17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Service Personnel on Compassionate Leave.
– Yesterday the Post- masterGeneral in reply to a question which I asked him regarding priorities for servicemen on compassionate leave, said that my proposalwould result in a great increase of passenger traffic between Melbourne and Tasmania. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the arrangement is temporary or whether it will he continued throughout the year?
– I am not in a position to answer the question off-hand,, but inquiry will be made and a reply will be furnished later.
– Will the Acting
Leader of the Senate state whether the subsidy granted to Australian civil aviation companies takes the form of an annual government grant, or whether it covers payment for the carriage of mails and the transportation of Ministers, government officials and defence personnel ?
– The terms of the subsidy do not include payment for the transportation of Ministers, government officials, or defence personnel. Their fares are paid to the companies in the same way as those of civilian passengers. A straight-out government subsidy is paid to certain companies, and other companies are subsidized for the carriage of mails at a rate profitable to the companies concerned.
Screening at Canberra.
– Will the Minister for the Interior ascertain whether arrangements can be made to give effect to the valuable suggestion that the National Capital should set a national lead by having regular screenings for the public at Canberra of documentary films calculated to stimulate public thinking? In view of the excellent films screened for members of Parliament by courtesy of the Minister for Information, foreign legations and certain film companies, will the Minister confer with his colleagues to ascertain whether it may be practicable to have public screenings of motion pictures of this kind in Canberra ?
– I shall be pleased to do my best to carry out the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate whether the special report on the flax industry by Senator Gibson will be made available to honorable senators, so that they may have full information regarding the industry?
– I shall ascertain whether that can be done.
Stock Feed - Export of Surplus
– In view of the conflicting statements that have been made with regard to the prices paid at country railway sidings for wheat used for stock feed, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make a statement to the Senate as to the price farmers are paying for such wheat in bags and in bulk at country sidings? It has been mentioned in various quarters that wheat has been delivered for which the farmers receive 4s.11/3d. a bushel, and that they are able to buy it back at as low a price as 2s. 10½d. a bushel. I understand that a bill dealing with the matter will be brought before the Senate next week. In view of the conflict between the statements made in this chamber by the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and those made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture himself, who has said that, in arriving at the realization value to be paid to the farmer, wheat sold as stock feed will not be taken into calculation, will the Minister ma.ke an authentic statement on the matter? The statement by the Minister in this chamber also conflicts with one made on behalf of the wheatgrowers’ organizations.
– I shall confer with the appropriate Minister and ascertain whether a statement can be made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
– Will you, Mr. President, institute an inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the possibility of improving the acoustic properties of this chamber? I am able to hear very little of what is said by honorable senators.
– I have been straining my ears this morning in an effort to hear what has been said by some honorable senators. I have been well aware for many years of the difficulty experienced in this chamber in hearing the speeches of honorable senators. I recall that on one occasion ex-Senator Sir George Pearce asked me to speak up, and I raised my voice, as I am now doing. I realizethat some honorable senators are not endowed with a powerful voice like my own, and, although they speak up to the best of their ability, they are not always heard. Something should be done to improve the acoustic properties of this chamber, and, as attention has again been directed to the matter, I shall take the earliest opportunity to investigate the possibility of improving them.
– Has the Government decided on a policy of post-war immigration, and, if so, will the Minister for the Interior make a statement to the Senate regarding it?
– The important matter which the honorable senator has raised is being carefully investigated by the Government at present. Several phases of Government policy with regard to immigration have been agreed upon,but no definite general policy has yet been involved. The Government is in communication with the Government of Great Britain on this matter, and at the earliest possible date its policy will be disclosed.
Land Settlement and Housing
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider allowing the Senate an opportunity, during the first sittings next year, to debate the proposed plans of the Government with regard to soldier settlement, housing and repatriation?
– I shall place the matter before Cabinet and let the honorable senator have a reply later.
– In view ofthe serious drought conditions throughout Australia and the continued high prices of fodder, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture sympathetically consider continuing during the summer months the payment of a subsidy to milk producers on the same basis as during the winter months ?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in order to see whether effect can be given to the honorable senator’s suggestion.
– In view of the importance to Australia of primary production in the post-war period, will the Government consider sending a mission of representatives of Australian primary industries which normally have large exportable surpluses to various overseas countries in order that they may become acquainted with the practical problems which will confront them after the war? I understand that in the near future a conference with repr esentatives of rural industries will take place.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s suggestion to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– In view of the doubt as to the feasibility of the important work of standardization of railway gauges being undertaken, will the Minister for the Interior state the latest estimate in the hands of the Government of the probable cost of the scheme, which, I understand, is in the vicinity of £95,000,000? The previous estimate obtained by the department in the early years of the war was, I believe, in the vicinity of £25,000,000.
– I can assure the honorable senator that this important matter is under close scrutiny at present, but it is impossible at this stage to make any disclosure as to the proposals or their probable cost.
– Is it the intention of the Government, when giving effect to its policy for the standardization of railway gauges, to convert all government railways in the Commonwealth to the standard gauge? If not, why not?
– I am not in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question. The Government’s intention regarding the standardization of railway gauges will be disclosed when the necessary legislation is presented to the Parliament.
– Instead of expending approximately £95,000,000 is standardizing the railway gauges, would it not be better to use the money to deal with the problems of soil erosion and water conservation, which are even more urgent?
– Only one portion of the honorable senator’s question is properly directed to me. All the subjects to which he has referredare receiving the earnest attention of the Government?
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether any action has been taken to reconstitute the Maritime Industry Commission from which the chairman from which the recently resigned as the result of a dispute following the suspension of certain employees on Sydney wharfs?
– I have no knowledge of any action taken to reconstitute the Maritime Industry Commission. That is a matter entirely for the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who will submit to Cabinet any recommendations that he may make.
– In view of the increased interest that is now being taken in the development of the Northern Territory, will the Minister for the Interior provide facilities for members of this Parliament to visit that portion of Australia at an early date in order to inform their minds of its possibilities for development ?
– I shall be pleased to do anything possible along the lines suggested by the honorable senator, but I point out that at present the Northern Territory is an operational area under the control of the military authorities, and that lack of transport facilities makes a considerable influx of people to the territory undesirable at thisstage.
” QUOTA SOLD “ INQUIRY.
– About two months ago I wrote to the AttorneyGeneral asking him to supply details of the payments made to Mr. Bradley, K.C., in connexion with his duties as commissioner in the “ Quota Sold “ inquiry,bus so far I have not received any reply. Will the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral make representations to his colleague with a view to the information being supplied?
– I shall make the desired representation and will endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable senator.
Rates of Pay - Future Form of Organization
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the “Senate whether the men employed by the Allied Works Council are all paid on the same basis ? I understand that at the Butler’s Gorge job, in Tasmania, the employees receive 16s. 6d. a week less than the rates observed on the council’s jobs on the mainland of Australia.
– I regret that I am unable to understand the honorable senator’s question, but, if he will see me later, I shall be glad to explain the position to him and give to him all of the information which he desires.
– Will the Minister make a statement at an early date as to the reason why employees of the council in Tasmania receive less than those on the mainland? Will he also state the rates of pay received by employees at Butler’s Gorge, and give particulars of any deductions made from their wages?
– I haveno intention to make a statement along the lines indicated by the honorable senator. If he will see me later, I shall try to help him to understand the situation. At present, I shall not prejudice the satisfactory carrying out of works in Tasmania or elsewhere by attempting to answer a question which I do not understand.
– Is it a fact that approximately 1,000 public servants will be employed by the body which is to replace the Allied Works Council ? If so, what are the Government’s intentions regarding men now serving with the armed forces who, on their return to civil life, will seek employment of the nature that the new organization will offer? Will the Minister give an assurance that in connexion with applications for employment with the new organization preference will be given to ex-servicemen ?
– No such situation as the honorable senator’s question suggests has arisen, or is likely to arise. The exact nature of the new organization which will replace the Allied Works Council has not yet been decided on, but, in any case, the Government’s policy nf preference to returned soldiers will be carried out.
– Can the Minister say who fixes the rates of wages to be paid to men employed by the Allied Works Council?
– Their wages are fixed by the Arbitration Court, under an award of Judge O’Mara.
Appointment of Secretary - High Court Hearing - Telegram from Minister for the Interior - Formal Motion for Adjournment.
– I have received from Senator Leckie an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The action of a Minister of the Crown in attempting, by threat, to compel an officer of his department to give false testimony as a witness in a court of justice “.
.- I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Monday next, at 9 a.m.
– Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I rise to a point of order. This matter is now before the Court, and no decision in regard to it has yet been given. Whilst I would be reluctant to suggest that any discussion here would influence the judgment of the court, I think that, in conformity with parliamentary practice, it would be undesirable for the matter to be discussed this morning. I have no desire whatever to restrict discussion at an appropriate time. If the honorable senator is not willing to withdraw his motion, I shall oppose it on the ground that a former President ruled that -
Matters which are sub judice are not to be debated.
– I am wondering how the Acting Leader of the Senate is able to say that the matter to which my motion refers is the subject of proceedings before the court, because I have not yet said a word that would indicate whether that is so or not. For the same reason, Mr. President, I fail to see how you can give a ruling on the point taken by the Acting Leader of the Senate. You have already read out my motion, and it makes no reference whatever to any case before a court.
– I have only one word to say, andI think that it should be said before this discussion proceeds further. I am the defendant in this case, and the judge has not yet given his decision. Therefore, I object strongly to any discussion in this chamber which may be likely to prejudice my liberty.
– I take it, from the wording of the motion submitted by Senator Leckie, that he does not intend to discuss a matter that is before the court, but desires to discuss an appointment made by the Minister for the Interior in the Railways Department.
– The subject-matter of the motion is a statement which I made, and for which I accept responsibility; and the judge has not yet given a decision in the case.
– I was not aware that the Minister’s telegram to the Commissioner for Railways played any part in that case.
– It did.
– I understand that the purport of Senator Leckie’s motion is merely to protest against a telegram sent to the Commissioner of Railways by a Minister prior to the case in point coming before the court. It does not relate to the actual hearing, but to the fact that a witness was approached after proceedings had been commenced.
– As I have to give a decision in this matter, Senator Leckie might enlighten rne and honorable senators as to whether the subject-matter of his motion refers to a case that is now before the court.
– It refers to the threatening of a witness who was to give evidence in a case before the court; but the hearing of that case has alreadybeen concluded, and the judge has reserved his decision. In those circumstances, I submit that any discussion in this chamber at this stage would not influence the court’s decision. My motion refers to the intimidation of a witness in that particular case, which was tried before a judge of the High Court. As the hearing has been concluded and the judge has reserved his decision, I submit that the matter is not sub judice, and that any discussion on it in this chamber at this stage will not influence the judge in any way whatever. In any event, that is not the objectof my motion. My object is to enter a public protest against the intimidation by a Minister of a witness in court proceedings.
– May I make a further point which may help you, Mr. President, to elucidate the question before the Chair?
– As the Minister is directly involved in this matter, he may make a personal explanation.
– All I want to say is that I have not the slightest desire to burke discussion on this matter ; but the telegram to which Senator Leckie refers was produced in court. Counsel took exception to its production; but the judge allowed it to be produced, and noted counsel’s objection. He reserved bis decision in the case, and until he gives his decision, I submit that the matter is sub judice and, therefore, cannot be properly debated at this stage in this chamber.
– Nothing is contained in the Standing Orders that would prevent this debate from proceeding. Whilst past Presidents have ruled against debates on matters considered to be sub judice, I submit, Mr. President, that the onus rests upon you, in giving a ruling in this matter, to pay regard only to the facts of this particular case. The facts are these: The hearing of the case has concluded. The telegram referred to has been given the widest publicity; and it remains for the judge to consider his decision. I submit that it is an insult to a distinguished member of the High Court to suggest that at this stage of the proceedings he would be influenced by any discussion which took place on the matter in this chamber.
– I rise to a point of order. I object to the honorable senator’s statement that my remarks constitute an insult to a justice of the High Court. I said earlier that I was reluctant to take my point of order.
– One honorable senator has stated that the judge would be influenced by a discussion in this chamber. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that, in his opinion, it is an insult to the judge who heard the case to say that he would be so influenced. The honorable senator is in order in expressing that opinion.
– If the Senate refuses to discuss this matter on the ground that it might thereby influence the judge who heard the case in coming to his decision, I cannot think of a greater reflection upon a member of the High Court Bench. I suggest, Mr. President, that in coming to your ruling you will Teceive no guidance from the Standing Orders, but must rely solely upon your own judgment in the matter.
– It is true that nothing is contained in the Standing Orders that would prevent the Senate from proceeding to debate the motion ; but I should think that the reason for such an omission is that in a British community common decency dictates that discussion of a matter which is sub judice is simply not done. If the object of the motion is not to influence the judge, what is the object of it? I suggest to Senator Leckie that as the Minister for the Interior is not likely to disappear suddenly, he should postpone his motion until the court has givenits decision in this case. The matter is obviouslysubjudice and no gathering in a British community, even a branch of the legislature, would discuss such a matter because such action would be quite improper and uncalled for and could only , be taken for ulterior motives. I have no doubt that the object of the motion is to harm the Minister for the Interior.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator MoLeay) that nothing is contained in the Standing Orders that would prevent us from debating the motion. However, it is a well-established parliamentary practice, invariably observed in this chamber, that no discussion is allowed on matters which are sub judice. I submit, Mr. President, that you will take that fact into consideration when coming to your decision. I contend that the fact that a Minister is a defendant in the case in question is sufficient to warrant the Senate refusing to discuss the subject until such time as the judge has given his decision.
– On several occasions in the past discussion has occurred in this chamber on the question of whether discussion should be allowed on a matter which is sub judice. It is true that the Standing Orders make no reference to the point; but, as all honorable senators are aware, past Presidents have been guided- by precedents set in other parliaments, particularly the Mother of Parliaments, and by the practice laid down in May; and on those grounds they have ruled that no discussion shall be allowed on any matter that is sub judice. In Rulings of the President of the Senate 1913-1926, I find on page 17 that President Givens ruled in a similar case as follows : -
Matters awaiting’ adjudication of a court of law should not be brought forward in debate.
President Kingsmill was called upon to give a ruling in respect of a matter raisedby Senator Dunn concerning an affidavit relating to the New Guard.. The then President pointed out that May was explicit that questions which weresub judice must not be debated. He quoted the following from page 323 of the 13th edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice: -
Matters awaiting the adjudication of a court of. law should notbe brought forward in debate. This rule was observed by Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, both by the wording of the speech from the Throne and by their procedure in the House, regarding Mr. O’Connell’s case, and has been maintained by rulings from the Chair.
I do not propose to run contrary to precedent in this matter, although other occasions may arise when I may de so. I take the stand that the President can make precedents, and is not compelled to accept all those already laid down. His decisions must not conflict with the Standing Orders, but at the same time he has in many cases to express his own opinion and exercise his own judgment. In this case, I did not know to what the letter referred until Senator Collings mentioned it. I then asked a question of Senator Leckie, who informed me that the case had been heard in the court but the judge had yet to give his decision. Without being a lawyer, I am of the opinion that until the judgment is given a ease is sui judice. I therefore rule the motion out of order.
– On a point of order, I regret that I do not agree with your ruling that the matter under discussion is sub judice, and that the motion is out of order. I submit that your ruling is contrary to the practice of the Senate. I therefore move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– I second the motion.
- Senator Leckie has moved, and Senator MoLeay has seconded, a motion of dissent from my ruling under Standing Order 429, which provides -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shallbeproposed to the Senate, and debate thereonforthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
Original question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Will the Government issue instructions to the manufacturers of bran and pollardto enable them to sell a proportion of meat meal with every bag of bran and pollard so as to do away with the necessity of issuing permits for meat meal ?
-The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Meat meal is used in stock-feed mixtures which do not contain bran and pollard. It is used largely in mixtures with crushed wheat or mai2e both in prepared foods and in mixtures prepared on the farm. Bran and pollard are jn short supply, and farmers are forced to substitute crushed grain. In the circumstances, I do not consider it desirable that the honorable senator’s suggestion should be adopted. I will, however, bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, who controls the distribution of meat meal in that State so that his viewsmay be obtained.
Interstate Transport of Mutton - Dehydration - Homebush Abattoirs
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
South Wales State Government so that stock available at Homebush maybe slaughtered and obviatethisCostof transit fromother States ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Solar Observatory Fund Act 1930-1932.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland-
Minister for the Interior) [11.26]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is purely a machinery one. The Observatory at Mount Stromlo, Australian Capital Territory, is at present known as the Commonwealth Solar Observatory. It is desirable to make certain amendments to the original act because of the fact that in recent months several new functions have been undertaken by the observatory.
The principal of these is the time service for the Commonwealth for which State observatories were formerly responsible. Another important function added to the work of the observatory is that of magnetic observations. The new functions have no relation to solar observations. The title Commonwealth Solar Observatory is no longer appropriate. It is proposed therefore to change the name to “ Commonwealth Observatory “. It is also considered that the designation of the Director of the Observatory should be changed to that of “ Commonwealth Astronomer “. To effect these alterations, it is necessary to amend the Solar Observatory Fund Act 1930-1932. The title of the act, if amended as proposed, will bc the Commonwealth Observatory Fund Act 1944. Clauses 1 to 6 inclusive and clauses 8 and 9 effect the necessary changes in titles and designations. The opportunity is being taken to include in the principal act provision enabling the Commonwealth Astronomer to invest in Commonwealth securities any moneys standing to the credit of the Commonwealth Astronomer’s account and to convert such securities into money as required. A provision to this effect was inserted in the National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - regulation 87 - as a temporary measure, pending the passing of legislation. Clause 7 of the bill adopts this provision.
– Senator Collings handed me yesterday a copy of the bill and of what he proposed to say in moving its second reading. As the Minister says, it is purely a measure to change the name of the place, the name of the office held by the man in charge, and the name of the bank account, which will now be known respectively as the Commonwealth Observatory, the Commonwealth Astronomer, and the Commonwealth Observatory Fund. I understand that the Minister is anxious that the bill shall be sent to the House of Representatives to-day, and therefore I do not propose to say anything more on the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Common wealth Astronomer’s account).
.- Will the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) state the sources from which the revenue will be derived?
.- The sole source of income is legacies made by persons interested in the work of the observatory, and income derived from the investment of such legacies.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 22nd November (vide page 1940), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– So many international proposals covering more or less the same ground have come before honorable senators recently that one is apt to be confused. They deal with matters of the utmost international importance and represent a great departure from the spirit of intense nationalism known during and after the last war. I support the bill because I realize that it represents an earnest attempt to improve the conditions of many peoples in other parts of the world. I shall draw attention to certain practical difficulties that will arise in implementing the scheme, and I hope to make several useful suggestions with regard to it. The representatives of 44 nations met at Hot Springs, United States of America, in May, 1943. Although the population of Australia is small compared with that of some of the other nations which sent delegates to the conference, it was because of the volume and value of its export trade one of the most important countries represented there.
– One of the first four, at least.
– Yes, and the proposals adopted at the conference will have a far-reaching effect on Australia, which is dependent largely on primary production. One of the representatives of this country at the conference was Mr. F. L. McDougall, the economic adviser to the High Commissioner in London, but he has not been in Australia in recent years for the purpose of keeping himself in touch with conditions in this country. I suggest to the Government that it is advisable that such officials should be brought back to Australia at short intervals. Another representative at the conference was Dr. Coombs, Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, who has many important and difficult tasks to deal with, and whose experience of primary production is limited to what he has read in books or studied at a university. Although I regard him as having great ability and technical knowledge in his own special sphere, I do not look upon him as having sufficient practical experience of primary production to qualify him to represent Australia adequately at the conference at Hot Springs. Another Australian delegate was Professor Brigden, an able man, for whom I have a high personal regard. A further representative was Mr. E. McCarthy, one of the bureaucrats associated with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
– No practical men represented Australia at the conference.
– That, I think, was the weakness of the Australian delegation. ‘ When, as a member of a previous government, I desired advice regarding sugar or wheat, or any other such commodity, I always consulted the men who had given their lives to the study of the problems of primary production. The present Government has made a serious mistake in relying solely on departmental and scientific men in dealing with this important and difficult problem. It should consider the wisdom of sending abroad a mission composed of practical men representative of the most important primary industries of this country, in order to enable them to consider the conditions in Great Britain and other countries and the prospect of building up Australia’s export trade in the post-war period.
I offer no objection to the conference of the representatives of 44 nations, whose idealistic resolutions I heartily endorse, but practical men should consider the problems raised in the bill now before us. I understand that the Government proposes to settle ex-servicemen on the land, in order that they may produce such commodities as wheat and dried fruits. It may be wise to examine the conditions prevailing in this country in 1938, when practically every commodity that Australia was exporting at that time was being subsidized by the people, which indicated that we were exporting at prices below the cost of production. The growers of sugar and wheat were being subsidized. The producers of wool were not subsidized at that stage, but I remember representatives of the industry approaching the government of the day in that year for assistance because the cost of production had reached an exorbitant figure. Barleygrowers were not then being subsidized, but butter producers were. There was also a wine subsidy and a preference with regard to meat. The producers of dried fruits and citrus fruits were subsidized, and I believe that the growers of apples were assisted at various periods. “We had better consider what will be the position of ex-servicemen, if it be found that the commodities produced by them, and which cannot be consumed in Australia, cannot be exported at a profit. I was Minister for Commerce in 1939 before the war, and I arranged for officials in that department to take stock of all the commodities Australia was exporting. I was amazed to discover that practically every line was being exported at a loss.
The desire to improve the conditions and standards of other peoples is commendable, but in trying to do that we should be careful not to lower the standards of our own people, and particularly those of our servicemen who have done so much to help this country in the present crisis. Had practical men attended the conference at Hot Springs, their advice on the matters dealt with there would have been most valuable. It is not too late even now to send such representatives overseas. I have read reports showing that, in Great Britain, agricultural production, including wheat, has increased enormously. If these countries improve their methods of production, we in Australia may encounter difficulties. I am sure that men with practical experience of the sugar industry, for instance, would be of great value at these conferences.
– We could send Senator Crawford.
– ‘Great service has been rendered to the sugar industry of this country by Senator Crawford. I recall that the first important vote that I cast in this Senate ten years ago was to support the sugar agreement. I have not changed my views regarding the policy which is necessary to provide a living standard to those engaged in that industry, particularly as.it has led to considerable development in that part of the Commonwealth, which was of immense importance to Australia when the war with Japan broke out. Honorable senators opposite who have “ highffalutin “ ideas on finance, and believe that by an extension of hank credit we can solve all our problems-
– Who believes that?
– That is the view held by severa.1 honorable senators who belong to the Australian Labour party.
– That is not so.
– During the recent referendum campaign I heard speeches by a number of honorable senators who support the Government, and their chief argument was that the depression which Australia experienced some years ago was due largely to lack of power on the part of the Commonwealth to control finance.
– Hear, hear!
– I hope to convince Senator Tangney that there is no value in that contention. Between 1918 and 192S Australia experienced a period of almost unprecedented prosperity; there was almost a .boom. The question of Commonwealth powers, or lack of powers, did not then arise. In ia. book which he has written the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) points out that, whereas in 1928-29 the value of Australia’s primary production was £207,000,000, it had fallen to £129,000,000 by 1931. That is to say, it dropped by £78,000,000 in two years.
– It dropped because of a collapse of world prices, and not because of any lack of power in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. The cause of the depression was mainly the attitude of other countries, such as France, Germany, and Italy, which decided to develop their own primary industries as a means of protection in the event of another war. Their action reduced the price of wheat in Australia to about1s. 6d. a bushel.
– Who dictated their policy ?
-Certainly it was not dictated by any one in Australia. Professor Copland and other authorities admit that the main cause of the depression in Australia between 1929 and 1931 was the fall in the prices of the commodities which Australia exported.
– And also the ramifications of international finance.
– The result was that less money was in circulation in Australia. Whether the Commonwealth Government at that time should have provided finance to help the primary producers is another matter: it had the power to do so. I emphasize that Australia’s prosperity depends largely on the value of its export trade. Should we ever revert to the position of exporting at a loss, we shall again meet trouble. I sincerely hope that our interests will be safeguarded in connexion with this organization.
– Will this agreement help in any way?
– If those associated with the organization are big enough to handle the problem as it should be handled, the agreement will help considerably, but our experience of previous international conferences does not make me optimistic. The first international agreement that I can recall was one in connexion with wheat. Only four countries were involved. Argentina, was the first country to sign the agreement, and also the first country to break it. Honorable senators will appreciate that Australia’s representatives should consist of men of all-round experience, because these matters are of great and farreaching importance. I shall be pleased to listen to Senator Tangney on the subject of the decline of the value of our primary products during the depression, and to hear what she has to say regarding its effect on Australia’s economy. A fact, accepted by many chambers of commerce and chambers of manufacture in this country, is that in times of drought, when prices of primary products are low, the whole country experiences difficult conditions. Australia’s exports of goods other than primary products are not considerable. In order that I shall not he misundertsood, I say that, if the principles of the Atlantic Charter are given effect after the war, and if Australia is given an opportunity to increase its production and to sell it at a profit, there will be a splendid chance for this country’s further development. But if the Government proceeds with a plan to increase production without regard to costs, and if we reach a stage of over-production and of exporting at a loss, the result must be economic disaster for Australia. I hope that the mistake which Australia made in the past will not be repeated. The Government is encouraging further land development, but I emphasize that the reduction of production costs and the provision of markets should go hand in -hand with that policy. If we intend to ask ex-servicemen to engage in developmental schemes, we should be reasonably certain that they will obtain for their products prices which will ensure a decent standard of living. A man who has expended £5,000 on a farming proposition cannot easily leave his holding, even though prices be too low for him to make a living. This is a matter which needs careful consideration.
Australia’s share of the administrative costs of this organization are estimated at £26,000 for the first year. At this stage I am not sure to what degree the decisions of the organization will be binding on Australia. I should like to know whether there is any legal obligation on the part of member nations to abide by the decisions of the organization; I realize that there is a moral obligation to do so. So far as I have had an opportunity to study this important proposal, I have not been able to satisfy myself on that point. I therefore ask the Minister to put the matter .beyond all doubt when he replies. I should like to know whether Australia will be under any legal obligation to carry out the decisions of the organization, and whether it will be constitutionally necessary for agreements entered into to he ratified by the Parliament, or whether ratification will be purely a matter of form. These are matters to which I should like answers when the Minister replies to the debate.
In the Minister’s second-reading speech he indicated that when twenty nations had decided to adopt the agreement the first conference would he held. I understand that, so far, twelve nations have notified that they are agreeable to the plan. From my reading of the bill, it does not appear that its passage through this Parliament is urgent. I am pleased to note that, in response to a request ,by the Leader of the Country party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden), the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) proposes to call a conference of representatives of rural industries - men associated with sugar, wheat, wool, and other primary products - to discuss matters associated with Australia’s export trade. I suggest that the Minister should consult with his colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, with a view to postponing the final stages of this measure in order that all the interests which are vitally affected may consider it, and so that their goodwill and backing may be obtained. I believe that it is of great importance to Australia that the organization shall pass resolutions that are reasonable. There is no doubt that this bill will be passed by the Parliament, but as there is little likelihood of a conference of the organization being held until at least May or June of next year, the whole matter could be carefully examined in the meantime. If the Government would accede to my suggestion it would earn the approbation of those who are vitally interested in our export industries, which, in turn, are vital to the welfare of Australia. I therefore move -
That all the words after “ That “ he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ further consideration of the bill be postponed to permit representatives of primary producers, and others vitally interested in the operations of the measure, to meet and submit their considered views thereon.”
– The fears expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) are not well founded. All that we are doing to-day is to approve an organization that will engage in many activities. The Leader df the Opposition has said that consideration of the matter should be postponed until the Government has conferred with representatives of the primary producers on this proposal. That course, I suggest, can be taken later. Once this organization is established, it will meet annually in conferences composed of delegates representative of the member nations, and it will be in the province of that conference to accept, or reject, proposals put forward. This form of organization is not new. It is somewhat similar to the International Labour Office which had its head-quarters at Geneva until the outbreak of the war. The International Labour Office consisted of representatives of employers, employees, and governments of member nations, and held conferences at which delegates discussed the problem of raising the standard of working conditions throughout the world. The Leader of the Opposition is anxious to know whether the decisions taken by this organization will be binding upon member nations. Unfortunately, the “decisions of the International Labour Office have been more often broken than observed by the member governments of that body; and previous governments in this country have not seen fit to implement many of the conventions of the International Labour Office. The honorable senator should be conversant with that fact. The Food and Agriculture Organization should meet with our approval, particularly, when we remember the reasons for which it La to be set up. Its primary objective is to devise ways and means to raise the standard of nutrition and the standard of’ living of the peoples in the respective jurisdictions. Surely, this country should take part in work of that kind, and accept the opportunity to benefit by the knowledge that will be presented at conferences of the organization by representatives of other member nations. Another reason for the creation of this organization is to make more efficient the production and distribution of foodstuffs and agricultural products. This problem concerns not only Australia, but also all primary producing countries. If. Australia is to maintain its position in world economy as a primary producing country, it should be represented at such conferences in order to be able to ascertain what is in the mind of other nations on subjects of this kind. Indeed, I believe the lack of understanding between the nations, and the wild scramble for markets, involving undercutting and underselling, produced conditions at various stages of the world’s history that resulted in war. Discussion of. these matters in conference with representatives of other nations will be to the benefit of not only the member nations, but also the world at large. This measure will be to the benefit of our rural population. Just as the International Labour Office has been trying to improve the conditions of workers throughout the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization will work for the benefit of rural populations in various countries. Australia’s interests are adequately safeguarded in the constitution of the organization. It is possible for any nation to withdraw from membership after it has complied with certain formalities.
– After five years.
– Provision is made for the withdrawal of a member nation, and such provision is a safeguard against hasty withdrawals.
– What is that provision ?
– Article 19 provides -
Any Member nation may give notice of withdrawal from the Organization at any time after the expiration of four years from the date of its acceptance of this Constitution. Such notice shall take effect one year after the date of its communication to the DirectorGeneral of the Organization and subject to the Member nation’s having at that time paid its annual contribution for each year of its membership, including the financial year following the date of such notice.
Under that provision member nations will be obliged to pay their just dues to the organization. No nation nan just subscribe to it, as it were, “ on the nod “ ; or withdraw simply by becoming unfinancial. That is a wise provision, and will bc a safeguard against the hasty withdrawal of any nation. It might have been better for the world in general had some such safeguard been adopted by the League of Nations in order to prevent nations from walking out of that body when they could not get their own way. We should accept this measure. The criticism by the Leader of the Opposition with respect to the representation at the original meeting goes by the board, because all that that body did was to formulate a constitution which it believed should be acceptable to all members. It is for this Parliament to accept or reject this agreement; but, as I have already pointed out, once the organization is established, the various member nations will have an opportunity to place their views before conferences, and if there is sufficient weight of logic in their arguments, their views will be accepted, and embodied in a convention. Therefore, whether assent to this measure be withheld or not is beside the point. We should proceed with the bill and thus inform the other nations concerned that Australia is prepared to agree to this proposal. We should establish this machinery as soon as possible in order that, in the post-war period, when the work of rehabilitating this country is under way, and we are considering various programmes for the development of Australia, we shall know at least what is in the mind of other nations with respect to this very important problem. I believe that Australia will thus be enabled to proceed towards its destiny on sound and scientific lines.
Therefore, I support the measure.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I am sorry that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition was not carried, because it would have allowed provision to he made for the representation at this important conference of the views of those nations which are most interested, in the effects of the agreement upon their export capacity. The first bill with which the Senate dealt yesterday related to Unrra, which seemed to me to he a proposition which simply gave temporary assistance to nations that were in difficulties. This bill is, to my mind, of much greater importance than that one, because it affects the whole primary production and export trade of Australia. Under it anything may happen. Forty-five nations are eligible for original membership, representing an extraordinary conglomeration of people. Under Article 20 two-thirds of the members of the council can carry a resolution which will bind the rest of the member nations. Countries of which we have scarcely heard, may, as members of the organization, outvote other countries which have the biggest export trade. Australia has only a small population, but, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, its export trade is very large. In normal years, our surplus of wheat was so great that I think Australia was the third largest exporter of wheat in the world. Whilst the United States of America has a production of 100,000,000 bushels of wheat, it has not exported in recent years as much as Australia did.
Canada, however, was a big exporter of wheat, and its surplus was practically what fixed the price of wheat throughout the world. This organization may even seek to limit production. It has extensive powers, as will be seen by a reference to the schedule, over production and foodstuffs generally. I want to see production placed on a proper footing, and markets made available for our produce throughout the world. Great Britain, which is practically a secondary industry country, has developed its agriculture tremendously. It has increased its wheat yield by something like 74,000,000 bushels. It will grow .probably three times as. much wheat as Australia this year.
– Under socialist planning, by government aid and machinery.
– It has certainly made that increase under planning. Under this scheme, restriction of production may operate. If it does, where will Great Britain come in? It has increased its production of sugar from beet by 100,000 tons. These are some of the steps to which Great Britain has been driven by necessity. Its dairy cattle have increased by 250,000, and its butter production has expanded correspondingly. Australia used to export every year as much butter as Denmark. It has produced an average of 173,000,000 bushels of wheat a year for the last ten years, but for the last three or four years, the scheme of restriction of wheat production has been operating, with the result which those of us who have lived on the industry predicted - that the day would arrive when we should not have enough wheat for our own requirements. I venture to say that by the next’ wheat season the Government will be importing wheat, unless it prohibits the export of wheat and its use for distillery purposes and for feeding sheep. Farmers will have to go without wheat for seed, and the sheep people will have to go without wheat for feed. All these results will be brought about by the restriction of production, which has stopped people from growing wheat. That is an entirely wrong policy. The Government should have realized long ago that seasonal conditions govern our exports of wheat and other primary products such as butter. What is going to happen to pur primary products inthe future, if we are to be governed by countries like Bolivia, Mexico, and others in which we have no interest? It is quite conceivable that they may impose restrictions which will necessitate our withdrawal from the organization, but, as Senator James McLachlan pointed out, we cannot withdraw from it for five years yet, in which period the whole of our productive capacity and export organization may have been destroyed. As will be seen by the schedule, very great powers are given to the director, and altogether I am not very happy about the whole proposition. Probably the intention behind the scheme is good, but whether it can be given effect by a young country like Australia, which practically lives on its export trade, is another matter. I think we shall find ourselves faced with very great difficulties. Apparently, the organization has been devised and carried out, as happened at the first convention, by economists. I have no time whatever for them in regard to matters of which they have no practical knowledge. They are all right as regards the mere teaching of economics and knowledge of the routine of these things, but when their schemes are put into practice they turn out to be entirely wrong. I asked a question to-day regarding the fixation of prices in this country. I pointed out that the price of oats was fixed at £6 a ton, and of. chaff at £9 12s. 6d. a ton. The obvious thing for the farmer to do - and even economists should know something about the effects of these regulations - is to tip his oats into his chaff bin and receive an extra £3 12s. 6d. a ton for them. That is the sort of thing that comes of government by economists. When the organization is established, let us see that it has on the conference men with practical as well as theoretical knowledge.
– The practical men are always consulted.
– They have not been consulted in this instance.
– No economistcomes to a decision on his own account.
– - He comes to a decision on book knowledge only, which he calls scientific, and I call most unscientific. If the Government had accepted the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, it would, have had the benefit of the views of the men who are most closely interested in this matter - the wheat and wool growers and all others the prices of whose exported products depend entirely on the world’s market. I have very grave doubts as to the wisdom of Australia uniting itself with a host of nations with which it has nothing in common. We should do all that we possibly can to raise the standard of living of, and allocate supplies to, those countries which are in need of food. Even to-day there exists not far from our shores a country in which 3,000,000 people are dying of starvation because we cannot send them millions of bushels of our wheat. I refer to the province of Bengal, in India. Those who restrict production are doing a criminal act which is starving millions of people throughout the world, when there is no excuse for imposing any restriction at all. There was a time when we used to hear it said that people were starving in the midst of plenty. Even that was better than to have people starving in a period when there is nothing to eat. I hope that no Australian delegate will advocate the restriction of production, and that it will never be imposed by a number of small countries which could do an immense injury to the great foodproducing nations.
– I had the privilege a few days ago, in common with other members of the Parliament, of viewing a film shown in this city, dealing with food production throughout the world. I think that it was prepared by the British authorities, but what particularly impressed me was that it gave a vivid picture of what was happening in regard to milk production. An English farmer was reported as stating that he had produced so much milk, but that, to maintain some ‘ sort of a price for himself, his milk by order was poured down the drain; at the same time, people were dying from virulent diseases, such as tuberculosis, because no milk was available. The picture also showed that, whilst the potentialities of mother earth in the production of wheat were tremendous, wheat was being systematically burnt or thrown into the ocean to maintain a particular price level for the benefit of certain people. Even in Australia foodstuffs have been deliberately destroyed to the detriment of the people. While all that sort of thing is going on throughout the world, many millions of people are starving. History shows that from time to time nations have combined for the purpose of conducting wars, very often in self-preservation. This bill is a proposition for the nations to get together in international measures for the preservation of peace. I submit that, whether there are or are not dangers associated with this proposition, it is at least another attempt on an international basis by a large number of the peoples of the world to come to an understanding with the object of harnessing the world’s productive resources to the best possible advantage. Another object is to arrange the distribution of foodstuffs so that we shall no longer have the spectacle of millions of people starving in China and India. In other parts of the world also many people are in need of foodstuffs which should be made available to them.
The conference displayed the best of intentions, the whole object of the organization ‘being to use the best practical brains available for the ‘benefit of humanity generally. Nobody will take exception to the proposal to maintain and improve farming systems and practice, credit facilities, co-operative services, land tenure systems, educational procedure and research into agricultural problems, particularly as those matters will be examined on an international basis. The agreement provides that the organization shall collect, analyse, interpret, and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture. It shall also promote and, where appropriate, shall recommend national and international action with respect to -
Those are the main functions of the organization.
Honorable senators opposite have pointed out that food production in Australia is likely to be seriously jeopardized as the result of unfortunate circumstances over which no political or other body has had control. Unfortunately, Australia is suffering disasters resulting from Nature’s handiwork, and it is impossible to foretell what Nature has in store forus. We are faced with the problems of water conservation and soil erosion. For a considerable period a great deal of public discussion has taken place, and many publications have been issued, regarding those matters, but little seems to have been done about them. Within the last few days we have read in the press that some of the most fertile soil in Australia has been deposited in New Zealand, and much more of it is at the bottom of the sea. If our productive soil is tobe blown away as the result of unscientific management of the land, large areas having been opened up for settlement without tree or other protection of the surface, it will be only a matter of time when large areas in this country will no longer be of any use to Australians or any other people. I was pleased to hear the remarks made to-day by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who, in reply to a question, stated that soil erosion was receiving the serious consideration of the Government. When, as the result of the vagaries of Nature, a country finds itself unable to produce the foodstuffs which it has been accustomed to export, starvation awaits the people of those countries to which the goods have previously been sent. The proposals emanating from the conference at Hot Springs showed that production difficulties throughout the world should receive scientific attention. Assub-committees of the conference were appointed, I fail to find support for the argument advanced in this debate that the views of people with a practical knowledge of primary production are not to be ascertained.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
– One honorable senator opposite referred to the association of economists and university professors with the problems of food, and said that in his opinion we should not be guided too much by such people. I agree that we can have too much theoretical advice, but it would appear that in regard to this organization that aspect was given serious consideration, because in Article VI. it is expressively stated -
Should any honorable senator fear that the practical side of politics will not be given .proper attention, I suggest that that article effectively meets the situation. Article I. - Functions of the Organizations - -reads -
The organization shall promote and, where appropriate, shall recommend national and international action with respect to . . .
the improcement of the proceedings, marketing, and distribution of food and agricultural products.
It has to be remembered that this proposal is something which has never previously been tried in the world’s history.
– An international conference in the United States of America decided to restrict the production of wheat, and its decision applied to Australia.
– The question of production is generally governed by the economic circumstances prevailing at the time. Even Senator Gibson will admit that there was need for restriction at that time.
– I do not agree.
– At the time that those restrictions were imposed Australia could not sell its produce. Moreover, there was a shortage of fertilizer, and shipping was not available to transport produce overseas. That, however, is beside the question. The proposal before us is an international effort to improve the processing, marketing, and distribution of food and agricultural products. That is an important objective, which may bring results which we cannot now visualize. One factor which must be taken into consideration is that some human beings will, if they can, manipulate the food market just as willingly as they would manipulate other markets. That policy has resulted in the starvation of many millions of people throughout the world.
– There is also manipulation of the labour market.
– The recent famine’ in Bengal which caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people has been attributed to manipulation of food supplies in order to make profits.
– Does not that argument apply to the production of coal in Australia?
– It probably applies to many things. Under the system which has operated for many years, the objective has been production for profit rather than in the interests of the people. Such a. system results in extreme wealth and extreme poverty existing side by side. The purpose of this proposal is to prevent such manipulation by substituting for it an orderly system of distribution of foodstuffs throughout the world, thereby eliminating starvation and improving living standards. “With such an objective none of us will disagree. Another purpose of the organization is the elimination of deflationary influences in connexion with incomes from agricultural pursuits, and the maintenance of an equitable balance between the purchasing power of people engaged in different industries. It also aims at restraining monopolistic practices the effect of which is to restrict production, and to provide machinery to guard against temporary gluts and shortages which are so frequently associated with agricultural products. ‘ “Workers in industry are free to strike in order to obtain better working conditions or higher rates of pay because of their great industrial strength, hut agriculturists, who are not so well organized, have not the same power. That lack of organization has resulted in their interests not having been given the attention that they deserve. The proposed international body will aim to make it possible, as the result of planning, for the producers of foodstuffs and agricultural commodities to enjoy a. reasonably high standard of living. The proposal also envisages the creation of agricultural credit on a national and international basis. That is something new in regard to food. It is an endeavour to get the best minds in the various nations together, so that they may erect a financial structure which will ensure the best results. During this debate it has been said that the depression which occurred some years ago was due to a fall of the prices of goods in the world’s markets. I admit that, concurrently with the depression, the prices of Australian export commodities were low, but that was due largely to the manipulation of markets on an international basis.
– That is ridiculous. The depression was world-wide.
– At that time banking institutions in this country foreclosed ou overdrafts. The position was that the producers could not sell their goods at a profit, and because they were in debt, the financial institutions demanded that they should “ pay up or get out “. Many primary .producers had to leave their holdings and primary industry began to stagnate. What occurred in Australia at that time was repeated in many other countries.
– The granting of too much credit caused .most of the trouble.
– That is a fallacious argument. There can be too much credit only when goods are not being produced. Where goods are available for sale, credit is not of so much importance. Australia has the productive resources necessary to justify almost untold credit
Another feature of this proposal is that it follows the growth of a reciprocal attitude on the part of most of the nations of the world. That attitude has grown since the commencement of the war, and to-day the United Nations are working together in the interest of all of them, rather than selfishly. Despite its tremendous productive capacity, Australia has been unable to meet its own requirements in respect of many necessary commodities, and has had to obtain them elsewhere. We know that had we followed the old system of borrowing we should never have been able to meet the debts incurred in respect of this war apart altogether from interest payments. That is true of other countries also. Realizing this fact, the United Nations evolved lend-lease, which has proved of tremendous value to all of them. Were we obliged to rely on the old method of financing our war effort we should incur liabilities in respect of this war alone so tremendous that the debt could never be repaid by posterity. That problem has been overcome under the system of lend-lease, whereby goods exchanged between the United Nations are equated on a fair and reasonable basis. That is what I call reciprocity.
– It is barter.
– Call it what you like ; but national, or international, barter is not bad so long as a fair equation is applied in respect of the goods exchanged. A system which enables a country capable of producing an abundance of foodstuffs to share such products with countries short of them is undoubtedly worth while. Unless the nations of the world view this problem from an international, rather than a purely national, point of view the world will before long be visited by another war. Therefore, it is the duty of all nations, including our present enemies, to come together when the war is over in an endeavour to evolve some system whereby we shall be enabled to give practical effect to the principle of freedom from want embodied in the Atlantic Charter. Otherwise that declaration of principles will , remain a mere shibboleth. In that way we can make the world what it was intended to be, a happy place for human beings.
I draw attention to the alarming decline of the birth-rate in, not only Australia, but also Great Britain and other British countries. Some fundamental reason must exist for the decline ofl the birth-rate among British , peoples. I believe that it is due to the fact that under the economic system tinder which we have lived in the past, it was practically impossible for the average citizen to rear a family and . to give his children the education to which they are entitled. The economic system under which we have lived for many years must be improved, not only for the reasons I have already given, but also as a practical measure for the adequate defence of this country. We defend Australia only by increasing our population. If our population is not increased substantially, we shall occupy this country only until such time as a stronger nation takes it from us.
Reference has been made to the obligations to which Australia will be committed under this proposal. Those obligations as set out in the Constitution of the proposed organization are : “ To contribute to the expenses of the organization, to make specified reports to the organization, to accord diplomatic privilege to the organization and members of its staffs, and to respect the international character of the responsibilities of the staffs of the organization “. In addition, we assume implied obligations which will arise from the powers of the organization to make recommendations and refer conventions to the member governments. I refer to that aspect because this proposal is somewhat closely related to the International Labour Office.
Australia is a member of the latter body which holds conferences annually, or whenever required. We send our duly accredited representative to conferences of the International Labour Office, and such conferences make recommendations to the respective member governments. However, in the past, Australia has not gone so far as it might have done in ratifying the decisions of that body. I mention, for instance, the recommendation of the International Labour Conference for the abolition of night baking. Even at this late stage, Australia would be well advised to review those recommendations of International Labour Conferences which it has failed to implement. The value of the proposal embodied in this measure to the primary producers of this country is obvious. We have producers and consumers, and other sections make undue profits out of both of them. The peoples of all nations will benefit from this scheme; and anything we can do as a nation to benefit the peoples of other nations’, will be well worth while. It is estimated that over 60 per cent, of the people of the world are engaged in the production of food, and that the majority of the people so engaged are on a lower standard of living than are those engaged in other avocations. As the object of this organization is to improve the living standards of the peoples of. all nations, obviously it will be of benefit to the primary producers and consumers in all countries. Any improvement in the standard of living of the people must be reflected in improvements with respect to housing, clothing and health. This is a genuine effort in the international sphere to do something for the peoples of all nations. It will enable countries short of food to share in an abundance of food in other countries ; and thus food will be distributed to those most in need of it at reasonable prices, and along such lines as will prevent manipulation by unscrupulous profiteers. Even at the risk that the proposal may ultimately prove to be unsatisfactory in some respects so far as Australia is concerned, it is at least worthy of a trial on humanitarian grounds.
– This measure aims to improve living conditions throughout the world, and, thereby, foster a more friendly spirit among the nations. For this, if for no other reason, we should give the proposal a fair trial. It is evidence at least of an attempt on the part of the nations to create a better feeling and understanding in the world, and to give to overcrowded countries opportunities to benefit from the experiences and bounty of more advanced and more fortunate nations. In some respects the proposal appears to be purely idealistic. I am much afraid that the human element was not taken into consideration when the principles of the organization were laid down. There is, however, no reason why we should not aim high to begin with. No doubt, the human element will enter into these discussions, and many of the principles contained in the bill will have to be made more practicable. The bill enables the representatives of 45 nations, many of which know probably little or nothing of each other’s economy, to meet one another. This will he all to the good, because there is nothing like personal contact to create an atmosphere in which difficulties can bc more easily overcome. The bill has disadvantages, one of which, relating to the representation and the voting powers of different nations, has been already pointed out in this debate. A two-thirds majority can carry a decision. It must bc remembered that Australia is a. very large country with a small population. In the past its economy has been based, to a large extent, upon its export trade of primary products. A time may come when the members of this organization will decide that certain exports from Australia should be restricted. That is one of the disadvantages which we shall have to risk. Experience shows that many nations, when it is a question of foregoing something for the general benefit, become very selfish. So long as things are going their way, they are content, but when they are asked to give up something, or go without something else, selfish considerations creep in. That was illustrated in the breakdown of the League of Nations. There is no doubt that to a large extent a spirit of tolerance will ‘have to permeate the conference of the members of this organization. A friendly attitude of give and take must prevail. I am afraid that nations will become selfish when they have to give, although quite satisfied to take. The world, however, has during the last four years gone through a great testing, from which I hope that the nations have learnt tolerance, which they will carry into effect in the negotiations and discussions of the new organization for which the bill provides. The principles set down in the schedule represent a high standard. The constitution begins -
The Nations accepting this Constitution, being determined to promote the common welfare by furthering separate and collective action on their part for the purposes of - raising levels of nutrition and standards of living of the peoples under their respective jurisdictions, securing improvements in the efficiency of the production and distribution of all food and agricultural products, bettering the condition of rural populations, and thus contributing toward an expanding world economy . . .
Those are very fine words, and I hope that something along those lines will be carried through.We have here, however, an opportunity of looking first atour own country, examining what we have already done, and judging what we are prepared to do for the future. For instance, in Australia the majority of country towns have no up-to-date or suitable system of sanitation, although many pf them are in the sub-tropics and tropics. There immediately is an opportunity to make a start in our own countrytowards giving people living outside the cities better conditions. Many country towns have no permanent water supply, but still depend upon the water which runs off their roofs into their tanks. Others have no electricity supply and must depend on the kerosene lamp or the candle for lighting purposes. There is need for better housing in the country. In many parts the people live at great distances from doctors, hospitals and other essential health services. There are many other things with which we could make a start in our own land towards applying the principles laid down in the bill for a world-wide organization. Although so much still remains to be done in our own country, I feel that we should show our bona fides by being prepared to help other nations’. When one looks to the countries to our north and realizes that there hundreds of millions of people throughout the year do not know where their next meal is to come from, that they have no form of habitation as we know it in Australia, and that their sanitary conditions are deplorable, with medical hygiene practically entirely absent, it becomes evident that plenty of scope exists for the work which this bill envisages. There is no doubtthat the uplifting of their conditions would not only help those people but also benefit the peoples of other countries, especially Australia, which is both a primary and a secondary producer, and needs outside markets. That is a direction in which Australia would derive great benefits, whilst the organization would help to provide abetter standard of living and comfort for the hundreds of millions of people living in those northern countries to which 1 have referred. We could also examine our own policy in relation to the restriction of our primary production. A great deal has been said about this restriction and its effect upon not only our own economy but also world economy. I point out, subject tocorrection, that £750,000 is at present being paid every year to the State of Western Australia in order that it shall not grow a sulplus quantity of wheat. Surely, when the world is so short of foodstuffs, and we are discussing a bill to organize their production and distribution - yesterday we passed another bill providing for gifts of food and other goods to nations that have suffered during the war - it would be far better to pay the wheat-growers of Western Australia that money for growing wheat, and have the wheat in hand for distribution to the rest of the world.
– Wheat cannot be grown in Western Australia without superphosphate.
– And without manpower.
– Those are difficulties to be overcome. Australia would not be what it is to-day if it had not overcome trials and difficulties in the course of its history.
– Tell us how to overcome the superphosphate difficulty.
– It is not for me to advise the Government, which has all the sources of knowledge at its disposal. Australians have not sat down in the past and said that this or that cannot be done. They have met and surmounted their difficulties. That is why the country has prospered.
– Is not the difficulty in Western Australia due to wartime conditions ?
SenatorCOOPER.- All I suggest is that we are paying £750,000 for nothing. Surely we could pay it for something which would be of practical value, if not to Australia, then to necessitous countries. The work to be done by this organization is of a practical nature, and, when the necessary appointments are being made by the Government, I hope that it will select men who are known to have had practical experience with regard to the matters with which the organization will deal.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’flaherty) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Fraser) read a first time.
SenatorFRASER, (Western Australia - Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services) [3.2]. - I move -
That the bill now be read a second time.
Under this measure the sum of £1,500,000 is to be provided for States afflicted this season by drought. The States will contribute a similar amount, and this will make £3,000,000 available for relief to cereal farmers. Distribution of the grant to the farmers will be arranged by the States in accordance with plans to be approved by the Commonwealth. The payments are to be applied for the relief of cereal farmers, to enable them to carry on their normal farming operations next year. An undertaking to continue farming next season will therefore be required before payment is made. The crops to be covered are wheat, oats and barley, and also wheaten and oaten hay. At present it seems that New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will take advantage of the proposal. The position in Western Australia is uncertain, but that State also may be brought into the scheme if crops there deteriorate.
The bill provides for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in order to meet an urgent need of a large group of our people. Ordinarily the States have the duty of assisting settlers who suffer because of bad seasons. Unfavorable seasons are experienced every few years, but at times we have droughts so intense that the usual methods of assistance are insufficient, for the distress extends beyond the borders of one State and affects a large part of Australia. In such circumstances, the relief needed is so extensive that the Commonwealth must join with the States in providing it.
This year Australia is suffering from one of the worst droughts on record. It has affected our grain areas in New South “Wales, “Victoria, and South Australia. Wheat, oats, barley and hay crops in Victoria have been ruined in the chief producing districts, the main producing areas in southern New South Wales are stricken, and hundreds of thousands of acres in South Australia will produce no crops. In New South Wales the wheat yield is estimated at little more than onethird of the normal crop. In South Aus- tralia the harvest may be 5,000,000 bushels, instead of over 30,000,000 bushels, and in Victoria it is estimated at 10 per cent, of the usual crop, or little more. Victoria’s wheat crop is estimated at from 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 bushels, and usually the crop is nearly 40,000,000 bushels. Other crops have suffered in the same way, and in some districts the grain harvested will not supply seed for next year.
I need not tell honorable senators what the effects of this will be. They concern the individual and the nation. A large proportion of our farmers must get aid or they will be ruined. They need assistance, and without it they will not be able to continue farming next season. Australia will not see farmers driven off the land by a disastrous season. They need help and they will get it. From the national viewpoint this drought comes at a time when inr resources are strained to the fullest degree in order to produce food. Now the year’s labour of thousands of men is neutralized by the season. Our food programme is affected, and will be affected for the next year. At a time when we are trying to increase production, this drought will prevent that increase over a wide range of important crops. Instead of an increase there will be a decrease. All the aid that we can now give will not maintain production. It can only help farmers to hold their assets together, so that when the drought breaks they can be ready for full production next season.
The bill now before the Senate is the result of discussions at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and at the last meeting of the Aus tralian Agricultural Council. Each State gave details of its crop position, and it was decided to afford relief to cereal farmers in all the States affected. It is clear that no State can say now what the “final outcome will be. It is not possible yet to state precisely what damage has been done, how badly the various districts are affected, nor how many cereal farmers will need help. But it is quite clear that the whole cereal area of Victoria and South Australia and the chief areas of New South Wales are seriously affected. A tentative allocation of funds was made at the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Under this arrangement £1,100,000 was allotted for Victoria, £1,000,000 for New South Wales and £900,000 for South Australia. That allocation may be altered when the whole picture can be clearly seen and the needs of each State determined, but that is the best division that can be made at present.
Since the conference, representatives of the Commonwealth and the States have met to draw up a plan of relief, the principles of which have been recommended and submitted to the governments concerned. They provide for relief on an acreage basis for cereal crops. The scale of relief will be highest for complete failure, and will decrease according to the yield of the crop. The relief plan will be uniform in each State, subject only to the slight variations that may be desirable in the interests of our farmers. Broadly, it will not need revision, except in some details. If it does the revision will be made, but here again the season must advance further before, the full needs can be seen. Meanwhile it is not intended to fit our farmers into a plan. The plan will be altered, if need be, to suit the farmers. That is the reason why the plan is not given in detail in the bill. It is to be agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States, and the administrative details must be flexible enough to provide for change, should a change be needed.
The payments are to be a grant to the cereal-growers. It is not intended to make loans. Loans are quite suitable on many occasions, but this is a time when farmers must be left free to produce without a load of debt. Australia will get it3 return in the increased production which these fanners will give when the drought is past. They will have a lot of leeway to make up at the best, because one year’s labour is practically lost. There is no intention to add debts to the obstacles with which the growers are already confronted, and the only requirement will be that applicants must continue their normal farming next year. The grant is not intended as a payment because of drought losses, but as assistance to enable farmers to continue farming. Distribution of the money will be made through the State organizations. Each State has already the necessary organization, and payment can be made early in the New Year. Therefore, the money will be paid about the time wheatgrowers usually receive payment for their crops.
I know that no objection will be raised to the principle of giving relief in such an emergency. The need is urgent, and the nation cannot allow its farmers to suffer hardship without easing their lot as far as it can. It h essential that next year cereal production shall be increased. Substantial stocks of wheat are held now, but those stocks will be fully needed. The expanded war-time demand for wheat has to be met, and this has caused an increase of the quantity going to stock feeders. Then the drought itself has caused an increased demand, and for the next twelve months wheat must meet further demands caused by the failure of other feed crops. Our reserves must be built up again as quickly as possible, and that can be done only by getting the farmers now suffering from drought back to full production when the drought breaks. Next season we shall need all the wheat, oats, and hay that our growers can produce. This bill is a practical expression of the sympathy which we all feel for our farmers. It is also one way of showing that Australia will give help to its citizens when calamity overtakes them.
Debate (on motion by Senator MoLeay) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Government to the dismissal of Mr. David J. Bourke, of Essendon, from his position as an engineer in the Department of Aircraft Production in Perth. I do not know this man, but, according to a report published in the West Australian, of the 20th November, it would appear that some injustice has been done to him. He has served his country as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, and until I have heard a statement by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) regarding the matter, I am forced to the conclusion that he has suffered a grave disability, if not boycott.
– I have before me a reply furnished by the Minister for Aircraft Production, who has asked me to read it.
– I am glad to know that. The newspaper report suggested that the facts were alarming, but I shall defer further comment until I hear what the Minister has to say on the matter.
I now direct attention to the distribution of the labour of prisoners of war. Recently the Mingenew Road Board, in the midland district of Western Australia, had occasion to refer to a proposal to urge a better distribution of that labour in that State. Its complaint was that many farmers in urgent need of assistance on their properties were not getting a fair share of that labour. The board submitted to the Minister a proposal which he did not appear to favour. It has now returned to the attack, and I should like the Minister to investigate the matter, and inform the Senate whether it would be possible to arrange for a better distribution of the labour of prisoners of war. In a letter relating to this matter, the secretary of the board states, inter alia -
My board contends that the present employer has had an opportunity to make good repairs and maintenance to his property, whereas in these areas such work has been sadly neglected and must remain in so until more labour is forthcoming. Vermin and noxious weeds have also taken heavy toll of foodstuffs.The mobile force as suggested does appear to my board a practicable scheme, and efforts should bemade by higher authorities to ensure that all food producers should have an equal share of the available labour.
I should like the Minister concerned to inquire into this matter and to advise me of the attitude of the department towards the distribution of this class of agricultural labour.
On previous occasions I have referred to the acclimatization of young tea plants with a view to growing this herb in the Commonwealth. The Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch has made a lengthy study of this subject, and has gone to considerable pains to nurture young seedlings in the Australian Capital Territory. I should appreciate the courtesy of a statement by the Minister setting out what further progress has been made.
– The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron), who has been called away on urgent government business, has supplied the following report on the matter raised by Senator Allan MacDonald: -
From reports which I have received regarding Mr. David J. Bourke and his association with my department, it is explained that : -
– During the last series of sittings of the Senate I asked a question relating to the policy of the Government in connexion with the fabrication and building of complete motor cars in Australia. The answers then given to me were accepted as being entirely satisfactory. They were made known to the general public as well as to those interested in this class of work. I draw the attention of the Acting Leader of the Senate to an article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 22nd November, in which it was stated that manufacturing interests were concerned about this matter, and that, in the absence of an announced policy, they desired to know -
It was stated that chassis were needed immediately for post-war orders, as otherwise local manufacturers would be at a disadvantage. I should be glad if the Minister would make a complete statement in regard to this matter. I should also like to know whether any application has been made by motorbody building firms in Australia for the release of labour in preparation for the building of motor-car bodies, so that production can be recommenced immediately the war ceases.
.- Many members of this Parliament, including myself, are disappointed that the decision to hold a secret meeting of senators and members has been postponed indefinitely. I hope, therefore, that when the Parliament reassembles next week, arrangements will he made for such a meeting. Many matters vitally affecting the discipline, morale and fighting efficiency of the forces cannot be discussed in open Parliament. I ask the Government to reconsider its decision.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 164.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1944, No. 163.
National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 165.
Senate adjourned at 3.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19441124_senate_17_180/>.