commission appears the following comment with regard to financial adjustments and disbursements under federation : -
It is assumed, for example, the States would have been certain to make substantially the same payments for pensions and relief to wheat-growers that the Commonwealth made. The table shows that Queensland is in a position of balance, and that New South Wales and Victoria make substantial contributions which benefit the other three States.
The tables of relative prosperity that appear in the report show clearly that the southern States receive a definite quid pro quo for the protection which the Queensland sugar industry secures under the agreement. In the financial year with which the report deals, South Australia received from the Commonwealth grants amounting to £1,400,000,Western Australia £600,000, and Tasmania £400,000. On a population basis, Queensland contributed one-seventh of that sum. The report sums up the compensating advantages of federation under the heading “ General advantages,” as follows : -
Health Department, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and other departments.
I do not desire to labour this point, but I invite all honorable senators who are interested to study the report. If they do this, they will realize that Queensland is not such a rich partner of the federation as to be able to maintain its position as one of the major States of the Commonwealth, if its sugar industry is destroyed. I agree with Senator James McLachlan that we Queenslanders do put out our chests, and declare that Queensland is a great State, and by so doing invite, when such things as the sugar agreement come up for consideration, other States to “have a piece of us “ in order that Queensland might be brought down to the level of the weaker
States. The general tenor of speeches of honorable senators who adversely criticized this measure, reminds me of a poverty competition. One is given the impression from their remarks that each State should be constantly on the lookout to see where it can fleece some benefit from another State in order to make the more fortunate States poorer. They, apparently, hold the idea that by this course aid can be given to the weaker States. I support the remarks of my leader (Senator Collings) and Senator Brown regarding the advantages which other States receive from Queensland to compensate for any concessions which they make to the northern State under the sugar agreement. Senator DuncanHughes quoted an estimate that the excess cost of the sugar industry was nearly £6,000,000 annually. That figure has been challenged.
– I said that Professor Giblin estimated the cost of the sugar industry at £5,100,000 annually.
– At any rate, that figure has been scaled down to£4,000,000. Figures advanced by honorable senators in this respect seem to vary according to the authors of them. For instance, Senator Duncan-Hughes said that the wheat industry received a benefit of only £2,000,000 annually. When I heard that figure my memory gave a twitch, and I immediately recalled that on one occasion a grant of £4,000,000 was given to the wheat industry.
– That grant was made last year.
– That is so.
- Senator DuncanHughes mentioned £4,000,000.
– He did on one occasion, but for the purpose of comparing the costs of the sugar and wheat industries he used the figure of £2,000,000 in respect of the wheat industry.
– That was for a certain year.
– That is so, but the honorable senator then accepted that figure as a basis of the comparison which I have indicated.- The honorable senator also said that the exce’33 cost of butter to Australia is £2,600,000 annually.
– The estimate with regard to butter has .gone up to £6,O00y®00. “We know that the duty on New Zealand butter., despite the facts that New Zealand is a sister dominion, and that we are connected with New Zealand by ties of blood, is 6d. per lb. This practically amounts to an embargo on New Zealand butter. Remembering that the price of -butter can drop to 10d. or 9d. a lb., a duty -of -6d. per Jb. in addition to costs of transport effectively stops the exportation of New Zealand butter to Australia. Speaking from memory, I think the cost of butter to Australia is about £6,000,000 a year. Queenslanders do not grumble -at .that cost. Of course, Queensland produces and exports a lot of .butter. These figures, however, show that any benefit Queensland may receive .by way of protection for the sugar industry does not stand mountain-high, and does not constitute a terrible incubus upon Australia; neither can it be said that Australia is carrying a.n excessive burden in this respect. During the last three years the wheat industry has cost Australia many millions of pounds, rising to as much as £4,’000,’000 a year. Queensland is not a wheat-exporting State, but it has never protested against that expenditure. We realize that owing’ to the development of economic nationalism in other countries wheat-growers have got into difficulties, and that such assistance is necessary in the interest, not only of that industry, but also of Australian primary production generally. We ‘do not growl .at such concession. On ‘the contrary, Queensland is prepared ‘to ‘car<ry its share of this expenditure in order that the wheat industry may be placed on a sound footing. I also point out that as participants in the bounties made available to ‘the dried fruits and wine industries, South Australia and Victoria have -benefited in special ways. When these measures came before this chamber the Opposition did not adversely criticize them. I am not overstating the position when I .say that during the last three years half a dozen measures have come forward for the granting of bounties to t’he wine and dried fruits industries. Furthermore, under the River Murray Waters Agreement, which came before this House last year, benefits were extended to the people of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, and senators representing Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania did not utter any protest against these concessions although the three smaller States had to pay their proportions of the cost.
– The nonparticipating States had to pay for those benefits.
Senator J. V. MacDONALD.Yes, and I could quote a score of similar -bills which have come before this Parliament within the last few years, which all honorable senators, irrespective of their geographical attachments, reciprocally supported. I feel sure that honorable senators generally will regard the sugar agreement in much the same light. However, whenever this agreement comes up for consideration there is a tendency in some quarters to point to Queensland’s alleged prosperity as an argument against its ratification. ‘One of the most important aspects of this measure which honorable senators should .bear in mind is that Queeusland ‘has suffered considerable disability under federation. Due to the abolition of State tariffs, manufacturing production in Queensland has decreased tremendously with the result that to-day it is practically stagnant; it has not kept pace with the great increase of population. Figures published in the Commonwealth YearBoole show that if Queensland had not entered federation its manufacturing industries to-day would be employing from 20.000 to 30,000 employees more than they now employ. Thus, if it is claimed that the sugar industry gives employment to, say, from ‘20,000 to 30,000 employees, and this is pointed to as an alleged benefit, I remind honorable senators that such a development only compensates Queensland for losses suffered by its manufacturing industries ‘as r. result of federation.
– The sugar industry would ‘have been in trie soup now if Queensland had not joined the federation.
– That might have happened, but I stress the fact that compared with the rapid development of the manufacturing industries in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Queensland manufacture is practically stagnant. It has been pointed out that the motor body-building industry in Adelaide has benefited very greatly from protection. Furthermore, Queenslanders purchase a large quantity of Tasmanian jams and fruits; in doing so, I think, they adopt a patriotic attitude. They regard themselves as Australian, and being partners with the people of the other States in a Commonwealth, they believe that it is for the good of Australian industry as a whole that they should consume Australian-made goods.
I have covered this matter briefly; I do not intend to go into the genesis of the sugar agreement. I emphasize that the industry had a rough time. In 1922, when the freetraders tried to smash this agreement, they described it as a war measure. It may have originated as a war measure, but it is too valuable to be lost to-day. During the war it saved Australian consumers of sugar £15,000,000, because under this agreement we were able to buy our sugar in those years very cheaply when the world parity was about1s. 6d. per lb. This agreement in its relation to defence, the populating of the northern regions of Australia, and our prosperity generally, is of vital importance to this country. Queensland is practically the greatest market for Australian-manufactured goods, and the sugar industry plays a very important part in the economic life of Australia. I hope that my remarks answer the arguments of those opposed to this agreement and show conclusively that for whatever concessions Queensland receives through this agreement the other States are adequately compensated. I point out also that a decreasing number of cane-growers are taxpayers. If the price of sugar were reduced by½d. or1d. per lb., which is a big reduction in relation to the present price of 4d., it would not be profitable to grow sugar in Queensland and thus the industry would be destroyed.
– Honorable senators will agree that we listened to a very interesting speech this afternoon by Senator Crawford. Coming from the honorable senator, with his wealth of knowledge, experience and interest in the production of sugar, we must accept many of his utterances as statements of fact. The honorable gentleman has an intimate acquaintance with this subject, extending over 40 years, and it cannot be denied that he made a very eloquent and urgent appeal for support of the bill. At the same time, we have to thank Senator Duncan-Hughes for an interesting diversion, as up to that time every speaker had supported the bill. He showed us another side of the picture, which warrants the attention of honorable senators. Senator Duncan-Hughes said that South Australia has ground for the suggestion that something different should be obtained from the present sugar agreement. At the same time the honorable gentleman dealt very casually, I think, with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), regarding the serious decline in the returns from income tax in Queensland. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the decline in the price of sugar had a serious effect upon the industry. The income tax figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition were interesting, and one must assume that they are a fair barometer of the fluctuation in the industry caused by the last reduction of the price of sugar by½d. per lb.. I suggest that Senator Duncan-Hughes should study the latest report of the Commission of Taxation, on page 39 of which he will find the relative assessments for the various States for resident taxpayers. One would assume, from the propaganda and references made to those opposed to the sugar agreement, that the people of Queensland represent a very wealthy section of the community; but, on reference to these figures, they do not appear to be so wealthy as some of the people of South Australia. For instance, in South Australia the number of persons receiving taxable incomes of £5,000 and over are 23, whereas in Queensland there are only nineteen. Those in South Australia receiving from £4,000 to £5,000 number fourteen, while those in Queensland number only eleven. In South Australia there are 31 receiving £3,000, and in Queensland 51. On the property side there is a different story altogether. According to our friends in Opposition, the ownership of property is not only wrong, but should be abhorred. According to these figures, it takes 31,502 taxpayers in Queensland to produce a property income of £127,000, but in South Australia only 13,894. That clearly indicates that South Australia is in a much better position in respect of the ownership of property than is Queensland.
– The wealth is more evenly distributed in Queensland.
– I have just said that it takes 31,502 taxpayers in that State to produce property income of. £127,000, whereas iu South Australia that amount is produced by only 13,894. Senator Brand referred to the activities of certain paid organizers in producing an anti-sugar complex. I should like to refer to the activities in Western Australia, which are by no means caused by paid agitators. Representatives of that State have been inundated with letters from responsible municipalities and roads boards, condemning the sugar agreement, and urging us to oppose it. These .municipalities are controlled by honest and good citizens, who are very sincere in the resolutions which they have passed in condemnation of the agreement. The problem is very complex, so much so that I made it my business during the la3t recess to visit Queensland, and to study the position so far as I was able to do in the limited time at my disposal. I endeavoured to obtain first-hand information regarding the industry, which I hoped would be of benefit to me. Prior to that visit I had heard a great many discussions concerning sugar and most of the opinions expressed were condemnatory of the present agreement; but invariably, when a speaker was asked if he had ever visited northern Queensland, a negative reply was received. I travelled from Cairns to Bundaberg, and on a visit which occupied approximately four weeks I saw as much as I could of the indus try from the planting of .cane to the production of the refined article. I admit that I received many surprises, especially in view of the impression which I had obtained prior to my visit to North Queensland. The first point which impressed me forcibly was the full extent to which the land was used, especially when it is compared with land in the vicinity of Carnarvon and Derby in my own State. We have heard to-day that the population in the semitropical portion of the north-west of Western Australia is approximately 6,000^ as against a population in a similar area in Queensland of 172,000. The significance of that comparison is obvious. It emphasizes the benefit which the sugar industry has conferred upon that portion of the Commonwealth. Iu addition to the way in which the land is used, it was remarkable to find the amount of sheer hard work put into the land by the farmers themselves. It was equally remarkable to find the efficiency of the employees whom- I saw working in various phases of’ the production of sugar. Even in Western Australia we have heard of the high wages paid, especially to the cane-cutters, and we had been told that, as it is a seasonal occupation, there is usually an influx of workers from New Zealand, Tasmania and other parts of the Commonwealth to engage in this .highly remunerative occupation. I saw a number of gangs cutting cane - I . cut a few stalks myself - but all of the cane-cutters I met were local residents of northern Queensland, and live adjacent to Cairns, Innisfail, Mackay, and right down to Bundaberg. I did not come in contact with a New Zealander or a Tasmanian who had come there to cut cane, with the intention of returning to his home at the end of this season. The wages paid to the cane-cutters, who are very hardy and hard-worked, are less than I should like to be paid for similar work. They are doing hard physical labour in a latitude corresponding to that of the area between Carnarvon and Derby, and, as one canecutter said, the work was really more suitable for coloured men. They were working hard and earning a very fair wage, but they earned it.
– Piece-work ?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Yes. I was pleased to see that there were a number of ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force in the various camps. The top gang in that part of the State was led by a man with the well-known name of McDougall. I made it my business to see the gang at work, and I was amazed at its capacity and the work which it performed in a certain time. The canefarmers and the cane-cutters earn every penny which they receive. That is my unqualified opinion after observing the work in the industry in northern Queensland. The same can be said of the mill employees, who are highly-trained men, and perform their work efficiently. So much for the so-called exorbitant wages paid in the industry.
– Did the honorable senator ascertain what they were paid?
– I have just informed the Senate that I saw them doing their work, and I do not consider that they were over-paid.
– Evidently the honorable senator does not know how much the men were being paid.
– I obtained a schedule showing the payments made to the employees in the various branches of the industry, and I knew what each class of worker received. My observations enabled me to compare the nature of the work that they were performing with the scale of remuneration.
– The honorable senator’s standard was the Australian standard, and not what might be called the “ sugar standard “.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The latitude in which those men were working must be taken into consideration. When Commonwealth public servants are transferred to semi-tropical districts they receive an extra allowance for their labour.
– The employees in the sugar industry work for only four or five months of the year.
– It is only fair and just that, on account of the latitude in which they are working, the employees should receive an extra allowance, similar to that made to employees on the north-west gold-fields.
– Like the shearers, some of the cane-cutters may make £2 a day and others only £1.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.That is so. I must admit my astonishment at the comparatively few aliens that I saw employed in the sugar areas. The explanation may be that I did not visit the particular districts in which the aliens are to be found in the greatest numbers.
– Like Ingham.
– I visited Ingham and Innisfail, which is supposed to be a highly-alienized centre of the sugar industry, but I saw very few foreigners. The pamphlet published under the authority of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) states that the alien influence on the industry is very small, and asserts that the industry is by no means in the hands of foreign labour. The following figures taken from that pamphlet reveal the proportion of British to foreign workers in the industry: British born, 79.8 per cent; naturalized British, 10.1 per cent; total British, 89.9 per cent. Thus the foreign element is represented by only 10.1 per cent.
-Surely the percentage of aliens is 20.2 per cent.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The honorable senator cannot deny that 10.1 per cent. of them are naturalized British subjects. A member of the mining section of the Australian Workers Union in Kalgoorlie or Boulder may have been born in Italy, but if he becomes naturalized, he is regarded as being British.
– The honorable senator may expect the remaining 10.1 per cent. of foreigners to become naturalized immediately, as a result of the ItaloAbyssinian dispute.
– There has been a steady flow of applications for naturalization.
– My figures were obtained by the committee which was appointed by the Commonwealth in 1931 to inquire as to the extent to which Italians were engaged in the sugar industry. The pamphlet states -
No Inter figures ave yet available, but action since taken in Queensland to reduce the employment of foreign cane-cutters in certain districts whilst not allowing other districts to increase such employment, has probably caused a reduction of the above percentage of 10.1 per cent, for foreigners, and increased the 79.8 per cent, for British-born persons.
Certainly 10.1 per cent, is not a high proportion of aliens to British workers in the sugar industry; it is ‘not nearly so great as we from the southern States have been led to believe.
Another criticism often levelled in Western Australia against the sugar industry relates to the .predominance of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. During my visit to Queensland I found no evidence of such predominance. I visited the only mill owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Queensland, and found that exactly the same working conditions obtained there as in any of the privately-owned or cooperativelyowned mills. Apropos of the repeated references to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, I shall quote an extract from the pamphlet prepared under the authority of the Minister for Trade and Customs. It deals particularly with this company’s interest in the industry -
Those who endeavour to connect the company’s recent increase of £5,850,000 in its paidup capital with the sugar agreement policy overlook the fact that the present limited company has been engaged in business in three countries (Australia, Fiji and New Zealand) for nearly 50 years, and its predecessor for another 30 years previously. In a prudentlymanaged business of 80 years’ duration, even small annual additions to reserves ultimately result in large sums at compound interest. Moreover, a large proportion of the company’s plant was purchased at low pre-war prices, and is worth much more to-day than the prewar costs as reduced by depreciation allowances.
Company’s Fiji Earnings.
Store important still is the company’s business in Fiji, where all the raw sugar is produced at its own mills. Since the 1931 Commonwealth inquiry investigated the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s .Australian profits, the British preference on colonial, as distinct from dominion, sugar has been increased by £3 per ton on a specified quota of colonial sugar. This increase has benefited the company on the quota proportion of its Fiji output by approximately £200,000 per annum..
This increased Fiji revenue is definitely more than the reduced returns of the company at’ its seven Australian raw sugar mills consequent upon the reduction of Id. per lb. in tho retail price of Australian refined sugar in January, 1933, and the lower returns on exported Australian raw sugar since 1931. This fully explains why the company’s total profits have not fallen, despite sugar earnings in Australia, which are less, for the reasons just stated, than the 7.1 per cent, (or 5i per cent, after payment of income taxes), ascertained by tho Commonwealth inquiry in 1931.
Apart’ from much improved Fiji earnings in recent years due to British super-preference on colonial sugar, during the war and immediate post-war periods Fiji sugar was frequently sold at the extraordinary prices then common all over the world, except in Australia where the price was kept far below the world parity level by the Commonwealth Government. The large profits then received by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company partly account for the capitalization of reserves it recently made.
The Commonwealth Government, however, is not in the least responsible for what the Colonial Sugar Refining Company earns outside Australia, whether from sugar in Fiji and New Zealand, or from investments.
However, the Government takes good care to ensure that excessive sugar profits are not earned in Australia, and to collect all taxation due on the company’s Australian profits which are closely scrutinized by the Commissioner for Taxation each year.
Unlike some other honorable senators, I do not object sometimes to receiving propaganda from either side in relation to an important matter of public concern, such as the sugar industry undoubtedly is. In the Producers Review of Toowoomba, Queensland, of the 15th October, 1935, a number of valuable references appear, which enable one to view the sugar industry in its proper perspective. That journal deals with various household commodities - meat, butter, bread, milk and sugar - and it is interesting to note that the consumption per capita in Australia of meat in 1934-35 was 186 lb. valued at 103s. 2d.; butter, 30 lb. valued at 42s. 6d.; bread, 100 lb. valued at 39s. 4d.; milk, 72 quarts valued at 38s. 10d.; and sugar (refined), 106 lb. valued at 35s. 4d. Thus the sugar consumption per head of the population was lower than that of milk, bread, butter or meat; but I have never heard of an outcry, or of the formation of consumers’ organizations to urge a reduction of the price of the commodities other than sugar. Although this may be the weighted average of the Australian household, in my own home the consumption of sugar is much greater than 106 lb. This average,
I presume, is taken on the basis of the Australian arbitration award - a man, wife and two ‘children. With the reduction of id. per lb. the saving on the consumption of sugar a year in my household would be less than 13s. Other figures aire quoted in this paper, including a comparison between the prices of various household commodities in 1911, and those ruling in June of the present year. The index figure for food and groceries shows an increase of 42.5 per cent., but the increase of the cost of sugar per lb. was only 33 per cent. In other household commodities substantial increases were recorded - beef 32.6 per cent., butter 23.4 per cent., jam 55 per cent.., milk 28.9 per cent. These statistics reveal that sugar is by no means the expensive item that critics of the industry lead one to believe, while the increase of the cost of sugar is far less than that of many other household commodities. In my investigations in northern Queensland I made it my business to interview all classes of people associated with the trade, including mill managers, foremen, an industrial magistrate, sugar chemists, and so on down the scale, and I state, unhesitatingly, that my conclusion was that this was one of the most efficient industries that I have ever examined in Australia. At one time it was thought to be almost impossible to organize the producers, but in Queensland, I found that the producers engaged in sugargrowing were excellently organized; and I admired them for their efforts. Tt is easy to suggest that there should be a reduction of the cost of a household commodity such as sugar, but it is difficult to show how it could be brought about. I should be only too willing to join with Senator Duncan-Hughes in advocating an all-round reduction of id. per lb. in the price of sugar, provided that the honorable senator could demonstrate that the suggestion was practicable in that the industry could bear the reduction. A suggestion to reduce the price of sugar is on all-fours with a general proposal for a low tariff. Without a technical inquiry into tariff items, how could this. Parliament say whether the duties should be high or low? It is all very well to make these airy suggestions; but the effect of putting them into operation needs to be considered. I would gladly support the holding of a proper inquiry into the sugar industry, and if, as a result, a reduction of the price of sugar were shown to be justified, I would willingly assist to bring about that reduction. On one of the farms which I visited in northern Queensland, I met a valiant son of Scotia who demonstrated that he was operating his sugar lands for the first time on an overdraft. The figures quoted by the Leader of the Country party (Senator Hardy), showing that the number of liens and mortgages on , sugar lands has increased during recent years, confirm what I, myself, realized when in Queensland. Following my visit to that farm, another honorable senator went to it; and when I met him subsequently he informed me that the farmer was greatly perturbed because I had suggested that the price of sugar might be reduced by id. per lb. despite the fact that the farmer had an overdraft. It is true that, in the course of conversation, I mentioned a possible reduction of the price of sugar, but, after hearing the grower’s side of the case and the opinions of other farmers, my views were somewhat modified. There is a great deal to be said for retaining this industry, and, therefore, we should hesitate before doing anything which might injure it. The figures quoted by Senator Crawford as to the population of the sugar areas were illuminating, because they show that in the tropical and semi-tropical parts of Queensland there are approximately 250,000 people, or more than the population of Tasmania, which has six representatives in this chamber. Had it not been for the sugar industry; the northern portion of Queensland would compare more nearly with the north-west district of Western Australia, where there is no sugar industry and, where, perhaps, sugar could not be grown because of the inadequate rainfall. That portion of Western Australia contains some excellent soil, which I have heard praised from one end of Australia to the other; but having a. rainfall of only a few inches a year it cannot be cultivated profitably. Like Senator Johnston, I should like to see sugar produced in Western Australia; but this is probably a vain hope, because the economic position of that State must be taken into consideration.
– Beet sugar could be grown in the southwestern portion of Western Australia.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Yes. I was astonished to learn to-day of the handsome profits made in Victoria front the production of beet sugar. Some time ago a number of gentlemen in Western Australia contemplated the formation of a company to grow beet for the production of sugar and its allied products; but the information supplied to them regarding, the production of sugar from beet at Maffra was totally different from that which has been stated here to-day. I daresay that they will give further consideration to this subject in the light of what has been stated here. It may now be practicable to produce beet sugar in Western Australia, and also the valuable fodder bi-products of beet.
I repeat that I should like to support an amendment along the lines suggested by Senator Duncan-Hughes, but, until it can be demonstrated to me that a reduction of the price of sugar would not materially harm- the industry, I shall not be able to do so. I therefore commend the bill to honorable senators, in the hope that honorable senators from Queensland will show an equal regard for the wheat industry, which is of vital importance to Western Australia, and is in dire need of assistance.
– The honorable senator can rely on the support of the three Queensland senators on this side of the chamber.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.There should be reciprocity in these matters, and an exercise of common sense. I confidently look to Queensland senators to assist the wheat industry of Western Australia, because in the past they have granted assistance to it ungrudgingly. During the last four years that industry has received valuable assistance from the National Parliament, and at all times our Queensland friends in this chamber have been in the forefront in supporting such measures, as, indeed, they have been in assisting needy primary industries generally in the several States. I shall support the bill.
– I desire, first, to compliment Senator Duncan-Hughes on his fair and informative speech, and especially on having pointed out that there are two sides to this question, one of which had not previously been mentioned. Until the honorable senator ro3n, I thought that I had strayed into a mutual admiration society, because I found Ministers and Government supporters, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, as well as Senator Hardy,vieing with one another in expressing admiration for the bill, and acting generally in the spirit of goodfellowship.
– Does not the honorable senator like harmony?
– I disagreed with all the views expressed, except those of Senator Duncan-Hughes.
– The honorable senator has taken a. long time to tune in.
– On the last occasion that a measure of this kind was before the Senate, I spoke immediately after the then Leader of the Opposition, and it seemed to me that the honorable senators who spoke subsequently spent most of their time in criticizing my remarks. I, therefore, decided not to give them the same opportunity on this occasion.
– The honorable senator has left his run a bit late.
– I am opposed to this bill from beginning to end. I am an uncompromising opponent of the sugar embargo and of high tariffs.
It is interesting to note that the agreement for the continuation of the embargo against the importation of sugar for five years was signed by Dr. Earle Page, and commended in this chamber by Senator Hardy. The remarks of the Minister for Commerce in the House of Representatives and of Senator Hardy in this chamber show how entirely different is the policy of the Country party in Western Australia from that of the Country party in the eastern States. In the House of Representatives, Messrs. Gregory and Prowse have expounded the policy of theCountry party in Western Australia, and since I have been a. member of the Senate I have supported that policy. So far as
I know, all the members of the Country party from Western Australia are opposed to the sugar embargo and to high tariffs.
– What alternative to the sugar embargo would the honorable senator suggest?
– I would substitute a moderate tariff to be reduced from time to time. Like Senator Allan MacDonald, I have visited north Queensland, where I have admired the richness of the soil, and the efficiency with which the sugar industry is conducted. I have nothing but admiration for the fine class of people who are engaged in the industry there.
-Yet the honorable senator wants to scale them down.
– I do not think that the growers of sugar are getting a fair proportion of the tremendous profits which I believe are being made out of the growing of sugar. Every person in Australia is a consumer of sugar and I have no hesitation in saying that every household in this continent is being exploited in regard to this necessary commodity.
-What would be the benefit to the average household of a reduction of the price of sugar by½d. per lb.
– Householders have been compelled to pay double the world price of sugar. They are being exploited to an amount of £6,000,000 a year. Professor Giblin estimates at £5,100,000 the cost to the people of Australia of the sugar embargo, and Senator Crawford to-day took a more conservative view when he estimated the amount of £5,000,000. Mr. Craigie, M.L.A., an acknowledged authority in South Australia, estimates the amount as £7,000,000. There is widespread dissatisfaction among the people of Western Australia on account of the high price of sugar, and I regret that it was not reflected in the debate this afternoon until Senator Duncan-Hughes disturbed somewhat the little mutual admiration society which, up till then, had been advocating the acceptance of the agreement.
I have received a very large number of letters and telegrams from public bodies throughout Western Australia forwarding resolutions that had been unanimously adopted in opposition to the Government’s proposal. These resolutions, I may add, were not carried at hole and corner meetings, but at representative gatherings, and they should have added weight because they represent the opinion of local governing bodies which do not, as a rule, express opinions concerning political matters. They have done so in this instance because the price of sugar vitally affects the interests of both urban and rural communities in every part of the Commonwealth. Among the communications which have come to me are the following -
I have been instructed to forward you, as hereunder, a copy of a resolution passed by my board on the 9th instant, and trust you will be successful in securing the support of your fellow members in opposing a renewal of the agreement -
Copy of Resolution.
Mr. Gray moved and Mr. Dawson seconded that this board emphatically protest against the renewal of the sugar agreement, and request our representatives in the Federal Parliament to use their best endeavours to prevent the exploitation of the. people of the State by definitely opposing a renewal of the agreement.
At a meeting of the above board on the 7th instant, a resolution was carried unanimously protesting against the continuation of the sugar agreement. It is hoped you will use your vote and influence against the ratification of the agreement when it comes before your House, and I would be pleased if you will acquaint your Western Australian colleagues of the board’s desire.
These resolutions faithfully represent the general feeling in Western Australia in opposition to the existing high price of sugar, and are an emphatic protest against the proposal of the Government to renew the agreement, not only for the life of this Parliament, but also for five years from the 1st September, 1936. As a representative of Western Australia, I protest strongly against the renewal of the agreement over the life of a Parliament which has not yet been elected. Other communications which I have received are as follows -
Busselton Municipal Council wish you enter emphatic protest against renewal sugar agreement. Town Clerk.
Melville Road Board.
At the last meeting of this board consideration was given to the ratification of the Sugar Agreement, and I was directed to advise you of the resolution in this connexion passed by this board, which is as follows: -
Recognizing the importance of the sugar industry to Australia, and that some protection is necessary, but in view of the allegedly exorbitant profits being made by the industry, this board is of the Opinion that a royal commission should be appointed to investigate the facts and make recommendations as to reasonable protection and the selling price of sugar and this board protests against any renewal of the agreement until the commission is appointed and makes known its decision.
I trust you will give this matter serious consideration, and act accordingly.
I forwarded a copy of the last communication to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) for his information. I did not endorse the suggestion that a royal commission should be appointed, but I asked the right honorable gentleman to refer the proposed renewal of the agreement to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. Every other Australian industry desiring to secure even a small measure of tariff protection is required to appear before the board and give evidence in support of its claim. Not so the opulent sugar industry. It is permitted to enjoy the whole of the Australian market absolutely without fear of competition. I regret that the Prime Minister, in acknowledging my letter, did not give an undertaking that he would comply with my request to refer the agreement to the Tariff Board. Instead he enclosed a copy of a pamphlet, dealing with the industry, prepared by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– A very good pamphlet,
– I also have a pamphlet, puttingother views, which I intend to quote before I resume my seat. The following additional communications were also forwarded to me : -
Wagin Municipal Council.
At the last meeting ofmy council, held on the 2nd instant, the question of the ratification of the sugar agreement was discussed and the following resolution was passed: -
This council protests against the continuation of the sugar agreement and that the Federal Senators and Representatives be requested to use their vote and influence against the ratification of the agreement.
I would be glad if you would enter this protest on behalf of my council.
Greenbushes Road Board.
I have been directed to inform you that the Green bushes Road Board has passed the following resolution: -
That the Greenbushes Road Board strongly protests against the extension of the existing agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the sugar interests, and considers that in order to stop the unfair exploitation of the people, the terms of any new agreement should be so definitely framed us to ensure to the public a. substantial reduction in the price of sugar.
Northam Road Board.
At a recent meeting of the above board indignation at the action of the Prime Minister in extending the sugar agreement for a further term of five years, was expressed and a motion of protest against the ratification of the agreement was carried unanimously.
I was directed to convey the above information to you with the request that you do your utmost to defeat any motion for the ratification of the agreement.
The board has written a letter to Mr. E. J. Craigie, of the South Australian Parliament, supporting him in his efforts to prevent the sugar agreement being continued in its present form.
Mr. Craigie now suggests that we write to Mr. H. Gregory and yourself to express the board’s opinion as well.
The board is of opinion that the continuance of the agreement in its present form constitutes an imposition to Western Australians, and I hereby authorize you to use its name in protesting strongly against the ratification of same. The population of this district is 3,794.
– The resolution passed by the ArmadaleKelmscott Road Board was the outcome of a circular issued by the parties opposed to the renewal of the agreement. It was the result of organized propaganda.
– Even if the honorable gentleman is right, that does not touch the point at issue. Rather does it indicate that when matters vitally affect the people, their representative public bodies lose no time in giving expression to the resentment felt at the action of this Government. The Armadale-Kelmscott resolution correctly interprets the feeling of the people of Western Australia, and I have also received a large number of other similar resolutions.
When the former Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) visited Western Australia some years ago, I was privileged to attend a number of meetings at which he delivered addresses. On every occasion the right honorable gentleman was questioned about the attitude of the Government to the sugar industry, and being a masterly tactician, he skilfully evaded committing his Government to any definite line of action contrary to the sugar embargo.
– Has the honorable senator received a communication from Wyalcatchem ?
– Apparently Senator Brown is disposed to treat this subject with levity, but I can assure him that in Western Australia, the price of sugar is a very live issue. Every person in the community is vitally interested in it; none more so than members of the Housewives Association. It has been shown that the people of Western Australia are penalized to the amount of £450,000 a year owing to the embargo against the importation of sugar from other countries, and I tell the Senate that in our present economic position - the people of Western Australia depend almost entirely for their prosperity on the sale of primary products - we cannot afford to pay that price.
I am entirely opposed to the renewal of the agreement and if my vote could effect its rejection, it would be cast in that direction. Western Australian producers would be able to sell more of their surplus commodities to adjacent countries if in return they were permitted to purchase the goods which those countries produce, including sugar.
Our complaint against federation is that the industries of Western Australia are prejudiced by embargoes and high tariffs. We are compelled to purchase nearly all our requirements from highly protected industries in the eastern States, and we are obliged to sell our surplus primary products in the open markets of the world.
– Are they among the federal disabilities under which Western Australia is suffering?
– Yes, definitely.
– But Western Australia has received compensation in the form of Commonwealth grants.
– Unfortunately the Commonwealth Grants Commission has laid down that federal disabilities of this nature are not to be taken into consideration in arriving at the amount of grant to be given to each State.
I do not believe in prohibitive tariffs or embargoes, and I contend that neither is necessary for the preservation of the Queensland sugar industry. It was well established and was expanding satisfactorily long before the first agreement providing for an embargo was made. One of the most regrettable features of the agreement and the embargo is its effect upon the industry itself. Its terms definitely restrict the area to be cultivated for sugar-cane and thus prevent an expansion of the industry.
– Surely the honorable senator would not like the industry to revert to the Kanaka conditions?
– Certainly not. I am entirely opposed to the employment of black labour in any Australian industry. The maintenance of a White Australia policy is ohe - of the leading planks in the platform of the Western Australian Country ‘party. I repeat that an embargo is not necessary for the preservation of the sugar industry in Queensland. I paid a visit to that State not long ago, and as one who has been engaged for many years in promoting land settlement, I was much impressed with the vast area of suitable land in the tropical fertile coastal belt. I deeply regret that, as the result of the sugar policy adopted by the Commonwealth and the State, fresh assignments for the cultivation of sugar cane are not now obtainable. I realize, of course, the difficulties of those who are responsible for the industry, but I point out that the same problem would arise in any other primary industry. If, for instance, following the fixation of a home-consumption price for wheat, world prices rose much above their present level, there would be a tremendous increase of production, thus making it difficult for the organizations to control the output of the wheat industry. In my opinion this great sugar industry would thrive and expand much more quickly if it were given the opportunity to do so. . I am satisfied that the wonderfully- fertile lands on the beautiful Queensland coastal fringe will always carry a big population, a large proportion of whom will be engaged in the production of sugar.
In regard to the remarks which have been made by various honorable senators concerning the distribution of £7,000,000 in bonus shares by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company last year I agree entirely with the view that this is a very efficient and well-run organization. If comment has been made on this distribution without taxation and on the fact that the profits of the company this year exceed £900,000, it arises from the fact that the industry is protected under this embargo. The profits of other companies have been referred to, but these concerns do not get, by special legislation, monopolistic benefits from this Parliament, such as are given to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The other companies benefit from prohibitive duties.
– Yes ; but I am opposed to prohibitive duties.
– What of the prohibitive duty on bananas?
– It is amazing to me that when a duty was collected on a few bananas imported into eastern Australia from Fiji this revenue of £5,000 a year was given to the industry in eastern Australia, but, to-day, the Commonwealth Government continues to refuse my request to allot to the Western Australian banana industry the whole of the duties collected on bananas in that State, which in the past has amounted to over £15,000 annually. The reply given to me was that the Western Australian banana industry, which deserves every possible assistance, would probably receive £100 out of £5,000 to be allotted from this revenue for the benefit of the industry throughout Australia.
– That is not the point.
– That is my point and I think it is a good point too. I would be very glad if the Minis ter would answer it and grant my request for the whole of the duties collected on bananas in Western Australia to be given to the Gascoyne banana industry. I have also a complaint against the sugar industry in that for many years it has not been inquired into by the Tariff Board. As that tribunal has been appointed by this Parliament to decide what measure of protection should be given to industries, I submit that this agreement, before it is ratified, should be referred to it. Although the board is a protective tribunal - and it certainly gives adequate protection to all Austraiian industries - it is a tribunal in which the public generally has confidence. Yet, whilst the Government refuses to ask the Tariff Board to inquire into this industry such inquiries have been made by committees to which irresponsible people have been appointed. I have no faith whatever in the findings of committees such as the Sugar Inquiry Committee whose report is out of date. Before the Senate passes this measure it should refer the agreement to the Tariff Board and await a report from that tribunal on the sugar industry generally, because, in agreeing to this bill, the Senate will decide to place a burden of £6,000,000 annually on the Australian public for another five years. Every other Australian industry has to prove its claims for protection before the Tariff Board, but this peculiarly-favoured industry in the State of Queensland which wields tremendous power in the making and unmaking of Australian Governments, is given the benefit of a wonderful embargo, which is renewed from year to year without the industry being under any obligation to run the gauntlet of a Tariff Board; inquiry. . I object, also, to the term of five years for which this agreement will operate; that is from September, 1936, to September, 1941. About September, 1937, another federal election will take place, and if this measure is passed, the party then returned to power will be powerless for the life of the next Parliament to alter the agreement, for its hands will be firmly tied in this respect.
– That observation applies ‘ to all legislation ; legislation is not wiped out by new parliaments as a matter of course.
– That is not so; Parliament can repeal or amend legislation if it wishes; hut if we now ratify this agreement we shall place it beyond the power of the representatives of the people who will be elected about two years hence to interfere with the arrangement under which the existing embargo will be extended until September, 1941. I claim that such a procedure is wrong; this Parliament has a right to ratify this agreement for the period of its own life, and perhaps for a period extending a little beyond that term, but it has no right whatever to tie the hands of a succeeding Parliament for the life of that Parliament. As the result of the activities of certain public bodies which are opposed to the renewal of this agreement, it does not seem improbable to me that the next Parliament may wish to reduce the price of sugar; but it will be powerless to do so if the Senate ratifies this agreement to-night for a further five years.
I shall now refer to certain quotations extracted by Mr. E. J. Craigie from a speech made by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), concerning the sugar industry, before he became a Minister of the Crown. In Hansard of the 17th November, 1932, Mr. White is reported as having said -
To-day we have heard the praises of the State of Queensland sung from all parts of the House. . . . The boast has been made that there is no opposition to the agreement, but I, myself, do not see eye to eye with its supporters. . . . Every person in the Commonwealth is to some extent a consumer of sugar, and if honorable members consider the matter for one moment, they will be forced to admit that any possible reduction in the price of sugar should be brought about.
I agree with the views which Mr. White expressed on that occasion.
– What was the price of sugar then ?
– It had just been reduced to 4d. per lb.
– It was 5d. then; but it has now been reduced to 4d.
– No, the reduction to 4d. had already been effected. Mr. White continued -
Why, then, should we unanimously accept this agreement? There is nothing to congratulate ourselves upon in having secured a reduction of½d. per lb. We can go much further.
Yet to-day Mr. White is prepared to renew this agreement for another five years without making any further reduction of the price of sugar or instituting any fresh inquiry into the position of the industry. Dealing with the enormous profits of the Colonial SugarRefining Company, Mr. White, on the same occasion, said -
There are also included the enormous depreciations that have been made. Who has been responsible for these bonuses and the increase from the initial value of £20, in the case of the shares that were paid for, to a value of £54 or £55 ? Have these profits descended from the air? . . . They have been taken from the consumers of Australia to the extent of £7,000,000 more than would have been the case but for this agreement. A reduction of id. in the price of sugar represents a difference of £1,750,000 to the Australian people. If, as a result of an inquiry, the reduction could be made1d., and thus double the saving, would not honorable members support it?
Mr. White asked this question in 1932; I ask it to-day of honorable senators. 1 intend to support the amendment for a reduction of the price of sugar by½d. per lb., which Senator Duncan-Hughes has intimated he will move. Mr. Craigie’s article continued -
Replying. to an interjection by Mr. Riordan, that if the leaders of the Housewives Associations were given a job, “ they would quickly forget all about sugar,” Mr. White said: “ That is an insult to an organization which voluntarily in conjunction with other organizations, primary producers and manufacturers, has endeavoured to prove that the price of sugar is too high. There are many pertinent facts awaiting disclosure. Unquestionably, inordinate profits are being made. If it can be proved that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a. monopoly, and as such is exploiting the people, there is room for inquiry.”
Although Mr. White made these remarks, and despite the fact that to-day, as Minister for Trade and Customs, he has the power to refer this matter to the Tariff Board, I regret to say that he has not influenced the Government to carry into effect my request that the sugar embargo should be referred to that body, as he professed to be anxious to do in 1932. Continuinghis remarks on the occasion to which I have referred, Mr. White said -
Monopolies are one of the greatest evils that arise out of excessive protection or embargoes. . . Because of the absence of competition, the Colonial SugarRefining Company enjoys a monopoly, and monopolies, as I have said, are one of the evils that grow up behind embargoes and excessive tariffs. . . . Because of the absence of competition the Colonial SugarRefining Company enjoys a monopoly, and monopolies, as I have said, arc one of the evils that grow up behind embargoes and excessive tariffs . . . The Colonial Sugar Defining Company … is able to exploit the public by means of price fixation. I think that price-fixing iswrong, and it is wrong for this Parliament to support the practice.
I agree entirely with Mr. White, as he expressed himself on that occasion; but, if it was wrong for Parliament to support the practice of price-fixing in 1932, I ask why he has introduced this particular measure to-day, and why the Government, of which he is a prominent and distinguished Minister, has approved of this agreement. I urge honorable senators who still hold the views which Mr. White expressed in 1932 to reject this bill to-night. In the pamphlet entitled The Case Against the Sugar Embargo, written by Mr. Craigie, M.P., the following appears : -
Emphasis must be placed upon the fact already submitted that it is not the canegrowers who get the advantage of the embargo. Although Australian consumers had to pay £23 18s.6d. per ton for raw sugar ‘during the past, year - 1933-34 - the cane-grower did not get that amount. As already shown about one-half of the raw sugar was sold overseas at £86s.6d. per ton, so that the actual price received by the cane-grower for his raw sugar was £106s. 3d. Are Australian consumers going to tamely submit to an extension of an agreement for a further five years period from 1st September, 1930, and pay nearly £24 for raw sugar here, when the same quality sugar is sold overseas at £8? The time is ripe for active protest.
The embargo exploits consumers to the extent of nearly £7,000,000 per annum. This is a matter that vitally affects the well-being of all the people.For this reason it cannot be safely left to political panties to handle. The people are fleeced., and the people themselves must act, if they desire to be freed from the tentacles of the sugar octopus in the future. A special effort must be made to prevent this scandalous agreement being ratified for another five years term.
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide.
That moment is here in regard to the sugar monopoly, andwe ask the people to rise in their might and abolish this special privilege for alltime.
I intend to support the amendment to be moved by Senator Duncan-Hughes.
– What is the . amendment ?
– It provides that at the expiration of two years the retail price of sugar shall be further reduced by½d. per lb. I would much prefer the reduction to be made in -September next, when the present agreement expires. I am quite unable to yield to the blandishments of my eloquent friend Senator Brown from Queensland and support the bill. I believe that the people of Australia are being exploited to the amount of £6,000,000 annually in connexion with one of the most vital commodities in daily use. I intend to vote against the bill as a protest against the continuation of the “embargo, and to support the amendment to be moved by Senator Duncan-Hughes.
– I have listened most attentively to the debate throughout the day, and the position, so far as I can understand it, is that the industry is being carried on efficiently The cane is being grown and cut under the most economical conditions, and the mills are well equipped and satisfactorily conducted. I do not think that any honorable senator disputes that. Moreover, I do not think that any one in this chamber wishes to do anything to injure the industry. We are, however, living under artificial conditions, because at present many industries are benefited or their activities influenced in one way or another by the imposition of customs duties, import and export quotas, embargoes, and so on. Senator Duncan-Hughes, who discussed this subject from a different angle has not denied any of the statements made by those who favour a renewal of the agreement. He said that the present condition is due to the artificial conditions under which the industry is conducted, and no one who has spoken since has challenged the accuracy of his statement. Senator Allan MacDonald endeavoured to prove the correctness of the honorable senator’s logic. He said that when in the north he discussed the position with a Scot and suggested the scaling down of the price by½d. per lb., he induced in Scotia’s son a condition akin to collapse. Such a suggestion to a wheat-grower would only cause him to question the mentality of the speaker. He would know that it would be impossible for parliamentarians to do this because the price depends upon world parity. While the sugar industry is carried on under such artificial conditions those connected with it will be living in continual dread. I do not think that such conditions should continue. It is unreasonable to extend the agreement for five years. No one can say what the general world position will be in that time. I intend to oppose the bill, because I do not think that a renewal of the agreement for such a lengthy period is fair to the consumers, or to those engaged in the industry.
– It has been most refreshing to listen to Senator Johnston debating this, subject from an angle entirely different from that from which other honorable senators have viewed it. Until Senator DuncanHughes spoke this afternoon, we. had seen only one side of the picture. “Before leaving South Australia, and since I ha ve been in Canberra, in common with other honorable senators I have been deluged with letters and circulars similar to those from which Senator Johnston quoted to-night. I was inclined to believe that those responsible for their production were somewhat hysterical, but the Queensland representatives in this chamber appear to be in a similar state of mind. Only one honorable senator favours the removal of the embargo, so we are safe in assuming that 99 per cent, of the members of the Senate support the agreement.
– Three years ago eleven honorable senators were in favour of the removal of the embargo.
– I am speaking of the Senate as it is constituted to-day. It has been said by previous speakers that Australia is now becoming accustomed to tariffs, trade treaties, preferences, quotas and embargoes, and it would appear that we have reached the stage when trade cannot be carried on without these artificial aids. We have been twitted with the fact that those engaged in the production of butter, wheat and other commodities receive government assistance; but I should like to tell those honorable senators who have mentioned the prices of butter and wheat that if the wheatgrowers received the same consideration in respect of wheat as Queensland receives in respect of sugar they would be receiving 9s. 3d. a bushel; if the butter producers were assisted to the same extent as are the sugar producers, they would be receiving 3s. a lb. for their product. We are not opposed to the embargo, but we are interested in the Government’s proposals from a business standpoint. As business men, we should determine whether we are not paying too high a price for sugar, and if it is not practicable to reduce it in the interests of the Australian consumers. We do not wish to injure the industry. Senator Crawford, who delivered a most interesting speech on the subject, said that if the Australian consumers are paying Queensland £5,100,000 a year as a moiety towards the industry, the Queensland people were paying the Commonwealth generally more than that. For instance, he said that Queensland contributed £700,000 towards State grants, and purchased produce from the southern States valued at £4,000,000. There was another item of £400,000 making up the total I have mentioned. He overlooked the fact that the £5,100,000 paid to Queensland is distributed amongst 100,000 engaged in the industry, whereas the other transactions are between the entire populations of Queensland and the other States.
– The other States are not buying any other protected commodities from Queensland.
– The one which they are purchasing should be sufficient. One honorable senator said that only 23 per cent, of those engaged in the industry paid income tax, but during the last five years I do not think that 23 per cent, of other primary producers have been paying any income tax. It was refreshing to hear Senator Brown speak so favorably concerning the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. If he finds that there is so much good in this company cannot he find good in other similar industrial concerns which are just as beneficial to the country? The Colonial Sugar Refining Company belongs to the sugar industry.
– It does not, and it is not concerned in this agreement.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is vitally interested in the production of sugar. An honorable senator stated this afternoon, in outlining the history of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, that the enterprise was established in Sydney 90 years ago.
– It has given considerable assistance to the industry.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is still financing the industry; yet, Senator Collings says that it is not concerned with this agreement.
– I shall support the second reading of the bill. I understand that an amendment will be moved.
– An agreement cannot be amended.
– Surely the honorable senator does not lend himself to repudiation.
– I shall await the amendment to be moved by Senator Duncan-Hughes at the committee stage.
– I have listened with great interest to the speeches for and against the sugar agreement and I paid particular attention to the remarks of Senator Duncan-Hughes. Although I do not doubt the integrity and well-meaning of the South Australian committee which prepared the statistics that he quoted in reference to the effect of protection on various Australian primary and secondary industries, I consider that it compiled its figures regarding sugar on an entirely wrong basis. So. far as I can understand, the committee took the tonnage consumption of sugar in Australia and multiplied it by £16, which is the rebate price given to the processing enterprises which export their commodities overseas. If that is so, the committee has not taken into consideration the fact that, had this sugar not been produced in Australia, it would have had to bo imported; freight and other incidental charges would have amounted to approximately £3 a ton, which would have reduced the price, on that basis, to £13 instead of £16. Then again, it must be remembered that, had Australia not produced its quota of sugar, the world’s markets would have contained that amount less; and there is a possibility that the world’s market price would have been higher than is computed in the figures compiled by the committee. Imported sugar, too, would have been subject to the 25 per cent, rate of exchange. In view of these considerations, the figures quoted by Senator Divncan-Hughes, although they have been compiled by a highly qualified committee, hardly convey the true position.
Various speeches to-day have dealt with the sugar industry from all angles; statistics have been quoted and the economic position of the industry has been examined. In a few brief words, I desire to treat this- subject on a broad national basis, and to analyse what I consider is the national value of the industry to Australia. During the “ 80’s “, Queensland was regarded as a tropical country, practically unsuitable for occupation or development by a white population. The Moreton Bay Courier of 1852 published a leading article in which reference was made to the difficulty of obtaining labour to carry on work, not in northern Queensland, but in southern Queensland. The newspaper advocated the importation of labour from Java and Ceylon. Another suggestion was that Eurasians would probably be better than either Javanese or Cingalese for developing the northern areas; but this proposal was wrecked on the theory that, as these persons possessed a certain amount of white blood in their veins, they would not be able to stand up to the conditions of work in that part of Queensland. The first sugar plantations in Queensland were commenced in the vicinity of Brisbane. At present, Brisbane has a population of about 300,000 white people, who, in respect of health, yield to no other community in Australia. At one time is was thought that the tropical division of Queensland had no future whatever, but large tracts of land along the coast were leased for banana-growing and sugar-planting. The labour problem became so acute that the decision was made to indent Kanaka labour from the Pacific Islands. The experiment was tried and it very nearly ruined Queensland. The Kanakas brought with them virulent tropical diseases - malaria was rampant - and they not only died in great numbers, but they spread the infection 10 their white overseers. So great was the mortality that the expectation of life among white males in Queensland was 41.3 years, which was more than 12 per cent, lower than the average for any other part of Australia. As a matter of fact, in 1884 the death rate in Queensland was 50 per cent, higher than in any other part of Australia. I recall this history in an endeavour to show what a mistake was made then in bringing black indentured labour to the tropical sugar plantations of Queensland. Just about that period the rush to the Queensland gold-fields ended and- many thousands of men found themselves without work. Numbers of them left the State; and even greater numbers, who had capital, invested it in agricultural or pastoral pursuits; but a large proportion of them were left utterly without means, and they had, perforce, to look for work. Some of them were compelled to compete with the Kanakas for labour in the cane-fields and it was not long before they demanded, in the land of their birth or adoption, a standard of living at least equal to that enjoyed by persons in other avocations.
– What year was that ?
– That occurred in theeighties. However, the progress and settlement of the north did not really begin until the year of federation, 1901. The sudden impetus which settlement then received was largely owing to Queensland’s entering the federation and receiving an assurance from the Commonwealth Parliament that if it would get rid of the indentured Kanaka labour some measure of protection would be granted to the sugar industry. A factor which contributed largely to the subsequent rapid progress was the large amount of work which had been done in building roads, railways, and harbours to open up and develop the country.
– Queensland itself did not get rid of the Kanakas. Federal action was responsible for that.
– I understand that when Queensland entered the federation there was an understanding that the State should return the Kanakas to the Pacific Islands.
– That was done under federal law.
– Until the dawn of federation Queensland was regarded as being a most unhealthy place in which to live and work; now it holds the premier position in vital statistics. How has this change come about? The climate has not altered and the northern portion of the State is still geographically in the tropics, yet the white population resident in that latitude is thriving. One reason lies in the measures taken successfully to combat the tropical diseases to which Northern Queensland had hitherto been subject; and another cause was the definite exclusion from industry of races which have a lower standard of living, a greater susceptibility to disease, and a higher rate of reproduction, than the whites. The third reason is to be found in the natural-born residents of those parts. This is of great importance, as it shows that under proper conditions the white race can not only live and work in tropical Queensland, but can also raise healthy and virile children. The population resident in the tropics numbers 250,000. Amongst the statistics upon which the vitality of nations is assessed, is the death rate of infants under one year of age. The infantile death rate in Queensland is remarkably low. Only in one year between 1913 and 1928 was the rate of infant mortality in Queensland greater than for the whole of the Commonwealth. That was in 1919, when Queensland suffered an exceptionally severe drought. For the rest of that period the rate was about 7 per cent, higher for Australia as a whole than for Queensland. In 1925 the deaths among infants under the age of twelve months in Queensland were only 45 for every 1.000 children - the lowest for any State. As tropical Queensland was regarded as a most unhealthy place 50 years ago, it will be seen that conditions have changed considerably during the last ha-M century. The latest figures available in relation to the deaths of children up to nine years- of age- are those for 1921-22. They show that the deaths in Queensland were fewer per capita than for Australia as a whole. In- the eighties- the expectation of life in Queensland was 41.3 years ; in 1921-22 it was 56 years. The climate of North Queensland is now unequalled from a health point of view. The following table contains an interesting comparison : -
When the Kanakas were deported from Queensland in 1905 and 1906, it was thought by many that the sugar industry was doomed. At that time the total annual yield of sugar was 152,259 tons, but in 1934, when the whole of the crop was cut, gathered and milled by white labour, the yield had increased to 660,000 tons. The colonization of North Queensland depends almost entirely upon the sugar industry. Senator Duncan-Hughes asked what would become of that area if the over-production of sugar continued. I point out that the colonization of North Queensland by the sugar industry has enabled the Atherton Tableland, which is as large as the whole of the arable land of Tasmania, to be opened up for dairying, maize growing and pig raising. The sugar districts are to the primary producers of the Atherton Tableland what the cities in the south are to those engaged in primary production in the southern States. Senator Allan MacDonald when at Millaa Millaa, at the back of Innisfail, probably saw hundreds of men engaged in dairying and maize growing, because of the home market provided by those engaged in the production of sugar. If this great industry is to continue to maintain a population in North Queensland, we must ensure to those engaged in it a reasonable standard of living, and not expect them to come down to the standard of coloured sugar-workers in other lands. As has frequently been pointed out in this chamber, Queensland is the only country in the world where sugar is grown by white labour. The white- workers engaged in that industry should enjoy a standard of living’ equal to that of their fellow- workers inother industries in this country. It is impossible to ensure to them that standard of living without giving to the sugar industry a measure of protection against the competition of other sugarproducing countries,, where cheap coloured labour is employed. Other honorable senators- have quoted statistics and dealt with the economic value to Australia of the sugar industry. I have endeavoured to place before the Senate a different aspect. I ask honorable senators to make it possible for the workers engaged in the sugar industry to enjoy that standard of living which we desire to give to the workers in other industries.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that in less than 60 years a strip of country, practically 1,000 miles long, which at one time was considered to be the mo3t unhealthy part of Australia, and unfit for white people to live ‘and work in, has been changed to a healthy district supporting an ever-increasing white population. This state of affairs has been made possible by the consistent improvement of conditions in the sugar industry. I strongly support the bill.
.- All honorable senators must have been pleased to hear the remarks of Senator Cooper, who spoke of the strong, virile, healthy race which is being built up in North Queensland, but they appear to conflict with the claim that higher wages should be paid to workers in tropical North Queensland, because of the unhealthy climate. I have been to North Queensland, and I agree with Senator Cooper that, although the climate is hot and the atmosphere humid, white men can work there and remain healthy.
– What does the honorable senator mean when he refers to high rates of pay ?
– It is frequently claimed that high rates are paid to workers in the cane-fields.
– The rates may be high, compared with the wages paid to sugar workers in other countries.
– They are high compared with the wages paid to other Australian workers.
– It must be remembered that cane-cutting is a seasonal occupation.
– There are many other seasonal occupations in this country, and I agree that the rates should be higher than where the employment is regular and continuous. In speaking of high rates, I was expressing, not my own opinion, but what has frequently been said by others.
Senator Allan MacDonald compared the incomes of residents of South Australia with the incomes of residents of Queensland. Unfortunately for the honorable senator, he took the wrong figures. He based his argument on incomes of £1,000 and upwards. It would appear from the remarks of supporters of the sugar agreement that not many sugargrowers in Queensland make a net profit of £1,000 per annum.
– I lost heavily last year.
– I find that, whereas 28,S99 taxpayers in Queensland with taxable incomes of between £50 and £750 per annum have a total taxable income of £3,669,681, upon which they pay £64,150 a year in taxes, there are only 12,647 taxpayers in South Australia with incomes between those limits, their taxable income being only £1,247,000, or less than one-third of that of the corresponding group in Queensland, and their income tax payments only £21,4-44.
-South Australia has been regarded as the poorest of the mainland States.
– I am not in a position to say if that is true. I have merely quoted these figures in reply to the remarks of Senator Allan MacDonald who led us to believe that the taxpayers of South Australia were so much better off than those of Queensland.
As to the agreement itself, I would bo one of the last to interfere with an industry in Queensland or any other State ; but I maintain that the agreement in its present form is not in the best interests of the people of Australia. I do not favour the imposition of embargoes ; but I am certainly in favour of high protective duties in order to safeguard Australian industries. It may be argued that there is very little difference between a high protective duty and an embargo. I do not subscribe to that, view, and I ask honorable senators to note that an embargo has not been imposed for the protection of any other Australian industry.
– What rate of duty would the honorable senator favour for the protection of the sugar industry?
– It would have to bear some agreed-upon ratio to the world price of sugar; and it should so operate as to give adequate protection. I have no desire to see Australia flooded with sugar produced in countries employing cheap coloured labour. It may be urged that the high protection given to the carbide industry in Tasmania is equivalent to an embargo. There may be something in that contention, but the point to remember is that the industry is not protected by an embargo. I admit the wisdom of fixing a home- consumption price for sugar in order to ensure a reasonable return for those who have invested their capital in the industry, but some regard should be had for the interests of consumers. In New Zealand the price of sugar ranges from 2¾d. to 3d. per lb. after paying duty, and I understand that New Zealand draws its supplies from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s refineries in Fiji.
– No; New Zealand gets its sugar from Cuba or Java. All the sugar produced in Fiji is sold in Great Britain or Canada.
– I accept the honorable senator’s correction. I was under the impression that a portion of the output of Fiji was sold in New Zealand.
I agree with Senator Duncan-Hughes that in the interests of consumers there should be a scaling down of the price under the new agreement, but I am not prepared to go the whole way with the honorable gentleman. If the existing price were retained for two years an inquiry might be made in the meantime with a view to a reduction of the price to Australian householders. We all know that high prices are paid for Queensland sugar land.
– After they have been improved.
– I venture the opinion that if two contiguous areas of land were put up for sale and in respect of one there had been issued a licence to grow sugar-cane, the price realized for that land would be very much higher than that for the block without the licence.
A good deal has been said in this discussion about the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. We all know that the issue of bonus shares has increased enormously the- capitalization of the company. Some years ago it established an off-shoot in Fiji called the Colonial Sugar Refining (Fiji and New Zealand) with a capital of approximately £1,000,000 issued in free bonus shares to Australian shareholders, and, in the course of one or two years, so great were its profits, that the whole of the new capital indebtedness was returned to the shareholders in cash.
– That was because the company was getting £80 a ton for its sugar.
– Profits do not come from nowhere ; they come out of the company’s activities, whether in Australia or other parts of the world. I agree with Senator Brown, who said this afternoon that most honorable senators would be very glad indeed if, by some stroke of good fortune, they could become shareholders in this prosperous company.
I intend to vote against the second reading of the bill because its purpose is to ratify an agreement which cannot be altered by this Parliament. We must either accept it word for word and lino for line, or reject it. In its present form I do not feel inclined to accept it, so I shall vote against the second reading.
I also direct the attention of the Minister in charge of the bill to the following clause in the schedule^
That the Queensland Government if and when requested by the Commonwealth Government, shall establish a sugar depot at Hobart.
Every one knows that whenever there is a dislocation of shipping - and that has happened often in recent years - there is imminent risk of a grave shortage of sugar in Tasmania. There is, at the present time, danger of another hold up of shipping and I read in Tuesday’s issue of the Hobart Mercury a report that the Grocers Association of Hobart had telegraphed to the Prime Minister asking him what steps the Government proposed to take to ensure a continuity of supplies of sugar for Hobart. If a depot had been established in that city as there has been in every capital city on the mainland, provision would be made for reserve supplies. With the small fruits season coming on, there is a largely increased demand for sugar, and it is absolutely essential that the quantity available shall be ample for requirements because small fruits must be processed on the day of delivery at the factory. A delay of 24 hours may be disastrous to the growers, and manufacturers.
– Is there no provision for reserve stocks in Hobart ?
– The merchants make what provision is possible, but whenever a dislocation of shipping is threatened there is a rush on existing stocks and, such is the psychology of the people, every householder at once commences to hoard sugar. Instead of purchasing in lots of 1 dozen lb., people order bag lots.
– Can the honorable senator instance a definite shortage of sugar in Hobart during the last seven years?
– There was a shortage about a fortnight ago when the Zealandia and Talune were held up.
– There could also be a shortage in North Queensland during a shipping strike.
– But there are depots in all other capital cities of the mainland. I am surprised that Senator Foll should talk such absolute twaddle. He must know that there is no comparison between the position of citizens of North Queensland and citizens of Tasmania because, for one thing, the people- of Queensland are not producers of small fruits which, as I have stated, must be processed on the day of delivery at the factory. It would be of no use to tell the processing companies that they could get supplies in a week or a fortnight.
– What have the merchants in Hobart been doing ?
– They have been doing all that is possible to do. I am now asking the Government to see that the Queensland Government carries out its undertaking to establish a depot in Hobart.
– Read the remainder of clause 11 and give the whole story.
– Certainly. The clause reads as follows: -
That the Queensland Government if and when requested by the Commonwealth Government shall establish a sugar depot at Hobart provided that the Commonwealth Government shall not make such a request unless the request be accompanied by evidence proving that a general shortage of sugar has occurred in Hobart which is due to wholesale merchants in Hobart or the Queensland Sugar board failing to adhere to the present arrangements whereby special reserve stocks of sugar arc supplied to and held by such merchants.
There ha3 been a definite shortage in Hobart for which the merchants cannot be held responsible. It is now the duty of the Commonwealth Government to make representations to the Queensland Government for the establishment of a depot in Hobart.
– A great deal has been said already upon this subject and I do not wish to weary the Senate at this late hour by making a lengthy speech, but I cannot record my vote for or against the bill without making known my views thereon. The sugar agreement is a vital one to the people of Tasmania. Sugar is a commodity which is in general use. If the price is high, consumers are adversely affected. Some time ago there was an agitation for reduction of the price and as the result an arrangement was made for a reduction of id. per lb. I have no desire to do anything that might prejudice the position of the sugar growers of Queensland. I have some knowledge of their industry, having visited the State on more than one occasion, and I know that, for some years, cane growing has not been a lucrative occupation. No large profits are being made from cane-growing in Queensland. One reason for this is to be found in the conditions which have been applied to the industry through legislation passed with the expressed approval of the majority of the people of Australia.
– The export trade accounts for a big loss.
– I emphasize the point that we have forced upon the people engaged in cane-growing in Queensland certain labour conditions which have to be observed, and that, as the result of these circumstances, combined with occasional adverse seasons, the cane-grower to-day does not find the industry very lucrative. This being so, we have to ask ourselves what would be the result if the majority of honorable senators approved of the suggestions made to them in circulars which they have received from various municipal bodies throughout Australia. I can visualize the hardships which would be inflicted upon this section of primary producers in Queensland were such suggestions to be adopted. Those engaged in the sugar industry, particularly the cane-growers, have so built up this industry that to-day it is regarded as one of the most efficient in Australia. I realize to the full the apparent injustice of the arrangement by which a large .portion of the crop is exported and sold overseas at about one third of the price which the people of Australia have to pay for their requirements. But the reason for this is that the output of sugar has increased beyond all expectations during the last twenty years. Details published in the YearBook show that in 1914 the output of cane sugar in Queensland was 225,800 tons; in 1920 it had dropped to 167,000 tons, due mainly to adverse seasonal conditions; but in 1925-26 it rose to 479,000 tons, whilst last year the output totalled 680,000 tons. That enormous increase has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase of the number of consumers in Australia.
– Yes it has.
– The population of Australia has not increased threefold since 1914. If it had, we would not be discussing this bill to-night. The problem we have to solve- to-day is : How can the price of sugar to the Australian consumer be reduced until our population is increased? It ought to be apparent to every one that we cannot continue to protect thi3 industry to the extent to which it has been protected for years past, unless our population rapidly increases. Each year the industry goes from bad to worse, and the more sugar that is produced the greater the loss, in the aggregate, suffered by the community.
– If the cost of production were reduced we could export sugar at a profit.
– If the majority of the people of Australia would agree to a reduction of the cost of production in this industry, conditions would be improved materially, but that can only be done by legislation, and I remind honorable senators that by legislation this Parliament increased the cost of production. The whole responsibility in this matter rests entirely upon the Australian community. By legislation the cost of production of sugar has been forced up, and now the community must pay. Figures which I examined to-day show that the Commonwealth consumes 55 per cent, of the sugar crop, leaving 45 per cent, to be exported. The cost of production is from £18 to £19 a ton for raw sugar, including five per cent, interest on the capital invested in cane farms. The 45 per cent, of the crop exported returns only £8 a ton, the loss on this portion being from £10 to £11 a ton, or a total of approximately £3,000,0000. We shall have to study very carefully the policy of this Parliament so far as the future of this industry is concerned. I cannot convince myself that we are justified in taking action to-day which might conceivably bring about very great distress among this section of our primary producers. I am familiar with this industry and I can easily foresee that if we do anything now to inflict losses on the cane-producers - I am not at all concerned here with the interests of the refining companies - many years might elapse before the resultant distress could be alleviated. However, the authorities should endeavour immediately to devise some means whereby restrictions could be imposed to avoid excess production. This perhaps could be done by systematically decreasing production. Furthermore, the Commonwealth Government and the State governments should co-operate in a policy with the object of rapidly increasing our population and consequently the consumers. There are thousands of children to-day in the United Kingdom who will never have a chance in life if they remain in their native land. For these children there is ample room in Australia; I suggest that they could be brought out to this country and housed, trained and educated in farm schools, such as the Fairbridge Farm School, in Western Australia, to take their place as citizens of Australia. That would be a beginning to the policy I have suggested. The two proposals which I have made should be carefully considered by the Government, and I believe that if they are put into operation, within ten years complaints that Australians have to pay too much for sugar would cease. I have not been inundated with correspondence concerning this matter; in fact, I have been surprised at the paucity of communications from my own State. I have received only one such Tasmanian communication, and that was sent to me by a small municipality, which urged me to support a resolution based upon Mr. Craigie’s circular. I have received no request from any individuals or associations to oppose the renewal of this agreement. On the contrary, I have been requested by a very important section of primary producers - the small fruits producers’ association - to support its ratification. The fruit producers are to continue to receive the relief given to them a year or two ago and that relief, which is provided by the sugar industry, has proved their salvation. I support the bill.
– But for the intense campaign that has been carried on in opposition to the ratification of this agreement, and the number of letters that honorable senators generally have received on this matter from different interests, I would not have spoken on this measure. However, I now feel that I would not be justified in casting a silent vote.
That the maintenance of the sugar industry is. of vital importance to the welfare of Australia cannot be denied. This view is based upon the following grounds : First, we know how effective the industry has been in peopling and developing the north; secondly, we realize that the industry plays a very important part in the preservation of our most cherished ideal - a White Australia ; thirdly, we recognize the contribution which the industry has made, and is still making, towards the solution of our employment problem; and, fourthly, we realize the part the industry undoubtedly plays in the defence of our great country. The main question which has exercised the minds of honorable senators in considering this measure is: “ What is the lowest figure at which the price of sugar should be fixed in order to enable the industry to continue ? “ The main difference of opinion which has occurred among honorable senators seems to be on that point. In this bill, which represents the Government’s views, 4d. per lb. is considered to be a fair price. That figure is supported by very exhaustive and complete evidence, secured as the result of the most thorough inquiries into the industry. Those opposed to the bill, particularly Senator Duncan-Hughes, would like to see a scaling down of this price; they have suggested a reduction of $d. per lb. However, very little evidence has been presented in support of such a proposal. Let us look at the industry. We know that it is established principally in the far north of Queensland, in coastal areas extending for 1,000 miles from Townsville to Cairns. That area is as fertile as any other part of the world, and is certainly most admirably suited for the cultivation of sugar. Figures have been produced showing the marked increase of population in those areas since the sugar industry was established. I emphasize the point that no honorable senator desires to destroy the industry. However, I am afraid that if the proposals of opponents of this measure were adopted we might take a step, even in good faith, that would result in the destruction of the industry. Readily as I would support a reduction of the price of sugar if it were practicable, the evidence in support of such a step has not been sufficient to persuade me to take such a risk. It has been suggested that dairying could take the place of canegrowing in the far north of Queensland. Such is not the case. The land is very fertile, the heat intense, and the climate exceedingly wet. The rainfall ranges from about 100 to 160 inches a year, whereas on the north coast of New South
Wales, one of the principal dairying districts in Australia, the average rainfall is from 50 to 70 inches. In addition to a greater degree of heat, there i3 double the rainfall. I was privileged to visit the sugar-growing districts some time ago, where I found that in addition to those engaged in the production of sugar there were a few dairy farmers. The condition of their homesteads, their herds and their farm improvements clearly indicated that the area was entirely unsuitable for dairying. Of course, on the tablelands dairying can be carried on profitably, as the climate, rainfall and conditions generally are satisfactory. Are we, by our vote, to injure the important sugar industry? One honorable senator stated, by interjection, that -Sir Hal Colebatch had said that this vast area on which sugar is now being successfully produced could be used for the production of tomatoes. It is ridiculous to suggest that a tract of fertile land 1,000 miles in length and up to 50 miles wide should be devoted to the production of tomatoes.
– If any action taken by this Parliament seriously affected the industry, would the Parliament let it down? Could not the Parliament take some remedial action?
– Although the honorable senator is asked to ratify the agreement for five years he i3 prepared, if the circumstances arise, to do something te upset the agreement. If any industry were threatened, and an agreement would save it, there would be only one thing to do. Only to avert a national calamity would we be justified in suspending this agreement, which is to remain operative for five years. The present agreement was signed in 1931, and under it the retail price of sugar was fixed at 4£d. per lb. If objection had not been raised, the Australian consumers would still have been paying that price. Although the agreement was not violated, the retail price was voluntarily reduced to 4d. per lb. Similar action may be taken before the new agreement expires. We have, however, the satisfaction of knowing that a reduction has been made during the last three or four years. Senator Johnston said quite definitely that he is opposed to an embargo in any shape or form, and that he would prefer the conditions under which the industry is being conducted to be investigated by the Tariff Board. That board conductsinvestigations with a view to recommending reasonable rates of duty that, while protecting Australian industries will allow competition from the outside world. In respect of no other primary industry has investigation by the Tariff Board been suggested. We have either to preserve the sugar industry for the Australian people or to agree to the imposi tion of a certain rate of duty which may give others an opportunity to destroy it. I admit that the price which the consumers pay is high, but what is the alternative? Senator Johnston, who said that he is a strong supporter of .the White Australia policy, would prefer that the Western Australian people should be permitted to purchase their supplies of sugar from Java. Would such trade be in keeping with the ideal of a White Australia? The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. If he believes in a White Australia, he should support this agreement.
– Do we not trade with Java?
– Yes, we get certain commodities that we require from that country and the Javanese purchase certain Australian products. We have to consider the maintenance of our Whits Australia policy, and I shall not do anything that will result in driving one Australian out of a job and allow his place to be taken by a Javanese.
Why is butter sold in Australia at such a high price? Australian butter can be transported 11,000 miles and sold at a cheaper rate than the Australian consumer pays because we produce more butter than we require. For years the Australian consumer has paid sufficient to provide a profit on the whole production, notwithstanding the loss on the butter sold on the other side of the world. The accuracy of that statement cannot be denied. If we did not export butter, the price in Australia would not be so high as it is to-day. If we did not export sugar the Australian consumers would not be required to pay 4d. per lb. for it.
– If those engaged in the butter industry were paid the rates of wages paid to those employed iu the sugar industry, butter would be sold at 4s. per lb.
– The local consumer of butter pays a price sufficient to make good the loss on every pound sold overseas, and to provide a profit on the total quantity produced.
– But the producer does not get the profit.
– If he did not he would go out of business. About one-half of the sugar grown in Australia is exported at a low price, and Australian consumers have to pay a higher price for their requirements in order to make up the loss and to enable a small profit to be made on the total production. The same principle is involved in connexion with many other primary industries, including wheat. In a few hours we shall be considering a bill providing for the reimposition of the sales tax on flour in order to assist the wheat-growers. Thai is to be done because we produce more wheat than is required for our own purposes. The local consumer has to foot the hill to make up the loss incurred by selling overseas. Troubles such as this commence the moment a country commences to export, and when that time arrives the local consumer has to pay. The present wholesale price of sugar in Australia is about double world’s parity. What does the sugar producer actually receive for his product? Somewhere between 2fd. and 3d. per lb. for the whole of his production. If he averaged 4d. I could confidently support Senator Duncan-Hughes.
– The industry is operating under artificial conditions.
– It may be, but we have to face realities. I have addressed numerous meetings in Sydney to explain the reason for the high price of certain commodities, including butter, sugar and wheat. The fact that such Australian products sell cheaper in Britain than in Australia gives rise to considerable dissatisfaction, but after speaking in plain language, I have generally made my audience realize that the present prices have to be charged because we must recoup the producers whose exportable surplus hae to be sold at a loss. The people of Western Australia are far behind the times, because they have never had the position explained to them. If we pay the sugar producers only 2Jd. per lb. for their product, what will happen to them? They will be driven off their farms, and will have to exist in the cities on the dole. Those who pay 4d. per lb. for sugar are making a definite contribution to the provision of employment in northern Queensland. I am not a Queenslander, but am speaking as an Australian on behalf of an important Australian industry. If we were to adopt that attitude in regard to sugar, the same policy would have to be applied to wheat and butter; and thus we would reduce our production by half. We simply will not do that. Even if Australia does market one half of its sugar crop on the other side of the world at Jess than the cost of production, the sale, nevertheless, brings in £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 and we are better off by that sum. That fact alone should give us some . satisfaction in paying the higher price for sugar.
I repeat, the sugar industry plays an invaluable part in the defence of Australia. Imagine those northern areas containing some of the most fertile land in the world deprived of their population. The settlers could not be kept there by engaging in any industry other than the production of sugar. When housewives pay 4d. per lb. for sugar, they are making a direct and definite contribution towards the defence of Australia, the maintenance of the White Australia policy, the keeping of men in employment, and lastly towards the development of that rich region.
I do not by any means wholly approve of the managerial side of the sugar industry. One feature of the industry that has not been mentioned in this debate, and which I detest, is the assignment of land. Although I cannot suggest a remedy, I protest against a system by which one or two adults may occupy a sugar area and make a profitable living from it, while next to them on unassigned land is a farmer struggling to keep a family on the proceeds from, a few milch cows. On the one hand is the poor man bringing up a family, but denied the right to grow sugar ; on the other hand are two adults on the adjoining holding, permitted to cultivate sugar and reaping a rich reward. I desire to see an effort made to remedy this anomaly and give to deserving families the right to engage in the industry, even if it may curtail the activities of others. However, the bill does not deal with that aspect.
The cost to the consumer has been bandied about this Chamber by practically every opponent of the bill. What is the position? Admittedly the protection extended to industry adds to the cost of living, but does not the price of ls. 4d. or ls. 6d. per lb. for butter and 6d. a loaf for bread also add to the cost of living? Courts take into consideration the price of these household commodities when determining the basic wage. Hence the wage-earner does get the benefit of these high prices, because the court makes its award in accordance with them.
I now propose to refer ‘briefly to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I hold no brief for that enterprise; I am not its advocate, nor do I desire to be; but opponents of the sugar industry seem to have made the Colonial Sugar Refining Company the target of their attack during this debate. That company was likened to an octopus. One honorable senator mentioned that it makes a charge for financing the pool. Surely it is entitled to some compensation for performing this service. No honorable senator, not even Senator Grant, who made the interjection previously, would finance any concern unless he were assured of a reasonable rate of interest. The company charges .035 pence per lb. for financing the pool; 082 pence per lb. for refining the sugar; and .039 pence per lb. for selling charges throughout the Commonwealth; a total of .156 pence per lb. In other words, if the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were to agree to finance the pool, refine the sugar, and undertake the selling of it, without making any charge for these services, the price of the commodity could he reduced by one-sixth of a penny per lb. ! Then the consumer would be asked to pay 3j>d. per lb., but I venture to say that such a reduction would not affect the present cost to the consumer, as the lowest coin in our currency is a farthing. I repeat, four considerations compel me to support this measure. While I desire to see the price of sugar as cheap as possible, I realize that the industry must live, and we cannot” afford to take any risk with it. My four reasons for supporting the bill are (1) the part the industry is playing in the development and the peopling of the north; (2) its contribution to the preservation of our most cherished ideal - the White Australia policy; (3) the part it plays in the defence of Australia; (4) the contribution it makes to the employment of our good Australian people. Because of those reasons, and because I am determined not to be a party to anything that might even prejudice the welfare of the industry, I have no hesitation in giving to the bill my wholehearted support.
– Saving followed closely the course of this debate, it has been most gratifying to me, as a representative of Queensland, to hear the industry championed by representatives of every other State, showing that there is a general recognition of the fact that the industry is not merely a Queensland interest, hut is something of vital concern to Australia as a whole. There has been, however, a concerted attack on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, whose strength and prosperity seem to be regarded as a reason why the sugar agreement should not be ratified by this chamber. May I point out that even if the sugar agreement were cancelled, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company would probably still continue to refine sugar, though it would be handling the product grown under cheap labour conditions overseas, instead of sugar grown under conditions which allow for the payment of a decent wage in Queensland and northern New South Wales. By cancelling this agreement, which would lead to a collapse of the industry in Queensland, honorable senators would not smash the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Its ramifications to-day are almost world-wide, and it is so efficient and has so many interests in other countries that it would still be very largely responsible for the distribution and refining of sugar consumed in Australia. Of course we could take action under the tariff to smash practically any industry now established in Australia. If we were to throw open the door to allow the unrestricted entry of goods produced by cheap, foreign labour, Australian industries would not be able to compete. When the last tariff debate was in progress, Senator A. J. McLachlan, I believe, stated that any ill-advised action on the part of Parliament could “ smash the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and the entire Newcastle Iron and Steel Works. Practically every industry in Australia is in the same position; it requires to be protected by the Government. Members who have toured the sugar-growing areas in recent years have seen them in a condition of almost complete development; but I knew parts of Northern Queensland before any sugar was planted there. Much of that country was jungle, and the scrub was so dense that it was almost impenetrable. One wonders how man ever managed to reach some of those areas, much less clear the scrub and establish farms in the way that has been done. For years many families which pioneered this industry lived in humpies and sheds . and planted sugar cane between the stumps of what had been the virgin bush. But they persevered and have been a material factor in bringing the industry to its present state of development. I have never heard a more foolish suggestion than that by Senator Duncan-Hughes, that if the sugar industry failed as a result of certain action by this Parliament, it might be rebuilt on some new foundation.
– That inference was certainly there.
– The industry is not one which belongs only to Queensland; it is a great Australian industry. I have listened to many debates on the sugar industry, but this one has been the most comprehensive that I have ever heard.
Some honorable senators have referred to the rates of wages paid in Queensland, inferring that the employees in the sugar industry receive a princely remuneration. The following figures, which I have collected, may serve to disabuse their minds in that regard. The basic wage in New SouthWales is £3 8s. 6d. for a man, wife and child; in Queensland, £3 14s. for a man, wife and three children; in “Western Australia, £3 10s. 6d. for a man, wife and two children. In Queensland additional allowances of 4s. 6d. and 10s. a week are made for central and northern districts respectively. The basic wage on the gold-fields areas and in other portions of the State of Western Australia, exclusive of the southwest division, is £4 4s. 4d., which is more than 10s. higher than that ruling in Queensland at present, excluding the northern parity. After having listened to the remarks of some honorable senators, one might be led to think that the employees in the sugar industry were receiving a princely salary out of all proportion to the value of the work which they do. The employees on the farms, in the mills and particularly in cane-cutting, obtain only seasonal employment, lasting for a few months each year.
– That is the point to be remembered.
– Owing to the difficulty of finding work, they cannot generally secure other occupations when the cutting season closes. Hence they have to attempt to keep themselves and their families on what they earn during the few months in which they are engaged in the industry each year. Very often married men with families are compelled to apply for unemployment relief when they are not working on the canefields. I venture to say that few, if any, honorable senators would care to go to the far northern districts and cut cane for the wages at present being paid. The cane-cutter must be an expert; an ordinary farm labourer cannot suddenly be ordered from his customary duties to undertake cane-cutting. In addition, a man must be able to stand up to the peculiar conditions of the industry. The basic wage in Queensland has not been increased since the 1st July, 1931. The working hours in that State are 44 a week, the same as in Western Australia, although in the latter State the weighted average is 45.5 hours. The following table taken from the quarterly summary of Australian statistics for June, 1935, Bulletin No. 140, pages 69 and 70, gives the weighted average wages and working hours each week in all industries, over 14 divisions of industrial groups : -
Many of the comforts which people in the southern States enjoy are denied to the cane-growers and workers of North Queensland. Medicines and some other goods are much dearer there than in the industrial centres of Sydney and Melbourne, because of the heavy freight charges from the place of manufacture. One thing which has pleased me more than anything else is that almost every person who visits North Queensland, and sees for himself the way in which the sugar industry is conducted, and the conditions of its workers, returns from those areas a champion of the industry, and an advocate of the maintenance of the existing standards. The people of Queensland, and of North Queensland especially, are always glad to see members of Parliament seeking for themselves information in relation to the industry. An examination of statistics, and of the accounts of millers and canegrowers, will reveal that there is not that profiteering which is suggested in some quarters. In the canefields of North Queensland are to be found many hundreds of typical Australian primary producers, who are trying to make homes for themselves and their families in the Australian bush. I believe that to-morrow morning, when the news goes forth that the sugar agreement has been renewed for another five years, the people in that part of Australia will be given fresh heart to go ahead with the development of Australia, and they will be grateful to theCommonwealth Parliament, and to the Senate in particular.
. - in reply - During the discussion of this bill a few matters of prejudice obtruded themselves. There was much criticism of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, although it has nothing whatever to do with the sugar agreement. Having been asked by the Prime Minister to undertake an investigation of the sugar industry, I endeavoured to ascertain all the information I could about the growing, cutting and refining of sugar. My inquiries convinced me that if there is one institution in Australia of which we should be proud, it is the efficiently conducted Colonial Sugar Refining Company, about which so many remarks, irrelevant ‘to the bill before us, have been made during this debate.
Another statement which, in my opinion, should not have been made is that aliens are employed in the industry. I regard all the people engaged in the production of sugar in Australia as Australians. They have been admitted to this country in accordance with its laws, and should be treated as Australians, and absorbed into our population.
A good deal has also been said about the wonderfully virile race which is being built up in the tropical areas of North Queensland. I suggest that those statements are somewhat inconsistent with our recognition of the need for a special living allowance for officials living in tropical districts. I scarcely agree with those who say that conditions in the sugar areas are such as to produce a virile race. The people of North Queensland are like the people of Scotland, in that any weak ones among them seem to have been eliminated. I certainly saw in North Queensland some stalwart men capable of, and, in fact, performing, good hard work.
– Northern Queenslanders did fine work in France and Palestine.
– Men working under the conditions which are met with in the cane-fields deserve greater consideration than is necessary in the case of those living in more pleasant climates, such as that of Canberra.
Senator Crawford somewhat alarmed me when he said that the sugar industry was on the bread line. I cannot altogether accept that statement. I went to Queensland determined that the price of sugar should be reduced from 4£d. to 3-Jd. per lb., if the reduction could be justified/ As the result of my investigation, I was convinced that if the price were reduced below 4d. per lb., there would be financial repercussions from
Cairns to Melbourne. Although we may disagree with the basis upon which the sugar industry has been built up, we must accept the facts and take care not to do anything which might be to the detriment of Australia as a whole, apart altogether from its effect on any particular industry. In my second-reading speech I showed that the price of sugar to-day is 33 per cent, above the pre-war price. But the prices of all foodstuffs have risen since pre-war days. Food and groceries are now 46 per cent, higher than the pre-war price, and wages are up by 45 per cent. After all, a comparison with present-day prices is the only fair basis. The sugar industry is of vital importance to Australia. It has been said that it is an artificial and uneconomical industry ; but is it any more artificial than the growing of wheat in certain parts of Western Australia? If we are to have a homeconsumption price as part of the policy of Australia, it is only a question of degree whether the price of sugar in Australia shall be 4d. or 3£d. per lb. In any case, even if the price were reduced to 3fd. per lb., the average householder would not benefit to any considerable extent.
Senator Johnston, who is the only real opponent of this measure, criticized the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) for his apparent change of front in regard to the sugar industry. Mr. White was frank enough to tell the House of Representatives, as I now tell the Senate, that he had learned a great deal about the sugar industry during the last two years.
An inquiry into the sugar industry by the Tariff Board has been urged. Many of our primary industries have been the subjects of investigation by various bodies. Wool-growing, the most important of our primary industries, was examined by a special commission. The wheat industry has been for some time the subject of an inquiry by a royal commission. The Development and Migration Commission conducted investigations into dried fruits, canned fruits and berry fruits, whilst the dairying industry was examined by a special committee set up by that commission. The citrus industry was also inquired into by that body. Primary industries have always had special consideration. Since Senator Johnston left his home in Western Australia to come to Canberra, news has been received that Western Australia now grows sufficient bananas for its own requirements. I advise Senator Johnston to sample them on his return to Western Australia for I can assure him that they are of excellent quality.
-i have been through those districts recently.
– I ask Senator Johnston to consider what would happen if those States which are not big producers of wheat were to say that there shall be no home-consumption price for wheat.
– Will the Government fix the price of wheat on the same generous lines that it has fixed the price of sugar?
– The principle is the same. The objection taken by Senator Duncan-Hughes as to the price is a subject which we may discuss at the committee stage of the bill. I cannot understand the illogical make-up of those honorable senators who approve of the principle of a home-consumption price for wheat but would withhold the benefit of that principle from some other form of primary production. In reply to Senator Grant, who urged that steps should be taken to establish a depot in Hobart, as provided in clause 11 of the agreement, I am informed that during the last seven years there has never been a shortage of sugar in that city. Definite inquiries were made by officials with regard to the alleged shortage a month ago, and they stated that it was merely an alarmist report.
– I absolutely deny that statement.
– The establishment of a depot in Hobart rests with the people concerned. The sugar industry is quite willing to make this provision if the merchants of Hobart will comply with the terms of the agreement and support their request by evidence of a definite shortage”; but I put it to honorable senators that in the event of a protracted dislocation of shipping due to a strike, even a well-stocked depot would not be an absolute safeguard against the depletion of reserve stocks. I conclude by expressing gratification at the generally favorable reception of the bill, and I thank honorable senators for their promised support of the measure.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland (a copy of which agreement is set forth in the schedule to this Act) is approved.
– I move -
That at the end of the clause the following words be added: “subject to that agreement toeing amended to provide that the prices of sugar referred to in Clause 5 of the agreement shall on and after the first day of September one thousand nine hundred and thirty seven be reduced by £4 7s. 6d. per ton.”
It will not be necessary for me to delay the committee very long, because I set out my views on this subject fairly fully this afternoon, when I stated that while I thought the agreement ought to be amended, I was not prepared to vote for its rejection. The purpose of the amendment is to make the agreement fairer in its operation to all sections of the people. I understand that it takes a couple of years for a crop of cane to be grown and cut, so ample notice will be given to growers before the guillotine descends, so to speak, and the price is reduced, assuming that the amendment will be carried. I do not know that I need say much on the subject of the agreement itself and why I think it should be amended, because I gave my reasons in the general debate. I fancy that I heard the Minister say something about inconsistency on my part. If so my answer is that my inconsistency-
– I said that the honorable gentleman was the only senator who was consistent.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say that. In the circumstances I shall refrain from citing an instance of glaring inconsistency on the part of some one else in this chamber.
Question - That the words proposed to be added (Senator Duncan-Hughes’ amendment) be so added - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator B. Sampson.)
Majority , . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative. .
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Having missed the opportunity to do so in committee, I desire to ask the Minister two questions. Western Australian retailers of sugar request that retailers or groups of retailers buying not less than 1,000 tons of sugar a month, should be entitled to the discount which the Queensland Sugar Board, through its agent the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, allows on purchases in such quantities.
When I visited Queensland recently I found considerable dissatisfaction among the cane-growers, arising out of the fixation of wages and conditions of employment by the State conciliation boards. Quite a number of responsible men expressed the opinion that this agreement should provide for the hearing and determination of such matters by the Federal Arbitration Court. It was contended that this agreement, being purely a federal instrument, in as much as it is part of the fiscal policy of this Parliament, should provide that such matters should be determined by the federal court.
– As I informed honorable senators in my second-reading speech, a retail arrangement such as the honorable senator suggests, cannot be carried out under this agreement. Such a proposal involves questions which also arise in connexion with chain stores.
I point out that the fixation of wages and conditions of employment in the industry is a matter for the State itself. However, as I informed representatives of the industry when I visited Queensland, they may, seeing that the industry is carried on in more than one State, if they are dissatisfied with the present system, invoke the aid of the Federal Arbitration Court. But this is not a matter in which the Commonwealth can interfere; it rests entirely with the industry itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
[11.40].- by leave- The Government has been informed that at a conference, held to-day, of the unions likely to be affected by the seamen’s strike, and presided over by the executive officers of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the following resolution was carried : -
That this conference recommends to the members of the Seamen’s Union that they return to work, and that an immediate application be made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a variation of the present award in an effort to rectify anomalies, and remove the objections raised by the members of the Seamen’s Union to the award.
Further, the emergency committee of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions endeavour to obtain the consent of the shipowners to facilitate an application to the Court and/or approach the Court for an early hearing of an application for a variation of the award.
The Government has also been urged to give the officials concerned an opportunity to induce the seamen to return to work and ventilate their grievances by constitutional means,It realizes and appreciates the efforts being made by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in this matter, and welcomes its assistance. It is therefore willing to postpone its own intended action until after the week-end, during which the Attorney-General will, at the request of union leaders, confer with representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in Melbourne. At the same time it must be made clear beyond any misunderstanding that this postponement does not arise from any uncertainty in the Government’s mind as to its policy or intentions ; it is conceded only in order that a reasonable opportunity may be given to the responsible leaders of unionism to co-operate effectively for the averting of what would be a complete disaster to the seamen concerned in the strike.
The following paper was presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 21 of 1935 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to bring into operation a plan of organization to apply to wheat the principle of a home consumption price, by means similar to those already operating in respect of dairy products and dried fruits. Every one knows the difficult position in which the wheat industry has been placed in recent years owing to the consistently low prices which have ruled. It is an industry which is of very great importance in the national life of Australia. It engages the principal attention of nearly 70,000 farmers. In times of reasonable prices they have produced crops valued at £40,000,000 annually. In more recent times the value of the crop has declined to approximately £25,000,000. The decline has been due entirely to reduced prices - not to reduced production - for every one will remember the splendid response made by wheatgrowers throughout Australia to an appeal by thu Commonwealth Government early in the depression to “grow more wheat “. It is necessary in the interest of the nation that wheat producers should be paid a price which will enable them at least to carry on. The Commonwealth Government has aimed at affording them a homeconsumption price in respect of that portion of their product which is consumed in Australia. This, to some extent, affords them price conditions similar to those afforded to secondary industries, with this difference - the wheat-growers have to export a large proportion of their product, and in respect of that proportion neither the Government nor the growers can influence world prices. Action taken to bring about a homeconsumption price will establish a firm starting point for a comprehensive rural rehabilitation scheme by supplementing effectively the steps already taken to adjust farmers’ debts by means of composition arrangements through the grant of £12,000,000 to the States under the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Act.
While looking forward to a permanent solution of the wheat problem, the Government has not overlooked the need for temporary expedients to bridge a time of crisis. The grants made to the industry by this Parliament in the last few years have been as follows : - -
It is recognized that the industry should not be permanently dependent upon annual grants in its times of adversity, and the Commonwealth Government in 1933 appointed a royal commission for the purpose of investigating by what means it could be placed on a permanent and stable, basis. The last grant of £4,000,000 for the 1934-35 season was made on the recommendation of the commission. One of the principal recommendations of the royal commission was that a home-consumption price should be paid for wheat, and it framed suggestions regarding the means by which this objective could be achieved. As a temporary expedient the continuation of the flour tax or excise duty was recommended, but as a permanent solution it was further recommended that a compulsory marketing scheme should be devised as a means of achieving the objective of a home-consumption price. When the Government received the report, it gave effect to its policy of consulting the Australian Agricultural Council, which was established for the purpose of securing the co-operation of all the Governments of Australia on major agricultural problems. The legal and constitutional aspects of the different means of assisting the wheat industry were considered by the council at its conference in May, 1935, and a resolution was passed that legislation should be enacted by the Commonwealth and State Parliaments to provide for organized marketing of wheat, on the lines in operation in the dairying industry. At a further meeting held in October, and attended by representatives of the Commonwealth and State Govern ments and of every section of wheat interests, the matter was again exhaustively discussed. On that occasion four proposals were considered -
The general plan for compulsory pools was considered impracticable, because there was no unanimity on the subject among the State Governments. The flour tax was regarded as a stop-gap measure rather than a permanent solution.
The following principles laid down by a sub-committee of the conference on which the wheat-growers and wheat dealers were represente’d, were unanimously approved by the conference: -
In view of the differences of opinion expressed in the conference as to how these principles should be applied, Commonwealth and State Ministers met as the Australian Agricultural Council, and, after exhaustive discussion, passed the following resolutions unanimously: -
The conference of State Governments generally approves the Commonwealth plan of securing a home-consumption price for wheat, and State Ministers will favorably recommend its adoption to their Governments.
If insuperable obstacles unfortunately delay implementing the plan for the coming harvest, the conference urges the temporary reimposition of the flour tax to enable a homeconsumption price to be paid.
The home-consumption price for wheat recommended by the conference is 4s. 9d. per bushel f.a.q., f.o.r. at seaboard.
The success of our marketing plans as applied to dairy products and dried fruits depends on the agreement between the organized units of the industries concerned in regard to the equalization of export and home-consumption returns, and on the existence of some concentrating agency through which the product passes, namely, the butter factory in the dairying industry, and the packing shed in the dried fruits industry.
Difficulties were found in applying the same type of legislation to the wheat industry, because of the absence of concentrating points similar to the factory and the packing shed. It was found that those difficulties could be overcome in the wheat industry by the licensing of receivers of wheat, which very markedly reduces the number of units to be dealt with and makes possible an effective plan. In a State like New South “Wales, where the silo system is well developed, the plan will work with very little -additional machinery, and a system of licensing wheat warehouses that the plan will initiate should stimulate a long hoped for reform in other States, and prove a great advantage in safeguarding wheatgrowers.
In general principle, the legislation proposed for wheat follows that already in existence for dairy products and dried fruits. That legislation has been in force for some time, and has operated satisfactorily. The State legislation for wheat will bring into existence wheat boards analogous to the dairy products boards. It will impose on the wheatgrower the obligation to consign his wheat to licensed receivers, and to furnish an authority which will enable the receiver to pass a duplicate copy of the receipt for the wheat to the State boards, which will issue te the farmer a homeconsumption warrant in respect to that part of the wheat delivered by him which corresponds to the quota fixed for home consumption in the State concerned. The farmer will receive an export warrant for the remainder of his wheat. The Stats wheat boards will have power to sell home-consumption warrants, at the homeconsumption price, to the millers who require wheat to grist for domestic consumption, and the State Boards will be empowered to enter into arrangements to make the necessary adjustments as between the States.
The Commonwealth Parliament is simply required to legislate to ensure that interstate trade will be regulated in such a way as to make the State legislation effective. The bill now before the House provides for this. Farmers in one State may deliver their wheat to licensed receivers in another State under condition set out in the bill. Once the wheat has been delivered to a licensed receiver it will be dealt with in the same way as wheat delivered from farmers in that State. The federal bill provides for the issue of licences in respect of interstate trade, and processors will be required to fulfil the same conditions in respect of their interstate trade in wheat products as they are required to fulfil under the State legislation in respect of their trade within the State.
I have already mentioned that the Australian Agricultural Council carried a resolution, approving of the Commonwealth plan. Prior to the adoption of this resolution, the council considered very carefully an alternative proposal submitted by the merchants and millers. Under this it was proposed to ensure a home-consumption price for wheat by means of a graduated excise fixed quarterly according to changes in the export price of wheat. It was claimed for this plan that it had the advantages of simplicity and inexpensiveness in administration over the plan proposed by the Commonwealth. Federal and State Ministers carefully examined it, and came to the conclusion that it did not have the advantages claimed for it over the Commonwealth plan. They examined also the criticism by the millers of the present plan and came to the conclusion that those criticisms were not well grounded. I need not go into detail as full information was given in the speech of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) delivered in the House of Representatives on the 7th November last. The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia have already introduced legislation into their parliaments to give effect to the plan agreed upon, and the Government of Western Australia also has advised that it proposes to introduce legislation. I understand that the bill has now been passed by the New South Wales Parliament.- This present bill merely gives efficacy to the bills which will be passed by the State parliaments. Until such bills are passed this bill can have no effect. The Commonwealth Government is proceeding with its legislation so as to enable the plan to be brought into operation when complementary State legislation is enacted.
Silting suspended from11.48 p.m. to 12.30 a.m.
Friday, 6 December 1935
– I feel very much inclined to voice my disapproval of the rush that has now commenced in the closing hours of the session. I can see no valid reason why we could not meet next week to consider this business in more comfortable circumstances, both mental and physical, instead of putting through legislation by a process of exhaustion. However, I am not complaining very much: if this procedure has been decided upon, I am prepared to accept my share of the exhaustion; but I feel that I am not so adequately equipped for it as I would prefer to be. Frankly, I do not like this bill. I am glad that something is being done for the wheat-grower; and I shall endeavour to improve this proposal as we proceed with the consideration of it. The Opposition is in agreement with the bill to the extent that it is setting out to do something for the wheat-growers, but we do not believe that it is being done in the best way; If honorable senators will examine the provisions of the bill, they will see that it contemplates an amount of documentation which the average wheat-farmer will never be able to comprehend. The returns asked for, and the forms that the farmers will be required to fill in, seem to be extravagant; and all because the Government will not follow Queensland’s example and give to the growers a compulsory wheat pool, which is what they desire.
– Do the majority of farmers want a compulsory pool?
– I shall produce the evidence necessary to support my statement.
– The Queensland Parliament has already passed legislation complementary to this bill.
– The bill seeks to establish a home-consumption price for wheat and makes the necessary arrangement for giving effect to this proposal.
The bill seeks to establish a homeconsumption price for wheat, quotas for export, and wheat authorities for administrative purposes. It prescribes that receivers of wheat, millers and shippers are to be licensed. It also prescribes export quotas for flour and other wheat products. Warrants are to be issued for the home consumption portion of the crop, and others for the export quota delivered. In order to carry out the scheme, there will be required a vast and complicated arrangement involving adjustments between the ruling export price and the home-consumption price. It is a bad plan; but in my opinion the worst feature of the measure is that it will leave the industry unorganized and the problems affecting the wheatgrower entirely unsolved. The industry is still at the mercy of certain vested interests, whose influenceis not to its advantage. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) stated that the bill, had been conceived in haste and will create further confusion; I agree with, him. In reply to the interjection of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that Queensland has passed complementary legislation, I point out that the Government of Queensland always honours: a promise which its representatives make in conference assembled. I shall explain for the information of Senator Pearceand other honorable senators why the- Queensland Government accepted this; proposal and agreed to pass complementary legislation. It was because, at the conference held in Canberra in October, which decided to adopt this scheme,, the Queensland Government was given, no option to do otherwise.
– Has the honorable? senator read the transcript of the speech made by Mr. Bulcock at the conference?’
– I do not think I have.
– I shall quote it later for the information of the honorable senator.
– I shall prove that Mr. Bulcock had no option but to accept the Commonwealth’s proposal. At the conference, Mr. Simpson moved, “ that this conference agrees that legislation providing for the organized marketing of wheat and for a homeconsumption price be passed by the Commonwealth Government and by the parliaments of three or more of the States.” The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), who was chairman of the conference, frustrated the proposal by ruling that it was not competent for Mr. Simpson to move such a motion at that stage. The position, I consider, was somewhat similar to that at the conference three years ago which agreed to the reduction of the price of sugar by id. per lb. At the conclusion of the conference the statement was made that the sugar organizations had agreed to accept the reduction. Of course they had agreed, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) had said to them: “If you do not accept this reduction something very much worse is waiting for you. The matter will be made the sport of political parties in Parliament every year, and you will not know where you stand.” In the face of that threat the sugar organizations accepted the proposal under compulsion. In similar circumstances did Queensland accept the Commonwealth proposal that is embodied in this ‘bill.
– The important phrase in the statement of the Minister for Commerce was “ at this stage “.
– The importance lies in the sentence itself. In other words, Dr. Page refused to accept the proposal for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool.
– At that stage.
– At no other stage of the proceedings was the right honorable gentleman willing to accept it. The delegates were also confronted with another difficulty: they were informed that the constitutionality of such a measure was in serious doubt, and that if the Privy Council reversed the decision of the High Court in an impending case, the proposal could not be proceeded with.
I desire to point out that if the Privy Council should decide against the ruling of the High Court, this bill must also be just as unconstitutional as the act which is the subject of the appeal. Those who drafted this measure must be aware of that. Further, the conference was held in public; the press was represented, and sub-committees were appointed to investigate various matters. Ministers and Under-Secretaries for Agriculture were present, but the conference had not been very long in progress before those present did not know whether they were on their heads or their heels. Because the statement has been made that the Queensland Government had passed the complementary legislation, I have related these facts to the Senate. The Labour party is prepared to accept this bill if it fails in its attempts to improve it, but I emphasize « that it will agree to it only under compulsion. The most that can be said in favour of the measure is that it is better than nothing at all. One fault that I find with the bill is that it will leave the industry unorganized and the problem of the wheatgrowers unsolved, while it will permit certain blood-sucking vested interests that have been drawing the life blood out of the wheat-growing and many other industries, to proceed merrily on their nefarious ways.
– That is unfair.
– The wheatgrowers do not approve of this bill, although I admit that this statement probably does not apply to South Australia.
– Did the honorable senator refer to blood-sucking interests ?
– I repeat that those blood-sucking interests, which never do one action of value to the industry from the time the seed is sown until the bread is consumed by the people, are to be allowed to continue in existence. Similar harpies are to be found in every industry with the exception of those that have been protected by legislation.
– They do not really suck blood?
– They take toll of the industry and render it no valuable service. In view of the importance of the industry to Australia, I fail to understand the honorable senator’s attempts to be humorous. I desire briefly to refer to the history of wheat pools so far as they have been accepted. Dr. Page objects to compulsory wheat pools, though for what reason I do not know.
– That is incorrect. Upon many public occasions, Dr. Page has stated that he is in favour of pools.
– I am aware of that; but Dr. Page did not express that opinion at the conference held in October. When he made previous statements favorable to pools he was not a member of the Cabinet.
– Dr. Page, when holding ministerial rank, has publicly stated that he is in favour of pools.
– What influence has been brought to bear on him to alter nis attitude, I do not know. I stand by my statement that he does not support the principle of a compulsory pool.
– And I stand by my statement that he is in favour of it.
– Then perhaps Senator Abbott will carry my statement to Dr. Page and ask himwhether it is true that he has changed his attitude, and if not, why is it that the Cabinet,in which he is a dominating influence, has not introduced a bill to establish a compulsory pool instead of this hotchpotch we are discussing now?
– Because such a bill would not be worth the paper it was printed on.
– Why ?
– It would not be constitutional.
– Not being a lawyer, I am always prepared to defer to the legal opinions given by members of the profession in this chamber knowing full well that they never seek to clarify a matter without making confusion worse confounded. I repeat that if the Privy Council reverses the judgment of the High Court, this bill also will be unconstitutional. The farmers desire a wheat pool. Every authority connected with the purchase and distribution of wheat, with the possible exception of South Australia, demands a wheat pool.
– A wheat pool was rejected by a vote of the farmers of New South Wales.
– I shall have something to say presently about the wheat-growers of that State. The Scullin Government introduced a measure to constitute a wheat pool.
– The honorable senator would be well-advised not to refer to that measure.
– I would be in a sorry plight indeed if I needed the advice of the honorable senator who has interjected. That measure reached this chamber, where it wa3 brutally sabotaged by honorable senators belonging to the United Australia party. On that occasion every senator belonging to the Country party voted for the pool. Queensland has had a compulsory wheat pool for thirteen years, and pools to control other products also. The Queensland Producer of the 14th August, 1935, which is the organ of the Queensland primary producers, and is not subsidized by a Labour government, said -
In Queensland the wheat-growers already had a compulsory pool, and, moreover, since the pool was established have benefited by ls. a bushel more than the growers in the other States.
– Queensland does not export wheat.
– The article in the Producer continues -
We feel impelled to say that, without the enabling legislation passed by the Labour government of the time, there would have been no wheat pool to-day.
The president of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, speaking at the annual conference of that organization, said -
The position of the wheat-growers has gone from bad to worse, and patience, longsuffering and self-sacrifice, which have characterized them while they watched their life-savings and assets disappearing under the present system governing production and marketing of their products in Australia, have gone for nothing. Many of those in the wheat industry of Australia are labouring under appalling financial difficulties and are in constant fear of dispossession.
The acute position of the wheatgrowers is referred to in the report of the royal commission, which states -
The number of wheat-farmers in Australia is about 62,000. The commission recommends that one-third of the number be allowed to go into bankruptcy, and that one-quarter of the growers bc given debt relief. Sixty per cent, cannot produce profitably at present prices.
– On what page of its report did the royal commission recommend that one-third of the growers should go bankrupt ?
– It made provision to save them from bankruptcy, if it could be shown that it was possible to save them. The point is that they cannot be saved, no matter what is done.
– That is an admission of defeat. The Country party does not admit defeat.
– Perhaps not, but during the last few weeks Senator Johnston has had to admit defeat at the hands of a member of the Country party. The report continues -
Forty per cent, of wheat-growers, even if free of all debts and subsidized at 3d. a bushel, could not produce wheat at the commission’s basic price. Less than 50 per cent, can continue without help. There is no remedy on the side of production or marketing.
One wheat-grower referring to the above report, said -
Thank the Lord those conditions do not prevail in Queensland. We have to thank our Wheat Board for saving us from the parlous plight of wheat-growers in the south.
I ask honorable Senators representing other States which are vitally interested in the wheat-growing industry, not to be blinded by prejudice, but to follow the splendid example set by Queensland.
-How much wheat does Queensland export?
– The interjections of Senator Hardy descend to the ridiculous and never rise to the sublime. He has asked such a ridiculous question, that I am astounded at his unbounded ignorance. If he does not know that Queensland does not export wheat, but is an importer of wheat, I am sorry for him, and more than sorry for myself because, in replying to his interjection, I know that I am wasting my eloquence on the desert air. I shall leave the honorable senator and ask other honorable senators with, more alert minds to take notice of the following extract from page 244 of the report of theRoyal Commission on Wheat and Flour: -
If the Court is satisfied -
that a farmer’s plant and machinery (including tractors) is seriously worn and inefficient and
that the replacements are essential. and
that the moneys in the account referred to in item 7 of “ Working Expenses “ as set out in Schedule A are deficient for the purpose of enabling such replacements to be effected, and
that the farmer is unable to make good such deficiency either from his own funds or from moneys borrowed from his creditors or otherwise and is thereby unable to effect such replacements, the Court may recommend that a loan be granted from funds provided for that purpose pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 577 by the Commonwealth.
I emphasize those points, because, unless we take into consideration the fact that the wheat-farmers of Australia have for a long time been carrying on with no possible chance of making replacements, and doing those things which everyone knows are essential, they will at last reach the point of utter bankruptcy. The report of the royal commission, which ‘ went thoroughly into the whole subject, also stated - “ Working Expenses “ shall be deemed to exclude interest, but to include the following items . - -
A reasonable maintenance for the f armer and his family including clothing and other personal essentials and medical and dental expenses.
In the year 1935, we have come to the stage where it is suggested that something should be done to give the wheat-growers of this country clothing, personal essentials and medical and dental expenses! The report then goes on to refer to the need to provide farmers with the means to pay wages for hired labour, including the adult children of the farmer. In other words, it says that means should be taken to prevent farmers from making slaves of their children. The report continued -
Note. - This item should be incurred only in cases where circumstances are such that these operations cannot be performed by the farmer with the plant and labour at his disposal.
Note. - In this item should be included the cost of petrol, kerosene and oil for use in a tractor if it is established that the use of such tractor is justified by considerations of economy and efficiency.
I shall not read the whole of the report, which goes on to point out that unless these things are done, the farmer cannot possibly exist, because he cannot go on for ever without replacing plant, repairing fences, and so on. The farmers of this country should not be asked to accept conditions which mean that their children are forced to perform work which they ought not to be called upon to do; such conditions are not in accord with Australian conceptions of decency.
I missed the point I wanted to make when speaking of the constitutionality of the bill. The present AttorneyGeneral - not some dead and gone Attorney-General - who every one will admit is a man of transcendant ability, especially in his profession, when speaking at the conference recently held at Canberra, is reporfed as follows: -
Mr. Menzies, when asked, admitted that this scheme of the Government’s would be equally unconstitutional.
– Only on the assumption that the Privy Council gave an adverse decision on section 92 of the Constitution.
– The remarks of Mr. Menzies referred to this scheme - not the one concerning which the Privy Council has been asked to give a decision. Senator Hardy is incapable of following a logical argument. I did not say that it rested on the decision of the Privy Council on the appeal to be heard soon, but I referred to what Mr. Menzies, the present Attorney-General, had said regarding this scheme. Mr. Menzies admitted that if the Privy Council decided that section 92 did bind the Commonwealth this scheme also would be unconstitutional.
– Can the honorable senator give me the reference to the report of Mr. Menzies’ opinion?
– It will be found in Mr. Stott’s report of the conference, which was published in The Wheatgrower, the recognized organ of the wheat-growers of Australia.
– Which Wheatgrower is the recognized organ of the growers ?
– I understand there is only one publication with that title.
– There is more than one. Where is the journal from which the honorable senator is quoting published?
– At the moment I cannot say, but as I have several other quotations to read, I have no doubt that I shall be able to satisfy the honorable senator on that point. In a recent issue of the Producers Review, a Queensland publication, there appeared an article under the heading -
Queensland Compulsory Pool Saves Wheat growers from Bankruptcy.
I shall not delay the Senate by reading the article. If I did, I could not more forcefully emphasize the value of the compulsory pooling system to the wheatgrowers of the Commonwealth. Let me now examine a few authorities who, I submit, are fully entitled to speak on behalf of wheat-growers in demanding the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. The first is a telegram from Wagga, published in the Sydney Telegraph of the 23rd November, in the following terms -
Vigorously criticizing what he declared was the inept and inefficient handling of the wheat problem by the Commonwealth Government, the president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, Mr. Field, said the situation demonstrated the incapacity of Australian politicians, except the New South Wales Government, to deal with the question. The past five years was one long record of muddling delay. The industry was once again in the melting pot, after months of political cockfighting.
Surely Senator Brennan will acknowledge that Mr. Field has some warrant to speak on behalf of the wheat-growers. I hope that the honorable senator is listening. Continuing, Mr. Field said -
The Commonwealth scheme is half baked, though we accept, in default of our full objective, a Commonwealth pool if a board can be set up to control 25 per cent, of the wheat.
Surely the opinion of the Farmers and Settlers Association is entitled to respect. Another publication which has something interesting to say on this subject is The Land. I daresay that Senator Badman is acquainted with it. In its issue of the 4th October, an article appeared with the following captions: -
Question of Home Price for Delegates
Canberra Discussion. growers’ spokesmen gather for vital confab.
Those headings indicate the important nature of the conference that took place in this capital city. I take from the report the following -
The Government’s scheme does not meet with the approval of the wheat-growers’ organizations. It was discussed this afternoon at the most representative meeting of the Australian Wheat-growers Federation ever held-
Surely they have some right to speak for the wheat-growers -
The Conference unanimously adopted the Farmers and Settlers Association plan for a compulsory pool.
This opinion amply supports all that we have ever said on this subject. All these authorities are in favour of a compulsory pool, but when, earlier in my remarks, I offered this opinion, it was the subject of humorous derision by some Government supporters.
– An effective arrangement would he a Commonwealth pool supported by legislation in the different States. The bill contains no provision for a compulsory pool, and we say that the Government could have made such provision if Ministers had listened to the wheat-growers. Why does the Minister, in his sauve and gentlemanly manner, try to “ put something over “ me? He knows perfectly well that I know, and I know perfectly well that he knows, that because of the division amongst its supporters, the Government was at its wits’ end to know what to do about this wheat problem. He knows and I know that this is such a thorny problem, that, for the last month or six weeks, Ministers have hardly known whether they were going or coming. This bill is merely an attempt to get the Government out of an awkward situation, because it did not want to do what the wheat-growers desired should be done for the benefit of the industry. The Minister must not think that, because the Opposition in this chamber consists of three trusting Queenslanders,’ we are entirely unacquainted with the difficulties of the Government. We know very well that Ministers have to walk very warily lest their servile majority be torn to tatters.
I come now to an article which appeared in the Melbourne Star on the 31st May last, dealing with the difference of opinion that exists in Government circles, as to what should be done to put the wheat industry on its. feet. I take the following from the report -
Speaking for the Victorian Wheat-grower.? Corporation, the manager, Mr. R. Tilt, said that the plan would benefit growers and enhance the value of Australian wheat on the world markets, but compulsory wheat pools in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia would be essential.
Am I not justified in quoting these authorities in support of my arguments and telling the Senate that, despite what may be said to the contrary, the Government is not bringing down this bill at the request of the wheat-growers, but it is deliberately refusing to formulate a scheme which the wheat-growers themselves and every other competent authority declare that the industry wants? Mr. Tilt went on to say -
Although it is said that compulsory pooling is not an essential part of the plan, it is difficult to see how it could function without compulsion. If the plan be brought into operation, State compulsory pools would have to be inaugurated to enable it to work effectively. And, if State compulsory pools were brought into being, there would immediately be some uniform selling arrangements between the different State pools so as to overcome the present multiplicity of sellers of our wheat overseas.
The Melbourne Age, also, I submit, a reputable and reliable authority on this subject, in an article published in its issue of the 26th November, said -
In the absence of any further communications from the Commonwealth Government as to its intentions about operating the flour tax, cabinet yesterday decided to proceed with the second-reading stage of the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill in the Legislative Assembly
This reference is to the State legislation complementary to Commonwealth proposals -
The threat of the Commonwealth not to operate the flour tax if the States did not pass supplementary legislation to apply a homeconsumption price for next year, has forced two States to submit the legislation. These States - Victoria and New South Wales - fearful lest their wheat-growers were left without any assistance, hurriedly submitted their bills The Commonwealth realizes that the homeconsumption prices scheme cannot be applied for the current harvest, but it has indicated that it wants the legislation on the statute-books of the States before it will operate the flour tax again.
The States are not to be blamed for not having passed the complementary legislation because, as is evident to all who understand what has been taking place, they do not know where they stand. The Wheatgrower, in its issue of the 14th November, published these comments -
On May the 9th, 1935, The Wheatgrower published “an article entitled “Why we won’t get a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool “. . . The article pointed out that wheat merchants, manufacturers and distributing interests which control the United Australia party were unanimously opposed to a compulsory pool and had instructed the Ministry to resign rather than establish it. Already, Mr. Menzies, Federal Attorney-General and Prime Minister elect, had announced his intention to resign from the Ministry if the Government went on with the proposal.
– That statement bristles with falsehoods.
– The report went on to state -
It was further pointed out that wheatgrowers could expect little support from the Country party, most of the members of which were not interested in wheat-growing and all of whom regarded their jobs as their first and only consideration. . . .
The fact is that art no time has the Federal Government had any intention of establishing a pool. But despite this obvious fact the Federal Country party has embarked upon an intensive propaganda campaign, in an endeavour to persuade growers that they did not betray the growers’ interests . . . The Country party mindful of the fact that farmers will remember their treachery at the next elections are endeavouring, by wholesale misrepresentation, to justify their betrayal of the growers’ interests. The facts are that a compulsory pool is not unconstitutional until it is proved” unconstitutional, and that repeated attempts to secure a High Court decision that such legislation was unconstitutional have failed; and that the Federal plan, far from giving the growers all the benefits of a compulsory pool, actually leaves them worse off than they were under the system of annual bounties.
I shall now quote from an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, on the 30th October, 1935. It gives an informative review of the position of the wheat industry in Argentina -
The Argentine- Government accordingly on the 28th November, 1933, issued a decree creating a Grain Regulation Board, and another decree establishing minimum prices for wheat, maize and linseed . . . The board undertook to buy grain from producers at the above prices, re-selling to exporters on the basis of international values, subject to the condition that the grain would actually be exported. As the Government simultaneously reduced the export value of the paper peso by 20 per cent., maize rose to the minimum price and linseed above it. Thus the board was called upon to operate very little in maize and not at all in linseed. In wheat, on the other hand, the board was required to trade very actively, and until the end of May, 1934, was losing from 40 to60 centavos per 100 kilos (/23/4 to /41/3 per bushel).
I have quoted that passage to show that even Argentina has discovered that Government control of the industry and not merely the establishment of a homeconsumption price is essential if the industry is to be saved. The article continued -
The board did not press sales when the market was weak, but sold freely when the market improved. Farmers and merchants had a free hand to sell their remaining stocks direct to exporters at remunerative prices.
In the opinion of the British Commercial Counsellor, the fixing of minimum prices and the operation of the Grain Board were beneficial to the country. Farmers were assured of a fair price for their wheat at a time when the market was weak and uncertain, while exporters, whether large or small, remained free to compete on equal terms.
This, of course, is not exactly what we think should be done. I conclude my speech by moving -
That all the words after “that” be left out with a view to insert in lien thereof the following words: - “ the bill he withdrawn, and re-drafted to provide that immediate steps be taken to establish a compulsory wheat pool with power to control the marketing of the whole of Australia’s wheat crop in co-operation with compulsory State wheat pools.”
I ask the Government not to regard my amendment from a party viewpoint, but to judge it entirely as a proposal to conserve the interests of the wheat-growers. If it will do that, and honorable senators will consider my amendment in the- same spirit, we shall be able to establish a compulsory wheat pool in answer to a demand which the wheat-growers are mating through every authority which can speak on their behalf.
– On a point of order, I draw attention to the following standing orders: -
Second READING 193. On the order of the day being read for the second reading of a bill the question shall be proposed, “ That this bill be now read a second time “. 194. Amendments may be moved to such question by leaving out “ now “ and adding “ this day six. months “, which if carried shall finally dispose of the bill; or the previous question may be moved. 195. No other amendment may be moved to such question except in the form of a resolution strictly relevant to the bill.
This bill relates to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States in wheat and wheat products. Surely it cannot be held that an instruction to withdraw the bill and to redraft it to provide for a compulsory wheat pool is relevant to this bill.
– The bill relates to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States in wheat and wheat products. There is no reference in it, either directly or indirectly, to a pool of any description.
– That is so.
– The amendment introduces an element foreign to the bill. Instea’d of dealing with the regulation of trade and commerce the amendment proposes the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool, and if it were accepted would not achieve the end which the bill is designed to achieve. Therefore, I rule that the amendment is not relevant to the bill, and is out of order.
– Are you aware, Mr. President, that this amendment was accepted in the House of Representatives ?
– The Standing Orders of Parliament, like the laws of a country, allow on occasions of different interpretations.
– The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives may not be the same as the Standing Orders of. this chamber.
– Surely an amendment cannot be out -of order in one chamber and in order in another.
– I am obliged to be guided solely by the Standing Orders of the Senate, and cannot pay any attention to what may have been done elsewhere. I rule the amendment out of order.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has given very doubtful support to this bill. He has declared that he will vote for the measure ; yet at the same time he proclaims that the bill has no virtue whatsoever.
– I said that it could be improved.
– The honorable senator implied that the wheat-growers would be infinitely better off if this bill were not passed, whilst their conditions would be infinitely improved if a compulsory wheat pool were established. This measure is the outcome, not of a sudden decision on the part of the Government, but of a resolution by the whole of the representatives of thi wheat industry in Australia. Thi Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) ignores the fact that, at the conference held in Canberra some weeks ago, it was decided that constitutional legislation to assist the wheat industry could be framed, and an almost unanimous decision was reached. I admit that, since that conference, various suggestions have been made by the representatives of wheat-growers’ organizations, and that there has been a general lament over the lack of a compulsory pool, but the fact remains that at that gathering representatives of every interest associated with the industry considered the constitutional aspects, discussed first the establishment of a Commonwealth compulsory pool; secondly, the principles which are embodied in the bill now before the Senate; and thirdly, the imposition of a flour tax. Although preferring a compulsory pool, the conference decided unanimously to adopt the principles embodied in this measure. That decision was based on a realization of the constitutional difficulties that surround compulsory pooling. I admit that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, on his- return to that State, reversed his original decision, and decided not to have, anything to do with the legislation now proposed. I am convinced that there are great difficulties associated with the formation of a compulsory pool - for some time I have been and still remain one of its strongest advocates - but what the wheat-growers really require more than anything else is a home-consumption price for their product. I admit that great advantages can be obtained by the compulsory pooling system, and I would cast my vote in favour of it to-morrow; but if wheat-growers in New South “Wales were asked individually what they require more than anything else, they would say without hesitation that they favoured a home-consumption price.
– Of course they would.
– I am pleased to have that admission from a member of the Opposition. That has been the desire of the representatives of the wheat industry for some time. They have held up organized marketing as an ideal to be achieved, but their strongest agitation has been in support of an endeavour to avoid the low prices ruling in Australia for wheat, and to reach some basis upon which they can derive the benefits associated with a homeconsumption price. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) assumed that, if the wheat-growers could only get a compulsory pool, they would be relieved of all their economic troubles almost immediately, and the industry would reach prosperity again. I fail to see how that can be the case, because I say quite definitely that the industry is in such difficulties to-day that, even if a home-consumption price be paid, it will still be far from stabilization. Merely by providing that a higher price shall bc paid on a certain percentage of the wheat produced we shall not place the industry on an economic basis. The Leader of the Opposition, who charged the Government with having refused to grant a compulsory pool, should realize the actual conditions of the industry. It is estimated that the total debt of the wheat-growers of- Australia amounts to £151,000,000. That is an enormous sum. That can be described as it would be in the balance-sheets of a company, as the liabilities of the industry. Of this sum approximately £37,000,000’ is due to private mortgagees, £33,000,000 to joint stock banks, roughly £30,000,000 to governmental organizations,, other than State banks, about £20,000,000 to State banks, and £14,000,000 to trustee, assurance and other financial companies. The sum due to unsecured and secured creditors outside this classification, is, in round figures, £15,000,000. On one side of the ledger is an aggregate liability of approximately £151,000,000,. and it is only right to consider what the assets are and endeavour to determine whether a home-consumption price will have the beneficial effect of liquidating liabilities which some anticipate. According to the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, the assets of that industry consist of stock, machinery and land amounting to £136,000,000. If we subtract the value of the assets from the liabilities we find that there is a deficiency of £15,000,000.
– The assets are largely speculative.
– Not altogether; they have been compiled after extensive examination. If the honorable senator studied the report of the commission he would admit that it went to enormous: trouble to work out the debt structure of the industry. I submit these figures to> show that even if a homeconsumption price be paid all the difficulties of the industry will not be overcome. In the immediate future, other measures will have to be taken in order to bring; the industry back to an economic basis. A great deal more will have to be done than has been achieved up to the present. It may be said that the obvious thing to do is to allow tha uneconomic wheat-grower to go out of production, but that is a suggestion with, which I do not agree. I. shall not weary the Senate by arguing whether such a. proposal is economically sound, but shalL proceed to deal more particularly with the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) concerning theestablishment of a compulsory pool.. During the three years I have been a member of the Senate I have always noticed that when wheat legislation has been introduced in this chamber we can always rely upon one member of the Labour party moving for the establishment of a compulsory pool. Such a proposal is trotted out, not because it is believed to be practicable, but merely to embarrass the members of the United Country party in the wheat-growing districts of New South Wales.
– Some of the most reputable men in the industry believe in a compulsory pool.
– That is true, and so do I. It is a plank in the platform of the United Country party of New South Wales. It is a policy in which I believe. We support the establishment of a compulsory pool for the collection, handling, storage and organized marketing of wheat under the control of the wheat-growers. Such an organization has been advocated from every platform in Australia, but the members of the Country party are sufficiently honest not to lead the wheat-growers up a blind lane. If we know that the scheme is impracticable owing to constitutional barriers, we do not hesitate to tell the growers so. I believe at the moment that constitutionally the Common-wealth compulsory wheat pool is impracticable unless we are able to secure the full cooperation of the States. The members of the Labour party assume very definitely that a Commonwealth compulsory pool could become operative without any great difficulty. They admit, however, that such a pool could not be established without the aid of the States.
– This legislation can be effective only with the aid of the States.
– We believe that a referendum to secure an amendment of the Constitution is necessary before the Commonwealth can establish a compulsory pool without the co-operation of all the States. Under the present Constitution, such a pool can be formed only with the aid of the States. It would be very difficult to carry a referendum which would enable the Commonwealth to bring about a pool without the aid of the States, because the proposals embodied in the question submitted to the people must be carried by a majority of the electors in four of the States and a majority of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. The Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, Mr. Bulcock, said -
If a referendum should be taken with the idea of securing additional Commonwealth marketing powers, I know that in industrial centres of Australia the issue would be not the extension of the Commonwealth marketing powers but merely a fight on the price of bread.
The Leader of the Opposition believes that it is an easy matter for the Commonwealth to establish a pool without the aid of the States.
– I am not suggesting an amendment of the Constitution.
– Then we will consider whether it is possible to establish a pool merely with the aid of the States, and this involves a general review of section 92 of the Constitution. We have to realize that the issue under this section of the Constitution was clearly defined in the case James v. Commonwealth of Australia, in which Mr. Justice Rich said -
The issue of section 92 which declares that interstate trade shall be free involves whether it means free of State governmental interference or free of State and Commonwealth governmental interference.
The Assistant Minister in charge of the bill, who is an eminent legal authority, will say unhesitatingly that that clearly defines the issue to-day. Speaking on this subject at the recent Wheat Conference, the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) said -
For a number of years the High Court took the view that section 92, which provides for complete freedom of interstate trade, bound the Commonwealth just as much as it binds the States. Subsequently, however, in McArthur’s case, the High Court reversed its opinion, and since that time the proposition which has been acted on in Australia under the sanction of High Court decisions is that the Commonwealth is not bound by section 92 at all, and, consequently, may legislate in respect of trade and commerce between the States without being in any way controlled by section 92. In other words, when the Commonwealth legislates in regard to interstate or export trade, it is not bound to respect the freedom of the trade, but can impose on it any restrictions it thinks fit.
That is the latest interpretation of section 92 of the Constitution by the High Court. In a few months this point will be further argued before the Privy Council, and no man can foretell the result. The point that the Leader of the Opposition should realize is that a compulsory pooling system involves the compulsory acquisition of wheat by the Commonwealth and the State authorities. It necessitates cooperative action between the Commonwealth and the States, allowing for compulsory acquisition by the Commonwealth and also compulsory acquisition by the States. When the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) dealt with this particular point at the conference, he said -
A scheme of compulsory pooling involves the exercise of powers by both the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth comes into the scheme in order to deal, by compulsory acquisition or otherwise, with wheat moving from one State to the other, which is, therefore, outside the control of the State Parliament.
That is the actual function of the Commonwealth Government. In other words, the Commonwealth has to licence any movement of wheat that may occur between the States. What is the position of the States? They, in turn, have to be prepared to follow the course of compulsory acquisition. I shall not deal with the matter of whether or not the States can acquire on a compulsory basis, because I know that it has been attacked during the last few years; but I shall point to the big difference that exists between the present measure, which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) says is unconstitutional, and a compulsory pooling scheme. Under section 92 of the Constitution the Commonwealth admittedly can, according to the High Court decision, control the movement of interstate trade, but what will the position be if some of the States are not prepared to do their part? The possibility of this was revealed by the lack of unanimity amongst the delegates at the conference. New South Wales, an exporting State, was agreeable to support the compulsory pool; Queensland, which is not an exporting State, and Victoria were also prepared to support it. But the Western Australian representative said : “ We cannot pledge ourselves to a compulsory pool. All that we can do is to promise to consider it.” And the Tasmanian representative said : “ I am personally in favour of a compulsory pool, but if I submit it to my growers, they will want to shoot me off the planet.” Mr. Butler, the Premier of South Australia, definitely stated his opposition to a compulsory pool. I have endeavoured to demonstrate that pooling within the original interpretation of section 92 depends on the unanimous co-operation of the States, and that it is quite evident that this co-operation cannot be expected.
– Very well ! The Leader of the Opposition is evidently of the opinion that a pool can be established, in face of opposition from some of the States. Apparently he has overlooked section 99 which states -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
– We know section 99 by heart.
– Then the honorable senator has never until now appreciated its implications. Section 99, with its clear interpretation, prevents the Commonwealth from taking action to establish a compulsory pool in one or two of the States. This would be held by a non-co-operating State to be a preferential action. What can be done? One course is to adopt the proposal embodied in the measure now before this chamber, for that will at least give the- industry a home-consumption price. In spite of the repeated statements of the Leader of the Opposition concerning the judgment of the High Court, this legislation is not unconstitutional. When the honorable senator states that the bill before the Senate is unconstitutional, he is assuming that the Privy Council will give a ruling that section 92 binds the Commonwealth.
– The Privy Council has given no decision yet.
– I understand that application for the hearing of the case has not yet been received by that tribunal. Yet the Leader of the Opposition stated that this legislation is unconstitutional.
– I said that if the Privy Council declares in the pending case that another marketing law is unconstitutional, the measure now before the Senate must also be unconstitutional.
– If the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to defer action while awaiting a decision as to whether an act is unconstitutional, he might wait a long time. If a man hesitates about getting married, because he wonders whether the marriage will be a success, he will never get married. While we are waiting the wheat-grower will not get his home-consumption price. According to the latest decision of the High Court, this legislation is within the scope of the Constitution. It gives to the wheat-grower a home-consumption price and, for that reason, should be heartily approved by every honorable senator. I know that a number of honorable senators are desirous of contributing to this debate, and I, in common with others, wish that this discussion had taken place earlier, because the subject is of tremendous importance to the wheat-growers.
– Let us come back next week.
– Unfortunately, we have to deal with the legislation now. The bill will undoubtedly be passed, and the wheat-growers will have the benefit of it. I feel that this measure reachesthe half-way mark to compulsory pooling. We shall not cease in our efforts to secure a compulsory pool, but we realize that until we obtain the unanimous co-operation of the States or amend the Constitution, a compulsory pool is constitutionally impossible. It is of no use putting up an Aunt Sally for the first constitutional lawyer to knock down two hours afterwards. We want to give wheat-growers something permanent; something that will stand the test of years. The wheat-growers should not be made the victims of political propaganda. The Government having brought forward legislation to give 75. per cent, of what the wheat-grower desires - the home-consumption price - it behoves honorable senators to support the bill without hesitation or criticism.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) set out at the beginning of his speech to endeavour to prove that the wheat-growers of this country were determined to have a compulsory pool. In my opinion he concluded his speech without proving that such was the case.
-i did my best.
– Quite a number of ballots have been taken from time to time in the various States to ascertain whether or not the farmers desired a compulsory pool, and I believe that in every instance the farmers rejected the proposal. I refer specifically to Victoria and New South Wales.
– I quoted the result of a ballot taken by the New South Wales Farmers and Settlers Association.
– Admittedly the ballot taken by the association favoured a compulsory pool, but the vote of the entire body of wheat-growers is a very different matter. The voice of the association is not always the voice of the wheat-growers ; hundreds of them may not be members of the association. A compulsory pool can give only one thing - a home-consumption price. It cannot give any more; it cannot organize the farmers; and it cannot do anything for them except to give what they would get from the flour tax - a home-consumption price. In Western Australia a voluntary pool is operating, and there are pools in
Victoria and South Australia. With the establishment of a compulsory pool, the number of sellers is reduced to one. A monopoly is created which can sell the wheat at any price that may be offering, and the farmer does not know whether he is getting full value or not. At present, the merchants and the pool are competing with one another to give the farmer the highest price possible. As proof of that, I point out that the voluntary pool in Western Australia, which has an advantage of 2s. a ton in respect of freight, actually got fd. a bushel less for its wheat than did the Victorian pool, and the South Australian pool got½d. a bushel less than the Victorian pool. Had a compulsory pool been in existence in Victoria, probably the Western Australian price would have been obtained, and the farmers would have received fd. a bushel less for their wheat. Actually, the difference would have been as much as l½d.. if the freight advantage enjoyed by the Western Australian pool were taken into consideration. The best method is to have competition.
I am not altogether satisfied with the bill, but it is the best that Ave can get at the moment; it is only a skeleton, which the States will be required to fill in. It is difficult for the Commonwealth to pass legislation without knowing the provisions of the proposed legislation of the States, or for the States to pass legislation complementary to this bill. This measure covers interstate trade, and the onus or odium of legislating to control intra-State trade in wheat devolves upon the States. Nothing can be done until the provisions of both the Commonwealth and State legislation are known. One of the difficulties I see in this bill is that it will immediately abolish the competition in Victoria alone of twenty buyers of wheat. They include all the millers. Under this scheme, a compulsory pool will be created for one-quarter of the wheat produced, being that for home-consumption, and the remaining three-quarters will be sold on the open market. That is the position as I see it. One-quarter of the wheat will be put into a compulsory pool, on which the millers will draw. Previously the millers competed with one another in certain, districts for certain wheats. In my own district, the climate is fairly moist, and the millers would not buy wheat grown there under any circumstances. All that production was exported.
– The millers will still pay a premium where the wheat is worth it. .
– No. A miller will buy at 4s. 9d. a bushel.
– The miller will give a premium for certain wheats.
– Perhaps for individual wheats. There is a difference between dry wheat and moist wheat, but both are distinguished from wheat with a high gluten content. Millers will seek to purchase wheat grown in the Wimmera and the Mallee, because it is very dry. I do not oppose the bill. I think that my vote on the sugar question this afternoon might have been misunderstood, because I voted for the first reading of the bill, and then for the amendment moved in committee bySenator DuncanHughes. If this bill now under discussion had fixed a home-consumption price for wheat at 9s. - the equivalent of the sugar prices under the protection granted to that industry - I would have voted against this measure, also.
Many difficulties will arise when this legislation is put into operation. If a farmer has 2,000 bags of wheat, onequarter of it will go into local consumption. But the farmer might require 300 bags for seed, and for pig and fowl feed. He will put the whole of his wheat into the pool, and get one-quarter of his 300 bags at the home-consumption price. Then he may buy his requirements for seed from his neighbour out of the export pool. In such circumstances, the grower would certainly receive an advantage to which he is not entitled, and therefore, I consider that this measure will require a good deal of policing to stop any such leakage. As nothing will be done before the next harvest, there will be plenty of time when the Senate meets again to bring this measure into line with the acts passed by the States of Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
– I agree with Senator Gibson that this bill could have been left to a later date as it cannot be put into operation this season, and there will be plenty of time to discuss it before the next harvest. When this bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, I think it was said that the States had not passed the requisite legislation, and this measure was being presented to Parliament for its approval in accordance with the decision of the conference.
– Five weeks ago !
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The legislation of the States has advanced very little in the meantime.
– This is an effort to speed up the States.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Only one State has passed the requisite legislation, and therefore the measure will not come into operation before the 1936 harvest.
– The Government is endeavouring to press the States to pass legislation.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.But this legislation will not take effect until next harvest, and, therefore, I see no necessity for the haste to secure Parliament’s approval of this measure. However, I propose to support the bill, not because I like it, but because I think it is in the best interests of the wheatgrowers and because it is the best that is offering in the circumstances. Something must be done on behalf of the wheat-grower, who has experienced several years of low prices for his produce, as well as poor yields; his plant is practically worn out, his fences are in disrepair, and his buildings require reconditioning. This bill provides for a home-consumption price for wheat, and is the outcome of the appointment of a royal commission which travelled throughout the Commonwealth and took evidence as to the best means to assist the wheat-growing industry. A few weeks ago a conference of representatives of wheat-growers from all the States was held at Canberra. The delegates spent about three days in discussion, and not until the eleventh hour was any decision arrived at.
– This bill does not give effect to the recommendations of the royal commission.
– So far as I can see, it does not give effect to the recommendations of any commission or other representative body. Among the subjects discussed at the Canberra conference were a home-consumption price for wheat, the establishment of a compulsory pool under the control of the growers, an excise duty on flour, and the continuance of the flour tax. As all these schemes had practically the same objective, it did not matter a great deal which of them was adopted. In any case, the consumer pays, and, therefore, the Government should deal with the problem in the simplest way possible, which, in my opinion, would have been by either continuing the flour tax or imposing an excise duty on flour. I realize that difficulty would be experienced in getting a bill of that nature through Parliament, and that probably a bill with another name would have an easier passage.
It is a pity that when this Parliament is doing something to assist the wheatgrowers, it does not give to them the full benefit of all the money that is collected under the flour tax. I am afraid that so many people will be required ro implement this measure that a great deal of the revenue derived will be absorbed in administrative expenses. For that reason, as well as because no legal diffculties would arise, the imposition >f an excise duty on wheat would have been better. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) is doubtful as to the fate of this legislation should the Privy Council give an adverse decision in the matter which has been referred to it. The measure now before us would certainly come under section 92 of the Constitution. We should endeavour to give to the wheat-growers as much as possible of the money which will be collected under the authority of this measure.
Unlike the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I am not in favour of a compulsory wheat pool, and I am certain that the farmers of South Australia agree with me. If a vote of the whole of the wheat-growers of Australia were taken, I am confident that they would not favour the establishment of a compulsory pool. However, the bill before us is the best that we are likely to get, and I shall support it. But, in my opinion, the Government would have acted wisely had it held back this legislation. It is now too late for this season’s harvest which, in some of the States, will practically be over by the middle of this month.
– Of course, a good deal depends on weather conditions; but, provided they have been suitable, the harvest will practically end by the middle of this month. However, I am prepared to give the bill my blessing. I hope that it will be half as beneficial as the Government believes it will be.
– I rise merely to ask the Minister to reply to two questions when he is closing the debate. Tasmania exports practically all of the wheat grown in that State - a soft, moist variety, suitable for certain purposes - and imports the harder varieties which are required for manufacture into flour. I ask the Minister to say what price the farmers of Tasmania will get for the wheat that they grow, and what price the millers of that State will have to pay for the wheat that they import from the other States for gristing into flour.
– This is an important bill, because when I attempt to look into the future I am forced to the conclusion that Australia will experience great difficulty in discontinuing the system of bounties and price-fixing in connexion with wheat. In the whirligig of time and the aftermath of war a revolution seems to have taken place which, although unseen, is nevertheless real, for practically every primary industry is unable to stand on its own economic feet. The only exception is the wool-growing industry, and even it is granted remarkable concessions in reduced freights.
– On another occasion I shall show that the Railways Department of New South Wales grants valuable concessions to the growers of wool. I do not say that that is unwise, but I shall not pursue the subject now. At an earlier hour the Senate discussed the sugar agreement which, according to those who ought to know, means that from £4,500,000 to £7,000,000 a year will be paid from the purse of the consuming public to assist the sugar industry. A few days ago we had a measure before us to grant . assistance to the dried fruits industry. This morning we are dealing with wheat, and T understand that before the House rises for the Christmas recess, a measure to assist the dairying industry will come before us. It would appear that when all factors are taken into account, butter is granted a measure of protection greater even than that given to sugar. Since 1931-32 the Commonwealth has paid large sums to assist the wheat-growers of this country. In that year it paid to them the sum of £3,296,464; in the following year a special grant of £2,000,000 was made; in 1933-34, as a result of the imposition of a tax on flour, assisted by amounts taken from other sources, the sum of £3,000,000 was paid, and last financial year about £4,000,000 was expended to assist the industry. This year the sum involved will probably be £3,000,000, if not more.
Since 1931-32, therefore, no less than £15,000,000 has been spent to preserve the wheat industry of this country. I do not complain about that; we could not do otherwise; but the fact is that, to protect the wheat industry, every person in the community is called upon to contribute towards its support by paying a tax on bread, a commodity essential to the preservation of life. It cannot be denied that the primary industries could not exist without the secondary industries and that the secondary industries could not carry on without the support of the primary industries. They are complementary to each other. Therefore, although we must do everything to develop our primary industries, we must also be prepared to extend a modicum of protection to the secondary industries. Any problem confronting the primary industries dovetails into a like problem confronting the secondary industries in all their ramifications. Let us recognize that each must live, not forgetting the fact that secondary industries offer employment to the great bulk of the wage earners. Of what use would be the primary industries if there were no people engaged in secondary industries to purchase their products ?
What is the problem confronting the wheat industry? In 1930-31, 1 think the peak production year, Australia produced 214,000,000 bushels. In the three following years, it produced 190,500,000 bushels, 214,000,000 bushels, and 375,000,000 bushels, respectively. When the Australian production of wheat exceeds 200,000,000 bushels, we must export SO per cent, of the crop and half of it must be sold to foreign countries. Great Britain’s imports of wheat have not, so far, exceeded 200,000,000 bushels, and, as the exports from Australia and Canada alone amount to 400,000,000 bushels, it can readily be seen that a foreign market must be found for at least 200,000,000 bushels. The enormous problem which faces the export industry can also be readily seen. Because of the recent intense economic nationalism developed in Italy and Germany and even in the Balkan States - in fact, in all the European countries - which has led to the placing of high duties on the importation of wheat, few of those countries which formerly purchased our wheat are buying it from us to-day. At one stage, Germany’s import duty on wheat was £1 ls. a bushel; Italy, likewise, imposed a prohibitive tariff on wheat. So much for the position overseas. In Australia itself, the position, as stated by Senator Hardy, is that, although a compulsory pool might have its virtues, the immediate and particular need of the wheat farmer is the fixing of a home-consumption price. I quite agree with the honorable senator that the only virtue in a compulsory pool is that it enables orderly marketing of the pooled product, but it is problematical if it would greatly assist in increasing our export of wheat. It has not always worked to the advantage of the growers, whereas, the virtue of a home-consumption price is that every bushel of wheat sold on the local market for home-consumption yields to the grower 4s. 9d. As world parity for wheat to-day is about 3s. 3d. a bushel, there is thus .an advantage of ls. 6d. a bushel for the Australian wheat-grower, and that amount, multiplied by the 31,500,000 bushels consumed locally, gives the total cost to the consuming public of Australia of preserving one of the greatest primary industries in Australia as approximately £2,250,000. Which is the largest wheat-producing country in the world to-day? Not Russia, Argentina, or Canada, but, perhaps, the most unexpected, China ! China is in the position to-day of being able ro produce something like 800,000,000 bushels of wheat a year. Not only does it threaten the rest of the wheatproducing countries in the world by the competition which it offers by its huge production, but also, we are told by experts, some of the wheat lands of China are among the best wheat lands in the world. Though they are practically undeveloped, their development is increasing to such an extent that, eventually, China will dominate the world, not only in the quantity, but also in the quality of its wheat. So far as quality is concerned, the wheat grown in China is far superior to that grown in India and similar countries, and is> equal to thai grown in Argentina, Russia, Canada, and Australia. A few years ago China was unknown as a producer of wheat; to-day it threatens Russia in the markets of the world. The normal carry-over is 660,000,000 bushels; in 1933, it stood at 1,104,000,000 bushels.
– The normal carryover is not more than 660,000,000 bushels.
– I agree in part with the honorable senator.
I impress upon honorable senators the fact that the problems associated with wheat, flour and bread are becoming increasingly difficult. In fact, the problems facing the whole of our important primary industries, not only the wheat industry, but also the sugar, butter, fresh fruits, dried fruits, and citrus fruits, and even tropical fruits such as pineapples and bananas, are becoming more acute. Practically every primary product to-day is coming under internal protection, just the same as the secondary industries have external protection. These problems are being rendered increasingly difficult of solution because of -the increased use of machinery in production, the more extensive use of fertilizers, and improved scientific methods. More and more is produced from each acre, and the quality of thb product is being continually improved as the years go by. The whole trend of this development in the primary industries has been towards making every country able to produce the whole of its requirements. The application of scientific methods in secondary industries has increased to the same extent. A few years ago a cobbler at his bench took practically a whole ‘day to turn out a pair of boots. To-day that great Czechoslovakian boot manufacturer, M. Barta, turns out 100,000 pairs of boots daily. Under the conditions that exist to-day the secondary industries are carrying a form of taxation, which is paid by all people, that goes in its turn to meet the cost of bounties and other payments made to the rural industries of this country. Only in this way is the outbalance between the primary and secondary industries stabilized to any degree. The sooner we acknowledge that fact the sooner will we be able to attempt to solve the difficult problems that confront us. Despite the lateness of the hour, I have felt bound to speak upon this measure, which is of increasing importance because of the fact that the wheat industry has been stabilized and maintained in the last few years by the imposition of a flour tax which is passed on in the increased price of bread. This is one of the necessaries of life, and its price affects everybody. At some future date, I hope to be able to go more fully into the peculiar developments which are taking place in the primary industries.
– They are more serious than “ peculiar “.
– That is so. The welfare of primary industries is most vital to the welfare of nearly all countries and particularly Australia, because we are a great primary producing country. We are committed to enormous expenditure in the future in respect of primary industries.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting an alteration to the hill?
– No, but it could be altered with advantage in some respects.
– Does the honorable senator know of any country that has prospered solely on agriculture?
– No. I do not think that any country could exist on agriculture alone.
– Those who engage in agriculture live under ideal conditions, but they do not make much money.
– We have to remember that the standard of living of the average man to-day is far superior than it has ever been in history. At the present time, the artisan lives under conditions which were not enjoyed by many princes about 500 or 600 years ago. Secondary, as well as primary, industry has been responsible for this improvement; one is complementary to the other. We have to preserve our primary industries remembering that many thousands of men, women and children are dependent for a livelihood upon them. Particularly is this so in respect of the wheat industry. We are aware also that according to the royal commission which investigated the wheat industry the debts of that industry total £138,000,000. I believe that every Australian is willing to help the man engaged in primary production ; secondary industry is willing to do so. I hope that before long the Country party will see eye to eye with the United Australia party on this matter, and realize that sectionalism in such matters is unwise from a national point of view; I hope that it will realize the fact which I have stressed - that primary and secondary industries are complementary, and that all sections of the community must co-operate in attempting to find a solution of the problem which confronts both of these main divisions of industry.
– I do not intend to deal with this measure in detail. I am surprised at the attitude adopted by various States with regard to the agreement adopted at the wheat conference held recently in Canberra. These representatives agreed to return to their respective States and to enact legislation this year to provide a homeconsumption price for wheat, but we find now that such legislation will not be passed this year and as a consequence the wheatgrowers will be deprived of something like £700,000. The revenue derived from the flour sales tax which I understand will be continued for another twelve months at the rate of £2 12s. 6d. a ton will yield about £1,S50,000. On the other hand if a home-consumption price for wheat of 4s. 9d. a bushel were given to the grower, and about 6d. a bushel were deducted from that amount for railage, nearly £2,400,000 would have been available for distribution among the growers. The Leader of the Opposition contended that the Government should have established a compulsory pool in preference to a home-consumption price as is provided for in this measure. I remind the honorable senator that the first recommendation made by the royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry was that assistance should be afforded by the Commonwealth Government to the wheat industry through the fixation of a home-consumption price for wheat by imposing an excise duty on the flour used in the Commonwealth. I would have preferred an excise duty on flour because it is a form of revenue easily collected and would not require the setting up of a department in each State. However, because of the representations made on behalf of the growers and because the royal commission so recommended, it was thought wiser to introduce a home-consumption price.
– What about the commission’s third recommendation which is prefaced by the words “ in any case “ ?
– I am taking the first recommendation of the commission. South Australia would have preferred an excise duty on flour which would cost so little to administer and from which the farmer would derive the greatest possible benefit. However, in order to arrive at a flour sales tax capable oi providing benefits equal to those which would accrue from a home-consumption price of 4s. 9d. a bushel less expenses such as railage, the flour sales tax would need to be raised from £2 12s 6d. a ton to about £3 5s. or £3 7s. 6d. a ton. I contend, therefore, that, through the procrastination of the States in failing to pass promised legislation in time for the present harvest, the wheat growers of Australia stand to lose something like £500,000, if no further increase of the present flour tax is made.
Senator Arkins was hopelessly out in the figures he quoted in relation to the world’s carry-over of wheat. Prior to the depression the average world carryover was from 150,000,000 to 180,000,000 bushels. On the 31st August of each year a computation is made by Broomhalls, of London, of -the annual carryover. Senator Arkins says that the carry-over at one time averaged 600,000,000 bushels annually and that it had gone as high as 1^100,000,000 bushels in one year. Apparently the honorable senator misquoted figures in this respect. The carry-over may have reached 600,000,000 bushels in one particular year, but to view this matter in its proper perspective, we must study conditions existing before European countries, principally France, Germany and Italy, in order to encourage the local production of wheat, imposed high duties on wheat from Australia, Argentina, Canada and the United States of America. Those countries which formally imported 200,000,000 bushels of wheat annually were by 1930 producing their own requirements. From that time the world surplus of wheat piled up rapidly, and three years later it amounted to 600,000,000 bushels. In 1934 there was a world export surplus of wheat of 1,152,000,000 bushels, of which about 600,000,000 bushels were absorbed by the importing countries, leaving 500,000,000 bushels on the market as a carry-over. This year, however, the export surplus, according to Broomhalls, has been reduced to 875,000,000 bushels of which the importing countries require 600,000,000 bushels, leaving at the present time a carry-over of approximately 300,000,000 bushels. The position is gradually righting itself, and would have been completely remedied to-day, but for the fact that the pooling system was adopted in Canada. It may be a serious statement to make, but I believe that had Canada unloaded its wheat on the world market in 1930, 1931 and 1932, the price would have dropped considerably, but then the farmers in Canada would not have been encouraged to grow wheat in the belief that the world required it. They were misled in this respect, and went on increasing their yield of wheat in the expectation of getting good prices. However, the pool authorities held over large quantities of wheat with the result that at the present time Canada is holding about 200,000,000 bushels of last year’s wheat. No one knows how that wheat is going to be disposed of. If it were placed on the market, it would immediately bring down the . price. I am opposed to a policy of encouraging wheat-growing by compulsory pooling, and holding up supplies which at some time or other have to be liberated.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) commended Queensland for having adopted a compulsory pool for wheat. I hold the view that Queensland can only encourage wheat-growing by means of subsidy, because wheat can be imported at a cheaper rate from southern States than it costs to grow in that State. I recall that during the debate on the sugar agreement .to-day, it was made clear that Queensland wants southerners to buy its sugar. Yet it is prepared to keep out southern wheat by subsidizing its own growers. This to me is selfishness in the extreme, ihe people of Queensland expect the people of the south to buy from them, but they refuse to buy the produce of the southern States. They insist upon fostering in the north a wholly unnecessary wheatgrowing industry. I support the bill before the Senate. It does not give the’ farmers all they are entitled to, and I hope before the 1936-37 harvest a more comprehensive measure will be introduced, unless by that time the price of wheat has risen to such an extent that an arbitrarily-fixed home-consumption price will no longer be necessary.
– On this bill I think I shall be able to make the shortest speech I have ever made on the wheat industry, because I do not propose to discuss the merits of the bill at all. The Minister who introduced, the bill into Parliament explained that this scheme could not be put into operation until complementary legislation had been passed by the State parliaments. That has not yet been done. Therefore, this appears to me to be an attempt to coerce the States, either now or later. A bill re-imposing a flour tax for an indefinite period has already been introduced into this Parliament, so that at present it is quite unnecessary for us to proceed with this measure. A little while ago I protested against the introduction of the Port Augusta to Red Hill Railway Bill on the ground that it was an attempt to force the hands of one of the States, and I protest against this bill on the same ground. There is also the constitutionality of this matter to be considered, and, from that point of view, it will be better to wait until the question of the control of interstate trade is settled by a decision of the Privy Council, as that particularly affects clauses S and 11 of this bill. For those reasons I am opposed to the bill being passed at present, apart altogether from its merits or demerits.
– I protest against the action of the Government in bringing in this legislation in the middle of the night, at the very end of the session. Similar action has been taken in regard to wheat legislation in each of the last four or five years, and the reason seems to be that successive governments have waited as long as possible in order to see whether the price of wheat would rise sufficiently to justify their refusing to take any action to assist the wheat industry. We know that the price of wheat is not usually so stable at the beginning of the season as it is later, and that is why each year the introduction of this legislation has been delayed. I was amused at the complaint of some honorable senators against the giving of Government assistance to primary industries. Such assistance is needed because, for more than twenty years, under our federal tariff policy, primary industries have, to an ever-increasing extent, been bled in the interests of the secondary industries. Therefore, it is only proper that, as long as the policy of high protection continues in force, the primary industries should receive the benefit of an Australian price for that part of their product which is consumed within Australia. The wheat industry provides more employment than does any other Australian industry, and it has a great influence on the prosperity of the secondary industries. My attitude to this bill is exactly that of the conference which sat in Canberra from the 4th October to the 7th October last; that is, I support the bill whole-heartedly, because a more liberal scheme is not available. Any one who has studied the report of that conference will understand that the producers put forward more than one alternative proposal, but they were not acceptable to the Government and, in the end, the Commonwealth Government’s own scheme was adopted. At that conference there were representatives, not only of the Federal and State Governments, but also of the producers, merchants, shippers and grain distributors from, every State. It is evident that the majority of the producers’ representatives at the conference agreed to accept, not what they really desired, but what the Commonwealth Government would give them.
However, I thank the Government for introducing a scheme designed to give the industry a home-consumption price, which the wheat-growers have always desired. There have been differences of opinion as to the best way of bringing this about, but under the present scheme the consumers will have to pay a fair price for the wheat used for human consumption within Australia. I hope that this bill, as finally passed, will give the growers’ representatives power to fix a more satisfactory Australian price than 4s. 9d. f.o.r., the price decided upon by the Ministers at the wheat conference. That price will not be sufficient to ensure the growers an adequate return, particularly when the export price is low. It is quite evident, from a perusal of the report of the conference, that the scheme finally adopted was not that which the growers wanted. Speaking at the conference Mr. Simpson, the Federal President of the Wheat-growers’ Association, stated -
The growers are almost unanimously in favour of compulsory pooling. Even with a home consumption price equivalent to that provided by the flour tax, the farmers would not be able to got out of their present difficulties. That much was admitted by the royal commission. However, if we could increase the price of wheat by 8d. a bushel, it would be possible to place on our far lands in Australia, another 14,000 wheat-growers and their families, and on that foundation the population of Australia might be increased by 200,000. We know that at the present time the Commonwealth Government is concerned with matters of population in relation to defence, and I am pointing out that the simplest and most effective way of providing for increased population is through primary production.
If it is claimed that the introduction of a compulsory pool would throw a handful of people out of business, I point out that already thousands of farmers have had to walk off their farms, because of low prices. Therefore, I move -
That this conference agree that legislation providing for the organized marketing of wheat, and for a home-consumption price, be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament and by parliaments of three or more of the States.
Dr. Earle Page replied
It is not competent for us to accept such a motion at this stage.
All the wheat-growers’ representatives, on their return to their various States, reported that they were not given an opportunity at any other stage to move a similar motion.
– Dr. Earle Page has never opposed a compulsory wheat pool.
– I admit that he has always supported it enthusiastically when he has been in opposition.
It is clear to me that Dr. Earle Page would not permit the growers at the conference to express their wishes by way of a resolution. I quote the following from the remarks at the conference of Mr. J. S. Teasdale, President of the Primary Producers’ Association of Western Australia : -
The one thing that a compulsory pool can do is to provide for a home-consumption price. My association has stood solidly for a homeconsumption price for wheat, not because it believes that it is sound economic principle, but because the national policy of Australia has forced it to take that stand. The farmers have to pay a home price for the things that they buy, and they now ask to be placed on the same footing as other sections of the community. The only question which now arises is the best way to achieve our objective. Different systems have been tried. There is a good deal to be said for the payment of a cash bounty. The money can be distributed on a better basis than by having a homeconsumption price, and, moreover, the distribution can be varied to allow for necessitous cases. In this connexion I support Mr. Troy’s appeal for assistance to those farmers in Western Australia, and probably in other States also, who will have no crop at all this year. During the last two days, I have received fifteen telegrams from the north-eastern district of Western Australia stating that the farmers there will not strip any wheat whatever this year. A home-consumption price would not help them. I hope that the Commonwealth will be able, out of funds available from the flour tax, to assist those States which have suffered from drought this season.
I endorse that request, and trust that the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) in replying to the debate on the second reading will inform the Senate as to the policy which the Government proposes to adopt to assist the wheat-growers this season. In moving the second reading of the hill the Assistant Minister said: “I think that the bill in itself really means nothing until supplemented by the States.” We know that it is not intended to cover this harvest. I should like a definite pronouncement from the Government as to the amount it proposes to appropriate to assist the wheat-growers for this harvest, and particularly the measure of assistance to be afforded to farmers in drought-stricken areas, who, owing to seasonal conditions, are in serious difficulties. It is amazing that such secrecy should be observed when the wheat industry is involved. In this instance, as in many others, when the Parliament is about to rise for an indefinite period, a bill is introduced purporting to assist the wheat-growers, but not giving any practical assistance for the current year. In this instance, the Assistant Minister says the bill does not mean anything at all until supplemented by State legislation. Are we to return to wheat-growing States, and tell the growers that the Commonwealth Government has not a wheat policy, and that no definite assistance has been voted to them?
– What is the policy of the Western Australian Government ?
– I shall deal with that point, and also the manner in which the Premier of Western Australia (Mr. Collier) was treated in connexion with this legislation. When that gentleman attended the last Loan Council, he was requested to pass legislation through the Western Australian Parliament, but on the 19th November last, the date on which he arrived in Perth and intended to consult his Cabinet, Mr. Manning, the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, speaking in the Parliament of that State, said -
During the last few days the Premier, Mr. Stevens, has been in touch with the Commonwealth Government on the question of whether this legislation should apply to the present harvest. In view of the discussion this Government has decided to inform tho House that this act shall not be made applicable to this harvest, and it is thought in consequence that the. flour tax will be continued meanwhile.
Until Mr. Manning made that statement
– That is the fourth time the honorable senator has quoted that extract which has nothing whatever to do with the bill or with this Government.
– It has everything to do with the bill, because it shows clearly, to my mind at least, that the Premier of New South Wales was asked by the Commonwealth Government not to proceed with complementary legislation for this harvest. Mr. Manning explained this as his reason for altering the New South Wales act so that it would not apply to wheat harvested this year. When I raised the subject in the Senate, by way of a question, the Minister said that legislation embodying the Government’s wheat policy for this year had been introduced. Yet, I have been told that the House of Representatives passed a bill last night providing for renewal of the flour tax as forecast by Mr. Manning. To fortify my position I may state that Mr. Manning moved in the New South Wales Parliament that the words “nineteen hundred and thirty-five “ in the State bill be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ nineteen hundred and thirty-six.” He knew at the time that it was not the intention of the Commonwealth Government to operate this legislation to cover this season’s harvest. The Government preferred to postpone the operation of the legislation until next year, and that postponement-
– That statement is incorrect, and has been denied in answer to a question.
– What Mr. Manning said would take place has actually occurred, and after discussions with certain Commonwealth Ministers Mr. Manning moved to amend the State legislation so that it would apply to next year.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable senator, having received a direct denial from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), that such a statement is untrue, is out of order in arguing from exextraneous statements that it must be true. The points involved are within my knowledge and within the knowledge of the Loader of the Senate. Is the honorable senator in order in endeavouring to prove that the position is different from that stated by the Leader of the Senate?
– I believe Mr. Manning’s statement. Had it been incorrect, the members of the Government had an opportunity at the time to deny it publicly in the press. No such denial was then made.
– It was contradicted in answer to the honorable senator’s question.
– A fortnight later. A direct question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in the House of Representatives was evaded.
The DEPUTYPRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - As I have heard the honorable senator make that statement on five different occasions, he is guilty of tedious repetition.
– You, sir, have not heard my statement in reply to the Minister. I accept unreservedly the statement of Mr. Manning. The action of the New South Wales Government, in applying its act to next year’s harvest, and that of the Commonwealth Government in extending the operation of the flour tax, prove the accuracy of his statement. At the Canberra conference, Ministers sat in camera, and resolved to appoint a sub-committee consisting of -
Messrs. Badcock, Kimpton, Sutherland, Fethers, Tilt, Teasdale, Simpson, Hawker, Dowell, and Field, together with representatives of the Commonwealth Department of Commerce, to consider the Commonwealth scheme and the best means of operating it, and report to the full conference to-morrow.
This sub-committee, having met, decided to report to the full conference later. The full conference resumed on the following day, and the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) made the following statement: -
Ihave to announce that the following plan has been devised by the sub-committee appointed for the purpose of simplifying the operation of the plan proposed by the Commonwealth Government - -
This important sub-committee recommended -
That recommendation is embodied in this bill, and it is the only one that has been adopted -
That recommendation is not included in the legislation -
Effect has not been given to that -
That has been ignored, as also has the alternative recommendation -
It is extraordinary that, of the four recommendations and the alternative proposal submitted by this sub-committee only one of the recommendations has been embodied in the bill, and in the circumstances the wheat-growers will not derive any benefit for this year. The Minister for Commerce has said that these recommendations were the product, not so much of the wheat-growers, as of a sub-committee of merchants and millers. Mr. Butler has said that that statement is incorrect, and that the scheme was initiated by the voluntary pools of South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria, which are directed by men who have the very best practical knowledge of the growers’ requirements. The Minister for Commerce has further said that the recommendations were by the sub-committee, and I say that there is no one more qualified to advise the Commonwealth Government in matters of this kind than the members of such a subcommittee. Dr. Earle Page informed the full conference at Canberra that he had received the following report: -
Following the conclusion of the wheatgrowers’ sub-committee conference, the wheatgrowers came to the following conclusion: - “ That they adhere to the resolution they carried last night, which is as follows: - ‘In order to carry out the recommendation of the royal commission, this meeting of growers adopts the principle of a compulsory pool under growers’ control. But, failing to secure this principle, we favour a temporary scheme to assure to the farmers the equivalent of a home price, so long as the scheme is not incompatible w’ith the establishment of a compulsory pool in any State where the growers desire it ‘.”
We are now considering the legislation which the Government has introduced as the result of this very important conference in Canberra. Although the growers said they desire the Commonwealth Government to provide a grant to assist necessitous wheat-farmers, there is nothing in this legislation to benefit them this year, neither will this bill provide one penny of assistance to the wheat industry for this harvest. I take it that complementary legislation will reach this chamber to-morrow, and that the Standing Orders will be suspended to enable it to be passed without delay. We shall be fortunate if we know anything about it when it is introduced, and it will be rushed through without adequate consideration. This unsatisfactory rush-method of winding up the session always characterizes the Senate’s activities after members from distant States have spent weeks and almost months of alternating periods of sittings and adjournments. Adjournments of the Senate for ten days at a time are common in the middle of sessions. It is not right in principle that such legislation as is provided for in the bill now before the Senate should be brought before Parliament in the dying hours of a session.
This legislation does not carry out the recommendations made at the conference by the wheat-growers, including the four points which I have already mentioned in detail, and the requests for the establishment either of a voluntary pooling system or of a compulsory pool. The Commonwealth scheme is entirely different from any of the proposals submitted by the wheat-growers. For the second consecutive year since this Government, inclusive of Country party Ministers, came into office, recourse is to be made to a flour tax for the provision of financial aid to the wheat industry, but no bill has been introduced providing for the distribution of the proceeds of this tax. I admit that the treatment of the wheat-growers last year was generous, as £4,000,000 was voted to them by the Commonwealth Parliament, and I hope that a like sum will be paid to them this year. I must, however, direct attention to the fact that this Government has not yet put into operation the legislation promised at tho 1934 election for the placing of the industry on a stable basis. The industry is just as dependent this year as it was last year on a generous contribution of revenues raised by a flour tax and supplemented by a contribution from the Consolidated Revenue. The wheat-farmers do not desire to be dependent upon such yeartoyear assistance. They desire to see implemented at the earliest opportunity a plan such as is incorporated in the bill now under discussion, which will ensure a permanent home-consumption price for their product. ‘ The condition of the Treasury should not be allowed to remain the guiding factor in the allocation of relief for the wheat industry.
– Why does the honorable senator complain?
– I support the bill, but I regret the fact that the last harvest was not, and the current harvest will not be, subject to legislation promised in 1934 for the creation of a national plan for the industry.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the State governments have to accept some of the blame for the delay in implementing the plan provided for in this bill in sufficient time for it to operate for this harvest?
– It is surprising that the Government of New South Wales, the State government which is in closest touch with the Commonwealth Government, is the one government which altered the original proposal to bring the home-consumption price scheme into operation this year.
– The Government of New South Wales made that alteration because the other States, including Western Australia, fell down on the job.
– I prefer to accept the statement of the Attorney-General of New South Wales that the Government of New South Wales postponed the operation of its legislation until next year as the result of discussions with Commonwealth Ministers. The wheat-growers have to accept whatever assistance the allpowerful Commonwealth Government will give them. The following extract from the report of the proceedings in the closing stages of the recent Canberra wheat conference was significant : -
Following the conclusion of the wheatgrowers’ sub-committee conference, the wheatgrowers came to the following conclusion : “ That they adhere to the resolution they carried last night, which is as follows: - ‘In order to carry out the recommendation of the royal commission, this meeting of growers adopts the principle of a compulsory pool under growers’ control. But, failing to secure this principle, Ave favour a temporary scheme to assure to the farmers the equivalent of a home price, so long as the scheme is not incompatible with the establishment of a compulsory pool, in any State where the growers desire it.’ “
The growers also specially desire the Commonwealth Government to provide a grant for necessitous growers suffering from seasonal difficulties, such grant to be paid on an acreage basis.
In the final analysis, therefore, the growers approved of this bill, and asked the Commonwealth and the State governments to proceed immediately with its implementation. After having listened to the remarks made last night in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), it appears certain that the growers this harvest will have neither a compulsory pool nor a home-consumption price, despite the Government’s action in asking the Parliament to pass this measure now. Therefore, I should like to be informed whether any special assistance is to be given to distressed farmers this harvest, and, if so., what will be the amount of that assistance? Will it be £4,000,000, the amount granted last harvest? Is the money to be first handed to the States and then distributed to the growers on the basis that was adopted last year, when the farmers received 3d. a bushel on production and 3s. an acre for the area under crop. This is the action which I think the Commonwealth should take at once. It is most important that, before they leave Canberra later to-day, honorable senators should be informed of what the Government proposes to do. Had the Government made an announcement on these important points yesterday it would not have been necessary for me to make this speech this morning, and a much earlier end to the sitting could have been reached. Notwithstanding the recent appreciation of the price of wheat, the growers are still suffering Very considerably, because most of the farmers disposed of last season’s harvest wheat before the increase of price came about. Any farmers who have benefited from the rise have reaped only infinitesimal benefit. The industry is looking to the Commonwealth Government for a definite state ment of what amount of assistance is te be given to it. It is a matter of great regret that not even honorable senators have been taken into the confidence of the Government on this most important point.
– The honorable senator has no right to constitute himself as a questioner for the wheat-growers.
– Nevertheless, I am doing so, and I have every right to do so.
It is difficult for many wheat-growers’ organizations to understand why the proposal for a compulsory pool has been set on one side., especially when one recalls the speech which was delivered by the present Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) on the 22nd May, 1930, which endorses very fully the statement made by Senator Hardy in this debate, that many growers’ organizations advocate that a compulsory pool should be established. Dr. Earle Page’s speech was delivered in the House of Representatives when the Scullin Government introduced legislation providing for the creation of a Commonwealth compulsory wheat pool.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The bill before the Senate has no reference to a compulsory pool, and I rule that the honorable senator would not be in order in quoting from a speech made by Dr. Earle Page six years ago, in favour of a compulsory pool.
– In my opinion the speech from which I desire to quote has an absolute bearing on this bill. May I refer to the Wheat Marketing Bill No. 2, which was introduced by the Scullin Government?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Yes, if it is relevant to the present bill.
– That bill was introduced for the purpose of providing assistance to the wheat industry, and at the same time it provided for the creation of a compulsory pooling system for the industry. When it was introduced every Country party member in the House of Representatives supported it. Honorable members who supported it included Messrs. P. G. Stewart, Corser, R. Green, Gregory, Prowse, Thompson, and Hunter. It was defeated in this House; but, as there was seine doubt as to whether the principles of the measure were understood by some honorable senators, a motion was introduced for its restoration to the noticepaper. Reference to page 5079 of the Hansard issued at that time will be confirmatory of my statement. That motion was defeated by eleven votes to five. Country party senators who voted for the motion were Senators Cooper, Johnston, and Plain, and Senators Carroll, Elliott, Guthrie and Crawford paired in support of the motion, which also had the support of the Federal and Lang Labour parties.
The attitude of the Western Australian Country party movement in regard to this legislation is worthy of notice. An important statement was published on the authority of that Country party as soon as the contents of this bill were forwarded to Western Australia.
– What is the difference between the Western Australian Country party and the Australian Country party?
– There is considerable difference. No members of the Western Australian Country party are pledged to any platform except that of the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia. The policy of the Country party of Western Australia differs widely from that which Senator Hardy has enunciated in regard to wheat and sugar. Apparently, the Federal Country party is pledged to vote for the sugar agreement, but members of the Country party of Western Australia are opposed to it, as has been demonstrated repeatedly by the votes of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). The policy of the Country party of Western Australia is for the taking of a ballot of wheat-growers to decide which of these forms of control designed to provide a home-consumption price of wheat they prefer.
– The Western Australian Country party may hold the honorable senator in subjection, but it does not hold this chamber in subjection.
– I propose to quote an extract setting out the attitude of the Country party of Western Australia to this bill.
– I submit to you, Mr. Deputy President, that the extract which the honorable senator proposes to read has nothing whatever to do with this debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - The honorable senator has stated that the extract represents the views of the Country party of Western Australia on this bill. 1 think he inferred that he had forwarded to the branch a copy of the bill, and invited its comment and criticism.
– That is so. The statement is a published commentary on the bill -
The only safe and democratic method of ascertaining how those engaged in an industry desire to be controlled is by taking a vote. There is not a single organization in the Commonwealth to-day which can authoritatively claim that its members stand cither for the retention of the present system oi marketing, for the federal plan based on legislation for the control of dried fruits and dairying, or for a Commonwealth-wide compulsory, pool. Co-operative pooling, of course, represents the ideal, with farmers controlling their own product through their own organization, as in this State. Compulsory pooling does not appeal to many farmers. Furthermore, they are not convinced that they will be able to get any better price for their wheat than they can get through their own organization.
– There is nothing about that in this bill.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has apparently been asleep.
– Which of the four alternative proposals does the Western Australian branch of the Country party prefer ?
– The extract continues -
They fear, and not without justification in the light of experience, that they may even get less for their wheat, that administrative expenses will be greater. They are uncertain, too, how they would stand in a year such as the present, when many of them will fail to reap any wheat at all, and most of them will harvest an average much below normal. Per bushel payment under a compulsory scheme would not take any account of losses or seasonal failure.
These are questions which wheat-growers must consider when seeking a method for a permanent price basis for their industry. It would be wrong, therefore, for any organization, or group of organizations, to speak on behalf of growers without first having obtained the opinion of growers .themselves.
It will never be possible to obtain unanimity, of course; but in all such matters the majority must rule. The Country party believes that before Australia is committed to a compulsory pool that the wheat-growers of each of the wheat-growing States should be given opportunity to vote on such proposals as may be advanced to that end.
Last April, I strongly objected to the adjournment of the Federal Parliament without dealing with the report of the Royal Commission on the “Wheat Industry, and without giving legislative effect to that commission’s recommendations. Parliament should have been invited to consider a policy for the stabilization of that industry and for the granting of substantial assistance to wheat-growers at that time. Unfortunately, the Government was determined to escape into recess, and Parliament adjourned, in spite of my protests, without passing this essential legislation. I complain particularly about the failure of the Government to implement the recommendations of that royal commission. Its recommendations really covered three matters, namely, debt relief, real assistance to rehabilitate wheat-growers, and a compulsory wheat pool.
– Is the honorable senator trying to stonewall this bill?
– Why does the Leader of the Senate compel us to discuss this measure at 3.40 a.m..? I moved the adjournment of the debate, but the right honorable senator would not grant it. For five consecutive years-, this Senate has been called upon to deal with a wheat bill during the night.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order !
– Before the right honorable senator interjected, I was complaining of the absence of legislation to implement the recommendations of the royal commission for the assistance of the wheat industry.
– I rise to a point of order. I draw your attention, sir, to the fact that the honorable senator has, for some considerable time, been defying the ruling which you gave. Can any honorable senator, under the pretence of objecting to the non-inclusion in the bill of certain things, proceed to discuss matters that are not relevant to the bill? He has repeatedly stated that he objects because certain things are not in the bill, and he proceeds to explain what is not in the bill. Surely that is an admission that his remarks are irrelevant. He is referring to a royal commission’s report, which does not touch this bill or the scheme for which it provides.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I asked the honorable senator how he intended to connect what he proposed to read with the bill. If he proceeds, his remarks must be relevant.
– It appears to me that under your ruling, sir, many of my statements, although relevant to the assistance of wheat-farmers for which this legislation is introduced
– No. this legislation deals with trade and commerce. The honorable senator is referring to another bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I draw the right honorable senator’s attention to the fact that this bill refers to trade and commerce with other countries, and, among the States, in wheat and wheat products.
– Assistance to wheat-farmers is not mentioned in the bill.
– That is my complaint. After hearing the right honorable senator’s statement, I think that my request for financial assistance to wheat-growers to the extent of that given last year might more appropriately be made upon another bill which, I understand, will be introduced later this day. Under those circumstances, I shall reserve my further remarks in regard to the failure of the Government to give practical assistance to wheat-farmers for this harvest until this other bill is before us. I support this measure, so far as it establishes a home-consumption price for wheat; but I regret that the Government did not grant this assistance in the form requested by the conference which met at Canberra early in October.
– Coming from a wheatgrowing State, I consider that it is obligatory for me to make a few remarks in support of this bill. I understand that this measure is the outcome of a conference held in Canberra in October. I believe that that was the only occasion on which any degree of unanimity has been reached between the various interests associated with the wheat industry. On that account, I support the bill. At the same time, I confess I am not very enthusiastic about legislation of this kind. Many points are contained in it upon which I could speak at length, but I do not propose to inflict a long speech upon the chamber at this early hour. Senator Arkins mentioned a considerable number of primary products which are receiving some form of government assistance; I believe that he stated that wool was the only one not benefiting in this manner. For that reason, I doubt whether we shall be able to continue to give this kind of assistance for any length of time. However, I consider that the wheat industry should be placed on the same basis as nearly every other industry in the Commonwealth. In this connexion, I refer to honorable senators a comment by Professor Hancock, in his book Australia -
Clearly we might reach the stage when the Government would be promoting each industry by taxing all the others, and the end, in effect, would be a perverted, expensive, and very unstable freetrade.
Prominent economists, including the late Professor E. O. G. Shann, held the same opinion. Some measure of support must be given to the wheat industry. Senator James McLachlan mentioned that the implements, fences, and buildings on many farms are in urgent need of repair. The difficulty of the farmers is to make both ends meet. They have neglected their improvements, and, in the long run, will have to receive some support.
– in reply - I should like to find out exactly to whom Senator Collings referred as “bloodsucking vested interests sucking the life blood out of industry, going on merrily in their nefarious ways and taking a toll of industry.” That is a most reprehensible way for the leader of a responsible party to talk about men who are as honest as he is, and are carrying on as good work in the community. The honorable senator went on to say that the Queensland
Government had no option but to agree to what the Commonwealth proposed. That is the sort of thing which the honorable senator frequently says merely because it happens to flit across his brain. As a matter of fact, the representative of Queensland, Mr. Bulcock, said at the conference : “ Queensland is prepared to cooperate with the other States and with the Commonwealth to secure a satisfactory solution of marketing problems.” He went on to say “ It appears that one State cannot pursue an agricultural policy very much in advance of the others.” He cooperated fully in everything that was done. Dr. Earle Page said -
We were anxious to learn what the various State Governments were prepared to do in the way of passing legislation that would bo constitutional and practicable. If all the Governments of Australia are not willing to agree to a compulsory marketing scheme, it is futile to canvass the merits or otherwise of such a scheme. “What has now been brought forward represents the greatest common measure of agreement that could be secured among those who were present at- that conference. The reason why there is no compulsory pool is that it would be vulnerable to attack on at least three grounds - -under section 92, with which most laymen are acquainted; under section 99, dealing with preferences as between States ; and under section 51, which deals with the acquisition of property upon just terms. It is perfectly true that this measure may be attacked later - a good deal depends upon the decision of the Privy Council - but it is not so vulnerable as would be a proposal for a compulsory pool. “With regard to the point raised by Senator Gibson, I would point out that every miller will be a receiver under the act, and that there is provision in clause 5 relating, to the making of false statements in connexion with wheat. The Government has to be prepared for the fact that, if some persons set out deliberately to find a hole in the measure, they may be able to do so. That invariably happens in connexion with experimental legislation such as this admittedly is. Probably, it will be possible to close most of the holes by regulation.
Senator James McLachlan said that he did not see why the flour tax should not be continued as being the simplest measure to apply. I reply, merely, that the Government recognizes, as most Governments do, that this tax is unpopular, the contention in regard to it being that it falls with greater severity upon the poor than upon the rich - a false principle of taxation.
– Will not this fall on the same people - those who buy bread?
– In the long run. But that does not alter the unpopularity of a direct food tax.
Two points were raised by Senator J. B. Hayes. My answer to his categorical questions is, that growers in Tasmania will receive the home-consumption price for that proportion of their wheat which conforms with the homeconsumption quota, and that millers will have to purchase home-consumption warrants at the home-consumption price in respect of wheat required for use in the manufacture of flour for consumption in Tasmania. Tasmanian growers will obtain the benefit derivable under the act. Of course, the effect will not be so great upon the small wheat-producing States as upon the larger.
I shall now refer to the speech made by Senator Johnston. I am sorry to say anything unpleasant; but it is hard to listen to what is unpleasant. Senator Johnston sits in the corner, brooding darkly over his troubles, and constituting himself some sort of an uncrowned king of the wheat-growers of Western Australia, which, apparently, in his imagination, he believes that he really is.
– The Minister imagines himself to be much cleverer than the majority of people think that he is.
– The honorable senator has repeated for at least the third time in my hearing a statement, which, according to him, was made by Mr. Manning - I do not know whether Mr. Manning made it or not - that members of the Federal Government had been in consultation with him-
– It was with Mr. Stevens.
– Or with Mr. Stevens, upon this matter. That is a totally false impression. The honorable senator has been assured of its falseness.
The majority of the members of this Senate are willing to accept the assurance of a fellow senator as to the truth or untruth of a statement that is within his knowledge. I can only attribute the fact that the honorable senator cannot be induced to accept this assurance to the fact that he himself is careless in his use of words-
– You old humbug !
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. But I ask for protection against the insulting remarks of the Minister, who is merely the spokesman of his leader.
– You, Mr. President, were not in the chair when this matter was raised. On a point of order, I then submitted to the Deputy President that Senator Johnston’s statement involved a direct accusation of untruthfulness against me, and my right honorable leader. The honorable senator had endeavoured to prove that certain statements which had been made by Senator Pearce in this Senate were not true.
– On a point of order, I did not say that the discussion with Mr. Stevens was with either Senator Pearce or Senator Brennan; consequently, they know nothing about it.
– Did the honorable senator allege untruthfulness against the Minister”?
– Certainly not, at any time. What I said was, that I believed Mr. Manning’s statement that Mr. Stevens had had discussions with federal Ministers.
– And that Mr. Manning’s action was in consequence of those discussions. The honorable senator was told that that was not so, but refused to accept the assurance.
– The statement was made that there was an arrangement with the Commonwealth Government. The Leader of the Senate denied that, but the honorable senator persisted in his endeavours to prove that the denial was incorrect, or in other words, that the statement was untrue.
– On a point of order, I claim that the Minister is misrepresenting me entirely, and I object to his doing so. I quoted Mr. Manning’s statement, which I checked off with the New South Wales Hansard. If any inaccuracy occurs in it, that is due entirely to Mr. Manning, and not to me.
– Is it true that an explanation was given by the Leader of the Senate to the effect that the allegation made by the honorable senator against the Government was not correct, and that the honorable senator would not accept it?
– It was Mr. Manning’s statement, not mine.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Commonwealth Government was pressing the States to pass legislation complementary to this bill. The New South Wales Government had introduced its bill which had reached a certain stage. Mr. Manning moved amendments to alter the year of its application. In this chamber, Senator Johnston drew attention to the statement of Mr. Manning that Mr. Stevens had consulted with federal Ministers. Mr. Manning did not say that he was making the alteration because of that consultation. He said that there had been a consultation, and that the Government of New South Wales intended to alter the date of the bill. Senator Johnston asked a question in this chamber which I, on behalf of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), answered. The effect of that answer was to deny distinctly and emphatically on behalf of the Commonwealth Government that the alteration of the bill before the New South Wales Parliament had been made by arrangement with the Commonwealth Government. Notwithstanding that disclaimer, the honorable senator repeated that the alteration of the New South Wales bill was made after consultation with the Commonwealth Government, and suggested that it was made by arrangement with the Commonwealth Government. Again, to-night, the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator Brennan) was repeating the disclaimer when Senator E. B. Johnston rose to his point of order. That is the explanation of the situation.
– In view of the Minister’s explanation, and in the absence of proof that what the Ministers have said is incorrect, Senator E. B. Johnston has no alternative but to accept their statement.
-In view of Senator E. B. Johnston’s attitude towards me, I shall not reply to his criticism of the bill. I thank honorable senators for the attention that they have given to this measure during a long sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
– I desire to move for the insertion of a new clause 7a, which has been circulated and is on honorable senator’s files. At times wheat-farmers are pressed by their creditors for payment, and it is necessary to protect them to the amount of at least £50 in each year. I, therefore, move for the insertion of the proposed new clause which has been circulated, with the addition of the words “ in any year “, which I had inadvertently omitted.
– I rise to a point of order. Obvidusly, if the amendment is in ordery the honorable senator may proceed; but if the amendment is not in order his Temarks in relation to it will be out of order also. As the honorable senator has said that his proposed amendment is that which has been circulated, my point is that there is nothing in this bill dealing with any grant to a wheat-grower, or any financing of a wheat-grower, or any payment to a wheat-grower, and that as the amendment distinctly refers to “ any amount payable under this act “ it is not in order. No amounts will be payable under this legislation. Moreover, the amendment is clearly not within the title of the bill which is “ A . bill for an act relating to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States in wheat and wheat products”. It makes no provision for the distribution of money between debtors and creditors.
– The honorable senator is most anxious to protect the creditors.
– If the amendment is out of order, then any discussion of it would also be out of order.
– I submit that I am in order in moving the amendment.
– There is no clause before the Chair as the honorable senator has not moved his proposal amendment.
– The proposed new clause which Senator Johnston had circulated, reads : - “ 7a. Notwithstanding any provision in any other act or State act which vests in any creditor of a wheat-grower or in any authority constituted under any such act the right to receive or require payment of any amount payable under this act to a wheat-grower, that provision shall have no effect in respect of so much of the amount so payable as does not exceed fifty pounds in any year.’”
The amendment, to be in order, must be consistent with the context of the bill. I see in the bill no reference to any payment to a wheat-grower. In my opinion, the amendment proposed by the honorable senator is irrelevant to the bill, and I therefore rule it out of order.
– Then I move -
That the Chairman’s ruling be dissented from.
I do so on the ground that as the purpose of the bill is to assist wheat-growers, the best way to assist them is by protecting them against their creditors.
In the Senate:
– I have to report, Mr. President, that Senator E. B. Johnston has dissented from my ruling. He proposed a new clause, 7a, and I ruled his amendment out of order on the ground that it was irrelevant to the bill, that no payment was mentioned in the bill, and that an amendment must be consistent with the context of the bill. The honorable senator has dissented from my ruling on the ground that the object of the bill is to assist wheat-growers, and that they can best be assisted by protecting them against their creditors.
– The new clause which I wished to move reads as follows : -
Notwithstanding any provision in any other act or State act which vests in any creditor of a wheat-grower or in any authority constituted under any such act the right to receive or require payment of any amount payable under this act to a wheat-grower, that provision shall have no effect in respect of so much of the amount so payable as does not exceed fifty pounds in any year.
I regret that the Leader of the Senate objected to my amendment and that it was ruled to be out of order before I had an opportunity to read it or move it. I submit that the Senate is dealing with a measure to assist wheatgrowers by giving them certain moneys to be derived by the payment of an increased price for wheat used for home consumption. The growers are in a distressed condition, and have a large number of creditors. I submit that the proposed new clause is entirely relevant to the bill, and I desire to ensure that the grower shall get the first £50 of the amount payable under the bill for his own use, and that no person who has a lien over his property or to whom he owes money shall have the right to take that money from him. It is clear that the bill will not help the farmers unless this most necessary provision is included.
– Is the honorable senator, under cover of explaining his dissent, entitled to argue the merits of the new clause, which he desires to submit?
– I claim that the amendment is relevant. We are dealing with the machinery to be provided for the collection of certain money to be given to the wheat-farmers, and surely we are entitled to direct how a portion of that money shall be distributed. A similar provision has been included in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. No creditor may garnishee a pension, and the wheatfarmer is entitled to similar protection for at least £50 of his annual revenue. The old-age pension amounts to about £50 a year, and no creditor may deprive the pensioner of it under any judgment. I have received requests for this amendment from organizations concerned with the wheat-farmers who are to be assisted.
– What has that to do with the question as to whether the amendment is in order?
– I submit that the protection sought to be given by it is relevant to the bill. If it were not for this bill the necessity for the amendment would not arise.
– I draw particular attention to the wording of the proposed new clause. It states -
Notwithstanding any provision in any other act or State act
It proposes to override even State acts - which vests in any creditor of a wheatgrower or in any authority constituted under any such act the right to receive or require payment of any amount payable under this act.
The bill makes no reference to creditors or amounts payable under the act to creditors or debtors. The proposed new clause does not purport to amend the bill in any particular, but it purports to amend an act not specified, or a State act not specified. I submit that it is not only out of order, but also unconstitutional, because we cannot amend State acts.
– I point out to Senator Johnston that an exactly similar position arose with regard to an amendment which I moved. The President was courteous enough to show me the authorities and the Standing Orders bearing on the point, and I was perfectly satisfied that my amendment was not in order, because it was not relevant to the bill. I am satisfied now that Senator Johnston’s amendment is no more in order than mine was. He was in order, I think, when he moved a similar amendment on another bill last year, and the Opposition then supported him. We should support him again now if his present amendment were not obviously out of order.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
A wheat processor shall, within ten days after the close of any month during which he has sold, in the course of interstate trade and commerce, any wheat products manufactured by him, furnish to the prescribed authority in the State in which the wheat products were manufactured, homeconsumption warrants, issued under a State act, representing the quantity of wheat used in the manufacture of those products.
Penalty: Five hundred pounds.
The clause makes no mention of payments to wheat-growers. We are dealing with a bill for an act “ relating to trade and commerce with other countries, and, among the States, in wheat and wheat products “. That title makes no reference to money that the farmer shall or shall not receive. The proposed new clause, to my mind, introduces an element entirely foreign to the bill. Standing Order 201 reads -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
As the subject-matter of the bill is trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, in wheat and wheat products, I hold that the amendment is not relevant to the bill, and I therefore uphold the Chairman’s ruling.
Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were received from the House of Representatives, and the Standing Orders having been suspended, were read a first time : -
Flour Tax Assessment Bill 1935. Flour Tax Bill (No. 1) 1935. Flour Tax Bill (No. 3) 1935. Sales Tax Exemptions Bill 1935. Sales Tax (Securities and Exemptions) Bill 1935.
Primary Produce Export Charges Bill 1935. Primary Produce Export Organization Bill 1935.
Motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Semite at its rising adjourn till this day at 10 a.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise at this early hour to speak on the motion for the adjournment only because I know that very little opportunity will be afforded me to speak on a similar motion on the next day of sitting. Honorable senators on that occasion will not be in the humour to listen to anything I have to say. I consider that what has happened in this chamber to-day is an absolute disgrace to a deliberative assembly.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable senator is not entitled to reflect upon the proceedings of the Senate.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) . - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was certainly out of order, and undoubtedly forgot himself in making the remark to which objection has been taken. I ask him to withdraw it.
-I certainly did not forget myself. I made the statement deliberately, and I meant it; hut I withdraw it.
– The manner of the honorable senator’s withdrawal is, in fact, an aggravation of his offence. I ask him to withdraw the remark without qualification.
– I withdraw it unreservedly. What I, perhaps somewhat inelegantly, endeavoured to express was a protest against the rush that has taken place in disposing of the business before, the Senate to-day.
Th is week I asked questions regarding a charge of alleged nepotism in the parks and gardens branch of the Department of the Interior in Canberra. I was told that an inquiry was proceeding. I did not believe that that inquiry was proceeding, and I asked further questions and was informed that no inquiry bad been held under the Public Service Act. My questions related in no way to an inquiry under the Public Service Act, but were directed to obtain information with regard to a departmental inquiry which I knew had been held. The reason why I raise this matter now is because a change has recently taken place in the office of permanent head of the Department of the Interior, and the former secretary of that department has left Canberra. The men who gave evidence at the departmental inquiry were guaranteed immunity from victimization. That evidence was of a very serious character. On a previous occasion I made the charge that if these men were not already being victimized, the road was definitely prepared for that to be done. I repeat that statement now. Honorable senators may take it that the information I have at ray disposal discloses that nepotism is being practised in that branch of the Department of the Interior. I now ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to promise that an inquiry, under the Public Service Act, will take place in order that the charges may be investigated and the men concerned may be protected from any attempt at victimization.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the inquiry is still proceeding?
– I understand that the departmental inquiry has been completed and the evidence is now under consideration.
– Would it not be more prudent for the honorable senator to wait until a report has been presented?
– I shall not have an opportunity to peruse the report. The Senate will adjourn to-day until some time next year and by that time what I fear may have already happened. Action to protect these men should be taken now. I would leave Canberra for the Christmas holidays much happier if I had an assurance from the Minister that the promised inquiry under the Public Service Act will be held. Will the Minister undertake to obtain a reply to-morrow to the questions which I have asked ?
[4.50 a.m.]. - The honorable senator asked two questions on matters which do not come under my control. Before the answers supplied by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) were given, I read thom through .and found that they dealt plainly and straightforwardly with the questions asked. A departmental inquiry has been held. As the honorable senator has said, there has been a change in the office of permanent head of the Department of the Interior, and the new permanent head, Mr. Carrodus, is considering what action he will take in regard to these charges. It is obvious that the honorable senator has been listening to ex parte .statements.
– I did not listen to ex parte statements; I saw the evidence tendered at the inquiry.
– The honorable senator could not have perused the report of the departmental inquiry because it has not yet been handed to the Minister, and, unless he has secret access to tho files of the department, he could not be aware of the nature of the report. The action taken by the new permanent head is strictly in accordance with the Public Service Act. The permanent head may make a recommendation as to whether an inquiry under the act or .any .other inquiry should bc made. The. honorable senator need not be alarmed; it is not the desire of the Minister to shelter anybody, and he will see that justice is done to all. I can say no more at this juncture.
– “Why was I informed to-day by the Minister that no inquiry had been held under the Public Service Act, when my question did not mention such an inquiry”?
– Is the mau against whom the charge has been levelled an officer subject to the provision of the Public Service Act? He may be a temporary or an exempt employee
– He is the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens.
– The honorable senator may rest assured that the Minister for the” Interior will sec that justice is done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.54 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 December 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351205_senate_14_148/>.