17th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether it is a fact, that the supply and delivery of ice by the department under his control to the people of Canberra is to cease from to-day? As the residents consider that ice will be required by them to enable food to be preserved over the Easter holidays, will the Minister consider the continuation of the supply and delivery of ice until at least after Easter?
– I am pleased to be able to tell the honorable senator that although, when ice was purveyed to the people of Canberra by private enterprise, the supply ceased by the 31st March, if not earlier than that date, arrangements have -been made by the department to continue the supply over Easter.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon. notice -
Have any awards made by the Women’s Employment Board providing that women be paid 90 per cent, of men’s wages been limited to members of trade unions?
– I am. informed that none of the awards has been so limited.
Debate resumed from the 30th March (vide p. 2314), on motion by Senator Fraser -
.- This bill is intended to validate what is generally known as the Scully wheat plan. I have always been an opponent of the principle of discrimination as regards payment between one wheat-farmer and another. Having had an opportunity r,t, examine this scheme, which has been in operation for two years, we can now realize what a grave injustice is imposed by it on many efficient farmers who produce wheat on a large scale. Under the Scully plan, 4s. a bushel at growers’ sidings is guaranteed for the first 3,000 bushel?, and on wheat in excess of that quantity a first advance is made of 2s. a bushel. Since the inauguration of the scheme in .1942, the Government has announced a further payment of ls. i bushel on non-quota wheat, increasing the advance to 3s. a bushel. Having visited various wheat areas in Australia I have ascertained that the original proposal has not returned to the efficient grower who produces wheat on a large scale a payable price for all of his wheat. Of course, it was recognized that if the pool realized more than the first advance, the grower would get the benefit of the extra amount. The Opposition is pleased to know that, owing to improved war conditions, the Australian Wheat Board has been able to make further sales overseas, and that the prospects for the pools are much brighter than they were two years ago; but the farmer was guaranteed only 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels, and 2s. a bushel for the balance of his wheat, which meant that he would be unable to meet the increasing costs of production.
Before the scheme was announced the farmers had made preparations to sow the 1942-43 crop. The return to the board for that season was about equal to the. average production for Australia, that is, 143,000,000 bushels ; but some of the big farmers decided they would not take the risk last season, and on the figures given by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) we find that the wheat delivered for last year fell by 33-^ per cent, below the average. The Minister has been asking the farmers to grow less wheat, and has been restricting the acreage, but now, when the Government is getting into a difficult position, it is asking the farmers to grow more wheat. Failure to guarantee a payable price on all wheat produced has had a serious effect on production. The loss of about one-third of the average production amounts to about 48,000,000 bushels, so one can appreciate the economic loss to this country. When the Government got into trouble it said that it would guarantee to the farmer another ls. a bushel, but in view of the costs of superphosphate, corn-sacks, &c, some of the growers do not regard that as a payable price. At the last general elections, after serious consideration, the Opposition stated in its policy speech that, having regard to all of the facts, it thought that 5s. 2d. a bushel on all wheat at overseas shipping ports was a sufficient guarantee to induce the farmers to sow up to the licensed acreage, that price to be subject to a maximum deduction of Sd. a bushel for freight and handling charges to growers’ sidings. That meant that the farmers would get a’ minimum price throughout Australia of 4s. 6d. a bushel at growers’ sidings on all of their wheat. Under the present proposal they will receive 4s. 1-Jd. on the first 3,000 bushels. I am not quite sure whether the guarantee on the non-quota wheat is 2s. or 3s. a bushel. The offer of 4s. ltd. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels and even 2s. or 3s. a bushel for the balance, will not encourage the farmers to take the risk of producing more wheat.
The Government might reconsider the payment of 5s. 2d. a bushel on all wheat grown, having regard to the prospects of sale, and the desire to get as much wheat produced as possible in the next couple of years in order to feed the starving peoples on the other side of the world. That would he an investment and would not cost the Government anything. According to reports received from time to time, one would think that the Commonwealth Bank was providing advances for the Australian “Wheat Board, but in the normal course the advances are made against the asset which the board possesses in the wheat. Taking the returns of the pools that have ‘been completed, we notice that the whole of tha money advanced has been repaid, and that the Commonwealth Bank has received a considerable amount in interest at the rate of 3^ per cent, for the accommodation provided. We should consider whether the interest charged could be reduced to, say, li per cent., or a similarly low figure. In order to test the opinion of the Senate I shall move, at the committee stage, that the Government pay 4s. 1 1/3d. for the first 3,000 bushels and guarantee the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, less charges, which would provide a minimum price of 4s. 6d. a bushel at growers’ sidings throughout Australia on all wheat delivered. If that were done, production would he stepped up, the farmer would be guaranteed a payable price, and justice would be done to him. Honorable senators will observe in this bill that the reason for advancing the price of 4s. a bushel to 4s. 1-Jd. a bushel was a recent award in respect of harvest workers. A special committee was appointed to .investigate the effect of the award on the price of 4s. a bushel, and it was decided that in view of the extra charges incurred by farmers the 4s. should be increased to 4s. 1 1/3d. at growers’ sidings. If the Government considers that to be a payable price to the farmer it is ludicrous to say that it should give that price only on the first 3,000 bushels and not on all of the wheat produced. I know that the action of the Government was politically popular, but it created a serious anomaly. We have reacted the stage when these things should be considered on their merits and not to gain a political advantage. I urge the Minister to reconsider his attitude to this proposal. It means raising the price of wheat, from 4s. 1-Jd. to a minimum of 4s. 6d. a bushel at growers’ sidings such price to apply to all the wheat grown in Australia.
– Would not the growers get that rate if the wheat was sold at that price?
– If the wheat realized that amount the growers would get it, but when wheat is badly needed, and men are asked- to take a risk in order to produce it, the Government would do well to guarantee a payable price. If that were done, the growers would know what they would get for their wheat. No new principle would be involved, because other industries are already pro tected. For instance, a man does not undertake to manufacture farm machinery without first having a guarantee of protection through the Tariff Board. The practice of introducing from session to session, and from year to year, measures dealing with the wheat industry is one of the reasons why production has fallen, and the wheat-growers of Australia are in a sorry plight. I know the difficulties confronting the Government. In all primary industries there is a shortage of man-power. On many farms elderly people are working from daylight to dark in an attempt to maintain production. There are two reasons why the production of meat, butter and wheat has fallen since the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture assumed control of the department. The first reason is that in the allocation of man-power, primary producers were not considered. The second reason is that wheat-farmers were not guaranteed a payable price for their wheat. Some time ago, Senator Wilson and I toured the wheat areas of South Australia. Among the farmers whom we met was one who at the Melbourne centenary competitions won the prize for the best wheat grown in Australia that year. He was a man farming wheat in a big way, but because the guarantee of 4s. a bushel was confined to the first 3,000 bushels, and only 2s. a bushel was paid for the remainder of the wheat produced on any farm, he finished the year with a loss. He had one son working on the farm, but his son enlisted, and, unfortunately, was killed. The farmer then asked what the prospects for the next season were and when he was informed that he would be likely to receive not more than 2s. a bushel average for his wheat he discontinued wheat-growing and accepted a job with the military authorities. His case is typical of many ; and that is one reason why the production of wheat has fallen by 33£ per cent. I hope that the Senate will give serious consideration to the suggestion of the Opposition, which was contained in the policy speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) at the last general elections, and was supported by the United Australia party. lu Iris second-reading speech the Minister in charge of the bill said -
With growers’ costs rising, and the acknowledged right of growers to security and a better deal for the wheat they produced, the present Government decided that previous guarantees were inadequate. The Government decided to attack the problem at its most vital point - the basis of payment. It was here that the previous government’s plan had failed to give a reasonable return to producers.
In the light of that statement, I remind the Senate that in 1940, when the Australian wheat crop amounted to 210,000,000 bushels, the average return at growers’ sidings was 3s. 3£d. a bushel. Having regard to increased production cos fs sin.ee then I should say that 4b. 6d. a. bushel to-day would not be better than 3s. 34d. in 1940.
– How much have costs increased since 1940?
– The reduction of acreage which may be sown vitally affects costs.
– I shall answer that interjection later.
– We shall he pleased to hear the Minister’s explanation. I remind him that since 1940 the cost of living has increased by more than 25 per cent., that superphosphate prices have risen by 70 per cent., and that cornsacks are double the price at which .they could be bought in 1940. I should say that the cost of producing wheat has risen by 50 per cent, since 1940. For the 1940-41 crop, growers received 3s. 6d. a bushel at sidings. The proposal to increase the price to a minimum of 4s. 6d. a bushel for all the wheat produced seems to be the only way :by which the production of wheat will be sufficient to meet all the orders that we may expect in the post-war period, and therefore I ask the Government to give to that proposal its most serious consideration. Speaking in the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that it would be ludicrous to guarantee a backyard manufacturer a protection of 40 per cent., whilst an efficient manufacturer who was in business in a big way was given only 20 per cent, protection; yet that is what the Government proposes in connexion with the wheat industry. The Government’s policy was popular for a time, but it is the most inequitable thing that has ever ‘been done to a large number of efficient wheat-growers in Australia.
Senator DARCEY (Tasmania) [10.53J. - The trite nature of the problems associated with the wheat industry are entirely misunderstood by the Government and by many persons who claim to represent wheat-growing districts. Some years ago, Professor Giblin delivered an address to the Economic Society of Tasmania, of which I am a member. He told his hearers about the troubles of the wheat-growers, but he made a mistake when he said that the disastrous drop in the price of wheat in 1929 was the cause of the ruin of so many primary producers in. this country. At the conclusion of his address, the chairman rose and said that the lecturer would answer questions. I immediately rose and asked what had brought about the drop of prices in 1929 which had ruined the primary producers. Instead of answering that question, the lecturer sat down after saying that to answer it would require the whole of the evening. I then said that as the lecturer had not answered my question, I should like permission to do so. I told the meeting what Mr. Gustav Cassel, who is now a lecturer at the University of Scotland, had to say. He explained that concerted action on the part of the banks in refusing credit - an action which was dictated by considerations of high finance - brought about the disastrous fall of .prices which had ruined the primary producers not only of Australia but of the whole world. Mr. Gustav Cassel was then asked how long he thought the depression would last, and he replied that the hanks, having created the depression, could lift it whenever they liked. That is what happened; but in the meantime they had ruined many thousands of wheatgrowers throughout the Commonwealth. The position was so bad during the regime of the Lyons Government that that Government decided to borrow £12,000,000 from the private hanks in order to rehabilitate the wheat-growers. The banks assessed the liability of the wheat-growers to the banks, and then sent to the wheat-growers crossed cheques, which they could not cash, but had to pay into their accounts at the hanks.
The result was that the wheat-growers could not get any of that £12,000,000 for themselves. Ever since then the Government has been paying 5 per cent, interest on that ‘£12,000,000, whilst the only benefit which the wheat-growers received was the privilege of growing wheat for the private banks. At that -time many farmers had to borrow money at 6 per cent, interest. “When ex-Senator Latham introduced in this chamber a proposal to increase the price of wheat, I told the Senate that I had been in Western Australia previously and had found hundreds of farmers walking off their wheat lands. The price of wheat dropped to 2§. a bushel; indeed, for large quantities only ls. a bushel was paid. A person who does not understand the economics of wheatgrowing, and fails to realize that the financial system dominates the economic system, will continue to wonder why the farmers were ruined. I am informed that wheat cannot be grown profitably for less than 4s. 6d. a bushel. Some years ago. Professor Wadham. of the Melbourne University, visited Tasmania to inquire into the difficulties associated with primary production. When I met him in Hobart I asked him if he had been a member of a royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry, and he replied in the affirmative. I then said that the commission had shown that the wheatlands of Australia, were mortgaged to the banks and other financial institutions to an amount of approximately £161,000,000. He agreed that that was so, and stated that the report to that effect was in his bag which he had with him. He added that he did not suppose that any one had ever read the report. I informed him that I had done so. At that time thu price of wheat was from ls. 6d. to ls. 9d. a bushel. It is not difficult to grow wheat, but it is impossible to grow, the money with which to buy it. That is why the farmers were ruined. The banks called up overdrafts, with the result that purchasing power was taken from the people. In the depression that followed, thousands of children in this land of plenty were half starved. I am amazed that public men have not learned something about the economics of wheat-farm- ing. I suggest that silos should be built to store wheat. In this connexion it may not be generally known that wheat can be kept indefinitely if stored in a vacuum. Wheat discovered in Egyptian tombs which had been sealed 3,000 years earlier grew when planted. That shows that so long as wheat is stored in a proper container it can be kept indefinitely. The short-sighted policy of the Government and of wheat-growers generally has resulted in a reduced production of wheat, notwithstanding that hundreds of millions of bushels of wheat will be required as soon as the war in Europe comes to an end. When the invasion armies get into continental countries, the Allied Nations will have the responsibility of feeding the people there. There will be a fight between soldiers and inhabitants as to who will get ‘the food that will be available. What is the use of increasing the price of wheat if the money merely goes to pay interest on bank overdrafts? Members of the Australian Country party do not seem to understand this problem, and the Government has followed a short-sighted policy. Until members of. Parliament learn something about economics, the wheat problem will continue to be a problem. I asked Professor Wadham whether he was an economist, and he replied that he was an agricultural scientist. I then told him that until the economics of wheatgrowing was given proper attention, agriculturists were wasting their time. He had no answer to that statement. As I have said, hundreds of farmers in Western Australia walked off their holdings because the price of wheat did not enable them to make a living. When I inquired what brought the price of wheat ‘down to ls. 9d. a bushel, I was told it was due to wheat being sold in the world’s markets at world parity. When I am asked what ruined the farmers of Australia, or of Canada, I reply that it is of little use to grow wheat unless there is money available to buy it. The calling up of overdrafts by the banks is the chief reason for the low price of wheat and the troubles of the wheat-growers. The price of 4s. lid. to be guaranteed in respect of quota wheat under this scheme cannot even be described as a palliative, and the Government will be mistaken if it believes that this assistance will he sufficient to help the growers out of their difficulty. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that the Australian Wheat Board was financed by the Commonwealth Bank at 3£ per cent, interest, and he complained that, after meeting all expenses, the bank showed a profit on the transaction. I point out to him that, for similar accommodation, private banks would have charged interest at 5 per cent. I know of wheat-growers in Tasmania who, during the depression, never saw a cheque, because they were obliged to sign over the proceeds of their crops to the private banks, which would not advance money for cutting and stacking until the farmers did so. Finance is at the root of the wheat-growers’ problems. Until sufficient purchasing power is provided to the people as a whole to enable them to purchase the necessaries of life, including wheat, to meet their needs completely, we shall not be able to place the industry on a sound basis, i remind the Leader of the Opposition that all profit made by the Commonwealth Bank in financing the wheatgrowers is returned to the nation. Of course, if the interests which the Opposition represents in this Parliament had obtained that profit, everything would be all right. I remind them that the Commonwealth Bank already makes an annual profit of over £30,000,000 and that profit reverts to the nation as a whole. It is no wonder, therefore, that flip representatives of private interests opposed the establishment of the bank so strenuously. On a previous occasion, I explained to honorable senators how the private banks in America were so powerful that they brought the strongest president in the history of that country to his knees. So long as the financial institutions are the greatest power in the world and are able to overawe governments and leaders of nations, no primary producer will be able to obtain a fair reward for his labour. At present, a little wheat’ is grown in Tasmania; but it, is significant that less wheat is produced in that State to-day than in 1862. In Hobart, there is a little park which used to he a burial ground in the early days. It is situated in the middle of the city. When the area was converted into a park, the tombstones were placed along a wall at one side of the allotment, and passers-by can read the inscriptions on them. The usual inscriptions appeared, such as : “ Thomas Jones. Loving father and good husband. Now in Heaven.” One day, a father, accompanied by his son, was looking at these tombstones when the lad asked : “ Father, where do they bury all the bad men?” and the parent replied: “In Canberra.”
– I support the remarks made by my leader on this measure, particularly his contention that the present wheat scheme is wrong in principle and will operate unfairly in respect of a great number of wheat-growers. I propose to indicate a few anomalies ‘which have already arisen under this scheme. In many districts which produce large quantities of wheat, the rainfall is variable over a period of, say, five years. Theoretically, under this measure, a farmer growing 5,000 bags in five years should receive 4s. 1 1/3d. a bushel in respect of five quotas, but, owing to varying rainfall, he may produce 2,000 or even 3,000 bags in one year, whilst in each of the other four years he may not produce sufficient to qualify for a full quota. The Government would be well. advised in such cases te average quotas over a number of years. That is particularly desirable in South Australia and in many areas in New South Wales and Victoria, in which the present quota system has caused great difficulty in the past. In addition, many small growers of wheat are big farmers, and the provision of a guaranteed price for wheat on the basis set out in this scheme will encourage uneconomic farming. On the other hand, many wheat-farmers, with no encouragement to grow more than 3,000 bushels, will limit their production to that figure even when they are capable of producing much greater yields. This is indeed a bad policy, particularly at a time when we hear so much about the need for rationalizing primary production. Under the present system, farmers tend to revert to “ donkey and bullock team farming “.
In order to illustrate the unfair manner in which this scheme will operate, I cite the case of farmers in my own district. Not far from my own farm, three brothers are growing wheat, and each has a horse team. They will receive three different quotas, hut their neighbour, who has a very big farming plant and grows even more wheat than the three brothers combined, will receive only one quota. I know that the department has already experienced much difficulty in this respect. A farmer is unable to say whether he will receive £600, or £1,200. Owing to technical points which may be raised with respect to plant, one man may receive an advance of £600 on a production of 3,000 bushels, whilst another man may receive £1,200 in respect of the same production. The department has had much difficulty^ in administering the quota system, which, I repeat, is wrong in principle. I urge the Government’ to lift all restrictions on production, because the shortage of manpower and the shortage of superphosphate automatically restricts production. That was proved last season, when, in spite of good conditions, our production totalled only 90,000,000 bushels. I predict that, because of existing restrictions, we shall not be able to grow sufficient wheat for our own needs should we encounter a ‘bad season.
I have had a great many years’ experience in the wheat industry as a producer. During that period I have seen, and experienced, the devastation in the industry caused by two wars. During the last war the destruction of agricultural areas, and restrictions on production, created an acute shortage. Signs are not wanting that an even more acute shortage will be apparent after this war. The only way to prevent such a shortage, and to enable us to play our part in feeding the starving people of the world, is to remove the restrictions and limitations on production. Prior to the war, an average of 13,500,000 acres was planted, and the average production was 177,000,000 bushels. Our present production is under 100,000,000 bushels from 8,500,000 acres. The wheat-lands of Europe have been devastated, and the peoples in occupied countries are on the verge of starvation. China, which prior to the war produced 800,000,000 bushels, is now largely under Japanese control. The United States of America has insufficent for its own requirements and is asking for supplies from the Dominions. Last year Great Britain purchased 77,000,000 bushels from Canada, 27,000,000 bushels from Argentina, and 10,500,000 bushels from Australia. Recently, Great Britain has purchased from the Commonwealth 80,000.000 bushels in wheat and flour. American consumption has increased by 360,000.000 bushels. The present overseas price justifies the belief that wheat can be profitably grown in Australia. The prices are as follows: East of Suez, 5s. 4£d. bagged and 4s. lid. f.o.b. bulk; wrest of Suez, 4s. 10 3/4d. bagged and 4s. 5d. bulk, which is from 3$d. to 5d. a bushel above the price of recent sales. I, therefore, urge the Government to remove the restrictions, encourage production, and guarantee a price of 5s. 2d. f.o.b. ports.
– I ‘believe that any system which permits a differentiation in providing a guaranteed price in respect of the production of a commodity is economically unsound. In addition, it leads to a good deal of abuse and unfairness. However, I believe that this measure can at least be justified as an expedient, particularly when we remember the serious plight in which the industry finds itself. Many thousands of small growers would not have been able to withstand the impact of low prices, but for assistance of this kind. This scheme at least guarantees a living to the small grower, and enables him to remain on his holding. From that point of view I feel that the policy is justified, but I do not approve of it as a policy to be continued indefinitely. Without going very fully into the difficulties of the industry, and the Leader of the Opposition’s statement that man-power was one of the greatest of them, as it has been of primary industries generally, I feel that it is hardly fair for him to attribute the blame for that state of affairs to the present Government. We have been at war for several years, and I have stated not only in the Senate but also throughout the country that the country youths were the first to enlist in the fighting forces. I saw rural districts being depleted of their young men, and a previous Government conducting recruiting drives throughout many country districts. Although the man-power difficulty was developing, those drives were continued, and absolutely depleted the rural district? of reasonably contented rural labour. It is not fair or right for the Opposition to attribute the blame for the man-power position to the present Government, because that position had already developed when this Government took office. I am not going to make any excuses about it, because Australia was in a desperate situation and many small farmers thought it was useless to go on producing when probably the Japanese would come and reap the harvest. Still, it is not because of the policy of this Government that the serious manpower position has developed. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government should guarantee a price. I hope that the day will come when we can give a greater guarantee to primary producers so that they will get a fair return for their labour; but whatever price is obtained should go to the grower. The wheat-grower realizes that because of the improved market conditions and the unfortunate state of the industry in other parts of the world, Australian growers should get a higher price. The Leader of the Opposition knows that the wheat-grower will obtain a better price, and I do not think that in present circumstances much will be gained by telling him that the Government will guarantee him 4s. 6d. a bushel. I believe that the wheat-grower understands that, and feels that he will be assured of that price because of the existing conditions.
I am one of those who for many years have been keen on securing stabilization, and a fair return for capital and labour employed in primary industries. I believe that the only way to achieve that is by the National Parliament and Government having the power so to organize the primary producers into a united body sufficiently strong to demand fair and just conditions. I have at times heard some foolish arguments from the other side regarding unionism and preference to unionists. After a lifelong study of the subject, I am convinced that the only satisfactory solution of our problems is greater and better organization not only of the workers but also of every form of industry. It is wrong for the primary producers, or the men representing them in Parliament, to cast reflections on unionism and organized production. The difficulty that many of the primary producers are suffering under to-day is largely due to the fact that they are in a disorganized state, and are being constantly led up blind alleys by the people who are farming the farmers. As Senator Uppill said, the bill caters to some extent for the small farmer, who may have other means of obtaining, a livelihood besides growing wheat, and it is quite possible for farmers producing on a fairly large scale to be in greater financial difficulties than many of those producing smaller quantities. Economically the bill is unsound, but there is every justification for it. as an expedient to overcome the serious problem facing the industry.
– Senator Courtice has my wholehearted sympathy. He is an outstanding example of a man who has instinctive and sound judgment, but he is so bound by the chains of the party to which he gives allegiance that he frequently has to explain to the Senate his real beliefs, and then to offer special apologies for them or, as happened only this week, he makes a very definite statement and then votes in direct contradiction of it. I assume that the same position exists to-day, because the honorable senator has stated precisely the beliefs held by honorable senators on this side in regard to what is known as the Scully wheat plan. He said in the first instance without any qualification that it is an entirely uneconomic plan, and he is then at great pains to show that under war conditions this injustice must he tolerated in the common interest. “We do not admit that under war conditions or any other conditions an injustice can be imposed on the people with any sense of equity whatever. While we agree entirely that owing to the changed circumstances and the increased costs which prevail in the industry some increase in the price had to be made, it is futile for the Minister (Senator Fraser) to refer to what happened in 1939, 1940 or 1941.
– I shall do that.
– I have no doubt that the Minister Will, because his conservatism keeps his eyes well behind the times, and the only argument that be can bring forward is something that prevailed under entirely different circumstances. The real position is that before the war the then Government endeavoured to organize the wheat industry so that some guarantee of security could lie given to those who were engaged in wheat-growing throughout Australia. Unfortunately, the powers of this Parliament are limited and that limitation will not be removed even if the Commonwealth be granted the additional powers being sought. I particularly call attention to that fact, because the present Government is trying to delude the farmers into believing that if they will only vote for the referendum which is to be held in the not far-distant future, the limitation on the power of the Government to give them an organized marketing scheme and some security will be removed. The cold fact is, as stated without qualification by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), that the proposed amendments of the Constitution do not remove in any way the limitations which section 92 of the Constitution impose on the powers of this Parliament. Consequently, owing to the fact that certain States would not come into the proposed agreement, the Government of the day was powerless to bring into operation an organized marketing scheme, but as soon as the war began we were able under the defence power, which immediately became operative, to mobilize the resources of the country and to introduce a wheat scheme. Had that scheme not been introduced, it is perfectly obvious that chaotic conditions would have occurred, in the industry, and the wheat-growers would have been very badly placed. Under the original scheme the guaranteed prices were lower for the whole of the wheat than the present proposals are for a portion of it, but on the average, had the crop been as large as the first crop which we had to handle under the scheme which we then introduced, the guaranteed price would have returned to the growers more than the present Scully plan. Therefore, it is perfectly obvious that the Scully plan is entirely uneconomicand has had the effect of reducing, and even in some instances destroying, the incentive fo large growers to engage in wheat production. In the present state of affairs, in which we have the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) and other Ministers shouting to the high heavens that the food production must be improved, the incidence of this plan should have been carefully examined. Had that been done, I have no doubt that the Government would have reviewed it, anr! decided that, owing to the dampening effect that it had on some of the most efficient producers in this country, it must return to a guaranteed price for the whole of the production of wheat from the licensed areas. I know that there are many factors .to which the reduction of the total wheat production in Australia can be attributed. I know, for instance, that seasonal conditions have a very important hearing on primary production in Australia. I know that owing to the superphosphate shortage wheat-farmers’ quotas have had to be reduced by 60 per cent, or 70 per cent-, which has had a very important bearing on production. I know also that man-power which is not entirely beyond the control of this or any other Government has had a real effect. I know also that the shortage of machinery, the difficulty of getting spare parts and of getting labour to undertake repairs, has had an extraordinary effect upon wheat production. But, as I say, some of these things are not beyond the control of this Government, which must take a very definite responsibility for certain of the shortages. It is futile for Senator Courtice to suggest that the man-power shortage in primary industries existed to anything like the present degree during the regime of the Menzies and Fadden Governments. It is futile also for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to say that owing to the exigencies . of the war situation those Governments depleted the country of rural labour.
– The Government had to call up men when the Japanese attempted to attack Australia.
– The suggestion that calling up tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of young men when J apan entered the war would immediately help to improve Australia’s military position, is the most fatuous I have heard. Men could not be called into the Army nm] thrown against the Japanese within a few months. It is simply ludicrous to suggest it. The honorable senator knows, as we know, that although the men were drawn into the Army, the Government did not have the equipment for them. If we are going to allocate the blame for the shortage of equipment we have a long discussion ahead of us. The facts are that the present Government got the jitters when Japan came into the war, and, in order to preserve some show of reason or some appearance of courage, it began to throwpeople into the Army. That situation has passed, and to-day, the Government has no real justification for the man-power position which exists in this and many other industries. The wheat industry has not been treated in the manner in which it should have been treated by the Government. At this late hour, it is futile for the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) to talk about organizing the production of farm implements and spare parts for existing machinery. Such work should have been undertaken twelve or eighteen months ago. Had that been done, the position to-day would have been vastly different. I mention those matters because they have a vital bearing on the cost of production of wheat. I believe that bearing in mind the restrictions and limitations imposed upon this industry - some of them I admit are beyond the power of this Government, but others have been caused by the maladministration of this Government - the cost of producing wheat in this country has increased substantially. I am satisfied that under existing conditions, wheat cannot be produced for 2s. a bushel or anything like that figure. “Whilst I am sure that wheat-growers generally will welcome the announcement that an additional ls. a bushel will be paid on wheat already in the pool, that, of course, will not induce them to undertake planting to the limit of their capacity in the coming season. Consequently we cannot look forward to the increase of production which reasonably might have been expected.
– Under this measure we do not/ even know that we are to get 2s. a bushel for wheat in excess of thiquota.
– I agree. Thi? measure does not give any incentive to efficient wheat-growers in this country to endeavour to produce the maximum quantity of wheat possible in existing circumstances. The Government has shouted loudly about paying 4s. 1-Jd. a bushel for quota wheat at sidings, the suggestion being, of course, that this offer is a generous one, and something far better than was offered by previous administrations in this country or is being offered in other countries to-day; but let us examine the position In Australia, the Commonwealth Government is to pay 4s. 1-Jd. a bushel for all wheat produced up to 3,000 bushels, and is guaranteeing 2s. a bushel - I am assuming that this will be the case, although the bill does not say so - for non-quota wheat produced on licensed acreages. In Canada, where wheat is produced under conditions no worse than those operating in this country, farmers are being paid the equivalent of 6s. Id. a bushel in Australian currency for all the wheat they produce. In the United States of America, the price is 7s. lid. a bushel, and in Great. Britain 12s. 6d. a bushel. In these circumstances, I have no hesitation in supporting the amendment which will be moved at a later stage in an endeavour to ensure that the wheat-growers of this country shall receive 5s. 2d. a bushel for bagged wheat at the main shipping ports, for their entire production. I am satisfied that if this were done, there would be a greater incentive to farmers to engage in wheat-growing, with a resultant increase of production in “ this country.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that wages in the wheat industry should be increased also ?
– That is one thing about which this Government has never had any hesitation. I do not object to higher wages being paid in the wheat industry, and I know that wheatgrowers generally would be very glad to pay the highest possible wages if the return for their production enabled them to do so. Having given to the workers in this industry what is considered to be a reasonable wage, I ask the Government to give to the farmers a reasonable price for the wheat they produce. I support wholeheartedly the suggestion that wheatfarmers should be guaranteed 5s. 2d. a bushel at shipping ports for their entire production. Despite frequent statements by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the contrary, I contend that the wheat position in this country is not sound. I realize that there arc 100,000,000 bushels of wheat in storage to-day, but one bad season could change the position completely. For instance, in 1914 which admittedly was the worst drought in our history, Australia did not produce sufficient wheat for seed for the following year. Also we have certain very definite obligations as a nation. The suggestion that our objective should be to produce only sufficient wheat to feed the people of this country indicates a total disregard for our obligations to Great Britain, the United States of America and the Allied Nations generally. When this war ends, and perhaps long before it ends, there will be a world-wide demand for wheat to feed starving millions in countries which are being liberated from Nazi control. Therefore, let us have some vision. Honorable senators opposite talk loudly and frequently about planning for post-war reconstruction. Here is something which can he done now. This measure shows clearly that inherently the members of this Government are still as isolationist in their outlook as they were years ago, and that the party from which it is formed can never rise above vote-catching tactics. The Government apparently is completely unconcerned about the effects which some of its action will have in the future.
I trust that consideration will be given to the matters I have mentioned and that the Government will be prepared to review this thoroughly uneconomic plan. We should put into operation a scheme which would be economic, encourage efficiency and enable this country to meet its responsibilities in the manner which I believe the people of Australia desire that those responsibilities should he met.
– I wish to pay a tribute to Senator Uppill for the valuable figures and facts which he has given to the Senate this morning. The honorable senator speaks not as a theorist, but as a practical and pioneer farmer who has spent his life-time in this industry. He has succeeded riot as the result of State aid, but by his own hard work, initiative and individual effort. The Senate should take notice of the results of his experience, and of the most interesting facts which he related this morning.
I contend that, for the Government to restrict the production of wheat at present is to embark upon a policy of cold-blooded murder. In many parts of the world, thousands of people are starving or are on the verge of starvation. When I was in the Middle East, I spoke with many Australians who escaped from Greece and Crete, and they told harrowing stories of how the Greek people were living, on grass, lizards and worms, because of the acute famine in that country. In Syria, I saw food riots because there was insufficient food for the people of that country when it was occupied, and I recall the arrival of food ships to alleviate the suffering of the people. T remember visiting the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo, and speaking to a Minister who had been urging the farmers of Egypt to pull out their cotton crops and to grow wheat to save the Egyptian people from starvation.
The facts and figures given by Senator Uppill prove conclusively that there will be a great demand for wheat in many parts of the world immediately shipping space is available. To-day, there is devastation throughout Europe. China and Russia, which were two large wheatproducing countries, have been ravaged by war. Farmers of the United States of America are not growing sufficient wheat to meet the needs of that country, and Great Britain is making heavier and heavier demands upon wheat-exporting countries; yet, whilst all this is going on, the Commonwealth Government is deliberately preventing farmers from producing wheat. No farmer may grow wheat without a licence even although he has the man-power, machinery and land. Instead of encouraging registered farmers to produce more wheat, the Government is penalizing the efficient grower. It says to the farmers, “ If you keep your production, either by inefficiency or other means, down to 3,000 bushels, you will get 4s. l-Jd. a bushel for your wheat, and if you produce any more than that, we shall give you for your wickedness only 2s. a bushel for it”. We should consider this matter free from party feeling. I ask the Minister to tell the Senate why the Government is discouraging wheat production. Surely, it does not intend that people shall starve, although that would be the result of its policy. What is the reason for the restriction? No doubt the Government would say that stops should be taken to avoid overproduction.
– A little waste would not hurt.
– That would he better than allowing people to starve, but there is no danger of over-production. At present, Europe can take all the wheat that we can produce, and even more; but, assuming that there will not lie a market overseas for our surplus wheat, we have a market in our own country for all of the wheat that we can produce and double that quantity.
It was proved in Germany prior to the Avar that one of the chief _ requirements of Australia, motor spirit, can be made synthetically from wheat. Although many people thought that Germany could not go to war, because it had not a sufficient supply of motor fuel, that country has proved its ability to maintain a lengthy war by the use of synthetic petrol. Australia has no natural resources of petrol, but we have proved in this war that, like Germany, we are able to make synthetic petrol. Pour distilleries have already been established for its manufacture, or they are in process of being established for that purpose. One of them has been operating for some time, and a second Will be working in the near future, if operations have not already commenced. It has been proved that the production of power alcohol from wheat can be successfully accomplished. At present it is being produced in substantial quantities in Australia at a cost of 2s. 6d. a gallon. As the industry is now experiencing its growing pains, we can reasonably expect that in the course of time the cost will be considerably reduced. A bushel of wheat is required to produce two gallon; of power alcohol. Prior to the war, our average consumption of petrol was 330,000,000 gallons a year, so our power alcohol demands could absorb far more than our total pre-war production of wheat, even if we did not sell a single bushel of it for other purposes. Prior to the war, the home consumption of wheat amounted to about 33,000,000 bushels a year - since the war the consumption has increased considerably - and, as two gallons of power alcohol can be obtained from a bushel of wheat, we have a home market for wheat for the production of power alcohol of 165,000,000 bushels. Therefore, even without an overseas market for our wheat, we could use in Australia every bushel of wheat that could be produced. Why will not the Government allow the farmers to utilize their land, implements, and labour to the maximum capacity so as to permit of a maximum production of wheat? Australia will not have any surplus wheat after this war for conversion to power alcohol, because lives will have to be saved by the use of the wheat for food. The price of wheat in Canada to-day is 6s. Id. a bushel, whilst the_ price is 7s. lid. a bushel in the United States of America and 12s. 6d. a bushel in Great Britain. It will be agreed that those prices are profitable to the primary producers but under the present policy the Government denies to the producers the right to receive that price, because it restricts their production of wheat. It should immediately remove the restriction and help the fanners to produce more wheat by guaranteeing a reasonable price. The Government would not lose a penny. I urge it to give serious consideration to the matter. Whenever I read in the press about the present restrictions of wheat production, I think of the words of the Australian soldiers to whom I spoke on their return from Crete and Greece, and who told me what was happening in those countries. I also think of the people of Syria, thin and on the verge of starvation. When we expand that vista to the whole of Europe, I think that we are acting in an in-humanitarian way by denying to the people the food which they so urgently need. It is clear from the figures givenby Senator Uppill that the position is precarious. When the United States of America is pleading to the Dominions for more wheat, and when Great Britain is purchasing increasing quantities, one can see the dearest indication of a serious world shortage of this vitally important commodity.
– Whilst the great majority of the people have reached financial affluence because of the war, two sections of the community have not had that advantage. It is anomalous that those who are fighting to defend this country and those who are providing the food for the fightingmen are the worst off during this conflict. Under the Scully plan, the price paid for wheat is at present 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels, with an advance of 2s. a bushel for all wheat produced in excess of that quantity, but that price is inadequate to meet the present cost of production. Therefore, the Opposition considers that the grower should receive to-day at least 4s. 6d. a bushel at growers’ sidings for his product. Production is discouraged by the restrictions imposed by the Government on the primary producer. To be successful, a farmer must practice the rotation of crops, and in order to obtain thebest results a certain quantity of superphosphate is required, but supplies of that commodity are restricted. The cost of farm supplies generally is heavy. Wheat could be grown on thousands of acres of land in Australia without superphosphate, and licences should foe granted for production in those areas. The country that I have in mind is virgin soil and millions of bushels of wheat could be grown on it without fertilizers.
-Who owns that land?
– That is beside the point. The Govern ment should grant licences for the production of wheat on land of that description. Great Britain, where the present price of wheat is 12s. 6d. a bushel, does not produce sufficient wheat for itself, and on present figures it appears that the United States of America is approaching a similar predicament. Canada, like Australia, can produce enormous quantities of wheat, hut even in that country the price is 6s.1d. a bushel. If Canadian wheat is worth 6s.1d. a bushel, Australian wheat is worth more than is offered for it to-day. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has indicated that he will move an amendment to provide that the price of wheat for the whole crop shall be 5s. 2d. a bushel with a maximum deduction of8d. a bushel for handling charges, leaving 4s. 6d. a bushel as the minimum price payable to the wheatgrower. That is reasonable. For a number of years we have recognized that 5s. 2d. a bushel is a reasonable price for wheat for home consumption.
– No one has complained that the price of bread is too high.
– That is so. Yet it is said that the price of wheat to the farmer shall not be more than 4s. l1/3d. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels, with no guarantee at all regarding the price which the farmer will receive for anything above that quantity. Previously, 2s.a bushel was paid for wheat in excess of the guaranteed quantity. The minimum sought by the Opposition is still1s. 6d. a bushel below the Canadian price. As has been pointed out, the day is fast approaching when we shall want every bushel of wheat that can be grown in order to feed the starving people of Europe. That day is bound to come, and we should prepare for it. Senator Darcey has told us that wheat can be kept indefinitely. That is so, and, accordingly, we should increase the quantity of stored grain. Already we have approximately 100,000,000 bushels of wheat on hand, but we must remember that there is always the possibility of a drought, and that we may again experience the conditions of 1914, when wheat had to be imported from Manitoba.
– With the introduction of that wheat a lot of -weeds were brought to Australia.
– That is so. I shall support the amendment which has been foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition, but I fear that the Government will use its majority to defeat, the proposal. I plead with the Government to give serious consideration to the utilization of virgin soil for the growing of wheat, seeing that in such land superphosphate is not necessary.
.- I had not proposed to speak on this bill, but I am reminded that when members now sitting on the Government benches were in Opposition, they opposed any restriction of the area to be sown with wheat, whereas now they favour such a restriction.
– When in Opposition, I opposed restriction.
– Why does not the Minister still oppose it?
– I shall answer that interjection later.
– Not only is restriction of, acreage insisted on, but also in Western Australia farmers are paid not to grow wheat. That is absurd. Australia is always liable to drought conditions, and we should not forget that in 1.914 Australia had to import wheat from Manitoba. Unfortunately, weeds as well as wheat were imported. I wish to refer to the system of licensing which is favoured by the Government. Men have fallowed ground for a future crop only to find that permission to grow wheat on that land has been refused. That is absurd. If farms are to be licensed, farmers should know two years in advance what is intended, so that they may fallow the land and prepare it for the production of wheat. My son was threatened with prosecution when at Darwin because he instructed his manager to sow with wheat an unlicensed piece of land. Had he known in advance, he could have sown that land with oats, rather than with wheat. Senator James McLachlan referred to the sowing of wheat in virgin land. I have some land which would grow wheat without superphosphate, but I cannot get a licence to grow wheat on it. The system is wrong.
Throughout Australia there are millions of acres which could produce wheat, but which are not doing so. I refer now, not to hig holdings, but to small areas. I shall support the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has foreshadowed and I hope that the Government will accept it. As has been pointed out, 6s. id. a bushel is paid for wheat in Canada, 7s. lid. in the United States of America, and 12s. 6d. in Great Britain. In the light of those figures, surely 5s. 2d. a bushel is not too much to pay for Australian wheat. Senator Wilson referred to the distilleries which are producing power alcohol from wheat. I understand that one distillery is manufacturing power alcohol which can be produced at 2s. 6d. a gallon. If the wheat is bought at 4s. a bushel and power alcohol is produced at 2s. 6d. a gallon, the Government is making a profit of 4d. The Government’s attitude towards the wheat industry is wrong.
.- Like the Bourbons, the Government learns nothing and forgets nothing. Senator Courtice revealed a flexibility of outlook which I found rather refreshing, although, unfortunately, he concluded by supporting the mistakes made by the Government.
– Honorable senators opposite first welcome a bill and then proceed to murder it.
– Who has welcomed this bill? In my opinion, it ought to be murdered; and I shall have no hesitation in setting about to murder it. I am supposed to be particularly concerned with secondary industries, and some people- look to me to bolster such industries at the expense of rural production. I do not stand for anything of the kind. For many years I was on the land and grew wheat, and therefore I know something about wheat production as well as about the manufacturing business. As a manufacturer and, if honorable senators like, as a. representative of manufacturers, I say that manufacturers generally realize that unless the primary producers are prosperous, the secondary industries and the country generally cannot be prosperous. Therefore, those engaged in secondary industries welcome any opportunity to help the people on the land to be prosperous. Manufacturers realize that primary producers constitute their best market. I know that a previous government of which I was a member has been blamed for restricting the acreage to be sown with wheat. There were certain restrictions on sowing wheat in new land.
– And on increasing the area previously sown.
– That is so. That policy might have been all right at the time, but circumstances to-day are entirely different. However, as I have said, the Government learns nothing from what happens in the world. One fault that I find with the Labour party is its unwillingness to depart from its set policy whatever justification there may be for a change. Occasionally we see a supporter of the Government get a bit restless, but when the vote is taken he “‘stands pat” and supports the Government.
– The Government plays for safety.
– Yes, the safety of the Labour party.
– And the safety of the people.
– I doubt that. If the safety of the people depends on strait-jackets, straps and ties and stone walls, the people would prefer something eke. In view of the fact that superphosphate is difficult to obtain, and is costly, the Government should remove the restriction upon the growth of wheat on land in which it could be sown without artificial manures. The Government does not seem to realize that wheat cannot be grown without superphosphate in the main wheat-growing areas of Australia. Yet there are millions of acres of land which are not now producing wheat, but did grow wheat successfully in the past. That land could grow wheat again with little or no superphosphate.
– Without any phosphate at all.
– I know of many places in Victoria where millions of bags of wheat were grown in’ the past, but where no wheat is now grown. That land could again grow wheat, without superphosphate because it, has had a long spell from wheat-growing. The Government has not said specifically that it does not want wheat to be grown, but it has said so in effect because that is the effect of its policy of restriction. More food is required by the peoples of the world, yet the Government by its action is preventing the production of that food. I admit that many honorable senators on this side know much more about wheat-growing than I do. My experience has been limited to one district in Victoria, in which wheat-growing was carried on mostly in conjunction with mixed farming. However, one does not require to be a wheat-grower to realize that we cannot achieve economic prosperity by restricting the production of so vital a commodity as wheat under conditions existing to-<lay and which will exist in the post-war years. During the last war, millions of bushels of wheat, went to waste, but we have now learned’ how to store wheat. We should now produce to our capacity and storesurpluses, because such wheat will be sufficient backing for payments made in respect of it. The Government has failed lamentably in handling the man-power problems in primary industries. Even during the last few weeks men have been transferred from industries in which they have acquired skill to unessential’ work. For instance, men have been engaged by the Allied Works Council in splitting posts at a cost of 10s. a post,, whereas a man with average experience would do the work at a cost of 2s. a post. The Government has the audacity to describe that as economic planning, lt that is a sample of its post-war planning, I despair of this country ever; becoming prosperous under this Government.
The assistance provided under thismeasure is inadequate to enable the wheat-grower to overcome his difficulties. It is unsound economically to differentiate between the small man and thebig man in providing a guaranteed pricefor a commodity. Every one knows that the expansion of secondary industries has been due largely to the use of machinery, and mass-production methods. That trend, in conjunction with scientificmethods of cultivation, is becoming moreand more apparent in primary production. This Government’s policy, however, will discourage the use of improved methods of cultivation. Apparently, it is prepared to see the farmer revert to the old “ cocky “ style. It is unwise to tamper with primary production by placing it under the management of bureaucrats. The primary producer and the manufacturer is best qualified to control his respective industry. To-day, however, industry generally is under the control of innumerable boards. Undoubtedly, these bodies consist of estimable gentlemen who are anxious to do their best; but it is simply ridiculous to take the management of an industry out of t,he hands of the practical men engaged in it. Should we continue such a policy, we shall head for disaster. I repeat that this is a bad measure. The price guaranteed under it is not sufficient to be of real assistance to the wheatgrower. The Government should realize that conditions in primary industry today differ entirely from those existing in 1939-40 and 1940-41. It should keep abreast of world developments. I do not say that, in introducing a measure of this kind, the Government shows a disregard for the needs of the wheatgrowers, because I know that it really desires to help the growers. Its difficulty arises from the fact that its mind is not sufficiently flexible to enable it to realize the changes which are taking place in industry generally. The Government should withdraw this measure. It should realize that the prosperity of the country depends to a large degree upon the prosperity of the man on the land.
– vn reply - Senator Leckie admitted that he did not know very much about the wheat industry. Judging from his remarks, it was hardly necessary for him to make that admission. Honorable senators opposite have had much to say about existing restrictions upon the production of wheat. It is significant that, despite those restrictions, 5,000,000 acres, in respect of which licences to grow wheat are obtainable, are not now under wheat. In the House of Representatives, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) claimed with enthusiasm that he was responsible for many of the regulations which honorable senators opposite now tell us are embarrassing the wheatgrowers. All wheat-growers’ organizations insist upon the present restriction being maintained. It is true that, in Western Australia, ‘the production of wheat is restricted to a greater degree than in other States. But that is not the Government’s desire. That position has arisen mainly because of the shortage of transport facilities, heavy enlistments from country areas, and the shortage of superphosphate in that State. As honorable senators opposite have admitted, the shortage of superphosphate is felt more severely in Western Australia than in any other State. I repeat that many of the existing restrictions were imposed by previous governments.
Senator- Gibson. - I opposed such restrictions.
– The honorable senator may have opposed them as an individual, but the party to which he belongs supported their imposition.
The Scully plan has been welcomed by at least 85 per cent, of the wheat-growers of Australia. The primary object of that plan is to afford protection to the small grower. I have no doubt that were the Government to guarantee a flat price of 4s. a bushel, honorable senators opposite would support such a scheme.
– Does the Government expect the big grower to produce at a loss?
– The Government has already increased the guaranteed price in respect of non-quota wheat from 2s. a bushel to 3s. a bushel; and any price in excess of that figure realized on that wheat will be paid to the grower. From the point of view of the majority of growers, the Scully plan compares more than favorably with any plan introduced by previous governments.
– What about the starving millions in Europe?
– The feeding of those people in the post-war period is not entirely the responsibility of this Government. We must always remember that we have to play our part as one of the United Nations, not only as a producer of foodstuffs, but also in the operational spheres. When Japan entered the war, the Government’s first duty was to marshal all our resources in order to defend this country. To-day, we have the satisfaction of knowing that this Government performed that task with very great credit to Australia. It acted fearlessly, in that matter. Senator James McLachlan said that we had two fronts, - the fighting front and the food front. I remind him that we have a third front, which is of equal importance, namely, the supply of military equipment to our forces. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) asked what payments would be made next season. The answer is that the payment for nonquota wheat will be 3s. a bushel, and further advances will be made up to the full capacity of the pool. The decline in production, is caused by the shortage of superphosphate and man-power. The superphosphate position is expected to be better next season, and that will remove one obstacle to increased production. Alan-power, however, must remain short in wheat production and elsewhere while the war lasts. Senator Uppill’s illustration of varying crops is entirely wrong. A grower getting 15,000 bushels in five years, 9,000 bushels of which he harvested in one season, would get the quota payment for four years, and on 3,000 bushels for the other year. The honorable senator’s reference to varying quotas i.= covered by the Minister’s power of discretion. As I have told Senator Gibson previously, the Minister has power to use his discretion in that regard. Practically the whole of this industry is controlled by the wheat-growers themselves.
– Is the Minister referring to the new board that the Government appointed?
– All cases are reviewed by a State committee on which there is a majority of growers and by an executive member of the “Wheat Stabilization Board, who is a past president of the “Wheatgrowers Federation. We have been told that this is a bureaucratic government, and yet we delegate power to the growers who, after all, are a very important part of the industry. We say to them: “Here is a board composed of your own men, which is a board of appeal “. The Australian
Wheat Board is controlled by a majority of the growers themselves.
– Will the Minister say that that board has power to issue licences ?
-The Minister has discretionary power. This month the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association, which is an organization of the growers themselves, endorsed the control of production. Senator Uppill’s suggestion to remove restriction is against the real interests of the industry. Wheat prices in Canada have been, mentioned. It is true that Canada has restrictions, which are being maintained this year. The Canadian wheat-grower gets 90 cents only for the delivery quota allocated, and that quota hasbeen as low as 5 bushels an acre for the first delivery. Out of a 560,000,000 bushel crop the season’s delivery quota was only 2S0,000,000 bushels. Any residue was kept on the farms and was not paid for. Those figures show that the 90 cents paid in Canada was on onlyhalf of the production. Senator Leckie stated that because of the shortage of superphosphate the control of wheal acreage, for the introduction of which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) claimed credit, should be removed, and that its relaxation would mean an increase in production. For the information of honorable senators, I draw attention to a report, appearing in the Melbourne Argusof yesterday, of a meeting of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation,, attended by the representatives of wheatgrowers from all States. The report states -
Unless an adequate supply of superphosphate is made to the wheat industry at a satisfactory price for growers, no increase in. production of wheat can be expected.
– Read the resolution which the meeting passed about prices.
– I shall read it for the’ honorable senator’s benefit when 1 reach it. I think that Senator Leckie will realize from what I have quoted that the views held by wheat-growers themselves are in conflict with those which heexpressed in the Senate this morning..
The Australian Wheat-growers Federation has always held the belief that stabilization cannot be achieved without some form of control. The federation has repeatedly expressed the belief that uncontrolled production leads to chaos. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that we can all quote resolutions passed by various organizations. I do not want to go into history, but I tell the honorable senator that, as regards the 4’s. for the quota wheat this year, we have to budget for a deficiency of £1,500,000. If the honorable senator were in office he would reconsider the position before accepting the resolution of any organization in respect of wheat payments. On the 21st November, 1939, the subject of wheat was before the Senate, when the present Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Commerce. He then stated that the Government’s proposed first payment of 2s. 6d. a bushel was most generous. On page 1293 of Hansard of that date he is reported to have said that the average freight was about 4*d. a bushel, and that, deducting that from the 2s. 9d., the average payment to the farmer would be 2s. 4-Jd. a “bushel.
– That was a first advance. Be fair.
– I am perfectly fair. According to the honorable senator, the average payment to the farmer at that time was 2s. 4£d. The honorable senator on the same page is reported to have said -
In conclusion I repeat that the Government’s proposed first payment is most generous.
– The Minister inferred that it was the final payment. My words show that it was the first payment.
– The honorable senator went on -
We are satisfied that a great number of farmers appreciate the Government’s difficulties and know that so soon as the Government is iti a position to know what further sales can be made, it will be better able to decide the future policy of the wheat industry.
The point I wish to make is that the Government to-day has increased the 2s. on the non-quota wheat to 3s. a bushel, and if we were able to say that the non-quota wheat would bring 4s. we could then give some definite idea of the maximum that we could, give.
– The Government has increased the 2s. to 3s. only on the old wheat. We would have paid the extra ls. on all the wheat.
– The Government is faced with the task of budgeting for £1,500,000 to subsidize the 4s. l£d. on the quota wheat. I do not want to go into past events referred to by Senator McBride. The Scully plan has been accepted by the great majority of the growers. It is true that the large grower, on an average, as Senator Courtice rightly put it, would find it a good risk to go right up to the maximum permitted under his licence to grow wheat, even if the subsidy were 3s. a bushel.
– Why does not the Government take the risk?
– The honorable senator knows that in 1939 when he made the speech from which I have just quoted there were not the shipping difficulties that the Government is faced with to-day, nor were the man-power or the superphosphate problem so pressing. In my own State I have, with the consent of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, asked for an inquiry to ascertain whether it would be possible to lift the restrictions in that State, but it is not of much use unless man-power and the necessary transport and fertilizer is assured. When the decision is made, I want to be able to assure the grower? of Western Australia that we are lifting the restriction quite definitely that we are not going to compensate them to an amount of 12s. an acre, and that we are assured that they can have fertilizers to grow additional wheat.
– Does the Minister know how that offer is going to be received ?
– Very few representations have been made to me about it, but I have some knowledge of the wheat industry in Western Australia and I hesitate to make n decision before these things are examined. The grower has to fallow for the following season’s crop, so that we have to be fair to him and give him time to carry out that work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Clause 5 (Basis of distribution).
SenatorMcLEAY (South Australia - Leader of the Opposition) [2.15]. - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the clause with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “5. - (1.) Payments to wheatgrowers under this Act in respect of wheat sown in any year shall (subject to such modifications as appear to the Minister to be just and equitable for the purpose of meeting the special circumstances of cases where the Minister is satisfied that two or more persons have operated together in the growing of wheat be allocated so as to ensure to each wheatgrower a return calculated on a basis per bushel for bagged wheat at overseas shipping ports of five shillings and twopence, less charges (not exceeding eight pence per bushel). (2.) In the calculation of the return for wheat, the amount to be taken into account for charges for freight and handling from growers’ sidings to overseas shipping ports shall not exceed eight pence per bushel. (3.) This Act shall not apply to wheat sown or harvested in contravention of the National Security (Wheat Industry Stabilization) Regulations.”.
I do not propose to repeat the arguments which I advanced during the second reading debate. I am sure that all honorable senators were impressed by the statement of the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser) that certain growers had not sown their full licensed acreage. That merely strengthens our argument, because we contend that one of the reasons why some growers have not taken full advantage of their licensed acreage is the Scully plan, under which growers are offered 4s. a bushel at sidings on the first 3,000 bushels and 2s. a bushel on the balance. That plan is one of the main causes of the fall in the production of wheat.
– And production will continue to fall.
– That is so. An announcement of the Government’s policy at this stage cannot affect production this year, because in most cases ground has to be prepared, and it is now too late to fallow, but if wheatfarmers are to be encouraged to expand production in the 1945-46 and 1946-47 seasons, an announcement of the Government’s intentions must be made now. Preparations for the growing of wheat on an economic basis take eighteen months or two years. In the expectation that the war may be over in a year or perhaps two years, and that we shall then be able to sell all the wheat we can produce, now is the time to do the post-war planning. The time for theoretical arguments by bureaucratic economists is past. What the wheat farmers want is a practical proposition. The manpower problem in relation to not only this industry but also other primary industries in which there has been a serious fall of production must be solved.
In his reply to the debate on the motion for the second reading, the Minister said that85 per cent, of the wheatgrowers were satisfied with the Scully plan. I am not in a position to say what is the percentage of satisfied wheatgrowers,but I do say that if the Minister’s figures be correct, then the 15 per cent, which he admits were not satisfied, produced more wheat than the 85 per cent, which he claimed were satisfied. The problem which we must face in the immediate future is the production of more wheat. The Government should show a little intelligence and appreciate the importance of this matter, because until the ‘ wheat industry is placed upon an equitable and economic basis we shall not make headway.I believe that such a basis would be achieved by carrying the requested amendment I have moved. In short, the request provides that wheatfarmers shall be paid 5s. 2d. a bushel at main shipping ports, less charges which are not to exceed8d. a bushel. That will bring the price at growers’ sidings to a minimum of 4s. 6d. a bushel. On the other hand, the Government’s proposal is for the payment of 4s.11/3d. a bushel at growers’ sidings for the first 3,000 bushels, an advance of 3s. a bushel, and also the difference between that and the realization price for the balance.
– Two shillingsa bushel.
– I understood the Minister to say that that advance would be increased to 3s.
– He said 3s. for wheat, in the pool.
– But what about the future?
– There is nothing in the bril about that.
– I am satisfied that if the bill be amended along the lines which I propose, the future position will be met. However, I doubt very much if any more wheat can be produced this year unless fallowing has already been carried out. although some growers may be able to produce a little more without superphosphate. If the present restrictions were removed and a payable price offered for all wheat produced, the problem of falling production would be solved.
Senator FRASER, (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [2.22”.- The Government cannot accept the request moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). I remind the committee that a similar proposition was made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) before the last elections. However, Mr. Fadden’s statements on that occasion were refuted by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). The Labour party went to the country on the Scully wheat scheme, and the electors have expressed their approval of that scheme in no uncertain manner, particularly in Western Australia. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the fall in the production of wheat in this country has been just as much in evidence amongst small “rowers as amongst large growers.
– I invite Senator James McLachlan to support his contention by putting a case to the committee. The information which I have obtained from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture - the one authority which should know the position - is that the reduction of wheat production has occurred amongst small wheat-farmers just as much as amongst larger ones. The carrying of this request would mean an additional expenditure of £2,000,000.
– How does the Minister make that out?
– The argument advanced by the Opposition is that be cause of the unprofitable price, the large wheat-growers have refused to grow more wheat. If that be so, it is strange, indeed, that Senator Gibson himself has requested the removal of the restrictions to enable him to grow wheat at the ruling price.
Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) [2.26J. - In support of his argument that the ruling price for wheat does not deter big growers from increasing production, the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) has cited Senator Gibson’s case. I point out that if Senator Gibson were permitted to grow wheat where he had not grown it before, he would now get 4s. lid. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels. That does not affect the argument in regard to the large grower. The fact is that the Scully plan does tend to diminish the efforts of large growers and as we in this country, like the people of other countries, are desirous of increasing production of wheat to meet, the needs of liberated countries after the war, I suggest to the Government that it should accept the request moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay).
– I support the request. It appears from what the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) has said that the Government admits that this is purely a political measure. The Minister said that a large percentage of wheatgrowers supported the Scully plan by voting for members of the Labour party at the last elections; but I point out that in some of the wheat-growing districts in the electorate of Wakefield in South Australia the United Australia part.x candidate, Mr. Duncan-Hughes, polled up to 9S per cent, of the votes. He was defeated, not in the wheat areas, but in the industrial centres.
– No explanation which has ever been offered by a Minister in this chamber during this Parliament has been satisfactory to Senator McBride. On behalf of the Government I have advanced reasons for it3 objection to the request. I remind honorable senators opposite that one reason for the reduced production of wheat is the lack of superphosphate. Prior to the entry of Japan into the war, wheat-growers were able to use85 lb. of superphosphate an acre, but that quantity has now been reduced to 35 lb. I say definitely that the reduced supply of superphosphate resulting from the loss of Nauru and Ocean Island was responsible for the restrictions imposed upon wheat-growers. That cannot be denied. To Senator Uppill I say that by a large majority, the wheatgrowers of South Australia endorsed the Scully plan. I am not so much concerned as some honorable senators opposite are about the large wheat-growers, but under this bill I am confident that, at least for the time being, the majority of the growers will be satisfied.
Question put -
That the request (Senator McLeay’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th March (vide page 2314), on motion by Senator Fraser -
That the bill he now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 30th March (vide page 2315), on motion by Senator Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
.- I move -
That Order of the Day No. 4 - Supply Bill (No. 1) 1944-45 - First Reading - resumption of debate - be read and discharged.
A new bill has been prepared.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment : -
Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill 1944.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill 1944.
Maternity Allowance Bill 1944.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1944-45. (Substitute.)
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– Speaking last night on the Supply Bill, I pleaded with the Government for the return of certain schools taken over for military purposes to the educational authorities concerned. I said that if the schools were still urgently needed by the military authorities suitable accommodation should be provided for the schools. I gave one instance of the present intolerable conditions by referring to the position at All Souls’ Boys School at Charters Towers. I stated that the scholars had been accommodated on the racecourse, and that 240 boarders had to sleep in open horsestalls, as no other accommodation had been provided for them. I pointed out that they had been doing that for the last twelve months. Representations were made to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) last October, and the matter was brought to the notice of the Hirings Department by the diocesan secretary in February of this year. I have been informed that there are now 300 boy boarders at the school and that the only accommodation provided for them is in a marquee which will accommodate about 60boys. That means that about 240 lads will continue to be housed in open horsestalls. This bill provides for an expenditure of over £51,000,000, so that the small sum which would be required to provide suitable accommodation for these boys appears infinitesimal in comparison. The improved war position should permit of prefabricated huts, or material for the building of suitable housing, being made available, so that decent accommodation may be provided for these boys.
Another school to which I desire to refer is St. Gabriel’s Girls School at Charters Towers, which also was taken over by the military authorities some time ago. When taken, that action was warranted, but it is now time that the position was rectified. The school at Charters Towers was closed and the girls were moved about 250 miles further west to Richmond. The secretary of the Diocesan Council has written to me as follows : -
St. Gabriel’s School is being used for an American hospital and the school itself is operating at the Royal Hotel, Richmond.
Formerly the school had 80 boarders and 20 day scholars, but last year it was down to 40 children and this year may be even lower. It may be that the school may have to close, as the parents are not willing to send their children so far west where the heat and the insects militate against the successful operation of a school.
No indication whatsoever has been given as to when the school buildings may be returned, although the chairman of the Central Hirings Committee stated on the 1st October, 1943, that he was communicating with the United States of America authorities in an effort to secure a decision.
No decision appears to have been made. Similar action was taken by the military authorities in connexion with St. Anne’s School at Townsville. The following statement sets out the position in regard to that school: -
In February, 1942, St. Anne’s School was taken over and the school was evacuated to Ravenswood. In the previous year, before evacuation, the school had 70 boarders and 130 day scholars, making 200 in all. Since the evacuation, the school has been able to take boarders only, except for a few day scholars who reside at Ravenswood. The numbers for 1942 were 00, and in 1943, 70, whilst for this year the numbers have increased to 100.
In 1942, the school operated in temporary premises in Ravenswood, in two privatehouses, the Methodist Church, the School of Arts and the Masonic Hall.
In 1943, more suitable accommodation was Secured by the taking over of the Railway Hotel, and by using a cottage near the hotel so that the school work was more centralized.
This year, the extra number of boarders can be accommodated by economy in space, but the pressing need is for classrooms, which must be near the hotel. It is not possible to work the school for class work in buildings widely separated, as teachers move from class to class during the day. The sister in charge estimates that a building or buildings 50 feet by 20 feet would suit the purpose.
For the time being until the school is returned, it is asked that assistance be given to the school which will allow it to carry on at Ravenswood, with a reasonable degree of efficiency, by the provision of classroom accommodation .
The following alternatives are suggested: -
1 ) That the Army authorities provide from available buildings which might not be needed for Army purposes suitable building or buildings and the transport of same to Ravenswood, providing for erection at that place.
That materials and labour be supplied for a new building.
That the school purchase the buildings and be given Army assistance in the transport and erection of the same.
The cost of the accommodation be met by the Army authorities.
In the event of the Army meeting the cost of the accommodation, the Diocesan authorities would be prepared to pay an agreed percentage of the cost as rental. With regard to the request that the cost be met by the Army, we are aware that periodical compensation has been definitely fixed, but it is considered that the cost should not be met by the school seeing that the school’s own buildings have been held much longer than anticipated and that it has great financial loss in maintaining a school, under the present conditions. If the school were operating under normal conditions, in its own buildings, it is estimated that it would have a total roll of 300, including boarders and day girls.
Because of the action taken in regard to their buildings, two of these schools have had their enrolment considerably reduced, because .parents have been unwilling to allow their children to go so far away from home. The schools are nowcommencing their third year of operation under these unsatisfactory conditions, and it is high -time that something was done to improve the position. Either fresh accommodation should be provided, or their own buildings should be returned to the school authorities. The letter from the diocesan secretary concludes -
The church authorities have always been willing to do -their utmost to assist the war effort, but it is felt that the time has come when the, service authorities should make a special effort to vacate the schools. The education of our children is of paramount importance for post-war reconstruction and for the continuance of Australia as a nation, as they will be the citizens of the future.
Any assistance that your committee can give will be much appreciated, but to be effective the decisions must be made swiftly.
I stress the need for prompt action in this matter. Other schools at Charters Towers, including Mount “Carmel School, are in the same position, as are also other schools in different parts of Queensland. I have mentioned particularly those with which I am best acquainted. An intolerable position exists in regard to All Souls’ School, where 240 children have been accommodated in open horse-stalls for over twelve months, and there are no indications that the position will he rectified in the near future.
The whole question of the impressment of private accommodation in Queensland calls for a review. The conditions under which the civilian populations of Townsville, Cairns, and other North Queensland towns have been living during the last two years have been most unsatisfactory. These people have been willing to accept hardships in the interests of the nation, but the time is overdue for a thorough overhaul of the acquisition of private homes and other buildings by the military authorities. It may be possible to house in tents or prefabricated huts the staffs which occupy these buildings, so that- the private buildings which have been impressed may be returned to their owners. I ask the Leader of the Senate to consult with his colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), in regard to this matter. No municipal council in Australia would allow in peace-time the conditions which exist in connexion with the All Souls’ School. Had not the school authorities been promised that accommodation for the boys would be provided at the race-course, they would not have removed there. The promises made to them have not been honoured, and it is time action was taken to honour them.
– Some weeks ago, I referred to the subject of the patent medicine trade in this country, and yesterday, the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) stated that the Commonwealth Government has no constitutional power to take action in regard to this matter. I point out to him that action in this direction was taken by the Commonwealth as long ago as 1906 under powers possessed by the Commonwealth since federation. I find in Hansard, volume 26, page 1565, that Mr. Liddell, the then honorable member for Hunter, asked a question regarding the following paragraph appearing in the Melbourne Age of the 29th August, 1905 :-
Inquiries in Europe are to bc made on behalf of the Commonwealth Government by Mr. O. C. Beale, chairman of the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, with reference to foreign legislation designed “ to check and prevent thu sale of deleterious drugs and poisons prepared under secret formulae “, and also with reference to infant mortality in foreign countries. Mr. Beale was a member of the New South Wales Birth-rate Royal Commission, of which Dr. McKellar was chairman. He is proceeding to Europe at his own cost for the Federal Government and Parliament. The Prime Minister has given Mr. Beale an official letter of introduction.
Mr. Liddell asked what was the nature of Mr. Beale’s commission, and the Minister replied, “ Exactly as appears m the quotation marks in that paragraph “. The following year the Government, without reference to Parliament, appointed Mr. Beale as a royal commissioner to inquire into this subject, and he commenced his inquiries on the 11th December, 1906. The terms of reference of the royal commission were -
Those terms are set out in the report presented by the royal commissioner to Parliament on the 8th August, 1907, That report consisted of 455 pages, and as the result of the disclosures made by Mr. Beale, State governments were induced to take action to remedy the more prevalent of the evils set out in the report. The inquiry also had the effect of awakening the public to the extravagance of the claims made by advertisers of drugs and preparations which hitherto had been accepted as beneficial, whereas, in fact, they were harmful. Within the last few days I have received numerous letters dealing with this subject. Apparently this evil is causing grave concern to many sections of the community, who now expect the Government to take action to remedy it. I have a letter from the honorary secretary of the Australian Association of Scientific Workers in which he points out that his association has repeatedly made representations to the Government concerning the necessity of controlling these substances. With that letter he enclosed the following statement which the association released for publication to the press as recently as the 18th of this month: -
By P. J. Kerr
Senator Arnold has recently redirected attention to the inadequate government control over “ valueless patent medicines foisted on the public “. Investigations by the Association of
Scientific Workers have shown that many patent medicines are quite useless, others are definitely harmful, and very few perform necessary functions.
Medicines for animals are controlled by act of Parliament in order to protect the health of domestic animals and live-stock, so why shouldn’t we protect the health of humans in the same way?
It will be recalled that National Security Regulations were introduced late in 1942 controlling the manufacture and advertising of patent medicines, but after strong pressure these were disallowed. Spokesmen for the industry did not attempt to answer the medical and scientific criticisms of patent medicines, but based their attack on the ground that the regulations were not relevant to national security. effectonwarpotential.
The Government can regain control of the industry by legislative action. In the meantime, essential drugs and manpower are being wasted, and the national health seriously affected by the present lack of control over patent medicines. All these factors are arguments for legislative control in war-time.
Mr. Curtin said recently that it was more important to have enough men available to produce milk than beer. How much more important is it that manpower should not be wasted in manufacturing useless concon tions when there is a shortage of some protective foods which the Government has so far failed to make available even to vulnerable gro ups?
We all know the extravagant claims made in advertisements. Mothers are tricked into buying soaps, supposed to protect children from theeffects of scratches, and are lulled into a false feeling of security. The lives of many people are made miserable by worrying about imaginary ailments invented by the advertisement copywriters. People are misled about the supposed need for constant stimulation of the excretary system.
On last year’s figures, 12,000 persons were employed in the manufacture of about 20,000 preparations. One of these was found to contain only common salt, a flavouring agent, and 53 per cent, alcohol. Another, to be applied to the neck for goitre, contained only Epsom salts and water.
Reputable firms have nothing to fear from the disclosure of their formulae and nothing to lose from the restriction of advertising. We should purge ourselves now of the constipation of misused manpower and the bad breath of wanton advertising.
I repeat that the Government already possesses the requisite powers to remedy this evil. As I have pointed out, the Commonwealth acted in this matter 30 years ago. That inquiry bore considerable fruit ; and the evil diminished at least temporarily. Since that time, however, it has grown to alarming proportions. Therefore, I urge the
Government to give immediate and serious consideration to the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into this subject.
– (During the debate in this chamber on Wednesday on the subject of overseas publicity in respect of Australia’s war effort, Senator Allan MacDonald referred to conditions of reception outside Australia of short-wave broadcasts from this country. Questions raised by Senator Allan MacDonald relating to programme aspects of these short-wave transmissions have been brought to the notice of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), but because certain technical questions were raised, I propose to deal with this aspect of the matter today. Shortly after the outbreak of war the Government approved the. establishment of an overseas short-wave broadcasting service for the purpose of - first, combating propaganda disseminated by enemy countries and countries with enemy sympathies; and, secondly, affording an effective coverage to those areas outside Australia where it is essential that the Commonwealth should have the greatest possible degree of influence. So that the Government’s proposals might be effectively carried- out, approval was given for the establishment of a highfrequency short-wave broadcasting station consisting of three transmitters each having a power of 100 kilowatts with a system of aerials directed towards zones embracing eastern Asia and other countries bordering the Pacific. The construction of the station is well advanced and it is hoped to bring one of the transmitters into service at a very early date. Pending the construction of this high-frequency broadcasting station, news and political warfare propaganda is being transmitted from Australia by means of high-frequency short-wave stations located in the vicinity of Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, the transmitters ranging in power from 2 to 10 kilowatts. Two of the transmitters were originally provided to permit broadcasts to the remote areas of the Commonwealth not yet served by the network of national medium-wave transmitters. The information available indicates that whilst the service provided has been of great benefit, it was inevitable that the power of the stations would bc much too low to permit of the transmissions being heard reliably against the intense competition of high-powered stations in other countries. .__
Dealing specifically with Senator Allan MacDonald’s statement that he told departmental officials of this matter long ago, the only knowledge of the honorable senator’s complaint possessed by officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department is that made known by the honorable senator at a sitting of the Broadcasting Committee held in Melbourne on the 3rd November, 1943. On that occasion, the honorable senator remarked that while returning to Australia aboard a ship following a course in the South Pacific Ocean, he found that reception of Australian shortwave stations was very poor, whereas he was able to hear very well short-wave broadcasts from more distant countries. In particular he cited the example of strong reception from Ankara, Turkey. On that occasion the reply to Senator Allan MacDonald’s statement was given immediately at the meeting, and was to the following effect: The aerials used at the Australian short-wave stations are highly directive and are aimed in directions other than that of the South Pacific Ocean. The weakness of reception in that area is a measure of the efficiency of those aerials in directing transmissions in the desired- directions. The desired directions are those of the enemyoccupied countries to the north of Australia and including Japan, India, Europe and North America. It was explained “at the time to the honorable senator that the department, and Commonwealth agencies responsible for the short-wave programmes, did not wish to convey the impression that they were satisfied with the Australian short-wave broadcasting service. No country engaged in this work is ever satisfied and continually strives to improve it, and thus the matter has become one of political warfare.
As part of this international service, there is established a regular system of obtaining reports from all countries towards which transmissions are made.
These reports come in regularly and, in general, show satisfactory transmissions. As an example of the reports received, the following quotations are made from reports received : -
Tahiti and New Caledonia Consistently good.
New Delhi Whole transmissions observed good to very good.
Chungking Chinese express gratitude for the service which provides their news.
North America east coast Reception varies from good to excellent and is regularly relayed to local listeners.
Great Britain - Fair to fairly good.
In the statement dealing with the work of the American office of the Department of Information which I made available to the Senate on Wednesday, I indicated that short-wave news monitored inNew York was re-circulated for publication in the American press. This was positive proof that reception was reasonably satisfactory in the United ‘States of America, so that the general statement that shortwave news was not heard until within 500 miles of the coast of Australia was substantially refuted by this fact. It is expected that when the new transmitters at Shepparton come into operation the service to Great Britain and European regions will be improved:
Regarding Senator Allan MacDonald’s remark concerning good reception in the South Pacific Ocean of transmissions from Ankara, it was explained to the honorable senator that points in the South Pacific Ocean are near the antipodes of Ankara, and that at such antipodal points there is a notable increase in strength of radio transmissions. As previously indicated, Australian transmissions are not strong in the locality mentioned because the population in those latitudes of the South Pacific Ocean is very small.
.- On Wednesday, when I moved the adjournment of the Senate to discuss the necessity for the expansion of Australian publicity overseas, apparently I inadvertently stated that the total expenditure by the Government on publicity was approximately £250,000. I take the opportunity to correct that figure. I should have said approximately £750,000, the amount expended on overseas pub licity being about £50,000, or approximately 5 per cent, of the Government’s total expenditure on all forms of publicity. Since I drew attention on the same occasion to the disadvantages under which photographers of the Department of Information are obliged to work in operational zones, I have received further evidence in support of the case I then presented to the Senate, particularly in relation to the SouthWest Pacific Area. I do not blame the photographers or the Department of Information. What has made the position so difficult is the action of the Army. I am advised that since Mr. Damien Parer snatched a chance and took the air pictures of the Bismarck Sea battle, regulations provide for application to be made through devious channels to get a plane, and our men say that the photographers are so discouraged at being continually refused permission that they have almost given up trying. Censoring of photographs and captions is so drastic that much hard and dangerous work is wasted. When Lord Gowrie visited New Guinea there were eight American photographers on one job and the cream of their work was sent away immediately, even though officers of high rank appeared in tie pictures. The representative of the Department of Information had his work so cut that every field officer and also their names were removed from the picture. His work was valueless. The Australian rule that no officer above a certain rank be photographed restricts our men’s work to the ranks, while the Americans serve the world with pictures of officers of high rank in action, thus giving pictures an authentic value denied to us. All American services are publicityminded, and would no more go into action without their photographer than without ammunition. On all air sorties a photographer is taken as part of the crew, and the American operators, therefore, know of important raids beforehand, enabling them to provide the right gear for the occasion. The highest officers personally give orders, verbal and routine, that all facilities must be given to photographers, which is the reverse of what happens in our services. Although the American photographers ave in many instances not so skilled individually as our men, the complete coverage and assistance given them ensures that some of the pictures after careful editing will be good. As evidence of this, I direct attention to the special training now being given to 125 American photographers to form a special corps for the second front, and the American request for 30 pictorial editors to deal with their work, and despatch radiograms from Britain and Europe. How can Australia combat this when a Minister says, “I do not care what newspapers think of the Department of Information ? “ Unless the representatives of the Department of Information are given more consideration, and press photographers are allowed to go on to the field, we shall remain at a disadvantage. Furthermore, I say without hesitation that our own accredited press representatives in the South-West Pacific Area are under a very great disadvantage, inasmuch as they are allowed to write their despatches only within the four corners of the official communiques. That restriction on stories written by accredited correspondents at the front is imposed by Army regulations. It is a great limitation, and appears to be unduly harsh, in view of the fact that all communiques are subject to censorship instructions, and many of them are not issued for a number of days after the action has taken placed Subject to correction, I do not think that that restriction applies outside the South-West Pacific Area, to judge -by the reports which appear in the press of what is happening on the Italian and other fronts.
I have just been reading the Fourth Report of the Broadcasting Committee. I warn the Government to take great care before accepting the recommendations of the majority of the committee. Up to the present time the Australian Broadcasting Commission has had full access to the news coverage of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association and the Australian Associated Press. The commission recently drew up a contract with the Australian Associated Press for the purpose of continuing to get that full coverage of news. The majority report of the committee recommends that this be discontinued, and I understand that the Postmaster-General could refuse his consent, as he has power to do in relation to any contract of a total value of over £5,000. The suggestion now being made by the committee is that the commission should set up a complete news-gathering service of its own in competition with the Australian Associated Press.
– The honorable senator ought to read the report.
– I have read part of it. I propose to read all the evidence, but so far I have read only the recommendations of the majority and minority sections of the committee. It would be much more economical, and ensure a greater news coverage to the commission, to allow it to continue to avail itself of the services of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association and the Australian Associated Press. This does not in any way bind the commission to any particular policy, because newspapers of every shade of political opinion are associated with the Australian Associated Press, which, with its long years of service, has been able to build up a very valuable and complete system of news gathering.
– The Australian Associated Press is the body which sends the overseas news. The report of the committee refers to something that is happening in Canberra. The honorable senator should study the subject before he attempts to discuss it.
– I am also referring to the arrangement which the commission has with the Australian newspapers. Does the honorable senator favour its continuation, or does he think the commission should set up an entirely new news-gathering service of its own? I know that the Australian Associated Press provides cable news, to the Australian newspapers, but they in turn make.it available to the commission. Am I right up to that point?
– The honorable senator might as well try to talk about the man in the moon.
– I warn the Government not to adopt the new proposal, although I understand that at the present time it favours the discontinuance of the existing arrangement whereby, by means of a token payment, the commission has placed at its disposal the whole of the newspaper services, both overseas and local. The provision by the commission of a news-gathering service of its own would probably involve an expenditure of from £60,000 to £SO,000 a year. It L; not wise to increase governmental expenditure at a time ‘when every item should be closely, scrutinized. Nothing could justify the commission in establishing an entirely independent news service when the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association and the Australian Associated Press are making all their services available to it practically without .cost.
– That is not true.
Senator NASH (“Western Australia; “3.25’J. - In initiating the debate on the bill, Senator Collett appeared to me to avail himself of the opportunity to make a running commentary on the proceedings of the Senate during this period of the session, and to mingle with it his own observations and opinions. To this I have no objection. While I agree with some of the views he expressed, I am strongly opposed to him on many other matters. I agree that the provision of refrigerators in Western Australia is urgently necessary. They are essential in country districts, some of which are entirely without the amenities available to citizens in more settled areas. I also agree with him concerning the medical staff of the Repatriation Department. I firmly believe that it should be the best procurable, because soldiers who are injured defending Australia are entitled to the greatest possible consideration that can be extended to them. The best medical advice and surgical skill should be made available to them without stint. I also endorse the honorable senator’s belief, expressed in answer to an interjection by me, that the people of Western Australia would not now favour secession. I was glad to hear him express that view, because, if ever there was a time in our history when Australia should regard itself as a nation, and not as six separate States opposed to each other, it is now. I feel that in Western
Australia the cry for secession will never be repeated. I hope that it will not be. The movement was due entirely to the conditions prevailing at the time. Things were not so good then as they were subsequently, or even as they are now, when unemployment is negligible or even non-existent. Furthermore, I believe that the people of Western Australia realize now what can be done for the States by the Commonwealth authorities. I refer particularly to the setting up of the flax industry in Western Australia. That industry is assuming large proportions and will be a great asset to Western Australia. Also, a plant for the production of power alcohol from wheat is nearing completion and the construction of wooden ships is being undertaken. These are industries which probably never would have been established in Western Australia without Commonwealth assistance. Then, of course, there are other advantages, such as the installation of dehydration plants, and the benefits of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. Those are sound reasons for my agreement with the view expressed by Senator Collett that the people of Western Australia are no longer interested in secession.
I am in complete accord with what Senator Tangney has said about conditions on the trans-Australian railway. I appreciate that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is very concerned with the requirements of employees on that line, but I believe that no harm would be done by a further reference by him to a document, parts of which already have been referred to by several honorable senators. From my own observations, I realize that what has been said in regard to this matter by other honorable senators is beyond doubt.
– Except that they did not mention that the Department of the Interior was doing everything possible to improve conditions.
– I realize that the Minister for the Interior is very much concerned with the requirements of workers on the trans-Australian railway, and I am sure that he is prepared to do everything in his power to remove the disabilities which they suffer. However, frequently during the present sittings I have heard invidious comparisons made of the war effort of one particular group of citizens in this community and that of other groups. Rail transport is an essential war requirement, and in my opinion workers engaged on the transAustralian line, stationed in the desert far from the amenities enjoyed by a large proportion of the people of this country, are entitled to special considerations. The document to which I have referred states that people living along certain portions of the line have been without beef for three months because of the absence of refrigeration. That is a disability which I am sure the Minister will seek to remove at the earliest possible moment.
I am strongly in favour of the provision of a travelling library for the benefit of people living along the transAustralian railway. These people live many miles from the centres of population, and the conveniences which they possess are few.
I wish to stress also the urgent need for increased supplies of wire netting in Western Australia. I have taken this matter up with the Department of Munitions, and I understand that everything possible is being done. It appears, however, that only 1^-in. gauge wire can be made available, and I am informed that such wire is absolutely useless for chocking the depredations of rabbits. Galvanized wire of 1^-in. gauge is required for this purpose because ordinary black iron wire will not last. The provision of adequate supplies of poison and ammunition for the destruction of pests is also important. From information which I have received, very shortly it may be necessary to use a militia regiment to destroy emus in the Southern Cross district. Apparently these birds are present in thousands and are a real pest. I trust that the Government will give earnest attention to the matters which I have raised.
– The matter with which I wish to deal concerns the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator
Keane), and supports the belief that primary producers generally in this country are receiving rather a raw deal at present. A few days ago I was a member of a deputation, which included representatives from South Australia and Victoria, to the Minister for Trade and Customs concerning an increase of the price of grapes used in wine making. We discussed the matter for some time with the Minister, and he gave us to understand that he would let us have a reply during the next day or so. However, several days ago when I attempted to obtain a reply from him in this chamber and asked if he was prepared to do anything in regard to the matter, he curtly said, “ No adding that the growers had already had an increase of £1 a ton, and no further increase would be granted. I have heard nothing further from the Minister since, nor have my colleagues who were members of the deputation. I regard this- as most unfair treatment of a section of primary producers. The wine trade in this country is flourishing, and it is no exaggeration to say that since the outbreak of war wine prices have risen by 200 per cent., but the grape-grower has received little benefit from that increase. From 1 ton of grapes, approximately 130 gallons of wine can be made. On the basis of £8 2s. 6d. a ton for grapes, all that the grape-grower receives for the quantity required to produce a bottle of wine is 2-Jd. Yet the wine is sold at from 15s. to £3 3s. a gallon, or from 2s. 6d. to 10s. 6d. a bottle. A recent report stated that profits in the wine trade were huge. Of course, there is no export trade in wine at present, but it is being sold in this country at very profitable prices. The cost of growing grapes has increased because of higher prices for implements, superphosphate and labour, yet the only increase granted to grape-growers has been a paltry £1 a ton, representing only an additional 30 per cent, on previous prices, whereas the wine and spirit merchant is receiving an additional 150 or 200 per cent. Some time ago, the Minister for Trade and Customs sent an officer to South Australia to obtain specific facts which could be cited. At that time the growers were asking for an additional £3 10s. a ton, but when that officer made his report to headquarters the increase of only £1 a ton, to which I have referred, was granted. Subsequently I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Douglas report had been given to the wine-makers but not to the producers. The Minister said that it was not given to either. Today the Minister has in his possession a telegram which was given to him by one of my colleagues yesterday, stating that a wine-maker had seen the report and was prepared to prove it at any time. Wine-makers are so anxious to get grapes that, according to reports, some of them are offering an extra £2 10s. a ton for grapes and are paying the carriage, either by road or rail, for a considerable distance. The growers are not receiving the consideration which is due to them. I think that every honorable senator will agree that, as the profits of the winemakers have increased from 100 to 200 per cent., it is unfair to deprive the growers of an increase of price, especially having regard to the increased cost of production. I trust that the Minister will give further consideration to this matter with a view to justice being done to this section of the primary producers.
– 1 make a special appeal to the Government to do all that is possible to speed up and increase the supply of food to Great Britain. Some days ago, I presented a petition to the Senate signed by about 7,000 persons in South Australia, praying that immediate attention be given to this vitally important matter. Miss Edith Crompton, who was largely responsible for the organizing Work in connexion with the petition, stated in a covering letter -
Under separate cover by registered letters post I have forwarded the “ Food for Britain “ petition signed by 0,974 South Australian electors.
As you know, we have had but a brief six days to do the organizing and consequently have only obtained a very small fraction of the signatures which could have been obtained over a longer period. The quick and ready response by this very good cross-section of the citizens shows very definitely their wishes on this matter.
We have assured signatories whenever questioned that the petition is non-political, and I trust it will be of service to the Government in helping them to assist our gallant folks in Great Britain.
I shall also read the following letter on the subject signed “L. Crompton”: -
I -hope that you will be able to find a minute to run through some of the names, and then, knowing South Australia as you do, you will realize how they include the greatest and the humblest and all in between.
The signatures ure genuine, and all the helpers have refused steadfastly to allow juniors to sign, or to allow one to sign more than once “ for those who could not come “.
With our sincere hope that this testimony of affection and respect for the valiant hearts in Old England may help in bringing some tangible result.
I was disappointed that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) said that the Government was not prepared to ration butter and meat more severely than at present. I know that such action would be unpopular. He indicated that, if people were prepared to eat less meat and butter, more of those commodities would be available for the people of Great Britain.
– People only need to destroy the coupons which they are prepared to sacrifice.
– All of the people should share the responsibility in this matter, and not leave it to a few people who have a high sense of public duty and a better appreciation than the majority of the hardships inflicted on the people of Great Britain. Personally, I commend the Government for having had the courage to give effect to its foodrationing proposals, but I believe that butter could be further rationed so that the ;people of Great Britain will not have to suffer next winter to the degree that they did last winter. On the 18th February, Mr. W. Bankes Amery, leader of the United Kingdom Food Mission in Australia, said - . . But it has now fallen to me once again to let Australia know that any contribution towards relieving the anxieties of the British food front during 1944, particularly meat, butter and cheese, will bo warmly appreciated.
Britain has done, her best during the past five winters of war to provide munitions of war of various kinds for use in all the theatres of war. To take one illustration alone, over ?180,000,000 worth of war material has been sent to Russia. Practically the whole of this was sent in British ships convoyed by British warships over the most perilous shipping routes of the world.
The men who are making these munitions must continue to bc fed and it is questionable whether they could physically continue their output on less than 1 lb. of meat, 3 ox. of cheese, or 2 oz. of butter per week.
In the fifth winter of war, most people have to make do as best they can with two deliveries of milk a week, each of 1 pint, and find it very hard to exist on such a meagre allowance. As the summer comes on, their allowance will gradually increase towards the summer peak of about 4 pints a week, which by no means represents extravagant feeding.
The women of the country, and the men, too, for that matter, are prepared to put up with this meagre allowance in order that weekly allowances ranging up to 11 pints may he available for expectant mothers,, together with 14 pints for babies under twelve months and 7 pints for children from one to five years. These and certain allowances for older children have . priority over the rest of the population. . . .
On the 18th January, the following statement appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser : - “I want the people of Australia to knowthat we in Britain deeply appreciate the sacrifices they are making. We simply could not manage without Australia’s contribution said the chief medical officer to the Ministry of Health (Sir William Jameson) to-day when speaking of Australian! rationing in relation to Britain’s food situation.
His statement indicates how much Britain is depending on Australia’s food exports and how near the food border-line are Britain’s
Sir William Jameson further stated ;
The Ministries of Health and Food consider Britain’s food budget to be irreducible below the present level without grave risk. We are right down to the minimum necessary for efficiency . . .
I want the people of Australia to know that we in Britain deeply appreciate their sacrifices, and assure them that -without their help we could not maintain the minimum “utility” diet essential to keep the home base in lighting trim.
I congratulate the Minister upon the firm stand which he has taken with regard to food rationing. He has said that the Government desires to help the people of Great Britain, and I believe that if the whole of the facts were placed before the people of Australia they would be prepared to submit to further rationing of food. The small quantity of foodstuffs being sent to Great Britain to-day ascompared with pre-war exports is alarming. On the 22nd February a statement issued by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) showed that food exports from Australia to Great Britain had suffered a heavy decline, and that the exports last year were the lowest since 1938-39. A comparison of the figures for 1938-39 with those of 1942-43 is given in the following table :-
– There was an increased consumption within the Commonwealth.
– That is so, but as some people in Australia complain about the ration of 8 oz. of butter a week, the Minister would be justified in talking plainly to them. The position is so desperate that all possible steps should be taken to improve it. On the 22nd February the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that one of the main reasons for the decline of Australia’s exports to Great Britain since the war began was the lack of shipping in the earlier period of the war. This is more or less disproved by the following figures relating to meat exports, which show that the first signs of a serious diminution of exports were visible in the year ended 30th June, 1942, from two to three years after the commencement of the war : -
It. is interesting to recall the remark of the acting Minister for Supply and Shipping (Dr. Evatt) on the 23rd February that “ provision has been made for all ships needed to take food from Australia to Great Britain “. That statement was made in answer to allegations that huge reserves of foodstuffs were piling up in cold stores. The Minister further stated -
The Director o£ Shipping (Sir Thomas Gordon) ha.< given mc the most emphatic assurance that our shipping is moving and will move, from Australia, all the refrigerated cargo ami other foodstuffs that Australia can provide.
On the 15th February the following report was published in the Melbourne Herald : -
To meet full British requests for basic foods to maintain the present ration for British civilians, Australia will have to increase meat exports by more than GO per cent., and butter exports by about 40 per cent.
Thu Australian Agricultural Council is now meeting to consider how far Australia can go in meeting this added strain in food supply and will make early recommendations to the Federal Government.
In view of those authentic statements, something must be done as soon as possible to increase primary production in Australia, so that our exports of foodstuffs to Great Britain may be increased. This could be done in three ways. We could reduce local consumption, increase production, and prevent the industrial disputes that are seriously affecting the position. On the 27th March, the following statement was published in the Sydney Morning Herald under the heading “Abattoirs Lag - Sheep Killings 13,000 short”:-
Because <if absenteeism slaughtermen at Homebush Abattoirs killed only 77,000 instead of 00,000. Because of the reduced killings, fewer carcasses wont into the freezers for export to Britain.
I know that the Government is trying to prevent absenteeism, but it is appalling that workers should go on strike and continue to absent themselves from employment at a time when our kinsfolk in Great Britain are “up against it” and may be called upon to face another winter that will impose the severest possible strain on them, coupled with the prospects of heavy bombing raids.
The final aspect of this subject to which I shall refer relates to the release of man-power. Yesterday the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) made a statement which was reported in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald. I presume that the figures which I shall quote from that publication are the latest available. The Minister stated that from the 31st October, 1943, to the 25th March, 1944, recommendations had been made for the release of 27,726 men for all industries; that 10,991 of them had been approved, and 11,350 rejected. The number of cases pending was stated to be 5,385. In a little under five months approval has been given for the release of a little under 11,000 men. We have been told that enlistments in the fighting forces number about 800,000, although not more than about 200,000 of them are in the fighting line. With the war set up as it is to-day, particularly with the Militia unable to go beyond a certain area, there must he hundreds of thousands of men in the fighting forces who are doing practically nothing. These men must be physically fit and well-trained and anxious to do a job. It is difficult to realize that in such circumstances under 11,000 applications for release have been approved in five months. Unless that rate be accelerated, the war will be over before we shall have attempted to solve this problem. The people of Great Britain are in sore straits. Having regard to the altered war position, and particularly to our favorable situation in Australia, the time has arrived for the release of 100,000 men, or even 200,000 men, in order to meet the problems of production. These men must be released immediately. The dairying, meat, and wheat industries are crying out for man-power. I have submitted numerous applications for the release of men from the Army, and have kept a careful check on them, but so far I have had only one application approved. The procedure is far too slow, and I hope that the Government will tackle this problem immediately in a big way, and release more men promptly. It is just as important that the Allied Nations shall have food as that they shall have fighting men. The releases to date are shown in the following statement : -
According to the figures supplied by the Minister for the Army, only about 40 per cent, of the recommendations for releases have been approved. Moreover, the number of cases pending is higher than it should be. I am sure that the Government recognizes the seriousness and urgency of this problem, and I earnestly plead with it to do something to improve the supply of foodstuffs to Great Britain, and to do it quickly.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. ‘Curtin) is shortly to leave for London, and the people of Australia wish him well. If Mr. Curtin can come back with a contract between Australia and Britain for food imports to the value of £1,000,000,000, spread over, say, fifteen years, Australia would be given an excellent start on the hard and difficult road to rehabilitation.
The opinions of economists, professors and other post-war reconstruction pundits are given more space in the daily press than is given to the debate during an all-night sitting of the Senate. The word “ pundit “ is an’ Indian word, and means, according to any dictionary, “ one whose knowledge is of no practical value “. These pundits forget that the rehabilitation of waremployed citizens depends upon fundamental wealth production - upon food production and its disposal. A contract such as I have mentioned would put 750,000 people back into production. A contract involving £1,000,000,000, spread over fifteen years, would be little compared with Britain’s pre-war imports, but it would give to Australian production fifteen years’ security of tenure, because it would give Australia a market to supply. A long-term agreement for fundamental wealth production would create a demand that would keep the wheels of our secondary industries in motion; and those industries, in turn, would move back naturally from the seaboard to the newly created centres of rural population. The conventional economists will say that exports from this country will have to be paid for by imports. “We shall require some imports. Already Australia has a big burden of debt in Great Britain, but that could be transferred to Australia by such an agreement. Britain is committed to the purchase of all current meat surpluses of Argentina. That country, however, has not been a friend of the United Nations; indeed, it has been anything but friendly to the meat and wheat producing dominions of the Empire. If the Prime Minister comes back with nothing else than a contract of the nature I have mentioned his overseas visit will have been worth while.
Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) [4.7 J. - The Senate is now considering the second Supply Bill presented to it this week. The purpose of this bill is, I understand, to ensure sufficient supply for an extra month. I have no objection to the Government having the requisite finance to carry on its administration during this difficult period, but I emphasize that in passing this Supply Bill we are not giving approval to the doors of the Parliament being closed for an unduly long period. As an ex-Mini ster, I know the administrative difficulties confronting the Government, and the hard work that all Ministers are called upon to perform in carrying out the duties of their office; but I point out that, although” the position in Great Britain is more difficult than it is, or is likely to be, in Australia, the House of Commons is in session almost continuously. “Whilst I recognize the difficulties associated with the organization and mobilization of our resources in war-time, I believe that a great deal can be done by the Government to reduce the cost of the nation’s war effort. I wish to distinguish clearly between the cost and the effort itself. The Government has received a good deal of kudos for having, in successive years, introduced budgets which suggest that the country’s war effort has increased in proportion to the increased expenditure, whereas the fact is that large sums of money have been wasted, some of it, no doubt, being due to difficulties of organization. I call attention to what has occurred in connexion with one item, which may appear to bc small when compared with the total expenditure on the war, but which serves to illustrate how money is being wasted. I refer to the Government’s efforts to obtain wolfram in the Northern Territory. This matter was discussed in the House of Representatives, the basis of the discussion .being that Australians who were mining wolfram - a material vitally needed for the Allied war effort - had been displaced by certain Chinese refugees who had come to Australia. I wish to make it clear that I entirely agree that those Chinese were entitled to sanctuary in Australia, and to the goodwill of all Australians, but I suggest that a different method of utilizing their services could have been found. It is interesting to note that after the Government took over the control of the mine the output of wolfram dropped considerably, so that the Government did not achieve its objective of obtaining more wolfram. It is rather alarming to find what little results attended the efforts of the Government. In paragraph 128 of the report of the Auditor-General, under the heading “Minerals Production” the Auditor-General shows that the total cost of the venture to the 30th November, 1943, was £36S,939, and the total value of the production was £29,127. With such a glaring instance before it, the Government should have examined carefully the various activities in which it is engaged. Another instance came before us recently. Owing to the destruction of fencing in Victoria by bush-fires, the Commonwealth Government undertook to provide posts to enable the devastated areas to be sub-divided. I admit that the diversion of members of Civil Constructional Corps which is controlled by the Allied Works Council to an undertaking with which they were unaccustomed would necessarily involve some loss of revenue, but the loss actually sustained was out of all proportion to what might reasonably have been expected. even under those conditions. Fortunately, we have a comparison on which to base our criticism, because exactly similar work was ad So undertaken by the Forests Commission of Victoria. I admit that the commission had the services of men who were accustomed to this work. However, the cost under Allied Works Council administration averaged 395s. a hundred posts. Obviously, it was impossible to charge the settlers anything like that price. I have here a list of the various camps which were manned by Allied Works Council personnel engaged on this work, and it shows that the camp with the best record produced 100 posts a man a week at a cost of 185s. a hundred posts, or approximately 2s. a post, whilst the men at the camp at Dalyenong produced 25 posts a man a week at a cost of 1,058s. a hundred posts, or an average cost of over 10s. 6d. a post. The total number of posts produced by all camps under the control of the Allied Works Council engaged on the work was 34,398, and the average overall cost w.as 395s. a hundred. The best effort achieved by any camp working under the Forests Commission of Victoria was 200 posts a man a week, or just double the output achieved by any Allied Works Council camp, whilst the lowest production by any camp under the commission was 68 posts a man a week. The cost of posts produced at the rate of 200 a man a week averaged 53s. lOd. a hundred, or just over 6d. a post, whilst the highest cost, at Dunolly, was 146s. a hundred or ls. 6d. a post. Thus, the Forests Commission produced these posts at an average cost of ls. 6d., compared with an average cost of 10s. 6d. of the posts produced by the Allied Works Council camps, and the average overall cost was 91s. 4d. a hundred by the commission’s camps, against 395s. a hundred by Allied Works Council camps. Those facts, to say the least, are alarming.
– And I have a complete reply to the honorable senator.
– I am sure that the people of this country will be very interested to hear the Minister’s reply, because this undertaking on the part of the Allied Works Council certainly does not reflect credit on that body, even after making all allowances for the special difficulties which had to be overcome in its creation and operation in its early stages. ‘Perhaps, the real value of the Allied Works Council’s contribution to these settlers in their time of need can best be gauged by a comparison of the aggregate costs. The Allied Works Council camps produced a total of 34,398 posts at a total cost of £6,789, or an average cost of 395s. a hundred, and the market value of the posts produced was £1,905, or less than one-third of the actual cost of the work. On the other hand, camps under the control of the Forests Commission of Victoria produced 133,696 posts at a total cost of £6,109, and the market value of those posts was £8,344. Thus the commission showed a profit on the undertaking. I bring this matter before the Senate because I believe that the people of this country should be told exactly how their money is being expended. It is for them to say whether, as in this case, much of the expenditure involved in mobilizing our resources is really justified. I submit that if the Allied Works Council cannot show better results than it has in this instance, the sooner it is disbanded the better it will be for the country as a whole. I admit that the circumstances in which it undertook this work were unusual, and that, inevitably, costs would be greater than in normal circumstances. But I suggest that the costs which I have given are alarmingly excessive. I hope, therefore, that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) will make a thorough review of the activities of the Allied Works Council in order that the people of this country will receive reasonable value for expenditure incurred by that body.
– Like many other statements made by Senator McBride, that which he has just made is only partly true; and when the whole story has not been told, he appears to have put up a very effective case. I happen to know the full story, and the honorable senator could have ha.d the benefit of the statement I am now about to make had he taken the trouble to interview me in my office at any time since the disastrous bush fires occurred in Victoria. However, because the honorable senator seizes every opportunity to discredit this Government, he did not take the trouble to acquaint himself with the whole story, but preferred to unload a series of half truths which are worse than plain falsehoods. The bush fires which occurred recently in Victoria, were most disastrous. As I happened to be visiting that State at the time, I went to the affected areas during the week-end following the outbreak of the fires. In those areas I saw sights the equal of which I have never seen before, and I hope I shall never see again. Upon my return to Canberra a few days later, I received a dramatic appeal from the Bush Fire Relief Committee of Victoria for assistance. I was told that anything I could do would be more than welcome. The first request, made to me was whether the Allied Works Council could make available a number of trucks in order to help distressed settlers to remove- their goods and furniture from burnt-out areas. I replied that every available truck was being used by the Allied Works Council on high priority defence work, and that I could not give immediate assistance in that direction. Honorable senators must remember that the Allied Works Council cannot of its own volition undertake any work not directly related to the war effort. Consequently, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to issue a special order to enable the Allied Works . Council to undertake work with the object of relieving settlers in the burnt-out areas, and the Prime Minister gave that authority. I immediately informed Mr. Theodore, the Director-General of Allied Works, of that decision. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) also took up with me the urgency of such assistance, and asked me if it would be possible for the Allied Works Council to make available a team of men in order to split posts to enable settlers to re-fence. As the result of my representations the Government requested the Allied Works Council to do everything within its power to assist the Bush Fire Relief Committee in Victoria, and, if necessary, to undertake certain work on behalf of that body. A meeting of the Allied Works Council was held on the 28th January. The Director of Personnel was in the chair, and those present were Mr. Gay, representing the Forests Commission ; the honorable member for Ballarat, Commonwealth parliamentary representative on the committee; Mr. Kerr, representing the Department of War Organization of Industry; Mr. F. H. Wickham, Deputy Director of Personnel, Victoria; Mr. Lovegrove, Industrial Officer, and Mr. Roberts, mechanical equipment. At that meeting, the Allied Works Council was requested to supply approximately 200 men to assist the Bush Fire Belief Com,mittee. It was made very clear to Mr. Bollard, Mr. Gay and Mr. Kerr that :any work done by members of the Allied Works Council would have to be carried out under the O’Mara award, that this called for a minimum wage of £5 10s. a week, and that where men were required to live in camps the award provided for free food and quarters. It was also pointed out at the meeting that the standard prescribed under the award for all Allied Works Council camps would have to be maintained.
– Is that standard provided for the soldiers in the frontline?
– I ask the honorable senator not to shift his ground. He cannot talk about the alleged excessive cost of splitting posts and then jump to the subject of the wages paid to servicemen. If he does, there is an answer to that, too.
– 1 did not say anything about the wages; I spoke of the conditions.
– Tea, conditions also. In discussing the possible cost, the Director of Personnel informed Mr. Pollard and the other members that the estimated cost of Civil ‘Constructional Corps labour, including transport, medical services, free food and quarters in camps, was in the vicinity of £12 to £12 10s. a man a week. It was also pointed out that the class of labour that could be supplied to do this work would be inexperienced, and performed by old men who were not fit for work in the northern areas. There was no suggestion that, with all these disabilities, the work was not required. What they said was, “ For God’s .sake do not argue about the conditions, give us the men at once “. We went ahead. In accepting the conditions that the labour cost would be high and the men inexperienced, the committee arranged for the Civil Constructional ‘Corps labour to bc diluted with a certain percentage of regular Forests Commission employees, who could show our men the best way to do the job. In some of the camps which were established, it was necessary to arrange to cart water, as none was available. The whole water supply had been disorganized, the tanks on the settlers’ properties had been destroyed by fire, and our experienced Director-General knew immediately some of the difficulties with which we would be faced. After the meeting was over - and I have here a copy of the minutes - we drafted 206 men on to the job. They did the job, and that is the important thing. The necessary posts were got.
– How manyl
– A limited number, but what were needed were obtained, and the Forests Commission supplied the wire and other things required to complete the fences. If the State Government, acting through its Forests Commission, is going to pass the increased cost of the posts, or any costs at all, on to the unfortunate settlers, who have already been burnt out and lost their home and stock-
– I did not say that. I said that the sales value of the posts with which the settlers would be charged was £1,905.
– The honorable senator said that the cost to the settler would bc so much per post. After the men had been working for some little time, it became apparent that their inexperience, and the higher conditions of the O’Mara award, would make the work more costly than if carried out by State instrumentalities and with experienced personnel. That a-ward was never arranged to cover work of this kind. It applied to other jobs, for which we took men away from their homes and transported them in some cases thousands of miles. On the 3rd March, Mr. Theodore wrote to Mr. Pollard and drew his attention to certain factors which must be associated with work, performed by members of the Civil Constructional Corps and recommended that as soon as the committee was in a position to carry out this work with other than Civil Constructional ‘Corps labour, it should make arrangements to do so, and that the cost of the work that was- being performed would necessarily be higher than if carried out on a free labour basis.
– I hope that this is not a sample of what the Civil Constructional Corps is doing elsewhere.
– I shall tell the honorable senator about that shortly. No reply was received to that letter, but on the 24th March, three weeks later, a letter was received from Mr. Chandler, chairman of the Victorian Bush Fire Relief Committee, thanking the Allied Works Council for its prompt cooperation, but asking it to withdraw the Civil Constructional ‘Corps labour immediately. So that, after the Victorian committee got what it needed, it took three weeks to make up its mind whether or not it would allow these men to go on. On receipt of that letter, steps were taken to withdraw the labour from the camps immediately and the last camp closed down on the 30th March. I want the Senate to get a picture of what happened. We knew of the distressful happenings in Victoria, whose Bush Fire Relief Committee appealed to us because it had no possible chance of getting the job done in any other way. ¥e came to its rescue and did the work. We drew its attention to all the facts and told it what would happen, but it still appealed to us to go on. I received frantic appeals. I was communicated with by telephone at midnight whilst in bed to see if I could not do something. I said that I could do nothing at that hour, but would be on the job ato o’clock in the morning. I kept my word and we did the job.
– And the men were taken off other urgent work.
– That is so. Senator McBride expressed the hope that what has happened in this case i.= not an example of what has been done elsewhere. The Allied Works Council was called into being at the request of the Prime Minister because the country was in danger of invasion. It was established to conscript men to do essential war work. Thousands volunteered but 50,000 had to be conscripted. and at the peak of our employment in this connexion we were employing 58,000, of whom thousands are still working to-day in operational areas and within sound of the guns. The Prime Minister knew the facts, and commissioned us to do the work. He knew that it was going to be costly. After we had had months of experience, I had the pleasure of sitting in his room and hearing him say to Mr. Theodore, the Director of the Allied Works Council, who has given his services without a penny of remuneration -
The cost, Theodore, does not matter. The fact is that the battle of the Coral Sea would have been lost but for the work that you, with your Civil Constructional Corps, have been able to do.
Of course, men cannot be taken straight from the city, far from their homes and wives and children, and expected to do work of this kind on an economical cheese-paring basis. Yet Senator McBride slanders these men and makes damaging and untrue statements about them. I am prepared to go with the honorable senator to meet the Victorian Bush Fire Relief Committee at any time he likes, and ask whether it did not express gratitude to my department for coming to its rescue when no other remedy and no other labour was available. I have spoken with some heat, and certainly with enthusiasm, because I know the job these men are doing. When the history of this war is written the story of the fighting services will supply wonderful testimony of what Australia is capable of, but another history is being written now. I refer to the industrial history of Australia in this war - the story of the great industrial army .behind the fighting men. When it is published Senator McBride will be proud that he is an Australian, and that the men in the industrial army are fellow Australians. I speak with enthusiasm, because I know what they have done. I wish I could take honorable senators to the Northern Territory, where I recently went. I said when I came back that if I could only get 25 representative members of Parliament sent up to destroyed Darwin every month - but unfortunately the transport facilities are not available - the Australian people would soon appreciate the horrors from which they have been saved. Many of the men in the Civil Constructional Corps went through the “ blitz “ at Darwin themselves, yet, they are slandered on the floor of this chamber because the cost of the posts they made worked out at a few shillings more than the price at which experts produced them.
– I wish to deal briefly with two or three aspects of the debate, particularly matters to which attention was directed by Senator Collett. He made an invidious comparison between the Army and the coal-miners. By inference, the Army was to bo commended and the miners condemned. I suggest that the honorable senator’s approach to the question indicates, if it indicates anything at all, an inability to establish a relationship between cause and effect. If it were possible to take the coal-mining population and organize it as an army, and at the same time to take the Army and organize it as a body of coal-miners, within two or three years at the most it would be found that the miners who had become soldiers were behaving as the soldiers now behave, while, curiously enough, the soldiers who had become coal-miners would be acting precisely as the coalminers were acting. Obviously those who by outright statement a.nd subtle inference continually indulge in condemnation of the coal-miners have made no attempt whatever to establish the correct relationship between cause and effect. It does not occur to them that in the past the coal-miners have been treated outrageously by the mine-owners and antiLabour governments - treated as if they were a class apart, and men to whom no consideration should be extended. As they have been treated, so they have acted. They have acted in precisely the same way as Senator Collett or any other member of this chamber would have acted had he been subjected to the same treatment. The Government knows these things, and consistently with the opportunities that are offering is endeavouring to improve the conditions of the coalminers as they should be improved, with the object of increasing the output of coal, and making it possible for the coalminers to work under reasonable conditions. In my opinion, the coal-mines could be made as safe as underground railways, but whilst they are in the hands of private employers who are concerned only with the making of high profits, the conditions under which coal-miners work will continue to be extremely dangerous. According to a, report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, there are 80,000 coal-miners on strike in Great Britain. The report reads -
The number of coal-miners who are on strike in Yorkshire because of a dispute over the price charged for coal used by miners in their own homes has risen to 80,000.
Forty-six- pits aru involved.
The Daily Telegraph says that this dispute makes Yorkshire’s vote doubtful in the national miners’ poll on the Government plan for a four-year peace pact, and may have an important bearing on the poll, returns for which are due on the 8th April.
The fact that coal-miners are on strike even in danger areas, indicates that the British Government, like the Opposition in this Parliament, has noi. yet learned the lessons of the past, and is endeavouring in every possible way to perpetuate the system under which mine-owners are permitted to obtain coal at the lowest possible price, and with the highest possible, profit. Coal production will not be increased until the working conditions of miners are improved. It is evident from what has been said by Senators McBride, Collett and other honorable senators opposite, that the Opposition” does not really understand the position to-day, and does not want to understand it, or is influenced more by class bias than by reason. That being so, honorable senators opposite must be prepared to put up with the consequences of their acts. None of us can escape the consequences of his acts. What is happening to-day is the consequence of the acts of the British Government, and acts of previous Commonwealth Governments, which this Administration is now endeavouring to remedy.
Senator Collett referred to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in a manner which implied - although the direct statement was not made - that that organization was opposed to any policy which would be of benefit to returned soldiers. The fact is that in the opinion of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, preference to returned soldiers is not sufficient. Conditions which obtained after the last war make that quite clear. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions seeks economic security for all. “Whether a man is a returned soldier or not, so long as he is indispensable in industry, preference in employment will be given to him. Obviously, from the employer’s point of view, the most .profitable worker is the competent one. However, owing to the introduction of cheaper .and more efficient methods of production, and because the purchasing power of wage-earners is being constantly and automatically reduced, with the result that demand for commodities is insufficient to maintain production at its maximum, some employees are dispensable. If the purchasing power of wage-earners were increased, fewer employees would be dispensable. As an ex-member of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions executive for many years, I say that the impression which has been created that that organization is opposed to doing anything on behalf of returned soldiers is quite false. In fact, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is prepared to do more for the returned soldiers than is any honorable senator opposite, and it will use the power which it possesses as an organized body of workers to bring pressure to bear not only upon governments, but upon private employers, to secure for returned soldiers, and for every other member of the community who is able and willing to work, the employment to which he is justly entitled. As a rule, the private employer is not very much concerned about granting preference in employment to returned soldiers; he is concerned primarily with employing the workers who will give him the best return for the wages which he pays. If a position becomes vacant, and applicants for it include returned soldiers and nonreturned soldiers, preference is given to the most competent applicant, because Hie will be the most profitable employee. “Sentiment does not enter into the matter. Therefore, when I hear statements such as those which have been made by certain honorable senators opposite to- day, I feel impelled to reply, not with the object of provoking a discordant debate, but of bringing to bear facts and arguments which I believe will lead to a more intelligent understanding of the situation by the Opposition. I assure Senator Collett and other honorable senators opposite that so long as they insist upon making statements which are without foundation, and in fact are due almost entirely to political bias, I shall do my best to reply to them.
– in reply - In the course of this debate, some very interesting mattei’3 have been raised, of which probably the most outstanding is the suggestion that food production in this country requires some attention by the Government. Certain figures have been quoted in an endeavour to indicate that Australia is not doing its level best to ensure to Great Britain at least a reasonable supply of the foodstuffs which are so liberally produced in this country. A campaign has been started by individuals outside this Parliament to urge the Government to do more in this regard. In a statement on this matter made in the House of Representatives recently, it was pointed out that for a long time shipping between Great Britain and Australia had been abnormally short. It was stated also that Allied shipping losses had totalled 19,000,000 tons, of which, no doubt, a large percentage was British. I point out that the practice which is followed at present is to fix a production goal for such commodities as meat, butter and cheese. Then comes the question of supplies of fertilizers. So far, restricted supplies of fertilizers have been obtained. In respect of the sugar industry, the Government is paying a bounty of £18 a ton to ensure that adequate sugar will bc produced to meet our own requirements and those of the Allied Nations. I contend also that the meat ration in this country is quite reasonable. Prior to rationing, the average consumption of meat in this country was 4-j- lb. a head a week. Under rationing, that figure has been reduced to 24 lb., which I suggest is a substantial sacrifice for people who are large meat-eaters. Meat rationing in this country has been accepted well indeed.
Great .Britain is most -concerned with butter, and both this Government and its predecessor have done their utmost, to increase supplies of that commodity. It was found necessary to ration butter consumption in Australia to S oz. a head a week. There arc few exceptions to that scale. Should the position warrant it, I, as Minister for Trade and Customs, would have no hesitation in. supporting further rationing. After all, we must, rake the big view. Before the United States of America or Russia entered this war, Great Britain had to hold the fort for civilization. That should not be forgotten, and so far as I am concerned it will not, be forgotten. However, rationing in this country is under constant review. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) have said that 20,000 men are to be released from the Army for rural production, and figures have been read by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) showing that, the number so far released is not. great. Honorable senators who have had military experience know that although the man-power authorities may have authorized certain releases, the final decision rests with the Army authorities.
– The Army could release the men .required within a month.
– That has not, happened.
– The Government has nor, entrusted the Army with the matter, but has put it in the hands of the manpower authorities.
– My information is that it is much easier to say that 20,000 men will bc released than to release them.
– The New Zealand Government asked foi- certain releases, and the Army promptly made the men available.
Sena tor KEANE. - The Minister for the Army has done everything possible to expedite the release of men for primary production and other industries. Some honorable senators have said that a comparatively small proportion of the S0O.0O0 men who have enlisted are actively engaged in warfare, and that some of them could be more gainfully employed in essential primary industries. The number of persons employed in the munitions factories will be considerably reduced in the near future, and that will make a considerable number of men available for work on the land, but I am afraid that the wages and other conditions offered in the primary industries will not prove attractive to men who have been receiving £8 or £9 a week in the munitions factories. I am told that although releases may have been authorized, the commanding officers may refuse to release the men on the ground that they cannot be spared.
– The man-power authorities and not the commanding officers prevent the releases.
– I still say that one of the reasons for the insufficient number of releases is that the commanding officers sometimes refuse to allow the men to leave their regiments. Another reason is that many of the men do not, wish to be released.
– If the Minister examines the position closely he will see that the man-power authorities, and not the Army, are responsible for the present position.
– I shall discuss the matter further with the Minister for the Army.
Reference has been made by Senator Collett to the supply of refrigerators. Their supply to private people is under the control of the Division of Import Procurement. Instructions have recently been issued and given effect that refrigerators shall be supplied to invalids, to families where there are young children, and to people residing in hot climates. I believe that people in portions of Western Australia should have priority over those in a State with a more equable climate such as Victoria. Therefore it may be possible to improve the position in Western Australia in the near future.
With a view to increasing agricultural production, the Government has gone to much trouble to avail itself of the lendlease organization to bring into Australia agricultural machinery of the most modern kind for use in the various States.
Tractors and mechanical diggers of all kinds are being supplied to primary producers. The Government not only had to place the orders overseas for this machinery, but the vessels in which it was brought to this country had to be convoyed, and the machinery is being distributed fairly we’ll throughout the Commonwealth. I have been informed that, there is urgent necessity for more tractors in South. Australia, and the Division of Import Procurement is considering means of having more of them distributed in that State. I think that, by reason of the Government’s plan for the organization of the industry and an increased supply of fertilizers, the results of its efforts to increase production will be evident at an early dato.
Senator Allan MacDonald has referred to the importance of the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. When gold-mining ceased owing to war conditions, a promise was given that when the man-power position was relieved steps would be taken to assist the industry. The Government realizes that many country towns and villages depend for their prosperity upon the success of the gold-mining industry, not only in Western Australia, but also in many other parts of Australia. The Government granted £100,000 to enable gold mines in Western Australia to be dewatered and kept in a reasonable state of repair. The production of gold is greater in Western Australia than in all of the other States combined, including the famous fields of Bendigo. The honorablesenator can rest assured that the Minister in charge of mining is thoroughly aware of the necessity for preserving the industry in the interests of the Commonwealth. 1 1 will provide a valuable avenue for the employment of labour in the post-war period in Western Australia, Victoria, Central Australia, and parts of Queensland and New South Wales. -If the in- dustry were properly policed with regard to health conditions, I believe that, with the exception of the building industry, more men could be employed in mining than in any other industry.
At the time of the last general elections I visited the electorate of Wimmera where the wheat-growers, I had been told, had a great objection to the Scully plan. I stated at public meetings in that district that I was not a primary producer, but I wished to explain the object of the plan, which provided for the payment of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels and an advance of 2s. on any wheat produced in excess of that quantity. Nobody can tell what price the non-quota wheat will ultimately realize, but I believe that, apart from the wheat required for home consumption, the farmers’ wheat would not have been worth 3d. a bushel, had not the Government provided the funds required to finance the scheme, found markets for it. overseas and provided the necessary shipping facilities to’ transport it to those markets.
– Why not?
– Because without the assistance of the Government the farmers could not have done anything with it. The remarks of the honorable senator with regard to the production of power alcohol from wheat relate to a recent development. The wheat-groVer, in my opinion, gets a fair deal from the Government. Without the work of the Division of Import Procurement no imports could possibly be obtained. Orders are not executed unless the countries from which the goods are to be obtained say that they can be spared. Honorable senators talk apprehensively about the socialization of industry, but while the war is in progress we cannot escape from the conditions which it imposes.
– The Government has imposed many restrictions.
– Had it not been for those restrictions, the trade and commerce of the country would have been brought to a standstill. The number of men in the Allied services engaged in import procurement work in Australia is 1,300, and there are 580 men employed in Washington. Those large staffs are doing work for which private enterprise formerly employed tens of thousands of men.
Reference has been made to government by regulation and bureaucratic methods, but the Government will continue to promulgate regulations as the war position demands. I realize that the necessary government control imposes hardship on business people, and that the position should be eased as soon as possible, but it would be impossible to carry on the import and export trade without the present restrictions and regulations. The Government finds it necessary to exercise the defence power conferred by the Constitution by the promulgation of regulations under the National Security Act. The experts of a department find that a certain procedure cannot be adopted because of limitations. They recommend to their Minister that a certain procedure shall be followed, and after consultation with the legal authorities the necessary regulations are issued. The Government has the satisfaction of knowing that very few regulations or orders have been upset by the High Court. I shall see that replies are forwarded to honorable senators regarding any matters to which I have omitted to refer but which they have raised in this debate.
– Oan the Minister give any information regarding the schools, particularly in Queensland, which have been taken over by the military authorities?
– “What happened in Queensland happened also in Victoria. Our allies took over three of the biggest schools in Melbourne, namely, “Wesley Melbourne Grammar, and Xavier. Those buildings have since been returned to the school authorities.
– The position was different in Melbourne because the pupils there were well housed.
– Any remarks by < honorable senators to which I have not replied will be referred to the appropriate Minister for attention. ‘Complaints regarding the taking over of private residences in Queensland by Allied forces are fairly general. This is a matter between the Hirings Administration of the Commonwealth and the American Army authorities. I agree with Senator Cooper that, if the occupation by the military authorities of the Schools to which he has referred is to be permanent, something should be done to provide ‘better accommodation for the pupils. I favour the use of prefabricated structures in such instances, as does the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), because they ar« easily erected and removed. I undertake to have this matter investigated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
A few days ago, a Supply Bill, covering essential requirements for the first two months of 1944-45’, was received from the House of Representatives. That bill has, however, been removed from the notice-paper of the .Senate. The Government has now decided to ask Parliament for £51,959,000, covering requirements foi- the first three months of 1944-45. The amount to be appropriated may be summarized under the following heads : -
The bill provides only for the estimated requirements to carry on the essential services on the basis of the provision in the Appropriation Bill passed by Parliament for the present financial year. With minor exceptions, the amounts set down for Ordinary Services represent approximately one-quarter of the 1943-44 appropriations. It is estimated that, after excluding special appropriations, the total war expenditure in the first three months of 1944-45 will amount to £1.28,031,000. This amount is somewhat less than one-quarter of last year’s appropriations, as expenditure in the first three months is invariably below the average of the year. The provision of £37,000,000 for War Services in this bill represents the .amount which it is estimated will be available from revenue receipts for the first three months of the year, after making due allowance for other obligations. The balance of war expenditure will be met from loan appropriations. The usual provision is made in the bill for “Advance to the Treasurer “, the amount being £5,000,000. This amount is required mainly to carry on uncompleted civil works which will be in progress at the 30th June, and also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. Except in respect of Defence and War Services, no provision has been made for any new expenditure, and there is no departure from existing policy. Although this bill will provide for requirements to the end of September next, I assure honorable senators that Parliament will be called together earlier, if necessary. The provision of Supply for a period of three months will possibly obviate the necessity for another Supply Bill before the introduction of the budget.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to refer to the delays in the receipt of replies to communications addressed to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Honorable senators may recall that last year an appeal was made to home gardeners to grow more vegetables, and so to relieve the food supply position. I have been approached by numbers of people who have experienced difficulty in obtaining materials to irrigate their garden plots and enclose poultry runs, and also in regard to the supply of feed for poultry. As a result, I made representations to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that the Department of Supply and Snipping be requested to grant more liberal supplies of liquid fuel to producers of vegetables, and that a higher priority be secured for incubators with respect to the provision of shipping space, and that a similar arrangement be made in respect of the transport of meat meal to Western Australia. My representations were made in a letter sent on the 24th November, 1943. It was acknowledged by ‘the Minister for Supply and Shipping on the 2nd December. In his letter the Minister said -
I am now discussing your letter with the Director-General of Agriculture, and as soon as possible I will communicate with you again.
On the 12th February, 1944, I again wrote to the Minister stating, inter alia -
I shall be pleased to learn that you aru now in a position to advise me as to thu measures taken or proposed.
On the 16th February the Minister replied -
I am consulting immediately with the Director-General of Agriculture on this matter, and as soon as possible I will write to you again.
The Minister had written to me in similar terms on the 2nd December, 1943. I suggest that in such cases some information should be supplied.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– In conformity with the sessional order that, unless otherwise ordered, the motion for adjournment shall be put, on Fridays, at 3.45 p.m., I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time. increases of the retail prices of. tobacco, cigars and cigarettes, varying from 45
In 55 per cent., were permitted by the Commonwealth’ Prices Commissioner prior to the introduction of the price ceiling in April, 1943. Those increases were due to the imposition of higher customs and excise duties on those commodities, and not to increased costs of production or to applications by the manufacturing companies for higher prices. If the added cost of customs and excise duties be excluded, no increase of the manufacturers’ selling price of tobacco, cigars or cigarettes has taken place since the outbreak of war. During the past twelve months a substantial increase of the landed cost of imported tobacco leaf has taken place. In 1942 the average cost of imported tobacco leaf used, exclusive of duty, was just under 20d. per lb. By 1943 it had risen to just over 26d. per lb. For the four months from the 1st November, 1943, to the 29th February, 1944, the average cost of purchases was nearly 46d. per lb., which represents an increase of about 26d. per lb. in the cost of imported leaf since 1942, and of about 20d. per lb. since 1943. Up to the present, the manufacturers have absorbed substantial increases of costs of imported leaf, but the position has now been reached when they require some relief from these increased costs. In the absence of the price ceiling, it would be normal practice for the Prices Commissioner to permit increases of selling prices of tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes in order to meet the increased costs of imported leaf. These commodities, however, are included in the regimen for the costofliving index, and are widely consumed. The Government has decided to provide relief by way of a remission of excise duties in order to obviate a further rise of the prices of tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. The basis on which the remission of excise is being arranged requires manufacturers to carry about half the increase in cost of imported leaf this year as compared with last year, and still more as compared with the cost in 1942. Manufacturers will, as a result, be involved in a considerable increase of costs, with a consequent reduction of profit margins.
It is proposed that the reduction of excise will take the form of a rebate of ii per cent, on total excise collections. The current, level of these collections is about £17,000,000 a year, compared with a. pre-war figure of £6,200,000. The cost of the rebate will, therefore, be at the rate of about £750,000’ for the current, year. The position will be kept under close scrutiny and the rebate will be varied as required. As the price of imported leaf has averaged approximately 46d. per lb. since the 1st November last, it is proposed to make the rebate retrospective to that date. For the information of honorable senators, I should state that this proposal does not -affect in any way the assistance that the Government is giving to local producers of tobacco. Increases of prices of a total of 26.5 per cent, in the local leaf have been permitted since the outbreak of the war, and the manufacturing companies have absorbed these increases without any increase of their selling prices. The Government is anxious to encourage the production of local leaf, and the action now taken is designed merely to protect consumers from an increase of price that would otherwise be necessary because of an increase of the cost of imported leaf. At present tobacco is imported by the Division of Import Procurement, and is sold on arrival to the manufacturing companies on a basis of cash payments. The manufacturers are thus being asked to finance the purchase of high-priced imports, and it will be possible to keep a close check on the effects of the reduction of excise duty now made. Full information is available as to the amount and cost of the imported leaf, and the Prices Commissioner will make a periodic review of the costs and profits of the manufacturing companies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to look at this clause and to note the number of “places in which numbers are spelt out whereas in each case they could be conveniently stated in figures. No doubt this practice is based on some old precedent, but I suggest that much man-power and paper would be saved if, in future, in measures of this kind, numbers were stated in figures instead of words. In addition, the use of figures wherever possible in place of words would facilitate the reading of the measure.
– I shall look into that suggestion.
– I should like to know whether as the result of this measure the quality of pipe tobacco now available to smokers is likely to deteriorate. The quality of tobacco now on sale is dreadful.
.- Ordinarily, tobacco leaf made up in this country is of very good quality, although I admit that some of the local product is of inferior quality. However, this measure does not deal with the quality of tobacco, but with the prices charged to smokers. ,
Bil] agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
, - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this measure is to obtain parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure of an additional £10,000,000 of revenue for war purposes. When the budget was presented to Parliament in September last, it was estimated that the total revenue would be £345,000,000. The budget was accordingly framed to provide an appropriation from revenue of a like sum which included £167,000,000 for war purposes and the balance for other expenditure. .Following a recent survey of the revenue position it is now considered that some revenue items will exceed the budget estimate. Customs and excise revenue may exceed the estimate of £64,000,000 by £3,000,000. Sales tax as a result of a larger volume of trade from the increase of the purchasing power of the community may show an increase of £1,500,000. Direct taxation, other than income tax, may bring in an extra £500,000. Postal revenue is likely to yield £1,500,000 over the budget estimate. On the other hand, income tax cannot be reliably forecast at this stage. It is hoped, however, that the budget estimate of £192,500,000 will be realized. Other sources of revenue, together with savings in expenditure, other than war, may make an additional amount of up to £3,500,000 available for war purposes.
On the best estimates that can be made at this juncture, it is considered likely the revenue budget will show an improvement of £10,000,000, and this is the sum which it is now proposed to appropriate for war purposes. In the September budget, war expenditure in 1943-44 was set out as £570,000,000. Notwithstanding that the rate of expenditure to date is below the proportion of the budget estimate for the expired portion of the year, the probabilities are that the actual expenditure will reach the budget estimate. If there is any increase it should not be very great. If the improvement in the revenue budget amounts to £10,000,000, the effect of the proposed appropriation will be to relieve loan and charge revenue with £10,000,000 without increasing our total war expenditure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
This measure seeks parliamentary approval to Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the financial year 1942-43. The amount involved is £1,971,670. That sum was expended out of a general appropriation from revenue of £6,000,000 for “Advance to the Treasurer “, and it is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation to cover the several items of expenditure. The supplementary estimates set out in detail how the money was expended by the various departments. The chief items in round figures were -
In the estimates brought down by this Government, in September, 1942, the appropriation from revenue for war services was £140,189,000. A further revenue appropriation of £20,000,000 was made in June, 1943. An additional amount of £74,169 was also provided under special appropriations. The total revenue appropriation from these sources was therefore £160,263,169. Actual expenditure from revenue was £158,890,555 or £1,’372,6’14 less than the total appropriation. A supplementary appropriation for war services from revenue is not required in the bill but it has been necessary in certain instances to re-arrange the war appropriation to provide for individual items in which the expenditure exceeded the orginal provision. The actual expenditure from revenue for war services in 1941-42 was £108,635,000 and the corresponding amount provided in the previous year was £65,092,000. It is the practice to. withhold supplementary estimates until the Auditor-General has presented his report on the accounts df .the year under review. That report was presented to Parliament on the 22nd
March last, and is available to honorable senators. Further information that may bo desired on any item will, if necessary, bo given at a later stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests ov debate.
Bill received from the ‘House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move; -
That the bill be now read a second time.
These Supplementary Estimates of expenditure relate to additions, new works and buildings for the year 1942-43. The amount involved is £413,872. That sum was expended from the vote “Advance to the Treasurer “, and it is necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation to cover the several items of expenditure. The original appropriation for new works totalled £4,902,000, and the actual expenditure was £3,960,954, or £941,046 less than the total amount voted by Parliament. Individual items of appropriation were, however, exceeded, and it is these additional amounts covered by “ Advance to the Treasurer “ for which authority is now sought. The Supplementary Estimates show details of this additional expenditure. The chief items in round figures were -
Any further information that may be desired can, if necessary, be supplied in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall bo notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 6.5 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment : -
Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Bill 1944.
Forestry Bureau Bill 1944.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Today Senator Wilson asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers: -
– In view of the statement which has been made by the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) in regard to the release of coalminers from the Army, I ask that similar facilities be granted to rural workers who have been in the Army for three years or more. These men also could be given leave without pay. Under present conditions a delay of anything up to six or seven months is likely when an application is made for the release of a rural worker from the Army. If these men were granted leave without pay whilst awaiting discharge, their services could be utilized in the intervening period. The present Army practice is not to send men to operational areas whilst discharge is pending, and usually they remain in base areas with very little to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the exportation of goods (except under certain conditions) - Nos. 593 and 594.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Use of land.
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Order -Resumption of duty in protected undertakings (Australian Iron and Steel Limited, Port Kembla).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 52, 54, 55.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtythird annual report, for year 1942-43.
Senate adjourned at 6.7 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440331_senate_17_178/>.