29 September 1944

17th Parliament · 2nd Session

The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.

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Senator FOLL:

by leave - I draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to the treatment of the electrical and radio industry in Queensland by the Department ofWar Organization of Industry. I had intended to submit a formal motion for the adjournment of the Senate, in order to direct attention to this matter; but, with a view to expediting the business of the Senate, the present sittings of which will conclude shortly, I decided to seek leave to make a statement. I. have received a communication from the Electrical and Radio Federation, Queensland, regarding the treatment of one of the members of its organization by the Queensland Branch of the Department of war Organization of Industry. The letter states -

This federation wishes to bring to your notice, with the object of making suitable representations, a matter that is considered a grave injustice in regard to the implementation of the Control of Radio Service Order.

Under this order all radio service firms and all available radio mechanics were listed and licensed by the Department of War Organization of Industry, and in due course all firms were given their licences with the names thereon of the mechanics allotted to them.

Weare, therefore, gravely concerned over the principle involved by the policy adopted by the War Organization of Industry in this State. The example we wish to cite is the case of one of our members who conducts one of the oldest established radio service firms in Queensland. They were officially licensed by the Department of War Organization of Industry and the four mechanics allotted to them named. Two months ago one of these mechanics left, and although application was immediately made to the War Organization of Industry (who control the allocation of mechanics) for a replacement, up to date they have been unable to find one, giving the reason that there arc no men available. In face of this situation, the War Organization of Industry approved of an application by two of the licensed mechanics of this firm to be granted licences to start out in business as independent servicemen. The men concerned have, therefore, given notice to terminate their employment.

Senator Herbert Hays:

– Do they wish to start in business in the same town ?

Senator FOLL:

– I presume so. At any rate, they would be carrying on the same kind of work as that which the Government has declared to be of vital importance. The letter proceeds -

This federation feels that the strongest representation should be made so that established firms retain their staff and carry on work which the Government has stated is of first rate importance, and that War Organization of Industry should not, as it has done in this case, issue licences to firms’ employees without first ensuring that qualified mechanics are available to fill the vacancies.

There is no objection to people starting in competition one with another, but where men have been allotted, and apparently directed to these firms, to whom work has been given by .the Government, they should not be able to leave their employment without some arrangement being made with the firm for the carrying on of the work originally given to them. Otherwise those firms could be put out of business.

Senator FRASER:

– The honorable senator still stands for industrial conscription.

Senator FOLL:

– The position would be different, if industrial conscription were cast aside and everybody had an equal opportunity, but this matter is controlled by the Government.

Senator Collings:

– The difficulty could be overcome by a talk with the Minister concerned.

Senator FOLL:

– I am the best judge of the method which I should adopt in bringing the matter to the notice of the Government. I shall please myself whether I discuss the matter with the Minister, or draw attention to it in the Senate. I have had enough of the impudence of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) in dictating the way I should deal with my own affairs. The Minister is not the Leader of the Senate, although he was formerly. He has been removed from that position by a vote of his own party. I discussed the matter with the Leader of the Senate, and he was agreeable to my raising it in the chamber as I have done. I prefer to do business with him rather .than with the Minister for the Interior. The letter from the Electrical and Radio Federation concludes -

As you can readily see, the situation is such that employees, although previously allocated by the W.O.I, to existing firms, may with the blessing of W.O.I, leave their present employment and thereby compete against firms disabled by lack of employee replacements.

This matter has been .taken up with Manpower and W.O.I, in Brisbane without arriving at a satisfactory outcome, and it would appear that some other approach is necessary.

Approaches have been made to the departments concerned in the State of Queensland -

A letter describing the situation has also been sent to the Honorable J. J. Dedman, M.H.K., by the firm concerned.

We would appreciate your making the earliest possible representation in this matter as we consider that the principle involved is an important one and the particular case concerned is of extreme urgency.

Under ordinary conditions there would be no objection to any form of competition between business establishments, but if the practice to which I have referred were permitted to continue the War Organization of Industry Department could close up any business. I ask that the matter be treated as urgent by the Government, that a full investigation be made, and that a decision be reached at the earliest possible moment.

Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Victoria · ALP

by leave - The matter raised by Senator Foll will be placed before the Department of War Organization of Industry. The facts will be ascertained, and the honorable senator will be communicated with later and informed as to the result of the inquiry.

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asked the

Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -

Will the Minister make a statement to the Senate, before the adjournment, showing the increase, if any, inthe butter production of the Commonwealth, showing each State separately, since the subsidy by the Government to dairy farmers was first paid?

SenatorFRASER.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer: -

Butter production in pounds for the seasons 1941-42, 1942-43 and 1943-44 was, respectively -

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Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to.

That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meats.

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Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -

Thatthe Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.

Senator LECKIE:

.- Will the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) state whether the Senate will re-assemble on the 15th November? A report was recently published in the press that Parliament was likely to meet on that date. I understand that no important business is likely to arise for the rest of the present sessional period, and honorable senators do not wish to be brought to Canberra for a week or a fortnight before there is business for the Senate to do. I suggest that the Minister should make certain that work awaits the

Senate before honorable senators are called together again. That would be conducive to more satisfactory conduct of the business of this chamber.

Senator FOLL:

.- Is the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) in a position to say whether the announcement in the press this morning that a secret meeting of senators and members will be held when the Parliament meets again later this year is official? If so, can he say whether the sittings will be of sufficient duration to enable senators and members to discuss freely the aspects of the nation’s war effort to which they wish attention directed ?

Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Victoria · ALP

.- in reply - When the Parliament reassembles about the middle of November I expect to be absent from Australia, and the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) will be acting as Leader of the Senate. I have discussed this matter with him, and he has undertaken to confer with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and with you, Mr. President, with a view to fixing a date which will suit the convenience of honorable senators. I assure honorable senators that they will not be brought to Canberra without having some work to do on arrival.

Senator Foll referred to a press announcement regarding a secret meeting of senators and members in November. Replying to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), the Prime Minister said that he had in mind the holding of a secret meeting. What the length of that meeting will beI am unable to say, but the Acting Leader of the Senate will confer with the Prime Minister on that subject also. It is recognized that the Senate is always at some disadvantage in the handling of business compared with the House of Representatives. From time to time, suggestions have been made that more legislation should be initiated in this chamber. I think that all honorable senators are agreed that it is desirable to discuss here as much of the business of the Parliament as possible early in each sessional period, rather than have to wait for business to come here from the other chamber. This is a matter which is under consideration, and it is hoped that in the next sessional period there will be an improvement.

Question, resolved in the affirmative.

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Visit of Minister fob Trade and Customs to United States - Tasmanian Rights League - Business of Parliament - Australian Army : Personnel Absent Without Leave - Landlord and Tenant Regulations.

Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator GRANT:
New South Wales

.- As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has intimated that he will soon be leaving Australia for a short period, I take this opportunity to express our best wishes for a successful mission and the hope that he will return in good health to continue to lead the Senate in the efficient manner that he has done for some time.

Senator LECKIE:

.- On behalf of the Opposition, I join with Senator Grant in wishingbon voyage to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane). Members of the Opposition have no quarrel at all with the Minister; we believe that he has carried out his duties as Leader of the Senate excellently, not only from the Government’s point of view, but also from ours. Although we criticize him at times, speaking by and large we on this side are perfectly satisfied with his conduct of the business of this chamber. We associate ourselves with Senator Grant in wishing Senator Keane a pleasant journey and a safe return to Australia. We hope, too, that his mission will be successful. He takes with him our best wishes.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!

Senator SAMPSON:

– I regret the necessity to address the Senate on the motion for the adjournment, but I am impelled to do so because of statements which reflected on my personal honour and integrity which were made here by an honorable senator yesterday. Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber when those statements were made, but I have perused an uncorrected proof of Hansard containing them, and I am amazedthat any one should make such a vile accusation against me. I should like the honorable senator to repeat, before witnesses, outside this Parliament what he said here, because then I should have my remedy. He mentioned my connexion with an organization that was created for a special purpose in, Tasmania about twenty years ago. He said that I had collected moneys on behalf of that association, and that no one else knew what had become of those moneys because the organization had never issued a balancesheet. The inference is clear, namely, that there was something discreditable in my actions. I shall state briefly the history of the organization. It came into being for a special purpose. Tasmania had been badly treated, in that there were frequent shipping disputes which caused much inconvenience and loss to that State. The coastal provisions of the Navigation Act operated to the detriment of Tasmania. People were leaving Tasmania for the mainland and the population of the State was falling. In order to check that retrograde movement the citizens of Tasmania decided to form a purely voluntary organization which would work in the interests of their State. Many leading citizens, of whom the late exSenator Grant was one of the most prominent, were associated with it. I, too, was a member. The organization sought to bring to the notice of the Bruce-Page Government the position of Tasmania, as a member of the federation, about which the people felt so keenly that there was talk of seceding from the Commonwealth. The organization was a great success. In its interests I visited almost every municipality in Tasmania to organize the people in the interests of the State, with the result that in January, 1926, a petition was presented to the House of Representatives by the then honorable member for Bass, Mr. Jackson. It contained over 13,000 signatures, all of which were” genuine. As the result of the agitation, Sir

Nicholas Lockyer was sent to Tasmania in February, 1926, and, following his visit, a grant of £378,000 was made to Tasmania by the Commonwealth. Having achieved its purpose, the organization ceased to exist. I emphasize that it was a properly constituted body, and that its accounts were audited by a firm of chartered accountants in Hobart, which found that every penny collected had been properly accounted for. The statement made in this chamber, and the insinuations of the honorable senator who made it, were most vile. I was associated with the Tasmanian Eights League for about five months - from April to August, 1925, as assistant secretary and travelling organizer. The honorable senator stated that membership of the association cost 5s. ; the membership fee was only 2s. 6d. A considerable sum was expended in propaganda, office rent and expenses incurred by and on behalf of the secretary. The statement that no balance-sheet of the organization was ever produced, and that I was the only person who knew what became of the moneys collected, is a vile one. The honorable senator went on to say that some day I might explain what became of the money that I collected. I suggest that he should visit the firm of chartered accountants in Hobart who Audited the books of the organization and see for himself what became of the money. There is no truth whatever in what he said, and for any man to go back twenty years and rake up filth of this description is something of which I did not thing that any honorable senator would be guilty. The statement that I used the Tasmanian Eights League to assist me in my candidature for the Senate is entirely incorrect. At the time that I decided to contest the Senate election I was not a member of the league. I had previously resigned from that body, and also from the position of local president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. I contested the election at the request of a number of returned soldiers and others. The Tasmanian Eights League was entirely non-political; its members included persons of all shades of political thought. They were concerned, not with party political matters, but with the interests of their State. Fortunately, our efforts were successful. As I have said, the league disbanded after having achieved its object.


– It has become a custom to initiate almost all legislative proposals in the House of Representatives. I recognize that that is necessary in respect of measures which involve the appropriation of public moneys, but the practice sometimes means that the Senate has little business to perform, and adjourns soon after honorable senators have, been called together. Those adjournments are frequently not of sufficient duration to enable honorable senators from distant States to return to their homes, and, consequently, through no fault of their own, they have to “ stand by “. I realize that the first duty of legislators is to the nation, but I suggest that consideration be given to the initiation in this chamber of legislation not involving the expenditure of public moneys, and also that subjects of great national importance be brought forward here so that honorable senators may have an opportunity to discuss them. That would tend to raise the prestige of the Senate. During the 22 or 23 years that I have been a member of the Senate the practice of initiating legislation in the other chamber has been followed. Under the present procedure the Senate does not count. Even bills which could very well be introduced in the Senate are first debated in the House of Representatives. with the result that when such measures reach this chamber we receive from Ministers only a rehash of the Government’s views. At the same time, the subjects have lost all news interest to the public, and, consequently, discussions on such measures in this chamber are practically of no interest to any one. It is the duty of the Senate to preserve the dignity of this branch of the legislature. On Wednesday last, the Appropriation Bill was introduced, and, following the usual practice, its consideration was rushed.

We had to stage a sort of field night in our attempt to deal intelligently with it. No honorable senator can say that that is the proper way to discuss the country’s finances, which, in fact, are the foundation of our welfare. The Leader of the Senate should press for an alteration of the present procedure of submitting business to the Senate, bearing in mind the necessity for preserving the dignity of this chamber. Several important bills which have been on the notice-paper of the House of Representatives for some weeks could have been thoroughly discussed by now in this chamber, but they have not reached us owing to the pressure of other business in the House of Representatives. Two of those measures deal with very important subjects, upon the consideration of which we could have employed ourselves to the advantage of the people during the time we have been obliged to waste during the past few weeks.

Senator FOLL:

– When I was speaking on the motion for the first reading of the Appropriation Bill, I dealt at length with the growing problem presented by soldiers going absent without leave. Although I made those remarks only a few days ago, I have already received numbers of letters from soldiers themselves and parents of soldiers. This fact reveals that the subject is urgently exercising the minds of many people. Therefore, I again urge the Government to investigate this problem as soon as possible. Such an investigation should not be entrusted solely to those in charge of military affairs, but should be considered by the War Cabinet also. As I said previously, many soldiers start off by being absent without leave for a few days, and, as the result of fines and periods of detention, during which they receive no pay, they very soon incur substantial debits in their pay-book; and the knowledge that they will have to wait for many months to make up that leeway deters them from returning to their units. What is still more unfortunate is that many of these men who are anxious to return to their units are, more or less, fugitives from justice, because they know that provosts are looking for them. Therefore, they do not like to run the risk of taking a job. I admit, of course, that a number of men who habitually go absent without leave have bad military records. I again urge the Government to consider making a special appeal to all men now absent without leave to return voluntarily to their units, and give an opportunity to large numbers to turn over a new leaf on the understanding that, provided they incur no black mark for a certain period, they will be given an entirely clean sheet in respect of past offences.

Senator Grant:

– That is a matter for the Army.

Senator FOLL:

– Surely, the honorable senator does not suggest that Parliament must not discuss matters which vitally affect the welfare of members of the armed forces? Only quite recently, discussion took place on an allegation that members of the forces who communicated with members of Parliament would render themselves liable to be court-martialed. That allegation was denied by the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Thomas Blarney, whose denial was generally endorsed by the community as a whole. In this instance, I am only taking up the case of a large number of men who have, more or less, inadvertently placed themselves in an unfortunate position from which we should help them to extricate themselves as soon as possible.

Senator COLLETT:
Western Australia

– The matter raised by Senator Foll undoubtedly calls for urgent attention. I am not in possession of any figures on the subject, but the matter must be handled with the greatest possible caution. If it is a fact that great wastage is occurring as the result of men going absent without leave, the efficiency of the armed forces must suffer correspondingly. In one army at one stage in the last war, one-third of the personnel were listed as sick, or wounded in hospital, one-third were absent without leave or for other reasons involving breaches of discipline, and only one-third were available for the purposes of the campaign. In this matter, it is, primarily, the responsibility of our military leaders to find a solution; and, if the Government is dissatisfied with the present position, its proper course is to instruct them to effect an improvement as quickly as possible.

With respect to the matter raised by Senator Herbert Hays, no honorable senator who recalls the bills which we have considered during the last 48 hours will deny that those measures presented to honorable senators a very extensive field for investigation, had we been given an opportunity to consider them properly. For instance, the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission was not made available to honorable senators before the introduction of the States Grants Bill. In those circumstances, no honorable senator could be expected to study the proposals of the Government properly. I welcome the intimation by theLeader of the Senate that he will give consideration to this matter.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– I bring to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) a case of hardship arising under the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations. The details are set out in the following letter which I have received from the complainant, Mr. A.R. Boston : -

On the 20th June, 1944, I was retired from the position of station master at Tallarook, Victoria, by the Victorian Railways Commissioners, sixteen months before I attained the retiring ago of Co years, on account of dangerously high blood pressure and failure of vision, on a superannuation of £2 per week - my sole income.

Besides having paid for this superannuation by my contributions, I put all my life’s savings into a small suitable home situated at 3 Napier-street, Mentone, Victoria, for purpose of retiring into for self, wife and two daughters. I recently spent over £200 upon renovating, repairing, improving, painting, and sewerage, &c, and even installed new window blinds right through the house and also new globes and shades for electric light in every room. Power point was placed in kitchen, where already gas and fire stove were located. It was duly passed by the Housing Commission and I had a tenant placed in same at the low rental of 25s. per week, and rent was kept specially low so that no hardship would be inflicted on tenants. House consists of six (C) rooms, bathroom, washhouse and a semi-enclosed verandah capable of holding four singlebeds easily as a sleepout, thus equalling nine (9) rooms. I have had three tenants, the present ones being Mr. and Mrs. Henry, who took possession in June, 1943.

Immediately upon retirement I got in touch with tenants and placed my position before them. They agreed to vacate house if I obtained a suitable house for them. After searching district I could find no house. I then offered to share house with them until they could be placed. They definitely refused stating place was too small for two families. I then took legal proceedings to secure possession of my own house as the departmental house in which I am still residing is required for my successor in office, who has his furniture stored here meanwhile. Mrs. Henry considered herself insulted when I kindly asked her to vacate house, and definitely refused service of writ of ejectment telling me that Mr. Henry was the correct person to be served at the house. Upon attempting to serve notice on Mr. Henry at his job, he also refused to accept service and told me to get to hell out of it and that I wanted a lift under the bloody jaw. I immediately saw the constable in charge at police station, Mentone, and under his protection I served the notice at the house.

On Friday, the 22nd September, 1944, the case was tried before Judge Gavan Duffy, who decided in favour of Mrs. Henry, who is receiving an allotment from her son at the front, this being her income. Mr. Henry, who was working when I instituted proceedings, stated he had received an injury at work and could work no more, and has applied for the old-age pension, thus securing a point over me through hardship. During July accommodation was secured for tenants but they refused to occupy same. I may state that no other house can be secured at Mentone or district, in same class and condition, as cheap as therent I charged.

Practically all the small amount of cash I had on hand hasbeen used in this prosecution.

The railway department is going to eject me from their premises, and I have no money to fight them, so I will be tipped out on the street with absolutely no prospect whatsoever of keeping my family anywhere. I may state that my two daughters are boarding at the Y.W.C.A., Richmond, and the younger aged seventeen has to be assisted by me out of my £2 per week. The railways charge me 17s. 6d. per week rent. I am left with 22s. 6s. per week to live on. What a hopeless prospect! The 25s. per week rent is of practically no use to me, as after paying commission, rates and taxes on property there is hardly enough left for repairs.

I may state that I have been a good officer of the railways for 46 years and have an absolutely clean record.When the war commenced Tallarook became one of the key positions for military movements. Being of” absolute British descent for generationsI whole-heartedly rose to the occasion and for three years never worked so hard in my life before, Sundays included, the result being that the excessive strain at my age of 60 has proved too much and my life’s work is finished.

I understand from the judge’s ruling that his only course was to give verdict to my tenants as under the National Security Regulations the allotment clinched the whole matter. Surely in my case the National Security Regulations were not meant to apply. I have lived within the law all my life and have followed out the best traditions of British practice in that I have made provision for my old age. This provision is denied me. I have lost my home. To me this condition is calamitous.

I am sending this circular- letter to all federal members in the hope that my case’ will be looked into by them, as this is an absolute super tax on my life’s savings, in that I am barred from its provision and am forced to allow another person to enjoy its benefits. If my tenants are in necessitous circumstances, the simple fact remains that I did not receive sufficient salary during my life to keep another family. Cannot the Government make arrangements for these people and allow me to occupy my own house? In the name of British justice I sincerely ask that my case be looked into.

I shall he pleased if the appropriate Minister will give consideration to the necessity of meeting such cases as this. I know that the housing question is most vexatious and difficult, and that hut for the landlord and tenant regulations there would probably have been wholesale evictions of reputable tenants by unscrupulous landlords who were seeking increased rentals, but cases of this kind merit serious consideration, andI trust that something will be. done by the Government as the result of my representations.

Senator KEANE:
Minister for Trade and Customs · Victoria · ALP

in reply - We are all in agreement with Senator Herbert Hays’s suggestion that in order to maintain the dignity of the Senate more legislation should he initiated in this chamber. Some bills were so introduced, notably certain social service measures, which I suggest were well handled, enabling us to blaze a trail for the House of Representatives with very important legislation.’ The whole subject will be discussed by the Govern- ment in order to ascertain whether some improvement of our procedure on the lines indicated by the honorable senator can be arranged.

  1. suggestion was made by Senator Foll that cases of servicemen absent without leave should be dealt with by soma higher authority than ordinary Army officers. I understand that the Minister representing the Minister for the Army has, under his immediate notice, some data on that subject.

I remind Senator Sheehan that there are two sections of the landlord and tenant regulations, one for the civilian and the other, known as the War Service Moratorium Regulations, to deal with cases in which members of the services are concerned. I suggest that the case which the honorable senator has cited comes under the regulations administered by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt).

Senator Collett:

– The AttorneyGeneral has already promised to look into them.

Senator KEANE:

– All the landlord and tenant regulations are at present under consideration with a view to proposed amendments, some of which are to help the landlord and others to help the tenant. As the honorable senator said, if there is any part of the price- fixing policy which has been 100 per cent, successful it is the control of rents. House rents are relatively easy to control now, as we caused them all to be pegged as from December, 1939. The fair rents courts are open to everybody free of cost, and any person who has a grievance with regard to a flat, room or house has merely to go to the local clerk of the court and state it. Thereupon the magistrate sits in a room to which no lawyers are admitted, the applicant and the landlord state their cases, if necessary the magistrate views the house, and he then makes his award on the spot. In the old days it would have cost a litigant at least £8 in fees and other costs to have his claim heard, perhaps for the reduction of his room rent by a few shillings a week. The real trouble is that housing conditions are appalling, and I see no prospect of their immediate or early improvement. People have been attracted from all parts of the country, which badly needs population, into the already overcrowded cities, where accommodation was already inadequate. Decentralization is imperative in order to get the people out of the cities, and the Government will, as opportunity offers, continue to give effect to its announced policy in that direction. It is a waste of money and man-power to abolish slum areas and then rebuild slums on the same spot. The matter raised by Senator Sheehan will have the early attention of the Attorney-General.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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The following papers were presented : -

Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Twenty-fourth Annual Report by the Trustees for year 1943-44 (including the Sir iSamuel Mccaughey and P. S. Watson Bequests, and the Commonwealth Public Service Patriotic Fund, South Australia).

International Labour Organization of - the League of Nations - Twenty-sixth Session, held at Philadelphia, United States of America, 20th April to 13th May, 1944- Report of Australian Government Delegates.

National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders by State Premier-Queensland (dated 2.1st September, 1944, (5), and 22nd September, 1944).

Science and Industry Research Act - Eighteenth Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year 1943-44.

Senate adjourned at 10.53 a.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by the President.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.