17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture clarify the answer which he gave to a question asked by me last week that growers of wheat would be permitted to plant to the fullest extent, subject only to the need to maintain the production of other essential crops ? Will the Minister state whether that implies that a wheat-grower has still to obtain a licence to grow wheat, and that a man with land suitable for wheat-growing without superphosphate is completely barred from growing a crop unless in possession of a licence? Does the Minister consider that those restrictions permit growing to the fullest extent?
– In view of the point previously raised by the honorable senator, I have obtained further information on the matter. The position is that a grower will have to obtain a licence in the ordinary way, and in issuing the licences it will be necessary to prevent growers from changing over to wheat to the detriment of other essential crops.
Station 2HD Newcastle.
– Will the Post master-General inform the Senate whether the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has made representations for a broadcasting licence? Was the Minister approached by that branch for the allocation to it of the licence of station 2HD? Did the Minister give consideration to those representations, and, if so, is he favorably disposed to granting that licence to the
New South Wales branch of the league? If that body can secure the assets of any radio station, in view of the league’s educational, social and rehabilitation activities, would the PostmasterGeneral grant the transfer to the branch of the licence of a station now operating?
– I have received a communication from the New South Wales branch of the league, containing the same questions as those directed to meby the honorable senator. The answer to the four points raised are: The New South Wales branch of the league did make representations to me for a broadcasting licence, and I was approached by it for the allocation to it of the licence of station 2HD. I gave considerationto the representations made. The position with regard to the application was fully explained to representatives of the branch when I met them as a deputation in Sydney. In the event of thebranch acquiring the assets of any radio station, an application for transfer of the licence to the branch would receive the fullest consideration in the light of the circumstances.
– On the 24th
November Senator Lamp asked a question relating to the air service to Tasmania. The Acting Minister for Civil Aviation advises that there is every reason to anticipate that, provided sufficient traffic is offering, the present air service to Tasmania will be maintained throughout the year.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Transport arrange that medical students from Western Australia who have been forced to continue their courses at the universities of Adelaide and Melbourne shall be given sufficiently high travel priorities to enable them to reach their homes before Christmas?
– I shall do ray best to accede to the honorable senator’s request.
– In view of the anxiety of growers of apples and pears in Tasmania regarding the marketing of their crop for the forthcoming season, can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Government intends to continue the apple and pear acquisition scheme?
– The Government has decided to acquire the next season’s crop of apples and pear? in Tasmania and Western Australia.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the report of Senator Gibson on the flax industry will be made available to honorable senators, and, if so, when? If not, can he say whether a decision in the matter has yet been arrived at?
– I shall see if effect can be given to the honorable senator’s request at an early date.
Appointment of Secretary - High Court Decision - 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 influence the evidence to be given by an officer of his department as a witness in a court of justice “.
.- I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 9 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen
– I again rise reluctantly to order on this subject. In the judgment given last week in the case Watson v. Collings, Mr. Justice Rich said -
No court can allow to pass without observation an act calculated to affect the testimony of a witness, or to embarrass him in giving evidence. Although in the result the transmission of the latter docs not appear to have influenced Mr. Gahan to disregard his duty as a witness, as he gave his evidence freely, independently and candidly, it is necessary to say that it is against the law for .any person who has any authority or means of influence over a witness to use it- for the purpose of affecting his evidence. And it is competent for this court, in cases where other remedies appear inadequate or unavailing to proceed on its own motion by calling on the party concerned to show cause why he should not be dealt with for contempt. But, primarily, the responsibility of taking proceedings for the protection of the administration of justice rests upon the law officers of the Crown, and in the present case it is not necessary to remove the matter from their consideration by adopting the exceptional method of making a rule nisi ex mero motu.
I am not suggesting that the case is sub judice, but I submit that until such time as the Crown Law officers have made a determination on this matter, a debate on Senator Leckie’s motion would be most undesirable. I shall ‘ not object to the matter being debated when those officers come to a decision. However, I submit that in view of the trial judge’s comment, and the fact that the matter is being considered by the Crown Law officers, it would not be competent even for the press to comment upon the subject at this stage. Therefore, I contend, Mr. President, that the Senate should not discuss the motion.
– I rise to order. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) does not claim that the subject is sui judice, and, therefore, his point of order is groundless. Unless he claims that the matter is sui judice, and establishes that fact, the Senate will be in order in discussing my motion. Otherwise, if you rule my motion out of order, Mr. President, you will be depriving the Senate of its’ right, to criticize a member of the Administ ra ti on .
– The matter is sui judice so far as the Crown Law Office is concerned.
– As judgment has been given in the case, the matter is not sub judice.
– I support the point of order taken by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley). I understand, Mr. President, that a somewhat similar matter was before you on Friday last in relation to the case, as it was then understood, pending against the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) and the Commonwealth; and that you ruled the motion out of order on the ground that the case was sub judice. I make it perfectly clear that the particular ease is no longer sui judice, even though the time in which an appeal may be lodged has not expired. Consequently, the case is open to comment not only in this Parliament, but also outside. But what is under consideration now is a matter which has been raised by the judge in the first proceedings which may result in a second series of proceedings directed against the Minister for the Interior. The question as to whether a matter may be discussed openly while it is before the court rests on the point as to whether any cause is pending. When one seeks to determine whether the matter to which particular attention was directed by the trial judge is pending or not, one must look for authorities for the proposition that a case need not have commenced before proceedings in relation to contempt apply. On that point there )3 no decided case; but there are cases that go very near to the point. There are also certain general considerations of fair play and natural justice which in any event ought to have first consideration. A judge from the Bench in his judicial capacity has directed attention to the matter, and has caused it to be referred to the Crown Law authorities of the Commonwealth. If any discussion takes place on it in this Parliament, it does so on the highest platform in the land, in a. chamber the report of the proceedings of which is distributed throughout the length and breath of the Commonwealth. It would result in effect in the trial in advance of the Minister upon the matter to which His Honour has directed attention, and in him being discussed on every tram and train in the country. I submit that the true course of justice would not be served if that set of circumstances were to take place. I refer the Senate to a case decided in 1927 by the Lord Chief J ustice of England, Lord Hewart. Sitting in the King’s Bench Division in that year in the case of Rex v, the Daily Mirror, His Lordship had this to say -
We arc not called upon to consider the question whether there may be contempt of court when proceedings are imminent but have not yet been launched. In the present case the question did not arise, for there was a charge ami there had been an arrest, and proceedings therefore had begun. Some day that question may have to bc decided, and for the moment I will only refer to a passage in the judgment of the court, consisting of Lord Alverstone G.J., Wills and Channell J.J., delivered by Wills J. in Rex v. Parke - “ Great stress has been laid upon an expression which has been used in the judgments upon questions of this kind - that the remedy exists when there is a cause pending in the court. We think undue importance has been attached to it. Tt is true that in very nearly all the cases which have arisen, there has been a cause actually begun, so that the expression, quite natural Tinder the circumstances, accentuates the fact, not that the case has been begun, but that it is not at an end. That is the cardinal consideration. It is possible very effectually to poison the fountain of justice before it begins to flow. It is not possible to do so when the stream has ceased.
Those words in Rex v. Parke were quoted with approval by the Lord Chief Justice of England as recently as 3927. That case shows that honorable senators should not poison the fountain of justice in this matter , before it begins to flow. I feel that if that were done a great disservice would be done to the Senate, and an injustice would be done to a Minister. It is certain that any discussion that may take place here may affect not only the minds of the Crown Law officers, who are now considering the facts, but ultimately may have its effect upon the mind of the court which may be called upon to deal with it. I put it to you, sir, that the real test is not: Has this matter begun by the actual initiation of proceedings? but: The matter having been initiated by a High Court judge, has it yet ended ? Of course, we know that it has not yet concluded, and I consider that even on the law, supported by Lord Hewart in the case which he quotes with approval, the Senate should not embark upon a discussion of the subject.
– I suggest that the Crown Law officers could not take action without the approval of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), and it is quite obvious that the case has ended, because the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) is involved. When the Attorney-General refuses to take action against striking coal-miners he is not likely to take any action which will involve the Acting Prime Minister and another ministerial colleague.
– Never before in the history of this .Senate has the President , been called upon to give a ruling in a matter similar to this. When the subject was first raised last week the point of order taken was that it would not he right for the Senate to debate a matter which was sub judice. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) has not advanced that argument in support of the point of order which he has taken tc-day.
– Yes, but only so far as the Crown Law Officers are concerned.
– It is, of course, within the province of the President of this chamber to establish precedents. I have the right to determine whether a motion is or is not in order, regardless of whether or not a similar point has beendealt with previously. There are no Standing Orders covering this position. There are, of course, the rulings which I quoted last week dealing with matters awaiting adjudication by a court or is in process of adjudication, and I ruled on that occasion that as the matter was in the process of adjudication the motion which Senator Leckie proposed to move was out of order.
This is a very serious matter, and would he so even though the person involved were not a Minister of the Crown. It involves a criminal offence, and honorable senators will agree that when there is a possibility of action being taken in regard to such an offence, the matter is one which should not be treated lightly. One must be careful not to do or to say anything which might prejudice the fair trial of the person involved. It may be argued that it is not known whether or not the Crown Law authorities will take action. True, they may take action or they may not do so. I cannot tell what will happen, I do not know what is in the minds of officers of the Crown Law Department; I consider that a decision can be regarded as “ pending”, which, according to the Universal English Dictionary, means “ undecided”, unfinished “, or “awaiting settlement “. The case, which was heard in the High Court last week, was to determine whether Mr. Watson or Mr. Harding should be appointed to a certain position. That matter has been settled, and judgment has been given, I understand, in favour of Mr. Watson; but in the course of that judgment the judge made certain remarks which, I take it, have been quoted correctly by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley).
– I was reading from a copy of the judgment.
– As the matter is one which may involve the liberty of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), I consider that it would be unjust, regardless of the motives of the mover and those who support him, to permit a discussion of this motion - I do not impugn their motives - I rule that the motion is not in order.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
My grounds are that it is wrong in principle and contrary to the effectiveness of the work of the Senate.
– I second the motion.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.
– I am not surprised at your ruling, Mr. President; I anticipated it, but it is one which the Senate should not accept without comment. I submit that it is a dangerous ruling, because under no consideration could it be fairly said that this matter is sub judice. Nobody knows whether the Crown Law authorities are taking action in the matter or not. Under this ruling there could be the farcical position of a judge making a remark of this kind, sending it to the Crown Law Department, and the department holding the matter up for months or years. Yet, according to your ruling, Mr.
President, the matter would be sub judice, and the Senate would be so “ gagged “ that it could not utter any protest in this or any similar matter. Carried to its logical conclusion the Senate would have no right to discuss any case coming before a court. That would be taking away an important privilege of the Senate, but I assume that it is not your desire to do that. At any rate I do not wish that to happen. The far-reaching results of your decision would be almost incalculable. Possibly the Crown Law authorities and the Minister concerned might decline for many months to take any action in such a case, and the Senate would be “ gagged “.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the department should have a reasonable opportunity to reach its decision in the matter?
– It has had such an opportunity since last Thursday or Friday, but, so far as I know, it has not yet taken any action. If the department is prepared to say that it will take action immediately in this particular case, I am prepared to withdraw the motion, but, without such an assurance, it seems to me that the ruling abrogates the rights of the Senate and of this Parliament. I consider that it would be laughed to scorn by any judicial body. For the sake of the Senate I ask you, Mr. President, to reconsider your decision, because your present ruling would, as I have said, “ gag “ the Senate so that it could not express its opinion on urgent matters affecting the course of justice. On any matter on which the Parliament has the right to take action it might be prevented, by this ruling, from doing so. I therefore ask the Senate to protest against your ruling. I hope that you will say that you have allowed your sympathy to outrun your judgment.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– I did not intend the remark in that way, but I claim that your ruling strikes at the liberty of honorable senators.
– I rise to order. I ask that Senator Leckie withdraw the expression that you, Mr. President, have allowed your sympathy to outrun your judgment.
– If I understood the honorable .senator correctly, he said in effect that I had given my ruling because of political sympathy with the party of which I happen to be a member. If Senator Leckie assures me that I have not been influenced in any way except by a desire to do what is right and just, he may proceed.
– I have not the slightest intention to reflect in any way upon your personal integrity. I know that you do your best to be just in the Chair at all times. I had a feeling of course that, not for political reasons, but because a friend of your own might be involved in this matter, and was not getting a fair chance-
– Order ! The honorable senator must not speak in that manner. It is grossly disorderly to reflect on the Chair. I am not moved in the slightest degree by consideration for my friends. While I occupy my present position I shall give my rulings according to the dictates of my conscience. I have always done that, and I do not intend to allow any honorable senator to impugn my motives.
– I ask that the words to which I have taken exception be withdrawn.
– If I have cast any reflection upon you, Mr. President, I cheerfully withdraw the remarks to which exception has been taken. I am only human, and I know how hard it is at times to give proper consideration to matters. My reason for submitting this motion is, not because I desire to reflect on your capabilities as President, but because I consider that if the ruling were carried to its logical conclusion the Senate would be stultified in all its work, and honorable senators would be prevented from speaking on almost any case which had reached a similar stage.
– Senator Leckie has remarked that if this matter were dealt with speedily he would withdraw the motion. By interjection, I intimated earlier that the matter would be dealt with promptly, and I can assure the Senate that as far as I am concerned a decision will be reached regarding it as speedily as possible. I make that statement as an inducement to the Opposition not to press this motion. The honorable senator said that no one could say when the Crown Law officers would take action. The inference is that they would delay action, but there is no desire on their part to do that. The contention that the privileges of the Parliament are likely to be interfered with is utterly absurd : it constitutes an abuse of parliamentary privilege. As an assurance has been given that early action will be taken to obtain a determination, I suggest that the motion be withdrawn. I give the assurance that an opportunity will be given to debate the motion before the Parliament adjourns this week.
– At an earlier stage I asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General if he could say whether the Crown. Law officers could take action without the approval of the AttorneyGeneral. That is a vital point. I trust that honorable senators, will deal with this matter as one embodying an important principle, and not as one concerning certain persons. In my opinion, the Crown Law officers will not take action of their own initiative.
– I rise to order. The question before the Senate is whether the ruling of the President shall be dissented from. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) have nothing to do with that matter.
– The motion before the Chair is that my ruling be dissented from on the ground that it is wrong in principle and contrary to the effectiveness of the work of the Senate. The motion is somewhat broader than if it merely provided that my ruling be dissented, from without any reason being given.
– I appreciate the assurance of the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) that a decision by Cabinet, or by the Crown Law officers, will be given before the Parliament goes into recess, which I understand will take place on Thursday or Friday of this week.
– What assurance does the honorable senator want?
– The Minister should ‘be in a position to inform the Senator whether action can be taken by the Crown Law officers without the approval of the Attorney-General or of Cabinet. Unless we are informed, on that point, we shall not be in a position to record an intelligent vote on the merits of the case. The Standing Orders do not cover the case that has arisen; they do not make clear what is permissible in connexion with a case which is sub judice. That is remarkable when we recall the distinguished legal gentlemen who were in a large measure responsible for framing our Standing Orders. I believe that each case which comes before the Senate should be considered on its merits. Before I record my vote, I ask that a responsible Minister shall answer the question which has been raised.
– I am confident that if the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) will give an assurance that this case will be dealt with before Parliament rises-
– How can he do that?
– Should such an assurance be given, I am confident that Senator Leckie would ask leave to withdraw his motion.
– I again rise to order. I submit that the giving of a guarantee by a Minister, as has been sought by honorable senators opposite, does not affect your ruling, Mr. President. It is that ruling alone that is in question.
– It is competent for an honorable senator who has submitted a motion to ask that before he seeks leave to withdraw it certain assurances shall be given. I rule that Senator James McLachlan is in order
– The Postmaster-General has asked Senator Leckie to withdraw his motion, and has promised that the matter to which the honorable gentleman referred would be attended to promptly. It would help us considerably if a responsible Minister, preferably the PostmasterGeneral, could give an assurance that a decision will be given before the Parliament rises for the Christmas recess.
– As Senator Sheehan has pointed out, the question before the
Chair is whether the President’s ruling shall be dissented from and, therefore, the question of a guarantee does not arise. In my opinion, guarantees should not be sought from any Minister in this matter. Had you, Mr. President, ruled that the motion was in order, the debate would have proceeded; but as you have ruled that the motion is not in order, that should be an end of the matter. The Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, that the Attorney-General, or the Government, dictates to the Crown Law officers.
– There is no doubt about that.
– -The honorable senator, in making that statement, reflects upon not only the present AttorneyGeneral and the present Government, but also all previous Governments and Attorneys-General. Thus the very people who, today, with the assistance of the press, are condemning the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) for his attack upon certain members of the judiciary, are themselves reflecting upon one who has been a distinguished member of the High Court bench.
– This is extraneous, Mr. President. Let us get on with the business of the Senate. The question before the Chair is that your ruling be dissented from.
– No honorable senator, no matter on what side of the chamber he may sit, shall dictate to me how I shall conduct the business of the Senate. I am here to mete out justice to all honorable senators, and to see that the right of free speech is given to all of them. T have an answer to some of the points that have been raised in this debate; but I shall give to every honorable senator the right to speak, and he will be limited in what he says only by the Standing Orders. I do not want any honorable senator to tell me to get on with the business of the Senate. Every honorable senator has the right to speak to the question before the Chair. It is a very important matter, and honorable senators on both sides will be heard provided they keep within the Standing Orders.
– So far as I am concerned, honorable senators opposite are not going to “ get away “ with any reflection upon the Attorney-General, who is not here to protect himself. The Leader of the Opposition said, in effect, that even if the evidence warranted a prosecution, the Attorney-General would not prosecute the Minister for the Interior because he had failed to prosecute the coal-miners. The fact is that prosecutions against coal-miners arc going on all the time.
– Can the Crown Law officers initiate a prosecution without the approval of the Attorney-General ?
– That is a matter for the Attorney-General. The . Leader of the Opposition said that the Crown Lawofficers, in coming to a decision, would bc- influenced by the Attorney-General. 1 agree with your ruling, Mr. President, that Senator Leckie’s motion is out of order. As Senator McKenna has stated, a continuation of the case in which judgment has just been given is pending. In view of that fact, the Senate should be the last place in which a discussion on a case which has not yet been disposed of should be allowed ; because, under privilege of Parliament, many things are said which members of Parliament would not say outside. The Leader of the Opposition, for instance, would not dare to say outside some of the things he has said in this chamber. I agree with your ruling, Mr. President, for the further reason that a discussion on the motion, as Senator McKenna has said, might prejudice the liberty of the Minister for the Interior.
– I should like to know, Mr. President, whether I would be in order in moving, “That the Senate do now divide “.
– The honorable senator would be in order in submitting that motion; but before he does so, I should like to say something on the matter. I have ruled that the motion is out of order, and a motion that my ruling bo dissented from has been moved, on the ground that it. is wrong in principle, and adversely affects the work of the Senate. I contend that my ruling does not adversely affect the work of the
Senate. On the contrary, it is a principle of British justice that no man shall be adjudged guilty before he has been tried. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) may have to stand his trial on a charge of contempt of court; and it is a proper principle for the Senate and its President to lay down thai no man, against whom action is pending in a criminal court, shall be prejudiced by a debate in this chamber. Despite the .fact that we are all reasonable men, we may, nevertheless, in the heat of debate, say things that would probably prejudice the hearing of the case that is pending, and probably influence the Solicitor-General in considering his recommendation. Therefore, in order to be just, I have ruled that no debate should take place on a matter of this kind. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has strengthened my ruling, because so far as I can gather his objection to it is based on the question of time, namely, hp to whether or not the Solicitor-General can come to a conclusion before the present session of Parliament terminates. If he comes to a conclusion before this session is ended, then, according to the Leader of the Opposition, my ruling is right; but, otherwise, it is wrong. That is the argument which the Leader of the Opposition has adduced. So far as I know, the Solicitor-General is just; and he will deal with this case as he would deal with any other. He will come to a. conclusion which will be conveyed to the AttorneyGeneral. I do not know what the AttorneyGeneral will do, but it would be competent for the matter to be raised again should the Attorney-General fry te delay the case. Personally, I do not think that the Attorney-General, or the Solicitor-General, would deliberately try to delay the case. Therefore, my ruling is strengthened by the only argument raised against it, namely, as to whether or not the Attorney-General, or the Solicitor-General, can come to a decision upon the matter within the nest few days.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Release of Personnel - Butler’s Gorge Works
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
Staff in America.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount was subscribed to the Second Victory War Loan by (a) the Commonwealth Savings Bank; (h) State savings banks; (c) other savings banks?
– The Treasurer states that inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– A number of protests have been received, particularly from Queensland members of the Returned Sailors, .Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. As there appears to be some misunderstanding in the Senate and elsewhere as to the .policy under which certain overseas internees are released in Australia, it is my intention to issue a statement on the matter as early as possible.
asked the Acting
Minister for the Army, upon notice -
SenatorFRASER. - The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Re-employment of Service Personnel.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
With reference to the Rehabilitation Section in Western Australia -
How many persons who -
served beyond Australia,
served only within Australia, having been discharged from the services, have applied for employment?
How many have been placed in employment ?
Is there any system of classification or types of employment?
If so, what numbers have been placed in each type of employment enumerated in such classification ?
Is it a facet that persons have been sent to work of an unsuitable or temporary character on the understanding that they would not bo kept there and, later, been refused permission to accept a better type of work when offered ?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service states that the information is being obtained and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Will the Minister instruct the Repatriation Commission to antedate the payment of a pension from the date the application or appeal was lodged, and not from the date the pension was approved, which in most cases has been after months of delay, for which the applicant is not responsible and during which period he has been unable to follow his normal civil occupation ?
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answer: -
When a claim for pension is lodged and the claim is allowed, the pension invariably commences from the date of lodgment of the claim, or the day after cessation of service pay whichever is the later. When an appeal against rejection of a claim is lodged and the appeal is allowed, pension isgranted from the date of lodgment of the appeal, or, if the circumstances warrant, from a date not prior to the period of six months immediately preceding the lodgment of the appeal. In 1939- war cases, where the. Final Medical Board has indicated an entitlement to pension, the date of discharge from the forces is fixed to operate from a date 30 days after despatch of the member’s service documents to the Repatriation Department, and practically all cases are determined before that date. When it is not possible to determinethe claim within the 80 days, the Repatriation Department requests that the date of discharge be further deferred.
Debate resinned from the 24th November(vide page21 12), on motionby Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now reada secondtime.
. -I support this measure. Although it does not represent anything new in international spheres- after all there have been many international conventions, although, unfortunately, the recommendations have not been adopted by many nations- it is an innovation in that it deals with a class of the community which more than any other section has been exploited in the past, namely, the rural workers. The measure provides for the exchange of agricultural knowledge gained by the nations which subscribe to this international agreement. This free exchange of knowledge is something which has not been achieved even amongst the States in this country. Most of the States have their own agricultural colleges, such as the Hawkesbury Agricultural College in New South Wales, and the Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia, and in addition, there, are experimental farms dealing with horticultural and other pursuits; but hitherto there has been no means of pooling for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole, the valuable information obtained as the result of the activities of these institutions. As a signatory to this international agreement the Commonwealth will set up an investigating authority the responsibility of . which will be to collate the scientific knowledge gained in the various
States. Asa matter of course that knowledge will be available, not only to the international organization, but also to all States of the Commonwealth. This method of organizing agriculture on a world-wide basis hasnever been attempted before. Just what it will mean to the world can be gatheredfrom a review of the existing position. Throughout the world to-day we have various systems of government. For instance, in totalitarian countries the human element in society is exploitedto the limit during itsterm of usefulness for the benefit ofthe State-, and then. When that period of usefulness has ended, it is discarded. On the other hand, we have the countries which tend towards a socialist administration, under which the object is to obtain the best that every individual has to offer, but then when his periodof usefulness has ended, he is cared for for the rest of his life. That is done to a greater degree to-day than ever before in history.Then we have the so-called democratic countries of which, Australia, as a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, is one. What is our attitude towards this problem? We utilize the labour of human beings spasmodically. We obtain the best from them just when we think it is required. In recent years we have taken care of human labour in a very mild way. We have given to the workers just sufficient food to keep them alive. The object, of course, is to provide against the necessity for having to use the human factor again; just as store cattle are kept in a halfnourished condition so that at a future period they may be fattened up for a specific purpose. That is what we are doing even in this war period. There are people who arenot getting sufficient to eat. Ofcourse; we have done a little more forour people than has been done in the totalitarian countries. We have adopted a dole system in the interests of those who have been useful to the country. In their old age they are provided with a dole. We smirk and claim that the old folk are being looked after. We ball the dole a pension, but afterall it is only a dole. We provide them with only sufficient to buy food, clothing and shelter of a meagre character.
This bill embodies an agreement under which an effort is to be made to overcome difficulties under which we are living, and it deals specifically with agricultural matters. It sets up an organization in Australia that will be used for the purpose of collating scientific knowledge in this country which will be exchanged with other countries. The object is not to derive a commercial advantage from this action, but an important principle is involved, that of providing the foodstuffs needed by the peoples of the countries concerned. We are to furnish all necessary information possible, scientific and otherwise, regarding agricultural pursuits, and exchange it with other nations, so that the production of foodstuffs in Australia and in other parts of the world may be increased. Dairying technology and agricultural sciences are taught in some of our schools, but that information is not made available to the primary producers generally. At present it is given to certain individuals so that they may use it for their own benefit. An attempt is being made to overcome that disability, and to use all the available technical knowledge for the purpose of increasing the supply of food throughout the world. One or two criticisms have been levelled against the technical features of the agreement, but otherwise the general principles embodied in it have been accepted. Such criticism as has been directed against the measure has been due to a fear complex, such as that displayed by the Leader of the Opposition (.Senator McLeay), who became cynical and uttered warnings about what he thought could happen if we acted strictly in accordance with the agreement. The honorable senator forgets, of course, that this Parliament has the last word with regard to the implementation of the agreement, and the adoption of any recommendations made at a later stage.
– This is a four-years agreement.
– But that does not prove that anything will be done to the detriment of Australia. This measure merely provides, machinery for collating scientific knowledge. The recommendations of the organization will come back to this Parliament for review, in order to safeguard the interests of this country. So .far as the Constitution permits this Parliament is the master of the destinies of Australia in this matter.
– That should be stated in the bill.
– It is set out in the agreement, and will be found in paragraph 2 of Article IV. The Leader of the Opposition stated that costs and markets must go hand in hand, and I think that every honorable senator realizes that that is so. It is of no use to produce unless we have a market for the commodities grown, and unless the price realized provides the grower with a good standard of living. It seems to me that all the powers provided in the agreement tend in that direction. When the representatives of the various nations met to deal with this problem they viewed it from that aspect. They considered present standards of nutrition and health throughout the world, and means by which production could be increased and made more efficient, distribution improved and international machinery established. In addition, they considered the necessity for freedom from want and hunger, and for improving the nutritive value of foodstuffs, which all relate to the cost of commodities. The exchange value of a goods commodity does not always imply a particular price. It is not necessary to get a specific price to ensure a fair standard of living within a given sphere. When dealing with costs and markets it is necessary to take into consideration international markets. At some time or other this Parliament will have to give consideration to an exchange of commodities between Australia and countries overseas to a greater extent than ever before. This must not be left to private enterprise. In considering the value of goods produced in Australia compared with that of those imported from other parts of the world, we should equate the cost of those goods to the price in terms of our own currency. That would overcome the difficulty imagined by the Leader of the Opposition. That, however, must be done by this Parliament. It would be useless to leave the task to the Parliaments of the States, because each State has .particular interests at stake, and would probably act against the interests of the other States.
– How does the honorable senator suggest that the difference between export and import costs should be adjusted?
– By equating the cost of the articles.
– Who would pay the difference ?
– No such question would arise. A bag of potatoes might be exchanged for a bolt of silk and the goods cost equated to a price in our currency.
Reference was made by Senator Gibson to the present restriction of production in Australia, and Senator Cooper also spoke of the matter. In effect, Senator Gibson said that Australia might find itself hampered by many restrictions imposed by countries in which it is not interested. That is a “ one-eyed “ analysis of the agreement. It indicates that the honorable senator believes that because he is in opposition he must oppose whatever the Government proposes. If he were to examine the bill closely, he would find that all the decisions of the organization must come before this Parliament. The agreement is not binding until the Parliament has ratified it.
– Once the Parliament accepts the agreement, it accepts all that it entails.
– That is so. The agreement is, in effect, the constitution of an organization which is to be established to deal with matters relating to food and agriculture. It is not different in principle from the Constitution of the Commonwealth. This Parliament may pass legislation, but should the High Court decide that such legislation is ultra vires the Constitution it ceases to have effect. The fears of some honorable senators opposite are not well founded. In his references to restrictions, Senator Gibson missed the whole purpose of the agreement. This organization will be similar to the International Labour Organization, to which various countries send representatives from time to time. The conventions of the International Labour Organization come before the parliaments of the member nations, and those parliaments accept or reject them.
– When did Australia agree to the constitution of the International Labour Organization?
– At the moment I cannot say, but I do know that on a number of occasions Australia has sent delegates to meetings of that organization. It may be that the Parliament has not passed legislation to give effect to many of the conventions of the International Labour Organization, but that is because anti-Labour governments, which have been opposed to better conditions for the workers, have been in office.
Senator Cooper spoke in the same strain when he said that Australia’s first duty was to put its own house in order. We are all agreed on that point; but the honorable senator ought to have known that such matters as providing water supplies and sewerage systems for Australian country towns are outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. They are matters for State parliaments. Our troubles are due largely to the fact that in the agricultural districts of Australia each State has acted in its own interest.3 and, for the most part, has kept the benefits of its experience and research to itself. Only in comparatively recent years have the results of experiments such as those of Roseworthy and Hawkesbury agricultural colleges been passed on to other States for the benefit of agriculturists generally. This bill provides for the establishment in Australia of an authority which will collate valuable information in the interests of primary producers and of the country as a whole. Later, the Parliament will probably be asked to implement various conventions arising out of meetings of the proposed, organization, and I hope that when such matters come before the Parliament they will be favorably considered, if not agreed to. At present, the Commonwealth has not the power to dp some of the things which will he possible if this bill becomes law. The measure, therefore, constitutes a step in the right direction. Senator Cooper also referred to the restrictions which have been imposed on the growing of wheat. He mentioned that £750,000 had been paid to
Western Australia by way of compensation for not growing more wheat. The honorable senator knows that those restrictions were imposed, not because of any desire to restrict production, but because of the exigencies of war, particularly man-power and transport problems, rendered them necessary.
– Australia will need the wheat which might have been grown had the restrictions not been imposed.
– That may be; but at the time that they were imposed the question was whether more wheat should be grown or a Japanese invasion should be prevented: Fortunately, theCurtin Government was in power when Japan struck, and because its supporters were not fighting among themselves, as was the case when a previous government was in office; it was able to come to a decision in the interests of this country. That decision certainly affected agricultural pursuits, because it involved obtaining the greatest number of men possible to fight in various spheres against the enemy. At the time the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that there would be shortages of some commodities; but notwithstanding the restrictions which have been placed on the people of Australia, honorable senators are still well clothed and are not deprived of any of the necessaries of life. Much has been said of the hardships suffered by Australian farmers; but despite their difficulties, they have not wanted any essential requirement. It is true that many businesses which have expanded because of war contracts have hot returned to their shareholders the profits that, some of them would like, but the attitude of the Government has been that in the defence of the country everything should be thrown into the pool. Although the area which may be sown to wheat has been restricted, farmers havenot been prevented from engaging hi other kinds of production. In Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria attempts have been made to sow wheat in marginal lands which are not suitable for wheatproduction.Someof these holdings are now devoted to mixed farming, and, excepting where drought has affected production, farmers are making a success of their enterprise. As the result of exchange of information between the nations which will be associated with this organization, production in the future should be carried out on more efficient lines than in the past. That should lead to a greater volume of production, and raise the standard of living generally throughout the world. In my opinion thebill before us is worthy of the support of all honorable senators.
-The bill before us has many good points, and we shall have to have more such measures in the future,It aims at securing markets for our products overseas, and exchanging information between nations as to the best methods of production. Its success will depend largely oft how the Organization works; I can see nothing but good infrequent conferences between representatives of many nations along the lines indicated in this measure. During recent years Australia has benefited greatly from the application to production of the lip-to date methods of other countries, particularly the United States of America. Our success as a nation is largely dependent on increased productionand markets for our goods. I am convinced that Aus- tralia can produce more food than is now grown in this country, and also that there are people whoneed it. The trouble is that those whoneed it most cannot afford to pay for its Australians are as humane as are the inhabitants of other countries; and in times of other people’s needare willing to make contributions to assist them, but in the last analysis we reach the point that we must be paid for what we produce; That does not necessarily mean that those who consume Our products must pay us directly ; there rail still be a clearing-house, as now exists in London. We must recognize that other peoplecannot buy our goods unless we, in turn, buy something from them. We must also recognize that we cannot pay subsidies to primary producers with borrowed money. This bill may help us to pursue a more business-like policy in the future than has been followed in the past. In my opinion; the Government has not acted in the right way in regard to this measure: any criticism that I shall make is with the object of assisting the Government. I have been handed a letter which reads: -
Representatives of the Chambers of Manufactures and the Chambers of Commerce and departmental permanent heads will be the members of a committee to develop export trade and to prepare for the post-war period. Announcing the appointment of the committee, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) stated that the permanent heads of the Departments of Commerce, Munitions, Supply, and Customs, would be members.
The Government appears to overlook the necessity to obtain the services of men who have had experience in primary production. It should avail itself of the services of noted pastoralists and agriculturists, and those who have had experience in the marketing of primary products overseas.
– Men with those qualifications will be appointed to the committee.
– I am glad to have that intimation from the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), because, so far as I am aware, it is the first yet given to that effect. The Government, if it wishes to achieve the best possible results, must take advantage of all the information available from reliable sources ; and it cannot obtain any more reliable than that which those who have spent their lives in primary production and the marketing of primary products can give. Events during the last few years have shown that Australia can increase its production to an amazing degree so long as adequate markets are available. In this respect I mention vegetables. Only yesterday the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) announced very illuminating figures concerning the effort Australia has made in the production and marketing of dehydrated vegetables. “We should do all in our power to maintain that trade after the war. In this work very valuable assistance can be rendered by officers of the State Departments of Agriculture. The officers of that department in Tasmania have by sheer merit gained the confidence of the farmers. When attending meetings of farmers in Tasmania I have been struck particularly by the high standard of our young farmers, who are full of energy, and take the initiative rather than wait for things to happen. They have produced tremendous quantities of potatoes, and other vegetables for dehydration. I have every respect for the experience of members of the Chambers of Manufactures and the Chambers of Commerce, but when we are dealing with agricultural products we should seek first the guidance and help ‘ of agricultural experts and practical producers. I repeat that we must sell our products at a price which people can afford to pay, but I am afraid that at present we are allowing our costs of production to get somewhat out of hand. A few days ago I received a letter from the Tasmanian Farmers, Stock-owners and Orchardists Association informing me that at its recent annual general meeting the following resolution was passed : -
That the policy of continually raising costs and prices making subsidies necessary is uneconomic, and detrimental to the nation as a whole.
That association submitted that as the result of ever-increasing costs, the Commonwealth is rapidly approaching the time when further exports will be seriously curtailed, because, obviously, we shall find it impossible to compete in the markets of the world unless we keep our costs of production within reasonable limits. That is the considered opinion of the association I have named. We may improve our chances of competing on the world’s markets by increasing our production, or by improved methods of production; but we must always realize that fundamentally we shall never successfully compete with other nations unless we keep our costs of production within reasonable limits. I have made these remarks solely with the intention of helping the Government. I urge it to obtain the best advice available in relation to this scheme, and to send as members of its delegation overseas only men with the .best qualifications for the work in view. Such appointments should be made without regard to party politics, the primary objective of the Government being to obtain the services of the best men available. It cannot do better than seek the aid of men who have spent a lifetime in primary production and in the marketing of primary products. In the final analysis, successful marketing is the real issue. The producers themselves realize that fact.
Dealing with the bill itself, I am not altogether satisfied with Article XX., which reads -
Amendments to this constitution involving new obligations for member nations shall require the approval of the conference by a vote concurred in by a two-thirds majority of all the members of the conference…..
That provision refers only to any alteration of the constitution of the proposed organization. Glancing at the list of nations concerned, 45 in number, it is not very difficult to visualize the possibility that two-thirds of them might entertain views which might not coincide with ours. However, that provision refers only to alterations of the constitution. Clause 5 of the bill, which deals with the appropriation, is related to Article XVIII. and Article XXV. The total expenditure of the organization during the first year is estimated at 2,500,000,000 dollars, and Australia’s share will be31/3 per cent. of that amount. However, that is the estimate for the first year only, whereas it is quite probable that the total expenditure, and Australia’s contribution, may be considerably increased subsequently. Paragraph I., Article XVIII. provides -
Subject to the provisions of Article XXV., the Director-General shall submit to the Conference an annual budget covering the anticipated expenses of the Organization. Upon approval of a budget the total amount approved shall be allocated among the member nations in proportions determined, from time to time, by the Conference. Each member nation undertakes, subject to the requirements of its constitutional procedure, to contribute to the organization promptly its share of the expenses so determined.
I emphasize that we are appropriating money not for one year only, but for so long as this measure remains on our statute-book. At the same time, provision is made that a conference of the member nations by a simple majority may alter the proportion of the amount payable by any member nation. Having regard to the nations listed, it is not difficult to imagine that they might come to the conclusion that Australia should pay. considerably more than is set out in this measure. So far as I am able to ascertain, our commitment for the first year will be between £25,000 and £26,000. Having regard to the purpose of the appropriation, that money willbe well spent, because in association with these nations we shall be able to obtain very valuable information concerning production and marketing. The point I make, however, is that this commitment may later be increased to, say, £100,000 or an even larger sum, because provision is made for annual reapportionment of the total expenditure. Therefore, I submit that in relation to these aspects of the measure, our position is, to say the least, unstable. Evidently, the Government has endeavoured to protect itself against the possibilities I have pointed out, because it is provided that no further charge can remain against Australia without the consent of this Parliament. However, that provision is not made in respect of the other matters I have mentioned. Therefore, I ask the Postmaster-General to take up with the Attorney-General the points I have raised, with a view to elucidating them at the committee stage. Taking the bill by and large, we shall have to pass it. We must establish contact with other nations in respect of the marketing of primary products; and, consequently, the measure should be to our benefit.
– I was rather pleased to hear the closing remark of Senator Hayes, that it is necessary for Australia to undertake its responsibilities with regard to its future agricultural policy in association with the nations of the world. This measure should receive the unanimous support of honorable senators. Our interests are amply protected as will be seen from thepreamble to the Schedule, which reads -
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 theirrespective jurisdictions, securing improvements in the efficiency of the production and distribution of all food and agricultural products. . . .
That is a very laudable, and necessary, objective. We cannot go on as we have in the past, and remain masters of our destiny so far as production and marketing are concerned. The real problem in this matter is that of distribution, which can be achieved only by ensuring a better distribution of the wealth of the world. The peoples of all nations must be given sufficient purchasing power in order to enable them to obtain the products necessary to raise their nutritional standards.
– That is the basic principle of free trade.
– No. This organization is .being provided for the purpose of achieving a better understanding between the nations in the handling of their problems in respect of food and agriculture. I have given much consideration to this matter in the past. I have always held the view that ir was Australia’s duty to establish closer contact with other Britishspeaking .peoples, so that we might be enabled to solve similar problems in a spirit of mutual sympathy and understanding. The bill outlines the tremendous task in which 45 nations of the world are to be involved. Imagine how difficult it must be for the representatives of 45 nations, who speak different languages and have different objectives, to solve, while sitting at a conference table, many of the problems with which the world will be confronted. I do not say that great results will follow from the bill, but it is at least a beginning. It is only by a greater understanding of all our problems that we can hope for a better state of things after the war. I have for a long time appreciated the difficulties which those engaged in primary industries have to face in trying to maintain a proper standard of living. One of the great objects of the Labour party has been to improve the standard of living of the whole community, and one of the means adopted has been the control of production. We simply cannot go on producing commodities haphazardly without regard to the marketing end of the business. I have been associated with those who have tried to control production with a view to improving the marketing of our produce, but after all a policy of restriction is a policy of despair. We cannot continue on those lines We must have a system of organized production with a view all the time to making the best of the markets of the world as well as of the markets in our own country. If our primary industries are to face after this war circumstances similar to those which prevailed after the last one, they will have indeed a dreadful state of affairs in front of them. I look upon the agreement contained in the bill as a very fine gesture on the part of the peoples of the world, who recognize that all these problems must be faced and dealt with if we are all to enjoy peace and prosperity. I do not believe that many of. the great industrialists are anxious to improve the conditions of the people just for the sake of improving them. Rather do I think that they share the widespread belief that unless the people of the world have adequate purchasing power industry will collapse. The markets must be provided by the masses of the people. Otherwise, the application of technical knowledge and scientific improvements to industry will bring about conditions similar to those which prevailed after the last war, when, even though there were many people starving in the world, the farmers in some countries poured their milk down the drain, just to maintain a price for that which they marketed. Coffee was burned to dispose of the surplus. The world cannot afford to follow those lines again. One of the things that must occupy the attention of all governments in the future is the better organization of agriculture. I remember the conditions that existed during and after the last depression. The following will give honorable senators a good idea of what took place then: -
Farmers will remember with bitter memories the last depression, and other crises when dairymen received as low as 6d. and 7d. a lb. for butter, when wheat sold for less than 2s. a bushel, and when the world was glutted with cheap-labour sugar that sold as low as £4 a ton. Tens of thousands of farmers were ruined in those depressions. Economists now admit that, with good leadership, the effect of the depressions could have been overcome.
I believe that the view expressed there will be accepted to-day by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, although it was not accepted during those depression years. It was thought that the more we tightened the belt, the more secure industry would be. Although, as
I say, I do not expect very great results from the bill, I believe that all the nations of the world will get a better understanding of Australia’s productive resources. In our own country we can improve considerably the markets for our own produce, raise our standards of living and gradually improve the nutritional standard of food and consequently the conditions of our people. As regards the export of our own primary products, unless there is some reservoir of finance to enable the peoples of the world who are hungry and need our foodstuffs, to purchase them, the result will be bad both for them and for our producers. There must he an understanding along those lines, and that is one. reason why I liken this bill to that known as Unrra. I agree with some of what Senator Gibson said, particularly that we must be very careful in any attempt we make to control primary production. A year or two ago I was anxious that the restriction on the area sown in wheat should be removed, even if man-power were short, because it would be far better to have an abundance of wheat than to be short of it as we are to-day. It is not easy to control primary production. Secondary industries are more easily dealt with, because as a rule their products are not perishable, but unless a market is available at once for a primary product the industry is in difficulties. Primary production also depends to a large degree on the elements, which we cannot control. The Government’s attempt to fix the prices of primary products would be all right if practical men who understood primary pro,duction were placed in control, but 1 have noticed a ceiling price put on a commodity, practically the whole crop destroyed by an early frost or a hailstorm, and the producer forced to take the low fixed price for the small quantity he is able to market. That is why I agree with Senator Gibson about the unsuitablity of so-called economists to handle these matters. The Government should endeavour to secure the services of practical men in their stead. I believe it was Mr. Theodore who said that the so-called economists were all right in the stern of the boat, because they could tell us the course that wc had traversed, but of no use in the bow because they knew very little of where we were heading. That is very true in regard to many of our socalled economists. Science and technical knowledge are going to play a tremendous part in the development of the country, and we do not want to be handicapped by having our industries too much controlled by these men, who, although quite good in their own sphere, lack a practical knowledge of the industries upon which Australia will depend for its developmentThe question of population is wrapped up in these questions. “We still have to develop our country greatly, but we cannot increase our amenities and improve our standards of living if our population remains stationary. At the same time we shall always be in great danger of attack by other nations near our shores. The question of population must play a tremendous part in the economy of our country and the- successful development of our industries. As I said earlier, I believe that industry must realize that the marketing of our production, which is of immense importance, must be the function of the Government, and the security of industry is wrapped up in the purchasing power of our people. If we can improve the standard of living of our own and other peoples of the world, and come to an understanding which will prevent this country being isolated, so that we may take a fair share in world affairs, we should have nothing to fear from taking part in conferences such as are outlined in the bill. I do not believe that any honorable senator can conscientiously object to this measure. Primary industry has too long been neglected throughout the world, but other countries are now moving in the matter. Great Britain has increased its primary production by 60 or 70 per cent. During this war the British Government has adopted a policy which honorable senators opposite would no doubt call socialistic. It has taken over and .controlled farms which were not properly worked by individual farmers, and assisted others to plough their land and increase their production, while leaving efficient farmers alone. Australia must continue to be a primary producing country, although our secondary industries have already been greatly developed, thanks to a large extent to the policy of the Labour party. I have often heard so-called farmers’ representatives endeavouring to prevent the establishment of secondary industries, but the intelligent farmer realises that only by the development of secondary industries can the markets for his produce be put on a satisfactory basis.I welcome the measure, which I believe in time will have a good influence on the future of the world and help to establish a lasting peace, which must be linked up with the economic policies of the different nations. If Australia can gain a better understanding with other countries, it has everything to gain and nothing to lose. I hope that the bill will be passed by the Senate and that its object, which is to help agriculture on to a higher plane, will meet with every success.
having for its object delaying the passage of the bill so that the agreement might be considered by the people who would be directly affected by it, was unfortunately defeated. I am sure thatall honorable senators are anxious to do the right thing, but we must not let our enthusiasm outrun our judgment. Few countries which will be parties to this agreement are as fortunately placed as is the Commonwealth of Australia. Our territory is huge, and our productive capacity almost unlimited. Of necessity, wo must look overseas for markets in which to dispose of our exportable surpluses. Many of the nations with which we shall be associated in this scheme have a very low productive capacity and a great density of population. When we deal with this matter we must consider not only ourselves, but also succeeding generations. We regard our standard of living as being comparable with that of any other country.
– Our standard of living is not so high that it cannot be improved.
– I agree; but does the honorable senator believe for one moment that one result of associating ourselves with this scheme will be to raise the standard of living in this country? Certainly that will not happen. It will be impossible for Us to improve Our standard of living arid at the same time observe the spirit of this agreement. There will be “giving” nations and “receiving” nations, and in view of our small population and high productive capacity, we must regard ourselves largely as an exporting or “giving” nation. That is the light in which we must examine these proposals. The purchasing power of at least some of the nations which will be signatories to this agreement will be extremely low, whereas costs of production in Australia are high. Take, for instance, butter, dried fruits, wine, Or meat; although We have a country with immense productive potentialities, the cost of producing these commodities is high compared with other countries. In fact, in respect of certain foodstuffs it has been necessary to impose a relatively high home-consumption price in Order to sell these commodities overseas at competitive rates. At the various conventions which this measure envisages, Australia will have only One vote and many nations will be Seeking assistance. Forinstance, it may be decided to distribute 50,000,000 bushels of wheat among countries requiring food relief, and Australia, being a major wheat-producing country, will be called upon to contribute a substantial share. That, obviously, is the purpose of the Scheme. What Other purpose could there be in drawing upan agreement such as this? The object is to help certain nations, and Australia will be one of the helpers.
– The agreement will not be binding upon us.
– We are a great primary producing nation, and we have built up , a substantial export trade in primary products. As I have pointed out on many occasions, the sale of our primary products overseas has been made possible by the imposition of a high home consumption price. It ia only during this war that we have been able to export our secondary products.
– That is not correct. Australia was exporting some secondary products prior to the last war.
– I do not suggest that we were not able to export any secondary products whatsoever; but, speaking in general terms, until now we have not succeeded in selling our manufactured goods overseas at profitable figures. Before this war, we turned always to Great Britain as our main market for our exportable primary products. True, we exported a few commodities to Canada, to the United States of America, and to New Zealand, with which last mentioned country we have a reciprocal trade treaty, but, in the main, Great Britain was our market. What is the position to-day? Despite the enormous drain upon man-power due to the war effort, Britain is now supplying 70 per cent, of its own food requirements. In effect, the United Kingdom has ceased to be the workshop of the world. Some years ago, when Mr. Malcolm MacDonald came to this country he indicated that Great Britain intended to build up its agricultural industries. That was some years before the war. By the reclamation of land, the application of science to agriculture, and the payment of substantial bounties to increase production as we have done in this country, Great Britain has achieved a remarkable degree of selfsufficiency. I predict that Great Britain will learn the lesson of this war, and many of its people will go back to the land with the result that no longer shall we be able to depend upon’ that country as our main market for surplus primary products. That being so, we shall be faced with the necessity. to find other markets, and, no doubt, some of them will be in the countries with which we shall be associated in this scheme.
– That is something that can be encouraged by supporting this bill.
– I am not opposed’ to the hill, but I ask honorable senators to be realists- and to face the position. It is all very well to talk about the great brotherhood of man and to1 say that we must feed, the needy. I quite agree with all that, but I maintain that there will be a substantial difference between the cost of producing foodstuffs in this country and the prices which we shall be able to obtain for those foodstuffs in other countries which are signatories to this agreement.
– That is on present standards.
– After all, what is a standard? What standard can we set? In the final analysis it is not a question of what wages are paid, but rather of what a wage-earner can purchase with his’ money.
– The purchasing power of the people !i
– Yes, and we are led to believe that the purchasing power of the people of many nations is> substantially less than it is in this country. Therefore, we shall have to accept cheap goods from those countries, or sell our primary products at unprofitable prices. If we have to sell our goods at uneconomical levels, the difference will have to be made up somehow. Any one who believes that world parity prices can be raised is an optimist. It is unlikely that we shall export foodstuffs to the United States of America or to South America, because they are fertile countries.
– We can export wine to South America.
-HAYS.- Yes ; but we must accept goods in return. The sentiments expressed by Senator Courtice in regard to the exchange of goods between countries are excellent, but, after all, was not his entire argument founded upon the principles of free trade? Countries exchange goods with one another, but the honorable senator would not advocate the importation of sugar from the West Indies. In Tasmania the farmers grow large quantities of potatoes, but they are not in favour of a free market in Australia for New Zealand potatoes. From whatever angle we view the matter we have to return to the problems of international trade.
– Is the honorable senator’s policy a negative one?
– No. If 10,000 working people were starving in a foreign country and work were available for them in Australia, would honorable senators opposite be willing, instead of sending food to them, to allow them to come to Australia and take work here as wage-earners ?
– Why not? But we favour the selection of immigrants.
– -I resent the suggestion that I have put forward a negative argument. I consider that the bill and the accompanying agreement have much to recommend them, but if we accept the measure, we must also shoulder the responsibility of seeing that our undertaking to provide foodstuffs for the peoples of the countries to be assisted is fully discharged. Honorable senators can glance through the list of the countries proposed to be helped, and decide for themselves whether their standards of living and of business morality are to be measured by the same yardstick as that which we should apply to our own. We know what happened when Japan came into the war. It pretended to be friendly with the United States of America, but even while negotiating for the settlement of what appeared to be merely a dispute, and while its ambassadors were in conference with the President of that great republic, it took advantage of his trustfulness and proved false to its promises. I do not say that the countries now proposed to be assisted under this agreement would do that; but Australia is a great exporting country, and the interests of its primary producers should be fully safeguarded. There is a limit to the degree to which prices of primary products for home consumption can be regulated, and beyond that point the only alternative is the limitation of production. We desire to export our surplus products to other parts of the world, and we must be prepared to accept goods from other countries in exchange for those produced by ourselves. The greatest international disturbances are due to trade barriers, and it must be recognized that we have imposed highly protective tariffs. If there were any immediate prospect of a substantial increase of Australia’s population, this country might achieve greatness similar to that of the United States of
America, which because of its large population has large and profitable home markets for the products of its primary and secondary industries.
– It subsidizes the primary producers.
– Yes. Great Britain, too, has launched out on an entirely new policy by paying substantial bounties in respect of agricultural products. I am not opposed to the principle embodied in the agreement, but I point out that Australia, being a great continent, and being occupied by only a comparatively small number of people, has much scope for development. It is in a position to do more, perhaps, than any other country in providing food for the peoples overseas who are in dire need of it. But the food must be paid for, and that can only be done by the importation of other goods from the countries to be assisted. The purpose of the scheme is to secure freedom from want among the people of countries which have low standards of living. We can honorably subscribe to this agreement, but we should also remember that we are trustees for the peoples of Australia. We are committing ourselves to an agreement which in a measure represents a leap in the dark. Therefore, we should take care that the provisions of the agreement are not detrimental to us, although we are anxious to do what we can to alleviate the conditions of the peoples in countries less fortunate than our own.
– I support this measure, which is one of the most humane of all documents that have come before the Senate since I have had the honour to be a member of it. It includes within its ambit both the national and international spheres, and its full import cannot at first be grasped. I am sorry to see so much cold water thrown upon this excellent scheme, and so much doubt expressed, based, perhaps, on experience of conferences of an international character. From the lessons we have learnt, however, we should realize that Australia’s destiny lies, not in a policy of isolation, particularly in matters of the kind with which the bill deals, but in the fullest co-operation with other nations, especially those which are engaged with us in the present struggle for tie freedom of democracy.
In discussing the measure on Friday last, Senator Cooper was sceptical as to its success, because of the policy of the Government in having paid primary producers to limit production during the war years. Sums amounting to thousands of pounds were paid to farmers in Western Australia, particularly those on marginal wheat lands, for the purpose of limiting production, but the position should be fully understood before the policy adopted is condemned. Western Australia was at that time very close to the scene of hostilities, the mainland of Australia being threatened with attack by Japan. Every man and woman who could be spared from any industry, whether rural or otherwise, was required in the fighting services. In some of the outback areas of that State, the production of wheat became uneconomic, but it was necessary to keep men and women on those farms for the benefit of the fighting men who would need to resume rural activities there when victory had been won. I made an extensive trip through the marginal wheat areas of Western Australia where farmers were required to limit their production of wheat. They were being paid, not to refrain from producing wheat, but to keep the farms in working order. At Newdegate, I came across a woman who was living in poor circumstances on an outback farm. She appeared to be quite happy there. She had made the best of a little shack, and she told me that she had been struggling there for eleven years. She had had only two holidays, which were spent at the maternity hospital at Lake Grace, 50 miles away from her home. Those were her only two breaks from the routine of the farm during that period. She said that with the provision of a guaranteed price for farm products, and the restriction of acreage which made for the more economic working of holdings, she hoped to have improved living conditions with adequate vacations. At other places I saw similar conditions. Inspired by a spirit of patriotism many young men from country districts joined the colours; others enlisted in order to escape from the loneliness of farm life. We must see that when these young people return to civil occupations sufficient inducements are offered to cause them to take up life on the land again. Country life must be made more attractive. This agreement will help in that direction, because by collaborating with other nations and learning what is best in agricultural production, we should be able to improve living conditions for primary producers in Australia, and so have less difficulty in persuading our young men and women to remain on the land. Senator Hayes spoke of Australia’s small consuming population, and of the great populations of other countries. Western Australia is close to an immense market in the East; it takes only eight days to convey produce from Fremantle to India, where millions of human beings exist under the most deplorable conditions. Indeed, in that country millions of people may starve notwithstanding that in Western Australia there may be huge stacks of wheat. I am aware that during the war lack of shipping facilities has prevented some of that wheat from being sent to India, but a similar state of affairs existed before the war, when transport facilities were available. Because of an outmoded system that wheat remained in Australia. We must see that such conditions do not recur. The honorable senator also said that because of increased production of primary products in Great Britain Australia was likely to lose its markets in that country. I am glad that the honorable senator did not say that Great Britain was producing sufficient for the needs of its people, but only that their requirements were being met largely by local producers. The people of Great Britain are not receiving anything like the quantities of food that they need. One egg a month is all that they get. I have been told that on one day each month no one in Britain is late for breakfast; that is the day on which an egg is available. I am certain that the honorable senator would not suggest that one egg a month for each person would constitute a reasonable supply in days of peace. Unfortunately, the shortage of foodstuffs is not confined to eggs. Although the war-time production of food in Great Britain may meet the severe scale of rationing now in existence there, the post-war needs of the people will not be met by local producers; and so, although a portion of the British market may be lost to us, there will still be opportunities to dispose of increased quantities of foodstuffs there.
Australia’s participation in this organization will be fourfold in character. The first aim of the organization is to raise existing levels of nutrition and health. No one will deny that that is a most laudable aim. I have heard it said that Australian levels are high, and that it would be almost impossible to improve them, but that is a misstatement. During the present war many thousands of young men and young women in this country have been rejected for service with the armed forces because of physical unfitness. About 30 per cent, of the poeple of the white race do not measure up to reasonable standards of physical fitness. In a neighbouring Asiatic country 75 per cent, of the people suffer from malnutrition. Included in freedom from want is freedom from, hunger, and if the peoples of the world are to be free from want their standards of nutrition and health must be raised. Australia cannot pride itself sn its standards of nutrition and health; 3n the contrary, they are deplorably low. There is, unfortunately, a high incidence of tuberculosis, cancer, insanity, and other similar diseases. The health of the general community is indissolubly bound up with improved methods of agriculture and increased supplies of good food. The first aim of this organization, therefore, should receive the approval of every honorable senator. Other aims are a greater production of foodstuffs of all kinds, and their better distribution. Here, again, Australia can learn a great deal from intercourse with other nations. “We have achieved the right to full nationhood in peace as well as in war. One sign of our nationhood should be our participation in world affairs on equal terms with other nations. I agree with much that has been said about theorists and university professors. It is vital that we should have the advantage of the experience of practical men and women, but that does not mean that theorists should have no place in our thoughts. We should combine sound theory with practice; the two things cannot be divorced. If in making appointments to this organization the Government chooses some representatives from the ranks of practical primary producers it will go a long way to overcome the disabilities mentioned by honorable senators opposite, because one practical man is worth a dozen theorists. I am confident that the Government will act wisely when making these appointments.
A most important aspect of this subject is that of the distribution of foodstuffs. I shall not paint a picture showing the distress which existed during the depression years through a lack of a proper system for the distribution of foodstuffs. What is true of a small community is no less true in the larger international sphere. In the depression years there was food in plenty, but the people who needed it most could not buy it. That state of affairs existed in almost every country of the world. We have already had before us a measure for the constitution of an organization known as Unrra; this measure carries the same principle further, in that it aims at improving the means of distribution to the peoples of various countries. That is a desirable objective. It envisages an improvement of living standards throughout the world, and although it does not confine itself solely to agricultural products, it will mean that the standard of living of one section of the people cannot be raised without other sections being affected. “ No man liveth to himself “, and it is equally true that no country can live to itself. This war has shown the interdependence of the nations of the world. By developing international machinery for the disposal of agricultural products, we shall do much to alleviate distress ; it should be impossible for a glut of primary products to exist in one country at a time when millions of people are starving in another country. In India, which, after all, is a close neighbour of Western Australia, millions of human beings have a standard of existence inferior to that of our household pets. To them we send missionaries to teach the tenets of Christianity, . but we do not do much to provide them with food for their bodies, notwithstanding that food may be wasting in- our’ storehouses.
Any scheme for the better distribution of the world’s production of foodstuffs must have stability of prices as its basis. The man on the land is just as much entitled to know what his income will be as is a worker in any secondary industry. For that reason, we must devote our attention to stabilizing the prices of primary products. Orchardists in Western Australia have told me that had it not been for the stability given to their industry by the apple and peatacquisition scheme, many of them would have had to leave their holdings. It is true that under that scheme some growers have not received the income which they would have received under a system of unrestricted competition in the local market, but other growers who were dependent on overseas markets as an outlet for their production would have had to leave their orchards when those markets were closed by the war had not the -Government come to their assistance. In the south-west portion of Western Australia, where fruit-growing is the occupation of many of the people, the settlers generally were thankful for the stability which the acquisition scheme had provided. What can be done in one section of primary production in one part of a State oan be extended to embrace all sections of primary industry throughout the Commonwealth. This bill will provide a guarantee to primary producers which will enable them to plan their production. In the past, nobody has regarded it as his business to see that primary producers had a decent standard of living. We must also have a policy of rural housing, and here also Australia can learn much from other countries. Nothing will be lost by pooling our resources with those of other nations. On the contrary, much is to be gained by so doing.
Sitting suspended from 5.69 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the implications of the proposed organization insofar as it affects the welfare of the workers on the land with particular reference to housing, health and educational facilities. Many of the member nations have achieved standards of rural housing and rural education which we should do well to emulate. Our present standards in relation to both those subjects are deplorably low, andI visualize in the immediate post-war period a definite plan for the improvement of the housing of our rural population. Our economy depends to so great a degree upon our primary producers that we must consider every aspect of their welfare in any scheme of post-war development. Some nations which have already assented to the constitution of this organization have reached high standards in this regard, and, therefore, any conference in which we engage with them cannot fail to benefit Australia. Some honorable senators have said that we have not much to gain under this scheme, that we shall be the givers and not the receivers. I disagree with that view, because it is not the giving of material goods only that will mean the success or failure of this venture, but also the exchange of ideas which can be put into practice for the benefit of the community. Our standard of rural education leaves a great deal to be desired. One of the objects of the organization is -
The improvement of education and administration relating to nutrition, food and agriculture, and the spread of public knowledge of nutritional and agricultural science and practice.
Therein lies a very important avenue of activitiy for this country. Quite recently when I visited Tasmania I had the privilege of seeing something of what is being done in that State with regard to rural education in area schools. But just as Tasmania gives a lead to the other Australian States in that respect, some American States are in advance of Tasmania in that sphere; and any pooling of ideas for the betterment of our educational system generally, and out scientific and agricultural education m particular, must prove of immense benefit to this country. Another important function of the organization is the conservation of natural resources and the adoption of improved methods of agricultural production. Those honorable senators who were privileged to see the film shown this morning dealing with soil erosion in the Mallee country must realize that Australia has a vast and a growing responsibility in this respect. “We have seen so much of our areas devastated by soil erosion that any opportunity to pool the scientific intelligence of the world to help us to overcome this menace to agricultural production must be exploited to the full; and I believe that if we are to have a pooling of the knowledge of only twenty nations in conference upon a problem such as this we shall evolve a remedy for this great national problem. It is also intended that the organization shall recommend national and international action with respect to the improvement of the processing, marketing and distribution of food and agricultural products. The United States of America leads the world in the processing of food. In Australia we have endeavoured to build up an industry of food preservation, but we have a great deal to learn from other countries in this respect. Therefore, although some honorable senators regard this proposal as a material form of giving, the giving of agricultural products as food to the world, I believe that there is much more of value to be exchanged in the form of practical ideas which can be put into practice to the benefit of the member nations. Even more important is the intention of the organization to adopt . international policies with respect to agricultural commodity arrangements which will be based on a spirit of internationalism and will do much to break down the idea that we in Australia are too parochial and isolationist in outlook. The time has passed for isolationism. We regard Australia as one of the great food nations of the world, and in order to obtain the greatest benefits for our primary producers we must have ordinary marketing with all countries. It is of vital importance to Australia that the huge markets of Asia be exploited, but it is even more important that the starving millions in Asiatic countries receive the benefits of our marketing. Senator Hays referred to the fact that we have a population of only 7,000,000 people whilst other nations have a large consumer population. The essence of this organization is to provide more equitable distribution of the foodstuffs which Australia and other nations can produce. The spectacle we have witnessed in the past of so many millions starving in close proximity to this land of plenty, whilst many of our own workers have not been able to win rewards for their labour because we were unable to find markets, has been a slur upon our economy. Some honorable senators condemn the proposal as being idealistic, whilst others oppose it because they do not expect Australia to gain much benefit, from it. To those who hold either of those ideas I say that anything worth while yet achieved in the history of civilization has been founded upon an ideal. Without practical idealists, not theorists, no advance could have been made in civilization ; and to stand out from this organization at this stage because certain difficulties must be overcome, or because some people believe that the proposal is too idealistic, is a confession of failure to which it ill behoves this nation to subscribe. Therefore, I have very great confidence in supporting the measure; and I trust that in the years to come the people of Australia and the contributing nations will have reason to thank their respective governments for co-operating in this organization.
– A number of honorable senators have said that this measure is practically identical with the Unrra bill. The two bills are entirely different.
The Unrra bill contained purely a philanthropic gesture by the United Nations toward the peoples of countries devastated by war, and all contributions under that measure are to be a gift to those people to assist them in their distress. On the other hand, this proposal is not a philanthropic gesture, but. absolutely a business arrangement. For that reason this scheme will have very far-reaching effects. Whilst under Unrra we propose to assist in the rehabilitation of devastated countries, under this proposal we are to become members of an organization which is to be given practically unlimited powers, and in which numbers and not values will rule. The activities of this association embodied in this measure are practically unlimited. The organization will be given almost unlimited powers to control primary production in not only Australia but also all of the other member nations. We must remember also that in this organization, which will have its headquarters at Washington, each of the 45 member nations will have one vote, and at least twenty nations must signify their intention of joining before the organization will be actually constituted. Furthermore, each nation which joins must become a member for at least five years. This organization will control a great , proportion of the export trade of each member nation. On a population basis Australia is a small nation, but we rank about third or fourth as an exporter of foodstuffs. I ask honorable senators to glance at the list of signatories, and to ask themselves just exactly how much do they know about those countries. What do we know about countries like Chile, Cuba, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, and others in the list? ! Senator Nash. - Does not the honorable senator think that there are any intelligent people in those countries?
– I do not doubt their intelligence, but there is no reason why we should tie ourselves up with them and give them the right to tell us what we are to do with our produce. This organization, many of the members of which are importing countries, will be able to direct us, an exporting country, what we are to export, and what we are to charge.
– Where does the honorable senator get that assumption?
– Out of the provision that two-thirds of the members of the organization, when it meets-, can do practically anything they like. Paragraph 6 of Article IV. provides -
The Conference may, by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast, agree to discharge any other functions consistent with the purposes of the organization which may be assigned to it by governments, or provided for by ally arrangement between the organization and any other public international organization.
– It must be ‘ approved by both Houses of Parliament.
-The agreement does not say so.
– The conference can make recommendations.
-Nothing is said about recommending. Are we to be dictated to by a number of these small countries as to what our exports shall be, and what prices we shall charge ?
– Does the honorable senator want to be an isolationist?
-No, but I wish to maintain Australia’s standard of living, and not allow it to come down to that of a number of some of the countries in this list. If we let them dictate to use as to the prices of our exports, we shall lower our standard, of living.
– If we improve their standard of living, our own automatically increases. ,
– The honorable senator cannot work it that way. Take for example the sugar industry and the dried fruits industry of Australia. We have a homeconsumption price for sugar which the people of Australia pay; the balance is exported, for which we must take world parity. This organization set up at Hot Springs will tell us that it must have our sugar at, say, Id. per lb. How can we keep up our standard if that sort of thing happens ? We shall simply have to charge our own people more for the sugar they use. We have learned a number of bitter lessons in the last few years about placing restrictions on primary production, but, if we subscribe to this agreement, a number of countries listed in the schedule will meet together and tell us that they do not want so much of our wheat, and that we must stop growing a certain proportion. The same thing will happen in regard to meat.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to the bill?
– Yes, up to a point. If it be passed, and things go on as they are going, Australia in a few years’ time will be sorry. The Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment, which unfortunately was defeated. It would be wise if we allowed practical men to consider these questions, and in the meanwhile arranged for the bill to stand over until Parliament meets next year.
– Have not we practical men at Roseworthy College?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yes, but they were not at the conference. Australia was represented by a Mr. McDougall, Dr. Coombs, Professor Brigden and Mr. E. McCarthy.
– Do not the practical men at Roseworthy College collate information for the honorable senator ?
– I am speaking of those who represented us when the agreement was drawn up.
– The honorable senator knows that we must use experts.
– I want to use experts, but the party opposite uses theorists. It knows only too well the trouble in which those advisers have landed us to-day. One honorable senator asked me if I did not know that there was a war on. Of course I do. That phrase has been the alibi for inefficiency, work-dodging and procrastination. It is the battle cry of the incompetent, , and a way of avoiding responsibility. Australia would not have been in its present difficult position but for restrictions on the production of foodstuffs.
– We would have been in a much worse position had we not socialized everything essential to implement a 100 per cent, war effort.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Government instituted price controls. Senator Gibson pointed out the results. One is that if a man tips his oats, the price of which is fixed at £6 a ton, into chaff bags he can get £9 a ton for them. Another is that a farmer can drive a wagon load of wheat to a station, sell it to an agent at 4s. Id. and a fraction a bushel, and then buy it back for 2s. 10 1/2d. a bushel and feed it to his pigs. By its policy of restricting the wheat acreage the Government lias compelled men to grow wheat on land which is practically worn out, although half a. mile away there are acres of country that would produce 20 to 25 bushels to the acre without superphosphate. When we draw attention to such anomalies, all that honorable senators opposite can say is, “Don’t you know there’s a war on ? “ One honorable senator opposite said; that the organization under this bill was identical with the International Labour Organization. What has that to do with this bill? There is no resemblance between the two. This bill originated when a number of professors met at Hot Springs, and the International Labour Organization came from the treaty of Versailles. It had no specific power, but was simply recommended as likely to be of some value to the world, including this country. Far too much power is being given by the bill to people who will want our produce at prices which suit them. That will be very detrimental to Australia. We may wish to be philanthropic, as. we were when dealing with the Unrra bill, of which I was in favour, because it is right that we should give to the people of the devastated countries something to go on with, but here we are entering into a solemn contract, binding ourselves for the next five years to these people whose names appear in the bill, and who so far as we are concerned are of little consequence. I am not speaking of countries like Great Britain, the United States of America or Russia. Annex II. .provides -
The provisional budget for the first financial year shall be a sum of 2,500,000 United States dollars, the unspent balance of which shall constitute the nucleus of a capital sum. This sum shall be contributed by the member nations in the following proportions -
The sum of 2,500,000 dollars is equal to about £750,000. Then follows a list of percentages which govern the amounts which the nations will subscribe, from which we can judge how unimportant some of them are. Some are as low as .05 per cent., which show3 that they are not of any great standing. Our contribution is 3.3 per cent. The highest is that of the United States of America, 25 per cent., Great Britain is next with 15 per cent., and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 8 per cent.
– Do we not want to trade with them?
– Yes, and we are quite prepared to trade with thom; hut not on their terms. Under this agreement they will have us just where they want us. Being an Australian, I believe that we have a right to maintain the existing standard of living. I consider that this measure is against the best interests of Australia. I point out that there was hardly a practical man among Australia’s representatives at the international conference on this matter. I have nothing against theorists in general. In fact, I pay a tribute to the scientists of this country for the work they have done in our war effort.
– Professor Richardson is one of the best agricultural authorities in this country, yet he never worked on a farm.
– He did. He was principal of the Roseworthy Agricultural College for five years and that institution is situated on a farm. I know Professor Richardson well, and nobody who attended the conference at Hot Springs as a representative of this country was in Professor Richardson’s class.
– There were advisers of the same calibre.
-The ability with respect to agriculture of the four men from Australia could not be compared with Professor Richardson. I doubt if their combined practical knowledge would be anything like so extensive as that possessed by Professor Richardson. I believe that it would be wise, even at this late stage, to withdraw this measure until such time as it has been considered by practical men.
.- There have been many commendatory references to this measure, but let us examine it closely, and ascertain what Australia’s commitments will be under it, and what benefit is likely to be derived by this country from the scheme. I must confess that when I examined the bill casually I thought I saw the lovely blonde head of altruism shaking her golden curls in the wind, and I was rather inclined to wonder whether I was letting my heart rule my head. Now that I have had an opportunity to examine the measure thoroughly, I find that it savours more of a brunette. Of the 45 signatory countries, 18 are South American, and altogether 27 are distinctly of the brunette type. There are two North American countries, and twelve European countres, of which two are Luxembourg and Iceland. How we can hope to improve our agricultural methods hy obtaining advice from Iceland and Luxembourg I fail to understand. Therefore, I say that we must not he carried away by our first impressions of this measure. A modern version of the old saying “ Charity begins at home “ would seem to be “Altruism begins abroad “. Australia can receive only a very indirect benefit from this scheme. On the contrary, we shall be called upon to play Father Christmas to the world. My objection to the bill is that it will commit Australia to the mercy of people who have no interest in this country, and would not help it if they could. I am fortified in that belief by the fact that the set-up of the proposed organization will be almost identical with that of the League of Nations. The League of Nations failed for the same reason that this plan will fail, namely, that the big countries which took all the responsibility and provided most of the finance, were not allowed to control the organization. The British Empire and the United States of America together will contribute 56 per cent, of the cost of this scheme.
– Does the honorable senator believe that Great Britain and the United States of America are actuated by altruistic motives in doing that?
– Yes, I believe that President Roosevelt is anxious to obtain some unity amongst the nations of the world; but the United States of America can afford to do certain things which this country cannot afford to do. To what are we to be committed under this measure ? We shall be giving away some of our national powers. Article I., paragraph 2 e of the constitution of the food organization states -
The adoption of policies for the provision of adequate agricultural credit, national and international.
The other signatories to the agreement will be able to compel Australia to adopt measures for the provision of agricultural credit, which may be foreign to our OWE ideas and policy. We shall be committed by the decisions of the organization, and we shall he obliged to permit interference in Australian affairs.
– The organization will make recommendations.
– No. I am quoting from the bill. Sub-paragraph / of the same article states- -
The adoption of international policies with respect, to agricultural commodity arrangements.
That is, the organization can say to Australia, “ You must not grow so much wheat “, or “ You cannot produce any more butter “.
– International cooperation cannot be achieved without that.
– If the honorable senator is quite prepared to permit other countries to dictate Australia’s agricultural and pastoral policy, that is his affair.
– But Australia will have a say in dictating the policies of the other countries.
– I have no wish to endeavour to dictate the policy of Liberia, Iceland, Luxembourg, Guatemala, Salvador, or Peru; and I do not wish those countries to dictate Australia’s policy.
– The honorable senator wants Australia to stand out against L,000,000,000 Asiatics and be lost.
– Apparently Senator Grant would appease the Asiatics by allowing them to control Australia. I thought we had a White Australia policy, but apparently honorable senators opposite, in their altruistic ecstasies, are prepared to throw that policy to the wind.
Senator Tangney spoke in one breath about the value of dehydrated vegetables and in another about the need to alleviate malnutrition. Apparently that honorable senator would overcome the malnutrition problem, by feeding the people on tinned foods. I imagine that that method of dispensing with malnutrition .would hardily have the support of world medical authorities.
Supporters of this measure claim that Australia will not be tied down in any way by the agreement, but the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), who introduced the bill, said -
The immediate step to he taken by governments should be the adoption of methods to prevent violent fluctuation of the price of agricultural products and to give producers s.table and high incomes so that the greatest possible use would be made of existing productive capacity.
Another of the functions of the organization is generally to take all necessary and appropriate action to implement the purposes of the organization, as set forth in the preamble to the schedule. How can fluctuations in agricultural production be prevented, unless producers in certain countries are not prevented from growing the customary quantity of produce? There would be times when Australia would have to be told that it must limit its agricultural production, and, therefore, it would be prevented from making normal progress as an agricultural nation. Senator Grant wishes to reform the world, but I contend that our first duty is to the people of Australia, and I wish to know what this country would gain under the agreement. The Minister further stated in his secondreading speech -
It became apparent during the discussion* that whilst any effective steps to increase production and consumption must be taken by national governments, national action would require international co-ordination. Increased production in one country without increased consumption, throughout the world, or greatly increased national production in one commodity alone, would lead to severe economic difficulty .for agricultural producers.
That statement is sound, but it leads us to the contention which I have already indicated, that Australia is expected to hand over its destiny to an outside organization which could control our agricultural future, and completely prevent us from advancing in the production of all those commodities on which we pride ourselves. The agreement provides that the organization shall, where appropriate, recommend the adoption of international policies with respect to agricultural commodity arrangements. That implies that the organization may exercise control with regard to Australia’s future commitments.
It could say to those controlling the sugar industry of Queensland, “ Java and Fiji can produce good sugar with black labour, and, therefore, youpeople in Queensland must curtail your production of sugar “. It would be well for honorable senators to appreciate the fact that that is the kind of agreement which we are asked to accept. Before finally committing ourselves to it, we should not be led awayby feelings of international brotherhood which may result in disaster even for those who wish well of Australia. The British Commonwealth of Nations can do much to help the poorer people of other countries to enjoy an improved stand ard of living, but in doing that I am not willing to take steps to reduce the living standards of our own people. Out of the 45 countries eligible for membership of the organization, the people of 27 of them are of a distinctly brunette complexion.
SenatorGrant. - Remarks like that are uncalled for, and are in bad taste.
– I differ from the honorable senator. I think that they are called for. Australia is tobe expected to be the Father Christmas, who is to give all the time.
– There are plenty of people of brunette complexion fighting with the Allies. We should not offend them.
– Apart from the British Empire, the only people who are helping us at present are those of the United States of America and the Soviet Republics.
– What about China?
– Poor old China is doing its best, as far as we know. The great majority of the countries, on whose behalf this agreement has been signed, are not helping the world war, but are doing well out of it. They are selling all their products, and would like that state of affairs to continue.
-They will be in a position to dominate the world unless we co-operate with them.
– Not at all. If the peoplewho are fighting in this war against the Axis powers do the proper thing, they will always he able to dominate the world and see that peace is preserved. The prosperity I want is thekind of prosperity which Australia has at present.
– The honorable senator advocates a policy that must lead tofurther war.
– I do not accept that statement. The organization under discussion has nothing to do with the warpolicy. Almost every paragraph in theagreement gives further power to theorganization, and generally the majority of the organization will decide the issue. If we arranged for the members of theBritish Commonwealth of Nations, theUnited States of America, and one or two other countries to form an organization of this kind, with the right to co-opt the other countries on matters on which: they are particularly interested, it would be a better arrangement than that now proposed. I do not trust all of these 45- nations, and neither do honorable senators opposite. Article XVII. of theconstitution provides -
Any question or dispute concerning theinterpretation of this constitution or any international convention adapted thereunder shall be referred for determination to an appropriate international court or arbitral tribunal, in the manner prescribed by rules tobe adopted by the conference.
If the organization decides to adopt a. new policy, effect can be given to it by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast, and a similar majority is sufficient tosecure an amendment of the constitution.
Whilst I have the greatest admiration for most of the countries which areparties to the agreement, I consider that Australia should not place its destiny in the hands of a conglomeration of 45 nations, but should retain the right toconduct its affairs in its own way. For that reason I am strongly opposed toacceptance of the full terms of the agreement. The proper course to adopt isthat proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), who pointed out that the implications of this measure should be thoroughly examined by the people who are principally concerned, that is, the primary producers of Australia, before the agreement is finally ratified. This arrangement has been entered into hastily and haphazardly. It is like a mirage which leads one to believe thatfertile fields fringed with beautiful palms lie ahead, hut I am afraid that when we have gone some distance in the direction indicated by the bill we shall come to an arid desert.
– in reply - The last two speakers on the Opposition benches are the only honorable senators who have spoken against the measure now before the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and a. majority of his supporters, are in favour of the principles underlying the bill. Senator Leckie desired to be informed how far the decisions of the organization would be binding on Australia. Such decisions will be in the form of recommendations to member nations, and they are set out in Article I. paragraph 2 of the constitution of the Pood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In quoting from that Article Senator Leckie was careful to choose only two items.
– I picked out those to which I objected.
– I shall supply the information asked for by the Leader of the Opposition. It is set out in Article I. as follows: -
The organization shall promote and where appropriate, shall recommend national and international action with respect to -
Surely no honorable senator can object to those objectives.
– The organization may only recommend ?
– That is so. The paragraph continues -
Is anything wrong with that?
– There is a lot wrong with it, because it means that other nations may dictate to Australia.
– The main criticism of Opposition senators has been directed against the agreement entered into at Hot Springs in the United States of America and to the constitution which has been decided on. I suggestthat no honorable senator who contemplated building a home would call inbricklayers, carpenters and other workmen before he had consulted an architect and decided on a plan. Complaint has been made that no provision has been made for the appointment of agricultural experts to this organization. Senator Hayes referred to the need for experts in marketing and selling commodities. Persons with these qualifications will be added to the organization later. Provision will be made to appoint experts in various branches of rural production. There was also some mild criticism of the constitution having been formulated and decided on before it was submitted to the Parliament. As Senator James McLachlan pointed out, a similar procedure was adopted in connexion with the International Labour Organization; that plan was conceived and adopted before it was submitted to the Parliament for ratification. A similar course was pursued in connexion with the Treaty of Versailles. Australia is not committed in any way. It is quite competent for the Senate to reject the measure, but 1 have not heard any honorable senator opposite suggest that it should he rejected. As to the constitutional aspect, I point out that years ago the right to enter into treaties or conventions with foreign nations was the prerogative of the King, whereas under democratic government as it now exists that power has been transferred to the Executive.
– On behalf of the King.
– Yes. But the Executive has power to act. That power is exercised by the Executive in other British dominions such as Canada, and also in the United Kingdom itself. When the constitution was being formulated in the United States of America the Minister for External
Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was in that country and in continuous consultation with Australia’s delegates. Therefore, it is idle for the Opposition to say that only professors and theorists were present when the constitution was being framed. The accredited representatives of the Australian nation put Australia’s case well. Australia’s economy in the future should have a sound foundation ; it is as essential that we in this country shall not be isolated from the economy of other nations after the war, as it is that we should not be acting independently in the prosecution of the war. If we are to find markets for our surplus production in the post-war period we must cooperate with other nations . I have no doubt that for some years after the war there will be ample markets for our surplus production, and that prices will be sufficient to give a reasonable return to producers, but I ask honorable senators to carry their minds back to the time when wheat in Australia was being sold at from1s. 6d. to 2s. a bushel, and when many farmers were forced off their holdings. Had there then been a system of organized marketing and of distribution, that position would not have arisen. Even in regard to Australia’s internal economy, let alone the international aspects of this subject, Australia has a lesson to learn. Before we double or treble the production of. any agricultural product, we should be sure that a market for it exists. The only way to ensure those markets is by creating higher standards of living throughout the world. Australia must co-operate with other nations if that result is to be achieved. It is useless for anyone to say that he is concerned only with Australia; we must have markets for our surplus production, and the only way to get them is to create a greater demand for our goods. Already twelve nations have intimated their acceptance of this constitution, and before long the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, and Australia will he added to that number, making a total of sixteen nations. When twenty nations have accepted the constitution a conference will bo held; it is hoped that the meeting will take place early next year. That is the reason for non-acceptance of the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Senator Hayes also said that the amounts to be appropriated were indefinite. The appropriation provision is similar to that which operated in connexion with the International Labour Organization and the League of Nations. The amount to be appropriated will appear in the Estimates each year, and although the amount may vary from year to year, the money will not be provided without due consideration by the Parliament.
– The money will have to be voted each year ?
– Yes. If after five years, Australia should decide that its continuance as a member of the organization is inimical to the best interests of this country, it can withdraw from membership by giving one year’s notice. In view of the laudable objectives of the measure, surely it is worth our while to give the proposal a five years trial not only in our own interests but also to improve world conditions generally. We should not forget that millions of starving people in the Far East will have to be fed after this war; and that fact is important not only to those people themselves but also to Australia, bearing in mind our necessity to market our surplus products.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Approval of acceptance of Constitution) .
– Should we agree to this clause before we consider the schedule, it will not be competent for us to amend the schedule. Therefore, the clause should be postponed until after the schedule has been considered.
– I have no objection to the clause being postponed.
Clause postponed until after consideration of schedule.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 4 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am aware that a Minister is not compelled to answer questions asked ‘by honorable senators. At the same time, [ can see no reason why any Minister should give an offensive answer to an intelligent question asked ;by an honorable senator in a polite way. Last week, [ directed two questions to the Minister for the Interior (‘Senator Collings), and [ notice that two questions which were asked, upon notice, to-day in relation to the same matter hy honorable senators opposite have been answered by the Minister. My .first question was -
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 His. 6d. a week less than the rates observed on the council’s jobs on the mainland of Australia.
Every honorable senator will agree that that question was reasonable. The Minister replied to it as follows: -
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.
Although the Minister said that he could not understand the question, he added that if I saw him later in his office he would give me the information. Therefore, he must have understood my question. The second question I directed to the Minister was -
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?
Honorable senators will agree that that question also was reasonable. The Minister replied to it as follows: -
I have no intention to make a statement ulong 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.
I fail to see how by answering that, question the Minister would prejudice the carrying out the particular job in Tasmania to which it refers. The Minister also said that he would not make any statement concerning the rates of pay of employees of the Allied Works Council on jobs on the mainland and those of employees of the same body employed on jobs in Tasmania.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I am quoting the Minister’s reply as recorded in the Hansard proof. I have only the Mansard proof to rely upon, because I am apt to misunderstand the Minister when he is making a speech. I submit that I am entitled to know whether it is a fact that 16s. 6d. a week is deducted from the wages of men employed by the Allied Works Council at Butler’s Gorge in Tasmania, whereas that amount is not deducted from the wages of employees of the council engaged on jobs on the mainland. Employees of the Allied Works Council on the mainland who volunteer for transfer to Tasmania are given a statement to sign and hand in before the application for such transfer will be considered. That statement sets out that the applicant is willing to accept the following conditions : -
Wages, sick-leave conditions and leave benefits the same as O’Mara award of 5th March, 1943. but charge of 16s. 6d. per week for messing be deducted from wages. Applicant must have served in Northern Territory for at least five .months and must state in application he is aware of iris. 6d. per week and is prepared to pay it.
That information was supplied to me by a secretary of a union, but I considered that the best authority I could consult on the matter was the fountain-head himself. I have asked the fountain-head to give me the facts, and he has replied that he has no intention of making a statement on the matter, that he could not understand my question, but should I come to his office he would explain the matter.
– Did the honorable senator call at the Minister’s office?
– Of course not; and I have my reasons for not doing so. In view of the fact that the Minister’s answers to me on this matter have been offensive, but, at the same time, he has given reasonable answers to questions asked by honorable senators opposite on the same subject, I am at a loss to know whether he entertains any prejudice against me. I recall remarks which I made in this chamber during the last sessional period upon a matter referred to me by a number of employees engaged in the department controlled by the Minister; and, later, the Minister, referring to my remarks, was reported in the press, and I understand in Mansard also, as saying -
I have been in touch with my departmental officers since Senator Aylett made his allegations and I can now say that they are slanderous and untrue. He only makes them within the privilege of this chamber. He would not make them outside.
I accept the Minister’s challenge, and am prepared to repeat what I said before, and will repeat outside what I say here to-night, in his presence, if he desires me to do so. I have repeated it outside before, and will do so again. A little further on mention is made of another question that I ‘raised. I gave the Minister a petition which I received from members of the Allied Works Council, and also complaints which I received from them regarding the treatment which they received on their journey to the north. They said that for four weeks they were sitting around doing nothing, but receiving full pay as waiting time. That was signed by 39 employees. The Minister’s reply was that there was no foundation whatever for it. One of the complaints made was as follows: -
After detraining at Alice Springs we spent the night at the staging camp there; at this camp we were forced to sleep on the bare gravel floor of a particularly draughty hut; we feel that, after a very fatiguing journey of approximately 1,000 miles from Adelaide alone, the least we could have expected, to assist us to get some measure of sleep, was to have been issued with a palliasse for each man.
The Minister replied-
Some thousands of men have been transported along this route, under conditions exactly identical with those complained of in this correspondence, and complaints have been almost negligible. In fact, occasionally members take the trouble to write stating how much they have enjoyed the trip, and I attach herewith a copy of a letter recently received by me from the staff of this directorate which expresses this view.
That is the reply from Mr. Theodore sent to me by the Minister. He also admitted that the men were forced to sleep on the bare gravel floor in draughty huts, while they were on a long journey. They were men who were not used to roughing it, who had not been hardened up, and had been taken from all classes of jobs, so that the department is only asking for trouble when it treats them in that way. As there have been thousands of men transported over this route, and this has been going on for two or three years, the least, the Minister in charge of the depart- ment could do would be to provide better treatment for the men. Even in the Army it is only in an emergency or in a hardening-up course that men are asked to sleep on the bare ground. The American Army provides its men with palliasses. The Minister also says that there is no foundation for the men’s allegation that they were paid for weeks on waiting time. Another petition has reached me, for which I did not ask, but which states that there are 46 men at present at the camp on waiting time. Reference is made to the report in the press of the statement I made in the Senate, every word of which the writer says is correct, but that I had only touched the fringe of it. The statement is signed by another 35 men, all of whom happen to be Tasmanians. It is stated that many Western Australians are also there on waiting time. They did not sign the petition because they are waiting to be returned home. The 35 and the 39 previously mentioned make 74. I am forced into the position of believing either those 74 Tasmanians with no axe at all to grind, but only wanting to serve their country as men should do, or the Minister. I say frankly that judging by the numerous letters J. have had, and extracts which I can quote, I prefer to believe the 74 Tasmanians. The reason why the Minister probably does not want to disclose the information I have given, that 16s. 6d. is deducted from the men’s pay if they go to an Allied Works Council job in Tasmania, is so as few Tasmanians as possible will return to Tasmania. Hundreds have been kept on jobs in the north, not in. battle areas, while hundreds of aliens have been brought from the same camps in the same districts to Tasmania, and put on the Butler’s Gorge job.
– There is a reason for it.
– I know the reason the Minister will give. He will say that a committee has been going round the Allied Works Council jobs and has reported most favorably on all of them. He will say that the jobs are a credit to Australia. The letters I have had do not complain about the jobs which the Allied Works Council has done. They say that the council has done good work, but they complain about what they call maladministration, waste of money, and men sitting around when they should be at work. Are the men who wrote those statements, and are prepared to sign affidavits, or to swear to them in court, all liars, or are they not? I passed some remarks before about some of the Allied Works Council’s administrators. Among others I mentioned a Mr. Somers. These are the exact words in a letter which I have received -
I tried to put my case’ to Mr. Somers, but he refused me the courtesy of meeting him. I know of nothing worse than to be treated thus, and I think it is doing the Governmentimmense damage by tolerating such bureaucrats.
T adhere to all that I have said, and accept the Minister’s challenge to repeat outside what I have said in this chamber, or anywhere else.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) [9.40 J. - Some time ago I mentioned the sale of patent medicines. The Minister for Health and Social Services (Senator Fraser) was good enough to explain that the Government was not able at the moment to do what I asked. What concerns me now is that many manufacturers of patent medicines seem to be able to spend huge sums of money on advertising and selling their preparations which are a menace to the people of this country, and to be in no way controlled. I bring the matter to the attention of the Minister who controls price fixation, and ask him to study the gross profits which these people are allowed to make. 1 have an advertisement taken from The Australasian Journal of Pharmacy, giving a description of an advertising campaign for a patent medicine called “ Lantigen “. That is a substance which I am informed by reliable chemists and doctors is of no value at all. I am told that it costs approximately 8d. a bottle to make and is sold at 21s. a bottle, which leaves a margin of about 2000 per cent, profit. Several other concoctions, concerning which I have made inquiries, show profits of from 1.000 to 1,800 per cent. In consequence of these profits the newspapers and the broadcasting stations are deluged with advertisements. The Lantigen people do not conceal the fact in any way. They set out in their advertisement that they are conducting a record advertising campaign. They say that 252 advertisements have been inserted during the month of October in leading metropolitan and country newspapers; that weekly newspapers will publish a further 34 advertisements, and the special women’s magazines another eight. They also say that 78 leading radio stations will this month broadcast between them 1,490 Lantigen announcements, and that 932 picked theatres are screening Lantigen slides. Further, they say that “ Salescompelling Lantigen films also are being screened at 120 theatres “. All this is set out plainly and bluntly to attract the Australian people to waste their money on this substance. The Government has a price-fixing department, and has, in an attempt to keep down the price level, fixed margins of profit for manufacturers. I suggest that it is wrong that the manufacturer of a useful article should be kept down to a profit margin of 10 or 12 per cent., whilst the manufacturers of a worthless substance such as these people are making are allowed to make a profit of 2,000 per cent. I therefore urge the Minister to examine the gross profits which patent medicine manufacturers are allowed to make; to assess what they are spending on advertising, and to see that they are kept within the reasonable levels which other manufacturers have to observe. Will the Minister also, where he finds that they are making these huge profits, reduce their prices to a reasonable level?
– In recent days, I seem to have achieved a considerable measure of notoriety, if not fame. I assure Senator Aylett that he flatters himself too much when he suggests that in any replies which I have given to him in this chamber I have been actuated by a dislike of him. The honorable senator does not come into my perspective in any way whatsoever. When become so mean that I have to depend upon his good opinion, I shall start to doubt myself-, so far, I have complete confidence in myself.
Senator Aylett says now that he accepts the challenge which I threw out to him some weeks ago. I do not know exactly how long it is since I made that challenge, but certainly it was some weeks ago, because it was during the last sessional period. The honorable senator’s acceptance of the challenge is rather late. Of course, one of the courageous things which cowards have done frequently in the course of history is to accept challenges when the time for doing anything about them has passed. Senator Aylett said also that he did not ask for any of the complaints which he received. I am not in a position to say whether or not that is so, but I do say that quite obviously he is willing to become the sewer through which the individuals to whom he has referred are able to pour their vomit in order that he may confront me with it. The inferences which he attempted to draw are quite untrue. Further, I say that the honorable senator knows them to be untrue, and that he is maliciously making false statements, because for some reason or other he does not approve the Minister for the Interior. The Butler’s Gorge job in Tasmania has a very interesting history. Tasmania, of course, has greater hydroelectric potentialities than any other part of Australia, and the Government of Tasmania, which, incidentally, happens to be a Labour government, is very anxious to develop the Butler’s Gorge scheme. It arranged with the organization that aliens should be sent to Tasmania to do this work. That was done, but when the aliens started work, certain union officials took exception to them despite the fact that their organizations were unable to supply the requisite labour, and that all the labour which the unions could supply was welcomed on the job. Certain union officials refused to allow their members to work with the aliens, and the Allied Works Council, which had on hand a considerable quantity of highpriority work for the Civilian Alien Corps - we did not want the Butler’s Gorge job in the first place, and, in fact, were exceedingly glad to be relieved of it so that aliens could be used elsewhere in Australia - withdrew from the job. The aliens were detailed for service in various parts of Australia where much valuable work has been done. I had occasion to go to Tasmania some time ago. I cannot say exactly when it was, but it was in winter-time because I remember being in a blizzard on the road up to Mount Wellington. I conferred with the Premier of Tasmania, and discussed with him the difficulty that had arisen because of the refusal of certain unionists to work with aliens on the Butler’s Gorge job. The Premier said that he was anxious that the job should be proceeded with. I said to him, “Let me know what you require. If you want the job done and your Cabinet supports you in having the alien labour sent back to Tasmania, we shall do our best to facilitate the recommencement of work at Butler’s Gorge “.
When I told Senator Aylett a few days ago that I declined to answer questions which I did not understand, and when 3 told him later that I would not make a statement on the lines suggested by him, I was actuated by important motives : First, I did not think that a responsible Minister of the Crown should answer a question unless he understands it thoroughly, and in this case I did nol understand it. That, of course, was due not to any incapacity on the part of the honorable senator to express himself adequately, but to the fact that I am so dense that I cannot understand oratory of the kind of which the honorable senator is capable. Although I did not answer the question, I did what I thought was the proper thing to do. I said, “ If Senator Aylett will see me in my room, I shall endeavour to give him all the information that is at my disposal “. To-night, I had to absent myself from the chamber to take part in a function held in another part of the Australian Capital Territory which
– I waited some time expecting the Minister to enter the chamber.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) . - Order ! The Minister’s language is unparliamentary.
– If you desire, Mr. President, that I should withdraw the statement, I do so. However, I still say that the honorable senator’s statements were maliciously false. ‘
– Order ! The Minister is not entitled to say that any honorable senator has made maliciously false statements. That language is unparliamentary.
– I say then that the statements, if not maliciously untrue, are at least untrue. The second charge which Senator Aylett made against ‘me was that I would not make a statement on the lines which he indicated. I point out that Senator Aylett has not seen me in my room, as he was invited to do, and [ say further that, whatever the honorable senator may insinuate, whenever he has desired to see me in my room he has done so. I have never had a cross word with him in my room. I have investigated every case which he has submitted to me, and if I have not given him the answers which he desired, at least I have given him truthful answers and proper reasons why he could not have the answers which he desired. I did not make the statement which Senator Aylett said that I should make, because I did not wish to prejudice the progress of the Butler’s Gorge job. That work is going ahead now without difficulty, despite the fact that Senator Aylett and his informers are evidently anxious to recreate the trouble which originated when I first sent the aliens to Tasmania to do the job, and which has been settled satisfactorily. I do not know where Senator Aylett stands with the Labour Government of Tasmania, but I do know that the Premier of Tasmania has no sympathy whatever with the tactics that have been adopted by the honorable senator in this matter. The Premier is most anxious to have the Butler’s Gorge job completed, and it is going on in spite of Senator Aylett.
With regard to the charges which Senator Aylett has made, I still do not understand them. However, I shall peruse the Ilansard proofs to-morrow. I shall not invite Senator Aylett to my room again, and he will not be received there so long as I am Minister for the Interior. At least I have a measure of self-respect left, and I do not propose to contaminate myself in that manner.
Members of the Civilian Alien Corps working on the Butler’s Gorge job are receiving higher wages than members of that corps engaged on any other job in Australia. Because of the nature of the work, and the importance of the project to Tasmania, I was able to get better term for these workers.
I have no apologies to offer. I had intended to impound the documents from which Senator Aylett quoted in accordance with Standing Order 364, but, unfortunately, Mr. President did not see me rise and in the meantime, some other honorable senator having been called, I have lost my right to ask for the impressment of the documents, because the Standing Order provides that such a request must be made immediately the honorable senator making the charges resumes his seat.
So far as I am concerned the incident has now ended. I have had an opportunity to acquaint the Senate of the facts of this matter. My conduct has been quite proper from beginning to end. I have nothing to apologize for, and I hope that during the time that I remain a member of this chamber I shall not on any occasion sink so low as to have to apologize to the type of individual who has impugned me to-night.
– I bring to the notice of the Senate a matter which was discussed at some length during the recent visit to Western Australia of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane). As the result of the Minister’s visit quite a number of anomalies were adjusted, but the matter to which I wish to refer is still awaiting a satisfactory solution. I refer to the reduced shipping service from the eastern seaboard to Western Australia. During discussions with the Minister for Trade and Customs we found that many of our difficulties in relation to the provision of household commodities were due to lack of shipping. I pointedout at the time to the Minister for Trade and Customs that the latest figures obtainable in Fremantle showed a substantial reduction in the tonnage of cargo shipped from the eastern States to Western Australia over a given period. The quantity of general cargo conveyed there from the eastern States, principally Melbourne, during the six months ended the 30th June, 1943, was180,996 tons, and the quantity shipped during the six months ended the 30th June, 1944, had decreased to 123,903 tons, showing a reduction of 57,093 tons. That is a large decrease of trade for Western Australia, particularly as it applies to the importation of ordinary household commodities. I should like the Government to ascertain if this bottleneck can be eliminatedby placing another vessel on the Western Australian run. I also suggest that Port Adelaide should be reinstated in the usual interstate itinerary. I understand that the inter- state ships do not now call at Port Adelaide. That was my personal experience recently. Formerly, a considerable tonnage of household commodities, particularly kitchen utensils, was lifted at Port Adelaide. Articles of that kind a re in keen demand in Western Australia, especially among young married couples. For the last eighteen months or so, the shortage of those commodities has been acute. Other articles which are in short supply are plumbers’ accessories. I was recently informed in Perth that it was practically impossible for plumbers to obtain their main supplies, such as galvanized iron for the manufacture of guttering and downpipes. Shortages of that kind cause misunderstanding, but I believe that, if due consideration were given to the needs of the people of Western Australia, those difficulties could be removed.
– Some time ago, as Assistant Minister for Supply and Shipping, I set up a priorities committee in Western Australia (because nonessential goods were being shipped there to the exclusion of necessary commodities. I shall ascertain whether the present shipping position can be improved, but that depends upon many factors, including operational requirements. The Priorities Committee still communicates with me regularly. The Minister for Works in Western Australia furnishes me with a list of goods required in that State and entitled to a high priority, and they have first call on the available space. The operations of that committee are giving satisfactory results. Some of the difficulty referred to by the honorable senator is due to the fact that the goods required are not available. If manufacturers find a strong market for their goods in Sydney and Melbourne, they may not trouble much about selling them in Western Australia. The policy of the Government has been to furnish sufficient man-power in Western Australia for the manufacture of goods in that State to the full capacity of the local factories. It is not always possible for interstate vessels to call at Port Adelaide, but I shall see if that can be arranged, and if any other improvement of the shipping position can be effected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Commonwealth purposes - Tocumwal, New South Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Disposal of dead bodies.
Taking possession of land, &c. (23).
Use of land.
National Security (Man Power) Regula tions - Orders - Protected undertakings (51).
National Security (Potatoes) Regulations - Order No. 18.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Order No. 75.
Senate adjourned at 10.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19441128_senate_17_180/>.